The rabbits are soaring in the sky tonight. The owls are prowling below ground. The topsy turvy magic has won out and we are trapped here.
There are stairs going sideways in the air instead of up or down. There are trees growing downwards, their roots thrust in the air like expressive javelins. There is a moon shining in the sky, but it is bright green and the sky itself is red.
Red is for blood. For fear. For the end of the world.
It all started several years ago, but it was so slow that none of us knew what was happening. How could we? How could we predict the changes that were to come? Seven years ago we still thought that rats were mute creatures that had no language like ours, we thought that we were alone in the universe, we thought we were the most intelligent species there is.
Now we know the truth, which is that we don’t know anything. It’s a start, at least. It’s something.
The elders say we need to be patient. That things will sort themselves out. They talk about the second coming of Christ, about the return of the Buddha, about Khali raising an army for us. About the God of the Old Testament throwing fire and spreading brimstone around the forests that have turned on us. They tell us stories at night, by the light of our generator-fed lamps. We listen and eat out of old cans and plastic bags of chips. We rip apart packages of desserts that last forever and discover they are rotting inside. Even the laws of chemistry and physics do not apply anymore.
At the beginning, we remember, we were told that this wasn’t the end of the world. It was an anomaly, so some said. Or a discovery. A momentous occasion. The landing of the first ship on earth was meant to excite us. The television news anchors were spinning it with smiles plastered on their faces. The online journals and newspapers and blogs were split about evenly between Armageddon-fearing moronic pieces of drivel and excited scientists spreading their zeal for knowledge.
Some of us, it is important to say, wanted to remain ignorant. This seems unbelievable to some, or at least it did, it used to. Now people know that ignorance really is bliss. When reality goes nightmarish on you, all you want to do is shut your eyes and go back to sleep. We understand the wisdom of that now.
The landing, the first one, was relatively innocuous. The ship was empty and we had no visitors, but there was a host of communications. It took a long time for the people at NASA to decipher all of it. The rumor was that they’d actually needed to hire some of the conspiracy theory nuts we used to watch in online videos, because the nuts knew more than the NASA people. They’d studied more about this stuff, they’d trained themselves to spot patterns and connections that real scientists simply didn’t believe in.
Once we’d accepted that changes were coming, when we knew that another ship was coming, that we were going to have to figure out diplomacy with creatures besides humans really fast – that was our golden age. Suddenly humanity bonded together and wars that had been raging for years, even if subliminally, were put aside. Occupations were either accepted by the occupied or abandoned by the occupiers. There was something bigger than all of us happening and if we didn’t adapt to it we would all, collectively, be left behind.
Then, too, there was that idea that is prevalent in every small community – which is, after all, what we’d learned we were. Just a small neighborhood, maybe the equivalent of a block or so of the universe, which was far more orderly than we had always assumed. No, it was our own minds that were in chaos, not the laws of the universe. The idea, though, that became overwhelmingly clear was that we didn’t want to be ashamed of ourselves. We wanted to be able to hold our heads up with pride, to hold ourselves together, not as races or nationalities or peoples, but as one species regardless of our differences. We knew that it was important to bond together.
It was as if we knew that everything was going to go wrong. Almost as if we could feel the crazy mounting up against us, the rules breaking, gravity shifting beneath us, the laws of reality bending. We were right. But bonding didn’t help us at all. Nothing could have. We were, we are, doomed.