There is a bar in Somerset County. Biker gangs and cops avoid it for very good reasons. It caters to the dead. A select few living souls are permitted to stop in if invited by one of the regulars. I’m one of those who gets to hang there on occasion. Another interesting aspect to the Nameless Dive as it’s known to patrons is it’s immunity to time. You can walk down the stairs on October 31st, 2019 and find yourself in 1861. I’ve had it happen and the experience is quite unsettling. I got an invite three days after Christmas and here’s what happened.
Gahan Wilson, H.P. Lovecraft and Hieronymus Bosch greeted me when I entered. They informed me that they had been recruited by Governor For Life Paul LePage III to design and write the brochure for Maine’s 250th Anniversary Celebration. That was my first hint that we were well into the future.
There was a good natured argument between Gahan and Hieronymus over cover art, while both deferred to Lovecraft in terms of the text. All three were excited about highlighting changes to the state in the past (at least for them) 50 years. Knowing what I did about pending climate change, I was literally sitting on a razor’s edge. How bad had things gotten and what was the state (no pun intended) of Maine in 2070?
First came an updated map and I damn near lost my cookies as it was unveiled. The land mass had shrunk a lot more than even the most pessimistic projections I’d seen online. Portland, Bangor, Camden, Bar Harbor and Eastport were no more. Augusta was an island, as was Lewiston. From what I could determine, the Piscataqua River Bridge was now seven miles long, resembling those in the Florida Keys.
“Chill, my friend,” chuckled Lovecraft as he started filling in the highlights describing the New Maine. “Sure, some of the changes might seem uncomfortable, like a 125% increase in skin and colon cancers, but nobody worries about getting enough heating oil to survive winter. In fact, the state hasn’t had a day with freezing temperatures since 2045.”
Here are the highlights as I remember them from the pamphlet (I wasn’t allowed to take notes).
The population shift has finally settled. The last person under age 40 left the state in 2049, but technology adjusted. New employees are manufactured in the Rumford, Millinocket and Jackman plants. After bodies are created using high speed 3-D printers, skill sets and personalities are programmed into tiny nuclear powered neural networks inserted into cranial cavities. Since these creations have no need for sex and can work 24/7, the term ‘screwing around’ is on its way out of the English Language. This easily expanded work force, coupled with significant warming, has brought many new industries to the state. While most are owned by Russian and Chinese entities, the economic boom has lowered the overall tax burden slightly. It would have a greater impact, but the decrease in population, coupled with a jump in median age to 70, has put quite a lot of pressure on the healthcare system.
The last automobile in Maine was retired in 2065 and now is part of the new floating Maine State Museum, located over what used to be the town of Union. Clary Hill and Appleton Ridge provide adequate shelter from the winds that accompany the fall monsoon season that averages 60 inches of rain between October and January. Public and private transportation is primarily by solar powered jet boats and monorails, including ferries to Mount Battie and Mount Desert enclaves.
With the last cod, haddock and mackerel dying off when Gulf of Maine temperatures reached 65 degrees in 2048, new species have begun to flourish, particularly since the great adaptation began in 2053. Nobody could have envisioned what took place following the huge solar flares in 2051-52. Granted, they wiped out many land species and death rates in poorer countries spiked, but one real benefit was that certain marine and land species metabolisms adapted as they began consuming plastic in massive quantities.
Ocean fisheries now concentrate on three mutated species, Tarpaulin, Sundomefish and Great White Sharkaloons. Granted it took some hard selling to get consumers to consider, then welcome seafood that was 25% polycarbons in content, but the abundance and very low price of these new food sources did the trick. This was particularly important given the huge decrease in cropland, not only in Maine, but across the rest of what remained of the United States. Raising cattle, poultry and pork became cost prohibitive and the algae and seaweed substitutes reminded too many of the movie Soylent Green, thus never catching on.
With the extinction of chickadees in 2062, it took several years for the debate over a successor as state bird was settled. The referendum vote was close, but the turkey vultute beat out the crow by 3%.
The brochure will note the death of the lobster industry, while noting its exciting replacement. Those solar flares hit the invasive green crab population, creating a breeding frenzy and size gain never seen in history. It took a few years before people got over reading about fishermen and unwary tourists being attacked and eaten (the latter was pretty upsetting to children when they experienced it), and for fishing boats to be refitted with armor plate, but the markets for crabmeat, coupled with the crab harpooning tournaments that draw entrants from across the globe, have helped the economy big time.
While some old timers lament the loss of potatoes and dry beans, the rest of the country welcomes the huge rice harvest from Aroostook County and in southern Maine, the genetic modification of poison ivy to produce mangoes is another bonus.
Unfortunately, my visits to the bar are time limited, so I wasn’t able to hear about additional changes in store for our state. Maybe I’ll get back there sometime soon, but What I learned was more than an eye-opener.