Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The great starving horde marched through space. No, they didn’t. They swarmed and, just as the hive-minded are apt to do, they toiled relentlessly, each individual an integral part of the whole.

Every last one a citizen and willing slave to its place and function as the collective of this ancient civilisation rose up from its dying world and took the form of a single mass. A great black-winged wedge to glide through the ink in search of that one thing all life craves – sustenance.

I’m not sure if you’ve read or, perhaps, you’ve been told that in all of existence there are but two worlds that harbour sentient life.

The first, of course, is Earth with its hierarchy of intelligence that, arguably, staggers down from humans and then to things that can be shot or caught in nets and, then, to things that squash beneath the tips of shoes and then onto some other insignificant organisms even smaller than that.

The other world, I forget now its name, is the afore-mentioned now dead rock from which the horde had set out. A place where microscopic Goliaths devoured all the things that swam in its sea and all the furry and feathered and scaled creatures that wandered the land and then, finally, although they had long toyed with the possibility of their preservation, they also gulped down the humanoids. The creatures that looked just like you. Mostly, save for that thing with the ears.

So these insects, for want of a better word, they cleaned out their larder and then set out into the heavens in search of a bite to eat.

It is only by chance that they happened upon your minuscule backwater speck of life. A water gripped rock upon which their great wedge could swoop and divide. You saw didn’t you as they dispersed into precisely targeted legions that cut down through the clouds and shunted your day into night.

They targeted the sentient and the swarm did adhere to every last living, breathing and thinking one of you. The first wave hit and they locked together, interconnecting their exoskeletons so that, once again, the many become the one. All life freezes in situ and in an instant all sound ceases, a global silence before simultaneously you could hear them begin to chew.

So there it is. That is how you ended, shredded away from the outside to the in by a bus load of ravenous tourists. The first wave passing back its masticated nutrition to the next wave that latches to its back and, then, back again to wave after wave until you have been replaced right down to your core.

But you had an unwitting surprise in store, didn’t you? You pass on a last little treat. A strand that twists within a tiny strand of your animal essence. A simple variation that locks their joints and closes them down and dooms them to never again budge.

They die, eventually, this time unable to escape from the hunger that throbs and claws in their heads. Though, even if they could, there is not but one crumb of sustenance left in the universe to be had.

At least the trees still look down, creaking in the wind above your morbid monuments. Statue remembrances as you bleach and flake in the sun.

So that’s the story, how in a single day the sentient life total for all of the cosmos was dialled back down to zero. Well, almost zero.

Zero, not counting me.