Friday, September 16, 2011

AP: Suspended Animation, the conclusion

I have been talking about first contact for years. Ever since I was a little kid I had dreams of what it would be like to meet an alien, to travel to other planets like Captain Kirk. But everyone knew that if we ever did meet intelligent life, they wouldn’t look anything like the aliens on Star Trek. Life in the far reaches of space could take on forms that we would never even recognize as living things. Or it could take a form that was horrific to us.
Since the success of the DOR 8 the nation has been on a rollercoaster of relief and shock. After decades of rationing tightening restrictions on birth rights, when word came that a new world had been found, suitable for human life, the entire planet rejoiced. But the latest discovery has divided the people of the world.
When Archie Petrovsk returned from his mission in February of 2053 he was publicly declared to have died in hibernation. Conspiracy theories surfaced but few people took them seriously, including this very publication. I wrote an article in the 2053 March issue in which I personally denounced some of the more popular theories. The only proof that Dor 7 had returned with alien life were low quality photos that experts said could have been easily doctored, and even then it only looked like a cheesy sci fi effect dreamt up by a film student. Infamously horror filmmaker and photographer Darnell Reiner recreated the photographs using Hollywood special effects, which he documented and spread through viral videos on the internet.
Petrovsk’s death came as a soft blow in the light of the mission’s success, and he was lauded and memorialized as a hero who died ensuring the future of the human race. But his escape from government prison was an even greater shock. Last month we published the horrific story of the torturous experiments conducted on him, his daring escape, and the weeks he spent hunted like a monster by the government and civilians alike. His survival is a testament to the adaptability of the alien life form that has fused with his body.
This month we met with Petrovsk in his first public interview. He is still locked away for his own protection, kept in a secret location guarded by hundreds of his sympathizers. He must live like this to escape the millions of people calling him a threat to humanity and crying out for his destruction. In person, though his appearance is strange and frightening, I did not feel threatened by him. He appears as a dark, opaque blob, with a surface that shimmers with an oily swirl of color when it reflects the light. When he moves in front of a bright light, it shines through the substance of his symbiote and one can make out the vague human structure within, curled up in a fetal position like a child in the womb. His skin is transparent, transformed and merged with the flesh of his symbiote, showing the intricate web of veins, muscles flexing around the dark silhouette of his bones, the only thing blocking the light.
When he speaks his surface blurs, the smooth edge taking on strange contours as it ripples against the air to produce sound, though it perfectly recreates the sound of Archie’s human voice. The sound that emanates is directionless and seems to come from a person standing right beside me. I was told that If I touched his symbiotic skin that he could communicate directly with my nervous system, that he would be able to see and speak through words and images directly into my head. I was admittedly too squeamish to try this, though I saw it performed by some of Archie’s close friends. As they touched him they fell into a deep peaceful calm, and they later described the experience very similar to being in a lucid dream. Archie always appeared as himself in the dream, always accompanied by a woman with exotic Indian features who went by the name Isadora, the chosen name of the symbiote.
For whatever reason Isadora would not speak out loud, Archie spoke for her. Though Isadora seems to identify as a female, the symbiote seems to be genderless, seeming to take on the identity of the ideal mate of it’s host. For this interview I focused on interviewing Archie, but by next month I hope to gather the courage to have a much more intimate conversation with the Symbiote itself.
SA: How did you become a host?
AP: During my mission I came across an alien distress beacon. It turned out to be coming from a crashed alien ship. Upon further investigation I found the ship held many samples of alien species, but all of them seemed dead. I could not get into the rest of the ship. After leaving, some sort of life raft followed me. When I took it on board we found alien life forms inside, the blobs I called the Tarball. One of them… well it came at me and I thought it was attacking me and I wounded it. We were investigating it but it got out of the specimen chamber and somehow got onto me while I was in hibernation. It was able to reprogram Dor, so that had something to do with it.
SA: How did you feel about it?
AP: I was… really upset. I didn’t know what it was doing to me, what it was planning to do with me. I could only assume it was malevolent because it had done this without permission. I went back and forth between feeling this intense rage at being violated and then having powerful suicidal urges to kill myself, ironically because I wanted to preserve the person I once was and not be changed into something else. But, I guess like any other sudden change in life that you can’t control, eventually you are forced to accept what happened and learn to go on living.
SA: How do you feel about it now?
AP: It’s hard to describe the intimacy you gain from sharing a body and mind with another intelligent creature. But over time I guess I’ve become attached to it. I’ve started to call her Izzy, which is short for Isadora. But Isadora was someone I knew before I left on the journey, someone I cared about, and I don’t feel right calling Izzy by the same name. I don’t really believe in being forced to be with someone, so I’m always reluctant to admit this, but I do love Izzy. I stopped being mad at her a long time ago, she’s shown me her mind and feelings in a way that let me actual experience them, and I understand that the fact that she joined with me was a raw biological need that she couldn’t help. I feel like we were both victims of circumstance, thrust together. But we’ve been able to accept that circumstance and learned to find comfort in each other’s company. Companionship. The amazing thing is she loves me too, and maybe it’s all biological but… I’m happy being with her.
SA: What are the benefits of being a host?
AP: Well, I never get hungry, I never have to go to the bathroom, and I don’t need to breathe. Izzy is an extremely efficient organism and only needs sunlight and now and then a few minerals to live on. More than that I have access to very heightened senses and a broader range of them. I can sense electrical impulses, heat, ultraviolet light, humidity and pressure differences in the air, and sound, feel, taste and smell to a much higher degree than usual. I can sense and see the world in a way that is far beyond the normal human experience, more than I could ever describe to you in words. The last major benefit is the ability to communicate mind to mind, not only with Izzy but with anyone I touch. The feeling of connectedness to other living beings that results from knowing the innermost part of another person is incredible. We can even talk to animals.
SA: What would you say to other people thinking of becoming hosts?
AP: It’s not something to be taken lightly, and until there is broader acceptance I would definitely not recommend it. I know that the majority of the world thinks I need to be destroyed, and I even thought the same myself at first. You’d have to be able to accept a complete transformation of everything you know, doing away completely with your concepts of self, of privacy, of beauty… everything changes. But I don’t want anyone to think that this is the answer to hating the world or yourself. It’s a change that one should approach with love and readiness.
SA: How do you feel about the groups calling for your extermination?
AP: I completely understand and empathize with their fear. To them I represent the destruction of humanity, and I certainly may be something that could change humanity forever from it’s current form. But only for those who choose it. The thing is, humanity needs to change. We’ve been over consuming and destroying our planet and each other for far too long. We’re lucky we were able to find another planet this time, But that doesn’t mean we can continue living as we have been. If we continue at the previous rate we’ll use up the new planet’s resources within the next thousand years and be faced with extinction yet again. And that’s if we don’t kill each other first. The impulse in people to destroy me is the same impulse, the same fear of the unknown, that causes people to go to war and kill each other. Need and scarcity breed greed and insecurity. It’s possible that the only way for humanity to change is if we get help, and as frightening as it is, that’s exactly the sort of change Izzy and her kind offer.
SA: What do you think the relationship between Humanity and the Tarballs will look like in the future?
AP: Let’s not call them Tarballs, it’s an ugly name that I came up with in my initial ignorance. I’ve been trying to think of something better but it’s difficult to translate my understanding of these creatures into such a condensed linguistic form. I’ve been toying the idea of some simple word implying a conncection between two things, like links, bonds, or hybrids. So maybe step one to helping our relationship grow is a nicer sounding name. But really I feel that Humanity and Tarballs will join, if not physically, than in an alliance. I think once people can meet me, speak with me, connect with me and really get to know me and Izzy, the thought of becoming a host will become much more attractive. Many people here already want to have what I have with Izzy. And I think that’s wonderful, not something to be afraid of. But I also think it’s wonderful that much of humanity will not want to and will remain unchanged.
SA: Will we have to go to war with the hunters?
AP: I sincerely hope not. I have already seen how easily eradicated they are by our military might. Surely they will want revenge on us, and my heart pours out for the pain they must feel at the loss of an entire planet. But… war for them would be suicide, and we must do everything within our power to prevent that. They are a people not much unlike ourselves, and we need to focus on what we have in common. At worst I believe they will realize they have no hope of warring with us and will form a treaty out of necessity, but I truly hope we can come to a real open understanding of one another, without any resentment or guilt.
SA: If you could be human again, would you want to be?
AP: That’s a difficult question. To be honest I still feel I am human. And yet much more than that, I’m now able to connect with humans in a deeper and more profound way than was ever possible for me before. That is, given that a person is willing to accept me as I am. As a scientist the potential for creation with the uses of my extended senses and abilities excites me to… well I’m extremely excited to see what I can create from it. So… no, I wouldn’t go back given a choice, but at the same time I would not be sad if I had to, there’s nothing wrong or inferior with being human. I’m just happy with who and what I have become.

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