530 million years ago in the Paleozoic era, Jack was just a few years old. He was a small creature, who lived in the water. He looked a little bit like his cousin, the snail, and his uncle, the clam. His elders would tell stories about when the water was too cold to live in. They even remembered a time when there were no jawed fish in the water, something Jack had never seen. His amphibious friends told him about the forests deep inland, where big ferns and scaled trees were beginning to appear. It was a happy time for Jack. He was young, and there were all different types of new friends everywhere.
All of a sudden, Jack began to notice that it was getting colder all around him. Just as the wise old friends of his had described happening to them, the water was getting cold, which meant there was less underwater habitat for him to play in. He began to notice that some of his friends had disappeared. After a while, there were only a few left. Jack was worried that he too, might not be able to stay much longer in the water that was so cold. But Jack was tough. He lasted through the cold and eventually the days began to get warmer. Again, Jack met new different friends. They were a little bit larger but again, they all looked different. Jack however, was also noticing that he himself was changing. He was getting larger, and his shell had become more substantial.
Some of the animals that had come from different parts of the ocean, told stories and drew pictures on the sandy ocean floor of creatures that looked almost the same as Jack off the western coast of modern day Europe. He began to wonder, if maybe somewhere there was another fellow that was the exact same as him. On land, he noticed new types of animals as well. He saw little ants crawling along twigs and grasshoppers jumping in swift leaps. One day, Jack saw something strange. Around him he saw mountains, but instead of being calm and peaceful they had red, yellow and orange liquids pouring down the sides of them, melting everything in their path. It came into the sea and again, Jack’s friends left, not able to handle the pressures of the volcanoes circumventing their home. Once again, Jack put on a tremendous display of resilience, not only surviving the volcanic action which had erupted around him, but thriving.
This time Jack met so many different new creatures, he couldn’t believe his eyes. On the edge of the water there were crocodiles. In the deep water there were sharks and rays, squids and octopi. The world in which he lived became so alive, it seemed like there was something everywhere. Out of the water, there was danger though. Dinosaurs roamed the land, always looking for food. Jack’s family had laid many eggs along the shore, which would hatch into Jack’s brothers and sisters. The dinosaurs kept finding them, eating them as a tasty treat. Some of them were up to 40 feet long and there was nothing that the poor family could do.
Once again, the inevitable arrived. Another disaster struck, this time a meteor. The dinosaurs couldn’t survive, along with many of the marine animals as well. Yet once again, Mother Nature couldn’t defeat Jack. He stood strong for another swath of new, different friends. Jack found some of them to be so odd. They were mammals, had hair, were unable to breathe under water, yet they swam with the fishes and the sharks in the depths of the ocean. The ocean floor flourished with new plants and animals, becoming even more vibrant than it had ever been. Jack noticed himself changing as well, growing a long tail, thick shell, defined eyes and light sensors. He now lives in the Delaware Bay, a modern day horseshoe crab. He enjoys the company of all sorts of land and aquatic animals and plays a vital role in his community, helping birds, turtles and other animals to maintain a steady population.
By John Kauffman