Prompt 040: A Million Years From Now
40. One million years into the future, the world has been taken over by another species from our planet. What species evolves to dominate humans? How do your descendants fit into this new world order?
Go Big Or Go Home, as per usual.
Imagine the world is now a salty, acidic sauna dominated by waters that range from blue-ish green to rust brown. There is some land still visible above these waves, but what's there is either barren or carpeted with low, thick-stalked grasses instead of trees. Wicked windstorms course across the planet in wild jet-stream-fueled storms. The tides, when pulled one way or the other, are sudden and expansive. They spread their acidic mass over these landforms and meager plantlife, snuffing out most opportunities for sentient life to thrive and dominate the planet much like humans once did.
Humanity? Long gone. There are no descendants to speak of. Humans are extinct, having been wiped off the face of the planet once its persistent surface temperature was easily 20 degrees F higher than we know it today. Enormous areas of equatorial Earth were rendered permanently uninhabitable by humans, and although mass migrations occurred to resettle those displaced, political strife, food and (especially) water shortages allowed humans to fight one another for the crumbling scraps of their empire that still remained.
Insects are back on top. Able to articulate their flagella to move from one place to another, their mandibles able to chew through all manner of organic matter without too much difficulty, they are able to eat. They absorb moisture from their environment and have evolved the ability to filter out or metabolize environmental toxins. When the tides roll in, they float on the surface, or are able to trap bubbles of air to survive long enough to both float their way to the surface, and then settle on land once the tides recede.
Some of them fly. They are the ones that eat more of the plantlife that grows further inland or atop former mountains. They might grow as large as a foot in length, with a wingspan of perhaps two feet across, but as there's an advantage to staying small, no organism that gains in physical size lasts very long.
There are also web-spinner arthropods and spiders that live long enough to spin their webs, catch some of these crawling, swimming, and flying insects, consume them, mate, and lay eggs. Hatchlings proliferate by shooting web filaments upward, and when the wind catches them, they sail away to another grassy patch where they hopefully breed again to make more living things.
The Earth becomes a muddy ball of caustic, foaming fluids lapping along jagged, barren coastlines. Never-ending swathes of mustard-brown, salt-encrusted soil are peppered with patches of these low grasses and the occasional remaining hill or mountaintop. Vicious, mile-wide windstorms and monsoons would lash the planet for weeks at a time. Humans of today would consider it inhospitable without the most aggressive of technologies to tame it. Should any human still exist at this time, we wouldn't recognize their squat, hairless, amphibious forms.