At the peak of the 24th century; man has been extinct for about two-hundred years. We reached this state of extinction by allowing our differences to define us; thus allowing the technology of the day to solidify those distinctions – permanently.
What has become of this world is the result of mistakes made and bridges crossed and burned. We used the brightest of our species to build weapons to offend and defend these superficial differences between the members of our species.
One button; one push; that’s all it took.
This wave of residual irradiated mist that swept across our planet removed us from it. It also changed those species that remained. Millions of species died. Some rather quickly; chronologically speaking; and some very slowly. Our species lasted about forty years from N-Day. Our extinction came in waves.
The first wave was short; it lasted a few weeks. It started in the major city-centers where most of the ordinance was aimed. The effects rolled out of the cities and eventually swept across the plains to burn, deform, and sicken those unlucky enough not to have a previously unknown genetic predisposition that allowed them to last a little longer.
Those killed by the first incarnation of Un-Natural Selection were the lucky ones. Their deaths only lasted a few days or weeks; they didn’t have to watch the Armageddon of the aftermath. The fanatically religious embraced it; they anticipated their entrance to paradise. As a result; they did nothing to protect themselves – not that they could have done much anyway.
This first wave resulted in the reduction of our species from fifty billion to about five-hundred million – scattered around the globe.
Many of the survivors of this first wave of death were spared by genetic luck. Something in their DNA made them slightly more resistant to the effects of the nuclear pestilence. Still, many more were spared due to a properly executed response after N-Day. Those without the genetic predisposition to resistance would fall in the second wave.
The second wave was the long-game; the slow, unstoppable and invisible force that caused deformities and strange ailments. It entered our corporeal containers through our food, our water and our air. What could we do? We had to eat. Everyone has to eat. Our choice was to starve now; or to eat and risk suffering later.
The effects on animals were quite intriguing. Millions of species wiped out; just like us. Some immediately; some slowly. Some with obvious deformities; and some that simply didn’t reproduce after N-Day. I’m sure they had no comprehension of the magnitude; as they are but simple animals – eating, sleeping and reproducing. Their cognitive capacities simply weren’t there to fathom what was really going on. Lucky them, perhaps.
Some species seemed unaffected – the ants in particular… at least at first. After several of their generations – about twenty of our years – they started to get bigger. Not much bigger at first; but soon they became the size of small dogs. They still behaved as ants; just on a much larger scale.
Their hills became the size of football stadiums; and their preferences in food extended to a carnivorous desire for human flesh. The few of us that remained were hunted.
Ants are known for having an incredible strength-to-size ratio. This didn’t change when they did. A small group of modern ants; in their advanced evolutionary state; could move cars and chew through front-doors.
The few of us who remained had to be vigilant and intuitive in the defense of ourselves and our homes. The simple and routine acts of hunting or foraging for food were inherently dangerous, yet necessary, ventures.
Granted; we could see a swarm of ants coming on quickly in the distance; like a pipeline of Alberta crude bursting and flooding a city street. These creatures would emerge from one of their tunnels like biblical locust swarms being sent to rid the world of whatever it is their jaws were tough enough to chew. Human flesh and bone didn’t come close to that limit; akin to our species munching on a stick of celery.
After some time; it wasn’t the physical evolution of the ants that was the most troubling aspect of their change. The most troubling aspects were their cognitive enhancements. Ants have always behaved as a hive-mind. Group-thinking and making decisions without words – almost as if being controlled remotely – was the standard method of work for these creatures.
They never did learn to talk; and we never figured out exactly how they communicated – though it appears to be telepathic. Whether they use words or images; and how deeply and clearly their minds connect is beyond our understanding.
What we know for sure is that they’ve gotten smarter and more efficient over time. You can almost see them thinking and problem-solving; silently; when they encounter a challenge.