As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the planet — forcing people to self-quarantine at home, avoid travel and remain indoors — the natural world has slowly crept back into urban spaces. Swans swim once more in the canals of Venice, wild boar trot the Parisian avenues, and back home on Stanford’s campus, those enormous centipedes from the late Paleozoic era have retaken what was once theirs.
“It’s amazing to see how resilient mother earth is,” remarked Kristina Rhoe ’22, one of the few undergraduates allowed to remain in her dorm during the crisis. “About half an hour after the campus locked down, hundreds of these enormous prehistoric arthropods began swarming out from the sewers, the walls, the heating ducts — they were everywhere! It really makes you think about what the earth was like before humans came and industrialized everything.”
With no more noisy frat parties or stifling cannabis fumes to keep them at bay, the massive centipedes — along with meter-long trilobites and dragonflies the size of Cessnas — rapidly retook campus, returning it to the verdant paradise it’d been during the Carboniferous Period. Redwoods the size of skyscrapers exploded through the floor of multiple dining halls and students residences, instantly turning them to rubble, and dozens of students reported experiencing intense hallucinations as oxygen levels rose back to what they were 300 million years ago.
“Humans are so egotistical to think we rule this planet, when all it took for nature to return to ‘normal’ was a few weeks without cars and live music,” observed grad student Mark Shen. “It’s so fascinating to see that we’re just a part of this much bigger ecological system: you; me; the swarms of Pulmonoscorpius kirktonensis mega-scorpions I have to beat back on the way to the grocery store.”
At press time, a DoorDash deliveryman had just unwittingly backed up over the skull of a small herbivorous rodent outside Phi Psi, the descendants of which would have otherwise — after many millennia — evolved into a second, slightly hotter race of Homo sapiens. Alas.