Creative Non-fiction by Ben Gilbert

The Seven Million Year Itch
      By Ben Gilbert

‘Conservation starts with extinction.’
‘That’s a bit late!’
‘Well, maybe conservation starts when extinction looms close.’
‘That’s still a bit too late.’
‘There’s just no money to be made in conservation.’
‘No, it’s all in the destruction.’
‘You’re not wrong there!’
‘Cut the trees down for wood, make way for development and agro industries – unused wilderness is such a useless waste!’
‘And kill off all the wildlife too – kill it if it tastes good, has big teeth, eats your crops or livestock, or is just too darn big.’
‘And hunt what’s left for sport.’
‘It’s got to be small, cute and vegetarian to be safe.’
‘What about rabbits? You told me you like the taste of rabbit.’
‘I did, until you told me they taste of piss!’
‘Guess you must have liked the taste of piss then.’
‘Guess I did. What about all the fish?’
‘Hoover those up – the rarer they get the more money they’re worth.’
‘Blow up the mountains for rocks and minerals. Pump the toxic waste into rivers and out to sea.’
‘Then eat the polluted fish.’
‘And dam up the rivers to destroy an eco system.’
‘Electricity – money to be made there!’
‘What’s left untouched?’
‘Certainly not the air we breathe.’
‘When I was in Phuket I visited the last big unfelled tree, and in Hokkaido I found some of the last magnificent giant trees on an impossible ridge where the chainsaw couldn’t reach.’
‘Do you think we’ll have tree museums one day to remind us what used to be?’
‘Only if they charge an entry fee. What about any indigenous people still lurking in the forests, keeping that entire wilderness to themselves?’
‘Not right – should be rounded up and put into zoos – that way people would pay money to see them.’
‘Good idea – incorporate them into the economy.’
‘What the hell is wrong with us?
‘We’re possessed by a hungry ghost that’s never satisfied.’
‘You think the Earth has feelings?’
‘Maybe. We’re like billions of parasites eating away at its surface.’
‘A skin disease.’
‘Exactly that.’
‘I guess one day the Earth will shed its skin and all that goes with it.’
‘And start again without us?’
‘Well it sure won’t wanna feel that itch again!’
The tree stood alone in the parched landscape without company or any other greenery.

Looking out at this scene from the pleasant shade of the veranda into the vast sea of a rust coloured desert, the woman listened to the two men’s conversation – out of sight by the pool nearby, until a splash put a halt to their witty discourse.
She liked these two men, holidaying or taking time out, didn’t know their names yet, but knew she would sleep with one of them – which one she didn’t care, hopefully the best. But that was a nighttime thrill and she left her longing to step down off the veranda into the garden, whose life depended on a constant supply of water delivered by a very slow moving gardener.

Another splash and brief laughter reassured her as she left this artificial paradise and crossed over into rust.

The sky was cloudless and brilliant blue, the air hot and heavy and her slow steps, rhythmic. The sounds now were her breathing and the soft shuffling of sand underfoot, seemingly exaggerated in the silence. She felt self-conscious as the tree came closer and closer.

The heat scorched her bare legs and she was wet from the blazing heat. She welcomed the shade of its thick chewy leaf canopy and the subtle breeze that appeared from nowhere.

Sun bleached animal bones were strewn around and one gave a loud crack as she stepped right on it, making her jump in fright and bump into the hard gnarly bark. The coarse texture grazed her arm and she immediately broke out of the daze the short hot walk had given.

The hotel staff had told her that once a lush forest grew here with many wild animals, some dangerous and some good to eat, but that was a long time ago, before the gun and chainsaw turned it into this beautiful desert.

Now only this strange tree grew, alone and full of life, as if all the missing nature had fled into this one magnificent majestic thing. It was protected of course and the hotel built just to marvel at its beauty.

Something always survives and this was it, a reminder of what was and could be again. But that was just too big a thing to ponder and she turned towards the hotel in the distance, feeling that longing once again.

-Founder of TheBlueSpace Guides Co-operative, Nepal and a consultant to Child Space Foundation, Nepal. He is published in Poems of Meaning (2014), Poached Hare Journal (2019: Identity), Scarlet Leaf Review (Nov 2019), Fear of Monkeys (Dec 2019 - The Moor Macaque issue), Twisted Vine journal (Dec 2019), Bookends Review (April 2020), The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature (July 2020), and is the author of The World Peace Journals (Garuda Books 2013), No Place Like Home (Garuda Books 2013) and Mumbo Jumbo (Garuda Books 2015). He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Copyright©2020 by Ben Gilbert – All Rights Reserved