Runner up - Mensa North West Short Story Contest 2018.
Silvarian Charlene took her place in the circle and the lesson was ready to begin. She allowed her gaze to scan the faces of her new first year students before, sensing the tingle of their eagerness to embark on the first step of a journey that would involve them in intense study over the next six to eight years, beginning her opening address.
“Welcome”, she began.
“You have been drawn to enrol into this discipline by personal and collective unique qualities that include curiosity, empathy, fascination with the unfolding story of origins and destinations and a willingness to play your part in taking that story forward. During our time together, you will be imbued with the accumulated wisdom of those who have explored this particular part of our kind’s story before you. You will build new insights atop of those they accrued for you that will in turn inspire those yet waiting to be born to increase in new wisdom. Thank you for who you are and what you bring to our study as deepeners”.
“As you have been learning since you yourselves entered this particular lifespan, long before our kind came into being our world was inhabited by other sentient life forms. In the oceans, there is much evidence that once great creatures the size of a communal journey pod moved freely through the seas over great distances, while creatures too small to be observed lived contented in the deeps”.
“Land-side, there is evidence of communities that existed here millions of years ago. One creature in particular has fascinated deepeners for many, many generations now. The more of its story we piece together, the more it both bewilders and challenges. Many have concluded that if we can understand this long lost species, we will have the secret of the whole cosmos in our grasp”.
“That species is, of course, what previous generations of deepers came to call the “fool-wise” due to the fact that all the information we gather on them seems to indicate that while they had an enormous capacity to increase in knowledge, it was coupled with a confusing unwillingness to act upon what they had learned”.
“Traces of what are, even to our standards, incredible technologies show that the fool-wise were able to build vast, floating cities that were capable of crossing oceans; construct an artificial collective mind that could store their accumulated findings and even develop structures that could lift them above the world-pull”.
“Though their organisms were feeble, their mental concepts compensated for this weakness by enabling them to reshape matter to enclose them in warmth or cold according to the world-star cycles. They seemed to dominate all other species and there is proof they loved the other creatures and yet hated them in equal measure. Like us, they needed to ingest organic matter to complete their life-cycle – yet unlike us, they treated creatures they consumed with such an indifference that they were ingesting the anxiety they engendered in the flesh, leaf and pod of those whose wholeness they seemed unable to perceive. This may well be the very reason they spiralled out of extantness”.
“In the end, as the fool-wise spread across the world, they became like a virus that began to destroy the very platform of their own existence. In time, they managed to pollute the lands and the seas with the by-products of their greed, arrogance and assumption until the Mother herself tore them from her womb and they became little more than a message for those, like us, who would come after them”.
“Do we exist only because the fool-wise are no longer here?”
“If, as all our understanding suggests, all life is connected and interdependent in the whole, how are we related to the fool-wise?”
“If our kind did somehow emerge on the lifescape out of the devastation of the fool-wise demise, is there some thread of them in our own genetic make-up that could one day lead us in the wrong direction?”
“So, welcome. Here you are ready to take us all further into our insight. In the morning we will divide into three groups. Group one will take an oceanic trip to explore the underwater deeps; group two will follow complex cave passages deep into the earth and group three will visit the tidal-orb to see evidence of how the fool-wise once used the technology that eventually became their undoing to plan expanding through the universe once they had destroyed this, the third world in our own star system, rather than work out how to maintain a sustaining, nurturing world for all to appreciate”.
“You will all get a chance to do each of these three activities over the next few days. Those of you who wish to be in group one, please raise one hand; those who wish to be part of group two, please raise two hands; and those who would like to join group three tomorrow raise three hands. If you have any questions, please raise four hands”.