GAIA’S LAST WORLD
GAIA’S LAST WORLD
by Dario Poli and Mara Lemanis
“Is today the day?’ asked Gaia, looking out at the generous circumference her body had made.
Her hair fanned out red, gold, green, flowing over mountains, woods, plains, valleys…cresting lakes, surfing seas.
Her gaze came to rest by the clear, rushing water of The River of Life. It leaped, shimmering, drunk with radiance. But Gaia did not feel radiant.
The promontory of her head made a half turn in the direction of a distant, somber sky. There the mountains were worn jagged, perforated, gouged by debris. The surrounding waters glared stagnant, sick with tar and mud.
Her life’s companion, the great eagle Rhames, soared over the untainted waters of The River of Life, and in long, swooping circles scaled upward to land on the cascading range of her arm.
“What have you seen today?” Gaia asked the shining-beaked Rhames.
The eagle pointed his beak toward the looming darkness of the distant sky.
At once a yellow-black plume shot up like a volcanic eruption. It split the sky and spread into thick, blackened clouds of ash that covered vast areas of the sky.
“This world is running out of space,” thought Gaia.
Rhames’ eagle eyes sharpened on her.
“Thousands of my brothers, sisters died in that inferno,” he cried.
“They won’t stop,” he snapped his beak.
“And the devastation is turning your limbs to stumps.—How much more of your body can you stand to lose?”
Gaia’s hair swathed protectively around the verdant mountain.
“We are what remains. We must find a way to outlast their savagery,” she declared.
She looked at Rhames with a fierceness that mirrored his own.
“It’s the creatures called humans who do this,” he said. “They care nothing for you. Nothing for your plants, animals, organisms. They care nothing even for themselves.”
“I am wretched,” said Gaia.
Her tears ran down the slopes in rills that emptied into the River of Life.
“My natural children—the children of my womb—do not do such things.
Not the beasts of the forests, the fields, not the birds of the air, the fish in the seas. We commit no murders from pride and hate.”
A shudder coursed through the rocks, woods, ravines, as Gaia’s breast rose and fell in heavy bursts of anger.
Rhames opened his beak wide, sounding a loud lament. “Their drive to destroy will terminate all of us…Do you think this is their final blow?”
“I have succored them through millennia,” said Gaia.
“But they are not the children of my womb…
Centuries upon centuries they brutalized my kingdom, slaughtering the beings I created, poisoning my roots, my vegetation…polluting my oceans, seas, streams…”
Rhames fanned out his wingspan and shrilled an outraged wail that echoed around the mountain.
The slopes of Gaia’s bosom heaved again, and she wept.
Orbus, the massive elephant, blared, “They’ve burned us with bullets and ripped our hide and tusks for their trophies.”
He trundled to Gaia’s side for comfort, caressing her head with his trunk.
The rust-coated coyote, Paco, howled. “They live to slash, burn, cripple!”
Orbus pushed up his trunk. “We are the beings who admit to the things we do. We tell the truth. They tell lies,” he trumpeted.
His vibrations sounded warnings to the surviving earth. Trees swayed and lurched, rocks jumped in their beds.
Gaia’s eyes surveyed the horizon and the firmament. She caressed the grass, plants, trees; she soothed her children with a kiss. Then she asked them to gather close and listen.
They flew, loped, trundled, leaped, crawled, and buzzed to her side…bears, deer, rabbits, wolves, sheep, horses, tigers, monkeys, meerkats, sparrows, owls, finches, canines, beetles, snakes, bees…
They all had felt the earth shudder from the last grim eruption. They all were sore afraid.
“I must dam up the sludge from their seas before it pollutes our River…” she told them. “Do any of you disagree with what I should do?”
They all glanced at each other quietly. The grass and leaves stood tall and still.
A twitch, and Gaia let loose her arm. Rocks and soil slid, tumbled to the base of the mountain, falling into place on the far side of the River in a long range of hills, kilometres deep.
Rhames winged over the range, his eyes tracking the slow- moving sludge now trapped by the hills. He saw how the new-formed ridges had stopped the poisonous flow. Flying over the topmost range, he circled back toward the single bridge of wood and stone that crossed the River of Life.
He saw humans massing near the foot of the bridge, preparing to cross over to the pure air and forests that remained on the mountain guarded by Gaia and her natural beings. The humans crowded thick and deep, their mass extending for acres…
Some were on foot, some on bicycles, motorbikes, cars, vans, trucks.
“Their weight will collapse the bridge,” cried Rhames, sweeping back to Gaia’s face.
The sound of weeping splintered the sky …People were thanking God that a bridge was there to help them find refuge from their poisoned land.
A large bus carrying 30 humans started across. It wobbled a little and pressed forward…
“Wait!” called Rhames, swooping back toward the crowd, gulls and crows alongside.
The bus bore down. The platform began to shake and the stone girders started to sway, The bus plowed on. The bridge gave way. It swung off its foundation, breaking the deck.
The bus careened and plunged, 30 passengers inside, down into the gleaming waters of the River of Life.
A high-pitched sob broke out from the beings by the bridge, followed by a low, long soughing. The sound ebbed as though it too had fallen into the River in the wake of the bus with its cargo trapped inside.
“Help!” rose voices from the mass of humans. “Help us!”
A roar came from the River. Suddenly a breaker hurled the bus into the air. It fell, pushed downstream by a furious current, cleansing the bus in a torrent of foam. It paused near a boulder, and finally sank.
Eddies formed in the wake of its doom. White flowers from a buttonbush tree dropped down in slow spirals, silent in elegy.
“We should find a way for them…” Orbus’ trunk dangled sadly past his knees.
“They are not your innocent young!” roared Zarr, the long-clawed tiger.
Moussaka, the afghan hound, lifted her head in a soft bark…”But they are not the ones who caused that deadly launch…”
Gaia breathed deep of the air in her mountain retreat, nourishing her cells with the surviving gusts of freshness her planet still summoned.
“It’s true…these beings are not directly liable for the carnage of our earth…our seas, fields, mountains…
But I warned them--for centuries I warned them…”
Baqr, the condor with a 7 metre wingspan sailed over the tops of spruce and pine…”They are a tough and stringy breed,” he announced .
“Their sorrow is unreliable,” said Gaia. “It’s the same as it has always been…here today, gone tomorrow…”
Gaia’s children listened…at once they heard from the humans the pleas to be saved. They were offering money, gold, gems, textiles, cellphones, foodstuffs. Some offered insurance and fertilizer.
“This is the proof of what we can expect from them,” Gaia confirmed. “They do not understand life that has no use for gold, jewels, or money,“ she laughed.
“It’s what humans do. They live by bribes and barters.”
“They kill us for their food,” cried the cows, pigs, sheep, deer, goats.
“They kick and beat us when they feel impotent or angry,” barked the dogs, the cats mewing assent.
“That is what humans do,” Gaia nodded, shaking her trees, her soil. “They are at the mercy of their ego. Ego kills--not for food or simple survival—it kills for power. It makes them fat with greed.
“They are no longer the children of my womb.” Wind rushed from her mouth like a gale and stopped short before her children.
“You are my children. Because you know what is essential.”
Scoot, the chimpanzee asked, “What is essential?”
“You know your life,” said Gaia.
“I live from day-to-day,” said Zarr. “That is all.”
“What do we know?” asked Scoot.
“You know to feed from me—from the seeds I sow from all that the sun helps grow.” She smiled at the grass, the trees, the flowers, the vines bearing fruit, and blew a kiss to her animal children.
“And when you have done with feeding your families and yourselves, you finally come to rest in me—inside my throat and belly—till I raise you up and nourish you once more.”
“But the humans…? You nourish them too.” Moussaka shook her coat and cocked her head to the side.
“Yes. And then they drill my face, my chest, hips, legs, feet…
They build bombs to gouge my insides.
They shoot rockets that poison the sand, the sea, the land I made so you could thrive.”
“They are our enemy!” Rhames screeched.
Moussaka cast down her eyes, mournful. “I once had a master who loved me…She fed me good food, she brushed and stroked my coat, took me for walks, ran and played by my side.”
“It’s true,” Scoot nodded, hopping from tree branch to tree stump. “Some of them have a kind heart…I met humans who had the heart to converse with me.”
The natural beings waited. They waited for Gaia to do what she had promised as the wails, pleas, and barters from the base of the mountain on the far side of the River continued.
“The radiation from the last explosion will weaken before it reaches us,” said Gaia.
“But the people below are already befouled. They will poison all of us.”
Baqr circled downward and up to the assembly again.
“ I see four humans steering a boat down stream,” he reported.
The creatures stiffened in place. “Where…?”
“They’ve beached on the side of the eastern slope,” said Baqr, making long, slow glides.
“They’re trying to climb up…”
Paco, the rust-colored coyote, growled. “Our home is the last habitation on earth. We forbid them to come among us, to infect us. Leave them to their fate.”
With a quick thrust of her belly, Gaia let loose a small bed of rocks. They rolled swiftly down the eastern slope toward the four humans, crushing them beneath their force.
Moussaka and her companions whimpered. “They’re dead. Killed.”
“Yes.” The hills of Gaia’s shoulders slumped. ”It is always a bad barter, killing to stop killing.”
The hills slowly straightened. “But their toxins would choke our earth. We are the last world, my children.”
Rhames stretched his great wings and circled above his fellows, spiraling in wider and wider rings, dipping down the sides of the mountain and gliding up again.
“I see one human on the northern slope,” he reported.
“A young girl—she has been here on her own for several days. She’s not part of the millions on the other side of the River.”
“Let her come up,” Orbus honked.
“Yes,” Moussaka lifted her noble head. “An innocent human has the right to be here.”
“How will she make the climb?” growled Zarr. “Innocent…all right, but humans need ropes and pulleys to scale a mountain.”
Gaia smiled, turning to Rhames. “My life’s companion…what do you say?”
A graceful tilt of his wings pushed him off and he flew down the northern slope. At once he extended his talons and softened their edge as he swooped down on the girl’s shoulders, scooping her up by his powerful legs.
When he reached the top with his cargo, he swept smoothly before his fellows and softly deposited the stunned girl on a crest where Gaia could view her fully.
Orbus and his friends spread grass and leaves all around the crest to comfort the young girl.
She looked at them dazed. She was gaunt from having lain on the north slope for many days without food.
Gaia’s creatures murmured among themselves. First the bees laid a honeycomb at her feet; then Scoot and his buddies picked blueberries, raspberries, beets, and placed them in her hands, cupping them to make a bowl. Moussaka and her cousins brought butter beans, politely waiting till the girl had eaten the succulent fruit before pouring them into her lap.
Gradually she became alert enough to tell them her name, Sybil.
Gaia had watched with affection as her creatures fed and tended the girl.
“Do you like it here, Sybil?” she asked.
“Oh. Yes,” the girl answered. “I was hoping to find a place like this, away from all the machines.”
“Would you like to stay here with us?”
“I would,” said the girl.
“Good. Then you shall stay, and we will show you a good way to live.”
Rhames exhaled deeply and lifted his wings to their full 2.6 metres. He spoke in gentle rhythms that only Gaia could hear clearly.
“When she is grown, she will want to make humans like herself…but she is the sole human…how will we find her a mate?”
“No need.” Gaia looked at Sybil with great warmth. “She will learn to reach inside herself and find within the fiber of her being the very root of life.”
Sybil and all the creatures heard what Gaia said. They understood that a human being would learn their ways and would not expand her ego. They now could believe the world Gaia made would at last be protected and spared.
The green of the forests glistened, the fruit trees stretched their fronds and branches as if the sun were blessing their fruit, and the River of Life bounded, rolling free in the last home of the world Gaia had made.
Photos: 5) Dario Poli, 6) Mara Lemanis