Death Lies Beneath the Pavement
Beneath the pavement of the street and the concrete of the sidewalk lie the corpses of tiny creatures by millions entombed unknown and unremembered.
“When you thrust a shovel into the soil or tear off a piece of coral, you are, godlike, cutting through an entire world. You have crossed a hidden frontier known to very few. Immediately close at hand, around and beneath our feet, lies the least explored part of the planet’s surface. It is also the most vital place on Earth for human existence” (Wilson, 2010).
As Corr and Rhya approached Mountainview, the landscape changed. Soil surfaces became bare, their protective crust of microorganisms gone. A carpet of springtime weeds obscured the almost continuous cover of vehicle tracks. A few shrubs remained, but no native grasses. Exposed roots beneath the shrubs told of the loss of topsoil to wind and water. The lack of ant mounds indicated the severity of the Human impacts.
Rhya grew silent. She paused when they reached pavement. Walking stiffly, she followed Corr to the sidewalk, then stopped and stared at the smooth concrete and asphalt surfaces, the tall palm and eucalyptus trees, coriander shrubs, and lawns—all like heavy makeup on a corpse. Tears filled her eyes. She looked so desolate that Corr wanted to hug her.
“Have you been to a Human city before?” he asked.
“No. Sorry. I read about this, but these streets and those plants are—”
“Yes. You will adapt. Tell me what you know about the city.”
“This is a young city as Human cities go. It began as an agricultural center and changed into a residential center. The street layout is rectangular. I memorized a street map, so I know how addresses are assigned, and I know where the government offices and major corporate headquarters are.”
“Have you spent much time talking with Humans?” Corr asked.
“Only a little. I’ve met a few visitors, and I know Duncan and Lila, of course, but I also know they aren’t typical. My internship with Shorel is supposed to enable me to meet more Humans. Corr, I know a great deal about Humans. I understand why they build these streets, but I know little about their daily lives and how they interact. I hope you don’t mind coaching me.”
“Sure. Right now, we should move on though. We will walk. Most Humans move slowly when they are not using a vehicle.”
“How do they greet each other?”
“That’s easy. Strangers in this city usually don’t greet each other. A glance and nod, perhaps a short statement such as ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’ will cover about everything.”
Rhya reviewed what she had learned of Human social psychology. Suddenly she wasn’t eager to see the real thing.
[Excerpted from Corr Syl the Warrior.]