We were expecting a war, grand and all consuming; had pre-emptively titled it to follow two others that were named already, claiming seven countries’ conflict to represent the globe in a century of comparative peace. Three made sense, inevitable and deserved for crimes too long unatoned for: crimes against a world perceived to be spinning out of control, against a god, against ourselves; crimes of action and inaction, surely guaranteeing retribution, divine or otherwise. But there was no great war; nothing grand and exciting and apocalyptic. We did not utterly destroy the planet, just altered it beyond our ability to reverse. We did not destroy ourselves, just gradually slid into this. Cold, grey and without malice or compassion. Scholars and scientists thought apathy would be our downfall, that surely our wilful ignorance spelt disaster. But we saved ourselves at the last possible moment, when necessity demanded. And we haven’t paid, not really. We have an infuriating knack for self-preservation. Selfish and lacking any shred of foresight, but somehow always adequate. When our world began to change, there was no mighty battle for resources. Yes, there were a few skirmishes at the beginning. But at some point, we remembered that war itself is taxing. Trading blandly when convenient and otherwise retreating into our own small communities, we endured. No one thought world peace would look like this, but peaceful we are. The population dwindled away slowly and intentionally, the joy of new life superseded by utilitarian logic. We have retreated from the sun, from the world outside. A world not dead by any means, just lesser, bland. Beauty was fragile. Resilience is compromise and lacks exuberance. The dandelion thrives. The orchid did not. No, it is not fear that keeps us inside. We can only be swayed for so long by fear. At some point some portion of us will always set sail across the endless ocean to see if something is on the other side. Fear is something to be overcome. Shame though is paralyzing. To see the earth now is a sad affair, so we hide in our sky-lit houses of white, our lab-like greenhouses. The sky is still blue; we can pretend the rest remains unchanged. We were waiting to fight an apocalypse, preparing for it all to end in fire, for only the strong to survive. So, when the realization came that life could go on, everyone just stumbled along with it, unaware of what we were giving up. I don’t know how it all came about; no one found it notable enough to record. Our world evolves still, but so slowly now; we have reached a stasis of sorts. In the heart of art and culture were stories we told ourselves, in one form or another. At their core stories were warnings, ways to express wisdom and plan for an unknown future. Our future stretches on, unchanging. I set out to tell a story, but I may fail in that. Stories must have an end. I wonder now, despite our worst efforts, if we will ever end.

Jenna Muiderman