A STRANGE AND PEACEFUL NEW WORLD (short story)

I never write short stories; this effort is the first, only, and maybe last I will ever do. The initial version came to me decades ago, when I was so young, but I later found it and rewrote it for my son. It was just a fun thing I decided to do, so I hope you enjoy it.

A STRANGE AND PEACEFUL NEW WORLD

Employing the latest holo-vision technology, top scientists on planet Obelus had fully monitored the Earth’s predictable decline. It was as if they had a front-row seat to a horror flick.

Arsenal, biological, and eventual nuclear warfare had prevailed for several Earth weeks. They experienced flooding, drought, landslides, and elevated levels of carbon in the hot, dry atmosphere. The few survivors lived in primitive darkness surrounded by fires and billowing smoke, breathing toxic air.

That was hundreds of years ago. Most of the survivors went insane, and, sane or not, they turned on each other.

On this particular day, Seren Heddle, one of the most famous scientists on Obelus, was there in the flesh. His brilliance had prompted the aristocracy of his native land to have him visit and observe the new Earth. At his side was the beautiful Alula, with whom he’d been obsessed ever since she came to work with him. They wore full body suits, rugged shoes, gloves, and safety visors, but underneath it all, Seren was a slight, five-foot-six inches with verdant green hair and eyes like topaz jewels. The shapely Alula, only a tad shorter than he was, had bits of silver stardust sprinkled through her lavender mane, which was straight and smooth to create an elegant frame for her feline face. Hers were the eyes, nose, and the clever snickering grin of what was once the Earth’s cat. She was a hybrid version of the feline species trained to scout on Earth and other planets.

Before them, grey steel buildings and factories stood amid tree stumps on barren lands of eroded soil and mud-filled puddles. The noise level was hard to bear, so dwellings and workplaces contained stone walls for better insulation. Experts planned for reforestation, hoping new trees would come to life within the next few decades.

“We had hoped to intervene,” Seren said with a slightly guilty conscience. “But, from all we’d heard and observed, many earthlings fear and demonize alien entities of any variety.”

Alula shrugged, as he’d said this before, many times. “Perhaps if we reflected their own images and perceptions, they’d have welcomed us with a champagne and truffles gift basket,” she joked.

Seren nodded. “They are that way with people in their homeland, too, and yes, terrified by ‘creatures’ from outer space, but, truth be told, they’d never even heard of Obelus.”

“Oh, right,” said Alula. “The astrologist scalawags pretended our planet didn’t exist, though they knew it was there all along. They tricked earthlings for centuries with their corrupt pseudoscience.” Obelus was huge and took up quite a lot of sky space for an ignored constellation, she thought. It held the second-closest star to the earth!

But earthlings had had much more to worry about than a world shaken by the revelation that the sun’s position, when observed from Earth, was not aligned with the arbitrarily defined planet they thought it was on the day they were born. 

You see, the last original human survivor, Mason Guthridge, was a scientist who’d built himself an elaborate bunker city and didn’t invite anyone else. He’d decided that only uniformity could create a world without jealousy, elitism, and hatred, so he decided to clone himself ad infinitum and lived underground with his clones, waiting for the remaining humans to expire before returning to the surface. His clones, male and female, were called dittos, and the dittos had plastered his photo on billboards throughout the planet, Mason was bald, with a circle of reddish hair above his ears and a walrus mustache. Aside from having a full head of hair, lacking the walrus ‘stache, and having different physiological ‘equipment,’ the females looked like him, too. Dittos had only the slightest variances in appearance and were about the same weight since limited resources had them all on a rationed diet.

“The man is a hero!” Seren marveled. “The wave of negative energy that once seemed the driving force here has dissipated!”

Alula nearly gagged. “Only a narcissist would clone himself even once, but enough times to populate an entire planet?!”

Seren begged to differ. “It’s marvelous, I tell you. There is no way to detect who is superior upon sight, and neither can one determine from where the dittos originate.”

A look of displeasure distorted Alula’s flawless face. “Seren, it could get so chaotic. There can be no attraction toward one another.”

With a bright smile, he shook his little head. “No, Alula, that is not true. No one is prettier or more handsome as to inspire jealousy, turning twisted envy into angry and hurtful vengeance. The dittos communicate without consciousness of the physical self and form opinions then ultimately relationships, based on hearts and souls connecting. Each has only his or her inner being to offer, and only by that can he or she be judged.”

Alula yawned before countering, “Okay, if they, Guthridge, or anyone else here truly was a genius or had any brains at all, they wouldn’t need such a preposterous solution in order to accept one another, differences and all! Want to know why this is insane? I’ll tell you why. Life, this way, is impossible! Suppose I was to converse with a gentleman and hoped to run into him again. How would I recognize him? Infidelity must be a common problem.”

Seren shook his head. “The meetings and arrangements are discussed, as are ways of how and when to contact. That is good, for if one wants to meet with you or have you contact, he can voluntarily instruct you. If he or she does not wish to see you again, it is marvelous, for the individual can, simply, withhold the information, and you never could harass the person. It would be difficult.”

“That is not likely to discourage infidelity.”

“I assure you, Alula, it is not a problem, for the mates are in heart and soul exclusively. Nothing is worth the risk of losing what they’d found.”

“That’s fine,” she allowed, “but how would I know if I’d like to converse with someone passing by and possibly get to know him?”

“Well, the signal for approach is always a beep, but you are not an earthling and therefore not equipped for beeping.”

Alula kicked some nearby rocks. “That is just stupid.”

“Why is that stupid, my lady?”

“It’s stupid because how does one know if he or she would like to beep?”

“They do not control the beeping process,” Seren replied. “When ditto instincts dictate, and they have the intention of approaching, they beep automatically. An effective method for dealing with shyness, wouldn’t you say?”

“No, no, no, no!” She stomped her foot for good measure.

He ignored that. “We might think about a similar system for—”

Alula was aghast at the mere suggestion. “Oh, right, let’s adopt this post-apocalyptic absurdity in our perfectly functional society. Are you out of your mind? The last thing I want to do is trade my unique attributes to become just another ditto.” She thought of another argument. “What then might I do if I’m walking merrily along and feel someone sneak up behind and pinch me? How would I know which beeping ditto did it? I’d turn around and see a slew of them parading behind.”

“Why would any of them resort to that?” Seren turned his palms up, smiling. “There is no physical attraction, and lust is no longer an obsession.”

“Lust? Do you think it has to do solely with lust— why people prey upon others? There are other reasons they choose to be a nuisance.” Alula folded her arms across her chest. “How much do you want to bet? You’ll have confused dittos beeping incessantly at everyone!”

At that very moment, a frantic, beeping ditto raced toward Seren. While yanking the wallet from his pocket, the culprit pulled at his nose, bopped him on the head and knocked off his visor. Alula could not help laughing, cupping her mouth, and feeling relieved for, in an instant, the guilty ditto was lost amidst a crowd of lookalike dittos up ahead.

“Obviously, a psychotic,” Seren said, looking for his visor amid the rubble.

“Hmm, and this is why we can’t have nice things.” Alula spied the visor and picked it up for him. “Tsk! Listen, I love the idea of being one and equal and loving one another, but if the answer is they can only beep and steal wallets, well—”

           Seren, grabbing the visor from her hand, looked embarrassed. “The unfortunate result of generations of inbreeding, I suspect, but it could have worked.”

***The End***

Feature image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay