June 30, 2009

Field Work: Year One (9/11/2002)


Blankness washes across the screen. The first words are the hardest words to write. Where to begin, what may I say, what may I do? I only want the reader to look at me, to read my words, to hear my story. No, it is not enough to hear or read. Those two senses are overrated. Too many people have been born - without sight, without hearing – who have lived relatively comfortably lives. What I want, what I desire, what I need is for someone to feel my story, as I have. This is a story, one where I was not a passive observer. I have felt this story in every fiber of my being. This episode has made every hair on my body become erect. It has made my fist and my teeth, both tobacco-stained, clench in unison. These events have made my toes curl as my calf flexed inside the leg of my trousers. I need to tell someone, as I have no real friend to relate this too. Its been bottled up, and now, as I finally wish to tell, all my comrades have fallen, to disease and dishonesty. Thus, you, dear reader, have the enviable position of being one of the first to know my side. Now I begin.


Do not try to read between the lines of my story. If I had any “meaning” or hope social relevance, I would not veil it. What you read, what I write, is black and white. Shades of gray are too varied to interpret, and frankly, are a waste of our time, yours and mine. Also, there are no real themes. In this manner, I hope this can be like a big-budget Hollywood movie. Express feelings of shock, amazement, pity, or any of the plethora human emotions you have. Just be sure to check your brain at the door. Things will explode, and there will be the obligatory romantic sub-plot. “How do you know?” you might ask. I know of course, because this is my story, and I lived every minute of it. Since I lived it though, I might give warning to you, dear reader, as I only know how I felt, and what I saw. If I tell you of something that happened outside of my hearing or eyesight, be wary, for humans are unreliable creatures, and they cannot be trusted in their memory of events. They distort words and create images. We must not disdain the entire race because of these faults, but be mindful of their shortfalls, and embrace them as the loveable creatures.

Information, Background

Before I can get to the meat of the story, by this I mean the explosions and the obligatory romantic subplot, I feel it is only fair to provide some basic background information. I am the last of my race. This is not as in your implausible “Superman” myth, and no, the yellow sun of Earth does not give me superpowers. I wish it did. As is, it has made me weary oftener than not. I did not grow up among the humans, but in my childhood, I was entertained by the television programming, actually, intrigued would be a better word. In fact, it is because of the television programming that I am the last of my race, but I’ll get to that. I loved the human race, and in school, I strived to learn as many of the human dialects as possible. And yes, I had to learn them. Your science fiction has hit on many truths of the outside universe, but a prevalent theory, this of the “universal translator,” missed. (See: Assimov, Dick, Vonnegut, Heinlien, et al) Everyone else still have to learn languages as happens on Earth. My fascination grew throughout my education, and as I reached what would be the equivalent of college, I focused on what would be anthropology to you, but in our perspective, it would be better termed zoology. I graduated, and my fascination stayed, so I stayed in the halls of knowledge.
Keep in mind this is still background. I’m getting to the important part. I cannot lie, so happens with my race, so I will say with pride that I was the most highly regarded researcher on the subject of Earth in Alpha Centurion. (The cluster of planets if you desire: Palahniuk, Elysian, Bumpa, Pater, Cabochon, and Nabokov. Only the first three are inhabited. Pater and Cabochon are lifeless rocks. Nabokov is a pale ball of fire at the far margins of our cluster. As a side note, your “science” has failed to spot them as of yet.)
I hate to injure the pride of the entire human race, or lessen anyone’s opinion of me, but I will say that in academic discourse throughout the universe, Earth is an enigma. To make an analogy, I would say that everyone else sees Earth in the way that Americans see Canada. Full of promise, but with a weary eye, because its capabilities are still an unknown quantity. Truthfully, several times there have been resolutions proposed in the Universal Council to preemptively strike against Earth, before Humans realized their capabilities. In fact, twice I have argued for the human cause of self-sufficiency. You are all welcome. It is because of your unstable nature that academics have largely avoided the human race. Most of the universe has been able to accept and embrace differences between the different races and cultures, but you can’t get along with each other. In my studies, I have noted that on average, there are 15 conflicts at any one time where at least 50 people die each day. This can be nation against nation, a nation against people within the nation that have differing ideas, or even one man against his own people, thriving in his own power as he denies basic needs to his own people. In the rest of the universe, there is an average of two such conflicts at any one time.
With that in mind, it is, as you would say, a miracle that I even set foot on Earth. It is a credit to the investors who backed me, and a show of courage on my part. It is not that much courage though, I was still somewhat young, naïve, with much faith in what might be called “The Human Condition”, and I much desired to study your race.
As to why I am the only one remaining of my race, and why you and not scholars throughout the universe are reading this, a quick side story is necessary. Three Earth months (two months on my home Palahniuk, with the 36 hour day) after I began my fieldwork, Bumpa was attacked by Elysian, and a general recall of all Palahniukians was sent over the communication waves as a protective measure. My craft was injured upon landing in the dense Earthen atmosphere, and I could only listen as I heard the reports of the war. Bumpa and Elysian laid waste to each other’s planets, rendering them as cold and lifeless as Pater and Cabochon. They then sought refuge on Palahniuk, and began enslaving my people. My people are weak by nature, but resourceful, and no one wanted a life of servitude, so they activated what I would call a “Doomsday Device” (thank you, Dr. Strangelove) and annihilated the planet of Palahniuk. The Aurora Borealis here on Earth was spectacular that night. All that remained of my beloved cluster was the pale fire of Nabokov, burning softly on the margins of what was once my fatherland. This may seem like a cheap device of fiction, and to those who feel that way, many apologies, but once again, I will state this. All that I tell you is true to the best of my knowledge. Palahniukians do not lie, so the veracity of the radio dispatches is not in question. Neither is the veracity of my account.
Now I am alone, my fame disintegrated and no one comfort me. Maybe I could make friends, as I am an affable creature, but there is one real quirk about my race. Most of the time, I appear translucent, or what you would call invisible. This is due to the chemical differences between the make-up of humans and those of my race. My people are (were?) silicon-based life forms, where humans are carbon-based. It is not implausible. Look at any periodic table. Silicon is directly below carbon. They share many of the same chemical properties, the only real difference is that the bonds formed by carbon are stronger than those formed by Silicon. Also note, silicon is the main “ingredient” in the mineral quartz, which is the main component of sand, which is the main structural effect in glass. I hope you follow that, if not, a summary. In effect, my race is made of glass, when kept clean is hard to see. The only Humans who ever really connected with me were the youth, but whenever the parents of the youthful friend I made found out about me, I was belittled. Several times I was told, with me in hearing range, that I did not exist. Hearing of your own inexistence is a disheartening fact.

The State of the Human Race: An Anthropological Viewpoint Based off a Small Tribe in an Urban Setting of the United States of America

Some months I wandered after the unfortunate incident with my craft. My plan was to land in one of the cradles of culture in the human world, Paris, London, New York, or Beijing. From the initial observations, I planned on moving throughout the ones that I missed and visiting several large cities, as well as several rural areas. The plans were good for nothing as the nitrogen rich atmosphere of Earth hindered my craft, and made my navigation equipment useless. Aiming for New York City, I ended up in the state of Illinois. Actually, my approach skipped me across a giant lake, one that you know as Lake Michigan. My craft ended up coming to a rest on the western shore of this body of water, and from there, all I had with me was what I could carry. Thankfully, I had a bag that I could carry on my back and port around what I would need for survival. I only needed few amenities, among those a fan, to keep cool in your highly temperate seasons. I was only comfortable in the winter. The snow drifting reminded me of home. However, it was summer when I landed, and I was highly uncomfortable. The flames from the exploding craft of mine were only mere inconveniences. Thankfully, it exploded only after I had salvaged the rudiments of survival. (Explosions: see prologue) I sought solace in the stately houses along a road marked “Lake Shore Drive.” These houses were palaces of opulence. The children had anything they could ask for; any whim of theirs was fulfilled. The resources spent on one of these children in a day could sustain one of my people for a year. You have to be mindful though, I don’t mean to paint these children as spoiled, but we naturally need fewer resources, being as a full-grown adult the size of a three-year-old child in this country.
I spent the good part of a year in and out of several of these houses. In four of them, I spent considerable time, as I was made to feel welcome by the children. The only way that I became visible to the human race is that sometimes the sun shone at the right angle through my triangular head and the youth became transfixed at the prismatic effect of my head. This happened several times, but only on four occasions were these children resourceful enough to question how the rainbow formed. Maybe it was fright, but I think that it was most likely curiosity that led them to assuming the truth, that there was someone else there. All four cases were relatively the same, so I will focus on only one of the cases that I have observed, and that is the case of Edward Himmelstoch.
At the time of my arrival at the Himmelstoch home, Edward was three years old. He was able to walk and his language skills were well developed for someone who had only been studying the language for three years. My English was rather rudimentary as well, but it was sufficient to be able to communicate with young Edward. We developed a friendship, based mostly off of three items. Our common stature and our language skills were a good start. (At the time, I was only comfortable with the present tense in the English Dialect. Le première langue de moi ètais François.) The main binding element between the two of us however, was my prismatic skull.
In five months as an observer in the Himmelstoch home, I saw many things that can only be true in the human race. Foremost of these elements is the idea of the “Nanny.” The future of the human race, as is the future of all races, is dependent on procreation. In all the other races that I know of, one or both of the parents is responsible for the upbringing and education of the offspring. Humans are unique as a species, as those who can afford it, lend out their children to others of their species. Often these borrowers are of a different color than the parents and the children. The ones that I saw ranged in color from a mocha brown to a blackness as dark as the night. Edward’s borrower seemed to be an exception in this case as she was of the same milky-white color as Edward. Why this disparity, I am not sure, but the loaner, or “Nanny,” loved Edward as she would probably have loved her own son. I saw her, Angela she was called, with Edward more than I saw Heidi, Edward’s mother.
This is just conjecture, but I believe that these “Nannies” are one of a number of subordinate races to humans, as they have to do the bidding of the humans that control them. Among these I would count, nannies, butlers, cooks, gardeners, and the obscure pool boys. At every house on Lake Shore Drive that I visited, there were anywhere from one to all of these races in attendance catering to the whims of the humans. While they all looked the same in structure, the difference was in the color of their skin. Except for Angela, all the members of the subordinate races were of a darker hue than their ruling counterparts. This fact puzzles me, even after questioning my friends. Even Edward concurred, saying something to the effect of “That’s what happens.” This is still a curious occurrence, as this was hinted at in the television broadcasts that were received on Palahniuk, but never to the full effect of what was seen in first-hand observance.
The figure of Angela remains an enigma. Through all my learning, all my studies, I cannot categorize her. She does not fit into the picture of subordinate races that seems to be a relatively simplistic view of the human race. First, her eyes are a haunting shade of blue. I have seen blue eyes in the dominant humans, but never in the subordinate races. They usually have a homogeneous shade of brown that signifies their own insignificance. Angela’s blue is different; as is her command of the language Edward’s parents, Heidi and Erich, speak. In both it is the difference between sapphire and the fur of a dog. It is different from the other subordinates, but it is also different from that of the parents. The sounds come more from the tongue and the teeth than the back of the throat. She speaks like my English professor back on Palahniuk. The subordinates speak in a drab brown; the Himmelstoch’s speak in a semi-lustrous green, but Angela speaks in a radiant blue, like the skies of my home. I can’t describe it, but it seems that Erich, Edward’s father feels the same way. When Erich is around, Angela laughs more than Edward does at the bath. Her eyes light up, the corners of her mouth turn up more than I’ve seen, and Erich loves touching her. It seems that humans thrive on tactile sensations.
My race, when there was more than one, could appreciate the tactile, but we thrived on the scent. The scent in our world played the role of the human’s tactile sensations and the sight aspect. In humans, it seems that the radiant blue eyes are all it takes. Heidi has dull green eyes, and Erich never acts like he does around Angela. Humans seem to thrive off of the eyes, and the touch of others.
Edward too, loves Angela. He has the same sapphire eyes that she does. If one would be of a suspect mind, I would say that Angela was the mother instead of Heidi. I highly doubt that to be true, as the subordinates and the humans don’t seem to mate, even if their color were the same.
I have been on the surface for about a year, Earth time, and I have yet to see any evidence of the suspicion that the universe weighed against the human race. Only through further studies will I be able to tell if the concern was justified, and being centuries away from my expected demise, I hope to cover the plethora of cultures in the human race, and report upon them all. I have only examined one part of one culture in one country, but I have found nothing that suspect about the humans. I truly believe that the universe’s condemnation came far too early. I have much work to do.