The Last Sight of The West End

 




            I am one of the last survivors of a failed settlement in Antarctica.  The year is our current year of 2090 and I am taking the journey towards the mainland of Argentina, with hopes of being able to gain contact with my family and call on a friend for a favor so that I can try snag a place to live for the time being.  Time is of the essence for those who are left to be rescued, and I think that they are not going to be alive for much longer.  We all live on borrowed time, but it appears that nature has made a recall on the lives of many of those on the continent.  While I have the time between my voyage to South America and my journey home, I should explain what transpired that led to the fall of a rising melting pot of culture, class, and the creation of a would-be emerging paradise.

            I came to this continent two years ago on a business trip.  I was told that the western end of the continent would be the perfect place to start up a new colony and that it would soon be a cultural melting pot and a place for high art, the sciences, and for emerging technologies and life to occur.  With the melting of the former western shelf, the rise of the seas, and the millions of migrants heading towards the mainland and wealthier nations, it seemed like a place that would be worthy of an escape route to avoid all of the troubles of a warming world and would remind me of the snows that I experienced as a child back home up north.  I wanted to try and recapture that experience that I had in my childhood while maintaining the experience that I had grown accustomed to with my upper-class upbringing.  I like to think of myself as being a purveyor of the finer things in life, and seeing as how this new space of land along the Antarctic was freed up for everything from housing to a bit of farmland along the more fertile areas led me to believe that there was a possibility for a better life down here.  Life, or rather life that was beneath the ice was the problem that cut my plans for a better life at the south end short.

            I arrived on May Day, 2088 to the area of Antarctica that was known as the West End.  A few areas for housing had been set up already and a system that ran on hydraulics and geothermal energy for powering the homes.  Water filtration was set up and a few rivers had formed from the melting ice sheet that had melted away and left the fertile lands for humans to colonize.  While there were talks in the earlier days of this being a place to send climate refugees, those who had money and influence saw an opportunity to flee and create their own version of a utopia, away from the interference of major world governments and the immediate material consequences of their actions.  While I had my own personal disagreements with the actions that many of these economic and government leaders took, I still had enough influence with my writing and wealth from my book sales and my inheritance to find a home for myself on the West End.  And that’s exactly what I did.

            I was one of the first to arrive.  I was assigned to a house near the coastline, just a block away from the frigid waters.  The sight was beautiful.  If I went up the street and up the hill, I could venture out and explore more of the areas that were being expanded for farming, fishing on newly thawed lakes, and the vast expanse of land that was just waiting for us to explore it.  Life seemed to be going pretty well.  Many people made a home for themselves on the West End.  They didn’t all arrive at first.  It started out slow, with some people being either fearful of a collapse of the colony or simply hesitant to move all the way to the southern end of the world.  However, as the months passed, more and more people arrived.  My town of 3,000 grew to 100,000 within a matter of five months.  It was a bustling society and more towns like mine were being founded by the week.  My town was known as Makersville, as it was the first town to be founded along the West End.  Soon, it would become the point from which all major trade and resources would flow in and out of the colony.  It was the epicenter for trade, commerce, and most importantly, culture.  Parties would be hosted all the time in Makersville and people from all over the world would come and attend.  The West End was emerging as a cultural paradise and the extravagance of those who lived in many parts of the West End reflected that.  We were nearly half a million strong on the continent and were growing by the day.  However, as the ice melted and more and more farmers came to claim the land beneath the ice for their crops and for the farm animals that they desired to bring for fresh food to the continent proved to be more of a task than they could handle.  The land was fertile, yes, and it had a lot of nutrients that were left over from fossils that had been frozen for millions of years.  Unfortunately, that was the issue.  An infection started amongst the cattle that proved to be too much for them.  They bit off more than they could chew. 

            It started out with the hooves of the cows being covered in a strange material from the undergrowth that would form around the grazing areas.  It seemed to glow at night, giving a sense of eeriness to the areas where the crops grew.  Still, the farmers pressed on and would clean the hooves of their cattle regularly.  However, the cattle started to get sick.  Those whose feet would glow ended up ended up becoming very sick and would die mysteriously.  This obviously started a panic among those working on the farm, which lead to the scientists stationed on Antarctica to analyze the dead cattle.  What they found were that the cows had a fungus growing on the bottom of their hooves that hadn’t been identified before.  Worse still was that the fungus didn’t seem to be what was killing them.  Everyone was left in confusion as to why the animals would die if they came into contact with the fungus.  Most people kept their hands clean, but some people ended up playing with the fungus-rich soil.  What the scientists found was that the fungus itself was not killing the cattle, but rather a giant virus species that was transmitted through the fungus.  The fungus would hitch a ride on the hooves of the cows to other pastures to feed on and decompose dying material.  This is how it and the virus would spread.  Unfortunately for everyone on the West End, we found this out too late. 

            The virus wasn’t transferred through direct contact, it was transferred through contaminated meat.  Our food supply was supposed to be organic and raised with care, to serve as an example of what sustainable agriculture could look like on Antarctica.  However, the greed and negligence of the farmers led to some of the meat from these cattle being packaged and provided to the rest of the West End for consumption.  This is where the problems truly arose.  People became very sick.  It started out with flu-like symptoms.  Then came the stage of aggressive vomiting.  The final stage came where these people would experience seizures and their body was left for dead.  Unfortunately for the remainder of those on the West End, their bodies were not truly dead.  Their brains were dead, yes, but the tissues and organs that were once operated by the brain were fully functional.  The people who consumed the contaminated beef were no longer aware of themselves.  They were zombies and they had only one desire:  spread the virus and consume whatever they could.  They started out by ravaging food in fridges, then they would consume their pets, and then they started hunting their neighbors. 

Overnight, the West End was thrown into a frenzy.  No longer was this part of the world a thriving society for those who were wealthy enough or had the right resources to escape from the rest of the world.  Now the remaining survivors were pleading to escape back up north, hoping that the countries that they left months before would take them back.  Many perished in the weeks that would follow the collapse of the West End.  I ended up making my escape on foot, having to construct a decoy that would allow me to escape.  I barely had enough time as I raced down to the pier to hop on a fishing boat that would bring me to safety.  I abandoned numerous written projects that I otherwise would have taken with me, all for the sake of preserving my own life.  Much of what we worked so hard for on the West End is no more.  Thousands perished in a matter of hours.  There are likely few survivors left and their odds of survival dwindle by the day.  I pray to anyone who may read this to not make the same mistake that the West End did when we do eventually return to Antarctica.  Remember to go with a plan in mind but to always be aware that life will pull a surprise on you when you least expect it.  If we keep in mind the failures that led to the fall of the West End, then maybe the lives of those who perished won’t be in vain.  I hope that those who are aware of the horrors of the West End know this; even when you think that everything will go right, there is always a way in which everything can go wrong.

            

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