They were dying. All of them.
Humanity had come to this world, full of hope, full of wonder and full of themselves. We had conquered faster than light travel and we were set to conquer the Universe. We had come to Avalon with the intention of helping the indigenous population grow and reach out to the stars themselves.
Instead we killed them.
No, it hadn’t been smallpox or the flu or even the common cold. We literally killed them with kindness. We gave them everything that they needed, everything that they wanted. They needed more food? We helped them genetically engineer food so that they could grow five times as much with half the effort. They needed more housing? We showed them how an automated factory mass produced homes in less time than it took to pick out china patterns. They needed a cure for a nasty disease? We showed them how to create cures for diseases that had plagued them for centuries.
We gave them so much, that they lost the desire to learn. They lost the fundamental core of their being: hope. We gave them so much that they lost hope and they became nothing more than replicas of ourselves. They left the planet in droves. Those that wanted a different life escaped the gravity well of their home and flung themselves at the stars. Those that gave up? They wandered into the wilderness and disappeared.
It’s ironic that a television show from centuries ago showed humanity what we had done wrong. Once we realized what was happening on Avalon we instituted a Prime Directive: non-interference with indigenous people. But it was too late for Avalon. It’s people were gone or fading away and the planet …
This is where I came in. As a xenobiologist my specialty was alien ecosystems. I was the “expert” they had called in to save the planet. I was supposed to fix what we had spent years destroying. I was supposed to work a miracle, and that was why I was here, in the middle of this forest, on my hands and knees, comforting a dying lamort.
A cross between a lamb and a warthog, this furry creature was dying a slow death caused by the destruction of the ecosystem into which it had been born. The Avalonians had had a symbiotic relationship with their planet, much more so than humans had with Earth. While we existed at the whim of Mother Nature, the Avalonians were Mother Nature. They breathed, and the planet breathed. They cried, and the planet cried. They died?
The lamort was dying, starving to death in a field full of food. The one thing that it needed – the planet itself – was not responding. The Avalonians had left or had entered the forest to die. Mother Nature was gone, and the planet didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do. This was so much more than just the “global warming” or “genetic slippage” problems that the Earth had faced. In those situations man had caused the problem and man could solve the problem, but here on Avalon it was different. Man had caused the problem, but we couldn’t solve it.
How do you fix the problem where an entire race of people has disappeared? How do you create a new Mother Nature?
I looked down at the lamort, petting it’s long, silky fur and whispered nonsensical sounds while it lay there. Being part of the planet, being an integral part of the ecosystem kept these creatures alive. With the devastation that we had caused by our “good deeds” we had doomed this planet. We had killed everyone and everything left behind.
The creature looked up at me with sad green eyes and for an instance it looked like it was thanking me for keeping it company. I held my breath and smiled.
“Go to sleep, little one,” I said softly. As if in understanding it seemed to nod and closed its eyes. Shortly afterward its breathing stopped, and it went limp. I held the lamort in my lap and closed my eyes while the tears flowed. I don’t know how long I had been crying there – minutes? hours? – but when I opened my eyes I was surrounded by Avalonian fauna. Some were standing while others lay in the grass around us but all of them were staring at me.
I didn’t want to ascribe human feelings to these alien creatures, but if I had to pick one I would have said that hope was in their eyes. Hope that things were changing. Hope that things had changed. Hope that Mother Nature had come back.
Perhaps it had, I thought to myself, stretching my arms wide and looking up into the blue green sky. Perhaps it had.