Now, compelled by curiosity instead of sleep, I willfully continue my voyage to other Earths.
Time has become compressible to me. At will, centuries can pass like seconds. Days can flip like hours. I’ve given up any hope or desire of hanging on to the speck of reality I come from. Somewhere there is a world where a few people remember me as I was then.
I was a caterpillar then, exploring one tree and cocooning on a single branch there. Now I am the butterfly flitting about a universal arboretum. I wish the old branch well.
I’m on a new branch, as a new being, where we have no concept of death as I knew it on my Earth. I call this world Ecstasy, and because cellular decay is so slow on Ecstasy, dead bodies do not decay visibly for millions of years.
There are those of our ancestors who’ve lain locked in paralysis for millions of years, placed in special reserves and attended by movers. Of course it reminds me of graveyards. But because the bodies remain noticeably unchanged, there’s a culture of hope that promises a grand awakening of all the sleepers one day. There’s getting to be a problem with sleeping space, however.
Ecstasy varies from Earth in many ways. Our evolutionary path has never required animals to consume other animals for survival. Hunting didn’t evolve here. Our sociological development has never demanded that people kill other people.
We have one name for all people. That name is Aryd. I am an Aryd and we are the Aryds. Our conflicts are resolved by extreme humor, which means he who laughs hardest loses.
It is very hard for the Aryds not to laugh at each other, so guess what? I have to be careful. Even under “normal” circumstances I’m known for my sense of humor. But on Ecstasy it’s dangerous as well as impolite to make someone laugh too much.
It’s an outright insult if you make someone laugh three times in a row. It is total surrender when you beg your hilarious tormentor to stop being funny before it’s too late. You see, Aryds who laugh too long and too hard are in danger of “permanent paralysis.”
Wide but shallow oceans dot the rocky surface of our planet where gravity and air pressure are lighter than Earth’s. Ecstasy has evolved to support five times Earth’s biomass, four times the biodiversity and over a hundred billion imaginative beings – the Aryds – with abstract thought that thrive in a variety of desert-like environs.
For 65 million years The Aryds exist on Ecstasy never suspecting that our world is destined to become humanity’s 4th most coveted other Earth.
The bad news is that by the advent of the invasion all kinds of humans have access to TAREX, the means of achieving “real time” interstellar travel. The first humans to arrive aren’t cultural ambassadors; they’re early exploiters, pirates and opportunists. These “humans” will regard natives like we Aryds curiously but with little concern for our specific welfare. To the early human visitors Aryds will be repulsive chimeras, grotesque imitators of human expression.
But these opportunistic adventurers are merely the warning shot for the nuclear bomb that is to follow. Once word about Ecstasy is out, the cosmos drops the strange human race in the midst of Ecstasyans. These bipeds represent a society that commands amazing technology and that is determined to take what it wants.
The exhilarating conditions of our planet please the humans, who increasingly exploit Ecstasy for real estate, pharmacological biology, uranium 235 and curium.
Luckily, we technologically inferior Aryds see the greedy fools for what they are and survive by playing the newcomers with diversion, ambivalence, misdirection and distraction. It’s dangerous fun and games but our only chance to survive the landing parties to come.
Such is the way of we Aryds and our billions of planetkind.
But it’s like I finally had to tell the other Aryds, after knowing human beings so intimately myself, “You can’t kill humans with laughter. The harder they laugh, the better they feel. So…”
Aryds had no concept of death as I knew it, until the arrival of the first killers on their world. After a while it’s obvious that some of these humans have made a discovery they wish to conceal from the others. In that effort all humans become more hostile toward us natives.
When many of us are stricken down by human bullies, no human law comes after them. They destroy us with impunity if our homes stand in their way.
It takes extra effort to learn the likelihood of our eradication. The “Solords” as we call the Solar System lords, have found an element on our world found nowhere else. That element brought them here to conduct some of their dirtiest experiments. And have they been experimenting! Here and nowhere else they’ve been able to manufacture a compound element they call Equilibrium.
Who’d have thought we’d ever see the day of non-decaying matter on Earth?
Seems you just mix some Equilibrium in with regular molecules to get stable molecular structures at ordinary temperatures. Ice cubes that don’t melt. Buildings that never get old. Tools that never wear out. Clothing that lasts forever. Books, artwork, even un-refrigerated food can stay fresh for unlimited lengths of time.
The Solar System’s economy has changed radically. With nothing in decay, places fill up with things. Nothing is replaced but new things are still desired. Trading replaces purchasing for many products.
Larger homes, bigger offices and massive storage spaces proliferate. A glut of existing products instigates innovative variations of common items. Technology diversifies as struggles to improve quality of existing products intensifies.
But production of Equilibrium is still expensive thanks to interstellar importing, trademarks and patents. Second hand extracted Equilibrium doesn’t work, so you can’t steal it out of ready made products. And even though it’s us manufacturing some of the ingredients, the profits go to human overlords.
And jobs for human workers go away. With Equilibrium infusion, civilization’s infrastructures require no maintenance once completed. Yet people in that rich world generally live much longer now, if not forever, if they’ve been able to pay for static aging treatment and gotten their government issued public dose of perfected health vaccine.
They don’t even go away when they’re dead. Dead bodies of those treated with static aging do not decay. A new tradition of corpse display is established using transparent coffins in high tech mausoleums. Deaths due to health imbalances diminish to zero. Mercifully, deaths by disaster, accident, suicide and homicide continue apace.
And stripping Ecstasy of Equilibrium throws our natural order into chaos. Humans can’t even see what that means. But for the first time, our sleepers are turning to dust.
For the first time, the “me” of this world stinks of decay.