This story was originally written for a competition, and I decided on this topic to raise awareness about global warming and its future impacts.
The bitter Arctic wind swept, like a ghost, through the frigid landscape. Towering snowy mountains uttered groans and rumbles from deep within their frozen hearts. Time and time again, cascading snowfalls would thunder down to Earth in a deadly shower. Most of the winter ice had vanished, leaving nothing but several floating sheets and freezing water. Pale, wavering sunlight filtered weakly through the thick, gloomy clouds.
A lone polar bear staggered across the remaining snow, shaking crystalline droplets of water from her grimy white fur. Her breathing was laboured, and she panted with exhaustion. She had not had a decent meal in weeks, apart from scavenging some animal carcasses. Unable to produce enough milk for her puny cubs, they had died months earlier, their tiny bodies raw and rubbed from the biting wind, their eyes unseeing. Her own skin hung off her bony frame. Ribs jutted from her body. Defeated, she collapsed with a heavy thud and lay wearily in a snowdrift. A great, hacking cough rose inside her. Flecks of scarlet bloomed across the powdery white snow as she coughed and coughed. Gasping for air, she wheezed another breath. There was a final shudder and she lay still. Her eyes reflected shining stars that the living could not see. She had passed on beyond. The wind howled mournfully around her, mourning its loss.
“Watch it!’’ yelled a man. He was carrying a small device that gathered data of the world below the waves. It was the new 2050 model.
A submarine was being lowered precariously into the churning water. Ocean stretched as far as the eye could see. Shadowy waves lapped hungrily at the boat. A woman with an auburn ponytail and a wide smile climbed carefully into the driver’s seat. Another man sat beside her. His bristly beard glistened with sweat. “Are we ready?” the woman called. The man replied with a brisk thumbs up. The glass above them closed with a hiss.
Inklike water billowed all around. “Can you imagine that where we’re diving used to be all ice?” asked the man. The woman nodded; her eyes were fixed on the depths. The submersible descended deeper into the unknown. There was no sign of life.
Suddenly, a monstrous pair of luminous pink arms covered in stinging polyps smothered the front of the submarine. They had driven straight into a jellyfish swarm. “Uhh.” grumbled the man. “You can’t go anywhere these days without seeing these dratted jellyfish. Some beaches in Florida are covered in them. Swimmers can’t even go into the water!”. “I know.” replied the woman. She sounded sad.
After a long descent, of lurking shadowy figures and ravenous water, intent on swallowing them up and crushing them with its intense pressure, the 3D map blared out: “You have arrived at your destination!” it chirped cheerily.
The man glanced in front of them and stopped dead. His eyes betrayed his fear. “What is it?” said the woman, following his stricken gaze. She too froze, her mouth open in a perfect ‘o’ of horror.
It was an animal graveyard. Bones littered the ground, overrun by sand and sediment.
“Oh, my goodness,” she whispered. Her dark green eyes filled with tears.
Greenland sharks cruised menacingly over the eerie sight. They swam above the pitiful remains of long-dead animals. The radio crackled into life. “Remember we are looking for the bones of an animal, maybe 2 meters tall when on its hind legs, carnivore and female. Tell me when you find her.”.
The woman activated her hologram. Blue light swamped the cabin. “The man whistled. “To think they existed 20, 30 years ago…” he trailed off.
The woman sighed and twiddled with the knobs and controls. “Let’s search,” she muttered. Their eyes scanned the crumbling seafloor. “Aha!” the woman had spotted something.
She carefully extended the claw arm of the submarine and picked up a cracked and splintered bone. “Great!” said the man, grinning. “All right let’s get back to the surface.” The woman glanced towards the claw arm. “I think we’re gonna have a problem.”.
“What do you mean?” asked the man, his eyes flicking to the bone. “Oh my…” he groaned.
The bone was dangling precariously from it. As the woman regained her balance, grasping the bone more firmly, the man reset their course on the SatNav. They ascended quickly, the bone held aloft like a china ornament.
Gulls wheeled in the cloudless sky as they stepped out onto the boat deck.
The woman took the bone into her hands. Its rough surface scraped her soft skin. “Audrey!” boomed a man in a suit. The woman started and turned towards the voice. “Come to my lab.” he directed bossily. “We can examine it there.”.
Audrey reached the glossy white lab with its gleaming tables and expensive cleansing fluids a split second before the man himself. She gently placed the bone on a smooth countertop and stroked it gently with the tips of her fingers. “So…” said the man. “A polar bear bone. That’s a first in the world of palaeontology.”.
“I can’t believe they went extinct because of global warming!” fumed Audrey.
“They were incredible, I know.” replied the man rather infuriatingly. Audrey turned away from him, trying to stop the tears trickling down her cheeks. “None of this would’ve happened if humans had just…” she searched for the right word. “Listened!” she was sobbing in anguish now, unable to control her distress. “You know,” she said, turning back towards him. “When I was small, I dreamed of exploring the polar ice caps. But now they’re not there.”.
She whipped around and stormed from the room, enveloped in her own misery. She crossed the slippery deck and reached the boat fence. “Maybe…” she whispered, “One day, humanity will see the damage they have caused. But until then… death will come to nature, quicker than anyone could have ever predicted.”. Her words were snatched by the billowing breeze and carried far away across the dancing water.