There were no crops to pick up that day.
Despite being in his early twenties, his hands were rough and scarred and his expression hard, almost inanimate as if having to drag his body along was a burden itself. Both his denim overalls and his hat were so worn out that there was no point in wearing them anymore. He stood there in front of everyone, without saying a word. He dared not look at any of his fellow villagers in the eye because that would mean facing the truth: there was no more hope left. It was just a matter of time.
Almost two weeks had passed since he had returned without any answers from the city, and not any city it was, but the city that had hosted the 2050 World Conference of Artificial Biodiversity. The plan had seemed outrageous at first. How could anyone have the guts to propose eliminating all non-human life and replace everything with artificial chemicals and gadgets? The world was appalled. But slowly shy voices here and there started to see light in this plan and as there seem to be no other alternatives, in less than two years every single country on the planet had signed the pact that would once and for all emancipate human kind from the arms of Mother Nature. “There is a time in every young adult’s life when, having gained sufficient knowledge about the world around him, he must step away from maternal care. It is our time as a human race to do that. We now possess the knowledge it takes to be independent and we must carry out this plan if we wish to continue to progress and live up to our potential.”
Under the burning sun, the memories of the endless glorious speeches that followed and the pouring rain of success stories that sprouted worldwide shortly after the implementation of the plan seemed like mirages before the villager’s eyes. The barren soil extended as far as their sight could reach. It had been deliberately sterilized so that no one could sabotage the Final Freedom Pact, as they had called it. Yet, in face of the crisis the villagers had decided to plant the only seeds that they had managed to hide in hopes that they would grow. Now, all they could do was sit and wait.
Five years, that’s all it lasted. Life had been perfect. All the problems that humanity had faced for centuries were eradicated in no time. Hunger, poverty, war, the list of words that fell out of use grew steadily as the new stages of the plan were carried out. All the initial concerns about the plan were readily dissipated. In fact, it almost seemed ridiculous that humanity had been so concerned about environmental issues, when all along the solution was to eliminate the environment altogether.
But one day a strange disease struck. It was a kind of rash that appeared and quickly spread throughout the body. Fever and strong headaches preceded intense vomit cycles that eventually drove the patient to death. Everywhere people got sick, newborn babies, old men, healthy women, all contracted the deadly and untreatably disease. But what was more concerning was not that there was no cure, but that all the evidence pointed to the same source of this mystery disease, the universal pills that were now being produced instead of food.
How long? “How long” seemed to be the question in everyone’s mind. How long until we find a cure? How long until we all get poisoned by the pseudo food? How long until these last seeds grow, if they grow?
As the sun descended the villagers stood up and walked sluggishly back to their houses with their heads down. Their silence weighed heavily.
The next day, they returned to the fields like they had done for weeks now.
There were no crops to pick up that day. There were no crops because there were no growing seeds. There was no food to eat that day, or the day after.