The Species of Least Concern
by Erica L. Satifka
We find the first ones in the lobby, talons extended as if trying to get underneath the door. A
good two dozen of them, mostly sparrows. Tiny, dun-colored things.
Of course it's my job to clean it up. I lay the dead sparrows to their rest in the dumpster around
back of the building. Their beaks and eyes glitter like cut glass in huge fleshy shoals.
By the end of the week, it's like birds never existed. Pockets of absence soar about in the silent
"As the current wave of devastating cryptogenic species loss enters its second week," says the
newscaster, "scientists are scrambling for a cause, and a cure. Research at the --"
I turn the TV off and the sanitizer on. Its soothing thrum envelops me like a warm, heavy
blanket. Without thinking, I squat on the tile floor and let the vibrations shake loose the aberrant
electrical activity from my brain. Though I have a government-issued neural defibrillator, I don't
dare bring the phallus-shaped thing to work. The frequency of the sanitizer is roughly the same as
that of the device, and at least then nobody thinks I'm a nympho as well as a freak. My backbone
tingles against the sanitizer, and I'm reminded that anything with a spine -- including me --
could be the next to die.
DCSL: waves of species loss affecting one taxon at a time. Scientists think it's a natural
phenomenon, but they still haven't found a cause, so what do scientists know, really? Sometimes
there are more than six months between extinction events and we think we're in the clear, but
they always come back.
I hear thick-soled shoes thundering like a herd of animals that probably don't exist anymore and
look up to find Steve, the project lead. I stand in a panic, pretending I'd just been on the floor to
find a paperclip.
"Kimmy, what are you doing?" He sighs and turns away to the coffee machine. "No, forget it, I
don't want to know."
"Um, ah . . . your mail is here." I grab one of the stacks on the cart and shove it at him.
"Fine." He takes it without looking, then shuffles off to wherever project managers go when
they're not barking orders or rushing to meetings.
At Nature's Helpers, we're developing replacement animals -- NuAnimals -- to fill in the gaps
left by the extinction events. We used to be an organic pharmaceutical company, but desperate
times lead to different strategies, as Steve likes to say.
I grab the handles of the mail-cart and walk the halls, my own shoes squeaking.