Later On

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The Big Disruption

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A Totally Fictional But Essentially True Silicon Valley Story.

Jessica Powell has a book that you can read online. It begins:

Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.
Carl Sagan

Prologue

he only animal left standing was a one-eyed sea lion named Fred.

The northwest wall of the Palo Alto Sea Park shark tank broke at four a.m. on a hot August night, releasing into the park 780,000 gallons of water and fourteen angry sharks. They rode the wave in one sharp-toothed tsunami, penetrating the dolphin tank with open mouths, chasing the dolphins into new parts of the park.

Down came the manatee tank, the penguin’s pen, and the piglet squid viewing room. The flamingo hut and the snake house withstood the pressure but flooded with water, the animals’ terrestrial enclosures suddenly transformed into muddy aquariums. Noah’s ark was now subject to a Darwinian reorganization in which for a few breathless seconds, snakes became exotic fish, tails dropping vertically like flutes bobbing in the water until they finally sank to the floor. Nearby, the flamingos honked in terror, their pink necks popping up above the waves like unfastened hooks, tangling in each other until they dropped below the surface.

As the water from the tanks expanded to the edges of the park, the depths once housing the sea’s greatest creatures were now reduced to mere puddles. Fish were left flapping against the asphalt; the beluga whale flattened seahorses and starfish as it barreled its way through the park in search of arctic water. No longer traveling forward with carnivorous glee, the sharks came to a stop near the snack bar and began rolling about on their dolphin-stuffed bellies, emitting wimpy cries that would have delighted fish lower on the totem pole were they too not gasping in their newly parched environment. Within minutes, self-pity transformed to anger, and in their final moments, the sharks turned on each other in a cannibalistic bloodbath.

It all happened so quickly that by the time the rescue crews arrived, there was little left to salvage. The crew moved swiftly from one section of the park to the next, their faces increasingly grim. The manta rays spread flat like leathery carpets, the snakes roping above them in a bloated tangle. Colorful fish lay on their sides, mouths gaping, scales shifting like crystals in the slowly rising sun.

Word quickly spread of the catastrophe, and television news helicopters soon circled above. Everyone was looking for Belbo, Palo Alto’s beloved walrus and official mascot. The rescue crew finally discovered the aquarium’s prized pinniped underneath one of the felled walls, her death exacted by a slab of heavy concrete.

As the leader of the rescue crew turned to declare the end of their efforts, a loud croak bellowed from the northwest corner of the park. The crew ran toward the sound, which now repeated, like a foghorn, over and over. It was coming from the marine-themed jungle gym, one of the few structures that had survived the flood, thanks to its distance from the shark and dolphin tanks. As the crew approached, they saw a gray mass swaying atop the slide, partially blocking the sun. The rescuers shielded their eyes for a better view, and soon its form grew clearer. It was a one-eyed sea lion with a patch on its left eye.

At the sight of the rescue team, the sea lion barked again and clapped its hands. It balanced a ball on its nose, then put its weight on its front flippers and lifted its tail up behind its head. Without thinking, the rescue crew laughed and clapped.

Then the sea lion jumped onto its belly and sailed down the slide, landing on its stomach, flappers out to its side and a smile on its face. The crew rushed to hug the sea lion, to applaud its survival skills, to hail the new mascot of Palo Alto. The animal clapped its hands again and croaked three times, and across Silicon Valley, the sea lion’s bark dried the tears of the children watching the live news broadcasts. The sea lion showed them hope amid this sea of destruction.

One of the newscasters named it Fred.

A few months later, when the ground had finally dried and the bitter memories of the lost aquarium had faded for all but lawyers and insurance companies, the lot was purchased by a young internet company called Anahata. The founder of the company demanded that Fred be included as part of the property deal.

Fred was given his own  . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more — enough to fill a book, in fact.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2020 at 10:21 am

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