[NetBehaviour] Parable of the return

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Mon Apr 9 03:24:45 CEST 2007

Parable of the return

Having perfected the machine which allowed us to travel backwards in time,
we decided to visit the very origins of humankind, that savanna where
proto-hominids roamed, beginning their conquest of the flora and fauna of
the planet. We returned to a period before the great dispersion, before
the diasporic spread of humans fearful of themselves.

We brought clubs, knives, guns, explosives; we brought encapsulated germs
and plagues. Around eleven o'clock in the morning, we appeared on the
savanna. The hominids, tearing a sloth to pieces, were everywhere. They
carried clubs, hand axes, crude knives.

We knew the slaughter would kill us as well. We imagined the arrival of
other intelligent species who might know better, or who would also send
expeditions of destruction into their pasts. We were prepared for death,
an oddly retroactive form of suicide.

We began the slaughter; clubs and knives did not become us. We began
shooting and the hominids ran in all directions. We still survived.

We bombed their gathering places. We killed families indiscriminately. We
released smallpox, measles, plagues of all sorts. We machine-gunned men,
women, and children. We were harbingers of death. And yet we survived.

We checked our demographies; we were at the center of the holocaust We
were the holocaust. We knew one or two might escape; we were prepared for
that. The future, our present, would be transformed. Hominids would either
go extinct or become a minor species with an ecological niche in some
savanna backwater.

We discovered this: We changed evolution utterly. We changed it towards
ourselves, the most violent of the futures of the hominids. The ones that
escaped would live to slaughter others. It was slaughter that guided them
all along. It was slaughter that created us. For those that escaped,
wounded, life would be constant fury. We had set the script of revenge
into motion. We produced ourselves.

We knew then that attempts to change the past only produced it. We knew
then that there was no escape; life itself would wane as plants and
animals hurtled towards extinction. Our return had created our return; our
return from the botched journey produced at best a botched species. We had
only ourselves to blame; our ancestors, each and every one, were innocent,
following the path we had set for them.

We knew then that we followed the same path, that we were determined as
well, produced by the circularity of our return. We were at the birth of
the wounded, the birth of indiscriminate slaughter. We were at our own
birth as well. We understood that there was nothing to do, nothing to be
done, that death was always in the doing, that violence was mandated from
our own beginnings. We knew then that we would die soon, just as others
died, fellow travelers back in time, fellow architects of doom.


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