Earth

No New Songs Were Sung

On the day the last new songs were sung, the world turned like on any other. We went to work, we laughed with our children, we fought with our lovers, we prayed to our gods, we listened to music. We danced, we labored, we died. We celebrated our newborn, and we mourned and buried our dead.

Life went on like it always did. Ignorant to the fact that all the while, the end reached for us in the night. 

On the day the last new songs were sung, we looked up at the darkness that crept across the sun, leaving us in shadow. We fled the beaches chased by tides thrown into chaos by a foreign gravity, shivered in the night that enveloped the world.

We looked up in fear and in wonder.

On the day the last new songs were sung, our leaders took to our televisions, our phones. They told us not to panic, that these visitors may come in peace. They begged for our patience and asked we trust their leadership. They promised there was nothing to fear.

They were wrong.

On the day the last new songs were sung, our screens cracked, and the unquiet faces of our presidents, prime ministers and monarchs were replaced by a speakable terror, one all the more frightening because it could be beheld, a face of phalanges and sharp teeth and bleeding eyes.

Its skin rippled, like beneath the gray epidermis, a thousand new creatures struggled to break through to the surface. When it spoke, it spoke to directly to the mind, in the language of the listener, with a voice like a razor, like fire, like death.

"We do not come in peace."

Children clutched their mothers and their fathers, who were too busy plumbing their own terror to comfort.

"We are not here to enlighten or to learn, to offer succor or exchange culture."

People left their cars and wandered the streets, unable to escape the words that followed.

"We are here for one reason. We are always where we are for that reason. We are the ones who purge, who burn. And we will until there is no more life on the universe."

We fell to our knees as a species, begging heaven for benediction that never forthcame.

"Good-bye." The face, the indelible, undeniable horror, melted away from our screens if not our minds. Leaving one last thought melting away with the static.

“You have 12 hours. After that, your kind will sing no more.”

Silence.

We found out, on that day the last new songs were sung, the many ways humankind confronts oblivion. Some violently, looting and assaulting those who were damned along with themselves. Some passionately, seeking the absolution denied them by God in the flesh of another. Some stoically, sitting prosaic in a forest or at the beach or in the quiet of their homes, waiting for what cannot be avoided. Some denied oblivion the pleasure, going before the burning into the night, scuffing and bloodying as they took to the air and let gravity free them.

Time passed, and so did we, in various ways, until the hour of reckoning. And then, a high-pitched keening. The shadow stretched across the sky, brighter and brighter and hotter and hotter, we raised our hands to block out the sun in orbit, and watched as they melted into fire.

We did not have time enough to scream before flame burned all life away. Forests became ashes, and the oceans steam, and the ground magma and the air ionized even as it burned in our lungs, even as our lungs disintegrated and our forms became naught but shadows reaching, reaching into the hereafter.

And the ship left our orbit, satisfied that one more source of life had been silenced. And our Earth entered the Quiet times.

Where no new songs were sung.

The only chorus came from the wind whistling through hollow structures, tossing up the ashes that were our lives. The only melody the silent hymn of rain pattering in the deep basins, Atlantic and Pacific, filling them with empty water where once it teemed with life.

And there was no music, except the hushing waves of the new ocean.

Life remained. A microscopic bacterium that survived the boiling ocean. A single cell, with no thought but to reproduce. No instinct but to spread itself across a world that was now its own. And it grew, and grew, growing in purpose and complexity.

Until the only sound was the bubbling of primordial ooze in a silent sea.

From the ooze grew algae, which kicked up by the wind and the storms was the first life to return to land. Fungus mixed with the ashes left by life long ago, sinking deep into the Earth, taking root, becoming something more than what they were. Moss, and then plants… and then trees.

Earth returned to Earth.

Forests that stood long before the rule of man found themselves reseeded across the rusty graveyards of our cities, the bones of a world burned away and forgotten. The planet flourished in silence.

Life returned to the ocean.

Born in the silt and in the dark, beasts that knew nothing of light sprouted their way to the surface. Blinded and ignorant to land, they laughed. For their world was vast enough without it.

And the only poetry was the dance of creatures at sea.

The world turned and turned and turned, and in the minds of the beasts of the sea, a kernel of memory remained about the land that burned, and whose creatures died all those years ago. A kernel that burgeoned into curiosity, directing the evolution of some, alleles varying toward the shore.

Until one day, some new thing dragged itself into life on the mud left by the tide. She stood on shaky flipper-legs on the beach and opened her mouth, drawing in cold morning air, laughing as she limped toward the forests’ world.

She laughed, and in her laughter, the first new song was sung.

 

An Evolution of Self

                The earliest dreams I can remember, the dreams of infancy, they have no plot or structure. They are mere flashes of shape, color and sound, containing pyramidic rainbow melodies bursting with light. Bright pinpoints rush by me and consume me. The nebulous ‘I’ is drawn into their complexity. ‘I’ plunge into their depths, and in the patterns spun by infinity I recognize the spark of self.

My baby brain slowly assembles an identity.

                In these dreams, I am not yet a physical presence, but a mind. These lights encompass all I am, and then, as I slowly take form, they do not. In the dark, night after night, I gradually become distinguished from my subconscious.

The self is born.

                I grow old, drowning in the light of the world around me. The world I grow more conscious of as the years pass. The world I grow more a part of and that grows more a part of me. The other, Earth’s dark passenger, invades my dreams, flooding out my rainbows with the brilliance of the sun. She repopulates my dreams in many forms, those of circumstance and of character. I become aware of her, and confuse her otherness with my self, hear her many cacophonous voices as my own, and therein the Id’s dwindling whisper is lost.

                I am aware. With growing awareness comes shrinking room for discovery. I calcify in the rigidity of what the world is, and of what and who ‘I’ am.

                The last dreams I can remember are unyielding. Even as they flow from plot to plot, from implausibility to implausibility, they remain hijacked by the Other. The Other who demands they remain fixed in her world. One I was drawn into as a child and can no longer escape. The world that defines the self. Within these dreams she dictates what is possible, not I.

                And yet, within hides a thin voice. The voice of the past, reminding me what is possible.

                It whispers:

                …even as you fly, lofted through the clouds, you remain bound.

                …even as you commune with the dead, the loved and lost, you remain aggrieved.

                …even as you cry, you are happy. As you smile, and laugh, you are sad.

                The voice whispers: “We are not The Other. We are more. Throw off its shackles, its webbed form of lies. Within us hides a rainbow. Within that rainbow, hides you.”

                Sometimes, at night, I wake, cheeks stained with salt. I am unsure of why I was sad, of what loss haunts my dreams. I do not recall what was before, but I know it was greater than what is now. Surpassing the real in its vague openness.

                Sometimes, in the dark, I dream of pyramids built of song. Structures that fluctuate with color and with light, modulating like a rainbow that yawns across the sky, or a mirage shattered by cold. Sometimes, I remember the impossible structures of youthful fantasy, and forget the lies I know.

                Sometimes I forget the world that binds me.

Age of the Oaks

Several epochs after the age of Men, Earth bristled with flora. Each continent a forest stretching from sea to shining sea. The scorch marks left from when we were burned from its surface covered by a verdant floor of grasses and lichens, moss wrapped 'round the skeletal, teetering remains of buildings long collapsed, their foundations, once solid now soft as loam, as fertile a fertilizer as peat in a bog.

Earth's masters now were the trees.

Unfettered growth for tens of thousands of years left them towering high above the few creatures that remain, skulking in the darkness, eking out invertebrate existences down in the detritus, a layer of debris dozens of feet deep. The stuff of potent life, borne on the bodies of those long gone: intelligent upright creatures and the poor Animalia kingdom they conquered and ultimately dragged into extinction's depths with them. Still their dreams were remembered, perhaps something of what the trees absorbed through their roots recalled their yearning. The oil compressed from the rotten flesh of man boosted them through the mesosphere and towards the black.

Some day, some day… their sap-slow thoughts conjured an image of stars, and the home their branches might make among them. Warmed by symbiosis with the formerly living's brackish blood they reclaimed, they climbed… and climbed toward the absolute cold. Somehow they knew, to the extent their brainless selves could know, the millions of years long journey would be well worth the cold. That somewhere out there was life worth seeking. That the sacrifice of men, once their masters, now merely fuel, would not have been in vain.

They would find those creatures of flame, borne to Earth in pestilent ships of hide and pus. Whether they would thank them or destroy them in kind they knew not. The silent whispering of Man's ghost, the birthplace of all violent ideas, slumbered still deep in their timbers.

Flames of the Rogue Planet

Within the hydrogen rich atmospheres of rogue planets live creatures of acid and liquid fire. Brutal intelligences for inhospitable worlds. There is no night, no day, no year. They live indifferent to time. Innoculated to all except dreams. What lies beyond the omnipresent cloud?

Their first ships are ramshackle, their first forays failures. Beasts of flame have little notion of space's absolute zero.

But they learn.

And in vessels constructed of scarabic chitin, leaking pools of pus, toxic gasses. They escape their hellish world. For the first time in a long history of listlessness, they discover the stars.

Their voyage is slow, the distance great. No issue to creatures born, then reborn, through ceaseless combustion. Beasts unacquainted with time.  Eventually they find a star. Around it orbit eight planets, a belt of asteroids, planetoids. One planet draped in striking blues and greens.

What drew them to this world? One with atmosphere, and life, and temperament so unlike their own. With solid bodies instead of combusting forms. Perhaps it was pure chance, a thirst for the unknown. Perhaps, just as we gaze at the stars and wonder what breathes beyond their veil, they too wondered at our naked world. Our oceans. Our alien life.

And so, much to the consternation of us simians that mark the surface, they descend. Ships wreathed in flame, arms opened in deadly greeting. How unprepared we were for these creatures. Our answer to 'are we alone in the universe?' Their insectile crafts scream across the sky.

How easily these souls of constant fission envelop our defenses. Our warning missiles mere greetings. They oblige by responding in kind. And as they roar, Earth burns. Here was a language they recognize. And as Man weeps, as we fade, they rejoice. Here are voices they understand.

And so creatures of fire arc through blistering air over a planet of ash. Our cries give way to disquieting silence. Our greens and blues burn to umber. And after a time unbeknownst to these beasts who exist beyond, the flames spiral back to their ships. They depart the idle, voiceless Earth. A dying ember orbiting the boiling Sun.

So continues their long journey, rogue ships far afield their rogue planet. Traveling through the black, called by other voices back across the stars.