Once, it was possible to go out in the rain without having to shower before going indoors.
In those days, rain was composed primarily of some form of hydroxide, not the hydrocarbons we see these days. It was a transparent liquid, much like shower-gel is now. Actually, it was more like Perrier, but it's hard to imagine Perrier falling that way. It was a sight to behold - millions of sparkling droplets, each near invisible, together casting a haze over everything they passed between. If it was somewhere you didn't want it to be, you could simply wipe it off. If you waited long enough, it would disappear on its own.
Back then, people would probably have found our multicoloured rain an amazing spectacle. They used to have a whole day each year dedicated to igniting small explosives, for brief fiery flashes, far less dramatic than what we, now, consider a normal aspect of a day of bad weather.
As if on cue, some small spark outside ignites the rain. An expanding fireball flashes out, scorching the grimy windows and walls of buildings, setting embers dancing along the limbs of the few petrified trees still standing.
Imagine, they used to run to shelter from it - virtually Perrier from the sky, and they tried to avoid it, hide from it. Even if they were out walking, they would raise curved shields of plastic or waxed cloth over themselves. Imagine, if someone had been wise enough to collect it then, the competition Perrier would be suffering now.
This wasn't so long ago, either - it was within my lifetime. I remember I used to enjoy playing in the rain - hah, imagine anyone doing that nowadays! My parents would tell me to come inside, they'd tell me I'd get some sort of disease from the rain. Nowadays, of course, they'd be right, but back then it was nonsense. Mostly I ignored them. When it was raining was the only time I could be outside alone, or with a few like-minded people.
Now, only the insane and desperate go outside in the rain.
A flash of memory, a man with black streaks down his face slamming up against the reinforced ground floor windows, hammering on them with his tightly balled fists, mouthing pleas we cannot hear. Another flash, this time of fire, and he is gone.
The change was a slow one. Nobody seemed to notice but me. I'm sure there must have been others, people who used to enjoy the rain, but I didn't know any, and they never made news. At first, it was just little things. Walking from outside to in during a storm, you'd have to take off your boots, or you'd leave permanent black trails of footprints everywhere. Windscreen wipers - they didn't used to have soap in them - no longer cleared the glass, instead leaving greasy smears. Later, if you were to go out in the rain without protection, it would be difficult to breathe - the dark greasy phlegm would last for days, like an infection but with no cure.
You stare at the window, inches thick plexiglass with seared indentations on the other side, through which rivulets of viscous sludge trickle, slowly, before dangling ominously and, at last, falling to the ground.
Now, we can't even go out without protection, and we can't take off our protection without showering in it first. I wonder, sometimes, what unexpected effect our shower-gel will have, in fifty years' time.
I used to love the rain.
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