Friday, March 26, 2010
The future full of promise, full of hope – lies bleeding on the floor – a corpse.
The betrayer of our future glints in my hand, the knife that has cut me adrift from all that might have been.
It was so sudden, so quick. I took the knife to the bread. We argued, as we often did. One glare too many, one sharp tongue that drew a sharper sword. One slash that cut more than a slice of home-bake. And the knife now held neither crumb nor butter, but blood.
All that was is gone.
All that could have been is gone.
Lost in an instant.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
We always expect alien life to be kind of like us. Rather strange idea, that, because if it is alien then it will likely be nothing like us.
This is a story of alien life.
Lieutenant Adam Tournier reflected on the planet visible in the ship's view screen and sighed.
He had left Earth - illegally - and set out to find a planet where he could spend the rest of his life without the interference or the stupidity of the human species. Considerable research had shown him the most likely location of such a planet, luck had guided him, and he had actually found it - a mere pinprick in the infinite reaches of space.
Earth had grown inhospitable. The hemispheres had fractured to extremes, cold in the north and hot in the south. Populations had blown out, there was war, violence, hunger - it was a disaster. The governments were reluctant to do anything except to build safe havens for themselves on the moon to retire to. It was a nightmare.
Even the space race - hope of mankind - had turned into a calamity of cost cutting and lip-service. They had ships to roam the galaxy it was true, but no way to fund them. The whole thing was about to be wound down to moon-shunting and the occasional ultra-rich joy flight to Mars. His was one of the last flights to be approved - a trip out to Pluto.
Only he didn't stop at Pluto. The ships were self-sufficient in power, water and air so longer journeys were quite feasible. Also, their speed was such that the old absolute of light-speed had long been forgotten. So it was that his routine trip to Pluto (remarkably well stocked with nutri-tabs for a mere ten minute trip) had continued on, and on, and on. Until now.
Lieutenant Adam Tournier reflected on the planet visible in the ship's view screen and sighed.
It was clearly uninhabited - a good thing.
It was clearly capable of supporting life - a necessary thing.
But he had hoped for something that looked a little bit more like earth had in it's hay-day - a blue, green, mountainous ball of potential and not a brown lump of dirt ball floating in space.
Still, the computer had confirmed that it could support him - it had water, it had edible grasses and it had gravity - albeit slightly less than 1/2 of Earth's. And it confirmed that there was no other life living on the planet. So it would do. He decided, with a certain amount of sarcasm, to name it 'EDEN'.
He punched in a few co-ordinates and settled back for the landing. The chair in which he sat reclined slightly and canned music softly filled the cabin. He closed his eyes and relaxed knowing that there was nothing to worry about. The landing would be smooth. Earth would not look for him. He would be just fine.
He awoke from a dreamless sleep to find that the landing had, indeed, been smooth - as silk. All the instruments blinked and hummed their happy way and every muscle in his body felt rejuvenated. It was a strange feeling which he'd not had before. Just the release of stress, he assumed, knowing that Earth and its troubles was far behind him.
He undid the regulation seatbelt and stepped out of the chair. The gravity seemed surprisingly appropriate - he punched in a sequence to the computer and it read back the gravitational pull. 1G. He scratched his head - it had been 1/2 G before - had the computers got it wrong? He didn't see how. He hoped they hadn't made any other mistakes - such as reporting the planet's atmosphere as oxygen when in reality it was methane. A quick tap at the keyboard reassured him. Oxygen, nitrogen - all the required gasses in exactly the right combination for the human respiratory system. The atmosphere was almost exactly the same as Earth - at least, the same as Earth's was before it was polluted by man's insidious quest for change.
At the end of the day (which the computer now had altered to 24x60x60 seconds) the only real test was to open the door and try it. He had nothing to lose - the chances of finding another planet were slim and he wasn't going back to Earth again. He'd either die here or in space. No, this was it. He flicked a switch on the wall and a panel in the spacecraft slid aside. Lieutenant Adam Tournier, Earthling, emerged from his shiny cocoon, wearing a t-shirt and shorts. There was no point in wearing protective clothes - if he was going to die, then he was going to die comfortably.
He didn't die.
He just stared.
And he wondered.
Had he somehow missed the planet and landing on some other? No, there were no others within at least 5 weeks travel. This had to be the same planet. It just had to be.
The brown dirt ball floating in space, now that he had landed on it, appeared to have undergone a radical change. Instead of the brown mud that had been shown in the computer viewer, there was sand - smooth, golden sand. Almost without thinking, he sat down and took off his shoes and wriggled his feet in it. It was soft and warm and although he'd never actually even seen sand other let alone wriggled his feet in it, he felt like he was returning home to some sort of childhood memory.
But it wasn't just a desert full of sand. There was a lake - or maybe an ocean - which lapped gently a few hundred metres away. It was blue and he could smell the salt in it. It invited him and he accepted, stripping off his t-shirt and shorts and underclothes and plunged himself into liquid delight. That evening, he sat on the spaceship's doorway, marveling at the golden sand and ocean blue that seemed to go on forever, watching the sun descend in the sky in all of its red radiance, until he slumped against the hatch, fast asleep.
The next day he got the surprise of his life! He had looked out on his Eden and nearly collapsed! He rubbed his eyes and looked, then rubbed them again. He must be hallucinating he thought. But there they were : trees! Large green trees shading parts of the beach where before there had only been sand. It was impossible - yet there they were, and had clearly been for years. True, he had never seen trees as such except in the special museums back on Earth, but he'd often spent time there as a boy, trying to imagine a world filled with trees. And here he was, in such a world. Suddenly, filled with trees.
That day he spent walking amongst them, delighting in the leaves that would sometimes come fluttering down, sitting propped up against their huge trunks, even climbing them and looking for miles across the trees, oceans and sands. In the evening he reclined a-top one of the smaller trees, the perfume of its leaves sending him gently into sleep.
The next morning he awoke suddenly with his heart banging. He had heard something. Something familiar that he'd heard only in recordings. He strained his ears and began to think that perhaps it had just been dream. But then he heard it again - and again. Soon, the sound was all around him and his heart raced with excitement. He looked now, straining his eyes as he searched each tree until he finally saw it. A bird. No, not a bird - a whole collection of birds, in every colour and every shape he could imagine. The trees were alive with birds and birdsong.
He climbed down from his perch lest he should fall down from sheer amazement, and sat at the foot of the tree, looking up at the creatures. And then one flew down a few feet away from him, ruffled its feathers, opened its beak and sung. He could hardly believe it - a bird. A real live bird with colours and voice and feathers. He could have reached out and touched it but didn't for fear that it might fly away. Yet, somehow he know it would not. So he held out his hand gingerly, and the bird cocked its head to one side, then hopped onto his hand. It looked its beady eye at him, whistled its tune, then hopped off and flew away.
Lieutenant Adam Tournier made his way back to the beach and lay back on the sand as naked of stress and frustration as he was of clothes. He didn't know why the planet which had presented in space as a brown dirt ball now was revealed as an Eden. He didn't care. He didn't know why there were trees one day when there were not the previous. He didn't care. He didn't know why today there were birds when yesterday all was quiet. He didn't care.
This truly was a garden of Eden and was his and his alone to enjoy. No one would ever destroy this one.
He closed his eyes and dreamt dreams as pleasant as the waking from them - from one paradise of the mind to another paradise that was his world.
He explored much in the first few weeks. He travelled by foot, partly because there was no other way but also because travel in such a place was sheer delight in itself. He explored mountains and valleys, streams and waterfalls - and every possible delight he could imagine was present on this wonderful world. If he walked a mile then it felt like only a few feet. If he climbed a mountain then it felt only like a hillside. Nothing seemed beyond him, everything was simply pleasure.
One day, while exploring a cliff face, he missed his footing and slipped. As he fell, he thought how wonderful to die in such an Eden. Even death here would be beautiful. But he didn't die. The 1G gravity that should have plunged him into the eternity of night seemed almost to relent at the last minute, and he fell to ground with just the slightest bump. It was impossible - yet perhaps he should have expected it. This was a place of life, not of death.
He did not fell trees to build a house, but returned when he would to the ship. Mostly he would sleep uncovered under the stars. No rug or protection was needed from the elements for the elements themselves were protection. If it rained, it did so like honey. There was no displeasure in being wet, nor in being dry. He felt no fear from the animals that now roamed about him. While there were very large beasts and plenty of what he, in his childhood in the museums, had learnt to be spiders, none caused him any harm. The bigger beasts would muzzle up to him and he would stroke them. Their great teeth would playfully pull at him, but never even break the skin. And when the spiders did chance to crawl across him, he was not frightened or disgusted, and their eight furry legs left only tiny sensations not unlike kisses.
As he lay, in the arms of pure bliss, in his Eden, Adam was at peace.
Yet peace never lasts.
For all of the beauty and the comfort, for all of the delight that Adam found in the animals of his Eden, he actually felt a yearning - a loss almost - for something that he'd never had, never known.
On Earth, Adam had had few friends. Mostly these were from the Space Academy. Some were male, some were female. They were good friends as far as friends go, but he had never had a real companion. Adam was always much of a loner and the absence of a wife or a lover had never really been felt. Others had such things of course, but Earth held no-one for whom he could hold any such feelings. Earth was full of despoilers - he knew of no-one else who felt like him and subsequently, felt no real feelings for anyone else. He left them all behind in the oblivion of a dark past and did not regret his decision to do so alone.
But yet, here in Adam's Eden, for the first time in his life, he actually realized that something was missing. Someone was missing.
In such a world, maudlin thoughts were easily banished by the beautiful colours, the aroma of pure nature and delight of the twinkling of streams and the melody of birdsong.
Banished but not destroyed.
Time and time again, he felt the ache of heart that he had never before experienced, and a yearning for 'her'. What 'her' in particular, he could not say - certainly, none of the women he had ever met on Earth. Perhaps it was just that living in paradise, it seemed natural to share it with that 'true-love' of which the songs and videos so often carol, but which he had never, ever, encountered.
And then, one day, he did.
He was bathing in one of the springs. The water was always cool and refreshing yet never cold. It was soft like honey, but clear like glass. And if he let himself sink, he would descend effortlessly to the bottom regardless of the depth, only with equal effortlessness, to re-ascend to the top again. There was no fear of drowning - it was not possible. The first time it had happened, he had panicked and started gasping for air but taking in only water. To his astonishment, he had not drowned - the water sustained him as if in some sort of dream. Through what wondrous properties he could not guess, the water seemed to be sufficiently rich in oxygen that he could just as easily breathe it as normal air.
On this occasion, he had just emerged from his bathing when he saw her. She was standing under a large and especially magnificent willow tree.
She was tall with long red hair which hung about her almost to her waist. Like he, she was naked, but in this place there was no shame or fear - to be naked was just a natural state. He stared at her as though fixed in a trance - and then, recovering, called out to her. She smiled, but did not move.
He made his way over the golden sand to her, and with every step her beauty and her purity was revealed more to him. Her eyes were the blue of the water, her hair the colour of the sunset. Her skin was the pale gold of the sand. As he reached her, she held out her hands for him to take and he did so. She looked into his eyes with the love that may be found only in Eden and he looked back into hers with that same love. They sat, together, under the tree, and he wanted to ask her where she had come from, who was she, to tell her that she was beautiful, that he loved her, that he was hers and she was his. But he didn't know where to start.
"I am Eve" she said simply. And in that, was carried the answers to all of his questions.
"I am Adam" he said - realizing perhaps for the first time the significance of being Adam in such an Eden.
"I know" she said and smiled and in her smile there were a million butterflies, the songs of all the birds and the gentle lapping of every wave on every beach.
"But, where did you come from?...." he began.
"I am" she said simply and waved her hand about her.
He did not understand what she meant. He did not need to understand what she meant. They were there for each other and they did - quite literally - live happily ever after.