After the end: Part I

A short story

By

Accipiter G. Goshawk

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I have a good working knowledge of environmental sciences.

These days the concepts of climate change, pollution and waste are all around us. They can be eye opening and can invite reflection. But most of the times, they are presented as the symptoms of an apocalyptic disaster that is heading our way. There is some truth to this; as civilized humans, we have tried really hard to forget our place on this floating space-rock.

The balance is tipping and ecosystems are changing.

And I think that that is where we can concentrate our focus:

Change.

Change is coming, whether we want it or not. It will be up to us to determine how much change and what kind of change we want to deal with, as a species. As individuals, we can contribute by continuing to educate ourselves and try to do the best we can, every day.

Why am I mentioning all of this?

Well, I’ve taken to wondering: what will the Earth look like in ten years? What will it look like in a hundred or a thousand?

An arid wasteland? No, I don’t think so. As I see it, life is clever and constantly adapts to new stimulus.

So, what kind of life will emerge from the concrete-covered streets? What kind of life will learn to survive in the scorching urban jungles?

What kind of life will thrive in the world we have changed?

He opened the door to collect the mail and scowled.

The evening before, his doormat had been surrounded only by shiny, grey cement. He’d smoothed it out himself yesterday afternoon, paying close attention to insert a few capsules of No-Grow in places he considered strategic.

It had been all for nothing.

Violet briars had grown overnight, sprouting from the cement base and curling around the edges of the mat. The small vines twisted and turned, lining the walkway with sharp needles that even the toughest of leathers could not turn aside.

His scowl deepened as he caught sight of a ragot scurrying in between the thorns, probably on its way to chew on his house battery. The little devils didn’t care about the violet briars: their steel-like bristles where more than a match for the spines. Actually, he remembered reading somewhere that the two species were symbiotic: the ragots used the briars as shelter from predators, while the briars prospered thanks to the small creatures’ highly acidic urine.

“I’m going to have to call an exterminator in again…I hope some survived the last incursion,” he grumbled to himself before quickly slamming the door shut.

It took him over an hour to get ready for work. Sometimes he wondered if there wasn’t an easier way.

He sighed as he clamped on his second boot and engaged the security field.

His movements were shaped from a lifelong habit and although the process was tedious, to him it was as normal as breathing. Ever since he could walk, whenever he’d ventured outside or in building within the Exposed quarters, he’d had to wear a full suit of Surviveez. It was the only thing standing between him and the incalculable number of dangers lurking in the outside world.

He’d once heard some of his colleagues discussing what had happened to a daring –and apparently deluded- young man who had decided to “become one” with nature. He’d gone out for a “stroll” without his Surviveez and had been eaten by an urban garage bear. They hadn’t even been able to recover the remains: the bear’s corrosive saliva had consumed them in seconds.

He quickly adjusted his helmet and checked to make sure that his walking stick was fully charged. Then, when all was ready, he crept out the door and down the street towards the closest subway. As he neared the station, he could start making out other figures dressed in the same oval-shaped suits moving through the thick fog. Some of them were smaller and had stickers stuck to the outside of their opaque white domes, while those that could afford it sped by on the laser-way.

He glanced longingly down at the small path of flashing blue and red lights.

“Maybe I could save up for a laser patio,” he mused to himself as he began to descend into the dimly lit bowels of the Earth.

The atmosphere was more nervous here than above ground: people’s heads twitched left and right, peering at the shapes lurking in the darkness and fingering their walking sticks with sweaty fingers.

From the corner of his eye, he saw something large crawl along the ceiling. Most people pretended to ignore the lithe shape, but a few of the more craven patrons immediately swung their sticks into the air, letting loose a chaotic volley of jagged bolts of energy. They missed the creature entirely and instead smashed into the vegetation-covered ceiling with a deep sizzle. The thing –whatever it was- did not reappear and the people reached the train without further incident.

As he entered the vehicle, he moved to the far end of the compartment, choosing a spot well removed from any windows. Around him, people began engaging their ember-layer, and he found himself doing the same. Soon, the white opaque domes shone dull red: any living being foolish enough to touch an ember-activated Surviveez would immediately receive a highly painful jolt.

Some domes did not go red.

It wasn’t unheard of: either the owners had forgotten to charge them the night before, or they were saving their charge for a more dangerous area of the city.

He pitied them.-

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