Volume #1 – Fire on the Foothills


Illustration Credit: Jiayi Yang

Cooper Berkoff, Contributing Writer

Editor’s Note: This is the first volume of a new, serialized story written by Cooper Berkoff ‘24. Future parts to this story will be published in the coming weeks.

Aldo opened the blinds to his window to allow the fresh winter breeze in to assist him in waking up. The winter months had just arrived, bringing a cool frost on the grass outside his window. It was the first frost of the year in Maine and was more than welcome. The summer months this year had been hotter than usual and the heat lasted well into the early months of fall before it began to cool. The winters had become more oppressive in recent years however, the Arctic winds had become more violent and less predictable as the climate continued to destabilize. 

Aldo poured himself a cup of coffee, and began to read his copy of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. He enjoyed these types of works of fiction, as they placed an emphasis on the beauty of the American wilderness, and employed elements of his favorite biblical stories from when he was a child. Aldo was raised in a small Quaker community deep in the Appalachian mountains; he was able to secure himself a good enough education in high school that allowed him to now attend a rather prestigious small school in Maine. 

The town in which he had grown up was no more than 500 people, and in the past few years had been diminishing as the coal mines had all but closed up. Aldo himself was tall, slightly slender, with a head of dark brown hair. He was not cut out for the life of a coal miner, so he took to educating himself on the natural world, which was so abundant in his little town growing up. 

He developed an early appreciation for nature, and spent most of his formative years in the creeks and brooks around his house. Unfortunately, a few summers ago, the mining company that had been running for so long in this town came to a halt. They were forced to shut down all of the mines they had owned in the town, and in the process of this, there had been an accident that left the rivers and waterways around the town polluted. After this incident, Aldo seemed to rarely return home, instead choosing to remain in Maine, where it seemed like he was safe from the impending dangers of the world outside him. 

After this incident, the whole town seemed to pack up their things and leave, only the elders and those who were unable to leave stayed. The town itself is nearly going extinct. Aldo finished his coffee and placed his book on his nightstand next to his bed to continue later. It was time for him to begin his day, and he packed his bag and headed out the door. Aldo had been studying at college now for four years and was in his final year. He had been studying how humans have perceived the natural world throughout history and had done lots of work on the riverways of Maine. Now in his final semester of school, he was simply finishing up his thesis work and applying for the next part of his life. Yet, unknown to him, this would all come to a screeching halt in the coming months. 

The state of the world in the year 2052, was not as stable as one might imagine. The past decades had seen the collapse of the international marketplace and the stopping of many global supply lines. First beginning with the collapse of the Chinese economy, which would then trickle into something much larger. The infrastructure projects they had been constructing throughout the world had all but stopped, leaving many countries in enormous debt. 

The climate crisis had continued to get worse affecting Africa and Asia more than anywhere else–this combined with the new economic crisis led to billions of refugees and millions would perish. The United States retreated into a state of isolationism following all of this to attempt to save itself. 

All this had done was push the inevitable explosion further away, and this is the world that Aldo would be entering. It was during Aldo’s second class at 1:00 p.m. that it happened. The San Andreas fault line had finally broken, rupturing gas pipelines throughout the state, destroying infrastructure and buildings, and killing millions. The news showed images of massive fires engulfing large portions of the state, and other portions simply appearing to fall into the sea. 

Soon after this, the federal government declared a state of emergency, followed by martial law after the riots broke out throughout the country. Following this, class was abruptly canceled and all students were sent back to their rooms until further instruction, as there was now a state of confusion over the entirety of the college on what was to come next. To Aldo, it must have seemed as if the world was ending, yet this was only the beginning of something new, something beautiful, and something marvelous. 

He returned to his room shortly after the order was given out. Upon returning he took out a pack of cigarettes, lit one, and turned on the news. What came next was truly the most horrifying to Aldo. The President announced the immediate dissolution of the federal government into smaller counterparts in order to deal with the current unrest. 

He proclaimed the federal government was no longer able to handle the situation, and it required the work of smaller entities to deal with their own regions. This was not the actual case however, the President had been a known loyalist to the corporate world, and this act now gave them the ability to corporations to create their own city-states. Following the dissolution of the federal government, the mega-corporations of the east coast consolidated one large mega city spanning D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City. The rest of the country would soon fall into smaller corporate and local entities each competing for power within their subsequent regions. 

This all happened so fast in front of Aldo, that he could do nothing but watch in absolute shock. Unknown to Aldo was the fact that this had all been planned for years now, and it was simply the right moment for the events to finally unfold in this manner. By now it was 8:30 p.m. and Aldo had been up all day frantically checking the news to see what else was occurring. The school had now sent out a second order, telling the students that due to the ongoing crisis, the school would be suspended until further notice. 

Everyone was now told to pack up and head home in the next few days. Aldo did not have anywhere to go. His family was all over the country at this point, and only his grandfather lived in the town he had grown up in now. Yet, he still packed up his bags, leaving what he could not carry behind to maybe return to one day. In the morning Aldo thought to himself he would leave for Boston, and try to figure out where to go from there. The gears had now begun to turn, the motions of history once again moving, the status quo had finally been toppled by a sea of fire. Aldo was now a part of something greater, the spirit of history had possessed him, and would not let go until he performed the ultimate masterpiece.