Author: Jeremy Marks
“Are we seeing some wholesale return of the dead?” -Thomas Pynchon
When homo sapiens expired, at last, it was not by fire, nor by a virus, as the species’ own wits and prophets had predicted. Rather, it succumbed to boredom.
The last days of Earth’s supposedly sole sentient creatures took place on a denuded plain of their own making. No trees remained and the few remaining shrubs blew about like tumbleweeds from old sepia photographs of Kansas. Earth skies were often a dun grey due either to dust or monsoons. Former mountains had collapsed from mining, having either been decapitated or simply fracked to death.
The world had become flat.
Flat and dull. Flat chested but also flatulent. Earth was now routinely coughing up noisome gases, an accelerating pattern that commenced when homo sapiens developed a surprising infatuation with the smell of burning tar. And shortly before that tar ran out, formerly frozen stretches of the far northern regions of the planet began to liquefy in methane releases, a gas whose production they shared with a growing global population of cow butts, swarms of oil drinking vehicles, and archipelagos of “pig shit lakes” now dotting the landscape. The latter being a growing geographical phenomenon built to accommodate the waste disposal needs of a booming porcine population whose numbers vied with homo sapiens to top the census sheet.
In the midst of all this, the rest of the world died. And so it was that homo sapiens began to succumb to horrific boredom.
The reason was simple: there remained nothing to look at. The long-standing hologrammatic fixation of homo sapiens was broken by an absence of items to share across formerly vast clouds of digital projections. People would gather at their screens waiting for something to happen. The wait grew to immeasurable lengths. Between the grey ground, the steely sky, and the herds of pigs leaving pools and piles in every direction, nothing remained to offer titillation. Boredom unleashed a die off.
It began in the middle of the twenty-first century but the species received a temporary reprieve when the pigs became stricken with a virus that did not impact homo sapiens. In every direction, the creatures dropped and decayed and this novelty staved off the boredom epidemic. But soon after came small group die-offs of homo sapiens followed by mass expirations where crowds of the species simply dropped to the dirt. The reason for this sudden end was never clear to the victims themselves, it was speculated that the ever-increasing stink intensity was to blame. But in truth, boredom was the contagion.
– – –
About a decade later Canis lupus emerged, venturing forth from their lair
For some years they had stuck out their snouts and sniffed the air, trying to detect evidence of scents that surpassed smells they already knew: Canis lupus was seeking out the sweat of any remaining homo sapiens. But when the last salty hint of metabolic activity disappeared, out came the scouts. What they found was a vast mausoleum, a bone littered Earth. At first, they burned these relics where they lay but eventually they dug several large pits around the globe connected to their own underground waste chamber networks. In went the bones. It was unsentimental labor.
The return of Canis lupus would, needless to say, have startled any remaining homo sapiens since no member of that departed species ever knew where Canis lupus had gone. As early as the late nineteenth century the “wolf” had started to disappear from entire continents. And while hunters and poachers were often justly blamed, it had never been fully understood by homo sapiens what it was that “extinction” meant. Perhaps extinction was a place like Heaven? Or maybe death meant simply nothing. But the truth was, Canis lupus was sentient too and had retreated to a subterranean hiding place separate from the mines and pits that pocked more and more of Earth’s surface. In their underground chambers, Canis lupus waited out the last days of a species they knew had little time left.
What homo sapiens never learned was how sentience did not depend upon opposable thumbs as so many of their scientists had assumed. In truth, a fixation with tools, and screens, and machines-that-went-boom was a fatal flaw, irrational rationality to be avoided.
It turns out that what sentience meant is a recognized need for companionship. There had been a story, a homo sapiens story in fact which told of a man who had seen a vision of thundering bison herds disappearing through a hole directly into the Earth. Out of that same hole came a cattle herd. Canis lupus knew this story and elected to invite B. bison to join them. It was noted that along with B. bison would also come their feed plants while on the animal’s skin clung critters dependent upon its blood and fat, insects and mites that would nurture avian appetites. There would be a community.
From this beginning came the great theory of “the bison’s back,” a formula compatible with Canis Lupus’ survival plan. Walking out onto a denuded Earth, these pioneers took to terraforming their new Eden.