Thursday, July 22, 2010

Picture 1 Of 7

Abandoned city

Nobody thought it would end like this. Everyone thought it would be something more...theatric. But when the apocalypse came, there was no fire raining from the heavens, and the earth did not split apart to swallow all humanity. No dead crawled from their graves seeking human flesh, and the tide did not rise to engulf the land. There were no aliens, no plagues. There was just…science.
The world wept. The earth did not have enough power to sustain the rapidly growing population which it held. There was not enough food, not enough water. Not enough oil. Humans slowly drained its resources year after year, held in political deadlock, unable to find alternatives. An idea would be proposed, then shot down. Everybody badly wanted glory, and even more than that, they did not want anybody else to have what they saw as their glory. There were those who brought new ideas to the government, but they would never succeed. Nobody would let them.

But then, there were the entrepreneurs. They struck out on their own. They cared about the human race as a whole, putting its needs ahead of their own. One might call them the pragmatists, using their own bodies as experimenting grounds, willing to sacrifice all to determine the final outcome of humanity. These experiments ranged from the basic – alternative fuels – to the improbable – low-energy consumption drugs – to the crazy – splicing animal and plant cells together. Genetic engineering was big, to be sure. There were all sorts of plant-hybrids – tomatoes the size of watermelons, carrots engorged to the point where they could be lances – but these would not last. They were temporary at best, and all too often, just a waste of the most precious resource. Time.

The media didn’t help. Like most, they were only concerned for their own well-being. That meant airing sensationalist, alarmist, the-end-is-nigh, type stories. They instilled a sense of panic in the public, that the end was inevitable. It probably was. They called for the dissolution of governments and corporations. The voices which spoke against this fatalist behavior were quelled, by a suitcase of cash for their bank account, or a bullet for their head. The public, as a whole, panicked.

When a mass turns to panic, there is no heading back. Voices of sensibility or reason will be suppressed by the raw emotion which flows, by the ignorance. By the fear. By the anger. It is at this point when the mass is the most vulnerable. There is only one thing which can dissolve the mass into calm-headed people. Salvation, in no uncertain terms.

And salvation is what was wrought. Wasily Skardt was a lone wolf sort of scientist. He was one of the “crazies”, experimenting in splicing animal and plant genes. Or, that’s what he began as. But then, he went even further, to the point where his “crazy” colleagues dubbed him insane. He was put into a sort of exile, but it was more self-inflicted than anything. One could call him a mad scientist, and he was just that. But at one point, there is rationality, a sort of calm, to any madness.

Skardt believed that the solution to the world’s problems lay in the speed at which food could be made. Start with the most basic problems – food and drink – then progress to the tougher ones – energy. So he tried to make sentient plants, which would reproduce as quickly as bunnies. And he succeeded.

~ ~ ~

A massive tree stood in the center of the Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco. A man, shadowed by the many limbs and leaves of the tree, stands beneath it, a radiant grin plastered upon his bearded face. His face was grimy, and by no means fit to be displayed in public. Skardt had spent a few minutes trimming away some of the worst of it, but the residue of months and years of work could not be so easily removed. But the photographers, the journalists, the reporters, none of them cared. They just wanted the story.

Apples rained down, and occasionally one would hit an unwary spectator on the head. The apples would bloom, grow, and, too heavy for the tree, drop in hours, a process which should have taken months. No sooner would one apple drop than would another begin to grow in its place. The day was filled with amazement and shock, but most of all, was Skardt’s announcement. He would be making his process publicly available, for all to use. He saw becoming rich on this as a fringe benefit, and saving the world was the primary goal. He announced that he and whoever would join him would make a string of plant factories, to mass-produce – in quantities never before seen – food, and thus solve one of the greatest problems which would plague the world. The world was saved, and Skardt would go down in history.

~ ~ ~

In the days to come, there would be outcries by the scientific community, of how this was not a good idea, that this hyper-metabolism would cause evolution to occur at unnatural speeds. But the rejoicing public quelled their cries, thinking them spiteful for the glory they were denied. And so they faded into the background, watching “factories” spew out plant after plant, always watching. They tried time and time again, but they were always shoved away. Until the apple.

~ ~ ~

The apple was the first sign of the downfall of humanity. It was the first sign that Skardt had overlooked something. That the public had overlooked something. No surprise. This apple in particular released a noxious gas when bit into. A gas fatal to humans. So the apple was thrown away for another, and the dead man was mourned. Both were forgotten. Then came the true sentience. Plants developed defense mechanisms when they should not have. The first few deaths were written off as unfortunate incidents. But then, the deaths came quicker and quicker. Plants grew rampant, and mankind fell to their salvation. And the world wept. 

Afterward: This turned out to be a little more apocalyptic than I meant it to be. There's also a bit of tone change right near the end. Hope it didn't throw you off too much.
New one tomorrow!

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