By: Laura Billingham
It all began with a rumour. No one knew where it had started… A new virus. A highly contagious virus. Fuelled by social media, the rumour spread around the world, but initially no one seemed to pay much heed. Until…all around the globe people started to die. Old. Young. Fit and healthy. Weak and ill. The disease appeared to be indiscriminate. The virus, if indeed that’s what it was, produced different symptoms in different people and not everyone became infected…the medics of the world were baffled. None of their tests, their science, their accumulated knowledge was able to work out why and how people were dying. Governments ordered their citizens into quarantine. Jobs were lost, businesses failed, economies began to falter but people, for the most part, abided by the lockdowns. Yet the deaths continued; in fact they accelerated. In one day, some five months after the rumour first started, thousands of deaths were recorded. The crows and all the other birds began to wonder ... "what happened to all the people?" They sat in their lofty nests chattering between themselves and gazing down at the empty roads, cities and villages.
The more curious of the crows ventured into the human areas, peering through windows, tapping on the glass for attention. Heads cocked on one side they spied the people in their homes, as they huddled around their screens with the moving pictures. ‘Caw. Caw.’ They crowed at the humans who gazed blankly back at them through the shield of their windows but made no attempt to make contact. The crows shook their heads, flapped their wings and hopped up and down but the humans weren’t interested in anything other than the screens in their hands or in their rooms. Exasperated the crows returned to their nests and told the rest of the birds that the humans must be hibernating, that something was amiss. The wise old trees in which the crows made their nests picked up on the messages of their
feathered occupants and they in turn passed on the news that humans were hibernating. Via leaf and stem, root and branch, all the trees in all the world learnt that humans were staying inside, that there was something wrong in the world of man. The grasses and plants heard the news. The animals that ate the plants and the trees and the grasses ingested the news. Even the creatures in the sea became aware that there was something wrong with man. The Earth drew a long deep breath and exhaled s. l. o. w. l. y. For the first time in a very long time, nothing sharp bored into her to extract the riches of her body. Nothing noxious poured into her streams, rivers and oceans. Nothing foul was pumped into the sky. She rested. At peace.
The grasses and plants and trees grew lush and thick and the insects and animals feasted on the riches, whilst the birds and creatures who in turn devoured them, grew fat and healthy. The streams and rivers and seas cleared and the fish, the dolphins and the whales rejoiced. Curious animals ventured into cities to see humans captive behind the walls, doors and windows of the buildings. Places creatures would never normally visit became new playgrounds. Devoid of the usual vehicles, tarmac roads became animal trails. Birds sang out loudly, proudly, their songs no longer drowned out by the buzz of humanity. By month eight, 50% of humanity had succumbed to the virus…and then, as silently as it had started, the contagion stopped. No new deaths or infections were reported for over two months and all around the planet humans began to emerge from hibernation. Cautiously at first…tentative steps out into a changed world. Governments had fallen. Economies collapsed. This was a brave new world for the survivors. Those that remained marvelled at the wonder of the planet, how being spared the iniquities inflicted by humankind for so many months had enabled a rebirth – a reset. They breathed in the clean air, smiled at the antics of the animals and birds, wondered at the lush growth of plant and tree and grass and vowed to never again take the world and nature for granted. Never again to take more than the planet freely gave. Never again to assume ownership of Her and all Her gifts. The remains of humanity tore down the factories. Flattened the shopping malls, the banks, the high rises, the slums. They reopened schools, libraries and places of learning. They learned to live with the rhythm of the seasons. No power other than that obtained via the sun, the wind, the waves and the rivers was permitted. They respected the planet and all upon it and She rejoiced… and the world flourished again. © Laura Billingham 2020