Firewater, Oklahoma

Eric Benson
20 min readSep 22, 2023

Formerly Stillwater, Oklahoma
May 7, 2047
96 F
80% humidity
30% chance of precipitation

Over and over the rig’s protective red casing groaned and flapped like a wounded bird flailing violently inwards with each gust of wind ripping through my brand-new pumping mechanism. The countless rusted-out bolts on the side casings needed replacing years ago, but budgets were busted. So said the community that hired me at least and it was just too dangerous to climb up the damn rig thanks to the winds. The ladder was missing too many rungs to safely install new bolts anyway. I had to make do with what I had. I was lucky enough just to have a functioning pump and a new one at that. It was a stroke of sheer fortune that the old pump broke a week into the process of pumping out a new two-mile hole from the Earth.

This job wasn’t exactly what I had expected when I landed in Stillwater from Laramie six months ago. I was forced out of my last postdoc position at the university lab since the legislature had just changed all the state laws about funding. Total assholes those politicians. As money dried up like the parched fields of much of the Great Plains, the powers that be wanted folks to move on to somewhere else. Not enough water. Not enough good soil left, they said. We’re better off in…



Eric Benson

Associate Professor and Chair of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Co-founder of Re-nourish & Fresh Press Agri-Fiber Paper Lab.