The sandy, dusty air was as dry and hazy as an oven. The maroon coloured sky stood stark against the powdery orange dunes. The only thing separating the sky from the earth were 12 oil pickets. Tall, immense piston-like structures descending deep into the caverns of the earth. Deep into its bowels where the sludge of fermented trees and dinosaur bones was now treasured by modern man. Around the pistons stood a hut where 12 men lived inside. Stacked in bunkbeds and breathing the intense humming air conditioning – these men were the engineers. Monitors on the wall surrounded them notifying them of pump flow-rates, problems and maintenance due. Each of the team worked 8 hour shifts. Occasionally they would take a prepacked meal from the freezer and microwave it. A winding, bobbling track led over these dunes and down this came the odd water tanker and delivery truck bringing parts, supplies and taking members back home to their families. It was a tough isolated life that paid well for those cut out for it. For 3 months in the desert each year one could afford to pay for one’s wife and children in England, send them to a decent public school and spend the rest of their time walking the dog and enjoying the missus who would miss their company until she didn’t.
It was here that the problems began. Nobody but these engineers knew of the fate which would soon wreak havoc on the surrounding world.
It started with a gargling sound like a shower draining water away but louder and more metallic. Then the explosions began. the pumps, unable to extract any more oil created vacuum-like forces in the soil. This wrenched them downwards where the residue began to burst from the pipes and ignited in the midday heat.
The explosion created a crater, deep and wide with black gashes into the earth where ash and oil spewed.
The man in the hut were luckily of a sufficient distance to not be caught up in the blast. The kaboom woke the sleeping men and the four on their shift were left startled and in shock with flashing red screens. They hitched up the satellite phone and explained in jarred, hurried tones to their superiors of the dismal mess.
Emergency meetings were planned, the CEO’s secretary would be called – as would the Sheikh. The news was rushing over the business wires within hours. Journalists began to scribble columns. “The great oil explosion – a tragic disaster waiting to happen? Are more checks needed?” they would pen from high rise apartments.
The important men got together and pontificated about the best lawyers to send to make settlements and draft Non Disclosure Agreements with the engineers. A raft of safety inspectors would be hired in and a reputation management firm could cover up the media farce.
But the Earth had other plans. Tired of being sucked dry by her Western people to fuel their cars and petrochemical ways – she knew they had lost their way. They had pillaged the underside of her crust and she was not happy.
The next ripple was an earthquake erupting across the Western Coast of the USA. Los Angeles jiggled and the great phallic skyscrapers tumbled onto their sides. In San Francisco a giant crack emerged down Market Street and a giant canal of water divided the city. The freeways had crumbled into rubble. The devastation was vast and apocalyptic. Those who were a nuisance and drain upon the planet were swallowed up by Gaia. The telecommunication lines went down, as did the banking systems and television signals. The power soon left the grid and this left everybody deeply uncertain. Looting and riots consumed most of those left.
What now? What will we do? Phones didn’t work and couldn’t be charged. There nothing to look at and hog people’s attention. It was deeply unsettling to all involved. All they saw were the scenes of destruction, the grief, the loss of what they’d always known and relied on as cultural staples. Their livelihoods – gone. What now? What now? The surviving urban dwellers were utterly stumped. There was always a place to go, a place to be, people to see, things to do, things to eat, things to Instagram. But now – now what? They put on their shoes and walked. They left the city and headed out on the greatest adventure they’d never had. They strode through the rubblelands to the endless repeating suburbs. They marched on through the industrial wastelands until they found the vast luscious pastures where the mountains were pine-coated, where the sea opened out in sapphire sparkling blue, where the animals roamed freely.
As the days wore on they found nuts and berries to feast upon. Fruit was blossoming on the trees. People took their own patch of land and planted their own roots. Deep into the earth these roots grew and the earth gave back what the people needed. Communities were built, everyone pulled together and bonded through thick and thin. People could be people again. Fables were told of the great earthquakes and disasters of a more backwards time.
Gaia repeated herself on many occasions, unsettling all of those who were not in sync with her. Eventually the villagers grew wealthy with layers of history, stories and family.
It was a time of plenty.