I switch from leisure to education mode with my eye movement detection glasses, wondering what today’s topic might be. I still need thirty credits to finish the semester so I hope it’s interesting.
2020 Era: Causative Factors and Aftermath, flashes up. Jeez, some random year two centuries ago – what could I possibly learn from that? But I’ve no option, the System will know if I log out, so I hologram a coffee and settle in.
A world map appears with pop-ups for each country sharing information such as leader, population, carbon emissions etc. I click onto populations first. Every country has a before and after statistic, some with huge differences between them. What could possibly have happened to cause that?
In 2020, a global pandemic swept the globe when a virus of animal origin transmitted to humans. Although the specific cause was never identified, it was widely believed to originate in bats, vectoring to humans through the hunting, sale and consumption of pangolin.
I stop reading for fear I may vomit. An alarm bleeps on my healthcare system to alert me to my increased heart rate and anxiety. I select ‘Impacted by environmental factors’ and ‘Calming Mode’. Humans ate exotic animals? I switch to the Amazon viewing portal to check I haven’t invented my reality. The only humans to have entered such bio-significant habitats in my lifetime have been those maintaining the cameras which allow us to observe creatures like pangolin from a safe distance. It’s so widely accepted we shouldn’t disturb these areas – due to their critical role in maintaining life on Earth – that it’s almost impossible to imagine a time when people could invade, capture, kill and eat those same residents. I have to lie down. It’s barbaric.
I can feel the System re-balancing my hormones and I feel better. I take a deep breath, begin reading again:
Covid-19 proved deadly to approximately 1% of the global population before a vaccine was developed eighteen months after initial transmission. During the intervening period, a ‘lockdown’ was enforced for significant pockets of the population. At the start of lockdown, carbon emissions were deadly and life on earth compromised. It was only when rivers and seas quickly re-populated in the first weeks of lockdown that humanity began to understand the grave damage over-industrialisation was having on their planet.
I try to compute this information. It took a deadly virus and deaths of millions for them to understand they were heading down the wrong path. It’s almost unfathomable, especially as my normality is animals and humans having equal rights to life. And of course everyone signs the Protect The Planet For Future Generations Agreement as soon as they have a digital fingerprint.
I wonder how things could have got so out of hand back then.
I absentmindedly click onto carbon emissions. At first I think I’m misreading the numbers, but I’m not, they’re just gut-punch high. My head starts to throb.
I select ‘Emotional overload’ and log off.
About The Author
Nicola Ashbrook is a fairly new writer from the north-west of England where she lives with a gaggle of boys, cats and an overly friendly Boston Terrier. Her flash fiction has appeared in a variety of online and anthology publications including Emerge Lit Journal, Nightingale & Sparrow, Ellipsis Zine, Reflex Fiction and Retreat West. Links to all her publications and listings can be found on her website www.nicolalostinnarration.weebly.com where she blogs about the ups and downs of trying to develop a writing career.
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