Friday, July 2, 2010
Terah v. Earth
There is life on another planet. Just beyond our galaxy and through a black hole an unfamiliar star system hurtles through space. Several planets rotate at various speeds around a brilliant center star, but only the planet Terah has the appropriate environment to sustain life.
It's unclear how life began on Terah, but legends and ancient manuscripts provide a general framework. Apparently 7,000 years ago a dominate species emerged. Muhans, as they call themselves, asserted control over less intelligent creatures and organized themselves into societies based primarily on common physical characteristics.
In the following millennia nations evolved rapidly and without conflict. They accelerated from agrarian to industrial to innovative societies in mere generations. Population boomed. Technology surged. Governance morphed. Cities merged with other cities until planet Terah was an enormous metropolis. The most recent census estimated 120 billion muhans worldwide.
Because of an urge to understand the universe they began exploring space 2,000 years ago. At first they could barely escape Terah's gravitational field, but with scientific advancements muhans were traversing other galaxies in short order.
Recently, and quite by accident, the muhans discovered Earth. The reality of extraterrestrial life answered an age old muhan debate. They promptly began to study Earth from afar and were shocked to find that Earth and humans were nearly mirror images of Terah and muhans. This made Earth's meager population and inferior science puzzling to them. Humans still used cars and gasoline instead of hovercraft and ocean water. After deliberation the muhans decided to attempt communication with humans by deciphering the internet and sending an email. Earth's first contact with aliens was just around the corner.
Adam was sleeping off a hangover when the email hit his inbox. The day before had included a flowing gown, diplomas and handshakes, moms with cameras, and drunken goodbyes to old roommates.
Waking up on his parent's couch injured his mood more than the headache. His sister congratulated him on his first day as an unemployed adult. Adam scowled playfully. When she left he scowled for real. He lumbered to the fridge, the toilet, and the computer, in that order; gulping cranberry juice at each stop. The computer warmed up while he rubbed his eyes and cracked his knuckles, determined to tackle the online employment ads first. As usual, his email distracted him.
At first the muhan email looked innocuous and Adam opened it without reservation. The author introduced himself as Daam and wondered if they could be friends. It was then that Adam noticed the title: 'To My Human Friend,' and chuckled. "Weirdo," he thought as he deleted the note.
Five minutes later an instant message appeared from the same address. "Did you recieve my email?" It asked. Adam replied without thinking. Still cloudy from the hangover, he became unintentionally engrossed in conversation with Daam. After an hour of discussing sports, graduation, and job hunting Daam wished Adam luck and said goodbye.
Over the next month they chatted regularly. Daam carefully primed Adam. When he sprung the news about being an alien Adam took it remarkably well. He was obviously skeptical, but Daam had pictures and documentation prepared. Adam reluctantly believed, but insisted that Daam visit Earth to prove it. Citing reasons that Adam couldn't understand Daam suggested Adam travel to Terah instead. He offered an aircraft that could safely navigate a black hole.
Long after plans were made and goodbyes said, Adam stared out the window at the night sky. He tried desperately to process the information but was totally overwhelmed. Grabbing ballcap and keys he headed for the door. Copious amounts of alcohol would help.
From oxygen rich air to leafy green trees Adam discovered that Terah was no different than Earth. Except that it was infinitely more successful. Every muhan lived like an American millionare. No crime. No war. Only prosperity. Adam peppered Daam with questions about their wild success as they walked through pristine streets.
"How is this place so perfect?" Adam asked with admiration and jealousy.
"We can't do anything wrong." Daam replied, slightly melancholy.
"That's for sure," Adam laughed, "wish I could say the same."
Daam stopped walking, turned to face Adam, and lowered his voice. "You don't understand Adam. We CAN'T do anything wrong." Adam looked puzzled. Daam rubbed his forehead and scanned the Muhan streets, trying to find an illustration.
"I know," he said suddenly, "hit me!" Daam smiled eagerly, "Punch me as hard as you can!"
"No way!" Adam replied. "I like you!"
"Just do it," he insisted, "but make sure it hurts. It will only work if it hurts!" Daam was excited beyond words, his eyes dancing with anticipation. Adam could tell it was important somehow, and with additional coaxing he finally agreed. It was undoubtedly the strangest part of his alien encounter.
Standing on a sidewalk among glimmering skyscrapers Adam reared back and swung his fist mightily into Daam's stomach. The blow knocked Daam off his feet and he tumbled awkwardly on the pavement.
"Owww," he yelped, clutching his abdomen and writhing on the ground. "It's awful!" He looked up at Adam with tears in his eyes and a brilliant smile on his face. "Is this pain?"
"Um, yeah," Adam was more confused than ever, "it's one kind I guess." He paused, "are you telling me that you have never felt pain?" Daam nodded, eyes wide, as Adam helped him up.
"You, my friend," he poked Adam in the chest, "have just thrown the first punch in muhan history!" Daam beamed with pride to be the recipient of such an honor.
Adam helped Daam find a comfortable chair at a coffee shop and they spent the next several hours icing Daam's bruises, drinking chilled coffees, and trying to understand their obviously different worlds. Adam learned that Daam wanted to punch people every day but is physically unable to make a decision that could hurt himself or someone else.
Daam explained that most muhans believe in a higher power known to them as Will. A majority of muhans subscribe to the idea that Will created Terah and runs it according to his sense of good and evil. Because Will wants what's best for all muhans he simply does not allow them to make bad decisions. Essentially muhans lack free will. They worship whether they believe or not. They never steal, fight, or drink too much - although many of them wish they could.
Adam told Daam that most humans believe in a higher power known as God, but that many of them, Adam included, resent God for all the pain and suffering in the world. Adam could not understand how a loving God could allow bad things to happen to good people.
Daam's eyes widened. "Seriously?" He asked. "I'd love to serve God instead of Will!"
"No way man," Adam shook his head. "And give up all this?" He motioned to their opulent surroundings. "You've got it great! Everything I've ever wanted!"
"You don't get it Adam," Daam shook his head sadly, "once, just once, I want the freedom to choose."
Back on Earth Adam's head spun with notions of pain and free will. He drove slowly to a secluded bar to sort out his thoughts. Minutes slipped into hours as he hunched over mug after mug of frothy golden medicine. The bartender cut him off and resumed mopping while Adam stumbled to his truck.
Windows down and music blaring he hurtled towards his parents house. On a particularly harrowing curve he careened out of his lane, crashing violently into a mother and her twin boys. As Adam lay dying on the pavement he looked up at the stars and remembered Terah. Resentment faded slowly to regret. Adam exhaled one final time, taking a single mom, one of her boys, and the secret of another world with him to eternity.