Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Descent of Man by John Robertson

Read by Damien Barnes

You can call me a fool for believing in humans. You can dismiss it as a lame refusal to grow up, or a sign of mental illness. But I know we’re not alone in the universe. I’ve known for years that man is out there, and that he’s visited our undeserving planet on many occasions. And now I see it firsthand as I speak.

Let me give you some background.

Yes, I was your typical sci-fi nerd as a kid. Lacking friends, I sought solace instead in comic books, movies, and in conspiracy theories about military bases where human autopsies had taken place. My daydreams were haunted by crudely imagined humanoid faces — clumsy hair on their heads, grotesque nostrils, and those pointless, comical eyebrows.

But don’t let that mislead you. I only seriously grew aware of human existence after becoming a well-adjusted adult, married and with kids of my own. Coming from a long line of farmers, I’d taken over the family estate by then. My life was far removed from the preoccupations of my childhood. And it was only an appearance in one of my corn fields one morning that brought them back with a vengeance.

You’ve no doubt heard about crop circles. You’ve probably even seen their photos in tabloids and dismissed them as ludicrous hoaxes. But I promise you that when they appear in a farmer’s field, his life is never the same again.

I tried to forget the first appearance, believe me. But months later, the same thing happened in a neighboring field, and in another soon after that. And I grew certain that these separate, magnificent formations could only have been created by something or someone beyond this world.

I started researching such patterns, and it became impossible not to attribute them to humans. Humans, who had clearly come down here, who were clearly trying to tell our species something, and who were clearly calling on me to help them.

And so began the unraveling of the respectable adult life I thought I’d secured for myself. I started mentioning the idea of humans to everybody I knew, only to be routinely met with stares of shock, then uncomfortable silences, then more uncomfortable attempts to laugh it off.

Later, as my obsession grew, there came looks of deep concern, and glances of pity at my wife. Yes, my poor, suffering wife, who I know wanted to understand but just couldn’t. I’ll never forget the day she sobbed and kissed me as she told me to get help, then put the kids in the car and drove off for good. I had all the time I wanted now, she said, to chase after my “monsters”.

That word stung the most. For I know that humans are anything but monsters. On the whole they’re quite like us, even if they did descend from a different primordial soup. Someone once said that if we want to neatly categorize the human species, we should categorize them as “featherless bipeds”, a description I’m fond of for emphasizing their commonalities with us.

And yet our society still fearfully depicts them as evil monsters.

I learned this most of all when, after being finally shunned by my friends, I turned to the hidden world of societies and support groups set up for those who’ve encountered humans. Here I found folks who believed in man, alright, but who saw him as the biggest threat to our entire planet. Many made absurd claims about humans abducting them into spacecrafts and conducting bizarre experiments on them. Some said that humans are violent even to each other — that humans don’t simply disagree with each other and abandon each other, the way some of own depraved species do, but that many of them cause deliberate physical harm to one another, and even kill one another like animals.

Thankfully, most experts disagree. The best authorities on the subject say humans subscribe to supernatural belief systems in which an Invisible Sky Lord commands them to love all their neighbors. He even commands them to love neighbors who wrong them.

This is an admittedly tough concept. And I think it’s the impossibility of wrapping our heads around it that leads so many of us to demonize humans instead. So we not only take the worst offences of our species and project them onto humans, but we then have to add to them the darkest deeds imaginable.

At the end of the day, such deplorable acts of ours are what make my belief in humans so important to me. You see, when I say I believe in humans, I mean not only that I believe they exist. I mean I trust in them. More than that, I trust in their ability to save us from our wretched ways. For we have no Invisible Sky Lord, so what else can I put my hopes in but these advanced beings that we already know have visited us? What else can I put my faith in but humanity?

And yet I don’t need faith anymore. For now, as I said, my eyes have been invited to witness the truth themselves.

It’s night outside my farmhouse now. And through my window I’ve finally seen it. The mancraft — that elusive light from above that I’ve been waiting for — has arrived and descended majestically onto the nearest field.

I brace myself before going out. I grab a lantern. Refusing to indulge the clich├ęs of our paranoid pop culture, I don’t pick up the pitchfork next to it.

Then, stepping outside, I see them immediately. About six of them in the distance, not aware of me yet. Real humans, in the flesh, in all their living, breathing glory.

These ones are bulkier than usually depicted, and the hair on their heads is cropped short.

They’ve planted a flag in my field, which I can only take to be a gesture of friendship.
Slowly, I lift the lantern so they can see me. They do and suddenly freeze. Then they smile a warm smile.

Yes, they have mouths just like us, and smile just like us.

Except that their smiles are funny-looking, upside down. And those nostrils of theirs are flaring, presumably to help them breathe better. And their eyebrows — those pointless but ever-so-cute eyebrows — are adorably furrowed together. The overall expression has the most primitive air about it, as though it you might find it on man in his earliest natural environment.

In their hands they carry powerful-looking metal objects with double barrels on the end. Gifts from their own world, no doubt.

One of them, who appears to be the leader, is now yelling commands at the rest. And I know that it can only be the command, carried forth from their Invisible Sky Leader: the command to love. Here finally is that love which my own species — my friends and my wife even — have denied me.

At his command, all of them hold their double-barreled objects at eye-level, and point them in my direction — clearly in offering. My lonely, abiding faith in humanity is about to be rewarded.

And so I run forth, with arms open and a cry of gratitude, towards the saving grace of the featherless biped.

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