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|Gaia's World story universe|
We left our desks and crowded to the windows as the inky blackness of the Storm rolled over the city
"Hey, just like the alien ships in Independence Day!" laughed one of my colleges.
I looked at him and said, "Not funny, Dan. You've seen what these Storms have done out on the farms and ranches on TV. This stuff worries me."
The crowd quieted. The Rains suddenly poured down from above. I noticed that the traffic down on the street was slowing then coming to a complete halt.
Another person noticed it too, then said, "Look at the traffic - it's rusting!"
He was right. The shiny new cars, trucks, and big rigs, along with the old junkers, were all corroding away, even as we watched.
"That rain must be acidic as hell," someone said. "I'm sure glad I'm not in it."
There was a dazzling blue-green flash from well up the street, followed a few minutes later by a huge 'boom'.
"Lightning?" Dan asked.
"No, that was a transformer station going out," I replied. "People, I think..." was as far as I got before there was an even brighter flare and explosive crash. The building shuddered, then the power died. Everyone cried out; we couldn't see in the sudden darkness.
As our eyes adjusted to the inky dark, we noticed a glow among the office cubes. I headed for it, followed by everyone else. As I thought, it was Stormcrow, the office kook. He'd remained in his cube when the Storm showed up, and had lit a set of candles. He'd blocked the entrance to the cube, but we could see him sitting on the floor, mumbling to himself. I noticed that he had what looked like an altar set up. The four candles were all different colors, and in a pattern.
"Don't disturb him," someone said. "He's doing a ritual. Maybe when he's done he can tell us what's going on."
"Hey," said a lady who'd remained by the window, "the streets are clear, the cars are all gone - but there aren't any people down there - just animals!"
We all rushed back to see, then I noticed something else.
"Get back from the windows!" I shouted. "They're being eaten away!"
A phone started ringing, back in the maze of cubes. We all looked at each other, then I headed for it. As I thought, since I was the Office Manager, it was my phone.
"Weird," I thought, "No power, but my phone is ringing!"
Suddenly, I was scared to touch it.
"Pick it up and put it on the office intercom," I heard Stormcrow call. "SHE wants to speak to us."
My hand shook as I picked up the receiver and opened the office speaker system. I heard an immense babbling, as if all the phones in the city had been tied together as one, then, abruptly, the sound died. Now, I heard a distant sighing, like the wind, which grew louder as I listened. A voice became apparent, that of an older woman, growing in volume.
She said, "I am Gaia, the spirit of this world. Humans have finally passed my limits, and I must intervene to save myself and all of my other Children from your excesses. I have tried to warn you, but you just wouldn't listen. So, regretfully, sadly, I must take a direct hand. I have decided that this city is not needed by the humans I will leave, and I am removing it. I do not wish to kill, so I am asking everyone to leave your buildings before I erase them. BUT! I warn you, if you do not, I am sorry, but you will die. Please, my Children, come outside to be judged."
The phone went dead.
I went to Stormcrow's cube. He had finished his ritual, as all the candles were out except the large white one on his desk. He had removed the barrier to his office and was sitting in his chair, head in his hands, sobbing softly.
"Stormy," I said quietly. "What was that about?"
He removed his head from his hands, wiped his eyes, then turned his chair around to face me.
He said, "Do what the Lady asks, James, and soon. We all must go down the fire escape stairs and leave. She will give us plenty of time. She's doing tear down and clean up on the refineries and power stations now, then will do the slums, suburbs, and such before She comes for these buildings."
"But, why? What have we done to deserve this?" I demanded.
"Do I really need to tell you, yet again?" he sighed, and pointed to the various posters he'd decorated his cube with, mostly Green propaganda stuff.
"You're joking!" I said.
"No, I'm not," he replied. "You've seen what She's done already, out on the farms and ranches. The barbed wire gone, the herds of buffalo that the most of the cattle became, the huge swaths of corn and soybeans that suddenly reverted to tall grass prairie as the Storms passed over them. She means it, every word. She's resetting the world, and bringing back her other Children, the ones we have pushed to the edge or driven into extinction. From what She told me, She wants the world set back to what it was like roughly around the Middle Ages, although the Humans She allows to remain will still have all the modern level of civilization we currently have. She will supply methods of drawing safe power, but the polluting coal-fired and fission nuclear plants have to go, so She can clean the air, seas, and land."
"But, God won't let her do this!" I said, emotion choking my throat.
"I prayed to my Gods, just now," he replied. "All the Gods, ALL of them, have to stand aside in this. They are Gods of Humanity. She is the World, and has ultimate priority here. She is the Great Mother, She loves us all, as we are Her brightest Children and Her greatest hope. But we took a wrong turning in our path upwards, and so She is forced to prune the proud tree of Humanity to save it and everything else."
He sighed, then said, "We need to get downstairs and outside. She meant what She said. If we're inside when She tears down the building, we'll die."
I considered the alternatives for a moment, life or death, then made my choice.
"People, we have to leave. Stormy has a candle, he can lead the way to the stairs. Come on, lets go. There isn't much time!" I called.
"I've more than one," he laughed.
He looked at me carefully for a moment, then handed me the green candle. It meant something, I'm sure, but I lit it from his and went over to the door. He gave the red one to one of the secretaries, who I'd always considered to be energetic, the yellow to another who was highly intelligent, and the blue to a very calm older lady. We lead the others to the stairwell, then spaced ourselves down it to provide light for those leaving.
I went back through the office after the crowd had passed, to make sure everyone was gone. There were two who refused to leave, an older couple.
"We don't want to go," the man stated. "We've been together these last thirty years, we'll remain so."
"If you stay, you'll die," I replied. "You heard what She said."
"Then we'll go to God together," she said, quietly.
I bowed my head, then said, "You're certain of this?"
"Yes. We've made our choice," he whispered.
"May God receive you with joy," I prayed. I turned away, heading for the exit.
I walked down the stairs, my candle stub flickering before me. When I got out the stairwell door at the bottom, the only person there was Stormcrow.
"Where's everyone else?" I asked.
"She has judged them and sent them on," he replied.
"Tom and Martha have chosen to remain in the building," I said.
"Their choice," he sighed.
"What about you?" I asked.
"Waited for you. Lets go and face fate together, okay?" he said.
"Stormy, you've always been the outsider in the office. I wish it hadn't been so, but that's how it's been. I'm sorry about that. And thanks, you've been a major help this afternoon," I replied.
I held out my hand. He took it and we shook. Then we walked through the doors together.
I stepped through the door and into a column of light.
"Thank you for coming to me, my Child," She said.
I knelt in awe of Her. I asked, "What of me now, Mother?"
She looked at me, seeming to study my soul, then said, "I am sorry, my Child, but you cannot remain human. There are simply too many, and I must pick and choose only those who best serve my needs. I have examined you, and find that you have no violence in you; yet, you are a leader. I offer you this choice, to be a male among the herbivores - antelope, bison, mountain goat, sheep, or the horses I wish to reestablish in their ancestral home. No deer, I'm afraid. If anything they're too successful, but my new wolf packs will soon set that right. I will modify the being you choose for speech, as I have done for all other human souls, and will leave your intelligence intact."
I thought on the choices offered. I carefully examined each alternative as She waited with infinite patience, then made my choice.
"I wish to become a stallion, Mother," I said.
She nodded. "So be it, my proud Child. Go, your herd awaits you."
I staggered for a moment, then regained my balance. I stood on four hooves now. It felt totally natural, as if this was what I had been all my life. I looked at myself, then my surroundings. The buildings were gone. All there was in sight was an endless expanse of grass, with occasional copses of trees. A sudden realization of smells assaulted me, and it took a few moments to figure them out. I saw a small group of mares off in the distance, and trotted toward them.
"Hello, James! We've been waiting for you!" said one of the mares.
We exchanged breath. She said, "Lady Gaia told us to wait here, that you'd be coming."
"Hello, Teresa, I'd recognize you anywhere," I said to the mare who had been the leader of the secretarial pool, and an old friend. "You're the lead mare?"
She nodded, then said, "Come and meet the others. They aren't all people you know, but they're all eager to meet the stallion of this herd."
I exchanged breath with each of them; we smelled each other to learn each others scents. I spoke with each.
Then, learning as we went, we became horses together, on Gaia's endless plains.