Before that world ended, our project as some of us called it, we felt the horizon closing in on us at first as some distant foreboding, an event we had calculated, could imagine, make plenty of blockbuster films about, but that seemed so distant as though it could never possibly arrive for us, the safe present, as though we were speaking, when we spoke of a world ruled by a new vermin, giant cockroaches, ants and rats, of some other world altogether, not this world in which we built and destroyed, rejoiced and suffered–oh, how we suffered–until it became clear to us, clear the way mortality can become clear, deadly clear, to a dying man, that it was coming, doom was coming, fast, it would not allow us to prepare, that the horizon would close like a holy book closes after the exhortations from the pulpit, at the close of a passionate sermon.

Of the human populations on earth at the critical time approximately 144,000 were able to be saved.  I say approximately because, as is to be expected in such things, precision is impossible: not only was there virtually no selection process, as the passes for the ship were given exclusively to the wealthy, powerful elite, some of whom had died of natural causes before they were able to be lifted by servicemen and servants to the portal; but there were, in addition, massive riots throughout not only my former home and territory, but throughout the globe, always focusing on social and economic disparity and social injustice, only brought to a maddening pitch with a taste for the absurd by the immensity of the crisis we felt as a species.  After so long of warring–and it’s not as if the wars had ended–after so long of being divided–and it’s not as if division was abolished, erased–we became united, if otherwise we were unbending in our demand to establish territories, for secure territories, for borders and secure borders, by a knowledge that visited all like a plain, undeniable ghost, the knowledge of the end of the road, not for one but for all–for most–game over.  The riots that ensued from the sense of panic that swept over human places killed so many of us, almost touching the grim power of the heat, the waters, the storms, the diseases.  Of these countless killed were a great many of those who were to leave the inhospitable, hot planet, the chaos and death of that planet for the unknown, for the sky we were not trained for.  Of the number, 144,000, nearly half were killed in the first wave of violence that followed the announcement, although there was plenty of violence already there, already rampant.  This instigated an emergency measure that brought the number close to the original proposal, but there was so much scrambling and killing, so much straining not only for supplies but for a vision of what was coming with which we could cope, that death continued and guaranteed that we were not going to have the designated number on board the ship for recolonization elsewhere.

It amazed everyone aboard the titanium that we were not sure where we were steering, what our destination was, out in that place that seems like the womb of creation, a womb of fire and explosions eerily silent.  This unsure group included not only the selected travelers–it is within the bounds of imagination and justification that those unwitting travelers would stay unknowing, so as not to distract from the mission’s gravity–but the entire can of earthlings, the helmsman of the space vessel as much as those who were flung into chambers and sedated for a long ride.  But we slept our long sleep, we dreamed our long dreams as we made our course through the cosmos; some never woke from that sleep, never left that dream.  Those of us who took the pills and accepted the IV’s in our arms and legs before takeoff argued that we should trust those steering the ship, that they would at last take us to a place we could call home.

When I woke I could not believe what I saw.  Those around me had become lizards, and mice, and cockroaches and other creatures the size of men!  I looked at my arm and gave a start at the sight of its scaly skin, its tough hide.  A woman I had known came to me–she was shaped as an ant with a slender thorax and shiny exoskeleton–I still recognized her by her eyes atop her pointed black head–we still had eyes, all of us had eyes–she looked into my eyes and chirped What is this, what has happened to us!  What shocked me, nearly out of the shock of being turned into a lizard, is that we understood one another as two completely different species.  She looked into my lizard eyes and flicked her antennae at me as though to sense something behind my ancient silence.

Well, a cockroach chimed in, we had to take on some other shape, become other than human, to withstand this new environment; we couldn’t go out there in our old shapes.  Again, I was astonished at the communication across species, astonished too that the shapes we took were still shapes of the earth, as though it were some form of lesson given to us by harsh teachers.  The cockroach scurried off, the ant looked antlike worried, I stayed silent asking myself what bugs I would eat on this red, red planet.  We flew and scurried and skittered and crawled and slimed our separate ways over the red dirt–although there were some matching species, some of us joined, played, mated–as though engaged in a relentless hunt.   

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