It was in the year 2110 that humankind committed matricide.
Earth, the mother that had given birth to humanity, was dying. Air, the breath of our mother, once wholesome and fragrant, was now unhealthy and malodorous. Our oceans, the breast of the mother, from which humanity fed, were becoming too polluted to sustain life. The soil itself, the womb of our mother, once fertile and bountiful, was turning barren and scarred.
Humanity had been forewarned. Ninety-seven percent of the climate change experts and global warming specialists had put the world governments on notice. No, the truth is they had screamed a warning that irreversible climate change was only a decade away. The most outspoken of all was an environmental researcher and world-renowned explorer, Dr. Avery Holland.
In a major television network interview, Dr. Holland was asked for his thoughts on global warming.
"The impact of global warming is far greater than just increasing temperatures," he replied. "It modifies rainfall patterns which amplify coastal erosion, it melts ice caps and glaciers and--"
His interview was interrupted by an announcement that a football player had just signed a contract for 60 million a year.
Three months later, over 2,000 scientists, led by Dr. Holland, flew to New York and marched on the United Nations. They demanded that the international organization take action on global warming before it was too late.
Dr. Holland stood tall before the assembly, his six feet eight-inch well-muscled frame an impressive sight. When he spoke, his words were both eloquent and passionate.
"We should emulate the animals that roam our world. Unlike humankind, they take from the earth only what they need to survive, no more and no less. They live in harmony with the world around them. The smaller herbivores eat the taller grasses so that new grass may grow. The larger herbivores thin the trees so sunlight can reach the new grasses. What they excrete nourishes the earth and makes it fertile. We scientists call this a productive cycle.
"Mankind has always been a parasite living off Mother Earth's bounty. First, he ate the energy which the plants had stored; then he took it from the flesh of animals. That wasn't enough to satisfy man's insurable appetite, so he began to suck the very life from the Earth. Instead of nourishing the Earth, humanity has excreted a poison which has fouled the air, the soil, and sea. Humankind has gone from being a pesky parasite to an invasive cancer that has made our planet sick, Dr. Holland told the gathering.
"When the human body becomes ill, it raises its temperature to kill off the invading virus, using fever, sweating, and tremors to fight off the infection. Antibodies in the blood will rush to the affected area and start destroying the invading organism. Mother Earth is no different. Humankind has become that invading organism which is slowly killing our planet. Mother Earth gave birth to the parasite, and she will take steps to remove the cancer that would destroy her."
His words fell on deaf ears. Every one of the member nations turned a blind eye to the Earth's plight. One news station, owned by a fossil fuel multi-billionaire, dubbed the march "Holland's Folly." The phrase caught on and echoed around the world.
It was in the year 2120 that the Earth became feverish, and the planet began to warm. Mankind was caught in the death grip of a triple-digit heat wave, they dubbed it "Lucifer." In the usually chilly month of August, the city of San Francisco shattered an all-time heat record at 115 degrees, while south of the city it reached 125 degrees.
In preparation for what they knew would happen, Avery Holland and some of his colleagues relocated their families. After selling everything they owned, they purchased a 30,000-acre valley near the town of Saranac Lake in New York State. Surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains, only a hard-to-find narrow dirt road, which ran through a constricted pass, gave access to the valley.
They were joined by a diverse group of farmers, hunters, doctors, and survivalists. In a word, they became "Preppers." The group constructed their homes using reinforced concrete, stockpiled food, various animals, medical supplies, guns, and ammunition. The forward-thinking Dr. Holland had a well-digging firm sink a well over 1,000 feet into the earth where they hit an underground river.
Avery's wife, Dr. Norma Holland, put her environmental engineering skills to good use. She personally supervised the building of wind turbines and the installation of solar panels for electricity. Redundancy was the operative word, and she made sure that everything had a backup system.
When she discovered that an old grist mill, complete with its stone grinding wheel, was for sale, she had it moved to a spot by the spring-fed lake. Now they would be able to grind their own flour, even if the electricity should fail.
A convoy of trucks, from numerous fish hatcheries, raised clouds of dust as they drove down the road to the compound. Dozens of men, woman, and children worked in the oppressive heat to unload them. At the end of the day, the lake was stocked with catfish, bass, walleye, perch, bluegill and a dozen other types of nourishing fish.
The greenhouse was completed later that same week. It housed an airtight vault filled with sacks of vegetable seed. A hidden trap door led to an independent fallout shelter beneath it.
The last building to be completed was a state-of-the-art hospital.
The consortium named their compound "Eden's End," and celebrated with a communal fish fry.
Four days later, as the last of the outsiders left the compound, Dr. Holland's emerald green eyes watched them until they crested the nearest hill. Sunlight seemed to flash off the golden defect shaped like a "V" in his left eye, as he pressed a button. The resulting explosion sealed off the valley. Now the only way in was by helicopter.
In the year 2130, the Earth began to sweat, and the world experienced record monsoons, floods, and mudslides. All over the world rivers rose, and unprecedented weather events wreaked havoc on the human population. Millions died because there was no safe place to go.
Torrential rain fell in the valley for thirty-six days, and the small lake at Eden's End doubled in size and depth because of it. When the rain stopped, the members of the consortium celebrated their good fortune with a communal barbeque.
Soon after the tidal change multiple fires began in California, Portugal, and Spain. They soon spread throughout the world. Before man had extinguished the flames, they had wiped out tens of millions of homes, and billions of acres of forest. Rainforests, the lungs of our mother, were decimated. Trees that were needed to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen were all but gone.
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, rose to 400 parts per million, the highest it had been in 3 million years. Breathing became difficult, and without enough oxygen in their blood, children's brains didn't develop properly. A new acronym, HBS, Hypoxic Brain Syndrome, was born.
At Eden's End, everyone moved into the communal house where the air was filtered and cooled.
The Earth began to shake.
As a last resort, The Mother released antibodies to fight the disease that was killing her. Tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, and disease spread throughout the world, as Mother Earth attempted to clear the human virus from her body.
Avery Holland and the remaining people at Eden's End rode out the storms with little damage.
Human-induced climate change had caused the sea surface temperatures to rise 12.2 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Hundreds of category 7 hurricanes devastated the land. In the United States, New Orleans was gone forever, and almost all of Florida was underwater. Around the world, the storms killed hundreds of millions.
In Africa, the bubonic plague was reborn and was quickly spread by the wind. The disease, also known as the "Black Plague," or the "Black Death," was the same one that swept through Asia, Europe, and Africa in the 14th century. Then it had killed an estimated 50 million people. Now it killed billions.
Even Eden's End was not safe from the plague. By the time its resident scientist had found a cure, only a few people had survived. Avery Holland was not one of them.
His wife, daughter Abby, and son Avery Jr. watched tearfully as his ashes were spread in the cornfield.
The Earth was getting sicker. Mother Earth was in a death spiral.
And so, it beganů
By the year 2150, the soil had become so polluted that almost nothing could grow. The insect population increased a hundredfold.
To harvest as much food as they could, farmers began using stronger pesticides. Both the good and bad insects started to die off. Butterflies, those fragile, brightly colored, flower-hopping creations of nature, died off first.
At what was left of Eden's End, only 7-year-old Abagail Holland, the great, great granddaughter of Avery and Norma Holland noticed.
The out-of-breath youngster walked into the kitchen from the next room.
"Mom, where have all the butterflies gone?
The oxygen level in the air had dropped 30% over the previous five years, and the last few words were almost a whisper.
Nancy Holland looked up from her work, and absentmindedly wiped her beet-stained hands on her already filthy dress. Lost in thought, she shook her head. Ever since the well had become polluted, water was hard to come by.
The distilling process was a long and arduous task. To conserve what little drinkable water the Hollands had, Nancy's husband, Westbrook, had switched to growing drought tolerant beets. The dandelion weeds that grew everywhere in the greenhouse were an added benefit.
Every day of the week the waking meal was the same, beet greens and dandelion leaves. For the main meal, it was always beetroot prepared in some way for her and her daughter, and beet broth for her husband. There was no midday meal. Today it would be different. Tonight, they would feast on mashed beets and a barn rat caught by the cat.
How ironic, Nancy thought. That the stray kitten we took in, to fatten and butcher, has become the hunter-gatherer for the family. Her mind drifted back to the days when she was her daughter's age. Back then there was decent food available, and enough non-caustic water to wash clothes.
"Mom!" Abby shouted again.
Pulled from her thoughts, Nancy inhaled and coughed. "What is it, Abby?"
"Where have all the butterflies gone, mom? I haven't seen one in months."
The shabbily dressed woman turned and looked into her daughter's emerald green eyes. Her little darling had the same eyes as her grandfather, right down to the golden "V" in her left eye.
"I don't know, Abby. Don't worry about it, though. Butterflies aren't important, the bees are. Without bees pollinating the few plants, that we have left, we'd be in deep trouble."
"But mom, daddy says the butterflies are important because they pollinate too."
"Your dad is sick, Abby. Someone tried to kill him for the drinking water he distilled, and we have no medicine for him. His fever is causing him to say things that aren't true."
Abby looked at her mother with tears in her eyes. She remembered that day very clearly. He mother screaming and shooting the man who had crept up behind her dad and stabbed him in the back. The young girl also remembered helping her mom drag Daddy into the house.
They had burned the stranger's body and used his ashes as fertilizer in the greenhouse.
Abby wiped her hands on her dress to rub off the blood that was no longer there.
"Daddy is going to be okay, right mom?"
"Your daddy is a strong man, he'll pull through this, honey. Don't you worry about him." God, please let him survive.
The pain in Nancy's head was almost unbearable, and her voice became stern.
"Abby, you know you're supposed to be studying in the greenhouse. Your brain needs the oxygen that the plants are giving off or it won't mature properly!" Nancy snapped at her daughter.
Abby looked down at the filthy floor.
"All right, mom, whatever you say."
A cockroach ran from under the table, and she snatched it up. She would feed it to the cat later.
"Mom, what's for the main meal, I'm famished?"
The pain had gone back to being a dull ache, so Nancy turned her head and looked down at Abby smiling.
"Mashed beets and barn chicken, Honey."
"Yummy, not just beets, and beet greens but real chicken!"
Turning back to chopping the beets so Abby wouldn't see her tears, Nancy choked out her reply.
"It's just for tonight, Abby, maybe when your father is better we can have protein more often."
When her mother turned back to her task, Abby looked at the dead bug in her hand.
I'm hungry now. If it's good enough for the cat, it's good enough for me.
Two weeks later, Westbrook was dead, and her mother taught Abby's how to shoot a gun. If the marauders came, they wouldn't care that Abby was only a child. The fact that she was female would be enough.
A month later, on Abby's eighth birthday, a man broke into the house and tried to rape Nancy. When Abby heard her mother scream, she grabbed her gun and ran from the greenhouse. That night, she took a human life for the first time.
The next pollinators to become extinct were the bees. Without their cross-fertilization, the food plants and edible flowers soon began to die off. Unable to exist in the toxic soil, the green grasses, shrubs and even weeds also began to decline.
By the year 2160, the air was so dense that the sun could barely be seen. Without photosynthesis, the trees and leafy plants started a death spiral. These were followed by wheat, corn, and other food plants. Without food, the herbivores died off. With nothing to sustain them, the carnivores, both domesticated and wild, soon began to disappear.
Life is tenacious, and the human body adapted to oxygen levels at half of what they had been.
Abagail was 17-years-old and all alone. She stood at the crest of a hill and gave one last look at the remains of the only home she had ever known. Her mother had died of a brain tumor when Abby was twelve, so she had taken to sleeping in the bunker under the greenhouse for security. From there the skinny teen was able to use the tunnel that led to the exit in the woods. From there she would sneak back and deal with any intruder that showed up.
There was one mark on the bunker wall for every marauder she had killed in the last nine years. Forty-seven to be exact. There would have been more, but she had run out of ammunition. Seven pillagers had tried to ransack the house. Abby had killed one of them with an ax and shot four more with the shotgun before the bullets were gone. Two of them had escaped. They would tell the others in their band, so it was time for her to move on.
Her eyes were filled with tears as she turned toward the east and continued walking. The bright sunlight flashed off the golden defect in her eye.
When Abby was 19, the superstorms came, sustained hurricanes that lasted for weeks with winds up to 200 miles per hour. She survived with the help of a young man named Ash Barone.
The Earth's temperature increased, the ice caps melted, and the sea level rose. The few lakes that still had fresh water were contaminated by salt water, and drinking water became scarce. As the ice receded, the unpolluted, pristine Klondike land was exposed, and palm trees began growing once again in the Arctic. Those that could do so began to migrate north. Abby, Ash and their ten-year-old daughter, Marley, were among them.
It took them eight months to make the trip. A week after they arrived Ash was killed by a man named Judd while defending their little piece of farmland. Since women were considered property, Judd took Abby and her daughter as his prize.
To protect her daughter, Abby put up with the beatings and degrading act of being sold to other men. A year later Ash's killer raped eleven-year-old Marley. Abby and her daughter butchered him while he slept.
Abby cut her hair, bound her breasts, and dressed in Judd's clothes. They moved to a faraway camp, and Abby pretended Marley was his wife. Seven years later Abby was killed by a gang of fishermen while buying time for her daughter to escape. The strong had started hunting the frail as food. Humanity had taken to the dark road of cannibalism to survive.
Marley was 25, on the day the skies grew even more dismal than they usually were. All mankind looked toward the heavens and saw massive spaceships floating above the Earth. Blue beams of light shot forth from the ships and transported beings with wing-like appendages to the ground. The Galactic Planetary Protection Society (GPPS) guardians had arrived.
In every country, and in every city around the world, they walked forth glowing brightly in the dark gray of the daylight. The Earth's dry, polluted soil, whipped into clouds of stinging missiles by the ever-present winds, never touched them. Weapons used against them were rendered useless, and those that wielded them were incinerated where they stood.
As these mysterious machine-like beings moved about, beams of yellow light shot forth from them and encapsulated people, seemingly at random. Anyone surrounded by the glow was frozen in place and became an immovable and indestructible statue.
Those that were religious said the winged beings were "Angels" sent from God to escort them to heaven. They ran toward the Angels to embrace them, but anyone who touched one of the guardians crumbled to dust.
After a time, the blue beams of light again pierced the dark gray skies of Earth. This time, however, the rays of light sought out those that had been chosen and lifted them into the air. Those that were passed over watched in awe as the others disappeared into the ships. When the massive alien spaceships left Earth, five million humans, half the world's surviving population, had been shuttled aboard and put into stasis. Marley and her unborn child were among them.
In time, the people that were left on the Earth passed into oblivion. Cities crumbled to dust and were reclaimed by Mother Earth, as she began the long slow process of healing herself.
Twenty millennia passed before the second armada of GPPS ships returned to Earth. The humans that had slept for thousands of years were scattered like seeds around the globe by the guardians. Their bodies had been reshaped to survive the pristine environment of a reborn Earth, and their minds wiped clean of all higher knowledge.
When their work was done, the GPPS guardians boarded their ships and left the skies of Earth. Mankind had been given a strong, and healthy body, a curious mind, and a second chance. Cro-Magnon, the first Homo Sapiens or "wise man" now roamed the Earth. Genetically engineered to be smarter, stronger, and more cunning, they once again became Earth's dominant life form.
After learning to make and use stone tools, Homo Sapiens specialized them and made them smaller and more complex. They invented fish hooks and harpoons, bows and arrows, spear throwers and sewing needles.
For millions of years the "new" humans, spent a large part of each day gathering plants and hunting or scavenging animals. They learned to collect and cook shellfish and began making special fishing tools. Then, a giant leap occurred, Homo Sapiens formed tribes and made the transition to producing and sharing food, as well as changing their surroundings.
A female was born to a member of the Bambara tribe who had green eyes, and a golden V in her left eye. In a land of brown-eyed people, she was considered blessed by the gods. Their Shaman named her, "Fora Sola." Fora, the clan's word for grass, and Sola their word for sun.
When Fora Sola reached twelve turns, as the clan measured years, the young woman discovered how to grow individual plants and breed animals. This discovery led to farming and herding animals, activities that transformed Earth's natural landscapes--first locally, then globally.
As humans invested more time in producing food, they settled down. Villages became towns, which in turn grew to cities. As more and more food became available to them, the human population began to increase dramatically. It had taken more than 160,000 years for humanity to reach this stage. In another 80,000 years, they had discovered space travel and had once again begun polluting the Earth's atmosphere.
The GPPS took notice of what was happening on Earth and soon realized their mistake. In their rush to save humanity from extinction, the otherworldly beings had forgotten one crucial fact. "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
For a second time, the Earth was dying. Emissaries from all the GPPS worlds met and made a decision. It was unanimously agreed that something would have to be done to save the planet called Earth. They determined that mankind was a virus on the planet. One that must be destroyed before it could again harm the Earth.
Sterilization ships were dispatched to Earth, and the GPPS guardians began the removal of the disease that was humankind. So, it was in the end, that the Apocalypse came not from the hand of God, but from the guardians of His planets. Mankind was reduced to its base elements and returned to the earth as fertilizer.
Life is persistent, and twenty-five thousand years AM (after mankind) an ape-like creature known in her bands language as "Old One" sits in a tree next to "Pawa," the son of her fourth daughter. She is the band's matriarch and the keeper of knowledge. As she grooms Pawa, the wise old simian thinks of how far her group has spread, and how powerful they have become.
It's all because of the heavy earth, she thought.
She was much younger then and was called Ahwa because of her green eyes. One day a male from another tribe had challenged her mate, the Alpha of the band. Her mate was killed, and as the new Alpha came to mount her, Ahwa picked up a substantial piece of earth and threw it at him.
The hard earth hit the interloper in the head, and he fell to the ground. Ahwa was on him in a heartbeat. She picked up the hard earth and smashed it against his head again and again until his brain was exposed. Ahwa watched him for the rest of the day and all that night. When he did not move, she left him and her mate to the scavengers and rejoined the rest of the tribe. She taught others how to use the hard earth, and they soon became the dominant band.
When Ahwa's second daughter was big enough, she took the youngling to her favorite termite mound to teach her the way to get food. Her daughter broke off a branch much too big to fit through the small hole in the hill. The jagged and pointed tip fit in, but it couldn't reach far enough inside to get any termites.
Ahwa watched her daughter struggle and noticed that the jagged end of the stick was making the hole bigger. The mighty ape took the branch from her daughter and began jabbing it into the hole. Large chunks of earth fell away, and Ahwa was soon able to reach in with her hand. What a feast the two of them had that day!
The two females heard, then smelled, the big male before it emerged from the trees.
When the angry ape pounded on its chest, Ahwa knew he would kill them. When he rushed forward, Ahwa instinctively held the branch out in front of her. The big male impaled himself on the pointed branch and fell to the ground. Mother and daughter scrambled away and watched, from a safe distance, as his "red water" flowed into the earth.
Thirst brings the old one back from her reverie. She stops grooming Pawa and signs for him to keep watch while she goes to the pond.
Her memory of the fight she just recalled is still vivid in her mind, so when Ahwa sees her reflection in a pond, she lashes out with her hand striking the water. When the ripples stop, the other female is still there, and thoughts begin to form at the edge of her conciseness.
Tentatively she reaches out and so does the other. Their fingers seem to touch, but her hand becomes wet like the water. Old One rubs her face, and so does the other, she throws a pebble into the water, and the other seems to toss one to her.
When the ripples stop, Old One's emerald green eyes open wide with excitement. The streak of gold in her left eye seemed to glow in the dappled sunlight. She's had an epiphany. The other in the water is her! At that moment Old One attained self-awareness.
She turns and looks at the tree that is her home. Pawa is sitting on a branch watching her. "Show Pawa," she thinks. Old One stands erect on her hind legs, something she has taught herself and Pawa to do. Homo Erectus takes a step forward, but before she can make another one, a searing light turns her into carbon dust.
The GPPS guardian steps from behind a tree and holsters his weapon. Moving to the pile of carbon, it grinds the ash into the ground for fertilizer. Turning away, the self-repairing automaton resumes its search for sentience.
From his perch on the tree, Pawa observes what the guardian has done to old one. At first, he does not understand. One second old one was there, the next she was gone.
He stares for a long time at the spot where the old one once stood. His primal brain slowly begins to associate actions with results. As comprehension floods his mind, his emerald green eyes glare in anger, and the gold V in his eye seems to glow from within. He reaches up and starts to swing his anthropomorphic body through the treetops following the exotic scent of the guardian.
The hunter has become the hunted.
Antaeus lives in Central Florida (USA). He is the award-winning author of The Prepared Citizen, a three-book series on how to react to, and avoid, dangerous situations and active shooter attacks. In addition to nonfiction, Antaeus has also published sci-fi, action/adventure, and fantasy novels. Antaeus' poetry and short stories have appeared in magazines such as Gravel, Ariel Chart, The Lycan Valley Press, Trampset, Armarolla, Heart and Humanity, as well as other publications. You can read snippets of the author's work at http://www.antaeus-books.com.