‘E’ is for… ‘extinction’. It used to be for ‘Elephant’ but poachers killed them all off in their ironclad greed for ivory. It was said elephants never forgot, but now none remain left to remember. And mankind knows exactly where the elephants’ graveyards are to be found. Wherever we dumped mounds of their tuskless carcasses.
‘P’ is- was, for ‘Penguin’. Until their population melted away with the polar ice cap that sailed off into the sunset, leaving them sunk without trace.
‘T’ was for ‘Tiger’, harvested for the supposed medicinal powers of its organs. Mankind still got sicker and sicker all the same. Both in body and mind.
‘D’ was for ‘Dolphin’. For all humans’ supposed rapport with our favourite marine mammalian cousins, we couldn’t invent tuna nets that didn’t snag dolphins too. We used to regard them as therapeutic when we swam with them in their briny realm. But all the while we were toxifying their habitat, so that their fish diet perished and they starved to death in Davy Jones’ empty food locker.
‘S’ was for ‘Seal’, the ones often depicted balancing a ball on their snouts. Delightfully entertaining us as kids in circuses, yet no playful rump persisted in us as adults. Since we culled their infant pups with bludgeons, cudgels and clubs. Wiped from the face of the earth, with nothing more than red blood smears on white snow.
This had the knock-on effect of thinning out the food supply for their natural predators the Killer ‘W’ that used to stand for ‘Whales’. Their existence was further compromised by global warming’s effects and noise pollution of desperate oil exploration both. Subverting their sonar direction so that they kept beaching themselves. Expiring faster than they could be harpooned for their wealth of blubbery products, both practical and exclusive, beloved of us landlubbers.
‘Z’ was for ‘Zebra’, now permanently residing in the unhappy hunting grounds, stripped of their prized stripes. But also through the system of man-made dams which caused the soil of their homelands to dry up and took their natural predator Leo the Lion along with them into oblivion. Pride comes before a fall it is said and we committed regicide in the kingdom of the savannas.
‘M’ was for ‘Monkey’, our closest living relative and one which we systematically extirpated, through our epidemic fears of a species short hop for disease transmission. Our paranoia knew no limit since we pressed the same relentless logic to take wing, as we emptied the skies of avian life for good measure.
‘F’ was for ‘Fox’, quick and brown at the heart of learning to write our alphabet. Well they were boundlessly trespassing our cities bold as brass, so the outcome was inevitable really. And that was even after the English had legislated to prevent hunting them with dogs. The rampant poison employed for the task was far more efficient. And environmentally devastating.
‘C’ was for ‘Cow’, which along with pigs and sheep previously had formed our staple domestic stable of meat. But when we fed parts of the trinity to each other, turning these ruminants into carnivores, they became soft in the head, couldn’t stand on their own four feet. So subsequently we, the ultimate omnivore, had to pass them up on the menu.
‘B’ the letter that actually sounded the name of its creature, well it now only stands for ‘bafflement’ or ‘befuddled’, since they were the first fauna to foreshadow the fatal trend. We didn’t even notice their disappearance until there was no more honey to be had for love nor money. The last time life was ever sweet.
The decline in human numbers caused by the diminution of our food supply and the impoverishment of the planet, both paled by comparison to the true devolution our species suffered. The degrading of our minds. For as these animals were expunged from life, what pictures could we fill our primary reading books with which to inculcate our children the building blocks of language? Cockroaches, hyenas, sharks and vultures, the perennial survivors of the animal kingdom, those best adapted to feast on the misery of the weaker beasts, are inappropriate for an infant’s reading primer. It would yield them nightmarish associations, which while maybe more fitting to our current disposition, mothers deemed it better just to let learning slide in its entirety. Muteness was the sole maternal birthright to pass on.
So gradually our children’s imaginations began to shrink and wither on the vine. They had no images to append to their words, to try and colour their thoughts in order to express themselves to others. Their alphabets broke down, unable even to construct words for them. Our language became as extinct as the animals which used to denizen its vibrant embrace. I am the last speaker to record all this. I composed all this centuries ago as I hung on to the vestige of my mind’s creative ability and foretold what would follow in my wake. Now I too have become extinct, both in body and heritage, since not one of the meagre generations which succeed me possesses any ability to read and understand these words.
-Marc Nash (from his 3rd collection of flash fiction “Long Stories Short”)
Bios And Links
has had 5 collections of flash fiction and 6 novels published. “Three Dreams In The Key Of G” was shortlisted for the 2018 “Not The Booker Prize” and his latest novel “Stories We Tell Our Children” was published last month. He lives and works in London, in the freedom of expression realm.