- Francis Liu
Coextinction: A Cautionary Tale
Earth had become a planet of only water. Ever since the Poles had started melting, the water level had been rising at increasing speeds. By the time all the ice had melted, there was no land left. Well, almost.
As soon as the waters had completely engulfed the old land, a mountain started forming under the ocean. Magma pushed it higher and higher until the mountain was an island towering above the vast waters. It was as if Earth was giving life a second chance.
DAY 1: Arrival
It was a clear sunny day when a large white sailboat carrying a family of four landed on the shores of the last island on Earth. A young girl and her twin brother crawled out of a small hole onto the deck, followed by their mom and dad.
The girl, Eren, was small, but she grabbed the railing with an obvious quickness and agility. Her brother, Hector, on the other hand, had a build that could scare off a wolf. Not that there were any wolves left in this new world.
Their mom was a woman that looked like she was in her 40s, and was more used to the easy life of modernity. Their dad was a stocky man, but despite his looks, he was very swift and speedy.
The first thing Eren saw when she arrived was a rocky beach with a few outlying mangrove forests. All kinds of birds were soaring above the shore, and many seeds and sprouts were scattered along the beach. But as she walked further inland, there was no sign of any soil– only rock and sand.
Luckily, Eren had an idea. She would get the bags of soil that they had brought along and spread it all over the place. She ran back to the boat, shouting “Ma! Pa! I’ve got an idea for fixing the land!”
But when she explained the plan, they said, “I know that you want to help the plants and animals. But that is not our first priority. Our actual priority is to start gathering tools, and then you can go gather seeds and spread out the soil.”
“All right,” Eren sighed. “but later, I want to start planting and gardening.”
DAY 5: New life, New rules
Eren’s stomach was roaring. Back in their old house, the siblings had been allowed to eat snacks before her parents woke up. But now that this was a new life, her parents wanted them to be more cautious wherever they went on the island. So for the sake of safety, she had to wait for her mom and dad to wake up before she was allowed to do anything, let alone harvest the crops. Even worse, she had to listen to Hector's complaints, like “I hate the mud!” and “Why are we resting in this tree? It’s so uncomfortable!”
But the worst part was the hunger. She could eat her brother whole. Not that he’d taste good.
Most kids would shout at their parents to wake up, but not them. They knew that their parents wouldn’t like it. Plus, adults tend to sleep longer than children.
Just as Eren was about to rush back into the wooden hut, their parents walked out, stretching their arms and yawning. She was relieved to finally get her freedom back. Because one thing was for sure: she absolutely hated waiting.
After they pulled the weeds and harvested the crops, they sat down to eat breakfast, which consisted of freshly-caught mackerel fish, the eggs of some sort of seabird, and coconut juice.
Eren gobbled it up in an instant and asked for seconds, although that was enough to fill her for the day.
Her next task was to go fishing, and that was her favorite task of the day. She grabbed her dip net and rushed to the beach, followed by a very energized Hector. Using their nets, they scooped some fish from the water and brought them to their mom, who cooked them over a campfire.
When all the cooking was done, their mom shouted, “Lunchtime kids!”, and this time Hector arrived first, with Eren trailing behind. They had a very nutritious meal, and afterward, they continued on with the day. Sure, her past life had been much more comfortable, but there was something exciting about being on this island.
DAY 15: A problem surfaces
Today was a day of great harvest, as all the crops they had been growing had all grown to their full extent. What was even better was that trees were growing all over the island. But not just any trees: These were hardwoods like Oak, as well as softwoods like Pine.
Eren was gathering coconuts with her brother when she remembered something.
“Hector! It’s time for you to help daddy search for pinewood!” She shouted, but he was too busy continuously bonking his forehead on the trunk of a coconut palm.
“Wait! I gotta get this last coconut out of the tree!” he hollered back.
Eren was about to walk to the house when she heard the noise of a ball dropping onto the beach sand. She turned around, only to see a concussed Hector, lying on the ground with a fresh coconut next to him. Unsurprised, she walked back into the house to rest.
A few hours later, there were already a few piles of wood lying outside their hut, which was being torn down by their dad so they wouldn’t waste what they already had left.
“Dad, why are these wood piles so small?” Hector asked. “I don’t think it’s enough.”
“We are trying not to chop too many trees. Remember our campaign?”
Hector Sighed. “All right,” he said.
Time passed, and the house was almost done. Dad said he would patch up the house the next day, and Mom was cooking something so delicious that Eren wanted to steal some of the food, yet she knew it was wrong to do so and held herself back.
During dinner, Eren noticed that Hector was gloomier than usual. He didn't want to eat, he kept groaning when he was asked to do things, and he immediately fell asleep as soon as he was on the bed.
Eren wasn’t able to sleep for the first hour in bed, as she was concerned about what Hector would do if his unhappiness got the better of him.
I wonder what he’s up to… Eren thought, before snoozing off.
DAY 30: The Overhunting Incident
Eren woke up to the sound of a noisy hammer. “Ugh,” She groaned, and then realized that her oversized blanket made of ‘homemade’ cotton rags was piled up on top of her slim build. After struggling to get the sheet off of her, she finally made it out of her bed and landed face-first on the floor. “Ow,” she groaned again.
When she made it to the, her dad was outside strengthening the roof with his hammer and some wooden pegs. They seemed very sturdy, as every hit let out a deafening bang that shook the house. Eren ran outside to look for Hector, but she couldn’t find him.
Suddenly, Dad said, “You looking for Hector? He went hunting for quail, but he hasn’t been back lately. I guess there are too few of them for him to impale.”
Eren suddenly remembered her brother’s unhappiness from last night. He might be up to no good, She thought.
Later, Hector was finally back, but in his hand were dozens of dead quail. He walked up to dad, but when the quail were counted, dad shouted, “This is too much for today! We can’t eat it all! And you shouldn't overhunt! This is outrageous. Go to your room! You’re grounded for the rest of the week!”
“Fine!” he shouted, and as he walked to the room, Eren could almost hear him mutter, “Why did we even have to live here?”
During lunchtime, Dad and Mom were excessively quiet. Eren tried to talk to dad about Hector, but he just said, “You don't need to ask. Just don’t be like your brother.”
After they finished lunch, and a few hours later, as they were about to eat dinner, Eren noticed a small eaglet on the ground. It was alive, though unconscious. Eren showed it to Mom, and asked, “Can we please keep it?”
“I’ll ask your dad,” she said. “Just wait.”
As soon as dad heard this news, he accepted the eaglet as part of the family. He carried it in his palm and tried to get it to wake up, and after a few tries, he succeeded.
The eaglet seemed surprised. It immediately screeched in his face and tried to hop off, but Dad held on. Suddenly, the eaglet started chirping at a slice of meat that Mom was cooking.
“Are you hungry?” Eren asked the eagle.
The eaglet lunged onto the counter. Eren considered that a yes. She rushed into the kitchen, grabbed a de-feathered quail, and placed it on the tea table. The eagle jumped onto the wood, inspected the quail, and tore a slice out of the meat with its beak. Straight away, Eren noticed that the quail’s blood was starting to spill onto the table, so she picked it up and put it on a small paper towel that was lying on the floor. She then placed the eagle on the ground. It ate and ate until it was full, and by then, blood was everywhere, staining the wood that made up the house.
“Guess we should make a nest for it,” Mom sighed. “I don’t really want the blood to ruin our precious handcrafted furniture.
During dinner, they discussed what the eagle nest would look like, and dad taught them tips on how to take care of predatory birds of prey like this one, as he used to be a bird conservationist.
When it was time to sleep, Eren put the eaglet on a small desk next to her bed. She then put an old cloth covered in paper towels inside a large bowl, and the bird jumped into the temporary makeshift nest. At last, she tucked into bed and had a peaceful sleep.
DAY 31: Hector is Forgiven
Eren’s peaceful rest was interrupted by an ear-piercing screech. Her eyes shot open, and the first thing she saw was the eaglet flailing around on her blanket, as well as a bunch of paper shreds on the floor.
“Good morning, clumsy boy,” She said with a giggle. “You might wanna make space for me.”
The eaglet stopped flailing and hopped back into his bowl. She stepped out of bed, grabbed the bowl, and walked out into the living room. Suddenly, she saw the shape of Hector running into the bushes.
Hector escaped? Eren thought as she watched from the front door.
She rushed back in to tell her parents, only to find that they were sleeping like sloths.
I guess I have to find him myself… she thought, ignoring the thought that she would probably see something gruesome. She picked up the eaglet, put it on her shoulder, and started running towards the direction her brother went in.
They were nearing the bush that Hector had hid behind when she noticed a somewhat toxic-looking liquid spilling out of it, and she decided to investigate. She then realized that unfortunately for her, there was a barrier around the area that she couldn't climb, but there was a tall tree that she could, and it was her only choice. “Stay,” she told the eagle as she put it in a leafy pocket protruding from the tree.
As Eren hauled herself up the tree, she could hear the splashing of water on the ground, only she realized when she was in the canopy that it wasn’t water. Hector was inside the barrier, and he was about to pour the liquid into a watering hole!
Eren felt sad for the animals that would drink this water. They and their predators would get poisoned, and then the whole ecosystem would fall apart.
But she wasn’t just going to stand there. She was going in. And she jumped out of the tree, right in front of her brother.
Hector looked up. His sister was right in front of him.
“EREN? YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!” He gasped.
“Well, I’m here for a reason,” She said. “Tell me why you’re going to pour poison into the water.”
“Because then we’ll be the dominant beings again! Think of it,” Hector replied. “We’ll rule this island!”
“Humans were never supposed to be the dominant ones! We and the animals should’ve been equal!” Eren shouted back. “And even if we were, our ancestors didn’t intend for it to happen! They were just trying to survive, and they didn’t realize that some of their discoveries would harm the ecosystem!”
There was a long silence. The two glared at each other for a while, until Hector sighed and said, “You’re right. Humans weren’t supposed to be like this. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine. Just confess to dad and it’ll be alright,” Eren assured him.
Back at the house, Dad was having a talk with Hector, while Eren was helping Mom prepare the next meal.
“Mommy?” Eren asked. “Do you think that Hector will be forgiven?”
“I believe so,” She replied. “Your dad doesn’t usually get angry in these situations. I think the same will be true for this one.”
Their conversation was abruptly stopped when Hector rushed into the kitchen, wearing a grin that seemed to stretch from ear to ear.
“Dad promised us that we could go fishing in the river tomorrow!” He exclaimed.
“Really?” She asked, as the main river on the island was supposed to be off-limits to anyone other than Dad, Mom, and the animals. “If so, make sure not to catch too much. Or else we won’t be able to find cool fish in the future!”
“Alright,” Hector said with a smile. “See you at dinnertime. I’ve got to find my fishing net!”
He sprinted back into his room, and a few minutes later, they could hear him asking Dad where the fishing gear was because he had no luck looking for them. I guess I should get mine as well… she thought.
Hours later, after they finished dinner, Eren gently carried the now asleep eaglet off the counter and placed it into the new indoor nest that had been placed there in the afternoon. She lay down on her bed, tucked into her blankets, and fell asleep, finally having convinced her brother that nature and humans can coexist after all.