Giant four-legged beasts, armored in plates of bones, lumbered through murky waters. Tiny winged curiosities, spindly and multi-colored, buzzed about their backs. Non-moving creatures, greenish and soft, some with bright flowers, reached for the system’s star. And unseen and nearly undetectable were the minutest of blobs, carrying just enough genetic material.
And so was life teeming across the young, watery planet. From the slopes of valleys to the tips of mountains. Through the air and across the vast panthalassic sea there were species of all types. Earth is a bright blue marble; a curious sphere of liquid and dirt, crawling with creatures.
And as with curious things comes visitation by a curious folk. An intelligent folk, armored in vessels of metal, lumber about the stars: searching, studying. They take notice of Earth and the unique reflective properties of such a planet.
“So much water!” they chitter, and “How peculiar!” They launch robotic Telespection probes to examine the surface. And then there is much chittering and chattering amongst them when the first probes return to their vessel and report – there is life.
“Lo, what a useful planet this will be!”
There is much debate then about what should be done. But, the one thing all agreed upon: something had to be launched.
“Well, what should our something do?” some ask.
“Perhaps our something could collect soil samples?” some suggest.
“But, what about the contamination of our vessel?” some argue.
“Perhaps we’ll have it play them a song?” This is greeted with some affirmation.
“They may not enjoy our music.” This is greeted with a degree of woe.
And the commotion continues until there is something that is certainly the most agreed upon:
“I say – we should certainly be transducing genetic material into the local wildlife.”
And, though, there are some mutterings of confusion thence, the aliens all silently agree that this is a truly good idea. And good ideas tend to have extraneous question-asking overlooked.
“Of course we have the authority for such behavior, “ some say.
“Let us get all the parts and pieces collected!”
After some time, a certain launchable something is ready for it’s maiden voyage. The device has parts for flying and parts for landing; parts for carrying genetic material through the atmosphere. The device is prepped and propped, fueled and fit. The vessel moves to the appropriate orbit.
These folks wriggle their hands in anticipation as just one of their fingers lingers over a red launch button. And from the corner of the room comes one small voice of doubt –
“What if this something of ours does not do what we want it to do?”
The button is pushed. With minimal fanfare the device travels away from the vessel very quickly. It is soon out of sight, but still communicating with the alien vessel. It enters the planet’s exosphere and a fireball flares up. It soars through the air and across the vast panthalassic sea. Suddenly, there is no contact with the device.
“It seems that we may have lost our device, “ one alien speaks solemnly.
“The signal has degraded to nothing.”
“Certainly, this was not part of the plan,“ some comment.
For many minutes, there is silence. There is impatient waiting and much dull staring down at the blue world. On schedule, however, as the device falls to a lower altitude, all the appropriate parts and pieces do their job. The device is active.
Four-legged beasts and winged curiosities gaze skyward while the fireball, raining down a sprinkling of dust, passes overhead. Then they return to lunch. The greenish non-movers pay even less attention. The minutest of blobs, however, detect an ever-so-slight tingle about their membranes. And so the alien something flies across the young, water planet. It spreads genetic material of the aliens’ choosing over the single rocky continent. Through the air and across the vast panthalassic sea the device flies. And after some time observing it, the intelligent folk in their vessel of metal continue to lumber about the stars.
Passing of Time
There is a tingling sensation, happening upon by only the minutest of blobs – bacteria – which relates to a creature even smaller than this! Too small for anyone to see, but capable of so much. For from within the dust that fell from the sky rode vehicles designed for the delivery of genetic material: alien virions. And, though, seeming innocuous, the beasties had soared with the wind and swarmed the vital fluids of all living things. And within some hosts they met only destruction, but within one, they found vitality.
This one particular type of bacteria seems to be a perfect match for the newcomers. The viruses entered the cells easily and manipulated the tiny machinery. They are quite adept at modification and soon the bacteria’s genetic replication and translation is under control. More and more material is made for the construction of new bacteriophages. More and more bacteria are infected. And soon the entirety of the species has been transformed.
How peculiar is life on this planet as the alien gene sequences and newly refreshed bacteria move about on their way to find they themselves inside other larger creatures. And how more peculiar still that eons and eons of time will pass and life will grow and change. The bacteria pass their encoded evolutionary story from one to the next and transition their homes from within the bellies of one animal to another. The four-legged beasts change their skin, grow hair and lumber to new areas. Tiny winged curiosities change their colors and their shapes. Landmasses slide apart with salty seas filling the void and life marches on.
Within a dark recess of rock there is a scurrying and a flurry of cat claws. A grayish rat was attempting an escape from the much larger animal, which was also much hungrier. Though, with a flash of teeth the smaller animal satiates the appetite of the cat. Triumphantly, the cat purrs and emerges from the rocks. It moves to lay in the warming beams of the sun, as if photosynthesizing like a plant. Within it’s belly, changes are occurring.
Many years later, after some amount of resequencing, cats in general made a discovery that had already been realized by the rats: the larger human animal was a particular way that made rats follow them. Thus, where there are humans, there is also food. And when humans began to lose their nomadic nature, cultivate the land and congregate in large cities, so too did rats. The cats are welcomed into human dwellings for their rat-hunting skills, warming fur and generally friendly disposition.
Human dwellings eventually grew into comfortable homes. Humans grow larger. So too do cats grow lazy and dependent on human care. And their expressions of affection: purring, kneading, head-butting, etc. – these traits are groomed and bred. Cats and humans share beds and share sinks and sometimes even share their meals. They also share all the little viral beasties of their bellies through their close proximity.
Years later still…
“No you cannot have my cereal, ” one human female, named Bryana, states. Her mate’s cat, named Goober, is staring at her across the kitchen table. He was on the table in the kitchen as if this were a fairly normal thing to do, as if Mandy has prepared the bowl of cereal for him. Why she had put it up on the table instead of on the more convenient floor was a mystery to Goober.
He stares and thinks, “Any moment now, you will want your own breakfast.” Tiring of the cat’s eyes, Bryana mindlessly rises and moves to prepare some toast. Goober, of course, moves to lap-up what remains.
A moment later, Bryana turns and shrieks, “Get that cat out of my cereal!” Goober looks up from his breakfast, which was actually Bryana’s breakfast, and licks his lips satisfyingly. The human male also residing in this home, named Max, quickly enters the kitchen and scoops-up the cat, dropping him near his actual food-dish in the corner. Goober walks out of the room with an air of disbelief.
“Max… that’s the third time this week that that cat has been nibbling on my breakfast. I turn around for 2 seconds to butter some toast, and there she is!” she points the butter knife at Max, a look of contempt on her face. “A downright dirty opportunist, she is.”
“How does she keep forgetting…” Max thinks, but says “I’m sorry, honey, he’s just a cat. You know? Doing what cats do?” Goober shoots him some incredulity from the other room.
“I don’t know how I keep falling for it…” Bryana stares at the floor. “He just stares and stares till I can’t stare anymore.”
“He’s having a staring contest and always winning.” Max thinks.
“It’s as if he’s having a staring contest and always winning, “Bryana quips aloud.
Both Bryana and Max raise their eyebrows at each other quizzically. Then they turn to Goober. He’s staring at them both and they hear him think, “That’s pretty well it, yes?”
“Did you just…?” Bryana starts.
“…trade thoughts?” Max finishes, in everyone’s mind.
They stare at the kitchen floor for a moment.
Max shrugs and thinks, “Seems pretty efficient to me…”
Bryana starts as her phone suddenly vibrates in her pocket. She lifts it out to read a message.
“Here’s a message from me mum… says the news anchors on the radio are acting odd – tripping over their own words.”
She looks up. Her phone vibrates again.
“Another message. It’s from Molly… “ she reads, “…says she must be losing her mind – can hear people talking in her head. Apparently, “ she continues, “the neighbors are making comments on every passerby.”
Bryana looks up at Max again, who is checking the news on his phone.
“Look at this headline on the BBC – reports of telepathy all across the country.”
In an effort to clear their heads and not listen to Goober, Max and Bryana decide to take a stroll down the street. Of course, lots of other people had also decided to do the same. There are people arguing, people chatting with complete strangers, people staring at each other, people attempting any and all means to avoid eye contact with anyone whatsoever. Everyone is thinking something and it is all quite a ruckus.
“…well I had no idea that you didn’t enjoy…”
“…I didn’t know anyone else was into…”
“…why is he staring at me?”
“…can they hear this too?”
Louder than anyone’s thoughts, of course, are the real sounds of the busy street: car horns, doorbells, steaming grills, perambulators rolling over grates in the sidewalk. These sounds had been normally ignored, but now seem quite comforting. Max and Bryana pass an outdoor television at the pub and catch the tail of a newsfeed: “…some say they can read minds…hold on…”
Then the most curious thing happened!
Unbeknownst to anyone near a Max or Bryana, scientists from around the world affirm – there is a certain metal something approaching our planet!
It was at that moment that there was an interruption to the newsfeed.
“Max, look at this… “ Bryana points, “They’re issuing a statement.”
Everyone turns to watch the television.
“We are just receiving word from government astronomers….” the newscaster continues, “I… I almost don’t believe it… observers on the ground have confirmed the presence of an alien craft approaching the Earth. I repeat, there is an alien craft nearing the Earth.”
As the alien vessel approaches, the curious visitors take note that one species has built spectacular cities on the surface of the planet. They take a particular liking to the one called London, which is, coincidentally, where Bryana, Max and Goober are living. Quickly, the spaceship nears and a great shadow is cast over the city. They, in their vessel of metal, return to the place near which they previously left a deposit. The Telespection probes, though buried under millions of years of dirt, had been made fully active by their proximity. They had, in turn, activated the genetic material in several of this planet’s species causing in some way the newly acquired telepathy.
“So many new critters!” they chitter, and “How wonderful!” They launch more robotic Telespection probes to interact with the humans and other animals. And then there is much chittering and chattering amongst them when the first probes relay this information: the human animals have built these cities. Not only that, but they are able to use tools, language and imagination and perhaps most importantly – they have had the genetic material accumulate in their DNA!
“Lo, what a useful species this will be!”
There is ever so much more debate then about what should be done. Bryana and Max and all the other Earth creatures don’t really know what to do. But, the visiting creatures all silently agree that it is a great idea to harness the human mind. It was supple and flexible; strong enough for large calculations while still docile and controllable. It was perfect to assist them in searching and studying and stars.
The humans are allowed a brief amount of time to get used to telepathic communication. Then the leaders of the visitors meet with the leaders of the humans in a secret sort of way. All the grand alien plans are discussed and with amazement (and really no choice) the humans digest the information. One particularly clever human notes the rotation of the planet and how the creatures here engage in a sleep cycle when they are opposite the system’s star.
So, a reasonable deal is struck: the billions of humans would surrender their minds during sleep. They were to be networked with each other and with the Telespection probes telepathically and induced to dream about the universe. As it happens, this was the largest cloud-computing device ever implemented by any species in the galaxy and would aid the visitors in their quest to understand. In turn, all but a few humans would have memory of this event erased from their minds and media and the creatures of Earth would lumber about as before.
~ Special thanks to Kate Norton for her excellent proof-reading.