It started the day the trees died. Not a single one standing. Nobody at Sector 4 knew what caused the extinction. Rumours were spreading fast.
Jamaica believed it was a US government viral outbreak, some sort of population control method gone horribly wrong. Most of Asia believed it was an alien attack like in the movies, one of those long-term attacks where instead of destroying humans directly, they’d sap them of their oxygen supply and let them starve to death, one at a time.
Europe, however, believed the contrary. They thought that the global wipeout was more intrinsic. They blamed themselves for the death of the trees, that global warming was to blame for such a catastrophe. Governments had been threatening environmental calamity, but nobody believed it would actually happen.
Ten years on from what was the worst incident to happen to mankind in all eternity. Ten years ago, the trees died.
Oxygen was in low supply, the highest commodity in the world. Big corporations paid extortionate amounts for tanks of pure oxygen and countries were at war, fighting for safe supplies of fresh air for their people. Desperation took a hold of the world, and time was running out.
India knew this. She was one of the key environmental engineers working at the time of the wipeout. It was her job to cut open the remaining trunks and find out why they had died. When the results came back inconclusive, she gave up hope and quit. That was three years ago.
India sat on her front porch. She lived a quiet life in the middle of Iowa in her hometown of Littleville. She sat in her old wooden rocking chair, the same chair her grandmother would sit in when she was a child, where she would knit on hot summer days and watch India play on the front lawn.
India now spent her days sitting and watching out over the deserted plains. Colours of brown and beige filled her eyes as she scanned the dust-capped horizon, slowly rocking back and forth in her chair and stroking the wooden armrests, enjoying the feel of the wood on her palms.
She didn't understand. India refused every single theory that made it into the public eye. She believed the worst of all theories: that the trees had chosen to die themselves, having sensed an inevitable doom for the planet. She thought that the whiff of death in the air was enough for the trees to go with grace, rather than sticking around to watch the world perish.
As she sat there rocking back and forth and breathing large quantities of nitrogen and methane that now dominated, she couldn’t help but wonder if anyone in the world knew what had happened, if anyone out there had figured it out. She had a frightful suspicion that there was a group out there at large, plotting the extinction of mankind. The trees were the first step towards that doom.
What India didn’t realise, was that the end had already come and gone. This was it, all she and the rest of the world had left forever. That rocking chair, that musky air and that aloneness. Hell on earth had arrived, and it was only a matter of time.