the visitor


you are an alien
from an advanced culture in a faraway galaxy
visiting Earth
you may not even have to visit corporeally, perhaps
you just scan in visually (or using whatever sense you have
that is similar to our Earth creatures’ sense of sight)
or maybe you just will your consciousness to Earth
or imagine us as we are
or could be

one way or another you approach
zooming in Google Maps style
marveling at first at this lovely green and blue planet which
judging from its atmosphere and geophysical makeup
is teeming with carbon-based life

you come in closer and you can see more direct signs of life:
a great ancient wall, and on the dark side
a brilliant profusion of artificial light, and then closer you see
some great grey patches where life has been almost exterminated
replaced with melted stone and smelted metal
and coated with a black sheen, the liquified skeletons
of creatures past

and then as you zoom closer yet you see
instead of the expected proliferation of wildly divergent life
a horrifying sameness all over the globe:
one species has been systematically expunging
all other life on the planet save
the few dozen plant and animal varieties it harvests for food

this species has overrun the planet like a monstrous plague
and is obliterating the differences in local landscape
replacing them with the uniform blight of flatness and imaginative poverty
rigid grids of containment, vertical and horizontal,
within which this species hides from the truth of the rest of life

the areas not covered with these grey voids
are covered with the food factories for this species
huge homogeneous expanse of monoculture
where only one captive species is allowed to live
imprisoned in cruel and pathetic containment and squalour
and all other creatures within are poisoned or purged

there are billions of this destructive and domineering species
eating everything like a plague, leaving the land
bare and lifeless and barren, and as they exhaust the land and life
they fight among themselves with unbridled savagery
over what remains

their most powerful leader plots to own everything
allows a tiny minority to hoard it all —
and proudly proclaims himself the war president

and the followers suffer a kind of massive
pathological disconnection from everything
like zombies, automatons, cowed and numbed
into obedience and conformity and constant helpless fear
obsessed with and steeped in violence and believing that
the deus will rise from the machina, or
some super-hero of their own species will somehow save them
from their own folly:

no matter what they do
they will be forgiven
it is not their fault, their responsibility
it has been going on for ten thousand years, since ‘history’ began
and it has always been like this, or worse, they say

and now you have zoomed in so close
you can look into their eyes

and see nothing

so you withdraw and watch
from a distance, this sad spectacle of madness
this tragedy unfolding in this place
of staggering natural beauty

and then you decide what you must do

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5 Responses to the visitor

  1. Cyndy says:

    Quite a vivid, powerful view of ourselves. Shaking my head and wishing I could withdraw, decide what to do and do it.

  2. Emily says:

    Oh, that’s heartbreaking.

  3. Doug Alder says:

    Sounds like you’ve been reading Shari S Tepper’s “The Companions” :)

  4. Ben says:


  5. Zach says:

    Humanity a monsterous plague? Thanks I appreciate that, really.

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