The curtain went down.
The heat death of the universe played out in one last resounding note, the final dÃ©nouement to the performance.
â€œWell.â€ The young one emoted wildly, sending sparks of light and beauty bouncing off its consciousness. â€œWhat did you think?â€
The Eldest did not comment but turned its presence to another, a middle aged being by the count of their people. They had all always been there, but their consciousness sparked in and out, sometimes sleeping, sometimes dying and reborn. The middle-aged consciousness had a voice like the whirls of a sucking black hole.
â€œVery enthusiastic.â€ It intoned â€œbut not very heavy. The piece was shorter than I expected and the sentients were concentrated in that one area, which was quite an odd choice. Personally, I found the lack of activity in the wider cosmos to be quite dull. The stars, the cosmic dust, these seemed unremarkable, lacking in chemical drama.â€
â€œWell, yes.â€ The young one admitted, â€œIâ€™ve never been very good at all of that cosmic art. Iâ€™m really interested in what all of you thought of the sentients, thatâ€™s where I put most of my energy. What did you think of the sentients?â€
â€œOh, they were quite dramatic.â€ Chimed one that had just woken from a long death. â€œI only saw the end, but it was very magical.â€
â€œI thought it was a little too over the top.â€ Said the middle aged one. â€œA bit much for my taste. Iâ€™d like to see you do something less fanciful, more meaningful next time.â€
The young ones glee swirled around him like a solar wind. â€œOh! Oh! Then there will be a next time?â€ it asked, focusing on the Eldest. â€œEldest, I have such plans. Could I please try again?â€
â€œYes, youngest. You shall do it again. This time, let us see more of what you can do with these sentient beings, but always remember, my youngest, never neglect the stars.â€
We finally did it. For centuries philosophers both of science and religion wondered how much it would take to push ourselves to the brink. They hypothesized and prayed to what end man would come if they kept pushing the limits. All of the wars fought, the corruption broadcast and the sin rampant in environment and in our everyday lives could never have awoken us to the simple truth that we had been sliding down this inverted mountain since the day an ape chose a stick over its bare hands.
They wanted to know what would happen if we continued along our ways. Today they got their answer.
I was what you would call a believer in nothing. Nihilism wasnâ€™t my game it was the mark of atheism that took me by its reigns. Being an atheist wasnâ€™t my problem. Not thinking that there was something right in front of us that weâ€™d all been missing that was. When I woke up today I didnâ€™t question why things were different I just knew that they were.
Even when I walked outside I knew that something was missing more than the obvious and I felt cold and dim. The news yesterday had announced how many had died from the nuclear affair in the east and how many more had been killed in the name of having the almighty on ones side. Truly, I never thought that our time would be the last straw.
Everyone did the same thing upon waking up. Hell, I did it too. We all checked our clocks, we looked at the date and we tried to come to grips that we werenâ€™t crazy. No, I knew it was more than just a lost point in our daily lives that was gone. I stepped outside and I didnâ€™t have a shadow anymore. No one had shadows anymore.
The news didnâ€™t come on today and I knew it was because they felt the same as I did. You wake up; you expect it to be there to greet you. It was right in front of us and we had it right a long time ago but science made it like unto a fairy tale.
All of us woke up today and found that the sun was gone. It didnâ€™t explode and it didnâ€™t fizz out. It left. The warmth that was lost was more than just from the heat the rays gave us. We felt empty inside, we felt cold in a way that not even electric heaters turned on high could fix. The wars might stop, they might not. Something gave up on us today and it left because we were beyond hope. I have to wake up tomorrow knowing I am hopeless; knowing this world is lost.
I woke up today and walked outside to a world with no sun and no warmth. I looked on the ground and saw that I had no shadow. No one had shadows anymore. We were the shadows now.
Zai Lockheart felt slightly claustrophobic on her motherâ€™s porch despite the open, rolling wilderness of the Martian countryside that surrounded her. The house was a pre-fab jobâ€”â€œmy aluminum boxâ€ her mother called itâ€”and it felt cheap and flimsy compared to the monument of stone and wood Zai had grown up in back on Earth. Zai was sitting on the lacquered-metal porch because she couldnâ€™t sleep inside the house; the image of the house tumbling down the mountainside sprang to life every time Zai closed her eyes.
â€œThey have a legend up here, you know.â€ Zai was startled by her motherâ€™s voice behind her. â€œThey say, before you can live up here on the mountains, you have to go to the highest bluff you can find, and shout, loud as you can, â€˜I am a Martian!â€™ And if God believes you, youâ€™ll live in these mountains in happiness and peace, until the end of your days.â€
â€œAnd? If God doesnâ€™t believe you?â€
â€œSmiting. Lightning. Fire from heaven. That sort of thing.â€
â€œWell, it is a beautiful country-side. I can see why Godâ€™d be so picky about whoâ€™d get it.â€ Zai stood up and stretched. She had her fatherâ€™s height, and as such towered over her mother, despite them both being in bare feet. â€œI miss the old house, Mama.â€
â€œDidnâ€™t seem to miss it when you moved out,â€ Zaiâ€™s mother gave her a sly grin. â€œIt was too big. Too big for an old woman without a family. I could have kept it, and you still would have only visited on holidays.â€
â€œI just have trouble picturing you living anywhere but home.â€
â€œAnd I have trouble picturing you without a scabbed knee and pigtails. But look at you now.â€ Zaiâ€™s mother turned away from her, and placed her hands on her hips. â€œWatch that sun come up. Paints the whole world red. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll ever get tired of that.â€
â€œMom, why did you move here?â€
â€œBecause,â€ her mother said, not looking back. â€œI am a Martain.â€
â€œI donâ€™t believe you.â€
â€œThatâ€™s nice, dear,â€ Zaiâ€™s mother said patting Zaiâ€™s hand as she shuffled back in the house. â€œBut youâ€™re not the one I have to convince.â€
TO: Major-General Peter Wixtreed
FROM: Colonel Todd Fuller
RE: Continuing contact with Species #7652-28D
As suggested, sir, we pressed for visual contact and after some time the diplomatic envoys gave in, though not without a good deal of trepidation. They seem uncomfortable dealing with military personnel, so I reduced our contact with the envoys to a minimum and instead allowed the ambassador to speak to them directly. Her conversations seemed to persuade the envoys and put them more at ease, and when they at last capitulated, they extended the condition that she be the one to make such contact, alone. It took three hours more to get them agree to our termsâ€”neutral ground, a military escort, and standard contact proceedingsâ€”but their affection for the ambassador was, I believe, the strongest motivator for their acquiescence.
The meeting took place on Elaxron, an inhabitable but as yet undeveloped planet in the near vicinity, and I commanded the troops in attendance. We were universally shocked at the sight of what the envoys had been hiding from us. The men had speculated when off-duty that we were encountering intelligent slime monsters or other creatures of legend, but none of us had expected simians. They have altered and evolved, of course, but the creatures we are meeting with are monkeys. I admit I was aghast. The ambassador was the only one who seemed unaffected, possibly due to her diplomatic training. My men and I retained composure, of course, but I intercepted more than one startled look before cowing the men back into military discipline.
Though I would have expected these creatures to fear us, they do notâ€”or at least, not in the way I would think. It soon became clear that they had indeed evolved from the monkeys of our own world, sent out in experimental rockets and presumed dead centuries ago, during Earthâ€™s first forays into spaceflight. Rather than looking upon our scientists as cruel experimenters, however, they view humans as a sort of father race. Their devotion is really quite touching. Their fear of being seen, it was revealed, was due to embarrassment rather than fearâ€”they had not expected to encounter our species, which is only a legend in their society, for many more years.
After this revelation, I allowed my men to stand down and permitted the ambassador to meet with the simians alone as they desired. This discovery is an historic one, General, and I hope it is not out of line to say that I am proud to be a part of it. It has been rather quiet here since the ambassador left for her secluded meeting; I believe the men all appreciate the gravity and awe of this situation and have made themselves scarce.
With respect, I await your next dispatch.
Julius Bright wasnâ€™t a designer, though he was often mistaken for one. Julius was the man who made designers, who launched and crushed careers. He had owned magazines, was the heir to an incredible fortune, a net star, an idol.
Twelve years ago, Julius Bright told me that I wouldnâ€™t have any future as a designer. He did it in the nicest possible way. After a show he pulled me aside and told me that I had flair but no talent and that he didnâ€™t want to say anything in front of the press because I was such a nice boy but if I continued to pursue this path eventually he would have to say something and he didnâ€™t want me to work so hard without much to show for it.
So I quit, just because Julius told me too. I went into the business side of design, and Iâ€™ve been very happy there. When I look back on the faux bohemian that I was, Iâ€™m glad Julius pulled me aside.
Twelve years later, we met again, and this time he was the one with something to prove.
He met me outside an ugly warehouse on the edge of the city, little silver spheres swirling around his head. The Paparazzi-bots, taking pictures. It seemed like an odd place for Julius to meet me, not at all the stylish places I imagined him frequenting. He was dressed in a shining striped pink and yellow waistcoat.
â€œTim! Itâ€™s been years!â€ he said, throwing his hands dramatically up in the air. I didnâ€™t think he actually remembered me, I assume he played back his stored memory files. â€œI needed to talk to someone who could talk to the business side of things.â€ He said, leading me inside. â€œBut also someone who understood design, like you do.â€
I had no idea why he called me here, or what he needed from me. Sure, I loved design and could talk to businessmen, but I had a hard time believing that Julius Bright would have a hard time getting business to buy anything. His smile showed glittering teeth.
â€œWhat is one of the biggest problems the world of design faces?â€ He asked, leading me down a dark corridor.
I shrugged. â€œConsumer fatigue?â€
â€œOh Tim, you joker. No. The problem is with models, and the problem with models is their transience.â€ We came to a black curtained room with a long walkway. Julius leaped on the walkway and began to strut with long, angry steps. â€œA woman is only beautiful from fourteen to seventeen.â€ He paused and rested his silver cane against his lips. â€œMaybe seventeen is a bit old, but you see what I mean. Anyway, after that, she begins to rot. Theyâ€™ve got such a short shelf life; itâ€™s hard to build a career for them. They are flashes, beautiful lights that go out in an instant.â€ He hung his head. â€œThere are other issues too, young girls arenâ€™t very dependable, and the smart ones donâ€™t really have their heart in it, they always leave to become engineers or something. Terrible losses, really.â€
Julius opened his arms wide, smiling gaily. â€œBut now we have options. Now we will have the ability to lengthen the career of a model. We can make perfect girls that will not change, girls we can control. They wonâ€™t get caught in scandals, unless you want them too, of course, and they can be relied upon. Theyâ€™ll never leave to go to school, or eat too much, or die. â€œ
I was about to ask what kind of girl would have all these features, but before I could speak, he began his monologue again.
â€œI know, the digital girl failed miserably years ago. The animated girl was fun and perfect, but she wasnâ€™t real, and people like things they can touch, or pretend they could touch.â€
â€œNow, now I can give you the flesh. Weâ€™ve grown the flesh based on the best girls in their prime. Weâ€™ve grown it and preserved it, a perfect plastic replica. You want tall? Her legs can be lengthened. You want longer hair? We can grow it in seconds.
And most importantly, we can brand them.â€ Julius clapped his hands, and sleek, slender, impossibly tall women, all naked, emerged from behind the black curtain and marched down the walkway, Dark hair, light hair, short, tall, milky white, coal black. Julius laughed and grabbed one on her shoulders. She lithely stepped close to him. â€œHere is our innocent.â€ He pointed to the other end of the walkway â€œHere is our counter culture heroine. Here is the slut. Here is the sleek lesbian, here is the exotic tropical. We can make them last, attach them to products based on image, and design for and around them. No more transience. What we have here is complete flexibility.
They are warm. Their eyes are wet. They will strut, smile and pose. They are fully programmable. Weâ€™ve been mixing them with models on the runway already, sneaking them in shows and no one has been the wiser. They arenâ€™t girls though, make no mistake.â€ Julian leaned in close; conspiratorially â€œThey are better.â€
Stretching his thin arms, Xytherzuk slipped into his council chair, the last of nine to be seated before the chamber of balance. The high-council glared down upon the little grey being staring up with black eyes that were nervous and begged for mercy. A being in robes stood at the table and looked down to the little one standing beneath the eyes of the council.
â€œEth, we have watched your experiment for seven cycles of the star system. Your efforts to weed out this humanoid evolution by pigment have failed.â€ The being sat slowly as the others began to whisper amongst themselves. The small being known as Eth spoke up.
â€œNo! It is not too late high-councilmen! Let me explain! Their prejudice growsâ€¦ it will eat at them and destroy them.â€ A loud boom shakes the sound within the room to a halt.
A smaller grey being leans forward. â€œThey are inspired by the colors you have given them. This virus of yours has caused them to see their world with shades and hues. Yet it has also caused them to expand!â€
Eth whimpered and in his squeaky voice tried to make due with his case, â€œThey have racism, high-council. And they have prejudice against colors that do not match. Given time this will cause more war and more hatred.â€
â€œWe are done with waiting, Eth. Already our scouts are identified by their grey skin. Could your virus not have given us a better sensory projection than a mottled grey? And of the skiesâ€¦ you made the skies look as such and they have ventured forth to go beyond it. This, we cannot allow. We are cutting the experiment.â€
In truth, Eth never really wanted to argue much with the council. He knew his experiment was doomed to failure from the beginning and yet somehow hoped everything would work out. As he was escorted back to his chamber he thought of the reactions of pigment to the human race and how it had blossomed into more than he could have imagined.
Imagination, it seemed to Eth, was something missing from more than just the humans. He sat within his chamber cell and waited for the guards to leave. Underneath his pillow he slipped a hand to retrieve his hidden vice. A small booklet colored with an amber hue rested in his three-fingered hand. He pulled it open to reveal a slew of what was known to the humans as photographs.
Sitting back against the wall, his small body heaved with a long, drawn-out sigh. They would remove the color from the world, but the virus remained within him. Plucking a photo from the group he looked at the vision of his grey form coated in paint and behind him a smearing of color across a brick wall in a dilapidated city block. Eth sighed and smiled. The colors were his to enjoy.