Because she was the last girl on earth, Zeta’s only friends were Sally the Seabird and Terry the Turtle.
Every day, the friends would meet on the island where Zeta lived. Terry and Zeta would swim in the water. Sally would swoop from the sky to catch fish they could eat.
One morning, while at play, Sally dove in for a catch. However, unlike before, she did not emerge from the water. “Something is wrong,” said Zeta.
“I see something,” said Terry. He swam out to sea. When he returned, he bore Sally on his back. Her neck and wings were trapped in a yellow thing.
“What is that?” Zeta asked. “I thought it was a fish,” answered Sally, “and when I dove for it, it captured me. I nearly drowned!”
“Why, it’s not alive at all!” Zeta said. She pulled the thing off Sally and laid it flat on the sand. It looked quite harmless now, just a yellow square on the beach.
“It’s an evil thing,” Sally said, “floating in the water, disguising itself as a fish.” She pecked at it. “Yuck! You can’t even eat it.”
A gust of wind blew the thing and it flew into Terry’s face. “Help! I’m caught!” he cried. “I can’t breathe!”
Zeta pulled it off the turtle. She tried to rip it apart. It didn’t break, it only stretched. She weighed it down with a rock.
“We need to get to the bottom of this,” Zeta said. “We must ask the Oracle.”
“But he lives on the other side of the sea!” Terry and Sally cried. “It’s very far.”
“Don’t you see, my friends?” Zeta said. “Though it looks harmless, it’s a very dangerous thing. We must know what it is and where it’s from.”
The next day, the three friends set out to seek the Oracle. Because the journey was long, Zeta rode on Terry’s back. Sally flew overhead, calling out directions and fishing for their food.
All went well at first. Then, on the third day, Sally returned with sad news. “It’s getting harder to find fish,” she said. “They’ve all disappeared. I wonder why that could be.”
They found the answer soon enough. Dead fish and dolphins floated past. Some choked on things like the one they found. Some were caught in tangles made of the things. “This is terrible!” Zeta wept.
Worse was yet to come. Soon the sea filled with the floating things. They came in all colors: green, yellow, red, white, blue, orange…. They clung to Terry, and he found it hard to swim.
“I think we must turn back,” Zeta said sadly. “I’m sorry I’m not much stronger,” Terry said. Zeta hugged the turtle around his neck.
Then in the distance they heard a faint call. “Help! Help!” the voice cried.
“It’s the Oracle!” Sally said. Terry found renewed strength and swam towards the voice.
Like the other creatures, the Oracle too was trapped in a tangle of the things. Zeta and her friends came to her side, and they peeled them off the Oracle.
“Oh, thank you, Zeta!” the Oracle said when she finally came free. “I don’t know what I would have done if you had not come along.”
“What are these things?” Zeta asked. “Where do they come from? Why are they here?”
“In the old days they were called ‘plastic’,” the Oracle said. “People made them to carry their things and protect their possessions.”
“But there are no more people!” Zeta said. “Who’s making them now?”
“No one.” The Oracle shook her head sadly. “This is the same plastic people back then used, and then threw away.”
“That can’t be! They can’t last that long!”
“But they do. They last for years and years. This patch that we are in is almost as big as the ocean.” Zeta looked around, and as far as she could see now there was only the plastic.
“That’s terrible!” Zeta cried. “Can’t we do anything?” The Oracle said nothing, only shaking her head.
Zeta felt a great sadness, but also a firm resolve. It would take her many years, she knew, but she thought of her friends the seabirds and the turtles.
Then, she knelt down and began to gather the plastic.
Dominique Cimafranca is taking up his MA in Literature in Ateneo de Davao University.
2 thoughts on “Zeta's Quest”
Cute story. This is very good especially for the children because they have the heart to understand deeply this piece, and the hands willing to pick up the plastics for a livable earth.
Thank you 🙂