One Man’s Trash
R. W. Van Sant
“Hide yourself,” the parent warned as it floated on the gentle air currents that kept it, and its offspring, aloft. It was time for the child to learn more about the world they lived in, and had taken the child on an outing. The morning was filled with frivolities on the warm winds of winter.
In the distance, a few bipeds had left the protective confines of their domed city. It was a rare sight. Bipeds almost never traveled far from their protected habitats. To see them so far afield without a transportation machine was unheard of. They were a dangerous species, best avoided in most circumstances. The creatures had, on several occasions, attacked the parent’s kind without provocation. Their primitive weapons hadn’t caused death, but severe damage had been inflicted upon occasion. The parent wasn’t about to subject its offspring to a painful barrage of the sharp metal shards. It pulled the child close and closed its body around the youngling as it dropped down to the tree line, seeking cover in the pine branches.
“Why?” The youngster inquired prismatically.
“Danger. “ The parent rippled warning shades of purple. “Ahead in the clearing, bipeds are coming this way.” It moved its long thin body into the tallest branches, pulling its young along with it. It wrapped its length tightly among the boughs, adapting its bodily coloration to match the brown and green tones of the foliage. Its offspring tried to follow suit but was frightened mostly to black. It pressed its body tightly into its parent for safety. Calm coaxing aided the child in achieving a near-perfect camouflage. “Stay hidden.”
Vibrations resonated along the length of the branches, rhythmic and regular, giving warning of the approach of the ungainly beasts as they tromped through the woodlands. The group was soon visible through the branches; there was four, clad head to toe in heavy white material, their faces shielded behind a thick sheet of tinted reflective materials. The child shivered involuntarily at the sight. They looked unnatural, so cut off from nature.
“Keep still. They are armed.” The parent touched one of the child’s sensory receptors and synchronized its nervous system to match the mind of its frightened child’s. “Stay hidden, think talk.”
“The creatures are coming this way.” The child reached for its parent’s mind.
“It’ll be alright.” The parent responded in kind. “They can’t see us. Watch and remember. This might be your last chance.”
The child marveled at the creatures’ primitive mode of locomotion — physical force to move their lower limbs one at a time. The tracks they left behind were oval and somehow wrong. It would have been comical, except these creatures attacked out of fear; and everything scared them.
“Are those weapons?”
The parent explained the devices. They created strong bursts of vibratory energy that sent small pieces of metal flying from the end of the long sticks. It was an instrument used to hurt, and to kill.
“I believe they are.”
“Why are they here?“ the child asked. “They need to be in their domes to live, don’t they? Like fish in the water?”
“That’s why they wear that material over their bodies so they can survive outside for a time.”
“I don’t understand. Why can’t they live in the air?” The child offered another question. “They evolved in this world, didn’t they?”
“Yes, once this planet was once teaming with a wondrous variety of life forms. It was colder then and had a different atmosphere than it does now.”
“Was there a disaster?” The offspring tried to think of what could cause such a severe climate and atmospheric change. Massive volcanic activity, perhaps, or an asteroid strike.
“No, they did it themselves.”
“I don’t understand.” The child thought in confusion. “They made their world poison to them, on purpose?”
“I do not believe that was their intention.” The parent watched the natives moving below. One of the creatures bent down by the tree and looked at the dirt. Then one of its upper limbs rose up, level to the ground. The entire group headed off at a quicker pace in the direction the limb had indicated. “They are incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions.”
“What are they doing?”
“They kill for food and sport.” The parent explained.” I think they are ‘hunting’.”
“That’s horrible.” The child recoiled.
“It’s natural for them.”
“If they destroyed their planet,” the child shivered again. “Will they destroy other worlds? What if they get to ours?”
“They can’t. Let’s get into the clouds and out of their reach.” The parent rippled blue and unwrapped itself from its offspring as the last glossy white creature disappeared into the bush. “Keep yourself transparent and they won’t see you. Quickly now!”
“Yes,“ the youngster complied and adapted its length to near transparency. Both widened their bodies to elongated, gossamer ribbons and used the warm winds to lift themselves into the dense clouds, twisting and flipping as they moved.
“They cannot travel between worlds as we can. They must use devices that can only carry a few at a time. It would take them many hundred solar turnings of this world to reach even the nearest world.”
“What if they learn to will-bend?” The child flickered multi-colors in a flurry of stress and curiosity.
“They do not link minds to combine power as we do. They are a dying race. By the time you have an offspring of your own, they will be no more.” The subtle colors ran along its width.
“I think there is something very sad about that.” The child’s hue darkened.
“If it were not so, we would never have come. This world as it was before was incompatible with our species. They have made it a paradise.” The parent sparkled joyfully.
“And now they can’t live here, and they can’t leave.” The child continued to darken.
“Yes, it is sad.” The parent moved to float above its child for comfort. “But that is the way it is. It is their nature to destroy everything around them. When they are gone we will enjoy this world and prosper, and we will remember them.” The adult glistened with bittersweet irony.
“I suppose.” The child’s color cheered.
“Come, let’s return to the colony.” The parent headed toward the mountains. “It will be growing cooler soon.”
“Coming.” The child flashed red and fell into line behind its parent.