No Earth by 2040; The End of the World Starts in My Yard

Mole

“In just twenty-five short years, not a single man, woman, not one sweet child, will live on this Earth.”

Everyone sat at the table, bewildered at the absence of old, jovial Ostrander. The dinner guests broke long stretches of silence with tense snippets of conversation that quickly trailed away.  At last, old Nicholas, Ostrander’s brother, burst out: “This just isn’t like my old brother!”

At that moment, the door from the corridor opened slowly and without noise.  Nicholas’ grandson Henny, a young boy of ten, sat facing the door and saw it first. “Hallo!” Henny called, innocently excited that dinner could begin. “At last!”

And the door opened wider; Ostrander stood in the doorway.  The boy gave a cry of surprise.

Nicholas saw him next: “Good heavens, man!  What ever is the matter?” Every guest at the table strained to look towards the door.

Ostrander was in an amazing plight. His corduroy vest was covered with dust and dirt, his shirt sleeves smeared with green down the sleeves. His brown cotton trousers were torn at the knees, and his hair was a disorderly, tangled nest.  His haggard face had turned ghostly pale; a brown, half-healed cut slashed across his chin.  His expression was intense and drawn like he suffered under excruciating pain.

For a moment, the old man hesitated in the doorway, as if he was dazzled by the light.  Then he staggered into the room, limping with each step, like a drunken tramp.  Everyone stared up in silence and concern, expecting him to speak.

ChimpHaven-ChimpsPlaying-2

Nicholas: “What ever could be wrong with you, man? You look to have fallen into an amazing plight!” Ostrander: “Not a word until I get some peptone into my arteries. Then I shall share my terrible tale! “

But he said not a word, lowering himself painfully to his chair and gesturing towards the wine.  Old Millie filled a glass and set it before him.  He drained it in a gulp and stared into the shocked faces of those sitting around the table, his eyes bloodshot and watery.

“What on Earth have you been up to, man?” said Nicholas.

Ostrander did not seem to hear.  He dumped more wine into his glass with a shaking hand, spilling several drops on the tablecloth. He downed the glass in another gulp.

“Uncle Ostrander!” cried young Henny, his voice choked with tears. “What’s wrong?”

The old man wiped his brow with a filthy sleeve, then leaned back in his chair.  His eyes unfocused, staring into empty space with an expression of horror and sadness.  Then Ostrander began to speak in a cracked and rasping voice:

“I have discovered an awful truth, one that sickens me to my core.  In just twenty-five short years, not a single man, woman, not one sweet child, will live on this Earth.  It crushes me to admit this discovery to my family and friends.”

Everyone looked at one another in confusion, and old Nicholas started to protest.  Ostrander interrupted him with an outstretched palm. “It may seem incredible, my dear old brother, but I bear the awful, sickening proof.

“It all began just two years ago, in the spring of 2011.  I was preparing my onion garden when I noticed three mole hills had risen from the grass at the edge of the lawn.  I later calculated that these represented a population of six adult moles.

3-mole-hills

Just three hills in 2011. They hardly seemed like a menace.

789px-Pomeranian_dog_standing-2

Not even this loyal, powerful, alert, and brave friend of mankind could stop those moles, not especially with the vigilant digging that she did not perform with her pedicured claws!

“I tried to exterminate the little pests, of course.  I dropped poisoned worms into their tunnels; I flooded them with the water hose for hours; I even sent that miserable dog Scourgey to dig after them. But the moles persisted with their burrowing under my grass.

bill-murray

“In order to conquer the animal, I decided that I’d have to learn to think like an animal. And, whenever possible, to look like one. I had to get inside the mole’s pelt and crawl around for a few days.”

“The following spring, in 2012, twelve mole hills appeared in the yard, about twenty-four adult moles. It was then apparent to me that my efforts to eradicate these vermin the year before had failed to wipe out a single one of them.  I redoubled my efforts, again with poison and flooding, and with the addition of traps.  In order to conquer the animal, I decided that I’d have to learn to think like an animal.  And, whenever possible, to look like one.  I had to get inside the mole’s pelt and crawl around for a few days.[1]

12-Mole-Hills

In 2012, twelve mole hills appeared in the yard.

“So I stabbed a spade through every inch of every tunnel I could find.  I lay in wait at their tunnel openings for hours.  While new burrows kept forming throughout summer and fall, I hoped that my exertions had reduced their population in some measurable form.

“I was very, very wrong.  If anything, my efforts last year only irritated them just slightly.

“This spring, to my horror and frustration, forty-four mole hills infested my yard, practically destroying it.  I hired professionals to exterminate them, to trap them, to smoke them out, but to no avail. Three exterminators suffered serious injury when the ground caved in beneath their feet.  They were quite puzzled; they said that these moles looked like they belonged to the hairy-tailed mole species, but this species was entirely unknown in Indiana since the Ice Age.  The nearest population of the hairy-tailed moles was two-hundred miles to the east, in Ohio.

23 mole hills

This year: “What is going on?”

“What was going on?

“The exterminators shrugged and departed in failure.  My yard looked like a minefield.  Enraged and frustrated at this infestation, yesterday I exhausted myself with my pickax, tearing at the ground in a fit.  As I beat at the earth, the soil opened up beneath my feet, and I tumbled inside a gaping hole. Through the dim-lighted dust I watched plump little bodies skitter in the dirt.  The moles seemed merely annoyed at my presence, and completely unafraid.

“At that moment, it became obvious to me that these creatures had somehow become impervious to any efforts to kill them; these moles had become indestructible!

“As this realization throbbed in my stomach, my mind reeled at the possible implications.  I dragged myself to the woodshed to perform some frenzied calculations:

“Female hairy-tailed moles produce one to two litters every year, with usually four to six pups per litter.  The natural lifespan of these moles is three to five years.[2]  (And I can only pray that the beasts in my yard are not immortal as well as indestructible.)

“There were six moles in my yard the first year, twenty-four in the second, and let us say eighty-eight in the third.  That means that every year, each mother mole is producing an average of 7.65 offspring.

“By the summer of next year, the mole population in my yard will reach 336, that number rising to almost 1,300 by 2015.  By the year 2018, over 40,000 moles will have taken over my yard and the surrounding area.

Broken_Land

At least I won’t have to mow anymore.

“By 2021, 3.9 million moles will be destroying the ground beneath the area’s towns and cities, causing widespread destruction and driving thousands from their homes.

sink-hole

“In 2025, more than 817 million of these moles will be ravaging the land. All of humanity’s efforts to fight this pestilence, like my own failed attempts, will amount to nothing.

earthquake

“By 2033, the population of this band of hairy-tailed moles will reach 36 trillion.  By then, humans will have lost our place in the world, unable to destroy the moles or compete for their resources.  Wherever there is soil, moles will tear up the land.  Humans will be unable to grow or find food.  Ninety-nine percent of us will be dead.  The end will be very near.

“By 2040, the surface of the earth itself will collapse under the weight and activities of more than 417 quadrillion moles!  The seas will burn away and all life on Earth will perish!  Except for the moles!  Except for the moles!”

Earth_wrecked

Ostrander dropped his face into his hands, and said nothing for a time.  The dinner guests could only sit in silent shock.  Finally, Ostrander continued:

“I know that all this will be absolutely incredible to you.  To me the one incredible thing is that I am here tonight in this old familiar room looking into your friendly faces and telling you about this terrible fate.”[3]

Old Ostrander looked at his old brother Nicholas. “No.  I cannot expect you to believe it.  Take it as a lie—or a prophecy.  Say I dreamed it in the woodshed.  Consider I have been speculating upon the destinies of our race until I have hatched this fiction.  Treat my assertion of its truth as a mere stroke of art to enhance its interest. Tell me what do you think of my words, my brother.”[4]

Old Nicholas shook his great head and affectionately slapped Ostrander on the back.  “I think,” said Nicholas, “that you’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.”


[1] Carl Spackler: “I have to laugh, because I’ve outsmarted even myself. My enemy, my foe, is an animal. In order to conquer the animal, I have to learn to think like an animal. And, whenever possible, to look like one. I’ve gotta get inside this guy’s pelt and crawl around for a few days.” IMDb. “Caddyshack Quotes.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 21 July 2013. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080487/quotes

[2] “Shrews & Moles.” Shrews & Moles. BobPickett.org, n.d. Web. 21 July 2013. http://www.bobpickett.org/order_insectivora.htm

[3] “I know,” he said, after a pause, “that all this will be absolutely incredible to you. To me the one incredible thing is that I am here to-night in this old familiar room looking into your friendly faces and telling you these strange adventures.” Wells, Herbert G. The Time Machine. London: William Heinemann, 1895. Project Gutenberg’s The Time Machine. Gutenberg.org. Web. 21 July 2013. http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/35/pg35.txt

[4] He looked at the Medical Man. “No. I cannot expect you to believe it. Take it as a lie–or a prophecy. Say I dreamed it in the workshop. Consider I have been speculating upon the destinies of our race until I have hatched this fiction. Treat my assertion of its truth as a mere stroke of art to enhance its interest. And taking it as a story, what do you think of it?” Wells, Herbert G. The Time Machine. London: William Heinemann, 1895. Project Gutenberg’s The Time Machine. Gutenberg.org. Web. 21 July 2013. http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/35/pg35.txt