Astronaut Jack Kelly is an asshole. He is the type of handsome fuck that seems to have it all.
All the ladies, toys and luck.
He has been given the best education opportunities. Has the best attitude and now he has just become first to discover the origins of humanity.
Found God if you were so inclined.
On a dusty planet circling a dying white dwarf, far from the place of his birth he stands eye to eye with a sleek figure resembling a department store mannequin. It seems to glow a pale peach color.
Maybe that was more choice than design.
Jack fails to realize that if he stood in front of it naked, instead of wrapped head to toe in a sparkling white and bulbous EMU, they would match.
As an astronaut he has spent his entire career hoping to find something interesting like this, but sadly like his old fighter jet pilot buddies who got jobs flying passenger planes would tell him,“the excitement of space exploration had quickly worn off.”
One might wonder how astronaut life could get boring?
After almost twenty years of exploring system after system and countless moments of static waiting, maintaining and arguing for more freedoms and finding millions of discoveries that verify life is unique and hard to come by in the horrible deadness called space, has proven the point.
Up till this moment the explorer’s life has been quite boring and not worth the decades of loss he will have endured once he returns to his home-world to retire from service and find a nice comfy place to die.
He has no doubt he will live to see the day his career ends. He feels as if he has been in good hands. Everything has been counted out and expected. Thousands of tests are performed before a procedure even gets added to the manual. NASA culture is so embroiled in safety and return of investment Jack feels surrounded in bubble wrap.
Even the rock he was tasked to pick up on what was wake cycle thirty-five of this mission on KB220, the lab boys back on Earth had earmarked it by satellite months ago as a place of interest, or as written in the preferred acronymese of the greasy chicken-necked MIT graduate, POI.
But twenty meters from his destination he stands in front of this featureless, subtly feminine, unmoving figure.
Jack knows he is seeing the thing in front of him. He is the type of person who is blessed with infallible ego. If it’s there it is because it is and not because of something that has gone wrong inside himself. He is a perfect specimen of humanity and medical science has promised his return on investing in a pure lifestyle will net him at least 85 more years of life.
But still his perfect heart picks up pace and pounds painfully in his chest. Something is not right.
“Guys?” he says hoping his mic is working and base is picking up his broadcast.
His next reaction is to raise his right arm palm down in a Roman style salute.
The thing just stands in place.
Maybe it’s a relic.
Jack tries to relax. Aware he is holding air in his lungs he releases it and quickly takes a deep breath through his nose. He counts to ten before blowing it out also.
He instantly the shock subside slightly and takes a step to get a closer look at the mannequin.
When it’s hand shoots up suddenly mirroring Jack’s salute, he gasps.
The gesture is sharp as if the mannequin were a wind up toy that had been wound up too tight. At the apex of the greeting its arm hangs loosely in the air as if the intent of the movement has already been forgotten, or even unknown and it is unsure how it is meant to end.
Slowly the hand is lowered back to it’s side. Its faceless head tilts in Jack’s direction as if thinking.
Jack thinks about radioing back to base camp again, but base camp should be seeing everything he is seeing through the camera attached to the EMU. What else could he say but, “umm guys, something just waved hi.” obviously the rest of the crew, awake and doing their jobs, were just as speechless as he. He can imagine Peterson mouth gaping, trying to make sense of that which he got his doctorate preaching was impossible.
Proof of life outside Earth’s atmosphere.
And not just proof of life but proof of intelligence.
Proof of culture.
The dawning of all the meaning that this moment contains begins to wax across Jack’s brain.
He is awed.
A feeling he had forgotten possible.
The mannequin lifts its head back up. And points its chin at the astronaut and somehow asks “Are you human?” in a soundless cloud that just is.
The question forms for Jack in a way that the realization of is shocking. The question is perfectly understandable, but impossible to answer.
Jack is confused. What else could he be. He wants to answer, yes, but a sense of that not being the right answer invades his mind.
“Of course you are. There is not much else for you too be, is there?”
Jack nods stupidly. Ego bending slightly as he hopes beyond hope base contacts him soon with instructions.
He has forgotten how to think for himself.
A feeling cascades over him he has never felt before. A lesser man would know immediately that the feeling is what one feels when completely and hopelessly lost.
On the cusp.
“We are siblings then human. What made me, made you. Me! Ha! I have not thought of being me in many millenniums. I have you to thank for that human. You have reminded me, ha, that I am me.”
Maybe it was the thing saying the word ha and not actually laughing, maybe it was the whole situation, but Jack suddenly wants to run away.
The only thing stopping him is the fact running in an Extravehicular Mobility Unit is nie impossible and absolutely hilarious to witness.
He tries to speak but finds his voice uselessly bouncing around the inside of his environmental helmet. It’s been tested to absorb sound. He knows the thing in front of him can not hear his words. But why was base not responding to his announcement. He tries to reach them again, “hey guys, I have a problem.”
Just the quiet hiss of functioning electronics is all he gets as a reward.
And the mannequin confirms his thoughts are not needed.
“You can relax human. Allow me to explain your situation, but first another question. If you were an accident would you want to know?
Think before you answer please. If you are the product of say, oh, I don’t know, a rape, would you want that to play around with that when laying in bed at night? Just picture it: Your beautiful existence, the essence of you, was forced into being by an ugly event.”
The words seem to fill Jack’s mind like a word balloon in a comic strip. If possible they seem to be erratic like they are being pulled burnt from the bottom of a too hot skillet.
“Picture your mom crying on the ground post conception. A used rape kit containing the same batch of DNA material that made you in a police evidence bag. A face that reminds and repulses nut at the same time beautiful and unique to your own progenitor.
The human race is just such a thing.
The universe is everything. Nothing resides beyond it but more universe. And within everything exists in infinite possibilities.
And infinite possibilities beget infinite possibilities and so on and so forth.
That’s how you end up with one of the few precious rocky gaseous planets covered in gigantic lizards. You keep plugging numbers into an equation until it works.
Giant lizards. Why? Because they could. And they did as this world filled up and became overpopulated and our star aged. One day, as all things happen, the signs of the end began.
Rocky Gaseous planets are at a premium. Maybe billions exist through infinite possibilities, but time is relevant. Time is finite. Time is the dash, book-ended by the concrete facts of birth and death.
We seeded your home world’s garden paradise with monsters, huge stupid beast that were fun to watch. The ones that started the life on your world left them alone fascinated to see them stretch to the sky.
Some however felt that this was a waste of such a paradise and demanded it be cleansed of its creations and made ready for more intelligent habitation.
A war started over your life. Life always equals death except for me, ha, because I am not alive as you know the word. I got to see the end of the creators of life on your world. I also witnessed the end of this planet in one giant unexpected supernova that irradiated everything. They died. The dinosaurs died. But life continued. That’s the magic of the universe. By the same mechanism that they created the lumbering beasts they accidentally made you and intentionally made me. They stupidly thought they could rush science and knowledge and instead proved life is chaos and will be if it will.
And now because you choose to land here and explore you will be the next element in the equation of the people who made me. They deserve life so I will impregnate you like I impregnated the rest of your crew. You will die. The process is very painful. But know this: life will live once again because of you and that only thing that matters in the universe is life.”
Jack tries to turn the machine around him and begin the trek back to base, but can’t. He is stuck looking at the slightly peach colored mannequin laugh in a maniacal way that fills up the word balloon in his brain. He feels his sanity flush out of his head taking his ego with it.