The Pulse: Paris
If Madame Dupont froze when she saw the Baulian, she was nearly catatonic when the creature addressed her in passable French, asking if she needed instructions on how to proceed. The Baulian, doing it’s best to make the subjugated creature feel at ease, added, “Can I help you in any way whatsoever? You look faint.”
Madame Dupont responded that she was alright, but that she was disoriented because he had addressed her with the informal tu, instead of the more appropriate vous, especially given her advanced age. She reprimanded the creature, whose name was Balazan, adding that if he insisted on acting like an American, the least he could do was not talk like one.
Unclear as to the exact meaning of her response, the 533 year-old Master Tactician asked if she would like to sit on a nearby bench. Balazan suggested this might be an opportune time for her to learn about the new custodians of the planet.
The Baulian made a courteous sweep with its eight front arms, gesturing for her to take a seat at the bench beside her. Balazan added, “Please, make yourself at home.”
Madame Dupont responded haughtily that she was already at home and that he was the interloper.
Balazan considered this the right moment to disabuse the subjugated human of any misunderstanding she entertained about her present situation. “Madame Dupont, your cultural expectations of freedom and auto-determination are admirable, yet you’ll find life much easier from now on if you accept the notion that humans no longer control The Planet Formerly Known as Earth. Humans had ten thousand years to create a workable planet, but were simply not up to the task. This could have been overlooked if humans lived on Mars, yet Earth is far too precious a planet to leave in the hands of habitual mass murderers.”
Madame Dupont had to sit down to process that particular piece of information.
“And what do you call the extermination of humanity?” she asked weakly.
The Master Tactician, judging inaccurately, judged that this was a perfect moment to introduce key concepts to the human subject, and to help her understand that she was in capable hands. “Madame Dupont, we have in-depth information on all humans still alive. You call the method of keeping this information files. We take these files and put them into smaller forms. The closest human word for this form is fractal. The combination of these — fractiles — allows us to assimilate enormous quantities of information about space, time, cultures and species — in all forms of what you call media. The reason I qualify media is that we employ forms of media that have no equivalent on Earth because they aren’t known to the animals on this planet. Not yet, anyway. These forms come from over 2.7 million subjugated worlds.”
“In brief, the fractile labelled Justine Dupont, Paris, 1932 indicates that you believe, as do we, that humans are the single largest threat to life on Earth. While this isn’t technically accurate — there’s a larger threat outside the parameters of our present discussion — it nevertheless makes sense to conclude that human intellectuals were bound to see it that way at the beginning of their twenty-first century. And you are, Madame, an intellectual par excellence, if you’ll excuse my poor French.”
Madame Dupont was shocked by everything she heard. Her mind could understand it, but her heart couldn’t keep up.
Her mind was in a strange way comforted. She had entertained so many existential scenarios and she had brooded on the violent course of human history so deeply that she was profoundly pessimistic about the future. Only yesterday she concocted a couple of scenarios — one involving aliens and the other involving gods — that she immediately dismissed as optimistic fantasies.
Humans had indeed made a mess of everything. Her fellow citizens were burning cars and smashing windows, again, in yet another protest against the most powerful man in the world. This man had a bright orange wig and talked like he could barely spell. She imagined him as a sock-puppet on some stupid American talk show. Yet he was only blurting out nationalistic things that many in that country thought, since the days of slavery to the wars against Vietnam and Iraq. As bad as all that was, the bulldog with the orange wig was the least of her concerns. The world had dozens of Hitlers, many of whom had nuclear bombs and no intention of listening to anyone who had a different opinion than they did. And some of their opinions were so dogmatic and cruel — or so sneaky and disingenuous — that the puppet theatre in Washington started to look like perverse entertainment. At least the man with the orange wig was part of a larger system that made some sense. At least there were cooler and more tolerant heads from Boston to Baltimore and from Seattle to Los Angeles. Those places were starting to look like paradise next to Caracas, Karachi, Kinshasa, Kisangani, Kano, Culiacán, Los Cabos, Kingston, Cucuta, Cali, Cape Town, Kabul — and that was just cities starting with a hard C.
She had long ago given up on the hope that there was a God who would despite all the chaos gave meaning to life. Yet she always held inside her the slim chance that some other forms of life exist. The universe was simply too big to count out this possibility. And if there was life elsewhere then there was always a possibility that aliens might do for the planet what humans seemed incapable of doing. She had written this bizarre hope in her final article, titled “If the Red Queen Won’t, the Cheshire Cat will.”
She looked up at the giant pink cube, and realized that this was the alien she had dreamed of. But it all seemed so absurd. Camus for the alienated, and now for the aliens.
Her heart couldn’t contain her feelings anymore. Her vision blurred. She saw Jeremy step out from beneath the arches of Notre-Dame. He was floating calmly across Place Jean Paul II, seemingly unaware of the bright pink cubes that were now playing croquet on the lawn. Her body collapsed into his strong arms.