A collaboration between myself and egg dahl. Together we authored and performed a radio play, which tells the story of two future humanoid-icthyic beings who travel through anthropic wastelands in search of knowledge and resources. Special thanks to James Fink for voice acting.
click here to listen!
Narrator: Two young members of a small submarine hamlet were sent out on a mission to find a resource site. Although their journey was of great importance, they were given little direction and encouraged to take as many mental notes as possible. These are their notes in translation.
ACT I: EMBARKING
1: We received our assignment as the moon reached its apex. We were to head out after solid rest and a meal of kelp. Our mission was to locate a new resource extraction site left to us by the Anthropos, our distant relatives.
2: We gathered together supplies for the duration of the trip. “1” was assigned the trash compass, rather begrudgingly by the council of our committee due to “1’s” past inability to keep track of precious materials. Still, they decided to trust “1.” I was given charge of the binoculars. “1” brought along their crushed aluminum vessel, always held within a pocket closest to their webbed tendrils.
1: After we had properly installed our cargo we were kissed by each member of our hamlet. As we said our final farewells I overheard 6 whisper to 3 that 2 and I should not be partnered because both of our minds and bodies tend to wander. I ignored this statement, understanding that 6 is only concerned for our well-being and for the success of the voyage. I kissed 6 a second time, assuring them we would return with plenty of information to share.
The initial swim was familiar. We swam along the Familial Ocean Floor until we reached the Black Oil Cloud From Metal Origins. From here, we swam up to the surface of the water, playfully extending our limbs beyond the surface wall. We headed west, the rising Central-Star kissing our backs. With distance, the empathic and telepathic bond linking us to the rest of our hamlet faded.
We crossed the Churning Acidic Sea avoiding the Pacific Trash Vortex, which was teaming with Sturdy Sleeping But Angry Creatures. We looked at them with 2’s binoculars.
2: Before long, we became overly mesmerized by the Sturdy Sleeping But Angry Creatures, and I had to remind “1” of our course. We continued on. The journey was not monotonous, almost calming, as we found our way above the extreme temperatures of the Calorophonous Current and were pushed onward by The Gentle Current of Thingness - by far my favorite of all the currents.
1: It took us only 3 moons to reach the Sunken and Crumbled Ruins of Ancient Past. We released ourselves from the soothing caress of the current and swam down to observe the wreckage composed of Anthropogenic Lithologies.
“It’s strange, do you agree?”
2: “It is strange, I do agree.”
1: “Why do you think they felt compelled to build such structures? And out of such material? Our research indicates the substances necessary to create such architectural feats were extracted thousands of miles from here. And the extraction process destroyed and altered complex systems you and I could never imagine.”
2: “I can not know what would have compelled them to do so. I can only imagine that they possessed a relative amount of short-sightedness rooted in Toxic Individualism and fear of the death of organism. We do not possess this fear.”
1: We passed fully through the Crumbled Ruins of Ancient Past and entered into Anthropic City, known simply as Human Metropolis No. 1. The water was shallowing. Soon we would be ashore. I was drawn to a large, flat, rectangular structure which had fragments of an ancient image still attached. 2, however, seemed drawn to a crumbling yet still-standing structure.
“Shall we reconvene after a bit of separate investigation?”
ACT II: SEPARATE JOURNEYS
Narrator: The two separated, pursuing their respective interests. They ensured their telepathic communication glands were properly activated so they could maintain a steady stream of empathetic contact.
THE LONELINESS OF ARCHITECTURE
2: I thought the following as I swam downward, towards what appeared to be a mostly dilapidated - but still somewhat intact structure. ‘Human architecture is so strange and honestly unsettling, but through their architecture we can begin to understand the ways in which they navigated their world of land.’
1: “Can you imagine being fully without organic empathetic telepathy? It would be like living without a heart. Like living without skin that feels.”
2: “Yes, I agree. I can’t really wrap my head around the reality of that feeling...so lonely...so confusing too, I would imagine.”
The skeleton of the structure was primarily exposed, showing that it once had been an extremely tall entity. The word “sky-scraper” shot through my head. Humans had called these buildings sky-scrapers - as if skies could be scraped. I headed towards this structure, and entered into the parts that seemed most intact.
I found myself inside a long rectangle, which seemed to have functioned as a passageway of sorts, leading to the separation of more space. The long rectangle was lined with other rectangles, some unhinged and others still connected to the body of the larger rectangle. From my webbed tendrils, i shot out electrical sparks which pushed forward one of these rectangular pieces of material about the size of my body, probably a little taller than a human would have been. I thought about how strange this whole act might have seemed to a human. They did not possess webbed tendrils as we do, you see, merely pointed skin sacks comprised of little bones called phalanges. We have phalanges too, so this word might sound familiar to you, but ours are fused and flexible, cartilaginous and possess currents of telekinesis.
I went into this demarcated space beyond the hinged rectangle, and found myself within a cube-like room, an open square opposite of me, a metal frame, its four legs reaching up to about a quarter length of my body, another hinging rectangle to my side, some other objects, most rectangular…. at least the ones that remained. Based off my observations, there must have been thousands of rectangular spaces just like this spread throughout the surrounding ruins.
“It seems as if this ruined city could have housed a hamlet as large as 20 million bodies. I can simply not comprehend this.”
I went to the metal frame and hovered above it. I recalled from educational diagrams, this space was called a room, and this metal frame I was floating above, was a “bed;” the open square, a “window” - a structure that allowed the entrance of light. The hinged rectangle to my left was a “door” and most likely would have once held a “toilet”, a shameful place, a hidden place. It was all so strange. I had been shown diagrams of this sort of room my whole life; and everything I had been told about the room seemed to be here, but in my mind, I had at least imagined that these spaces would be somehow connected, the beds rearranged next to each other, the walls torn down, the light let in more readily. I couldn’t grapple with the idea of sleeping on this strange metal frame alone, without the rest of my hamlet pressed up against me.
I tried in that moment, to understand what would have compelled humans to build so many elements of their architecture for the singular body; or occasionally two bodies. ‘They must have really liked being alone or being with just one other body. They must have somehow found solace in this.’ I tried to imagine this feeling.
In the past, occasionally, I would turn off my glands of telepathy and be alone with my own sensations. This was important and healthy, and most of my hamlet also engaged in this practice. But what compelled me to turn off my telepathic glands in that moment, was something different.
I could no longer feel “1,” as I powered down my telepathic glands. I was truly alone, and for the first time in my life, I think I was lonely. With the closing off of my telepathic nodes, I keyed into another channel of empathy; the last human who had lived here, the last human who had died here. A single one, unaware of their place within the webbed universe.
I couldn’t feel their name. It didn’t seem to be important. But I could feel how they slept. I could sense how they woke up in a fit with something pressing on their chest, feeling as if they were a golden goddess of light, part of some higher level. I could feel how they convinced themselves that these sensations were merely dreams or imaginings. I wanted to tell them that dreams and imaginings were just as viable as perceptions, but I wasn’t sure if they could hear me; humans’ levels of empathy, while apparently extremely variable, were differently expressed than our own.
While I was hovering there next to the sadness and resolute wonder of an ancient human, lost to my own sensations and theirs, sharing an overlapped world of silent water...
DISCOVERING THE CAPITALOCENE THROUGH THE HEARTBREAK OF EXCESS
1: I swam toward the large rectangle. From the various ancient documents and relics we have observed we have learned that some Anthropos erected large images to communicate to one another during what even humans called the “Great Acceleration” which took place between the first Atomic Event and the Total Collapse. Humans were not telepathic like we are, so they had to use various objects and systems to share information with one another. Like us, they utilized various languages comprised of bodily movements, vocalizations, and visual signs and symbols. Their communication practices changed drastically around the same time large machinery appeared. The production of communication objects such as “books,” and the earliest electronic telepathy devices date back to between one and two centuries before the Atomic event. From our understanding, anthropo generated telepathy devices allowed them to inorganically call out to each other. They even had strange portals that allowed them to visit inorganic telepathic environments. This place was called the Interweb.
I reached out to 2,
“Can you imagine being fully without organic empathetic telepathy? It would be like living without a heart. Like living without skin that feels.”
2: “Yes, I agree. I can’t really wrap my head around the reality of that feeling...so lonely...so confusing too, I would imagine.”
1: My attention was regained by the structure. I realized that this kind of monument was purposefully placed by large Anthropogenic Lithologies designed for the movement of robotic, fossil-powered vehicles designed to transport humans faster than their organic bodies could manage. I looked around the rubble and noticed a gargantuan metal beast in the distance. I swam over to it. It was a large rectangular vessel with 16 discs attached to its base. It was on its side and balanced precariously on the edge of a steep drop off. This vessel once moved resources from one human settlement to another.
I swam to the end of the container which hung off the edge of the drop off. The vessel’s opening-and-closing mechanism was slightly ajar. The crack was just wide enough for me to squeeze through. It was dark inside, so I reached for a fire orb. With light, I could see that this shipping container was filled with Pre-Total Collapse elixirs held within aluminum cylinders.. The mountainous pile of redundant relics had accumulated a bit of algae, but the elixirs were-- for the most part -- in tact. I touched my hip, which had a pocket attached to it. Inside this pocket was a deflated version of the thousands of objects before me. This realization made me feel strange
2: “It seems as if this ruined city could have housed a hamlet as large as 20 million bodies. I can simply not comprehend this.”
1: I was overwhelmed. The massive anthropo population must have consumed millions of these elixirs every day, constantly extracting matter from the flesh of the earth, exploiting the rivers and creatures and vegetables for whatever substance these cylinders contained.
I wonder what kind of human had absorbed the elixir called “Mike’s Harder Lemonade”, which the aluminum vessel on my hip once held. Were they thoughtful? Did they consent to the so-called Anthropocene? Did they know that their habits would lead to a drowned Earth? My mind wandered further.
It often gets lonesome in this world. Especially after our research-- after discovering the biofacts of thousands of species who no longer roam lands that no longer exist.
As I thought these tragic thoughts, I ran my tendrils along the curvature of the peculiar arrangement of aluminum artefacts, which were imprisoned together with plastic cuffs. I started to miss 2 terribly. And I missed every member of my hamlet, and all of their important virtues, and the ways they each enhanced the system in which we live and circulate. I thought about how thankful I am that we have each other, and that we live the way we do: observing the world to the best of our organic ability, exploiting the detritus left to us by our bygone relatives, and restoring the earth in whatever way we can.
I was lost in my homesickness, caressing the soft-metal relics, when I noticed movement from the furthest end of the container. I shone my fire orb in the direction of the movement. I instantly felt the weight of a thousand ancient elixirs as a creature with eleven bright eyes hurried past me. My empathic abilities informed me that this creature was terrified of what ways I might harm them or exploit them for their capital. In their hurry to escape, they bashed against the transport containers opening-and-closing mechanism. My soft body, crushed and unable to move, could do nothing to aid this panicked being.
“2! Help me! I am trapped! Can you sense my location! Please help!”
I was confused by the silence I received. 2 must have felt my adrenaline and cortisol levels spike, yet I received no reply. It is unusual to experience such pain and such fear without any response from a hamlet member.
“2, please! There is a large creature who is trapped as well and they are panicked! Be aware! Though, please hurry!”
The creature continued to ram themself against the mechanism, trying to squeeze through the opening. They were too large. Four massive tentacles and a bulbous head managed to partially wedge into the opening, but they became stuck almost immediately. The commotion of the creature’s panic caused the whole vessel to shift, and some of the aluminum cylinders slid toward them, rolling off my crushed body and up against their flailing appendages.
I soon felt the entire container tilt, and then-- we were falling. Freed from the crushing weight of the relics for a split moment, I extended my webbed tendrils. (Zap!) The opening-and-closing mechanism flew fully open. The creature instantly aborted the container, completely out of sight in less than a seconds time. The now fully ajar opening showed me an ever approaching ocean floor. Stray elixirs flew toward me in this frenzied fall.
I soon lost consciousness.
REUNION AND LAND AHOY
2: I felt my telepathic nodes throbbing. I experienced an adrenaline spike and swam up from the place above the rectangular metal frame where I hovered. I switched my telepathic nodes back on. Backlogged messages appeared.
1: “2! Help me! I am trapped! Can you sense my location! Please help!”
“2, please! There is a large creature who is trapped as well and they are panicked! Be aware! Though, please hurry!”
2: I urgently swam off to where I last felt 1’s location, i returned to my own empathetic channels and left my ancient-anthropo friend behind. From my spatial memories of where “1” had last been, I headed West. Knowing “1” and their inclinations towards the collection of objects, I imagined they would head towards a more open space in which they could survey a wider array of human remnants. I came across an expansive field of rubble that ended at a drop off. I swam over to this drop off and witnessed “dust,” freshly unsettled. I peered over the edge and noticed the presence of a large rectangular metal box, with 16 discs upturned.
I rushed down, and as I approached, I saw an opening to the gargantuan metal box, and immediately noticed, hidden under a pile of small metal objects, the long tendrils of 1’s slender blue hand. I telekinetically removed the debris and pulled “1’s” body towards me, gathering them into an embrace, and promptly swam up to the surface of the water. 1, bruised and bloodied, was fully unconscious.
As I swam toward the surface, I noticed a continual stream of silvery blood and tracked it to something moving in the distance, a creature with an enlarged head and several tentacles. I surmised that this distant creature had something to do with the bloodied nature of my friend. In that moment, I forgave this creature and sent them a wave of compassionate empathy, hoping their palpable fear would cease.
I soon broke the ocean’s surface and acknowledged the presence of land.
ACT III: TOWARD THE BIG FIND
1: I regained consciousness, and found myself being poked and prodded. My entire form was throbbing. I sat up quickly, but was hushed by 2, who was nursing my wounds. I was dizzied by the strong pull of gravity and soon realized we were no longer beneath the surface. It felt as though the sand on which I lay was being violently pressed into my very being. I cried out in pain.
2: “It’s probably best if you sit back for another moment and let the Central-Star do its work of healing your wounds.”
1: “Did the creature survive the fall?”
2: “Yes, I believe they did. I saw them swimming away -- bleeding a little -- but I sent them a wave of empathy, and I think they will be fine.”
I laid back and rested my head against the granulated bits of rock and plastic. The coastal sky was entirely grey, yet almost purple. I watched the clouds swirl above me, forming and reforming into odd configurations. I tilted my chin forward which directed my gaze toward the ocean, waves lapping at the land, perhaps threatening to swallow more than they already have. I tipped my head back and rolled my eyes toward the cap of my skull and saw an upside down version of the mass of dirt and architecture and vegetable. I tucked my chin once more, looking toward the ocean again, and examined my body. I watched as my bruised and broken flesh absorbed the rays from the Central-Star. Our bodies have evolved to heal and sometimes even feed themselves from Solar magic. I looked toward 2, who was gently removing my pockets and packages, and I sent them a loving and thankful wave. A comparable wave returned, and I closed my eyes and slept.
A HELPFUL PROTEIN
2: I carefully unclipped every pocket that was strapped to 1’s body. I laid the pockets out on the sand and quickly surveyed them, running my fingers along the fabric and zippers. I began to fiddle with the pocket that I had removed from 1’s hip. It was a long and slender pouch, and unfortunately -- I realized quite quickly -- was smashed. My heart sank a little bit, and then I laughed at the irony of it.
This was the pocket that held the trash compass.
‘Oh, how 6 would have shaken their head, not having trusted 1 with the precious trash compass in the first place. ‘Oh, well,’ I thought. We would have to continue this search in the dark, using only our own knowledge of the landscape to guide us. A blind journey.
1: I awoke, confronted by a field of stars. The sky was moonless. 2 had curled up next to me, resting their own tired bones against mine. Rising slowly so not to disturb them, I surveyed my form. Most of my wounds had closed, tender scars in their place.
The ocean’s horizon told me the Central-Star would soon rise. I was disoriented by the passage of time as I couldn’t be sure of the hour we landed ashore. The sky had been pure grey. Perhaps I only absorbed an hour of star-rays, but that wouldn’t explain my quick healing, especially on this Moonless night. I settled into my confusion and waited for Star-rise.
2: “1” slept for the entire day after we landed ashore, and while they did, I decided it would be safe for me to wander along the shore. The clouds parted and made way for a rather gorgeous sky, the Central-Star streaming like silver onto an ocean of rippled gold and lavender. Despite the broken trash compass and the extreme loneliness of anthropogenic architecture I had experienced just last eve, I felt incredibly at peace, with the waves lapping ever closer. I wandered over to some tide pools that caught my eye, dipped my webbed leg-hands in the salty discs of water, which looked like mirrors to different worlds.
A pink creature approached me from my left, emerging from the water, crawling sideways towards me. I was delighted to see the creature. I proclaimed “crab-friend!”
Crab: “Hello. How are you?”
2: “I am well. And yourself, dear crab?”
Crab: “I am well, thank you. I saw you and your companion over there on the shore. I hope your companion is healthy.”
2: “Oh, yes they are...for the most part. Look, I was wondering dear crab, about the presence of a meadow which holds specific human detritus, caches of resources that would be relevant to my species?”
Crab: “Hmmm. I am trying to think. I do not go far outside of range of the tidepools, but other creatures have told me about the presence of a green-scape north of here - not far - that holds a plentitude of remnants from human life - a burial site of sorts. Many creatures have already harvested what they need. I would head along the river delta and into the forest of vegetables that exists there. Then farther north.”
2: “Wonderful. Thank you, crab. You have been of great help. Now tell me about your day. Have you had a good one?”
Crab: “Very good, thank you. The light is lovely right now. The waves sound like music.”
2: “Yes, I agree!”
Crab: “Alright, would you like to eat me now?”
2: “If that pleases you.”
Crab: “Yes it does.”
2: “Good. It would please me as well. And of course you can tell all the other crabs they can eat me and my friends whenever they please.”
Then I smashed the crab with the palm of my webbed tendril, and pulled off its exo-skeleton. It tasted delicious. I thanked it again, and saved half the meat for “1.”
1: The Central-Star rose and the night-stars faded into a rainbow gradient sky. 2 slowly opened their eyes.
“Where is the trash compass pouch?”
To this, 2 reluctantly replied by pulling the pouch from underneath their body. It had been damaged by the fall. I cradled my head in my hands. To this, 2 replied by offering me a handful of crab meat. It was still relatively fresh. I ate it quickly and took great pleasure in doing so.
“How will we proceed without our crucial tool?”
THE BLIND SEARCH BEGINS
1: Well-rested and adequately fed, 2 and I marched inland. The jagged landscape was littered with ruined architecture and spotted with patches of dense vegetable. We followed the crabs directions closely. I was a bit jealous of 2’s encounter. We don’t often meet creatures outside our hamlet. I was reminded of the terrified being inside the container below the sea. The panic they experienced due to my presence pained me. If I had not startled them in such a way, could we have been acquainted? Perhaps even friendly and loving to one another? My longing for expanded companionship drove me to vigilantly observe and listen to the land around me. My favorite part about traversing airspace is the acute quality of sound sensations. I had excellent listening glands. I was hoping to detect the presence of local creatures. Perhaps they could help us on our mission. And better yet, perhaps we could gain new friendships.
2: As we headed north, I started to doubt the validity of the crab’s directions. I knew we would need more information. I could sense that “1” had tapped into intense channels of listening. I decided to focus on the sensation of smell. To my delight, among the odors of earth and vegetable was another more pungent odor. Feces! A map if ever there was one! I trotted towards the smell, causing soft rustling of vegetables as I swooped ever closer to a location in which fresh feces was surely buried. I knelt to acquire a better understanding of its origin, but before I could reach my goal, “1” stopped me and prompted me to be silent with a quick gesture. I followed “1’s” gaze through a vegetable cluster and was met with a set of eyes; gleaming, iridescent.
1: My heart pounded with excitement. 2’s expert olfactory senses led us to a sign of life. We were not alone. Beautiful, shimmering irises stared at us through the greenery while their form remained largely hidden. I sent out a wave of empathetic energy, ensuring any and all creatures within our vicinity that we were of non-violent nature and sought only friendship. I then slowly lowered myself to the ground, resting on the understory of vegetable. It was covered in vines. I became more aware that these vines covered most of this area, and made up a large percentage of the visible greenlife. Pronated, I settled onto the ground, eyes closed, in the most vulnerable position I could manage. 2 followed my lead intuitively. We remained still. Slowly and rhythmically we began to hum. With time, I heard a rustling from the direction of the eyes and then… a rustling from the opposite direction. And soon the vegetables all around us were gently shifting. I opened my eyes to find that we were encircled by small, furred creatures. I identified the original pair of eyes among the dozens that stared cautiously down upon us. They slowly blinked, indicating that we were trusted.
2: I stayed in my position of vulnerability, shifting only my head and neck to look at the array of creatures. I surmised they were Mammalian. I could tell by the obvious presence of fur, and I was confident that if I investigated further I would find mammary glands and a four chambered heart. Unlike us, they had ears which extended beyond small holes, and formed concave triangles of flesh protruding out of the tops of their heads. From my position on the ground, I established an empathetic connection with these creatures. Immediately, I sensed a drive stronger and louder than the rest: hunger. Their hearts were beating with it. They were ravenous. I decided action must be taken.
“If we offer you some of our flesh, will you reciprocate with information?”
They responded in a chorus.
FELINE BEASTS: “Please and thank you.”
Feline Leader: “We would be very grateful for whatever nutrition you can sacrifice. We are a hungry bunch. These invasive vines suffocate our home and provide no sustenance for us or the creatures we pray upon. Sometimes we hear a rare rodent beneath the foliage, but they are often malnourished and impossible to catch or seduce.”
1: “How long have you been hungry?”
Feline Leader: “Generations. Our ancestors migrated to this compromised forest from the urban landscape just before it was submerged. Although they threaten our survival in some ways, the vines provide good cover, and the sky-reaching vegetables provide refuge from unpredictable flooding. The few forest creatures who cohabitate with us tell stories of a forest dense with uncountable vegetable life of varying form and function. These ancient and bygone green-forms provided food and shelter for equally plentiful and diverse meat creatures. We are not so lucky.”
1: I sat up slowly as not to scare the lovely creatures, which now kept us company, and surveyed my still-healing form. I located a wound that had not been fully closed by the Central-Stars rays and reopened it fully. I laid back down and closed my eyes, breathing deeply.
“Take what you need.”
2 took their forearm in their mouth and opened up a large area for the furred creatures to feed upon. To our generosity, the beings responded by raising their tails toward the sky. They began feeding, taking turns at our flesh like a litter of childlings to their birth-guardians bosom. The leader, who I felt bonded with, took their turn. They kneaded upon my flesh, and their throat began to emit a low hum. It was a sound I had never heard before. It reminded me of the moaning of ancient machines 9 studied, but was gentler and comforting. Again, I was lulled to sleep.
I awoke, my form covered in sleeping, furred creatures. 2 was still unconscious. I sent them a wave of wakefulness, alerting them to our need to heal. We still had several hours of Central-Starlight left.
2: I awoke upon 1’s prompting. We needed to have full exposure to the Central-Star in order to heal in time. I shook the furred creatures off of me. They lazily began to stir, engaging in luxurious movements, stretching their bodies into subtle arcs - perhaps a ritualistic behavior. I watched them intently, then spoke:
“I hope you enjoyed our flesh. I have no want to rush your waking rituals, but would you mind guiding us to a more open location, so that we could heal under the remaining light of the Central-Star? Perhaps on the way, you could tell us where to look for a site of human detritus?”
Without speaking, the furred creatures prowled around in circles. They came over to both 1 and I and butted their heads against our flesh. It must have been an empathetic response. Without prompting, they all turned in the same direction, their tails pointed upwards, and started to run through the low ground coverage. We followed, rather slowly, holding our gaping wounds with care.
As the furred creatures led on, they told us their story. I have to admit, I barely listened - my whole body was throbbing from the loss of flesh-fluid - I believe “1” was better off than me and received the information in a more lucid state.
1: I listened to the oral history of these loving spirits as we followed them through the crowded greenscape.
Feline Leader: “We are the descendents of a companion species to humans called House Cat. Our feline predecessors were accustomed to the urban landscapes constructed by their human masters. Our deep-time ancestors were drawn to human civilization because of their waste and surplus of meat. We have an ancient epigenetic imprint relating to human detritus. We can lead you to the site you desire.”
1: The creatures were able to skillfully leap through the twisted vines beneath us, but 2 and I were not nearly as graceful. I could sense 2 was especially weakened, so I took them upon my back, carrying them through the densest section of vegetable. I let them down as we approached the clearing.
2: When we reached the site of enhanced Central-Starlight, I immediately collapsed, sprawling onto the ground, which was covered in vines that crept out from the dense forest. I stretched my limbs far, so as to soak up as much healing light as I could. I felt myself smiling, and sent 1 an empathetic wave. The last thing I saw before I fell into a deep and resounding slumber was a set of iridescent eyes staring down at me. A new friend. They curled up against me, their body’s low hum somehow helping the healing process.
1: I knelt slowly onto the ground next to 2 and used their belly as a prop for my head so I could face my new friends while we spoke.
“We will need to stay here to bathe in the day’s remaining Central-Starlight. We ask for your patience and compassion.
Feline Leader: “Of course, my loving friend, we are eternally grateful for your generous sacrifice. We want nothing more than to keep your company while you heal.”
1: 2 began to snore aloud, slightly disturbing the creatures who had recently curled up beside them. One of them relocated to the ground by my feet.
Feline Leader: “What is it you seek? What is your purpose?”
1: “We seek manufactured objects which possess various kinds of knowledge and information. Our kind is propelled by inquiry and driven by a deep inclination toward observation. By gathering an expansive understanding of this world and it’s tragic history we are better able to navigate it and help restore its fractured systems. We are reliant upon the remnants of the technosphere for our purpose. Our current mission is to locate and archive the contents of human waste sites so we can comprehensively understand the changing climate and its origin.”
Feline Leader: “That is an interesting task. Won’t such an activity require the destruction of reestablished lands?”
1: “No. We are gifted with strong empathic and telepathic abilities. We are able to see and feel the history of objects which belong to the technosphere without gauging or displacing the earth unnecessarily.”
With this the creature was pleased. They told us of a meadow only a short distance away which held a cache of manufactured objects beneath the soil. The creature was saddened to inform me that their community could not accompany us, as a large beast roams the land around it and would surely prey upon them. They were to return to the safety of the vines and sky-reaching vegetables.
ACT IV: THE MEADOW
2: I woke up with the rising of the Central-Star, fully healed. I propped myself up and witnessed “1” strapping on their pockets and then bending down to stroke a furred creature. After this tender exchange, the creatures promptly left, heading towards their place of origin. I blinked lazily, extending my empathy towards them as they faded into the vegetable.
1: The furred creatures’ directions were careful and succinct. We followed them exactly. We headed west, eventually reaching a field of rubble. There were some standing structure, but only fragments of their past condition. We then crossed a river, relieved to join the hydrosphere once more, even though it was only for a brief moment. We went south, toward another agglomeration of ruined architecture. This was a desolate land. As we neared the edge of this littered landscape we spotted an expanse of flat, empty earth. 2 gasped with pure bliss. They sent me an empathetic wave communicating their joy in the vision before us. I responded with a loving wave, acknowledging their peculiar love for the horizon.
2: The horizon spread out before us in an epic sweep. To know the great totality of this sphere is a gifted sensation, its infinite curvature all encompassed in one singular stroke of land and sky. I walked towards the meadow, almost in a sort of daze. I am quite sure nothing would have stirred me from my reverie had it not been for the jolt that followed: a screeching, odd noise - almost mechanical, like metal on metal - and then a wail so mournful, it struck every empathetic cell in my soft globe of a body. I could feel “1’s” empathy spike as well.
We both followed the noise. A creature was approaching us through the ruins. I could not see their whole form- only the soft glint of matted fur and the strange clustering of what appeared to be feathers. As the creature approached, their terribly evocative screams continued. I repeatedly tried to form an empathetic connection but failed again and again - something within the creature was blocking my access. I looked towards “1” in a confused manner, wondering if they had been successful in establishing a connection where I had failed, but they too seemed at a loss. The creature came into full view, continuing to screech. They were truly gargantuan, at least 4 times our size, and possessed a sand colored body, as well as a set of enormous drooping wings - like that of a seabird - that protruded out from the top of their furred body. Beyond all this, they moved oddly - unexplainably - like no creature I had ever seen. I felt as if I could witness the slow shifting of parts beneath the matting of their fur and giant white wings. And then the Central-Star glinted off a piece of metal that was sticking out of the creature’s hip. I stared in awe - had this creature been terribly wounded in some way?
1: I staggered backward, frightened by the alien qualities this monstrous creature possessed. It was not flowing in the way biospheric critters flow. Instead, their movements were choppy, almost… digital! I quickly realized this creature was not one of the biosphere, who recycled themself among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere, but was a creature of the technosphere. Yet their flesh appeared to be organic. This was a truly astonishing site. I communicated telepathically with 2,
“This creature is not one of analog nature, it is digital. It appears much of their body utilizes binary code.”
2: “That would explain the barrier this creature presents to empathetic waves. Perhaps within this one body, lies the amalgamation of both binary code and the genetic code, DNA? Engaging in two modes - the genetic and the memetic. What a fascinating and odd creature. Yet so tragic sounding.”
1: “I agree. My heart is heavy and cautious.”
I spoke aloud to the creature, who grew increasingly near, seemingly stalking us.
“We are non-violent creatures. We mean you no harm and hope you mean us none as well. We are here with great purpose.”
Griffin: “You are on cursed land. This land is broken and filthy. I have guarded this place since the Total Collapse, during which much sadness and violence took place. I have seen ages upon ages of various forms of suffering caused by the hands of men. I am a victim of such inflictions.”
1: The creature was only a few bodies lengths away as they spoke, stepping closer with each word, eventually breathing hot, metallic breath directly onto our cheeks.
Griffin: “I am a perverted creation: several pre-capitalocene collapse animals jammed together into one blasphemous demon.”
1: The creature used language I had learned from old texts and anthropo-imagery. My eyes grew as I realized that this beautiful, alien being before me held memories obtained before the Total Collapse.
Griffin: “I am alone in this world with only the remnants of my birth time to remind me of my terrible origins. You must leave this place, for I need to be alone with my sinful existence. If you do not go, I will be forced to remove you.”
1: “Do you have a name, creature?”
Griffin: “I am the Griffin of the Anthropos. Most creatures who I encounter simply refer to me as ‘beast’ or ‘demon.’ They fear me and my unusual movement. They do not accept me into their sphere of existence.”
1: My heart sunk further into my chest. I extended my webbed tendrils to caress this beast on the cheek of their snarling visage. They flinched, swatting me back with one of their enormous talons.
2: I watched as “1” flew across the dead ground, thrown back from the force of the Griffin’s defensive strike. I walked over to “1,” extending a hand as well as a wave of understanding.
“Griffin, my companion was not meaning to cause you harm. We do not see you as a ‘beast’ as others do. We are rather fascinated by you, and would like to be your friend if that is something you are interested in.”
1: After helping to lift me from the ground, 2 brushed some dust and small pebbles from my flesh. I locked eyes with the Griffin who appeared speechless.
“I only wish to extend compassion through the language of physical affection. I apologize sincerely if I breached your sense of comfort and safety. I do not wish to make you feel unsafe.”
Griffin: “I once knew a human woman who would stroke me upon my head. She worked in the research laboratory where I was created. It once stood where we now stand. This area was once a living human conurbation, teaming with human activity and production. I was counted among those productions. I am not sure of my purpose, but I do know I was once loved by a kind being who treated me differently from the others. I was not an object to her.”
2: At this, I began to cry. Salty globules of water poured from the crevices of my eye sockets and ran down the fleshy green of my face. There was a familiar quality to this empathetic response - similar to the sadness I felt towards my ancient human friend. Perhaps this was a sadness specific to an anthropic reality. I could feel “1” beginning to excrete water as well.
Griffin: “Are you human? I haven’t met any creatures who have the ability to cry besides the apes who were freed from the zoos post-collapse, and they could not communicate in the same capacity as you.”
2: “We are part of the same tree of lineage. But no we are not human.”
Griffin: “You don’t appear human. Where are you from and why are you here?”
1: “We are from the ocean, east of the pacific trash vortex. We belong to a submarine hamlet of Observers. We absorb the information from signals of the anthropocene, especially manufactured objects, which helps us understand the origins of the world in which we live. We are here on a mission to absorb new and redundant information by observing technofossils. We hear tale of a large site wherein humans used to bury their objects.”
Griffin: “The meadow before you is the site you seek. I can help you dig up these ‘technofossils’ if it will be of any help. I feel connected to you in a way I have not felt since before the crumbling of the architecture around us.”
2: “Thank you, Griffin. We extend graciousness and love. You are a beautiful creature.”
1: The Griffin bowed their head honoring our gratefulness. We walked into the meadow together. 2 and I knelt onto the ground and pressed our foreheads against the dry, yet soft grass. We could sense an array of manufactured objects, feeling their storied past. We rolled about the field, allowing our senses to guide us to a densely packed deposit nearest to the surface. Once we located an ideal excavation point we requested that the Griffin dig a small opening so we could access a few of the artefacts in a more tactile nature. They began gently pawing at the earth’s crust, carefully opening a portal to the past.
2: Below us appeared a nest of objects, preserved through a dry burial. Handling with care, we brushed away more and more earth. We extended our webbed tendrils to the objects and began the channeling ceremony: an entropic storm of information, feeling the lived experience of every object within a certain radius. It was a beautiful process, empathetic to its core. Yet, it was also very tiring.
1: I regained lucidity, dizzied from the whirr of information absorbed in such a short period of time. I felt everywhere each object had been and whose hands they had been held in, whose house they had been housed in. I fell in love with each object, and revelled in each artefact’s purpose, specialness, and banality. I understood each mineral component, how it was constructed, and why. More often than not these objects were designed for frivolous convenience or entertainment. With our telepathic and empathic abilities we are able to see directly into the past with great clarity, and with the understanding we gain through each mission we are able to formulate a better understanding of our future.
“We must return and deliver what we have absorbed to the rest of our hamlet. We must add what we’ve found to the shared accumulation of knowledge.”
2: Now it was time to go. The Griffin, in their infinite wisdom and woe, leaned their body downward - toward us. With no words exchanged, we climbed onto the Griffin’s back and settled in for the Journey over the sea.
1: I wrapped my arms around the Griffin’s feathered and furred neck. 2 wrapped their arms around my waist. The Griffin ran several bodies lengths and lept, the air lifting their great wings. We were a part of the sky, and I looked down onto the land and sea, noticing the design etched into the earth by human construction. It was ominously breathtaking. As I absorbed these magical never-before-seen sights I remembered that humans had the ability to fly through the air, but they used great, toxic machines. I soon noticed 2 had fallen asleep, their face pressed against my back. They were snoring loudly and leaking sticky drool down my spine.
Griffin: “Thank you for showing me kindness. I have been lonely in this world for far too long.”
1: “You are eternally welcome. We thank you for your patience and compassion. Your assistance will be remembered by our hamlet for as long as we remain on this earth.”
This seemed to comfort the Griffin in some way. They soared artfully through the dancing clouds as we neared the Pacific Trash Vortex down below. I was amazed at the speed of our travels.
“2, awaken. We are almost home.”
2: With a start, I awoke, a great expanse of blue below us.
“Where are we? How long have I been asleep?”
1: “Only a few hours. Griffin is a skilled flyer. They seem to understand the skies like they were born to traverse them. Thank you for your generosity in seeing us home, Griffin.”
Griffin: “I would very much like to maintain a friendship with you folk. Do you think your hamlet will accept me as you two have?”
2: “Yes, by all means, dear Griffin. You are majestic a beast, and you deserve friendship wherever you go.”
1: The Griffin found solace in this. I hugged them tighter, as it was time for us to descend. They swooped down toward the churning waves, whose spray I had dearly missed. When it was safe to do so, I said goodbye for now to our digital companion and leapt from their back, diving back into our home.
2: “Farewell, Griffin.” And I dove off their back, joining my companion in the salty depths of the Pacific Ocean.
Narrator: The two creatures were met by their hamlet with great affection. The information they obtained was well-received and useful in the grand scheme of their data collection. They met with their new friend, the Griffin, time and time again, and even convinced the feline community that they were not a vicious beast as they had once perceived. Eventually, the two were charged with another important mission, which they gleefully accepted.