At Least the Shit Burns

I first saw it leaking from the charging port of my new iPhone, a smear of black goo left on the connector as I pulled it out.

Reports worldwide of the appearance of plasgoo, as it was soon to be widely known, first appeared in the dorms at Stanford University. It started simply enough. Researchers discovered a worm that ate plastic and shit black oil. What could be better? It was the answer to our combined nightmare of energy shortage (ignoring global warming), and the buildup of plastic waste that we were drowning in. The general collapse of civilization that led to the deaths of millions of people was, strictly speaking, not all their fault. But hell, I’m willing to begin there.

But really, we humans started all of this. The production of plastics started a long time ago. When the internet existed, I could have Googled the question and told you when the first plastics were discovered. But you will just have to trust me on this, it was a long time ago.

It was a miracle material, and soon plastics were everywhere. Packaging, clothes, literally every part of our human life benefitted from the use of plastics. The problem was that we didn’t care where they went after we used them. Many of the plastic things were used only once and thrown away. But being such great materials they went to landfills and never disappeared. Or they went into storm drains and were flushed into the sea. Out of sight, out of mind.

It’s funny. We used to worry about a global pandemic (actually one of my favorite board games) that would end the human species. It turns out that it was a lowly, plastic eating, bacteria that brought us down.

The confluence of the two events was just too right for fate to ignore. Our plastics were breaking down into micro-particles all over the planet. The bacteria discovered that they didn’t need the worms to chew the plastics up for them, and they made a break for it. They escaped the lab into the nearby landfill where they thrived. But if it hadn’t started there, it would have eventually started somewhere else.

At first nobody noticed. The combination of plentiful plastic bits to consume, and a favorable environment to exist in, encouraged them to thrive. Turns out that bacteria are incredibly good at mutating to fit the world they live in. And the world that bacteria found themselves in was filled with plastics to consume.

Soon they evolved to the point that they could directly consume plastics. Some better than others. But it was only a matter of time, and many thousands of bacteria generations, for a strain to develop that was essentially omnivorous as far as plastic was concerned.

Eventually what we know as the plasgoo strain of bacteria left the landfill. Some think it was carried out on garbage truck tires. Some think it made it’s way down waterways after large storms, others think it was attached to dust kicked up by the trucks as they made their deliveries of new plastic meals to the mindless living force. It doesn’t matter, life will find a way, and it did.

News reports started appearing of the kind that were more novelty than concern. A house flooding from pipes that now resembled swiss cheese. Unexplained fires starting in electrical junction boxes, where fire ate the evidence of the cause. Cars that wouldn’t start due to blown fuses from shorted wires. You get the idea. We were clueless.

You see. Plastics used to be everywhere. That’s hard for kids nowadays to understand. Plastic hardly exists anymore. Our systems started to break down as plasgoo ate everything. The clothes in our closets, the electronics in our homes, cars, and airplanes,

By now, the board game scenario of a pandemic spreading world wide due to trade and travel started to make civilization literally fall apart. And it wasn’t just people that carried it around, it was anything that contained plastic, which was virtually everything. Cars, trains, planes, and ships.

And to make it worse, we became essentially covered in sticky black goo. It was everywhere.

By Artiom P from Vilnius, Lithuanian (The Forgotten Veteran 1920 x1200) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Soon planes quit flying, cars quit rolling, bombs stopped falling. Food was non-existent and people everywhere started dying. Local skirmishes were settled with guns until the ammo ran out, and then with sticks and knives.

The concept of government was a joke. Unable to communicate, or travel, governments just disappeared.

The rapidity with which the plasgoo proliferated prevented any meaningful human resistance to take place. I watched as the breakdown of human society occurred with breathtaking speed.

Some of us survived. Plasgoo doesn’t attack humans, just our plastic. Places where there is water, and good soil, humans have made a comeback. Things made of wood, and steel are unaffected.

Because of the global breakdown, worldwide production of CO2 plummeted, and high atmospheric concentrations are dropping. Climate change is still occurring, but since we don’t have to ability to build satellites and rockets anymore, no one really knows what is happening.

There is no energy shortage. The curse and the gift of plasgoo was that it could burn. We don’t have to plow the fields with horses anymore, we have been able to convert farm machinery to run on the stuff.

The old cites are deserted., full of the nightmarish scenes of our demise. But, we still have fresh water, we have food that we grow, and we still have libraries. Those of us that are left can survive and benefit from the knowledge of past generations.

Evening is coming, I light the lantern to chase away the dark. Once again the thought crosses my mind, “At least the shit burns”.


A little bit of fiction from the mind of Bob Zwissler

Don’t forget to vote. The world depends on you.


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