Once apon a rock, in a very distant time from now, lived a civilisation not so different to our own. Their world orbited a star we shall refer to as the sun, and they had a moon that cast beauty into their skies day and night.
The landscapes looked as if from depictions of The Garden of Eden, fresh greens and clear blues. In this heaven there were small settlements of people that had nestled within the natural lands, keeping cadence with the raw world. Some of the people were similar to humans, however most of them resembled what we in fables would call elves. They were slender and lithe with delicate pointy ears and pastel skin tones of many colours. From a bird’s eye view this world would look at peace, in a serene bliss where food was bountiful and the work to produce it was little. You would see no farms on the land and no fishing boats in the seas. The populations of the different settlements seemed to ebb and flow as invisible tides brought people in and out, but you would see no fumes polluting the skies and no cars clogging up non existent highways.
One day, a space shuttle from a world called Earth drifted down into the atmosphere of this rock. The rock folk guided in the shuttle and welcomed it to their world. They found aboard the ship a lone male human, asleep in a glass bed. Along with the bed were screens with flowing data in a language the elves couldn’t understand. They called for their historians who came at once. One elderly elf, six hundred years behind her, had taken a liking to Earth in her youth, and so knew the main languages of the planet. It appeared the data was repeating in all the Eathern languages she knew and more. She attached her translation cube through the primitive technology called a “USB” so all those gathered could understand the messages.
“Ely Banks. Departed Earth in the year 2030. Current Earth year: 5022. Current state: deep hibernation. State status: Vital signs as expected. Earth Age: 36.”
Dozens of elf heads peered over the young man, that could also be considered a very old man. He did indeed look like a developed human, very similar to the young males that lived on their world.
“Ely the Earthian!” Celian exclaimed, the elf that had translated the script. It wasn’t unusual to have visitors from other systems. Beings came all the time, either on purpose or by accident. However it was particularly rare to have visitors from such ancient times. Usually if societies lacked the technology for light speed vessels, their technology would also fail in long term travel and deep hibernation. What Ely was, was an example of pure and utter luck.
Days passed while the rock elves brought Ely and his bed into a hospital, translated the hibernation awakening instructions, and scavenged museums for components they would need to adapt the glass bed to their technology. But what were a few days when thousands of years had passed.
Celian didn’t leave Ely’s side, fascinated by an actual specimen of her passion, she sent for dictionaries and texts and revised Earthen languages so Ely would have one person he could speak to when he woke up. She was so excited to welcome him.
The time came for the reawakening, the hospital room turned into a daedal jungle of wires, such a contrast to any other space on the rock world.
I’m sure you can imagine Ely’s confusion to wake and see twelve sets of eyes glinting above him, all in awe at the now drowsy male. The room was cloudy and he wondered if he were in a weird heaven. He temporarily forgot his profession, fleeting memories of his childhood jumping into view, he longed for an embrace from his mother and to sit on that familiar wooden porch.
One of the pairs of eyes leaked on to him, focusing his gaze onto her. Onto the elf. Suddenly he remembered the last time he had gone to sleep. Apprehensive yet excited. He would find the future. But what the fuck was this?! Terror clenched his heart. Beeping filled his ears. He tried to vomit but of course his stomach was empty. He wretched and he weeped until he felt himself fall back into sleep. Not knowing if he’d be able to cope if woken again.
Celian took it upon herself to talk to doctors, other historians and even brought in other human like males for tests. Three times they tried to wake Ely the Earthian again, and three times the results were similar. He just couldn’t cope with such different surroundings, with the shock of the change.
Finally Celian resorted to extreme measures. She pulled some strings with the experimental pharmaceutical department and arrived at Ely’s bedside with a plan and a syringe of purple liquid.
The doctors gave the all clear and the potion was administered.
Ely opened his eyes again. This time he saw a blue sky untangle above him and felt a serenity he couldn’t place. Slowly sounds filtered into him, first birds, and then a voice that could have been made of bird song.
“Your name is Ely. You are an astronaught from Earth. Your mission was to venture into space and find a new civilisation, in hope of better scientific knowledge and a way to save the natural environment on your planet.” All of this was sung from Ely’s memories, he saw flashes of the desolate smoky orb he left behind. “You have found us. We are a planet of far superior science, and have a way to live in harmony with our world and animals.” Ely’s heart sped a little, with a glimpse of what he recognised to be anticipation. Background melodies became louder to drown out his anxiety. Once Ely was calmer the voice continued. “You will be greeted by Celian, she is an elderly native female that has studied the Earth and can speak with you in your tongue. Please do not be alarmed by her appearance, she may look similar to what you would call an elf from your time.”
Ely’s vital signs stayed positive so Celian walked in. Ely’s bed was raised so he could clearly see the mystical creature. It was as if a wacky writer from his world has tried to combine sci-fi and fantasy on a whim. A baby blue elf doddered in, with neatly cut clothes and a background of pristine mirrored surfaces, the strangest conflict.
“Hi Ely,” Celian said, “I’m here to welcome you to our world.”
And so Ely the Earthian came to know Celian and the Globe Garden.
Globe Garden was the closest translation in English to what the planet was called. Another translation could almost have been Earth, but that would just get confusing. Ely spent his first few days in the hospital, slowly getting to know Celian but learning little of the rock he’d landed on. His curiosity was overflowing yet the information was limited to Celian’s everyday. He knew they didn’t want to overwhelm him again but he struggled when his questions weren’t answered.
He had however learnt the Globe Garden was a sanctuary compared to his home. Everyone lived in peace, there hadn’t been wars for two millenia, and people were overall more respectful of each other. He struggled with the idea that all life was treated equal. It was as wrong to kill an animal as a person, so everyone ate mostly what could be grown, along with some processed delicases saved for special occassions. But Celian frowned deeply when she learnt of how they farmed and killed animals back on Earth.
“I had read about it,” she sighed, “but I never really believed it. Not everything you read will be accurate, and so I thought that was one of the horror stories that got mixed in with the truth.
“I really don’t understand why you would torture other living souls like that,” her voice was close to breaking, “especially when you can produce such spectacular dishes in a way without harm. I mean,” her voice picked up, “we too, as a society, use food as a way of celebrating. Similar to your birthday cake. But doesn’t the celebration seem tainted if you need to harm others to achieve it?”
“I’d never thought about that,” said Ely. “It’s just how we were raised. It was just the normal. In fact it was thought of as extreme if you didn’t eat animals or their produce.”
Celian’s face was crumpled into an expression that Ely didn’t quite understand. But she was clearly having a hard time comprehending the antics of his people.
“What about crime?” he asked, trying to change the subject. “Do people hurt other people here?”
“Why would people hurt each other?”
“Well if you’re angry or mad,” Ely thought harder in response to Celian’s bewilderment, “or if the other person is different to you. That always sparked a lot of hurt back on Earth.”
“None of that makes any sense, of course we don’t hurt each other, not on purpose anyway! And everyone is different from everyone else. Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same? And what’s crime?”
This time it was Ely who looked confused so Celian paused to look up the translation, it turned out not to have one but she got the gist of the meaning.
“We don’t have crimes, or laws,” she added. “We just have morals. And people’s morals tend to all be similarly aligned. We have a deep… what’s the word… empathy.”
“So who polices the morals? What if say, you, were to kill an animal?”
“Well I wouldn’t!”
“But what if someone did?” Ely insisted.
“It just hasn’t happened… not in my six hundred years! Although I think they’d be sorry… I think they’d feel guilty.” Celian was clearly getting exhausted from this conversation. But Ely was too dumbfounded to notice.
“So they wouldn’t get punished?” he continued.
“Punishment wouldn’t help them find themselves. It wouldn’t help them realise why they did something so awful. It would probably only make them more dangerous.
“Something I don’t think I’ve explained too well, is that our society is our whole world. We’re all one people. Whether you’re human and in sepia tones, or an ‘elf’ and in pastel colours, whether you’re from the nothern frost, or the middle jungles; we all work together to create our community. One where everyone is treated fairly. The goal is bliss for all, and we all only need to contribute a little to gain a lot. Plus we all contribute in ways we enjoy, so really most people contribute a lot anyway.” Celian paused at Ely’s raised eyebrows asking a million questions. “Yes we don’t always agree on all things. But because we all have the same mindset, the same overaching wants, they come first. We are all compassionate to each other, and so it works.”
“But what if I walk out of here now, and decide I want to eat a cow for dinner, someone tries to stop me, so I kill them too?”
“Well I hope you wouldn’t do that… but I guess that’s one of the reasons you’re not ready to walk out of here yet. This is the fifth time we’ve tried to wake you up. This is the furthest you’ve got, but we need you to adjust before you can join the community.”
“So I’m being held prisoner!? There’s wires in me too! I’ve actually been abducted by aliens!!”
Manic bleeping machines caused a doctor to rush in.
“He’s just struggling to adjust!” Celian exclaimed. “He just needs more time! He’s meant to be here,” she begged the doctor.
“Why am I meant to be here?!” More unaswered questions buried Ely. He heard birdsong and he calmed. “Please just tell me,” he whispered.
“Look he’s calmed down, let me talk to him, let me tell him! It will help, I know it.”
The doctor stepped away, what did she have to lose by letting Celian help her Ely the Earthian. “I’m here if you need me Celian.”
The elderly, exhuasted, historian sat down beside Ely and began.
“The year is 5022. You are on the planet I would call Globe Garden, and you would call Earth.” A sigh.
“Earth?” Ely breathed, the word was swept up by a non existant wind. “But you live in such a perfect society. Such bliss. How could this be Earth?”
“Your mission worked. Mission ‘La Vida Continua’. I believe everyone called it that even if you weren’t Spanish.”
“As you know, seven hundred and fourty three astronaughts were sent out in craft just like yours. Several were sent back mutilated, a warning possibly, many never returned, but many did. A few even had escorts from civilisations that have similar insticts as to ours now. They brought with them compassion, love, and hope for a greener future. Humans were never going to change the world on their own, but that’s okay, because they asked for help.”
Celian and Ely shared a smile at this, both knowing it’s truth and importance.
“So how did I get back now? It’s been so long…”
“Beacons were sent out once the new society had been established, guiding all unreturned spaceships home. But it was often luck as to whether a ship picked up a signal, and the longer it became, the less hope we had. The last recorded return was the year 3105. So as you might have put it three milenia ago, ‘You’re late!’”
They both smiled widely at this. Connecting.
“So much has changed, there’s so much for me to learn.” Ely’s voice was filled with wonder and a dash of self doubt.
“But will you do it?” Celian asked. “Will you learn?”
“If the whole world can change, I can change too.” Ely responded, determinned.
And with that final conversation, it was known that Ely would not need to be put back to sleep. He became a legend for a time as the oldest human, and he spent many years travelling, learning, and finding out what it truly meant to be a human living in paradice.