The sun was yellow, then it turned red, and grew very quickly into a very large ball. That was the beginning of how everything changed.
The herd took notice. Up on the hill, their proud leader looked across the open plain and navigated a route as far as his eyes could see. They would head further South. As they bent their knees and fought the wind, some wondered how much hunger they could stomach? Then cold got stuck in their frozen furs and fatigue drilled lines into their faces. They did their best to follow the trumpet call. On and on, day and night, through grey dawns and dusk, through great tall valleys and over hard high mountains; on and on, until they lost sight of where they were running, and the long march turned into a fragmenting line.
Those who could keep up, kept going, and those who were struggling, slowed down, and those who laid down, never got up again. First, it was the old and the infirm, the end of their tired lifecycle only slightly premature. But it was when the first young fell, that deep fears of how things were going to be, undermined their spirit. Eventually, only a few could keep going, until they too came to a stop, because they had got to the edge of the world. In front of them was a thick green sludge stretching up to the horizon, a swill of algae which could not be crossed and could not be drunk. There was no going forwards, and no going back. There was no food for miles and miles around, and what was left of the herd had no strength to forage.
So, it was not long before they too lay down in the strange comfort of the snow, the ice-wind blowing into their veins and shutting down their arteries. One by one they fell asleep, shut their eyes and felt it best to dream. One by one, they knew there was no point in holding on. They faded away in little huddles. Until, there was only one left: young, still fit, still standing, still wanting to believe. He moved away from all the dying, tracked east and then west, trying to find a way to keep living. He went inland and hoped to find something. He went back on himself, and hoped to find survivors, but even he, like the last mammoth, began to realise there was only extinction.
He stared one more time at the few remaining stars, pin-pricked in the dense cloud. Then he stripped off his fur, felt his skin freeze and the frost-bite takeover. He drifted into a dream, and took one last breath, before life came to an end.
Simon Marlowe 11th November 2019