Born On July 05 • Littletown • Let’s Fly Away
Born On July 05
Americans have a long-standing tradition of setting off fireworks the night before my birthday. I try to stay humble about it.
But really, America, you shouldn’t have. A simple card stuffed with cash would have been enough.
And maybe a cherry pie—which I like better than birthday cake—if you really want to go all out.
And possibly a Gibson Wes Montgomery L-5 archtop guitar, if the buying mood strikes.
And perhaps a new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, if you happen to be at the showroom.
But that’s all.
I mean it.
Don’t go crazy.
Happy Unbirthday to you!
Littletown is a special place.
Far off the beaten path.
They rarely get visitors, but when they do, they are treated like friends.
I was driving down Main Street and stopped for a slice of apple pie.
Folks were so friendly, I stayed.
I live in Littletown now.
Let’s Fly Away
Travel tip: Avoid Atlanta (ATL) airport.
I loaded airplanes for 27 years. First for Midway Airlines, then for Northwest Airlines (both now out of business. Not my fault!) This is how I remember it.
We had tried to colonize three planets. All three were failures.
Mars was too inhospitable to survive outside of our domes. We eventually learned that humans are not psychologically equipped for living inside of domes. Humans need sky. We need outdoors. More than that, we need to breathe outdoors. We cannot survive long-term in domes. Politics on Earth prevented terraforming from becoming a reality and killed the dream of a green and blue Mars. Mars was eventually abandoned.
We turned to planets outside of our solar system. Habitable “Goldilocks” planets. Our next attempt, Insulam, had lifeforms that viewed us as pests. We became their insects. Worthless things to be killed because we looked creepy and were annoying. The next planet we ventured to, Spero, didn’t have any lifeforms outside of vegetation. But the vegetation was too toxic to eat. And the soil killed any Earth crops we tried to plant.
Things were getting grim. Earth was dying. We had no other choice but to colonize or perish as a species. We sent out scout ships to hundreds of planets scientists considered life-sustaining possibilities. These were one-way missions. Our task was to evaluate our planet, and determine if it was suitable for colonization. If we survived, we would report back to Earth and humans would follow our lead.
Kate and I went to Somnium, which is Latin for dream. When we arrived it seemed like a dream. Somnium isn’t really a planet. It is a moon orbiting a giant gas planet. One of a dozen moons orbiting the planet. They all appeared habitable. We chose the one that seemed most promising and landed. It was a good choice.
Somnium is similar in size to our own Luna but lush and green. Life abounds. Intelligent life, we soon discovered. The natives of Somnium are humanoids. Quite similar in appearance to humans, though smaller and hairless, with a purple tint to their skin. They are farmers. They have developed tools and domesticated farm animals. They seemed unafraid when we arrived, and through gestures welcomed us with food and drink.
Over the next two years, we learned their language, their culture, and how to farm their crops. It was an ideal existence. The moon was beautiful beyond description. Green and purple crops covered the slightly hilly land and deep blue lakes dotted the landscape. It was nothing like the polluted, dying Earth we left. The Somniums didn’t have a name for their moon, they just called it “here.” We grew to love our new home and its inhabitants.
Somnium had none of the problems created by humans on Earth. There was no central government. People simply cared about each other. Life was simple. You worked hard and then enjoyed your rest and the company of your neighbors. The Somniums lived a peaceful life. They had a saying they said before every meal. “The land gives. We take. The land takes. We give.”
Earth had decided if scouts could survive for two years on a planet, it was a suitable candidate for colonization. On the evening before our two-year anniversary on Somnium, Kate asked me to walk with her.
“Jack, we can’t do it.”
“We can’t report back. You know what will happen. Humans will come and wipe out the Somniums. We will ruin this place also. It’s our nature.”
“Are you crazy? Earth is dying. We have to report back.”
“Let them go somewhere else.”
“What if there is nowhere else?”
“They sent out almost a thousand scout ships. They will find something.”
“And what if the other scouts do the same?”
“I don’t care.”
“You’re letting your emotions cloud your judgment. This is our mission. Billions of lives depend on it. Tomorrow we will report back.”
“Please, Jack, think about it. We will be killing this place and the Somniums if we report back. The Somniums aren’t equipped to deal with all the garbage humans bring. And this moon certainly can’t sustain billions of people.”
“The other moons are likely inhabitable. And we could use this as a base to find other planets.”
“Jack, I’m begging you. Just consider it.”
“I will. It’s late. Let’s head back.”
When we got back to the village, we saw a horrifying sight. Several Somniums were laid on the ground in neat rows. They were dead. They all had a single stab wound to the chest. One of the Somniums standing near the bodies saw us and motioned us over. We had never seen him before.
“I am Neb. I imagine you are wondering what is happening? I will explain. The land can only sustain a certain number of us. Every two years the eldest among us give ourselves back to the land so the children can enjoy their time on the land. One elder for each child born. It is called The Thinning. I am the Thinner.”
“That’s barbaric!” Kate said.
“I do not know this word,” Neb said.
“She means it is wrong,” Jack said.
“This is the way of things. It has been since time past and will continue for all time. The land gives. We take. The land takes. We give.”
At that moment two Somniums grabbed both Kate and Jack by the arms and held them. They were surprisingly strong.
“You have upset the balance by being here. The land will take you now also.”
Then he pulled out a long knife.