COVID-19 has swept across the globe overwhelming healthcare facilities and forcing governments to issue stay at home orders. While people shelter in place cars remain in driveways, gas stations become ghost towns, and refineries stand abandoned.
Stranger still experts are finding that our absence is having a side effect on the environment.
The nitrogen dioxide coating the world has faded revealing the continent of China beneath it. The smog blanketing the Los Angeles has lifted revealing the Hollywood sign. The fuel in the Venice canals has dissolved revealing the seafloor.
When I open my windows the noise pollution is gone. There are no horns from the intersection next to the apartment. No thumping subwoofers shaking the ground. No roaring Harleys from the highway. No jetliners to drown out the birdsong. There’s only the faintest hint of wind.
The neighborhood networking app Nextdoor is full of fox sightings. Herds of deer are grazing in cemeteries. Bald eagles are perching on powerlines. Nature is filling the vacancy left by humankind.
If we’ve ever wondered what our impact is on the environment the quarantine has given us the answer.
With fewer people burning fuel, laying fertilizer, and raising cattle there are fewer greenhouse gases. Without that stream of pollution we risk making the planet hospitable for creatures we’d rather remain underground. The longer things stay like this the greater the risk the old ones will rise again.
For eons the old ones have slumbered near the earth’s core, beneath sheets of stalactites, on beds of magma. Their mere yawns shake the caverns. Their mere movements create fault lines. These titans once ruled the land until changes in the air forced them into hibernation.
Still, they dream and their dreams manifest as delirium in lesser minds. Perhaps you’ve seen them in the lonely hours of your solitude. I know I have. With their bodies like great apes and faces like cuttlefish.
There’s Mother Hydra, the vengeance of the ocean. Father Dagon, the lord of the trenches. Then there’s deep ones, sharpening their tridents, waiting to surface. There’s Hastur, the unspeakable doom of Carcosa. Also known as the King in Yellow with his tattered robe of tentacles. There’s the Shoggoths trickling down the mountains of madness, as the ozone slowly heals above them.
Oh, and of course there’s Cthulhu. Imprisoned in the sunken city of R’lyeh with his legions in slime drenched pens. Cthulhu, the dreamer whose true domain is the astral plane. Cthulhu, whose island will rise again. Cthulhu, whose name you really shouldn’t say three times.
Throughout history these forgotten deities have scratched at the borders reality. Every time a depression forces folks to use less oil the old ones feel their bellies rumble. Every time a city lowers its carbon footprint it risks being stomped upon. Every time you bike when you could’ve driven you risk waking them.
Without a steady stream of emissions these entities will come. They will call down their progenitor: Yog-Sothoth, the sentinel of wormholes. When he arrives he’ll drape his tendrils over the horizon. The glowing orbs sagging from his skin will rival the scale of the moon. Then the children of Yog-Sothoth will feed on both our bodies and our minds.
In hindsight self-isolation will seem like Heaven. Sure, the cities will reopen, but the streets won’t be places you want to walk down. Not with the Esoteric Order of Dagon fishing for sacrificial lambs, flashing wavy daggers, gutting their catches in public fountains. Not with the Cult of Cthulhu stringing coper wiring through craniums, drawing down the lightning, lighting up expressions. Not with Bus-length Shoggoths swallowing pedestrians, leaving onlookers to watch victims dissolve through protoplasmic skin.
The economy might take off like a rocket, but it ain’t going to hit atmo. That’s for damn sure.
The old ones will show cosmic indifference to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Our unalienable rights will disappear overnight. Forget about the stock market. Forget about the epidemic. Forget about the climate. Without the safety net of nitrogen dioxide we will hurtle into the void.
Our suffering will be the punchline of a great cosmic joke and the old ones will never stop laughing. That’s why it’s our duty to go forth and start polluting. We must shovel coal into volcanoes, have a few more three mile islands, and double fist aerosol cans. Do it not just for your children, but for your children’s children.
For it is only after we’ve filled the air with toxins that we’ll be spared the wrath of the old ones.