Water Smuggler

Dec. 05, 2023.
6 min. read. 3 Interactions

Embark on Mindplex Community's inaugural sci-fi journey as Craig battles ruthless Water Guards in a world gripped by water scarcity.

About the Writer

kyle Callam

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Kyle Callam is an emerging writer from the Caribbean who loves crafting sci-fi and historical literary fiction, including short stories that delve into complex and often unexplored themes.

Credit: Tesfu Assefa

Craig sat anxiously on the bus wondering if he would be able to complete his fourth time smuggling water across the border into the United States of America and how much money he could make as soon as this scarce commodity reached the streets. The gradual onset of water scarcity brought about by crippling Climate Change in the latter half of the 21th century and decades of both improper and careless water use had increased the value of fresh water in the second decade of the 22nd century so much so that a liter of fresh and drinkable water possessed a street value comparable to three grams of uncut cocaine. The global scarcity of water had also instigated several devastating wars and the few nations such as Canada that still possessed substantial quantities of fresh water implemented superfluous security measures to safeguard their quantities of this most precious resource.

Presently the United States of America and Canada had an accord in which Canada supplied water in exchange for money or minerals such as cobalt and lithium that Canada sometimes lacked. Many individuals colloquially referred to as water smugglers attempted to capitalize upon the high price of fresh water and would sometimes smuggle water across the border using many ingenious ways. But along with the superfluous security measures that were implemented to protect this resource were harsh laws and if caught a water smuggler could spend up to five years in prison for every one liter of water that was confiscated from them.

Most water smugglers that used private vehicles to transport water sometimes hid it in the trunk, front and rear bumpers or if clever enough in secret compartments in the engine but were eventually caught as private vehicles were more rigorously searched than public transportation by water guards stationed at the border. A group of specialized officers designed to protect water and other resources, especially from leaving the nation without proper authorization.

As the bus stopped at a checkpoint along the border Craig pondered if his usual method of smuggling water would work, wrapped in multiple layers of foul-smelling clothing were five liters of water in two large soda bottles in his backpack. His supplier had gathered it from Lake Superior and he collected it in Toronto hoping that he could make a massive profit as this was the most that he had ever dared to smuggle.

“Open up!” a tall and robust soldier with murderous eyes exclaimed after knocking the stock of his rifle on the door several times.

The driver instantly opened the door after apologizing and the intimidating water guard boarded the bus in his distinct all-black uniform, dark brown boots and beret on which was the emblem of the Water Guard Unit. His heavy boots echoed through the bus as he walked from the front of the bus to the middle and Craig whispered a small hymn hoping that the man would not come to the back. Two other intimidating water guards adorned in the similar clothing then boarded the bus and began randomly searching the belongings of the frightened passengers that sat quietly. They rummaged through the bags and suitcases of the passengers and with loud grunts threw their belongings onto the ground, clearly dissatisfied that they had not found any forbidden items as yet.

A long and cold stream of sweat flowed from Craig’s neck to the base of his back and a few droplets dotted his face and nose. The three heavily armed guards were slowly making their way towards his seat.

Although he was only nineteen years of age, the law would give him no mercy and he could serve 25 years in prison for the amount of water in his backpack. Craig looked frantically around for an exit, maybe an open window or emergency door could avail him if caught? He would have to lighten himself by dropping his backpack but leaving empty-handed would be tremendously better than spending his youth in a prison cell. He became more anxious after realizing that they were no exits and the guards were a few seats before him angrily searching the bags of an elderly couple. He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket, wiped the sweat from his face and readied himself for a potential search.

“What’s in your backpack?” the fearsome guard asked while standing over Craig.

“Some old clothes Sir, I just visited my grandma” Craig answered while masking his nervousness.

“I didn’t ask where you’re coming from, take off the backpack and give it to me” the man instructed and Craig immediately complied.

The other two guards stood behind the man and completely blocked the aisle of the bus while the guard opened Craig’s backpack removing the first layer of musty clothing that were wrapped around the bottles of water. Craig clenched his fist in preparation for a fight, although the man was twice his size he wouldn’t be imprisoned for water smuggling without a fight. Global water scarcity also hindered food output and Craig remembered the horrible stories of many prisoners dying of starvation due to the inability of the prison system to feed them.

“Who the hell comes back from their grandma with dirty clothes, take this crap back!” the guard shouted after throwing the backpack into Craig’s lap and wiping his fingers in his pants in a bid to rid them of the awful smell that befouled them, “I’m not digging through that stink mess any further.”

“Let them through!” One of the guards shouted after they exited the bus.

“Seems like I got lucky again” Craig sighed as he exited the bus and made his way through New York.

Credit: Tesfu Assefa

The collapse of the many industries that depended on water led to a rapid rise in the cost of living and homelessness. The sidewalks were filled with scores of desperate people that stretched their palms forward, begging for scraps of food or a mug of water. Dressed in dirty clothes Craig was not begged by the desperate scores but he kept vigilant and walked quickly so as to reach home before night when the streets of America turned into areas of savagery where the most barbaric crimes transpired each night.

He was halfway home when he saw angry crowds surrounding one of the water rationing stations that the government had established to provide small amounts to its citizens daily. Apparently, they had finished distributing the allocated amount of water for the day but dozens had received none. Propelled by thirst and survival instincts the swarm of people turned from angry chants to violence, ripping off the tires and metal paneling of the water distribution truck. Craig was sympathetic for the driver and his young assistant that sat in the front seat screaming, this angry crowd would likely exercise their anger upon these two unfortunate men who probably did not have more water to give. This was a regular occurrence and it was clear that society was becoming worse each year as the few large lakes of fresh water and large underground sources slowly diminished.

Craig stood watching the angry crowd and asked aloud, “What would these people do if they found out that I had five liters in backpack?”

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Comment on this article


One thought on “Water Smuggler

  1. Your fiction isn't bad, but it needs to adhere to the internal logic of its fictional world. You've established a setting in the 22nd century, yet it similar to our current world. If the, within this world, it's challenging to believe that functional governments still hold sway.

    If water becomes incredibly scarce, reaching a value of hundreds or even thousands of dollars per liter, the inevitable outcome should be widespread social and economic disruptions. The exorbitant cost of water will intensify inequalities, sparking brutal conflicts over access and disrupting essential needs like agriculture, leading to an existential risk! Water and food shortage will end us.

    In such a scenario, the strain on social structures will result in a complete societal breakdown, undermining the foundations of functional governments and plunging the world into chaos. It's illogical to expect governments to remain functional amidst such turmoil.

    To enhance believability, consider portraying Water guards as private militias in a dystopian world, brutalizing smugglers like your lead character. Your narrative could paint a darker dystopian future where only a few hundred thousand people survive.

    Your story successfully emphasizes that access to water is indispensable for the stability and functioning of any civilization. Kudos to that.







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