Saturday, June 5, 2010

When One Becomes Two

In a cloudy city littered with electronic billboards, Ray Bradly walks up to the entrance of La Luna. The black door slides open automatically, and he is greeted with a gush of cool air at the entrance. The coffee counter to the left has no line, and an apron wearing worker stands blankly behind it. Ray scans the menu and makes his selection. The half-life barrista writes down his hot drink order, and Ray picks up the order ticket. He looks around the cafe. Most customers gaze at the holographic T.V. sets lining the ceiling. There is only one man, handsome and young, who is not lost in the digital images. This man, John Ziphengraff, has met Ray weekly at this shop to discuss work, love and the political landscape of 2112 since their optimistic college years.

When John catches Ray's eye, he lifts his hand in a stationary wave. They briefly embrace and take opposing seats at the round black table. John leans forward on his elbows with his hands clasped together, and asks Ray about his recent architectural undertakings. Ray responds, “I just finished designing a beautiful half-life community home in the suburbs. It is both pleasing to the eyes and efficient. It will house about 100 half-lifes when it reaches full capacity,” Ray informs.

“My design has been approved by the architectural firm, and the blueprint will be sent to the half-life construction crew in about a month. My work paid off. How about you? Have you started anything new in your entertainment field?”

“I wrote another comedy program that should thoroughly entertain these brain dead half-lifes. It's pretty standard formula, nothing too original. I did, however, have some fun creating the script,” John concludes.

The waiter places Ray's espresso latte on the table and picks up the order ticket. John watches the mundane interaction and then scans the shop; Ray takes a sip and wonders if something particular is bothering John today. He often speaks curtly about his work but today there seems to be an edge in his voice.

All the other cafe customers sit in the stuffed armchairs immobilized by the television. Their jaws are dropped and eyes heavy. “Our world hasn't always been like this Ray. All the people here,” John gestures around the coffee shop, “all these people have half of you and me. They were given less in birth. They were born with half a soul, half our life energy.”

“Yes, half-lifes.” Ray replies.

A hundred years ago in 2012, when the human population grew too large to sustain itself, people began to be born with half a soul. This had become the new reality.

“People were giving birth faster than Mother Earth could recycle her life energy from the deceased. The energy from the full-life reincarnation split between two human embryos. One life that passed supplied life for two,” and John goes silent. His gaze locks on a shellacked knot in the artificial wood table. Ray sips his drink hoping for an answer to arise. Now a century later, the fact is that the half-lifes greatly outnumber the full-lifes. They are living beings who can perform remedial tasks and follow directions but their ability to produce a creative thought became lost when the soul was divided. Blissfully ignorant to this fact, the half-lifes go throughout their lives not knowing their loss.

“Now it is our plight to spend our lives catering to these born consumers,” John says. “All they do is eat the best advertised product, watch the best marketed television program, sleep and breed. The world will soon be completely dominated by the half-lifes. Ours is a dying race, Ray. We will soon be extinct. Must we sit back and watch our superior selves be consumed by the half-lifes?”

The T.V. flashes colorful images; colors tinged with orange and red highlight the creases in John's taught face. Flame colored steam rises from the drinks on the tables next to the half-lifes in the chairs.

Ray, in an effort to lighten John's pressure, says, “at least we are blessed with the creative touch. We can still use our imaginations and build in our minds. We can build systems and make art. We can imagine a better future.”

“But for what purpose? We create garbage for the mass consumption of the half-lifes,” John says angrily. “It isn't satisfying. We are not artists and our abilities don't go towards the full-lifes who would appreciate it and could be intellectually stimulated. We are expected to appease the half-lifes because they can't sustain their own lives and would harm everyone's world without our intervention. Why must we bear that burden? Full-lifes have even been frightened to give birth because their children will be born as half-lifes. My wife and I must live with the pain of this knowledge. Ray, you and I are part of the last generation. The full-lifes will disappear soon after we are gone. There is not enough life energy to birth more of us. Don't you think we must do something?”

“John, the half-lifes live and breathe like us. Earth created them like She created us, and it is our duty to Her to protect those creations. There must have been a divine reason.”

“She created them from desperate necessity. Her life energy could not sustain the rapid growth of humanity. The greedy humans of the post-industrialized world were taking more than their share. This forced Her to split the human life and share it between two bodies. Humans are in a stage of de-evolution. We are receding. You must agree.”

The violent T.V. flashes simultaneously go black. At that moment, all the half-lifes mechanically lift their coffees to their lips and gulp. The shop is flooded with what sounds like water blurping down a drain. After several moments, a short countdown appears from the blackness. 3. . . 2. . . They slam down their cups anticipating the return of entertainment. 1. . . 0 . . .The program reappears and again their gaze is locked on the television.

The two full-lifes had paused their conversation to watch the gluttony. “Yes, it is a dark age for humanity,” Ray agrees. “We full-lifes are blessed with the creative gift but are doomed to use our ability to sustain the half-lifes. It is not always fulfilling work. I feel tired, but at least there are other full-lifes for conversation and company.”

“But not for long. Our full-life population is relatively old. There haven't been many newborns in two decades. After our generation, Ray, there won't be any of us left. The world will be overrun by the parasitic half-lifes. They will consume anything, and without us to produce food, they will eventually resort to cannibalism. They will probably even eat their own babies,” John paused and looked intently into Ray's tired green eyes.

“I have recently developed a T.V. program that will inspire the half-lifes to commit mass suicide,” John's eyes reflected the red explosions now on the screens.

“No, you can't do that,” Ray is taken aback. He deliberately chooses his next words. “It is immoral. Earth will somehow center itself again. If the full-lifes die, the half-lifes cannot sustain their existence for long. When they start to die off, life energy will be freed up and the birth of full-lifes will be seen again like a lone wildflower. One flower will grow to more. These new beings can lead the half-lifes. These persons can show them out of the darkness of their ignorance.”

“Why wait?” John countered. “We are here now. We can secure our future. Why allow our kind to die off before taking action? Don't you want full-life children? What if your theory is wrong?”

“Yes, but at the price of killing thousands of half-lifes.”

“Exactly. What an insignificant price to pay for the successful survival of our species. The half-lifes only consume, growing fatter and lazier. They will consume Earth until nothing remains and the planet is dry. I must stop them.”

“No,” Ray pleads. “Let us trust that Earth will not allow our human species to become extinct. The Earth has a magical way of rebalancing itself. Even if many humans die eventually a full-life will be born who can lead the half-lifes to a better future. They will listen to this one because he would have grown in their midst; he will understand their sorrowful condition.”

“Ray the time for pity is over. We have pitied their condition for a century. We helped them live, gave them everything we thought they would want and as result, dug our own graves. The T.V. program is written. Besides us, no one else knows its potency. It will air next week on the half-life stations, and they will not resist its message. There will be a sudden drop in the human population. Life energy will become available so more full-lifes may be born.”

“But that is genocide!,” Ray urges. “There has to be an alternative. Let's put them to work for a more beneficial cause for our beautiful Earth. Sudden widespread loss will shock Her cycle and produce unpredictable results at birth. We don't know what we will create. It could be a monster.”

The flashing images on the screens stop. The half-lifes drink once again and put their cups back on the tables before the countdown to resume the program finishes. The mania of colors resume. Green, red, and yellow patterns mask John's face as he gravely intones, “we have already created the monster.”