If All Humans Were to Disappear

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If All Humans Were to Disappear

By: Charlotte Schofield

Space:

1. The area of openness between two objects.

2. The endless universe that our planet resides in, the vast absence of material.

3. A brief pause, also known as a rest.

4. The feeling of euphoria.

In the first few hours, almost all of the civilized world will fall into darkness. Without humans to run the plants that provide electricity, cities will fall dark and the night sky will light up. The only power still available would be in areas with hydro-electric plants that run on water like in Niagara Falls. This could realistically last for a couple of years; if they are fortunate enough not to have a part break without repair.

In a few days, underground subway channels around the world will flood with water without subway crews to pump the groundwater out. The water will rise to the streets and turn long avenues and drives into rushing rivers. These rivers will rage against skyscrapers that once held corporate companies, law firms, even famous hotels. The waters erupting through the city turn its once neat streets into a watery graveyard. The skyscrapers become glass tombstones, the bodies of lawyers, hotel maids, cab drivers, even the odd cluster of pigeons lay like broken things on the side of the road. Huge sheets of glass would shatter to the sidewalk, cutting the earth like knives and piercing the concrete jungle.  

Within a few weeks, most house pets will escape their homes through open windows or starve to death because they won’t be accustomed to hunting in this new wild world. Zoo creatures will hunt inside their enclosures: cheetahs chasing Canadian bison, prized Komodo dragons crunching through the bones of the petting zoo chickens. Or they’ll escape through the turntable gates, fly over the iron-wrought bars, and crawl into the world with the hunger of solitary prisoners who have been released from life sentences.  The feeling of euphoria makes the zoo animals grunt and snarl and squeak and squawk and exclaim, “Hallelujah!”

All the endangered populations of exotic animals will multiply quickly over the first few months without the interference of humans, creating new species and mutations over thousands of years. Eventually these creatures will inhabit all human cities like New York, Shanghai, Moscow and will rule the land above sea level.

Within a month without humans, nuclear plants will explode and create radiation blasts lasting for thousands of years. Next the chemicals used in the main reactors and boilers will release into the air, thick clouds of noxious gasses toxic enough to choke an elephant to death. Without energy to run them, these toxic gasses will permeate the atmosphere, creating a mini nuclear winter. The temperatures will drop drastically and animals will begin to hibernate and kill each other for survival. The climate change will be extreme, winter storms will turn to an enormous heat wave, the ice sheets will melt into the oceans, and the sea level will ultimately rise.

One year after the humans disappear, all satellites in Earth’s orbit will fall back to the surface, returning the night sky to shooting stars, bursting nebulas, Aurora Borealis and Gods at war. In two decades, all vegetation will evolve and cities will be completely hidden away by towering trees, twisting vines and canopies to block the ground from sunlight. All fruits will mutate into bizarre plants, overgrown with all the unused nutrients, evolving without the threat of deforestation and human meddling.

Desert cities like Las Vegas and Dubai will be drowned in the melted ice sheets of the former Antarctic and become lost under miles of new ocean water. Two hundred years later without humans, all underwater cities will be swept to the bottom of the ocean floor. The water pressure will break dams, collapsing them, ultimately changing the Earth’s landscape. After three hundred years without humans, all metal structures like the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty will corrode with rust and internally collapse. The only structures left will be ones made by the old world, made of stone and mortar like the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza.

Our electromagnetic radiation will always last; little bits of television, radio, and telephone signals left from humans will bounce around space for eternity. Unsent emails asking for vacations from bosses that were quickly deleted, voicemails from mothers asking when you’re coming home for Winter break, wedding songs lost in the vast absence of our universe, whispers of people who lived and died thousands of years ago still echoing.

If all humans were to disappear the world would keep turning, the grass would keep growing and the stars would keep shining in the night sky. But what if one human managed to survive the nuclear explosion, the ice age, and managed to multiply and evolve with the animals of Earth; humans becoming something else.

What if they thrived?



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Polaris Will Guide You Home

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Polaris Will Guide You Home

By: Connor McPherson

The raspy ache of Robert Plant’s vocals seep into the aging interior of my dad’s old Ford pickup truck.

“Hey, hey mama said the way you move / Gon' make you sweat, gon' make you groove,” my dad croons. “Hey, wake up Jimmy Page.” He slaps my arm with his thick hairy hand, snapping me back to reality.

“Sorry.” I rub the crust still encasing my eyelids from last night’s sleep.

“What’s up with you, bud?”

“I’ve been having dreams about mom; now it’s all I think about.”

“What kind of dreams?” The tone of his voice softens as he turns down Page’s solo, which is usually my responsibility to play my air guitar.

“It seems to always be the same one in which she’s holding me as she dances around singing.”

“She did love singing to you.” He smiles, or what seems like a smile; it was the type of facial expression that is unaware if it’s happy or sad.

We sit for a while and take in the flat farmland outstretched before us. Off in the distance is the faint silhouette of long mountain ranges masked by the dense haze of the Central Valley. Workers draped in long sleeves and straw hats move methodically through rows and rows of trees, as they pick almonds and place them in woven baskets. After a couple hours on the straight line that is Highway 99, which induces a hypnotic lull, the once distant mountains now tower before us.

“You ready for this, bud?” The corners of his mouth twitch up to the middle of his cheeks. He shows off every single one of his iced tea stained teeth.

“I think so.”

“Fifty miles is nothing for you. We finally get to experience the Pacific Crest Trail.” My dad always loved spontaneous trips. He worked hard to keep our time occupied. If it was not for our adventures, then most of my free time would consist of a journey down a dark rabbit hole. For a while my bed was my only muse.

On the trail the fresh air of spring is abundant. An intoxicating scent of wildflowers in bloom is accompanied by an orchestra of birds that welcome our fresh faces. Somehow my dad is able to distinguish each bird. He spouts off names like the western wood-pewee, dusky flycatcher, mountain bluebird, and Steller’s jay. The songs of the birds seize momentarily as a Sharp-shinned hawk nose dives from the sky, like a silent assassin. It snags a squirrel a mere one hundred feet down the trail.

“I feel like John Muir!” my dad yells. His deep rumble echoes into three more John Muirs.

The evening sun fades into the horizon of the mountains that surround us. The once vibrant colors of the day transform into a shade of faint blue. We set up our tent and start a fire before nightfall bestows its mysteries upon us.

My dad leans toward the blaze, which leaves a trail of smoke ascending toward the stars. “Want to hear a ghost story?” The flames perform their dance rituals in his eyes.

“A ghost story?” My thick eyebrows stretch to the center of my forehead. They stand tall like the mountains that surround us. I’ve never been one to really like ghost stories. I don’t know what to say, but I also don’t want to look scared, so I suck the smoke filled air through the tiny crevices in my teeth and let out a cough.

He laughs and looks up to the dark slate of hole punched sky. “It was your mom’s favorite. Her grandfather started telling it to her when she was only eight years old.” He continues to concentrate on the night sky. With his thick pointer finger, he traces along the wavy cluster of stars that forms the Milky Way. “Ah ha, Polaris. There she is son. The North Star. If you are ever without any sense of direction, just know the night sky can help.”

“Sure, let’s hear the ghost story.” I cut him off before he is able to delve any deeper into his lecture about the cosmos.

His stargazing trance snaps over to me wrapped up in my sleeping bag. “I actually think you’ll like it.” He smirks. “So there is this tale about a bear, but this is no ordinary bear. This ferocious beast has extra-long claws, like the tips of daggers. One can hear them tearing through flesh from a mile away. All it takes is one swipe to severe a limb. Its fangs are so long that they hang out of its mouth in a menacing grin.” He exposes his upper row of teeth and rubs them over his bottom lip. It sounds like the crunching of leaves as his teeth rub against his developing beard. “Saliva and blood constantly drip off its fangs as they await their opportunity to dig deep into the flesh of its unsuspecting prey. One may think they can outrun this monster, but little do they know it can run faster and climb higher than any other beast. Once it detects your scent, there is no escape. This bear is also double the size of any grizzly, and once every spring, it chooses an enemy, and imprints on them for trespassing on its land. It lives in a terrain just like this one. With the freedom to roam and discover new hikers along the trail that, the beast has claimed as his land. This mighty beast stalks hikers for many miles, and slowly creeps on them before it lunges its massive body in attack. Its claws pierce the flesh with ease, draining the blood of its victims before it drinks the puddling pool of scarlet syrup. Legend says that you can only hear the crunch of the earth before it is too late. It stalks and stalks and stalks until bam... You’re dead!”

I jump to my dad’s sudden scream. “I sure hope there’s none of those out here,” I say with a slight tremble, now weary of the enclosing darkness.

He laughs and pats me on the back. I try to laugh it off but can only think of death. The night feels darker than before as the dense trees hover over us. A cold wind whistles through the outstretched branches. They reach their long limbs toward my back.

“Come on, pal. Let’s head to bed before one of those bears gets yah.”

Sleep once again thrusts the same dream of my mother upon my unconscious mind. “Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say,” seeps like honey from her lips. Her long black hair is pulled behind her ears in a tightly woven braid. She cradles me in her arms as she waltzes barefoot around our ocean green carpet that we still have to this day. Harvest Moon by Neil Young grows louder on our vintage record player as she continues to sing along. Her voice is soft, and pillows my ears in the pitch of love. She sings every word just loud enough to make Neil Young sound like a back-up singer, and as the song ends, my dream fades to black.

I awake to the sound of rainfall dancing on the tops of newly sprouted leaves, so green and full of life. They soak in the pureness of the early spring offering. The crisp smell of rain fills my lungs as they are finally alleviated of last night's smoke.

I hear my dad crunch through the dirt. “Looks like the first rainfall of spring came a little earlier than expected.” He unzips the door of our tent and pokes his face inside, painted with his excited grin like a mischievous kid who outsmarted his parents for the first time.

“It’s kind of nice,” I say through a yawn.

“Well let's hope the storm doesn’t get any worse. Now get up, I made some oatmeal. ‘We have miles to go before we sleep.’”

“Alright, Robert Frost.” I lay back down and outstretch my arms to relieve myself of any remaining sleep.

“Get up boy.” He throws a packaged poncho at me. The chemical smell of plastic replaces the scent of rain.

After breakfast we pack up our gear and embark on the first twenty miles of our expedition. About five miles into our trek, the soft kiss of the sprinkling mist turns more ferocious. The once mere whispers of rain become a thunderous roar as the droplets seem to triple in size and numbers.

“Goddammit,” my dad mutters under his breath as he looks up into the dense gray sky. The water droplets drip down the speed bump like wrinkles on his sun worn face. We endure what seems like hours of heavy rain when it ends just as fast as it began; almost like someone remembered to shut the water valve off. “Just in time for the home stretch.” He lets out a single laugh that sounded more like a squeal.

“Woohoo,” I say in a faint tone. Though I miss the roar of the rain. It blocked out the commotion going on inside my head.

The now distant clatter of the rain allows for animal noises to take over, but behind the usual sound I’ve been hearing a continuous thud in unison with the breaking of branches.

“Dad, do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“It sounds like a loud thumping and cracking of branches.”

His attentive stride is paused with immediacy, examining the dense circumambient forest. His light green eyes scan the tree-line with the analyzation of an accountant during tax season but the trees with their lush vegetation make it hard to see. “Must be nothing.”

We return to our quest when the thuds begin again louder than before. My dad does a quick one-eighty and his eyes widen. The gathering of branches in the distance shakes in a violent manner.

“Run!” he yells.

I quickly glance back to discover a large furry creature in the distance, sprinting toward us. I run, catching up to my dad in a matter of seconds. A slight mist still hangs in the air as we search for an escape. We weave in and out of the massive trees, further discombobulating our sense of direction. My dad slips on a group of wet roots which catapults him into the base of a tree. He screams and grabs his knee just above his shin. I throw my backpack to the ground. A puddle of muddy water sprays into the air. I pull him to his feet, leaving his pack to sink in the mud. Without hesitation we begin to run again. An extra dose of adrenaline courses through our bloodstream as we are back to a full sprint until my dad falls into a dense covering of bushes. We peer around its blooming wildflowers, and to our surprise there is no movement in sight. Was something really there?

Too exhausted from the sprint, we agree to setup camp. My mind is encapsulated by a vision of the beast watching us as it waits for the perfect opportunity to strike.

“We’re gonna have to camp here for the night. I think my leg is broken,” my dad says. The reality that we are lost without our gear sets in. My throat plunges into my stomach as I’m overcome by the feeling that occurs when one stands up too quickly. We remain silent for quite some time. The fire cackles with the laugh of a wraith, mocking our human naivety. This and the steady hum of the crickets combine with my dad’s soft cries.

“Dad?” I stare into his green eyes that glow orange from the fire. I search for an answer but nothing is there. I have gone to these same eyes so many times before but all that remains in the moment is the steady dance of the fire.

“Yeah, bud?” Those two words are met with a grimace as he struggles to put a makeshift splint around his shin. His olive skin is painted in multiple shades of purple.

“Are we going to die out here?” Unable to handle the sight of him in pain as I wait for a response, I look up and search for Polaris.



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