Playing Human

Reading Time: 3 minutes
(Image generated via Adobe Firefly.)

The creatures of the seas had long grown accustomed to relics from the humans above. Year after year, objects rained down from the waves and gathered into piles where rivers dumped mounds of garbage. Humans sank airplanes and oil platforms and shipping containers that the sea grass and corals used to build new habitats as their old ones died in the heat and chemical wash. Barracudas moved into those habitats and wondered how chaotic life must be up there where the relics originated, from a world out of reach.

When the waters rose and seeped into the edges of the human world, the creatures of the seas marveled at the spacious island resorts with manicured beaches. Crabs sat at bars with thatched roofs and ordered rum drinks and told their bartenders how nice it was to take a few days to relax. Anemones lay in the sunken bungalows and scolded one other for spending too much time on their phones when they should be enjoying the sunshine instead.

The tides lapped up coastal cities. Turtles drove rusted cars down flooded streets or paced around bus stops waiting for their ride, reading their newspapers and checking their watches impatiently. Of course, they didn’t have newspapers, or watches. But it was fun to pretend.

Rays moved into drowned apartment buildings. They complained that the neighborhood had grown too loud. They cried about how much laundry was always sitting there, waiting to be done. They fretted that their lists of TV shows were too big and that there wasn’t enough time to get through them all.

Lobsters shuffled through flooded shopping centers on the weekends. They watched porpoises play ball games in the giant arenas. Squids spent afternoons in the cafes and worked on their laptops and grew jittery after too many espressos.

As the waters climbed and the humans’ dreams and aspirations drowned, the creatures of the seas played with those, too. Cuttlefish sat in cubicles and looked forward to the day, some day, when they could sleep in late with no obligations, when they could move into a bigger house, when they could travel, when they would finally be recognized and rewarded for the years of hard work they put into this place.

Catfish gathered in waterlogged taverns and vowed to learn how to paint like they’d been saying they would for years now, vowed to start a podcast with their friends, to start journaling their thoughts because there were some pretty good ones and someday, it could make for an interesting book. They ordered another round of beers and insisted they would give up junk food tomorrow and start training for a marathon.

Creatures met in government buildings and set up mock factions: limpets vs. clams; barnacles vs. eels. They formed committees and drew up plans for a better world that would never be implemented. They argued whose ideologies were best and scolded those who were different. Sea snakes threatened war. Krill threatened war. Scallops threatened war. Peaceful compromises were promised and ignored, promised again and ignored again.

None of the human relics were designed to last. Over the years they crumbled in the salt water or became overgrown and buried under the seabed. In time all the creatures went back to their old ways and forgot about humans altogether, which was probably for the best.

Sean MacKendrick splits his time between Colorado and Texas. When not writing he works as a data engineer.