I’ve never read or seen The Quiet Earth or On the Beach, both of which have been books and movies.

But their message is nevertheless compelling: the last people on Earth, the last survivors of a physics experiment and a nuclear war respectively, living out their final days in ANZAC. Australia and New Zealand are in many ways an admirable locale for such: isolated yet temperate, distant yet with all the comforts of the First World.

They would be excellent places to live out an apocalypse, if apocalypse come.

So even though I’ve never been there, even though their cost of living is astronomical, even though, even though, even though…I am attracted to the romantic notion all the same. Places distant and safe, civilized and alien.

They seem like places I could live.

New Zealand especially. An isolated microcontinent, diverse in flora and fauna, as far away from Europe as one can get without booster rockets. If ever I fear an apocalypse, I feel like it’s as good a destination as any.

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“I have heard the two-legs talking,” purred the cat in a voice both soft and satisfied. “You are to be taken to a great pride-leader of theirs as a prize and curiosity.”

“It matters not,” replied the Huia male, gently rubbing his thick beak against the dark plumage of his mate, “as long as we are together.”

“Oh, you will be,” said the cat, shifting her balance slightly as the ship bobbed amid light waves. “The two-legs will stuff you with sawdust and wires, side by side. I have heard of it from toms in port.”

“As long as we are together,” the female huia said. She cooed softly and returned her mate’s gesture with her long beak like a curved needle.”

“Bah, such mawkishness is no kind of sport,” snarled the cat. “No wonder your kind is rare enough to be a curiosity.” She turned to the next cage in the ship’s hold. “What about you, owl?” she said. “How does it feel to be among the last of your kind, taken from your home to be stuffed by a pride of two-legs?”

“Ah..ahah..AHAHAHAHAHA!” one of the owls cackled. “Hehehehe…you want to have a bit of sport with us, two-legs, is that it? Maybe agree to, heh, open our cages and let you end our misery early? AHAHAHAHA!”

“And why not?” said the cat, speaking the patois common to predators in a low and mewling voice. “A quick snap…I would do it clean. You’d die a warrior’s death. Who knows, you and your queen there might even best me and fly away to safety.”

“Ahahaha…AHAHAHA!” cackled the female laughing owl. “We’ve heard things as well, you know. There was a sort of…ahahaha…little bird that once lived not far from where we did. Killed by cats they were, all of them! And do you know what the two-legs did in return? They killed the cats, all of them!” The owls chortled together.

“So…ahaha…so you see, cat, we may be bound for a stuffing, but you’re surely not” the male cackled. “Eat one feather of ours or our amorous fellow-passengers and the two-legs will snuff you out like a blind cricket!”

The cat hissed and snarled in return. But, recognizing the futility of the gesture, it turned and sulked out of sight.

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The black-billed gull bobbed its head nervously. “I see your children attempting to sneak up on me,” it squawked. “You know that the ancient and unwritten law both our kinds follow demands that a messenger not be accosted.”

A slight twitching of the matriarch’s ears and the younger cats withdrew into the bushes. “Speak, then, that we may satisfy the old ways and have our repast of you.”

“I come on behalf of the wrens,” the gull said. “They bade me speak to Tibbles, which I can only assume is you.”

“That is a name bestowed upon me unbidden,” the matriarch hissed. “You will not use it.”

“What am I to call you, then?”

“My true name is of our secret tongue and not for your ears,” the cat said. “You need not address me by name to deliver what paltry tidings you bring.”

“Very well.” The gull spread its wings. “My brothers, the wrens, have lived on this isle of Takapourewa from time immemorial. The rats chased their forefathers from Aotearoa after the arrival of man, and this is the last outpost of their kind. They are simple, trusting, and guileless, with no defense against those such as yourself as they cannot fly. They believe and practice total nonviolence against all but the insects they eat.”

“You tell me nothing I do not already know,” the matriarch cat said.

“The flightless wrens of Takapourewa have, in council, decided that their commitment to nonviolence overrides all, up to and including their lives and those of their children. They will not take steps to secure themselves against your predations.”

Purring the matriarch cat nodded in approval. “Then you bring us glad tidings! Thank you, messenger. You may depart this once with your life.”

“That is not the extent of my tidings, o cat,” the gull said. “The elder of the wrens bade me come, as one of a tribe who has known their kind for aeons and for whom flight offers a modicum of protection. They ask that you and your children cease your slaughter of their kind and allow them to live in peace.”

“Does our elder brother the lion live in peace with the gazelle? Does the wolf live in peace with the cat? That is not the way of our kind nor of any other kind.” The matriarch bent to casually lick her paw. “Your friends ask the impossible and we have no power to grant their request.”

The gull bobbed its head. “The wrens feared as much. They bade me tell you that, if your numbers continue to explode with the slaughter of wrens, when their kind is gone, your children will starve.”

“The weak ones, perhaps, but the strong and worthy will find other prey.”

“They foresaw that answer as well. The wrens bade me say one thing more. They have noticed that the humans have become interestied in them, in their rarity as the last of their kind. Even now they collect wrens as curiosities for display, and humans the world over ask for wrens of their own that they might study them.” The gull cocked its head. “If you exterminate them, the humans will be angry. You more than anyone must know what that anger can mean.”

Its last statement gave the matriarch pause. Her ears flattened for a moment before resuming their erect posture. “It is a risk we will assume,” she said at length.

“I am saddened to hear so, but I will bear your reply to the wrens,” the gull said. It launched itself into the air before the hidden cats nearby could pounce.

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