WHAT IT IS
Justine Flagstaff took many months to recover from her encounter with No. 1, and although she would not admit to mourning his death, the five days under his hypnotic influence left her drained and anxious. No. 1 instilled in Flagstaff the belief that a genocide was in its initial stages and as humans demonstrated an ever increasing appetite for using lethal chemicals against all insects, No. 1 encouraged sympathetic people to help in this monumental battle. No. 1 had no illusions of victory; insects would be wiped off the face of the planet, replaced by robotic drone pollinators and mechanical microbes would be utilized in the soil to replicate bacteria and viruses. All song birds would be gone in a decade, most other animals shortly thereafter. It was No. 1’s hope that Flagstaff and others like her would record the devastation and keep the events archived for future generations to study.
Flagstaff returned several times to the place where she and No. 1 met, walking around the gazebo, hiking the nearby trails and visiting a cascading waterfall where she could get lost in her thoughts while the water’s song shielded her from distractions. Was No. 1 right? Was this enormous biomass on the edge of extinction? Would his predictions of the other species vanishing also come true? Left feeling empty and confused, Flagstaff would rely on her training as a journalist and tackle this story as she had many other stories, using the five double u’s to guide her conclusions.
WHAT IT IS NOT
Anything can be doctored; photos altered, text manipulated, eye witness testimony debunked or video aggrandized. Cinder Willoughby needed proof and anything less than witnessing a six foot bearded dragon in front of him, would not convince him such creatures existed. His work with Beaver County was complete and he had a couple of free days before his next gig, so he was driving around the area visiting sites where the dragons were allegedly spotted. Finding himself up near Fombell Rd, Willoughby found Ned Doucet and his nephew Davey Doucet sitting in Ned’s cruiser having a quiet lunch and making bold trade predictions about the Pirates upcoming baseball season. When the topic got around to the dragons, Ned said he’d swear on a stack of bibles that a dragon lived behind a small waterfall a half a mile away.
Ned was on duty, so the two old friends hiked to the falls to see for themselves, catching up on some news and gossip they may have missed out on since last seeing one another. Among other things, the pair dissected what they knew about Miles Hobbson but their walking was fast and soon they could hear the sound of the falling water. After an hour of exploring around the falls they found no signs of a dragon and headed back to the road when Doucet suddenly stopped, pointed skyward at a seagull riding the warm currents and floating effortlessly with a key in its bill.