The Blooming



An avid birder from Australia was the first to notice them. She was visiting Peru on a tour and saw them through her binoculars. Unlike their close cousins, these swallows had bright red patches under their eyes. The tips of their wings were silver. They burrowed into cliffs on the shore of the South American country, hundreds of them. No one had seen the like of them before. The world of ornithology was stunned. A spokesperson from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York tried to explain the shock by saying it was like waking up and finding another room in your house had appeared overnight. Other than the hundreds of birders who flew to Peru to see the new species of swallow, the story was entertaining and no more. Some good news in a world full of bad news. The Red-eyed Swallow became a symbol of hope, at least to some. Scientists, however, were confounded and shocked.

On the coast of Maryland a few weeks later, crabs began to appear on the shore. They were bright purple in color with orange claws. Their eyes protruded slightly from their shells. An iridescent marking on their shells looked suspiciously like the mathematical symbol for pi. Others interpreted the symbol as a cross. Others as a crossed heart. Still others likened it to the face of Mary, mother of Jesus. But Pi crab caught on, and although its proper name was the Orange-clawed crab, no one recognized it as anything but the Pi crab. The new species came in hundreds. They steamed great pots of them and made crab cakes and kept their mathematical shells on desks to marvel and reflect upon.

Zebra dolphins were seen in the Mediterranean. They were striped black and white, as their name suggests, and they swam in pods much larger than normal dolphins. They were smaller than many dolphins, about the size of a German shepherd, but they leaped from the water with great alacrity. Some of their super pods had as many as a thousand individuals. They followed ships and boats, streaking through the water playfully.

The dagat appeared in New Zealand, a creature somewhat mixing the qualities of dog and cat. It was large with a pronounced snout, but had smooth, tigerish fur. Its eyes were emerald green and could be seen glowing in the forests at night. It gave out a bark when threatened, but also could be heard purring in the trees when the sun was pleasant.

In the Antarctic, photos came of a bird something like a penguin, but with the ability to fly over the water for very brief periods by super extending their wings and gliding. They also lacked the black and white tuxedo look of their penguin relatives. Instead they were lavishly colored with crimson heads, a sapphire blue chest, and green wing feathers. Their tail feather also trailed long feathers like a bird of paradise that terminated in two puffs of orange. It was called the Skimming Penguin.

Soon came the lorat and the pichami. There was also the bickurat and the red-winged sparrow. From South America came the Great Llama, nearly two times the size of its cousin, who moved in herds, eating not only cactus flowers but the leaves of acacia plants, like goats. There was the Southern Cheetah of Africa and the Panchera Tiger, which was described as like the Bengal Tiger but half the size and living in colonies of dozens, lounging in the trees and glowering down at all with baleful, threatening eyes. An infestation of magrats hit Iowa, packing corn in their kangaroo-like pouches. A mosquito whose bite injected a powerful soporific into their prey appeared in Maine and New Brunswick, creating hordes of people who flocked to the state to be bitten. It was claimed the sleep the mosquito produced was so profound that you woke up feeling as refreshed as a newborn. The occasional case of malaria was an annoying side effect. In the Sea of Japan appeared a whale as red as blood with a dark face who was as aggressive as its cousins were peaceful. They were named Bull Whales and became a serious nuisance for safe sea travel in that part of Asia. Bull Whales were known to capsize smaller boats and to cripple larger vessels by purposefully ramming themselves into propellers like kamikaze pilots. Woe to the swimmer near a Bull Whale! They were known to grasp a human in its jaws and drag them down into the profundities of ocean until they either drowned or their lungs collapsed from the pressure. The Pacific now teemed with blue-bellied anchovies that suddenly appeared off the coast of Chile and were soon seen as far north as San Francisco. In the Arctic swam the cycloptic eel, a strange one-eyed eel who congregated in seething masses of hundreds of thousands, fattening ecstatic Polar Bears.

In a period of a decade, scientists described the appearance of nearly six thousand new species. They seemed to appear every day and from every corner of the Earth. Popularly it was known as the Bloom. Evolutionary biologists were at a loss to explain it. Ecologists were baffled. Scientists all over the world worked day and night to find the explanation. Samples were taken and studied. Specimens were tested. DNA was separated and examined. One scientist, Gertrude Havelock, from the University of Iowa, put forth the Theory of Hyper Fecundity. She argued that following every era of mass extinction there followed an equal era of new life, new species. Now, because of the loss of biodiversity all over the world because of humanity, a new era of Hyper Fecundity was beginning, and it was happening much, much faster than any scientists would have guessed. A generation of scientists spent their lives studying the Fecundity with little results.

The Vasari emerged from Canada, but where exactly they originated was a mystery. They were taller than us, swathed in the white and golden fur of the Northern Mammoth, which had appeared a decade or so before. Their long, lithe arms carried slim rifles forged from steel. Their round eyes, larger than ours, were as yellow as the sun and just as bright. Their cheekbones were larger, their faces slimmer. Their skin changed color with the daylight so that they were light in the morning, dark in the full daylight, and light again at night. They were not separated by gender and each Vasari gave birth when he/she wished with a partner who likewise wished it. They spoke carefully in several human languages and one of their own, a language like waterfalls accentuated with pops and snaps. Their own language they would not share and linguists could not learn. They came in hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands. They built their own cities in the North. Soon there were millions of them in Canada and Russia and Greenland.

A new world had arrived. The billions of us left found themselves in a world they did not recognize, full of creatures as strange to them as aliens. In our hearts, we felt the end of things. But it was not ugly. There was relief in the end that we would leave an Earth even more beautiful than the one we inherited. It was easy to surrender our desperate grasp upon something which always refused to be owned. With so much new beauty in the world, it was not difficult to die.

Like the penguin, we too learned to fly, to skim the waters of a place that had once been ours and then dive into the darkness.




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