Thursday, 12 September 2013

Seagull City

There was once a metropolis nicknamed Seagull City. Busy and sprawling, its rich industrial history erased by an influx of gulls who had moved inland to scavenge opportunistically and outnumbered the people. 'A sea of nests' was how the local tourist guides conducting tours described it; a phrase which soon caught on and was displayed across chests, on canvas shopping bags, and leaflets. Tourism boomed, but with the city's new-found wealth came rivalry. Others cities complained their gull colonies had been lured to this Mecca with its poor disposal of half-eaten takeaway food, while many of Seagull City's own residents petitioned the council to control the gull population. Some local businesses, unwilling to change and unable to profit, ranted and raved 'these immigrants were losing them trade, harassing their customers, and thieving food'; others turned this mobbing behaviour into a tourist attraction where people paid to be dive-bombed.
Out of season however the mood between the council, the profiteers and the locals was unpalatable. Visitor-free, the seagulls were a daily nuisance to contend with, a flying pest; nobody gained from or wanted to be held responsible for their residency. The city's people were divided: those working in and benefiting from the tourist trade, and those vigorously opposed to the gull-human ratio: 4 gulls to every human. In the middle of these two factions were those who neither gained or lost; they had no allegiance to either gulls or people, as both had complex methods of communication and a highly developed social structure, and although they were few, it was this group that was the fence between the two. They were considered the real enemy for being too conciliatory: they were the ones that nodded or shook their heads in agreement with whatever was being said, left out their rubbish bags on non-collection days, or brazenly fed the gulls with saved morsels of meat as they traipsed the streets.
The council's pleas to dump waste responsibly fell on deaf ears. The city's people did not believe their filthy habits and extravagant attitudes could be that inviting. They shouldn't have to use their common sense, that's what they paid the council for: to sanitise where they lived and to get rid of unwanted predators. Prosper they would, but without the added expense of feeding these scavengers. The council tried enforcing 'No Dive Bombing Zones' and recruiting Seagull Fanciers, but seagulls, they quickly discovered, are not messengers. Their intelligence reserved for food as they hovered and squabbled over the city with harsh wailing, learnt to use stale crusts of bread to make their own meat sandwiches, and to play 'I spy with my little eye' with fast food containers. Their connection with the sea officially broken.
In this habitat, aptly named for them, they were thriving: building nests and laying speckled eggs which hatched a new urban generation. An army with webbed feet, they plodded through the city's streets with a slight side-to-side motion until they reached their regular stations: fish and chips, kebab, burger, and pizza joints. Some were traditional, some were adventurous, and some were plain garbage scoffers who loved to attack black bin bags. With fish stocks plummeting, they'd had to turn their back on the sea and rely more heavily on humans, but they hadn't expected this animosity. If humans failed to keep their centres free of waste, why shouldn't they create more seagull cities?