“Well, where is it?”
Pamela shrugged, her binoculars still at her eyes. The whirr of the helicopter’s propellers was deafening, so she felt that there was no point in responding.
“Well?” Evan said again. “Where is it?”
She shushed him, aiming her binoculars left as the helicopter turned. Evan had been flying her for almost two hours now, a much longer excursion than usual. It was easy to understand his frustration. Still, Pamela hadn’t gotten a good triangulation. The elephants were traveling northeast, and the birds were flying southeast, but where would their paths cross?
“What about the fish?” Evan asked. It might’ve been a joke. The helicopter was so loud, Pamela couldn’t even be sure if she’d heard him correctly.
“What about them?” Pamela said, humoring him.
“We can’t track them, can we?”
“Plenty of aquatic life have tracking tags,” she answered. “Marine biologists love those things. We can ask them later.” It was almost a good enough angle for her to take out her camera and snap a photograph. It would’ve been marvelous, and their boss would’ve loved it, but they had to stay focused. There wasn’t time to get the camera set up and wait for a perfect shot, not with Evan in this mood.
“Can we land?” he asked her. He might’ve been begging.
Pamela aimed eastward. They were far from any cities, hanging over northeastern Egypt. There was sparse foliage, and there was hardly any color but beige to be seen.
“Has anybody figured out why this is happening yet?” Evan complained.
“Instinct,” she replied.
They were all going somewhere. It was clear to everyone in the world. It started quietly, only noticed by a handful of researchers, noticing migration patterns changing. Some animals shifted course, going due east, others going due west. Even the sea creatures, like the whales and the fish, all suddenly changed course. The birds stop flying south for the winter. The salmon stopped returning to the rivers. They were all going the wrong way.
Other people started to notice too. There weren’t so many mosquitoes out anymore. There weren’t so many ants, or flies, or bees. One by one, families found that their cats and dogs had escaped from their houses, sprinting off without any clear reason. Birds went wild, breaking free form their cages. Hamsters tried to squeeze between the bars, break free. Fish leapt out of their aquariums only to dry out and die on the hardwood floor.
They were all going to the same place. Every single animal in the world was traveling as fast as it could to one location.
The scientists worked together, comparing data, and the military donated some vehicles to watch over the bizarre migrations, and everybody seemed to cooperate thanks to this strange, inexplicable phenomenon. Everything else in the world simply… stopped. No more wars. No more politics. No more economics. It was captivating.
They were gathering in the Middle East, right around the location of the Fertile Crescent. It had long been said to be the dawn of humanity.
“Maybe it’s the whole region, and they’re already at their destination,” Evan suggested.
“It’s not,” Pamela told him. “They’re all still moving. We need to find a herd of animals that has stopped.”
“Here’s what gets me,” he said, his words almost completely lost under the helicopter’s propellers. “If all of the animals are going to the same place at the same time by sheer instinct, oftentimes even land-designed animals leaping into an ocean and drowning because the stupid things can’t swim, why aren’t humans captured by that same instinct? We’re animals too, aren’t we?”
That made Pamela lower her binoculars. She chewed on her lip as she thought. “We’re following the animals. Seems like we’re winding up at the same place anyway, doesn’t it? Maybe the others are doing the same thing, just following each other.”
Evan shook his head. “Seems fishy.”
“There!” Pamela said. There was a circle, a great circle on the horizon. “East! Due east!”
Evan was gawking through the front windshield searching for what she saw. It was very faint, but she knew. There was a massive circle of animals, all standing around one specific point.
As they flew in closer, Pamela could tell that they weren’t the first ones to arrive. There were a couple of other helicopters landed on the uneven terrain, not a long distance off. And there were tire tracks, and sounds of commotion, and cars, and vans, and it was an incredible sight to see.
“Land,” Pamela commanded.
“Let’s get closer,” Evan said.
“Land? You’ll scare them off!”
“I don’t know about you, but I get the sense that these animals aren’t going to move for anything. They came all this way to get scared off by a couple of pesky people? I don’t think so.” Nonetheless, Evan seemed to see the sense of it and started to bring the helicopter downward.
“Who do you suppose they are?” Pamela asked, shifting her binoculars. “The people, I mean.”
“Researchers like ourselves,” he guessed. “Or maybe locals around the area. We’re not the only ones who noticed the stampede. It’s all over the news.”
Pamela gave him an incredulous grimace. “They aren’t stampeding anywhere. They’re migrating.”
Evan muttered something under his breath, impossible to hear over the roar of the descending helicopter.
As the ground grew closer, there were more people visible than she’d imagined. Hundreds had gotten here before them. Pamela couldn’t help but feel a twinge of annoyance that they were far from the first to find the location.
By the time they’d landed and packed up their gear, four more vans had driven up and parked, one of which belonged to a news team. It only made her more anxious. It didn’t seem right, all of these wild animals being gaped at like they were in a zoo. Then again, she’d shown up to gape at them as well.
The circle of animals was almost half a mile in diameter. There was nothing in the center, nothing but a big empty space on a barren piece of land.
“You’re here for the show?” a grinning man asked her as she passed with Evan close behind.
“Show?” Pamela said back to him. It wasn’t the right term at all. These people had no respect. Before long, this really was going to turn into a stampede, and nobody would be grinning then.
The man took of his sunglasses, squinting. “The show. You haven’t got the news, have you? With you flying around the past hour or so, must’ve missed it.”
“What’s going on?” Evan said, catching up. He already sounded winded from the short hike.
“A new animal,” the man said.
Pamela looked back to the circle on the horizon. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
He grinned again. “This place is sacred. The birthplace of all life. Mankind started here, and I suppose every other animal did too. And now there’s a new one.”
Pamela didn’t understand. Everything she knew about evolution and adaptation was flickering through her brain, but she contained herself. “A new animal,” she stated.
The man pointed. “It’ll appear right in the center of that ring. Instinct brought the others back home to watch. S’pose it brought you two as well.”
Pamela glanced to Evan, who had nothing to say, likely because he was still breathing too heavily to speak.
“Well,” Pamela said, “let’s go and see the new animal.”