The following was written, edited, and drafted for my Science Culture and Identity Class.
It was the biggest airport in the world and yet in a matter of only a few minutes, its doors were shut. Men dressed as black as the shadows they carried formed a line on the inside door to deny either exit or entry. With batons as their jurisdiction, they told anyone who asked that the airport was locked and they were locked in there with them. When asked why, the guards simply said that it was their job to lock down the airport and they were doing just that.
In the first few hours, everything had the semblance of normality. Laughter was shared. Jokes were exchanged. Smiles were passed. Everyone was kind to everyone else. Only a few moments longer and everything would be all right. The guards said as much.
So, life rolled on with the happy indifference it always cherished. Canadians, Brazilians, French, Americans, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Jews, and the whole gamut of other nations continued to mull around the airport as before. Waffling in between limbo of bathrooms and baseless conversations, they drowned their boredom in a shameless avalanche of commercial goods. Alcohol was purchased. Chocolates were consumed. One excited group of teenagers from Morocco even went so far as to have a party. Everyone was invited.
A Polish man muzzled his way through the kaleidoscopic crowd. He was surprised at the extravagance that was mustered in such a short time. Right there in the hub of the airport stood a chocolate fountain, an ice sculpture, and a seven piece band donned in a flawless suit and tie. He even noticed a few celebrities walking about and shaking hands and signing miscellaneous objects. One famous movie star autographed a baby’s used diaper. The superstar made a wisecrack about how the diaper was all he was worth anyways. Everyone around him laughed, even the Polack. He, too, then searched for something worthy of being signed.
Night fell and morning rose and nothing changed. The day wore on while the mess from the previous night remained largely untouched. It seemed that the airport janitor staff had abandoned their posts. As people began pushing the mess to the sides of the airport, rumours circled of what could have happened to the staff. An Argentinean said in broken English that they probably weren’t being paid anymore. Overtime only goes this far, he said. His hands pointed to infinity as proof of his point.
Despite the heap of junk collecting around the edges of the airport, people still shopped. They still talked. Times were still good. There was no reason they shouldn’t be – the guards promised them that it would only be a bit longer anyhow. A party was held again in celebration of the good news. This time, it was the Lebanese cohorts who held the festivities.
On the fifth day, people began to grumble. The parties still were thrown, though they lost much of their original luster. But it would be impossible to deny that without the tick-tock of arrivals and departures, without people coming and going, without the ho-hum of daily routines and chores, everything wasn’t as it seemed.
While most looked to the sky for answers as if they were still searching for planes, the Polack glued his eyes to the ground. In each little occurrence, he began to notice patterns of cultural significance. The Chinese clustered together in tightly strung groups while Americans monopolized themselves in a large area; Russians brutalized Latvians while Jamaicans offered sleeping arrangements for displaced Egyptians. So it went.
And in two weeks, a mosaic: the world was born. It was said that while in the beginning there may have been light, there were also cheesy fries and luggage and babies wailing due to the changes in pressure. Afterwards, borders were determined by McDonald paper cups and Pizza Hut boxes, and citizens were determined by the countries they were born into. Some, such as the Polack, lacked other people who belonged to their native countries. As a result, they were relegated to the junk piles formed in the aftermath of the parties. A Nicaraguan, a Latvian, and a Cambodian joined him. They couldn’t understand a word the other said.
They decided to call the trash bin home. In a sign of universal head bobbing and lip smacking and a Nicaraguan secret handshake, they began to refer to their derelict abode as Planet Earth. It sat among the old chocolate fountain and coffee cups.
Time ticked on. Long after sanitation was forgotten, food was becoming scarce. Romanians were accused for stealing from the Danish and the Danish were accused of stealing from the Armenians. And so on. Delegates from each nation decided to form a council which would ration the food equally. Everyone heralded the idea as a success. A party was held again. The food lost in the celebration was a necessary loss for happiness sake. One can’t put a price on happiness was the chime of the party.
Planet Earth grew.
Meetings in the corporation sponsored conference room led to nothing. Arguments surfaced almost immediately. Rather than work towards some holistic solution, the delegates were a completely functionless nightmare. Those with more members commanded more clout and so some countries were left in the backdrop. America stated that they wanted access to the food to ensure that no one was securing it for themselves whereas China reminded America of previous transgressions. This led to bickering and fighting and the like. Germany, tired of being ignored, flashed an impressive collection of haphazardly fashioned weaponry. Toothbrushes. Combs. Chicken-bones. All worn down to handheld killing machines. They were like electric chairs for the hand, just sharper, bloodier and more brutal. Germany smiled wildly.
Yelling ensued. A Brazilian was stabbed. The meeting was adjourned. And Canada, leaving the room last, apologized to whatever remained of their civility.
Planet Earth shrank.
People began crossing into the unclaimed territory and stealing anything that could resemble a weapon of mass destruction. An all out war was called. No man zones were drafted. And somewhere in between the arms race, the guards disappeared. Only the Polack noticed. Everyone was focused on securing food and weapons. A rat race for cheese; it could be both if hard enough.
Electricity cut out soon afterwards. Those fortunate enough to pilfer gas stoves from the various restaurants had heat and light. The parties had stopped long ago. The Polack thought the last one was on a Saturday. Or maybe it was Sunday. He couldn’t remember.
Tensions grew. Those who identified with nations soon became split by religious ideologies, then by financial classes, then by social standings, then by education, then by what street they lived on, then by who was their favourite character in the sitcom Friends. Even families failed to stay together when entertainment was on the line.
The celebrity was among one of those people influenced the most by the lockdown. Whatever expensive clothing he once had had been reduced to little more than rags. Worse yet, people no longer went to him as a way of recognition. He was no different than anyone else. In fact, he was less: he thought Phoebe was the most important character in the show. The diaper he had once signed was thrown at him once he said it.
Planet Earth grew.
Dissidents from the numerous countries came to the neutral ground of Planet Earth. The Polack would’ve greeted them with a smile, but no one spoke the same language on the satellite of garbage. Instead, he showed them the Nicaraguan handshake and called it a day, a night, a day, a night, a day, a night, and a day again.
Planet Earth shrank.
Disease ravaged whatever was left of the union of people. No longer were nations considered steadfast. Each wilted at just about the same rate. They were the same in that respect. Those who hadn’t died on Planet Earth were used to the degrading conditions. They were used to eating paper for fibre and flies for protein.
Planet Earth grew.
Bodies littered the airport. A war that had started over one of the last glazed doughnuts spilled over to involve everyone unlucky enough to still be alive. Hazily drawn borders were dropped. People senselessly fought. No one was an ally of anyone else. As it were, everything was a dump. Everything was ruined. Everything was Planet Earth.
Planet Earth became a crucible.
A fire started and no one would put it out. Everyone who somehow still alive was afraid of the blaze. They lacked the technology to put it out because the fire extinguishers were used at a Columbian party some time long ago. Whatever technological prowess that remained was used either for celebration or war, not survival. People began attempting to shield themselves with others, hoping that a stack of bodies would protect them from the fire.
A man soaked in sweat and blood lunged at the Polack, but lost his footing. The Polack ran for his life while the man chased in pursuit. From afar, the Polack thought it was the celebrity with the signed diaper on his head, though the orange hue around him made it difficult to be sure.
The man continued to chase him until the Polack reached what was once the doors to the airport. They were empty; the guards had fled long ago. The Polack knew this was the end as the man, with a smile from ear to wretched ear, dragged himself closer. He closed his eyes and fell back as the man lifted his hand to strike him.
The Polack opened his eyes. The man was still there, hand raised. The Polack closed them again.
The Polack was confused, though maybe the heat had fried the man’s brain in motion. Again, the Polack opened his eyes but saw that the man was indeed moving. He was swaying from side to side, mouth ajar. He was pointing.
Behind the man, the doors were opened.
“What’s that sound?” The man said. He spoke in Polish.
“Birds.” The Polack replied.
“What are they doing?” He stuttered.