(First published on Booksie)
“As you can see, today’s subject will be dealing with the very serious ramifications of invasive species. If you’ll turn to page 40 in your textbooks please.” Millerson deftly wrote the word “symbiosis” on the chalkboard and continued without turning to face the group. “Mr. Powell that would include you.” Kevin shifted uncomfortably in his chair before opening his textbook and wondering how Millerson had noticed. The teacher spun around on the spot and addressed the pupil sat to Kevin’s right. “If you could read the first three paragraphs to the class please, Carole, and then we’ll discuss.” He flashed a smile.
Mr. Millerson stood at the front of his attentive class, a wooden pointer at the ready. He gave a gentle tap with it towards the title of today’s lesson, “Invasive Species”. He’d taken care to underline it to lessen the flowery nature of his handwriting and re-enforce the seriousness of the class. Mr. Millerson made a gentle cough before beginning.
Carole tucked a dirty blonde curl behind her ear and began reading. The text, dry and dull, hung in the air as the students processed it. It spoke of large, unwieldy beasts suckered to their native positions in order to receive their nutrition. Of how restrictive it proved and the need for evolution. Mr. Millerson wrote “evolution” in a box beneath “symbiosis” and drew a vertical line between them. “These primitive creations were well attended to by their caretakers, who kept them healthy and perceived a beneficial co-existence.” Carole stopped reading and looked up.
“Good reading Carole, now did everyone understand the important points in the text?” Millerson paused for a moment and then added “benefit?” and a horizontal line across from “Symbiosis”. Another student’s hand shot up into the air.
“Mr. Millerson? Why the question mark? After the word ‘benefit’, I mean Sir?” The words tumbled out of Edward’s mouth and he felt the need to scoop them back in again, at once. If Mr. Millerson had placed a question mark on the board it would be for a good reason. Edward flushed bright red. Most of the class shifted their eyes to their left, the auditory equivalent of ducking for cover. Instead of the anticipated implosion, Millerson gave another smile. He clapped his hands together. It would appear he was pleased.
“Good question, Edward! Let’s find out shall we?” Once again, Millerson paused with a smile to pique their interest. “So as we’ve heard, the original species was sedentary which proved fine for them. However, the other half of the pairing ‘us’, as it were, began to find the benefit less than it should be.” He gave a nod to the class, assured that they were all following. “Sure, these handy little creatures saved us time with their help. But could they save lives?” Kevin’s hand shot up, in a flash. Millerson shook his head. “That was a rhetorical question, Kevin.”
Kevin, feeling brave, stood up. “But why would we get rid of something that saves lives, Sir? I mean, that’s what we did, Sir. We wiped out every single one!” Mr. Millerson took a deep breath and tapped the wooden pointer to the question mark next to “benefit?”.
“Because, class, it is survival of the fittest and frankly we were starting to lose. Yes, ‘they’ had evolved but in some ways, they were still the same. Still rooted to one point, the hip or the hand. But we weren’t living in symbiosis anymore, we had become their slaves. Before, when they gave their alarm call we would come running. Soon after, we began to check on them before we even heard anything. We became the sedentary ones, we got slower and we got sicker than them. So we took action.” Mr. Millerson shuffled his feet and looked at the floor like he didn’t quite believe what he was saying.
At the back of the class, Edward fiddled in his pocket, checked no-one was looking and fished out a slender looking android phone. He stroked the blank screen before popping it back in his pocket. He could text his girlfriend, she had the same model from a gent who didn’t ask too many questions. Getting credit wasn’t easy but if you knew the right person and had enough money, it helped. He thought about seeking out friends from further afield. There were rumours of networks all across the globe. The lazy task force in charge of dealing with the threat had only seen fit to wipe out the actual phones. The apps that ran on them were never decommissioned. It was all still out there, floating in the ether. And Millerson thinks they’re extinct, Edward snorted to himself.