You wax so poetic about the lives of cities, how hot pavement swells with each behemoth breath, subway arteries rushing with electric lifeblood; look at Paris and New York, Rome and Sao Paulo, oh what ancient beasts of civilization! Yet even the oldest cities are naught but animate skeletons, great slabs of concrete death laid out upon the graveyard of a once living land. You want real sentience? You want a consciousness so vast its leviathan architecture is incomprehensible to your human mayfly mind? Go to the country. Go to the wilds. Go to the green growing places where man has yet to fully intrude, where you can be surrounded by things which exist only for themselves and not your convenience or society’s continuity. Walk out into the fields at night; feel the weight of the darkness on your shoulders like a raptor descending, the cool serpentine scales of the silence as it brushes against you. Stare up at the sharp, distant stars which scorn to shine on the polluted corpse-cities and sense like all prey animals the true primordial awareness boring into you. Understand for the first time how very small and fragile and fleeting you are, here among the collective consciousness of a wilderness untamed. The city can kill you just as easily, of course, but when you die in the country they’ll never find your body.
I’ve carried the burden of extinction on my shoulders since I was a child, haunted by the sacred spirits of panthera uncia, tigris, and leo, by puma concolor and acinonyx jubatus, by the wailing specters of the burning Amazon and the melting Arctic. Even then I saw the irreversible trajectory of our folly and in the years since no amount of hope in mankind nor faith in divinity could shake that nihilistic certainty. I do not need cursed Cassandra’s terrible gift to know we crossed the point of no return long ago; we will never invent a technology capable of undoing the evils mankind has wrought, and certainly not in time to reverse the mass death we’ve set in motion. Even my childself, full of the dreams and promises of youth, understood the planetary genocide to which she’d bear witness in her lifetime.
Yet as I drown in grief I must remember my own words: turn to geology on your deathbed, it is the only science that can save you. When the ocean is clotted with orcinus orca’s ghosts and plastic shopping bags, it will still wear away continents and heave forth cataclysmic waves. When the mountains are littered with canis lupus corpses and abandoned solar panels, they will still cleave the sky and bury empty cities in eruptions of ash and mud. When every living thing is dead and we have finally committed the last of our species’ incomprehensible crimes, the earth will still remain. The planet will continue its endless cycles of upheaval and erosion, rupture and subduction, its titanic geologic metamorphosis, as if we had never been. Earth, at least, we cannot truly kill, no matter how hard we try.
you ask why I rage
while you toss the leavings
from your chainsaws
on my fires
You know, I almost hope unicorns don’t exist. Dragons, too, and fairies and gryphons and harpies, the grim and the sphinx, even ol’ Nessie; all those mythical creatures so rare and beautiful. I hope they’re not real, or at least that they’re long gone by now. That sounds terrible, I know, but think about the shape our world’s in. Do you want such fantastical symbols to exist on an earth we’re running to ruin? I’m not sure I could handle that; it might just be the very last straw. Imagine unicorns treading daintily over cracked concrete with plastic bags tangled around their shining hooves! Imagine kelpies coated in oil, their organs full of microplastics and chemicals! If our trash has made its way to the very farthest depths of the oceans, even onto the moon itself, then where can these legendary creatures possibly hide to escape our touch? Sure, some of them might survive in a polluted landscape – banshees, goblins, other assorted spooks – but not many. And anyway, even a banshee deserves a nice lonely moor to haunt, not some drained and cultivated piece of land with condos sitting on top. It would just suck, is all I’m saying, if we had such magical creatures in our midst and dragged them down with us. If all those unbelievable beings do exist, I hope they can at least get the hell out of here while the getting’s good.
These days I find myself longing for Mars. Not like a Bradbury character yearning for adventure, though, but more like someone skipping to the last page of a tense book to see what happens. Why? Because Mars is dead. Mars is a barren wasteland. Mars is red soil and orange rocks and not a single living thing, not even a drop of water, and that’s oddly comforting. Earth will be like that one day at the rate we’re going, so can’t I just pack up now and move to Mars where the end’s already come and gone? It’s the waiting that’s killing me, you know, it’s the anticipation. I know one day all the green places will be buried under cement and the oceans are gonna swallow us up in their acidic, plastic-laden waters, but when? When will the last bee perish from pesticide poisoning and throw our global food production into chaos? When will the last day pass during which we could ever breathe freely without face masks? When will the last polar bear go extinct, the last Amazonian tree be bulldozed, the last national park fall to the greed of big coal and oil? When? When? I just can’t take it anymore; roll the damn credits! I’m out. But at least there’s nothing on Mars we can fuck up very much, just rocks and dirt and dust as far as the eye can see in every direction. And I won’t have any memory of trees on Mars, so the view won’t bother me so. It’s better than waiting, at least, better than having to sit on the sidelines of the whole damn apocalypse. Take us to Mars, Ray. To Mars!
I am no wanderer. I feel no desire to travel far from home, to visit foreign lands or step foot on other continents. I am happy in the same state, the same rainy peninsula, the same ten mile radius of forest and water where I grew up and which I still call home. This place is where I want always to return at the end of the day and I ask no more than that. As I said, I am no wanderer. I am no wanderer, yet the land around me has changed so that I feel lost in this alien landscape. Forests razed to make way for shopping centers; picturesque waterfront blocked by million-dollar homes. Storefronts sit empty while commercial building continues to churn out box stores and parking lots and cheap cookie-cutter housing. The nights aren’t as dark, the stars aren’t as bright. Every season seems hotter and drier than the one before. Where am I? I did not leave my home, yet neither do I recognize this place.