Raw

I have done this many times before, so much so that you would think the routine would have become mundane by now, but every time is different. Different times, different people, different places, few similarities.

As I stood at the doorway I reveled in the beauty of this place. The lush green forestry was almost complimented by the clean structures created by those who lived amongst it. Of course I didn’t get to go off the ship; that was the captain’s job.

I looked down at the captain talking to the crowd with the sergeant at his side. The sarge wasn’t really needed, our equipment could eliminate any threat these people could create, but security was a political issue, especially for a government ordained crew like us. I guess I should be glad, seeing that keeping an eye on things is my job and all. Still, it seemed unnecessary, everyone looked so peaceful.

For the first time I envied the captain, he got to talk to those in charge and explain our reasons for visiting while I was stuck waiting for the geologist to finish his report. At least I had a view. From my position at the door I could see every person in the crowd and from their clothes and faces I could judge their age, job and motivations. No one was going to try anything here. Yes, this was a peaceful planet. I did not see anything out of place.

I took it upon myself to relax and people watch. There was a school near where we landed and a teacher led her students to bear witness.  My favorites to watch are always the children. Their faces show so many more emotions than those of their older counterparts. No matter how different the child, intrigue, excitement and confusion are an interesting mix to witness flashing across its face at once. It happens every time in every place, and always makes me smile. There’s just something different, something burning deep down in the smallest depths of their souls that I can’t place my finger on. Were those better days? Maybe. Less complicated days for sure. Was it their hope? Their innocence? Maybe their unwavering optimism for the future? I pondered this for some time and lost myself deep in thought.

My thoughts were interrupted by the geologist as he abruptly made his way out of the door, almost knocking me off the ramp in the process. This was different; usually he came to me first. I watched as he conferred with the captain. Something was wrong. The captain quickly turned to those in charge as the geologist ran back up the ramp. I grabbed him as he tried to run inside. “What’s going on?” I asked. “We gotta go,” he replied. “What do you mean we gotta go? We haven’t even started the process.” “It’s too late,” he replied, “the planet’s already in stage five.” I nearly dropped him off the ramp in shock. That’s impossible, not this planet.

Right then those in charge announced to the crowd what the captain had told them. Immediately the mood changed. This peaceful planet, in all of its perfect tranquility, had just been condemned. Panic overtook anticipation and the crowd disbursed in chaotic fashion. There was yelling and running, but none of it mattered. They wouldn’t be able to prep quickly enough and we knew it. The captain returned to the ship with those in charge and a few others. I met them halfway down the ramp to help them in. The captain was calm, as I had been so many times in the past, but this time, for some reason, I couldn’t be. I yelled at others to come with us, but fright and instinct forced them to run away. I frantically tried to explain that they had no choice and that they would die if they did not follow, but I was no good at communicating with people so different. I began to yell louder, the desperation painfully evident in my voice. Still, no one stopped, except for one.

A small child noticed my yelling and stood motionless at the bottom of the ramp. I recognized him from the group of children I had seen earlier with the teacher. I yelled for him to come with me. His face showed confusion, excitement and intrigue but this time it did not make me smile. I wanted to run out and grab him but I knew it was forbidden. Instead I stood there helpless, with my arms reached towards him.  I tried desperately, begging and forcing what sounded like “please” out of my mouth. As the others ran frantically around him, completely immersed in indefinite bouts of uncontainable hysteria, a calm expression came over his face. For a moment it looked as if he finally understood the gravity of the situation. He looked right at me, focusing intently on my face. I urged him, with every ounce of being in my body, to understand and take one step toward me. Instead, he slowly lifted his hand and moved it back in forth in a waving motion. I stood rooted in place, mesmerized. In the middle of an unruly crowd, this child, as calm and confident as the captain, acknowledged me. It was as if he knew, and he knew that I knew, and wanted me to understand. When he finished waving he paused for a second, smiled… and ran away.

At that moment I felt someone grab me from behind. It was the captain. “We don’t have time for this,” he said. I turned around to look for the boy, but did not see him anywhere. I turned to explain and beg the captain to help me, but the expression on his face said it all. This was not our job. Defeated, I returned to my post, locking the door and the fate of billions behind me.

——————————————————————

That day was centuries ago. I received a medal and nearly unlimited funds for the small role I played in perpetuating the survival of that species, but all the money and praise couldn’t make me whole. I felt something that day. Something I’ve never felt before and something I’ve never been able to explain to anyone else with any success. Every night I am cursed to dream, and every dream is more frightening and compelling than the last. All I can see is the smiling face of that child, the only human to ever look me in the eye, and all I can feel is the same indescribable feeling:

Emptiness.

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Comments
4 Responses to “Raw”
  1. Moe says:

    WOW! Very powerful Kev. Almost made me cry.

  2. hmunro says:

    You have the raw materials for a great novel here: I want to know more about who you are, the worlds you’ve visited “many times before,” and the people you’ve left behind. *Please* keep filling out this storyline, because I”m hooked!

  3. tsonoda148 says:

    This was awesome, Kluck! I completely agree with hmunro that it has the makings of a great novel. I want more!

  4. Leslie Madsen says:

    Powerful!

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