Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Million Dark Years

On a look out platform towering twenty miles above the green fields of Earth a station commander glanced at his watch. Another two hours before night time. What he didn't know then — what none of us knew — was that tomorrow was the last time we would every see daylight.

Ever since Marconi sent the Earth's calling card into space, it was only a matter of time before someone up there would get the message. In fact, by cruel chance, the alien race was not so far away, a few light years, a short step from Earth on a galactic scale.

We knew they were on their way. We had many years advance warning. Many years to reflect, prepare, wonder, speculate. But as always seems to happen, the one possibility no-one had thought of turned out to be the case.

Countless science fiction books have been written and movies made about aliens invading Earth in order to pillage its resources, or enslave the human race. But when the aliens did finally arrive, they didn't want our resources. What little we had was close to being exhausted anyway. They had no interest, seemingly, in our existence or nonexistence. There was only one message: 'Keep out of our way and we will leave you in peace.'

They wanted the sun.

There's no bargaining with a vastly superior power. Try explaining that to the hordes protesting in the streets and clamouring for action. Try telling the generals that their nuclear warheads and neutron bombs are useless scrap metal. After Chicago was surgically removed in a few seconds leaving only a flat expanse of fine dust, the shouting ceased.

We have to be thankful that they allowed us to live. We are sufficiently well provided for energy-wise, an inexhaustible supply, in fact. The Earth's new power source is beamed from light years away down a single intense ray like a laser, only of unimaginably greater intensity. From there it goes to the grid from where the Earth's artificial 'daylight' draws its power.

We still have 'day' and 'night'. At 'dawn' the light goes on, and at 'dusk' the light goes off. The entire Earth has become a theatre stage, and we act out our lives under the artificial glare of hovering flood lamps.

There's no weather. If you want rain, you switch the sprinklers on. Or, rather, the Earth government does. That was part of the deal — there would be one political structure representing everyone on Earth or we could all perish and rot. The threat of imminent extinction is very effective in concentrating the mind.

How did the sun go? Not with a bang, as we'd always assumed, but silently, without any commotion, seemingly without effort. The alien fleet attached what looked like a fiery rope and the sun slowly disappeared into the distance while the entire population of the Earth wept.

Now a dark Earth, stationary, occupies the place previously occupied by the sun, in a travesty of the ancient model of the universe.

In place of the other eight planets which, released from their orbit, sped off into space when the sun was removed, we have our single moon; permanently full, illuminated from the ground, a pale disc that gives off no light of its own. Meanwhile, the Earth continues to revolve for no useful purpose other than to offer an endless parade of billions of suns that no longer inspire the human race with hope but only remind us of what we have lost.

Why did they have to take ours?

Everyone has his or her own theory. Forget the idea that the sun has some special quality that other stars lack. Ours is, or was, average in every way. Every school student knows that. Average temperature, average mass, average composition. No, it really does seem possible that the act was nothing more than a way of saying, 'Look what we can do. We're doing this because we can, for no other reason than to demonstrate our power and magnificence.'

They took our sun and made it into a trophy for a galactic trophy room.

Not out of greatness but meanness. At least we have our Plato and Aristotle. We have ethics. And you... you are not keeping us alive out of any benevolent motive but just for the sheer pleasure of having an audience. Does it amuse you? Do you feel powerful?

And although you profess to have no interest in enslaving the human race, although, as you have amply demonstrated, we are no use whatsoever to you dead or alive, at any moment the power could be switched off on a whim and we would perish.

Earth civilizations have come and gone, and yours will too. That nothing is permanent is a law that applies to the universe and everything in it. Bask in your glory, while you are still able.

© Geoffrey Klempner 2012