Gaia and the Thin Place

You are sitting at a meeting table. Your elephant is in the chair next to you. A woman in a white lab coat is delivering a presentation. The people around the meeting table, dressed in business attire, are listening. The woman says, “With this new printing technique, this material is relatively easy to shape but once shaped is virtually impossible to modify. It can withstand temperatures of a million Kelvin. It can withstand pressures and sheer forces and tensile forces far in excess of any other known material. It is harder than any known material and cannot be cut or scratched by anything we have.” She places a single silver and gold pyramid about 2 inches tall into a glass jar on the table top. “This concentrated hydro-chloric acid has no effect on it. We know of no other solvant or chemical which can dissolve it.”

The person at the head of the table, the chair of the meeting, replies, “So if we built a monument with all of the world’s knowledge printed into this material, it would last forever?”

“Yes.” the woman says.

“Our linguistics department has designed a primer that would teach even the most alien mind up from basic mathematical concepts to be able to understand all of the languages currently in use.” A man near the chair says, “So if we included this primer then any human from the future could understand it and use it to rebuild civilization after even a very bad collapse.”

You look at the woman beside you and she turns her green eyes on you and says, “An interesting development, Little One.” Then the board room fades away.

***

You are standing on the branch of a large savannah tree, your thick fuzzy tail twitching behind you, keeping you balanced as you gnaw on a nut. Below you, your elephant is reaching up with its two trunks and gobbling leaves from the same tree. Under your elephants feet the point of a silver pyramid protrudes slightly from the ground. A herd of thousands of heavy-bodied, horned herbivores is passing around the tree on both sides like a river flooding by an island. The herbivores are singing together, in rounds, a song about how much their leader farts and how bad it smells and laughing as they do so.

Several feathery bird-like creatures are nursing their young with milk, standing further out on the same branch as you. One complains to its fellows, “Those browser-people are so crass. Always singing about toilet humour. Why do there have to be so many of them?”

Then you hear a voice, “Little one, I didn’t expect to find you now.” You turn and see Gaia standing on the branch beside you, her green eyes bright in the savannah sun.

“Gaia, when did you expect to find me?” you ask puzzled.

“Well 50 million years ago, that is where I usually find you. This is 50 million years in your future.” Gaia responds. She is squirrel like, just as you are. Her belly is flat, no sign of pregnancy, the continents woven into the fur on her belly are in the wrong places, the Pacific too narrow and the Atlantic too wide.

“Why do the animals all talk? Is it metaphorium at work?” you ask, indicating the bird-like creatures.

“No not metaphorium, Little One.” Gaia responds, “It is adaptive radiation at work. It has been 50 million years since the 6th Great Dying and so many species died out. Humans adaptively radiated into all the niches. Most of the species kept some part of their intelligence but none ever built a civilization again. Turns out that when many species are intelligent, it is difficult to build a civilization. The other animals fight back and they have the brains to do it with.”

“So no civilization, is that why you are no longer pregnant? No civilization means we will never go to another world.” You speculate.

“I think you are right, Little One.” But don’t eat that nut, it is almost pure metaphorium. Oh too late…” Gaia fades out of existence, along with the tree and the savannah and the herbivores and the birds.

***

When the world reappears it is different. The heat is oppressive. You are nosing out of a hole at night. You have ceramic-like pads on your feet. You sniff the air. The air is cool enough that it is time to venture forth. Soon it will be morning and you will have to seek shelter in the deep caves under the hill. You crawl away from the hill and look behind you. The hill gleams bright in the starlight, a single gold and silver pyramid with a three sided base, each made of 5 vertical panels subdivided into 7 horizontal sub-panels, each sub-panel broken into 11 diagonal panels. It’s symmetry is amazing to you. You recognize it as something that was made or grown but you have never understood it. The others told you that it has always been. That your ancestors saw it just as it is now generations ago.

You beckon to the hole you came out of and your elephant follows you out. Together, you sneak up on a plant. It is a solid slow growing thing. It barely survives each day, even as it gathers the photons it needs to live, and then grows a little at night with the little bit of energy it didn’t need to protect itself from the radiation and heat of the day. It also has some defences against your teeth. But you pounce and bite and drink the sweet juice that it bleeds.

“Ouch!” it cries, “Little One, I do wish you wouldn’t bite me like that.”

The juices suddenly become bitter and you back away, “Gaia you are a plant that can talk.”

“There have been 28 Great Dying’s by this point, Little One.” Gaia the plant replies, “All living species are descended from human beings now. It is a billion years in your future. I am dying. Sol is growing. Terra is no longer in the habitable zone. We are holding on by sheer determination. It won’t be long.”

“What is that symmetrical hill then?” you ask, pointing behind you.

“Something your kind left behind.” Gaia replies, desolate, “but it is a dead thing. It doesn’t reproduce or grow or move. It just survives. It spent 800 million years buried and now it is exposed. But so what?” Gaia is despondent. The darkness grows until nothing can be seen.

***

You sit astride your elephant on the bridge of a space craft approaching a white dwarf star. The explorers are aliens with too many tentacles and not enough bones for your liking. The screen in front of you is fed by a camera on the outside the ship. The captain orders the feed to be switched to a camera pointed at the planet below. A barren world fills the screen, grey rock and vacuum. No clouds, no water, no soil, no signs of life. But you recognize the outline of Hudson’s and James’ Bay. You look around but of course, Gaia is not here. All Earth Life is dead. Gaia is gone.

An alien crewman calls to the captain, “There is an object down there captain. About 200 of the king’s longest tentacle across. It shows signs of having been made by intelligent minds.”

“How can you tell?” The captain asks

“There is just one of it. It has areas of two different albédos. It has three sides. Each side is divided into 5 areas. Each of those is divided into 7 sub-areas and each of those into 11 sub-sub areas.” The crewman says.

“The primes!” The captain says. Launch a lander!

***

The alien king is in his chamber. Two alien scientists are reporting to him about the pyramid that they found on Earth. You listen as you sit astride your elephant, “Yes we decoded the object which exploration party 78365 brought back. It is the entire knowledge of a primitive civilization. Already, some useful insights into various sciences have been found. The chemistry of the material of the pyramid itself is novel. But most of what they recorded was specific to their world, the lifeforms which existed at their time, the history of their puny civilization in great detail, their culture, their philosophy, their myth.”

The king interrupts, “Were they moral beings? Did they leave the universe in it’s natural state?”

“They argue about that a lot, your majesty. But on the whole no. They never got into space because of that. They altered their own world and the effects of that destroyed them. This is why some of them decided to build the pyramid. To record what they had in the hopes that some of their descendants could rebuild their civilization.”

“It is, as it was with the other civilizations we have found in our explorations.” The king nods glumly.

The other alien scientist stirs and speaks for the first time, “There was one interesting idea that I found encoded in a tiny space inside a single website in the main recording of their webspace. It was a recording of blog in which a politician critiques a nascent religion called SolSeed. This politician is moral. He calls for humanity not to disturb the natural state of the universe and critiques the ideas of this religion. I can find no recording of the ideas of this SolSeed religion except in this politician’s critique of it. It is not a moral religion. It claims that Life wants humanity to spread Life from world to world until the universe is Green.” The alien pauses to cough a little spec of spittle out of its speaking orifice.

The spittle drifts across the room in the thick air and lands on your elephants head. It looks up at you with tiny green eyes and says, “Little one, where am I?”

Before you can answer, the alien scientist continues, “I say this just because, the idea that there could be a religion so immoral that it’s stated purpose is to disrupt nature on that scale is shocking to me.”

***

You sit astride your elephant which stands at the top of a cliff looking out from a deep rich forest at an expanse of deep rich forest below you. Tentacled aliens tend the trees, helping them grow. The milky way rises in the back ground filling the Eastern sky with a billion billion suns. You mutter, “Is it a trick of the light or is the Milky Way green across its entire expanse?”

“There is metaphorium in your eyes, Little One.” Thea Me Plokamia says, standing beside you watching the Galaxy Rise, “It lets you see true, Little One, the Galaxy is green. A single meme passed from Gaia to that explorer alien civilization. It was dismissed and talked about as a shocking aberration for a long time. But that which shocked one alien inspired another. Many millennia later, the idea took off. It passed through such a thin place. Gaia seemed dead and yet even from a dead state she brought life to the galaxy. Such is the beauty of the adjacent possible. Out of it allies emerge and amplify the smallest effort until it governs the fate of the universe.

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