A long time ago, the earth was descending into chaos.
Not chaos like an untidy house, but chaos like before the beginning of all things, when all that existed was a big, black pit of nothingness.
The people of earth had grown fat and content and lazy. They were violent and cruel and nasty. They fought and killed and died. For nothing. And soon they would return to nothing.
They were not worthy of the bounty of the earth, of its flowers, its fruits, its fertility. They did not deserve her kindness. For so long she had given and given herself to the people who lived upon her, but now she had so little left to give. She had been dried, used, discarded. Her seas were full of plastic, her land poisoned with chemicals. She withered, she wheezed, and she waited. Waited for them to realise what they had done, what they were about to lose.
But the people of earth continued to waltz around the ballroom they had created, the opulence and decadence of their manmade world, oblivious to the ground rotting beneath them.
And then, the Shatters came.
Like a divine punishment they swept across the land, killing hundreds, thousands, millions - the people who had been dancing on the corpse of the world just moments before. The people who did not care for their benefactor.
They took away the water that we had polluted. We did not deserve it. We were not worthy of such a gift.
The earth was scorched as the Shatters left. Burned, and bruised, and hurting. But finally, finally, she was alive. The plague that had driven her nearly to death had been exterminated and she had room to breathe again.
And those of us who were left… we knew what we had to do.
We have to be different.
We have to care.
We have to save earth.
“Grandmama, how come people like the Shatters if they killed everyone?”
“Well, Genevieve, sometimes, the gods do bad things to save us. The people of earth were taking advantage of their gifts, and though they had been warned with lots and lots of bad things happening to the weather, to the world, they didn’t notice. They didn’t care. So the gods had to take more drastic measures.”
“But now we don’t have any water. That’s bad, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sweetling, but it’s a learning experience. You know when you burned your hand on fire last week? How it hurt, and how you got a bad blister on your hand, but it taught you to be careful around fire, and it taught you how to take care of a burn. You see, mistakes and punishment - that’s how we learn.”
“When will we be allowed to have water again? I’m being good right now, aren’t I?”
“Well…” Geny’s grandmother paused. “That’s difficult, my love. We don’t know what the gods have in store for us, but they won’t let us die. Maybe it’ll seem that way, but they won’t. They have a plan for us.”
Geny looked down and her bottom lip began to tremble as she quietly, sadly said: “They let papa die.”
Geny’s grandmother crouched to meet her granddaughter’s eyes and held her hands tightly. “Papa died, yes. But that was not a punishment, my love. Do you understand? The gods have a plan, and everything - even the hardest things - are part of the great story of life. It might not feel fair, or right, but you have to trust, and have faith, that it will mean something some day. Some day we will see papa again. But for now, the experience of losing him will teach us, somehow, to be better people. To be worthy of this earth, and of water. We must be humble and in touch with nature. We must make your papa proud.”
Geny’s eyes were brimming with tears now, and she clumsily wiped them away with the sleeve of her dress. She nodded. “Okay, grandmama.”
Geny’s grandmother stood up again, wincing in pain as her joints creaked back into life. She looked over to the corner of the room, where Geny’s mother sat facing the window, her eyes blank and glazed over. Her frail hands gripped the arms of the chair and her mouth sagged as if it had not smiled in decades. Never before had she seen someone who seemed so empty while still alive - the woman seemed like she was waiting to die.
And she was. She had lost it all - her husband, her family, her heart. Genevieve was still here, still living, but her mother could only see the resemblance to those who had died. Her heart had cracked in two and lay broken in the dirt with the remains of the one she had loved.
Geny’s grandmother looked away and back at her grandchild, whose eyes were cast down, stubbornly trying to hold back the tears.
“Genevieve, love, let me tell you a story about the phoenix: a magical bird, which dies in a blaze of glory, then rises from the ashes, naked and new and reborn, ready to live again…”