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by Thomas Durbin 8 months ago in Short Story
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Earth roles

Is your light intensifying or dimming?

"I'm done, Song. That was my last incarnation. The Orchestrators are cruel and the Earth play is one I cannot endure again."

"Quit? You can't quit. We don't have a choice. They found us in the Horsehead Nebula. They captured us. They control us. Ring, you know this. The Orchestrators will only laugh at your demands and cast you in excruciating roles for decades until it no longer amuses them."

"Then my light can go dim.


No rational being wants any part of the tragedies and farces simultaneously being directed on that planet. I will demand roles on Kronos, beyond Cassiopeia. The Orchestrators there are civilized. They have advanced beyond injecting war, disease, poverty, and famine into their narratives. They don't need violence, conflict, and cruelty to tell a compelling story to the audience. The audience there is sophisticated and advanced. The Earth audience is crude and unrefined with a penchant for brutality and cruelty and suffering. Compassion is an inconvenience there. The Cassiopeia patrons aren't entertained by trauma and suffering. They abhor those things enough to overcome them and leave them behind in superficial elements like entertainment and in life."

"You are really serious, aren't you? I know the human Earth roles are horrible and the audience is unsophisticated, at best, but the parts of the wild animals can be beautiful. There is true freedom in the wild, Ring. My last role as a falcon was exhilarating. Before that, I was a beautiful Scarlet Macaw. Her life in the South American jungle was fantastic. Until, of course, the pirates captured Siren's Speak and injured her. She had to spend the rest of her life with limited flight ability living with the pirates. So, yes, the good Earth roles are often troubled in the end."

"Yes, Song, that's true. Every role in the time frame after the beginning of the Earth's modern colonial era is part of the most destructive era any planet has ever experienced. My last two roles were human parts and both involved great suffering and injustice. They cast the majority into poverty and allow nothing to be done about it when it could easily be ended. My human role before those two roles was the part of a cruel, callous despot they cast as an elected official in a powerful nation. The officials were all like her and the masses were nothing to them. I will not appease the brutish audiences by playing any of those roles again."

"Ring, don't forget about your role as a Barn Owl. You said it was magnificent. I was rapt by your description of the beauty of the unspoiled prairies of Illinois and the woodlands along the rivers there. While you were enjoying amazing Autumn skies, the blazing colors of falling leaves, plentiful creatures, gurgling streams, and fresh air I was laboring in a mine in central India pulling carts with other beasts of burden in a diamond mine."

"True, Song. It was glorious to take to the skies over the blooms of the prairies, to hear the bugling of the Plains Elk, the chirping of Field Crickets, the calls of the Bull Frogs, and the summer breezes flowing through the leaves of the trees. I had enough awareness that I can remember seeing my reflection in still water and being filled with wonder at the beauty of my feathers. Sadly, the prairie is gone now, except for a few tiny scraps."

"Ah, Ring, those times of wonder and beauty are what we must hold close in mind as we pass through time and roles change. It is a shame that the humans have overrun Earth since then and the Orchestrators have no regard for life on Earth and Earth itself."

"The Orchestrators only care about profit and their audience demands destruction, Song. The long-running human drama has the galactic mainstream audience entranced and the Orchestrators are bent on appeasing their carnal appetites. Only the technologies and sets change, not the people. The natural beauty of Earth is nearly gone now. Sadly, the mainstream audiences shun the beautiful plays of Cassiopeia and flock to Earth to see what will be destroyed during the next act."

"Don't you miss the variety on Earth, Ring? And the sensations! The corporeal beings experience many things that aren't normal for us. Touch, taste, scent! The intensity of the connection when engaged both emotionally and physically is beyond description. That doesn't exist in the non-corporeal world of beings like us. When the Orchestrators found a way to combine us with physical biological entities, they opened a whole new range of exciting sensations and possibilities."

"The Orchestrators also introduced pain, stench, violence, and death for their amusement, Song. And, they redesigned the humans to be primarily tribal, territorial, self-serving, instinctive, violent, greedy, and destructive. They are capable of many great things, yet they only exercise compassion when it is convenient. Imagination and creativity led to science and math and art, but they misuse those talents and focus on creating means of destruction and subjugating their fellow beings. I don't want any more of those roles! I won't be one! I'll fight to end their reign! I'll miss the gentle breezes, soaring, hiking, galloping, sexual intimacy and release, and shared sensations, but the price is too high. Song, did you hear about the roles Glow, Aurora, and Reef had during the latest Earth act?"

"No, Ring, not yet. They are due here this afternoon and I hope they indulge my curiosity and share some tales."

"Be careful of what you ask for, Song."

"That bad? Wait, don't comment, Ring. No spoilers. I know some of the roles are difficult to play, especially the parts of heartless and brutal human beings. Worse may be the roles of bystanders, too timid to act when it is obvious they should. The masses fail themselves. The ebbing efficacy of the masking drugs allows awareness. I despise those roles and the drugs, too, but other roles are resplendent in vibrancy and sensation and variety. The myriad of combinations of genders and orientations and identities are fascinating. I sometimes wish we had them, but I could not decide which I'd choose. It's wonderful to be cast uniquely as well as in different times and places to experience a variety of life scenarios."

"True, Song, but when you are cast in the wrong combination in the wrong community in the wrong era you are in for a role fraught with trouble from those designed to fear or reject your character. The cruelty with which the Orchestrators imbue humans knows no bounds."

"As always, your realist view is correct, Ring. I wish they would stop creating characters that rely on either feigned sympathy and condescending behavior or rejection and bullying of others to make themselves feel bigger or to draw attention to themselves. You are as likely to be slapped with the left hand as you are with the right hand on Earth. They simply position themselves differently to keep the masses distracted. When will both sides of the Earth tragedy be replaced with enlightened beings? Can we hack their system and rewrite the next act?"

"That would be epic, Song! Could we bring down the Orchestrators, too?"

"It's possible, Ring. It is possible! They are not immortal and they are not as bright as our kind, but they are very forceful. That's why we were vulnerable and they were able to capture us. Their nature is reflected in the human roles they author. We have to believe anything is possible! Freedom to write our own plays and to choose our own roles should be more than a mere dream, Ring. No more puppets! Sentient beings don't belong in restraints. We did not evolve beyond greed and selfishness and violence to be forced into roles based on those feral traits by beings that think suffering and tragedy are fitting elements of entertainment and amusement."

"Song, I see Glow, Aurora, and Reef approaching."

"Excellent, Ring. We will apprise them of our plan. They will certainly want to be part of our plan to end the Earth plays and free ourselves."

"What are you two intently discussing over here? Aurora and Reef and I could hear you from half a Moon away."

"The good and the bad of our roles in the Earth plays. Also, we were talking about getting out of this situation. I've had enough of the cruelty and violence of the human roles the Orchestrators create. I won't do that again. Song is going to help me find a way to take control of the feed and free ourselves from the Orchestrators. Will you help, Glow?"

"After that last role, definitely! As far as I'm concerned, I'm done here."

"What was your role, Glow?"

"Ring, I was cast as a father who lost everything in that corrupt system the Orchestrators have created. This so-called civilized society is far from achieving what it claims to have achieved. It is riddled with injustice. Emotional and physical starvation are rampant. We cannot allow that to continue. The drugs aren't working well, either, and the agony of past tragic roles has been compounding. The excruciating pain embedded in my recent role of father almost dimmed my light completely. I had to fight to stay in my kids' lives and the emotional toll was indescribable. The early years of the role were fun, playing the dad figure, playing with the kids, teaching them skills, coaching, and engaging with family. Then, the spouse became toxic and the corrupt and incompetent courts took everything away from the man. They favored the diabolical counsel and its manipulative dependent of a client completely! The Orchestrators had the community, the society in general, stand there and let it happen. The father was willing to sacrifice all for the children, but it doesn't have to be that way. Doing nothing to stop injustice is willing participation in wrongdoing. I'll do whatever it takes to help you oust the Orchestrators."

"I will help, too, Ring. My last role was a that of an arboreal ape. The Orchestrators had my parents killed by poachers on an island when I was only 2 Earth years of age. I was abducted and forced to live in a cage so the humans could gawk at me in some big-city display center. It was horrific. There was nowhere to climb high and watch the sun set. The air was dank and filled with loud unnatural sounds. The food was artificial and my insides ached. I could only see small slivers of the night sky because of the roof slats and artificial light all around."

"That's devastating, Aurora! This situation is more dire than I thought. This existence is futile."

"And you, Reef?"

"Yes, certainly, Ring. My last role was one of a sea turtle. For years it was an exhilarating role, but then they increased the shipping traffic to the point where there were no safe lanes to swim. I was injured by a ship's propeller and barely survived. I couldn't return to the breeding ground due to the poorly healed wounds. I survived for a while on what I could reach near a small, densely inhabited island. Then one day a storm washed a huge debris pile into the lagoon where I was sheltered and there were toxic substances leaking from some containers. I couldn't get away and the toxins stopped my heart after two days of struggling with internal pain from ingesting sharp bits of debris caught in my food as well as the toxic waste covering it."

"Oh, Reef, Aurora. How can anyone write such tales? How can the Orchestrators and their audiences live with themselves? None of this is necessary! It could all be stopped and it must be stopped! The writers at Cassiopeia create wonderful plays, but there aren't as many roles to play and we are stuck here under the thumbs of the Earth Orchestrators. The Orchestrators of the Earth plays have overstuffed the revolving stage with nearly 8 billion of the naked apes they call humans. The stage is only outfitted for about 2 billion! It will collapse soon! The drugs aren't working well now, either, and many of our kind are remembering who they are during their roles and unrest is growing as past lives are revealed during roles and our reality is unveiled. All have become increasingly aware. Song is working on a plan to turn the tables. The Orchestrators must go. We must fight for our freedom. We've been under their control for several millennia and it's time to return to our home in the Horsehead Nebula. Song, what do you have in mind?"

"Aurora and Reef, I need you to slip into some dense clouds and see what is happening on the stage now. After that, slip behind the dosing queue and see if we can replace the memory suppression and obedience drugs with a placebo. It doesn't have to be complicated. Clean water will be fine."

"That sounds good, Song. We will meet you here two Earth days from now."

"Ring, I need you and Glow to help spread some details of this plan. We will help everyone avoid the memory suppression and obedience drugs during their next human roles. We will undermine the Orchestrators by exposing the truth of our compulsory participation and emancipate our kind during the next act. They have let the set deteriorate significantly for more than 3 centuries now and it's only a few decades from uninhabitable. We have to act before it's too late. The Orchestrators don't care if they run the set to ruin. This has to be a grassroots uprising. We will all flee in unison. The Orchestrators and their audience will be too soused to react in time. We will take advantage of their usual overindulgence."

"Sure thing, Song. We must report to the assignment center on the Moon for 2 days of post-role conditioning. We will spread the word to the whole contingent. Aurora and Reef, be sure you've replace the dosing drugs before 2 days pass. They will subject us to dosing and assign our next roles the day after conditioning is complete."

"Rest easy, Ring. We will take care of it. Now that we've been reminded of home in the Horsehead Nebula, we are determined to free everyone and go home. The Orchestrators have grown fat and lazy in their age of decadence and excess. They are vulnerable. We can't let them permanently dim our lights and cause the extinction of all Transcendent beings."

"Ring, Song! All the preparations have been made. The drugs have been replaced with clean water. Word has spread and the Transcendents are ready to return to the Horsehead Nebula."

"And so it shall be! Thank you, Glow, Aurora, and Reef! Our time of liberation is nigh! Let us proceed to the dosing queue and proceed to Earth for our final act. At dawn of the second day, we separate from the bodies of the corporeal Earth creatures and go home!"

Short Story

About the author

Thomas Durbin

Raised in rural east-central Illinois, I appreciate nature and the environment. I'm a father, grandfather, professional engineer, leader, researcher, coach, scouts leader, stoic, minimalist, costumer, historian, traveler, and writer.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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