Everyone knew why the sky was dying. Some of the world’s smartest scientists met in Reykjavík, Iceland for a week-long conference dedicated to determining how to fix it. In an undisclosed location, the rest of the world’s scientists were working on the same problem. Only, they were hidden from the world for security reasons. Some scientists believed that the hole in the Ozone layer was responsible for the slow death of the earth’s sky. How could it die? How could we stop it? This last question was the most critical of all, because the dying of the sky had accelerated. There wasn’t much time left and earth’s human population had no where else to go. Within the next 5-10 years, we would all be dead on a dead planet. Or so we thought….
Dr. Magney Agnarsson sat outside on the library steps, smoking a cigarette. Her eyes were closed and she was lost in reverie. Everything she heard the past three days at the conference distressed her. There were no simple answers and no quick fixes. Today it was suggested that everyone go home and enjoy life while they could. Magney threw a spitball at the speaker every time he tried to continue speaking until finally just about everyone in the room threw one at him. He got up and left.
Dr. Benjamin Jordan sat down next to Magney. He waited for her to notice him. Since that wasn’t happening, he spoke and Magney jumped inside her skin. He began talking about the problem at hand. Magney had enough for the day and told him so. As she was getting up to leave he told her that they would not be able to fix it. The earth, it’s inhabitants and the sky would all die together. She sat back down. They talked for the next two hours, sitting on the steps of the University library.
At the first meeting the next day, Dr. Agnarsson addressed the room, and introduced Dr. Jordan. Ben explained that the ozone layer was not the culprit but a victim. Too many years of pollution: aerosols, smoke, nuclear fallout, fossil fuels, volcanic ash, wildfires, methane gas–a long list of which each scientist was already familiar–had damaged the atmosphere of the planet. Add to that the deforestation of the world’s rain forests, which act as scrubbers, taking in the CO2 and giving off O2, and there was no way for the atmosphere to recuperate. Even if everyone on the planet stopped using their cars immediately, and every manufacturer stopped pumping pollutants into the air, the oceans and rivers, there wasn’t enough time for the atmosphere to heal.
If all airlines stopped flying as well as the Air Force, and all other planes, and trains, and helicopters and military vehicles were no longer used; if electricity was banned unless made by wind, water or solar power; if everything and anything that went into our atmosphere was stopped, immediately, it would not help. Any hope for the planet and ourselves was gone. We killed our only home. According to Dr. Jordan’s calculations, the earth only had three more years, and with each of those years there would be less and less O2 and a buildup of CO2 and other lethal gases. The three years would be three years in hell.
There was a solution to avoiding the agony of the last three years of the planet. It actually came from the Prime Minister of Australia. He reminded everyone of the classic movie, “On the Beach” (1959). There had been a nuclear war. Fallout was traveling slowly around the world, killing in its path. Death by ionizing radiation was particularly nasty. The last country that would be affected was Australia. Those who could get to Australia, did. They were just postponing the inevitable. Each person, each child, was given a pill which would kill them painlessly and quickly and it was suggested they take the pill when they were ready, but before the fallout arrived.
And so, earth’s inhabitants planned their suicides. The Vatican had issues with the plan, but finally, gave in and gave all Catholics dispensation for taking the lethal pill. Even the Pope had a pill, but he and the Cardinals would not take theirs until the last-minute. There were other poisons available for zoo animals, domestic and farm animals.
Speculation was abundant regarding the fate of earth once humanity was gone. Would the earth eventually heal and begin again? Or would its sun burn it into a cinder ball in the absence of an atmosphere? In the grand scheme of things, would it matter; would earth be missed?
Earth was hardly silent. It’s death throws were all too audible for anyone who, incredibly, was still alive. Volatile gases caught fire in the deadly sky creating a ring of fire around the planet. The depleted atmosphere and mere remnants of the ozone layer allowed meteors in, which otherwise would have burned up upon entry. The heat and radiation of the sun were relentless. The oceans boiled. Tectonic plates shifted. There were earthquakes and volcanoes erupted. Nothing survived.
The age of humanity had ended.
“Houston, do you copy? This is the International Space Station.”
“Copy ISS, this is Houston….”
Or, maybe not.
Inspiration Monday: The Dying sky at Be Kind Rewrite
Word Count < 1000
Photo credit: thinkprogress.org Prompt: The Dying Sky
Thank you to Stephanie Orges for hosting Inspiration Monday