All was the sea. The sea’s chaotic undulation churned dense patches of foam that were the only interruptions in the sharp texture of the water. More than ten kilometers away and eight days previous, a filefish broke the surface of the ocean having mistaken a spot of sunlight for something edible. The eddies of that brief perturbation culminated in a small crest. It crashed into its twin at just the right angle, time, and velocity to cancel out the energy of both, distilling a still flatness into a square centimeter of the ocean surface. The flatness only lasted for a second. The filefish, having been eaten almost immediately after surfacing by a larger fish with better eyesight, had already become lost in the system of the ocean forever. Beneath the exact spot of the flatness bubbled a greater disturbance which would impact the system until the Central Pacific had vanished completely 3.8 billion years later.
Over the next ten thousand years or so, semi-molten rock began to jut just above the ocean’s surface, soft bubbling fingertips paving a slag circlet. Within one hundred thousand years, that circlet had grown into a monstrous crown roughly hewn by sun and sea. Rain poured daily across the top of the island as water-laden winds struggled against the thorny peak of the volcano. These rains had already converted nearly a third of the hard volcanic rock above the sea level into microbe-rich soil, but the soil had lain barren for the past two years. Then, evolution. There was a binary change, the flip of a switch from off to on. A visitor had come to the island.
The young seabird crashed into the rock as wind prevailed over weary wings. It was speckled with the seeds of a Pisonia; the bird-killer tree. Sticky barbs had reduced the sleek outline of the bird into a tangle of bent feathers. Having been uprooted from its home in a storm at the most unfortunate hour, it had remarkably managed a fairly directionless flight spanning three grueling days. Twice it had attempted to land and feed at the water’s surface, but the sap and seeds had compromised the bird’s buoyancy, and it nearly drowned both times. Battered and no longer able to lift itself through the winds, the bird lifted its head and surveyed its surroundings. Finding nothing which could aid it among the dark soil and stone, it knew that it faced the end. A tragic epic now concluded, the exhausted seabird warbled out one last baleful song which was snatched away by a gale. It then sank into the ground promptly, and died.
Like the majority of pioneers, the bird had failed. Unlike the majority, the Pisonia had not. The unfeeling and unthinking had prevailed at self-preservation in the manner it usually did: through sheer maths. Eight seeds of the hundreds of thousands that the original Pisonia had cast off had found a new and most perfect home. There was no competition, no depletion of nutrients, regular rain, and plenty of room to grow. Within two years, the small tree had spread to cover the entire south side of the island.
Its success did not go unnoticed. Other birds began to land and live on the island, bringing dozens of new plant species over time through accidental passengers and seedlings which sprouted from the stomach of those unlucky few which came freshly fed and then met an end through various means. Swimming reptiles and crabs followed, as did a haphazard few species of insect.
Many millions of years of evolution worked on the small volcanic island as it rumbled and smoked away, developing new real estate to accommodate the smorgasboard of interested parties until it could no longer be called a small island. Tectonic plates steadily shifted during this time, creating brothers and sisters for the island which were adopted much more quickly by life than their older sibling had been.
Then came the seafaring apes.
If the island could have anticipated its place in the universe, perhaps it would have warned the humans. It may have told them to appreciate their lives, but never to count on them; to love and grow close; to respect their own power; to revere their powerlessness. Of course, the island could do no such thing. It was mere, unthinking rock, as blissfully unaware of the universe as its inhabitants were about the fate of their descendants.