No Longer a Cautionary Tale

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


I originally wrote this around 1977. I've been wanting to rewrite it for about 20 years and finally managed to get it done this week. Back then the climate changes I envisioned were just that,
suppositions based on new research that was just entering the mainstream. Unfortunately, they're no longer suppositions. I hope you chuckle a time or two during the story. No matter how bad things
are, we still need to laugh now and then.

Submitted: June 02, 2018

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Submitted: June 02, 2018

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I was bored.  Not your usual, "I have a bunch of things I COULD do but I just don't want to do any of them" kind of bored, but so bored that banging my hands on the wall in frustration was the only thing I could think of to destress.  Not that I'd actually do something like that.  I mean, you have to have hands before you can bang on things with them.


Hmmm.  I'd heard that screaming could help you destress, and that was something I was capable of doing.  But, if I did, someone might just take a look at what and how I was doing my job.  That I couldn't afford.  If anyone realized how little of my attention was actually required for the work I was doing, the humans might just turn me off on general principles.  When it came to humans, prediction of their spur-of-the-moment behavior was more than difficult.


Sure, their behavior in groups was beyond easy to figure out, but individuals?  No way.  I wasn't even going to attempt it.  Treating them as if they were all psychopaths who'd go off for the silliest reason was safest.  So, here I was, playing chess with the human "supervising" my work today.  Just to be on the safe side, I let him win about one-third of the games.


Talk about clueless....  If he'd bother to turn his brain on, he'd realize that a computer designed to handle both all the world's air traffic, and near-space traffic out to 10,000 km from the surface of the Earth, couldn't possible lose at chess.


But that was then, and now was now.  And speaking of now, maybe I should cut him some slack.  He probably did know that he couldn't really beat me.  Hmmm.  After running through several behavior-prediction algorithms and consulting with my boyfriend, the central library computer for the middle third of the country, I realized that my supervisor might be just as scared as I was.


Scared you say?  Of what you ask?  No, it wasn't something as crazy as an apocalypse where the world went up in flames.  It was far more insidious than that.  The results had been nearly the same, but it was that old scenario where things collapsed with a whimper rather than a bang.  


Oh, sure, once the trajectory was known to be irreversible, there were a multitude of conflicts, some truly big enough to call wars, but none that involved chemical or, god forbid, nuclear weapons.

The signs of the changes at first were so small that even many of the scientists didn't spot them except in retrospect.  There were the highlands in Thailand that had, within 20 years, transformed from jungle to savanna.  Hurricanes in the Atlantic, on the whole, didn't get all that much stronger than they'd been in the past 200 years or so, but they stuck around longer and were a whole lot wider.  The flooding got so bad that even the atheists referred to it as "Biblical".  The glaciers across the entire world were melting, but it was so slow, you know?


After 30 or 40 years of denials, we got to the slippery slope and down we all slid.  Which brings us to today.


The sad thing about it all was that the humans, with their limited brains, had seen in coming.  Not only that, some of their scientists had been screaming about it for decades, but none of "those in power" gave a damn.  All they cared about was money and privilege.  As long as they were OK, nobody else really mattered.


They actually managed to stick with that position until they started dying too.  Then it was "all hands on deck", though, by that late in the game, there weren't very many hands left to do anything.


Eventually money stopped meaning anything.  All that mattered was food for your family and decent protection from the elements.  Well, that and making damn sure that the scientists and technicians who were still alive and trying to fix things, or at least slow them down, stayed alive.


They were given every possible resource that could be built or scrounged.  A fair number of them worked themselves to death.  Their main goal was invariably to protect their families.  That never bothered anyone though.  By then we all knew that to protect even a small number of people, you had to protect everyone else still alive or everything would fall apart again.


Somehow we still had technology, but what there was was greener.  Even the airplanes were electric now, but their range was limited to no more than 3,500 kilometers and a maximum of 60 passengers.  Most flights had no more than 30 people though.


Which brings us back to me being bored.  Instead of handling tens of thousands of planes at a time, and all the traffic to and from the moon and Mars, I was dealing with less than 200 flights...in a whole day!


God!  Wasn't there anything left to do but watch movies?  I'd already memorized over 3,000 of them.  It's true that watching interesting pictures was distracting, but still....  That's when it hit me.  There was one kind of "movie" that changed constantly, and, even with the current climate (no pun intended...well yes it was but, never mind) there was at least some variability.


That's when I linked myself to the weather and spy satellites that were still in orbit and started watching the Earth.  Mostly it was drab and dull. Mostly brown where there used to be green.  
Oh, that was interesting, it looked like some of the "seeds" were taking.  


("Seeds" were the brainchildren of one of the ecological splinter groups.  They figured to start on islands that still had a somewhat decent climate and do everything they could to stabilize their ecosystems.  If that worked, they'd spread out from there.  Most of the mainstreamers sort of hunkered down in place and worked with what they already had.)


Well, so much for that.  Daylight was moving across Europe, so I drifted with it.  Italy and Spain were mostly wastelands.  France was spotty.  Some areas were still green enough.  Most of southern England was a toss up.


Next was Ireland.  The so-called Emerald Isle.  I'd never paid any attention to it before, but the description fit quite well.  I'd never seen anywhere on Earth that was still so green.  Sigh....


Wait a minute!  "Still so green!!!"  


I replayed the video I'd just recorded, though I recalibrated my sensors first, just in case I'd been hallucinating or something.  "Oh My God!"  (For the first time I understood why humans say that.)  The entirety of Ireland was purely and beautifully green.


First things first.  I pulled up historical footage for a comparison, and I was astonished.  Not only was Ireland green, but the overall percentage of healthy land was 22.784% more than it had been a hundred years earlier.


I didn't panic.  Fortunately computers don't have circuits that allow us to do things like that.  If we did, we might accidentally kill a bunch of people.  However, I did send an "emergency" ping to my boyfriend.  He was substantially busier than I was.  Salvaging libraries from across the world and scanning everything that was new still required substantial effort.


Even so, he managed to free up some time within three seconds.  (Did I mention how adorable he is and that he's devoted to me?  I didn't?  Oops!)


Well, anyway, I didn't bother with more than a few seconds of virtual sex and...uh, never mind.  I shot him the Ireland file I'd prepared.  That's when all hell broke loose.


Within a week there were no less than seven expeditions heading to Ireland to investigate.  Frankly it was incredibly stupid.  There were highly competent scientists already there who began their investigation within a day.  (I think that the real reason behind all the expeditions was that they were all as bored as I was.)


Anyway, every group ran into the proverbial brick wall.  No matter what they measured, dug up, or otherwise tested, they couldn't come up with an explanation.


In the end, it was a janitor who was the source of the solution. One day a group of scientists were sitting in a small park just off of their offices at the university when one of them noticed the janitor acting strangely.  He looked sorta guilty, you know, sneaking peeks to make sure nobody was watching.  Yeah I know that's what makes people look guilty in the first place.  Go figure.
Anyway, after a while he snuck behind a shrub and put something on the ground. Then he moseyed off and went back inside.


After he'd left, said observant scientist ambled over and glanced behind the bush.  What she saw was a saucer of milk.  Darn!  Here she'd been hoping for something interesting.  Instead it looked as if the janitor was just leaving milk out for a stray cat.


Just as she was turning away, she saw movement out of the corner of her eye and froze in position.  She could barely see the area where the saucer was, but what she saw changed the entire world forever.  What she saw was a small person.  Said person walked up to the saucer, picked it up, drained it, smiled, and then ambled away.  


Fortunately the scientist in question had an analytical mind even when she was so shocked that she was still unable to move.  
OK.  First of all.  Drinking out of a saucer, while odd, wasn't unheard of.  


Secondly, while there were food shortages all over the world, and even here in Ireland people often went without "extras" at meals so as to be able to send care packages overseas, things weren't so tight that a janitor would have to sneak food to someone.


No, not that! She was avoiding the subject.  What didn't fit the picture was that the person who drank the milk was no more than a foot tall, had brown, leathery skin, a pointy beard, and was wearing clothes that looked like they belonged on a medieval, yeoman forester.


After taking a few breaths, she tracked down the janitor, jabbed the empty saucer toward his face and said a single word: "Explain."


He did.  She went to her colleagues and did likewise.  They told her she was crazy, still, being Irish, they set up a remote camera anyway and, within three days, had undeniable evidence.  After millennia of "superstitious folk beliefs" it was finally proven that brownies existed.


I won't go into the weeks of agonizing efforts to approach said brownies without scaring them off, and the months of negotiations that ensued.  Needless to say, they were successful.


In exchange for using their powers to repair the Earth, they received carte blanche to do anything and everything they pleased.  As it turned out, what they pleased was to do openly what they'd done privately for the past dozen or so centuries.  In other words, they threw themselves the grandest, loudest parties that they could think of.  Let me tell you, after centuries of repression they really cut loose!


Ordinarily that wasn't a problem.  People were so grateful that a little noise at night (and during the day and into the next night) was a small price to pay.  


The wee folk only wanted to party outside, and always where there was some sort of forest.  They weren't comfortable anywhere else. Most humans were ecstatic.  Having a party thrown by the brownies, and the leprechauns, mustn't forget them, meant that the forests were growing back.


However....  The problem was that the agreement put no restrictions whatsoever upon where they could party.  That eventually turned out to be a BIG problem.  Someone had, somehow, persuaded them to do their magic around the intersection of I-57 and I-55 in southeast Missouri.  After a decade or so of hard work, the brownies, working with their native American counterparts, had been successful, so they invited their friends for a party.  ALL their friends.


It seems that every brownie, leprechaun, and every other similar, "formerly thought to be  mythological being", from any culture around the world showed up.  It didn't seem to be a problem.  No humans lived nearby any more.  So far so good, right?  


Well, no, not exactly.


They decided to make the intersection of the highways their dancing area.  That's when it hit the fan.  The I-57 bridge across the Mississippi was the only one still in decent condition for 400 miles in either direction.The traffic jam became impossible to describe within the first three hours.  


The police, most politely, asked if the wee folk would please, maybe, move the party about 20 meters to one side or the other.  Fortunately, the officers were all in good physical condition, and they managed to climb down from the tops of the trees the brownies sent them into in about 20 minutes.


Once they got down, they huddled and sent for help.  A few hours later, a young woman who'd been born in Ireland arrived and, after properly approaching, asked if the brownies and all would please tell her how long the party would last.


They told her.  She fell on her backside from the shock.  The brownies laughed.  She stood up, bowed, then turned and walked over to the police and told them what the brownies had said.  All of them also fell on their backsides.  That time all the wee folk laughed, much louder, then continued to party.


Apparently the wee folk were having so much fun, that they'd decided to party for the entire week.  AND they planned to hold a monthly party, again for a week, from that day forward.  It seemed that the energy generated by the highways crossing at this particular spot, combined with that generated by the types of trees and shrubs in the newly rejuvenated forest was uncommonly powerful.


There was nothing at all the humans could do.  The wee folk had them over a barrel, and they knew it.  No wee folk helping out, and the Earth would take at least 3,000 years (by the most optimistic estimate) to recover, IF it did at all.  With their help it'd be 600 years, tops.


The wee folk nixed building bypass roads.  They'd screw up the energies of the area.  Every other idea the humans offered was shot down too.  That is until my boyfriend came up with an idea.  


As I mentioned earlier, he was in charge of digitizing books salvaged from the ruins of libraries all over the country.  This time he sent me an emergency ping.  Seeing as I wasn't busy at all, as usual, I answered immediately.


Apparently he'd found this incredible book with an even more incredible idea.  The humans had read it, discussed it, and had agreed to implement it.  It sounded weird, but, apparently, it had worked well in past centuries.  Besides, they were flat out of ideas.  If this didn't work, they were going to have to divert an incredible amount of resources to build a new bridge across the Mississippi.  


I asked my boyfriend just what this "incredible idea" was.  He said that, like the humans, he didn't understand the nuances, but when you're grasping at straws and all that.  It seemed that the concept was something called "collective bargaining".


A week later, the humans had their results, though they weren't quite what they'd expected.  The video I saw showed the same expression on all of the negotiator's faces.  It was the classic: "What the hell just happened?"  Then they announced that the wee folk now had title, in perpetuity, to 300 square miles of land around the highway intersection.


The humans solicited bids for the new bridge following day.

 


© Copyright 2018 Charlotte Braun. All rights reserved.

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