Four hundred years after the demise of man, there were few indications that he, or she, had ever walked on the earth.
Modern humans had only been on the planet for just over 200,000 years, although their hairy ancestors had roamed around for six million. The planet was 4.5 billion years old. If the world were compared to a 24-hour clock, man would have arrived one minute before the start of the next day only to last just over 60 seconds. Even the dinosaurs with their vast bodies and tiny brains had hung around for half an hour.
It was an odd testimony to our ancestors that the monuments of the past endured more effectively than the inventions of the 'new age.' In the bleak wastes that bordered the River Nile, three hulking masses still rose from the sand, although dense new growth choked the temples of old Mexico and what was once South East Asia.
There were tropical lagoons today at the site of the metropolis that was once New York City. In the last death throes of man, all that could be burned was set ablaze to warm and provide food for rudimentary societies, In the oxygen depleted climate, the grandest of plants could no longer grow and only the stingiest of weeds and most hardy of parasites prospered. It was a world made mostly of carbon and angry storms invaded its surface, and the seas rose to swallow much of the land. When the last man suffocated as he climbed an Alpine peak in search of fresher air, the world sighed and quickly began to replenish itself.
It was as if the aberration of man had never existed. Free of maintenance, the great skyscrapers of New York City came crashing down in a matter of decades. Had he been alive in 2145, William Van Alen, the architect of the Chrysler Building, may have been amused to see one of the giant metal radiator caps that adorned a high ledge, forming a nest for a family of exotically plumed parrots. A few years earlier, a giant hurricane had ripped the top off of the Empire State building, ensuring its rival was the tallest building in the city for a while. One World Trade Center has been toppled over a decade earlier. Central Park was now a squawking tropical lagoon full of all manner of reptiles and birds.
Nature had not toppled many of the smaller buildings, but it had grown over them and clinging branches had pulled at their sides until New York was little more than a city of rubble under plants. The meticulously planned systems that had made the city run would have been a distant memory if anybody had been there to remember them. New York in the year 2500 was a gigantic food chain and no one species occupied the high places.