At first it was just oil that leaked from the ruptured pipe at the bottom of the ocean, so we didn’t work that hard to stop it. We tried to plug it with garbage, with boatloads of debris scooped out of one of the great floating garbage patches in the ocean. We thought maybe we could recycle the problem away. But the pressure just forced the garbage back out, an underwater geyser of everything we’d discarded and forgotten. So we settled for skimming the oil off the ocean surface. We shipped it to the same refineries we would have anyway, and pumped it into the gas tanks of our cars just the same, only now with a few more dead turtles and pelicans in the mix.
But then other things came out of the pipe. The ghosts of all those who had died at sea. They got caught in the containment booms and nets, and their cries drove the whales and dolphins up onto the beaches. That’s when we knew we had to do something. Our tourism industries were in trouble. No one wanted to walk on sandy beaches covered in rotting blubber. So we turned to desperate measures. We dropped gravestones into the pipe to contain the dead, and then poured in concrete after the gravestones. We threw some bibles in from all the religions for good measure. We said goodbye to our fortunes and stopped the oil, the oil that would have saved our economy, the oil that would have saved the world as we knew it then.
But it was too late. Other things seeped through the layers of concrete and gravestones and bibles and petroleum-eating bacteria. Like ghosts but worse. Our forgotten memories. The time we stripped naked for each other at summer camp. The time we looked away when the boy across the street was getting mugged. The time we drove across that dog on the country lane and saw the puppies moving in its stomach and kept going because there was no one else around to witness it. Until now. Now they poured out of that ruptured well and bobbed there at the ocean surface for everyone to see. And we thought it couldn’t get worse than that.
And then it got worse than that. Then the fantasies came bubbling out. The secret things we thought about each other. The secret things we imagined doing to each other. The secret things we imagined being done to us. And we looked at each other with shock and awe, wondering how we could have thought the things we thought. So we lit the ocean on fire to burn it all away. But that just turned all our fantasies into ash that rained down on us for weeks afterward, reminding us every day of everything that was wrong with us.
And then the same thing happened at other wells. Pipes ruptured and our nightmares spilled out. A spectral Lenin wandered the frozen steppes, hawking Pepsi to every living soul he encountered. Our future ghosts dug up the graves of our parents and had sex with their corpses. Our houses and office towers caught fire and burned without consuming anything, without going out. The smoke cast a shadow over our lands, a shadow that never lifted.
And so we were faced with a choice. We could live with it. We could live with ourselves — our true selves — flooding the planet. Or we could end it. We could destroy every oil facility and pipeline on the planet with nukes and whatever else we had. We could end ourselves.
And we thought this. This. This is what happened to the dinosaurs.