Twenty-Eight Inch Box
That's about the width of a grave: twenty-eight inches. The height is a little smaller than that: twenty-three. The length is longer; it had to be, elsewise the definition of "length" would be in jeopardy. It is eighty-four inches.
The space encapsulated within is all the room a human is given once they die. The staling air they share only with their own bones and ash, or rotting flesh decaying as the saprotrophs, the recyclers of the world, salvage the organic matter and synthesise nutrients before sneaking through the tiny gaps in the casket and the mounds of soil and clay, saturated with rain, before slipping into the roots of plants and feeding them.
There was plenty of space for all of them. The soil, the little microorganisms it housed, the roots of the plants and the air, water and other nutrients that slipped in between. The prism buried took up quite a bit of space, and in there were only bones that could easily be compressed and eventually degraded within the space a human used to place their shoes. It was all the space they needed…in the end. And it was shareable; bones, calcified rods…they lasted longer than any other part of the human body but even they did not last forever. It was somewhat ironic that they required the extra space, even in death.
In life, they took up far more. Their adult body took up the same space as the dimensions of a generic casket standing upright. As a child, the frame was much smaller…but a mix of action, choice and selfishness caused them to take up a far larger part of the world than was their proportion. They had to have the best toy: a toy that had a space of its own. They had to have the most comfortable position on their mothers lap; never mind they had older or younger siblings yearning for the same honour. Never mind the aging patellas creaking with strain.
Plants spread their roots through the soil. They were far gentler pushing away little mounds and swiping nutrients from their neighbours. Typically climbing plants grew by tall ones, using the statute to reach up to the sun's rays so they could both grow. The smaller ones were smart enough not to set their roots within the shade, instead clawing out to sunny patches where the light reached them without obstruction. Oh, they still quarrelled. Make no mistake about that. But there was no blood spilt when the kingdom Plantae fought with one another. And their remains, before long, denied none other the much needed space.
There was always a shortage of space. Animals, and humans in particular, carried the majority of the blame…although plants could take a minor portion thereof. We passed through this place while leaving none lacking; do you ever see us in your way? Do you ever see us at all? No, because we don't have that effect. There's an infinite supply of room for us; you can't obscure us and we cannot obscure you. But plants dug their roots into the soil and refused to give way, snaking and forcing their way through outgrowth so they could share the sun while they lived. Animals marked their territory, driving trespassers away. Humans were by far the worst, shoving others out of space they neither needed nor utilised. Fences built around acres of land, choking roses, uprooting grass, repelling dogs and cats and birds atop for a stretch that simply sat and baked in the sun until they decided to rip up the remainder of the grass. Large mansions sat upon hectares, most of which remained unused and collecting dust as the air grew staler and the four walls turned into a grave locking its secrets within the never changing world until a cleaner one day spontaneously decided to wipe it all away without a cause. And on the streets they were all supposed to share…oh, the scuffles and blood spilt upon them during a simple morning walk. It was times like that I was glad there was no connection between me and them save we existed in the same world; these destructive species destroyed not only others for unneeded space but themselves as well.
They had their match; the wild animals in the forest: how many bodies had been dragged away, mauled with the skin and flesh ripped off and savoured in the mouth of the carnivorous beast? A few; I hear them on the space-wasting contraption they called a television. They claimed it was a way to keep in touch with the rest of the world. How could they, really, when all they did was push the world away?
It wasn't long though before they over-stretched the limitations of this kind and patient Earth. She tried teaching them; she sent torrents of rain to wash away the useless matter so they'd learn some compassion and the ability to share resources with the rest of the organisms that embraced the universe…for it was the humans that suffered most heavily from their losses of homes, lives and crops. Or the bushfires she sparked and spread, burning acres of ground put to little use. Or the earthquakesknocking down buildings that spread towards the horizon and up to the clouds while its insides collected dust.
But alas, no. They learnt not the lessons of kind Mother Nature. Instead, they attempted to defy her teachings, her plea to leave some resource for the rest. While the dog starved in the alleyway, they competed with each other to build larger, stronger and more useless buildings. They competed to recultivate the washed up land and raised the prices to satisfy their own greed. They sold out their neighbours to enjoy more of the earth for themselves. They cut down the trees that were homes to many others; plants, animals and even the microorganisms that none of us ever imagined would fall prey to this treacherous species God had created to inhabit the earth. How much longer, it made us wonder, before they started to degrade the walls of our niches as well? How much longer before we were not separate from this destruction but rather a part of it. Already the blood was warping our reality,it's sent wafting permanently through the streets. Already the polluted air from the lack of trees wafted through the natural filters of our plane and our homes. The beauty dimmed. The sorrow grew as vitality threatened to abandon us to the mercy of the selfish species of mankind.Homo sapiens they called themselves: wise man; they thought much of themselves indeed. Homo ambitiosus perhaps would have been a better name: selfish man. Or Homo perniciosa: destructive man.
The resources of the world waned. Many died because their habitats had been destroyed: their homes, or the only sources of food they could utilise while humans dined and enjoyed in excess and spoilage. But eventually it came back to them; the plants they used to feast upon no longer grew on the earth. The animals they'd devoured died out, unable to reproduce. Pure water sank with salt and oil. Oil itself became scarce, as did a lot of other elements they had taken for granted and become so reliant upon. The coal they'd so frivolously burnt had choked the skies; they finally started looking towards the environment they'd for so long pillaged.
Too late. The earth would never return to the vitality it had once enjoyed. The universe tended towards disorder after all; perhaps if someone had frozen the human species before this abomination, the process would have taken far longer. The sad fate of many may have had happier days before the inevitable end. But even our own lives were choked; it all came back to the humans. Somehow, in this river of pillaging, all other species had become dependent on the consequences of human those so small and numerous and tricky that it should have been impossible. How had the microorganisms fallen so, to be tamed by little needle pricks and powdered capsules?
Oh, how I rued the day the earlier diseases had failed to abolish this species. Then perhaps we might have lasted a little longer too.
And to think, that even in death, they occupy a space of fifty-four thousand inches or thereabouts: the area of a twenty-eight inch box. And we, the rest of the world, degrade to eventually take up nothing.