I am driving towards the school. Looking at the rear-view mirror I adjust my sunglasses and my hair. I glance through my phone. October 13th 2055, 9 AM. Damn! I will be late again. I step my foot on the accelerator. The streets are empty, the roads bumpy and dusty. I can hardly find anyone roaming around the streets after the fateful event which unfolded a few years back. The event, which everyone wants to erase from their memory. But the dreadful event, humans screaming and the nightmare has been flashed in our minds like a permanent tattoo. But this tattoo has been etched with a bolt of lightning. Burnt deep within the reptilian brain, which cannot be erased. It will be transferred from one generation to another through genes. I guess that’s what makes us human. It’s time for us to learn from our mistakes before it’s too late. Perhaps it’s too late. “Hope”. That’s what is making us move forward. “Hope”.
BEEP BEEP BEEP. I glance at the indicator. Damn, it’s almost empty. I panic.
“ELSA – where is the nearest refill station.”
“Refill station is 3KM from here, towards the 3rd right.” Thanks to artificial intelligence, well at least there is something, which we got right. I hope I have time, I hope I can make it there. Hope, that’s what keeps us alive now other than the heartbeat.
“You have reached your destination,” Elsa says.
“Quick! I need a refill,” I yelled.
“Which one would you opt for? The refined Oxygen or the processed oxygen?”
I adjust my oxygen mask.
“Refined oxygen please. “, I say.
As he is filling my oxygen carrier, I can feel fresh oxygen pumping in my body. A mist forms within the mark. I gasp for more oxygen. This feels better. As the oxygen flows through my blood and moves towards my brain flirting with it. An old memory crops up. I chuckle remembering old times. There was a time where we used to refill our vehicle’s fuel tank, and NOW!!
“Your oxygen carrier is full sir. It will be 1000 rupees. It should be good enough for a week. “ He says.
I hand over the money. There was a time where we used to get worried about fuel prices. I laugh aloud.
“Is everything alright sir?” he asks
“Yes, I just remembered my old days,” I reply.
“So what’s the count for today,” I ask.
“3,98,000,” he says with disappointment. I can see the fear in his eyes. There is no life in it. The light has gone out.
I start driving towards the school but this time I am not in a hurry. My mind is occupied with the flow of thoughts or perhaps, Oxygen. I recall all the good memories before of my life before the fateful incident. An incident that gives me shivers down my spine. We lost everything. Literally everything. But, all we have is Hope. Hope for a better day. Hope for a better future. Hope to rebuild.
I park my car. I move towards the huge peepal tree. Perhaps 100 years old. It’s the oldest in this region. It’s like an old wise man who doesn’t speak. But he is a witness to what happened in this world. At night its branches look like ancient witches’ hands with long nails touching the ground. A witch who reminds the stories of atrocities by the smartest creatures on earth. A witch who mocks, perhaps trying to say the truth.
The students are sitting around the tree. Their oxygen masks were removed. Gasping fresh air. They are waiting patiently for me. I teach them geography, art, and history. Today I will be teaching geography. The basics of geography.
They greet me with a warm hug and wait patiently to learn more. I can see the enthusiasm in their eyes. I can see the light in there. It gives me hope.
“Let’s revise our previous class lessons. So student, how many continents are there in this world?”
Benjamin swiftly raises his hands. His hair oily, a cute smile. His front tooth is broken. He adjusts his round glasses which look like Gandhi’s glasses. Perhaps it is his.
“Me, me.” He says with enthusiasm.
No surprise here, he is the smartest one in the class.
“Yes Benjamin,” I say.
With a cute tone just like a 3 year old, he says, “There are 4 continents. They are North America, Asia, Europe, and Africa” I smile looking at him he has clearly mugged it. But, I am shocked, he usually doesn’t get it wrong.
“No, Benjamin. It’s incorrect.” I say
“There are only 3 continents. North America, Asia, and Europe. Africa doesn’t exist now.” It hurts me to say this. It is like I am holding the future generation by their collar, mocking them and saying, how we destroyed the planet and left them with nothing.
Benjamin smiles and sits down.
“Sir, sir what’s the count today?” Rebecca asks. Her ponytail shinning. It’s silky like the flamboyant tail of a unicorn. She has a cute dimple on her left cheek. Her eyes are sparkling brown.
“It’s 3,98,000,” I say. There is an awkward silence. There are no birds to chirp. A pin-drop silence. Even these kids are smart enough to know what’s happening. I chuckle. There was a time where we used to keep the track of the number of tigers alive. But now, we keep track of human beings alive. The number for survival. The survival of the most foolish species on this planet.
“Sir how many years will it take to get things back to normal?” Roshni asks.
This question drifted me back to the past. When things were good and all we wanted was to get vaccinated and make things normal. A tear drops like molten wax. I remembered all the loved ones I lost after the apocalypse.
“It will take few more years” I lie with a fake smile.
I want to tell her the truth. It will take 200 years just to enter the 170 nuclear-stricken zones in the world. Next 300 hundred years to the habitat it. The continents that have sunk due to global warming after the nuclear strikes will never come back. It’s gone forever. I want to tell them the truth.
But of course, I can’t say it. I need to give them hope. Hope for a better life just like our ancestors promised us.
“But why did humans kill each other.? It doesn’t make sense “ She asks.
This question pricked my heart so deep, it’s like instant enlightenment. But it’s too late for it now. The irreversible damage has been done. I wish the so-called world leaders learned from kids that
“The same species of animals do not kill each other. “This is the law of nature.”
My consciousness did not allow me to lie to these kids. We have to accept our mistakes. Holding my oxygen mask, I take a deep breath. I keep it aside.
“ 30 years ago, a genetically modified virus had spread the world. The population reduced by 10%” I say.
“So because of the virus, there was a nuclear war?” She is intrigued.
“It’s not because of the virus, It was because of vaccine,” I say
I can see everyone’s eyebrows go up. Few murmuring sounds on left. Few chuckles on right. Few backbones perpendicular to the equator waiting for the next sentence.
“Of course, it does not make sense. There was a 5th wave of covid 19 in 2025. It was the deadliest pandemic of human history. We lost 70 million humans. Many of them became orphans, widowers, and lifeless. Vaccines didn’t work. The world population decreased further by 10%. Countries decided to work together to set things right. They sent their best virologists and set up an RND center in the USA. Within 14 months, an effective vaccine was found. Within a year, 50% of the population were vaccinated. It was the end of the virus.”
“It does not make sense. The virus was gone then why the war happened?” Benjamin is confused.
When I think about that fateful event. I can still feel shivers down my spine. The Darkest times of human history.
My voice is trembling. I reach out to my Oxygen carrier and take another deep breath.
“2 years later, those who were vaccinated” I pause. I gasp for more air. “50 % of the population who were vaccinated” I choked. “They all died. We lost 3.5 billion people. We couldn’t bury them. There was no soil left to bury them. We couldn’t dig more graves. We were exhausted physically and mentally.”
I tremble, my hands shivering.
“Besides this tree, there was a huge pyramid. A pyramid was bigger than that which was in Egypt. But this pyramid was not made from stones, it was made from dead bodies of humans. We had to burn them. The fire was ragging for 4 months. Nonstop. For 4 months we didn’t see the night, we didn’t see darkness. Yet it was dark sight to see We didn’t see the sun because it was brighter than the sun. Some bodies were fed to the killer sharks in the Indian Ocean. Even they couldn’t finish it up. Some bodies are still floating in the ocean. There was chaos all over the world. Everyone was exhausted. Every country tries to pin the blame on each other. At one point, things went out of control, and then it happened.
“What happened? “ Roshni asks.
“The nuclear war. We lost. “ A tear, drops on the ground. I look towards the sky, the dome of our existence. I am blank. Numb. Frightened.
“This time we can’t even touch the bodies or enter the nuclear-stricken zones. The human bodies are still lying there along with the million bodies of vultures, which tried to eat them. And then it began.”
“What began? “ Benjamins asks. I can see all students frightened. Holding each other’s hands to brace the truth.
“The wrath of nature. Mother earth stepped in to finish everything. The seas roared like a dragon. The thunder sounded like an angry hungry lion waiting to finish everything. Waiting to take everything, which we don’t deserve. The spirits of the ocean were capturing this moment as a testimony. The oceans gobbled the land within few hours. The seas reached out to countries like a witch grabbing everything that comes under her reach. We lost everything. South America, Australia, and Antarctica. We were all busy searching the hidden cities under the oceans but we never imagined continents being submerged. Now they are waiting. Waiting to be explored.
But I am sure they don’t want humans to explore them. The world population decreased by 80%. Now we are endangered with 3,98,000 on this planet.”
“But who started the war? “ Roshni asks with anger.
“No one knows. No one was alive to speak the truth. All they did was blame each other and it happened. The Apocalypse.”
I will leave you with this song about nature. It’s in the oldest language of the world. Don’t forget to turn on the subtitles.
Vaango vaango onnaagi
Indha indha mummaari
Enjoy my dear ,
Come together as one.
Ride on elephants .
Shower in the rains
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