In the dense atmosphere of Venus, beneath a bronze sky, on a floating fortress left behind from the wars of a distant past, a lone man walked towards his destination. He crossed the hallways speaking quietly to himself, leaving behind a lingering echo.
“It’s not right. It’s not right. It’s not right.” He had been repeating the same words since the day had started, but it was only until he entered the hallway he had begun to say them aloud. Each step brought him closer to the office where the general was waiting for the day to end.
“What are you still doing here?” The general asked as he saw the man in the white coat approaching. “Your transport left an hour ago.”
The scientist stopped at the door and when he spoke the muscles in his throat did not obey him, instead he choked with a puddle of spit.
A moment of silence passed and the general spoke again, knowing why he had a visitor on the last day on Venus. “It’s not up to me, and it’s not up to you, either. You think I don’t care. You think so because I gave the order, but truly, it doesn’t depend on what I want or wish.”
The man standing at the door remained silent, listening to the reply of the question he meant to ask, but couldn’t.
“Is it possible it was a mistake? Yeah… it is. In fact, it’s probable that this whole operation was a mistake. We should have never come here. People died, you know? It’s easy for you to ignore this because you weren’t out there like the rest of them. People died. Why didn’t you come here to beg for their lives? Why are you here now, soul-hurt for the only living thing whose life is a mistake?”
“It’s not right…” The scientist shook his head.
“It’s not. Nothing’s right. Look… I understand okay? It didn’t ask to exist. It didn’t ask to be a part of this. It had no choice, but it’s dangerous. We cannot control it. We cannot guarantee anyone’s safety if we take it with us.”
“Then don’t take it with us! Just let it go, it can survi-”
“And,” the general interrupted, “it’s not up to us. You and I don’t get to decide. Get that into your head. The last transport to Earth leaves in two hours. I’m leaving on it. It’s your last chance to leave. No one’s coming back here, doctor. It doesn’t matter what we do, this place is uninhabitable.”
The scientist took a deep breath. “It’s not right…”
Having listened to the words of the general, the scientist walked away.
“It’s okay. Shhh… It’s okay. Listen, listen, I’m going to tell you a little story, and then you’ll feel better. Shhh… Okay, okay. Once upon a time, on a world not far from yours, there was a man named Henry Brohm.
This was years and years ago, in a time when life was still bearable. Green valleys and forests were common… rainforests even, and the people of that world lived with haste. To them, the unfolding of the future held the keys to a reality better than theirs. Focused on the road ahead, they were too blind to see the best days were already far in the past.
In this world, at this time in its history, a group of men lead by-”
A door cracked open, a man peered into the room, and said: “Doctor Joost, you’re needed in the infirmary. There’s been an accident.”
The scientist looked away for an instant, and listened.
“I’ll be there shortly.”
The man close the door, and the scientist returned his attention to the small sobbing thing.
“I’m sorry, I have to go. I know you can’t understand me, but you are the future of us. Cry today and cry tomorrow. It’s okay. When you’re ready, you won’t remember what tears are like.”
The scientist placed the creature into a warm incubator, and then he left the room.
The creature paced itself across the room. It pounded on the walls. Its muscles cramped, its bones cracked, and its eyes focused on images further away than it could see. To the beast, the room had shrunk. Its world had become small. The ceiling was scratched, the floors were cracked, and the padding on the walls ripped open.
It had been growing restless since Dr. Joost had given it a glimpse of freedom. The red skies of Venus called to it. Its winds sang it songs, and the smells from the surface and the clouds of acid woke in the beast a pleasure. A rightness lurked outside the confines of the concrete, and every time it had a visitor it played friendly, with the primal hope of being let go. But such is not the way of the military.
Each day it was clearer this new man was not capable of complex thought, and each day the experiment inched closer to failure. The idea of a new human to inhabit our Venus went stale, and the future of a solar system devoid of intelligent life seemed a page-turn away.
Dr. Joost sat with his head in his hands less than an hour away from departure. A white light shined and flickered above him, and every motion of the man echoed slightly in the empty room.
“This is it?” He remembered saying the first time he saw it. It was empty too, then. It was a good empty, though, back then. It was ready to embark on a new mission.
“Don’t whine. This is one of the bigger ones.” They said to him.
It was, indeed, one of the bigger ones. He had visited the rooms and quarters of soldiers and friends, and he always felt a little sorry. He also knew of the enclosure of the new man. The beast.
What of it? He thought. He was aware it was a failure for the intended purpose, but was it a failure? The creature lived. The creature survived. It was a true Venusian. It was the first inhabitant of the planet, its first population. If the goal was to spread mankind into the planets, then why was this ‘beast’ not man? It wasn’t a human. It didn’t think like one and it didn’t act like one, but Earth is not like Venus. Why was it expected that this new man be just like the old man.
He slapped his thigh hard and raised his head. Thirty minutes to departure. When he and the others left, the creature would remain locked in its little room, and with time, and with certainty, it would die of starvation.
“We’ve destroyed our place in the stars.” He remembered saying to the sobbing thing. “We’ve come here to make you.”
“When we’re gone in a few hundred years time, you will thrive, and maybe one day you will come to our little blue world and discover your history.”
And romanticised visions.
“It’s okay.” He remembered saying to the sobbing thing. “Nothing can hurt you out here.”
Dr. Joost left his room and walked for the last time to the enclosure of man’s baby. To meet again with the new man.
A pitiful groan reverberated around Dr. Joost. The beast from that magnificent experiment now lay on the ground, defeated. It stared back through the reinforced glass at him.
“Come here, buddy.” Dr. Joost said. “I’m gonna tell you one last story.”
Its eyes lit up. It approached the glass and sat before him. Its ears wiggled in anticipation and it scratched the top of its head, the way Dr. Joost used to scratch it, right above the eyes, when it still fit in his hands.
“There once were a people who crossed blue skies and seas. Within the people there was a group who dreamed of distant futures and lives. Within the group there was a man born from science, not nature.” He smiled and pointed to himself. “The man worked most of his life to bring more life to the world. He revived life that had been gone, and he made live life that never had been.”
He paused a second and opened a small metallic box beneath the window. From within he took a pistol and continued.
“That man travelled a long way. He travelled to see you.” Dr. Joost then pointed a finger at the beast and smiled again. “He raised you, and he fed you, and he told you stories of the past. He did everything he could. You know that right?” Abandoning the story, he asked the creature directly.
Its eyes blinked in confusion.
“I did everything I could, okay? I did everything I could.” He pressed a red button with his left hand, a button hidden beneath the window. He took the pistol with his right hand, and he shot himself between the eyes.
Dr. Joost’s body dropped lifeless, and blood puddled around it. The door to the enclosure hissed, and then it opened. The beast left the enclosure and stared at the corpse outside, and then the beast roared, and the windows shook.
The general looked back at Venus as he and the remaining crew lifted off, listening to the echoing roars of the first Venusian man.
“I thought he would do it, and, you know, I didn’t stop it.” He said. “Somewhere out there he’s running free. He’s running out there. He’ll be back one day, I reckon. He’ll come back for us. He’ll come back to Earth and kill us, and that’s just fine by me.”