The Voice and the Wall

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A shipwrecked human struggles to stay sane on a planet full of aliens who only live for a single day.

Submitted: August 11, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 11, 2012




Earth is gone. Well, not exactly gone. There are still bits of it orbiting our red sun.

I’m a perfectly ordinary human, only noteworthy for being the last one in existence.

I was on the only surviving escape shuttle from the Donna Maria, the largest human ship in history. Due to a grievous error on the part of the ship’s navigator, I suppose it could also be considered the smallest. As far as I know, only a single fourteen person shuttle escaped the gravity well. I was on that shuttle.

Knowing our life support wouldn’t last long, we headed for the nearest habitable planet, an unexplored world named Zeltaan-Free by Earth astronomers. The surface was exceptionally flat, which should have made for an easy landing. I don’t know what went wrong. Gavin, the pilot, didn’t have time to explain. All I know is that the lights on the control panel started flickering madly and the pilot who kept his cool while escaping a black hole lost it. To his credit, he managed to stay calm until the seats began to melt. In the few seconds before the crash, I watched him stare at the approaching ground, frozen. He died upon impact along with everyone else. Don’t ask me how I survived. I’m still trying to figure it out.

Zeltaan-Free is not an empty planet, thankfully. If it was I’m sure I would have gone mad long ago. When I first saw the aliens I thought I was. Mad that is.

It appeared as though our presence gave them form, for they remade themselves in the human image.  Some of them looked like me: wavy brown hair, thin lips and a small oozing cut high on the forehead. Others looked like my friends from the shuttle. They would have been a welcome sight had the aliens copied them any time before the crash. Instead I was surrounded by endless clones of my thirteen dead friends and graphic reproductions of their fatal injuries.

At first I could not bring myself to look at them. While averting my eyes I sometimes glimpsed the aliens at the edge of my vision, revealed for what they really are: simian imps with sagging yellow skin, jaundiced eyes, and distended abdomens. They have six ribs. I counted. And five fingers. I counted those too. Though to be accurate they only had three proper fingers and two thumbs, one on the wrist and another halfway up the forearm.

I’m an ordinary human, but to these aliens I am a god, an immortal, ageless being. They found it impressive that I could remember events that happened generations ago.

It was really no strain for me since their average lifespan was about 20 hours. The oldest lived a day. A year to them is about fifteen minutes. I’ve timed it. You see, I wear a watch, an old earth relic. The second hand ticks twice for every five of their days.

I once complained that my battery would run out soon and my watch would stop. “Soon” it turns out was a poor choice of words. Within seconds, the world was in panic, believing that the end of time was approaching. I had to explain that the device on my wrist only measured the passing of time and was not time itself. I also explained that many generations would pass before it stopped.

Every day I reassure them that time is not ending.

My watch also keeps track of the day and the month. As of yet, none have noticed that the number changes with each new day. In the first few days after the crash the month changed, from Nov. to Dec. It’s funny to think that when I die, no one in the universe will know that their full names are November and December.

I try not to think about dying on this world. Alone. However, I’ve often wondered what these aliens will think when I breathe my last. I suppose they won’t notice for a while, since my heart beats every few of their days and I draw a breath about once a week. There’ll be mourning and chaos for a few sunrises I suspect. But then they will forget.

When I die. It will be as though I never was. Like a footprint in a sandstorm.

To them, my mark upon this world is being filled in, grain by grain of sand by the very patient child of time.

To them, I will endure forever.

They marveled at how long I could survive without food and water. I hardly see a one of them not eating or drinking. Often, I stand over their crops, watching them grow. Again and again and again. The aliens flit around like insects, stripping the fields bare. Shoots push up from the soil, leaves unfold, flowers bloom and fruit swells. I blink and the fields are bare once more.

One day, I accidentally cut myself on a metal panel I had salvaged from the shuttle wreck. I had been trying to fashion some sort of shelter. They aliens watched me. Each time I fitted a panel into place they had a celebration that lasted a whole four seconds. One alien drank a drop of my blood, the blood of a god, thinking it would make him immortal. In a way it did. He lived for twenty five hours and sixteen minutes. Within minutes, there were drawings of him everywhere in the dust. Two days later the aliens wiped them all out, claiming that he was a blasphemer and denying that he had lived any longer than normal.

These aliens have no city, nor any concept of why they would need one. It’s always overcast and damp, but it doesn’t bother them. They know of nothing else.

The days on this planet are the exact length of earth days. I’ve timed it. Some of the aliens say that one who is born during the dark times will die in the dark times. Others disagree. I’ve tried to tell them that this is mostly correct. I told them every day for a week. Then I stopped and the arguments resumed.

The only structure on this planet is a wall. They call it the wall of memories. Each one of them makes a brick during their lifetime and inscribes it with something they’ve learned in their “years”. Ever since I arrived a good many of them have been about me. It seems that they only have time to read five or six bricks in their lifetime, so knowledge is not passed down very efficiently.

The aliens communicate with each other telepathically. Since I first arrived, I’ve been able to understand them. All. All at once. It sounds like it’d be overwhelming, but it’s not. After I got over the initial shock of thousands of voices pouring into my mind from a spot somewhere behind my left ear, I realized that they’re thinking the same things most of the time. Eat, reproduce, read the wall, and make a brick to leave advice for future generations. It’s all rather jumbled. Like static on a television. I hadn’t been there a day and I was already missing TV. I longed for the droning voice of a news anchor informing his viewers that something big had exploded and the wonderful long lives of many people had been cut short.

It’s a relaxing sort of hum, all those voices. Occasionally, if I do something odd, enough of them will think the same thing for me to understand a specific question. And then I answer with the voice of god. My words resound through every mind. Then fade away like an echo and are forgotten.

I might as well be alone for all the company these aliens are. It’s impossible to have a proper conversation with them. They ask the same questions each day. Always the same.

Is time going to end? No. Do those born in the dark die in the dark? Yes, mostly. Can you make us live forever? No.

Where did you begin?

I nearly cried when I heard that. Just one voice. One Voice asking something different. I thought one who spoke took his image from Gavin, the pilot, but I couldn't be sure. There wasn’t much face left to recognize. To him I took an age in answering. But he persevered. I am from a planet called Earth, I said. It was full of life, but now it’s gone. I spent all day telling him about it and he spent his whole life listening. He recorded a lot of what I said on his brick. After sunset, he placed it in the wall and died.

He was famous for an entire week. Then they decided he made the whole thing up. When I saw they had defaced his brick, I was furious. With the laser gun from the shuttle I smote many of them with a power beyond their pathetic imaginings. They feared me for generations.

In a few days, they forgot and returned to the same old questions. Why don’t you age? Can you make us live forever? Is time going to end?

I continued listening for One Voice asking one question, not knowing if it would happen again but clinging to the hope that it would.

I felt guilty for killing so many of them in my anger. In a few days, the incident was entirely forgotten, so I suppose that’s a type of forgiveness. Despite my guilt I wasn’t satisfied. I was still angry.

Shortly, I designed my revenge. Each day I planned to move the last few bricks of their wall so that it would spiral into a center point. It may seem petty and cruel, but it was the only entertainment I had. I calculated that the wall would spiral into its final point by my next birthday.

The culmination of my devious plot was not nearly as satisfying as I had hoped. Sure, there was absolute pandemonium for a minute or two, but then they figured out that they could write on the other side of the wall. The cycle continued.

Interesting things began to happen as they started to write on the other side of the wall. The aliens used the time they used to spend making bricks to gather food to last them through the dark season. As a result, there were fewer famines. And they lived longer.

The next day I witnessed the dawn of medicine. There’s a plant that will grow here if tended carefully. If the aliens eat its blossoms they no longer suffer the momentary cramps that last what seems like days for them. The longest recorded lifespan is now twenty six hours and forty three minutes. I’ve timed it.

Still, they asked the same questions while I listened for the One Voice.

The aliens started hunting these little creatures that look like rabbits with two sets of ears. They hunted with their hands until I showed them how to make simple spears. They ate them raw until I gave them fire.

I found another One Voice. This one looked like the one girl on the shuttle whom I never got to know. I don’t even remember her name. I talked with this alien all day. Somewhere along the course of the conversation I realized that I didn’t want her to die. I was so terribly lonely. I gave her a drop of my blood, the blood of a god, to bless her with “immortality”. She saw two sunrises, two sunsets and no more.

Their lifespans continued to improve, but I had no way to measure them, save for the turning of this planet because my watch finally died. Time had ended. There was panic for until they forgot that my watch had ever moved.

As time went on, they began to leave the human form behind. Their yellowed eyes bulged out of skin painted skulls. Somehow, the sight of them no longer disturbed me. I guess it was more of a relief to see my friends finally laid to rest.  

I had been on the planet for a total of two and a half years when the aliens reached the other end of the wall. The average lifespan had reached a record of eight days. In that time I found forty two aliens who had One Voice.

They started making bricks again and everything went backwards. The little shops that sold things disappeared. Within a month, they returned to a diet of plants and forgot fire entirely. They took on the human image again, using the only model they could see. They all began to look like me.

I tried to stop them from making bricks and recording things in their stupid wall. Every day I told them, they listened and they forgot.

The aliens started asking the same old questions again. Can you make us live forever? I’ve tried. Is time going to end? It already has.

I’ve started moving the wall again. In smaller increments this time, to make the spiral larger. I hope I’ll live long enough to hear One Voice asking “Why do we build this wall?”

© Copyright 2018 S Hewes. All rights reserved.

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