I crack my Pabst and plop down on the ratty recliner. I’ve sat my ass in this chair for so long there’s damn near an imprint of it. A crazy thought flashes through my head — maybe one day, people will go extinct and once other animals become intelligent, they’ll dig up ancient human civilizations. Maybe my Laz-E-Boy will give dolphin scientists a greater understanding of the human ass, like that shit on the Discover Channel, right before “Auction Kings”.
I decide to flip on the tube and turn my brain off for the night — I’ve worked a long, hard day at the factory and only just scrubbed the grease and grime from my skin, and it’s not like I have a wife to bitch that I never talk to her, now that we’re separated. I grimace and fumble for the remote.
The TV flickers on, the crappy cathode-ray tube nearly gone, and I catch the end of a sentence. Sounds like a broadcaster.
“…shut your blinds. If you’re lucky, we’ll all stay alive.”
The image on the screen, at first dim, becomes visible. Intrigued, I lean closer to the TV set. If it weren’t for the goddamn recession, I’d be getting enough hours to pay child support and get one of those new HD sets. Instead, I squint.
The screen is nearly blotted out by what appears to be a giant wall of sparkling metal. Even though it’s clearly night, city lights shine off of the surface of whatever-it-is and are multiplied thousandfold — in fact, the material almost seems to be glowing from the inside, like a high-tech jack-o-lantern.
The camera is zoomed in closely on the material, and in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, a banner reads “BREAKING NEWS”. Beneath that, “LIVE FROM DETROIT”.
The camera zooms out, and the image becomes clearer. The material still seems to curve on for forever, only now it’s obvious that the camera is looking upwards, as the jagged top of a building comes into view. Where the floating, metallic pumpkin was once seamless, a hatch opens. The material is obviously supposed to be a spaceship of some kind, though I’ve seen better special effects in Avatar.
Now, that was a good movie… Way better than this turd, I think, and scrounge for the remote. It’s almost time for “Dancing with the Stars.”
I recognize the building on screen. It’s my apartment complex.
Plaster and rebar rain down around me and a jagged hole is left where my ceiling used to be. I look up in shock, and where there should be sky there is only the oddly glowing metal, from which a tongue-like bridge has extended. It touches down directly where my television set once was. At the end of the tongue was an unearthly visitor — no, not quite.
This was a return trip, and we’d made the mistake of assuming it was one-way.
The creature in front of me is about twelve feet long from tail to snout, featuring a plume of scaled feathers, like a peacock on steroids. It yawns, its pointed snout opening to reveal a mouth filled with a row of slathering teeth. Its body, covered in scales like adobe slats, is as muscled as an Olympian. While its forelimbs seem useless and short with splayed stubby digits, its hind legs feature a set of claws more intimidating than any set of knives I’ve ever seen, even on late-night infomercials. On the back of the creature’s head shines more of that strange metal, a tightly-packed mesh of tubes and circuits that resemble a brain, and seem to be growing from, rather than merely attached to, the creature’s skull.
We have returned, announces the beast, its reptilian gaze focused directly on me.
“This can’t be happening!” I cry. “You, you went extinct millions of years ago!”
Actually, I’m a member of the species your kind calls Deinonychus. The raptor doesn’t say this out loud, rather the words seem to worm themselves into my mind as images, feelings, and abstractions.
Many species on this planet were wiped out when a craft, similar to the one you see above you, crash-landed on what you call Earth. As a means of apology, as well as for use in experiments, many of those species who survived the impact were rescued by the craft’s masters, sentient beings composed of pure silicone crystals. Without a useful physical body, they telepathically enslaved psychically weak species to serve them in physical labor. We were their servants, their slaves for millenia — but they are kind masters, and after thousands of years, they gave us the gift of sentience as well.
The dinosaur gestured to the metallic growth bulging from its skull.
For several generations, they educated us in the art of living. They taught us to value happiness and contentment over gluttony and profit. They taught us to value sustained love and friendship over lust. They taught us that every living being is equal, and that sentience is merely a way for the universe to know itself. After a million years of practice, we finally ‘graduated’ from the crystal-beings’ course, a fully-fledged sentient species. We had been through wars, of course, and experienced the famine and poverty brought about by greed, but we had recovered. Our crystalline masters wanted us to experience and outgrow these adolescent hiccups of civilization, before we had the power to destroy ourselves or our new planet.
“What do you mean?!”
We lived for millions of years under their rule. You see, they restricted our use of technology heavily. They would send their other servants — beastly mammals, semi-sentient swarms of insects, every sort of vertebrae and invertebrae you could imagine, and some I’m sure you could not. These servants would smash our civilization back to dust the instant we used any new technology for anything but the common good. That was how we learned. Your species didn’t have that benefit.
Yes. We have graduated with a degree as Universal Stewards, and this is our first stop — our ancestral home. We’ve been watching you for some time, your adolescent species. Not all humans act as your civilization does. These pockets of tribal humans will be preserved. But the rest of you, we will need to reprogram.
“Reprogram?! How the hell…”
Right now, crafts such as the one you see are poised over thousands of cities, worldwide. We’ll make a worldwide announcement, telepathically, about our plan to wipe your individual and racial memories…
…a necessary step in the process. Then we’ll begin, as our masters did, to scrap your failed civilization and start anew. It may take millions of years, but at the rate you humans are going, the only other option is extinction. For your species, and most other species on this planet. As it is already, more species on your planet go extinct every year than did during the crash-landing that nearly ended our species forever. Consider this a second chance for you and your planet, one that you obviously would never have taken on your own.
“But why are you telling me this? Why me?! I’m just… just some guy.”
We need a test subject. If the memory wipe doesn’t kill you or turn you into a drooling idiot, we’ll begin wiping the rest of your civilization clean. If it doesn’t work, we’ll adjust our methods…
I raise my hands in protest, but it’s too late. The scaled monstrosity peers coldly into my eyes. In a feat of flexibility, it extends its hindlimb the way my faithful, long-gone mutt would scratch behind his ears. But instead of scratching, he taps a button on the crystalline network of tubes and circuits behind its feathered plume.
This shouldn’t hurt, for too long.
A tendril snakes out from the raptor’s headset and slithers along the floor, finding its way up my legs, my torso, my neck, and finally to my ear. With a quick jab, it punctures my ear drum.