Mar 20, 2022, 1:31:45 PMMar 20
Starlings Will Inherit the Universe
Howard Knight (1996)
I was an avid bird watcher in the '90s and I was disturbed by the
number of Common Starlings in San Diego, especially in the beach area
where I lived. Every year, their numbers seem to increase and I was
genuinely concerned with their impact on the indigenous birds in the
area. If that wasn't enough, these damn birds made homes in a couple of
palm trees next to where I lived. I not only had to put up with their
squawking and squealing, but they also were constantly shitting on my
car! My hatred for these birds manifested itself into this short sci-fi
story that I posted to rec.birds. I guess it was my way of venting.
You will have to forgive my use of "hemp" in the story. Even though hemp
is a variety of cannabis used for fiber, back then it was used more
generically to mean pot or weed, the way "cannabis" is used nowadays.
Over the last two and a half decades since I wrote this story, the
starling populations have declined across the globe. In North America,
this is good news since they are an invasive species and never should
have been here in the first place. I still see them once in a while in
San Diego, but they no longer make me cringe. My latest bird peeve is
the Eurasian Collared-Dove. Back when I wrote this story, I had never
even heard of these birds. Now their numbers have exploded in the San
Diego area and they are quickly displacing the indigenous Mourning Doves.
Grrr. Maybe, one day, I'll write a story about them.
-- Howard (2022)
Some time in the near future after World War III:
As if a nuclear holocaust, global warming, ozone depletion, water,
land, and air pollution weren't enough, the earth was further
assaulted by being slammed with an asteroid that was at least ten
kilometers in diameter. Millions of tons of dust and debris from the
impact were ejected into the atmosphere, adding to the already
existing smoke left over by the nuclear bombs. The asteroid caused
fires that raged around the globe for weeks, adding even more smoke
and soot to the disgustingly dark and stinking atmosphere. For
nearly a year, the earth was dark and freezing cold with an
atmosphere saturated with dust, smoke, and radioactivity. Thousands
of species went extinct (including Homo sapiens). Even after the sky
cleared, the ultraviolet radiation from the sun snuffed out even more
of the surviving species of flora and fauna. More than 95 percent of
the species on planet Earth became extinct.
The devastation to the terrestrial plants and animals was much worse
than that of the ocean. Practically all terrestrial plants became
extinct. Once the sky cleared, only scattered patches of crabgrass,
bermuda grass, and dandelions sprouted. Except for a few rodent
species, mammals were completely wiped out. Reptiles faired no
better; A couple of species of lizards survived (kept warm by the
decaying biomass). Some species of crocodiles survived. (Oddly, they
always manage to survive these things.) Most insect species were
wiped out too, however, cockroaches, ants, and termites
proliferated. Not one single species of amphibian survived. Cyprinis
carpio (carp) was the only surviving fresh water fish species left.
And when it came to the birds, only a single species survived: The
European (or Common) Starling (Sturnus vulgaris).
At first, starlings managed to survive by eating worms and bugs as
they normally did. But, because of toxic rain and severe cold, their
natural diet of worms, grubs, etc., went extinct. Oddly enough, the
starlings weren't affected by the toxic rain and soil. Presumably,
they were protected by already being adapted to the fertilizers,
insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides from golf course and park
lawns. However, many starlings died of starvation; their carcasses
were quickly gobbled up by eager cockroaches and ants.
Not surprisingly, some starlings adapted to eating cockroaches.
Others, with longer and tougher tongues, adapted to eating ants and
termites. The bounty of cockroaches and ants allowed starling
populations to again increase and even explode!
Eventually starlings began feeding on other types of animals. Some
starlings ate carp fry. Others ganged up on small rodents, pecked
them to death and ate them.
A few decades passed and the earth's ozone began to recover. Also,
the toxins and radioactive goo began to leach out of the water and
top soil. At about that same time, the seals in Zip-Loc baggies
began to fail allowing dormant hemp seeds to sprout. Soon, the hemp
thrived and proliferated. Some starlings nibbled on the hemp for
extra fiber and the intoxicating effect. A few starlings had tougher
digestive enzymes and bacteria in their gut and began eating more and
more of the hemp.
In as little as 100 years, starlings began to divide into separate
races. Incredibly, by 500 years, separate starling species had
emerged. (The rapid rate of starling evolution was probably due to
mutations caused by the toxic radioactive muck that was still left in
the water and soil.)
Thousands of years passed. Rain forests emerged with thousands of
plant species all of which descended from hemp. Grasslands also
emerged covered in hemp grass and hemp trees and shrubs. Mountains
were covered with forests of majestic hemp evergreens. Hemp cactus
eked out a meager existence in the deserts. Wetlands too, were rich
in plant species that were all descendants of hemp.
Starlings evolved to exploit every niche of the environment. Due to
the lack of predators, most starling species were by then
flightless. All shapes and sizes of starling species thrived: large
hemp grazing starlings; packs of hunting starlings who fed on the
hemp grazers; water loving starlings who swam and dove to find their
favorite type of carp (which also had diverged into separate
species); burrowing starlings that fed on cockroaches; starlings that
fed on tasty termites by using their long bills and super long sticky
tongues. And the list went on and on. Starlings could no longer be
considered birds and could be placed in their own class: Vulgaria
Naturally, species of vulgarians resided at the top of the food chain
in all land (and many water) habitats. One species of vulgarian in
particular, Turpis afarenis, inhabited the grasslands. T. afarenis
had a special adaptation for surviving in its environment: it walked
T. afarenis soon evolved into more advanced species. Brain size
increased and body feathers decreased. These more advanced species
used stone tools and communicated with each other using a primitive
language that consisted of squeaks, raspy whines, and chirps. The
species Molestus habilis was born. M. habilis quickly evolved into
M. erectus which in turn, evolved into the big brained Vulgan
Later, the Vulgans invented written language, art, and culture;
advanced civilization followed. Advancing technology, science, and
industry soon pushed the Vulgans into their space age. They invented
airplanes, radio, television, computers, fast-food restaurants, and
mini-malls. Soon, rockets were taking Vulgans into lower orbit.
After that, Vulgans were buzzing around the solar system in
spaceships looking for planets to colonize. Unfortunately, there
were no planets in the solar system that would sustain life and the
Vulgans were too lazy to terraform any of them.
Then it happened, the Vulgans discovered a small planet orbiting our
third closest star, Rigel Kentaurius (Alpha Centauri). Years of
study revealed that the little planet had a nitrogen rich atmosphere
with enough oxygen and carbon dioxide to sustain modern earth life. A
no-holds-barred/money-is-no-object project was put into place to
build a really fast starship to travel to the little planet.
Soon, the starship was finished, and a crew of about 80 Vulgans
started its journey to Rigel Kentaurius. A few decades later, the
ship coasted into orbit around the new little planet. The planet was
quickly scanned. Analysis revealed a species of sentient beings
called Sialians. Sialian civilization was in the beginnings of its
own space age.
The Vulgans sent scout ships to the surface to collect a few of the
Sialians for study. To abduct the Sialians, the scouts blasted them
with a paralyzing ray and then beamed them aboard their ship. The
scouts collected Sialians from all walks of Sialian life (but
especially from the uneducated in rural areas). The Vulgans
performed medical tests. In some cases they removed eggs and sperm
and forced the subjects to perform sexual acts. The Sialian test
subjects were re-deposited to the exact location where they were
found. Then, the Vulgans erased the memory of the abduction from the
Sialian's brain. The research showed that the Sialians would be a
push over. Also, their mating techniques were hilarious!
The Vulgans decided to make their presence known to the Sialians and
to talk to their leaders. They sent a message over all of the
planet's TV and radio stations, "Uh, people of this little planet,
our ship is, like, broken and we can't go back to earth. Can we hang
with you people? We have hemp." The shrill, squeaky, raspy, whiny
sound of the Vulgan's voice made the Sialians clutch their ears and
tremble with fear. After weeks of negotiation and despite the
horrible sound of the Vulgan's voices and their drunken rowdy nature,
the Sialians agreed to let the Vulgans live with them.
The Vulgans conveniently forgot to tell the Sialians about the
incredible rate at which they reproduced, also, that they reached
adulthood at about three years of age! Using the money they made
from interviews, lectures, and TV talk shows appearances, the Vulgans
invested heavily in real-estate. The obnoxious Vulgans began
bullying and irritating the poor Sialians away from their
neighborhoods which in turn, drove real-estate prices down. That
allowed Vulgans to buy more properties for their exploding number of
offspring. Within a few decades, the Vulgans controlled virtually
all of the planet's commerce and industry. Within a century, the
Sialians were irritated and bullied into extinction.
In the mean time, the Vulgans had discovered another little planet
orbiting another nearby star. They sent a starship to that planet.
Then another planet was discovered, and another starship was sent.
More and more planets were discovered, and more and more starships
were sent to colonize them.
Within 20,000 years, one percent of the inhabitable planets in our
arm of the galaxy had been taken over by Vulgans. In 40,000 years,
ten percent of the planets were taken over. In 60,000 years, all the
planets in the arm were taken over. In 100,000 years, a quarter of
all the planets in the Milky Way galaxy were black with Vulgans. By
200,000 years, all the inhabitable planets in the galaxy were
And then one day, as if guided by some magical means of
communication, millions of intergalactic spaceships from millions of
little Vulgan worlds took off in unison. The giant parasitic black
cloud of ships traveled away from the galaxy and then beyond.
To be continued...