I press the button to queue the next stop. I step out onto soil made toxic from the rain. And I make every effort to not slip over. You can always tell the people who have good balance and excellent skills for telling when it’s going to rain. They don’t have scars on their faces. They’re probably pretty good in a fight too. When the war started, they picked out all the kids that thought they had some self-diagnosed mental illness. That’s exactly how they recruited them. You be surprised how many people seem to cure themselves of their problem when faced with the possibility of death or dismemberment. In the end, they either: fly-right and become a human being, they snap and go on a spree or they get shipped back in a box after a short career in the first wave.
I walk through the empty park in the dying light. It’s nine and the sun is just going down. It’s still light enough to see the possibly psychotic addict amble down the path in front of you. Or the girl taking her slamhound out for a walk. That Frankenstein of a dog is twice as big as her. It’s got a jaw like a steel bear trap and probably kills to the slightest command syllable. I pass by all these people like ships in the night. No words, just wary glances are exchanged. Glances that just say, “So is it you? Are you the one that kills me? Come on, I’m ready”
I’m not worried. In my pocket, I can feel the only weapon I ever need. Fear-In-A-Can™. One spray sends the most crazed individual into a rampant assortment of their worst terrors, paralysing faster than UltraMace. I don’t carry a gun, too much noise and normally pulling stuff like that causes all kinds of Mexican Standoffs and often end up in a purchase order for a dozen body bags. Has our world become more violent? I don’t think so.
Sure there was that artificial intelligence that kicked off another world war. Some entire countries look more like a prison than a place to live. Panopticons dominate entire landscapes. Some places are just toxic wastelands. But things still find a way to live there.
I pass by a downed spacecraft. Its fresh – I can still feel the warmth of their mysterious engines. The entire crew is dead. A handful look like they survived the impact, but took their own lives, the neon insides of their skulls are splashed against the mangled hull of their ship and smeared on the ground. Crows, black as death, are already on the scene to pick at the remains. They caw at me as I get close, warning me that this is their meal. H.G. Wells was a prophet. Our world, so isolated in its own arm of the galaxy, has become a breeding ground of some of the most dangerous things in existence. Well, at least to life not of this world. Our bacteria, animals, plant life, pollution, music and entertainment are poison to extraterrestrial life. Most of it is lethal, and it’s not quick, nor is it comfortable. That is why the crew is dead, they’d rather face their own weapons, rather than the bowel-churning, nerve-twisting, skin boiling agony that awaited them just by touching terra firma.
I don’t think the aliens see us with envious eyes. I can only imagine it’s fear. The human race encounters violence on a daily basis. And not just survival-violence. Thrill kills, murders, riots, mass graves, and chemical weapons programs. Every person on this planet has witnessed such things at least once within their lifetime. Since day dot, we have carried this violence in our genes and culture. The human race really hasn’t changed, just the way we break each others skulls open just to see what’s inside.
And it’s this that the aliens fear. All of humanity has the clue that there are other worlds out there. They just have no means of arriving on these distant and strange vistas. Yet. The aliens fear that a single boot-tread mark their sacred planets will mean the apocalypse. Because soon after that boot-tread, is a Zoo Burger franchise, or a billboard sporting an ad for Afghan Opium Cigarettes, or one of those video zeppelins, spouting the latest viral media. In the end, the downed spacecraft and dead spacemen tell one good thing: the batteries of the defense network is doing it’s job.
I arrive home, unlock the deadlocks and step through the threshold. I find my place a mess. My housemate, after several days in a self-induced coma, has returned to life and turned over anything that wasn’t bolted to the floor. He’s sitting on the floor, his hand hovering over an old coin. He’s swearing and cursing at it. I can’t help but notice the tourniquet around his arm.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I ask.
“I got a good deal on some positron,” he says, totally fixated on the coin, “I was moving all kinds of shit with my mind. I think it’s run out now.”
“Well great, clean up this mess, you retard.”
The guy gives me a baleful stare, as if he would be thinking that there was enough of whatever he poisoned his body with, to explode my head. I raise my hand and threaten to smack him with the back of it. He gets into gear and starts turning over the couch and righting the television back into its hutch. I open the fridge and reach inside. I withdraw a beer, then reach for a pack of Afghans on the counter. I open the back door and step out onto the patio. I slump on an old bison-hide couch, crack open the beer and light my cigarette. Soon I exhale the malt-scented stream of cloud that wafts in the even breeze like a Chinois dragon. I look up at the few stars emerging in the clearing dusk sky.
Someday, I will step onto foreign soil and see things no other human has seen. I will visit strange and unique and ancient places. I will see dawns made by the rising of alien suns and then watch them drop beneath the horizon. I will be greeted by, talk to and kill many people that are not like me at all. But until then, everyday will be exactly the same.