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Magnus lay sprawled on the hard, cracked ground of a now barren land on the planet Eden, one hand placed upon the festering wound at his side that rose and fell with each labored, rasping breath. He gritted his teeth, cringing in the excruciating pain torturing his body as he drew his final breaths.
A picture formed in his mind: two boys, both fifteen years of age, staring wide-eyed out the window at a distant orb in space, rapidly growing larger as the ship approached it. They had chatted in eager excitement, speaking of their admiration for the band of explorers that had discovered the planet nine years ago while traveling across space.
Their leader had looked upon the planet with pride at being its first human discoverer.
'Earth is nothing more than a barren wasteland,' he had announced on returning to his home planet. 'Centuries ago, mankind was perfected, but before that time, humans destroyed Earth by pollution and draining of resources. Earth is no longer worthy of our inhabitance. Now we will start over and live a new and better life.'
Magnus remembered how they had called the planet Eden, this perfect paradise.
A cheer had erupted when all eyes turned towards the distant planet. The fifty families boarding the ship had long anticipated laying eyes upon the planet that would be their new home.
Shades of green spread out over the planet, proving its abundance of jungles, forests, and meadows. Eden was dotted with vast lakes of the brightest blues, all shimmering like crystalline gems glinting in the sunlight. Sprinkles of white covered the planet on several points, the snowy mountain peaks proudly aiding the beauty of their planet.
'Ashelon, this will be amazing!' Magnus, the taller of the two boys, exclaimed. 'I've heard that its resources are rich and its inhabitants peaceful.'
'Thalin's father is already there,' Ashelon mentioned. 'He says there are delicious fruits growing inside the trees.'
'Yes.' Ashelon had released a melancholy sigh, unwilling to risk distressing the natives of Eden. 'But I won't eat any. The aliens living on Eden love their trees and asked us not to cut them down.'
'Don't worry,' Magnus had soothed that day, so many years ago. 'I am certain everyone will be obliged to respect the natives' wishes.'
Ashelon shrugged his shoulders and looked away, but Magnus kept his gaze fixed on his companion.
Why is he so worried? Everything will be fine. Mankind is a race of a perfect nature. If the aliens come anywhere near to being as good as we are there will be no trouble at all. But still, it is very good and considerate of Ashelon to feel concerned.
Magnus remembered smiling proudly. He had always greatly admired his friend.
But he shuddered at the remembrance of those fateful words he had uttered as he gazed at Eden in eager anticipation.
'Ashelon,' he had whispered, releasing a deep sigh of pleasure. 'I'm going to spend the rest of my days there'in paradise.'
Magnus's mind reshaped his landscape of memories, that day that had seemed so beautiful and merry. Sorrow flooded his heart as he remembered how he had strode through the jungles in high spirits, a gun in his hand and a sack slung over his shoulder. The trees had swayed back and forth as a gust of wind whistled through their leaves, as though whispering a secret message, and the flowers danced in the playful breeze. The sky beamed clear and blue excepting a few white puffs of cloud, the sun shining brightly overhead.
His third year living on this beautiful planet, and at that moment he felt truly convinced that nothing could ever flaw this world.
A familiar whistle had suddenly reached Magnus's ear, playing a merry tune. He smiled at the sound, easily recognizing that high pitched whistle.
'Ashelon!' he had called, rushing towards the sound's source.
'Magnus!' Ashelon exclaimed once his friend had come into clear view. 'I haven't seen you in months!'
'I've been busy,' Magnus replied, glancing at the gun in his hand.
'What's that?' Ashelon asked suspiciously, his eye also catching sight of the gun.
Magnus smiled and pulled the trigger. A white ray of light shot from the gun, illuminating its surroundings. The beam sliced through the nearest trunk and instantly the tree collapsed, revealing a large red fruit nestled in the dark wood.
'A tree-slicer!' Ashelon cried. 'The natives pleaded with us not to destroy their trees!'
Magnus only laughed in response.
'I haven't sliced a single tree,' Ashelon continued. 'It's wrong.'
What? Magnus wondered, disturbed by his friend's words. Wrong? How could a race of a perfect nature do anything'wrong?
Magnus had forcefully shaken the thoughts from his mind and changed the subject, mentioning the recent discovery of valuable resources buried deep beneath Eden's surface.
'Can we get it?' Ashelon had questioned.
'There is one problem,' Magnus answered. 'A layer of soil as hard as rock is between us and the treasure, and nothing is powerful enough to get through it except''
'What?' Ashelon inquired excitedly.
'Thalin has begun enslaving the natives. They are the only ones powerful enough to reach it.'
'What!' Ashelon exclaimed. He turned away from his companion, squaring his shoulders. 'I won't take any part in this, and I suggest you do the same. Enslaving the natives would be cruel!'
And with those words, Ashelon stormed away.
Magnus stood taken aback, greatly confused and deeply disturbed.
'You're wrong. Humans are perfect,' he whispered. 'Humans are perfect.'
Still, a voice deep within him whispered to trust Ashelon, but he refused to listen. He blocked the voice, refusing to hear, refusing to obey.
Magnus, twenty-three years of age, gazed upon two creatures that labored nearby, digging for their master. He glanced at the sky and found the sun to be half blocked by gray clouds.
A haunting voice came ringing to his ears as he recalled those words from so long ago, 'Enslaving the natives would be cruel!'
Magnus held his head in his hands, shuddering. He felt overwhelmed with confusion, unsure of what all this meant.
How could a perfect race perform a cruel act? The aliens must deserve what they're enduring, Magnus reassured himself. What other explanation is there?
Magnus's memories melted away to the painful present, to the screams of agony that had filled the air only an hour ago. Bodies had swarmed about his own, enclosing him on all sides, men and aliens advancing each other with equal ferocity, battle cries on their lips.
Magnus recalled tightening his grip on his weapon. Beams of electricity shot from the humans' guns and struck the aliens with force, knocking them senseless, and gashes ran across the bodies of the humans the aliens had charged, death nearly grasping them in its cold clutches.
Magnus glanced to his left, his fingers ready to pull the trigger of his weapon at any moment. But the gun slipped from his grasp. A familiar body lay on the rough ground nearby, the life drained from his once beaming face.
'Ashelon,' Magnus whispered.
His thoughts raced, the remembrance of how Ashelon's wife had been injured by an alien fleeing from its master, the anger in Ashelon's wild eyes as he prepared for battle, and those terrible moments before the war, both Ashelon and Magnus ready to fight beside their fellow humans to prevent the natives from rebellion.
Magnus trembled violently, shaking his head in disbelief. Ashelon had been killed, his closest and dearest friend, the man he had so greatly admired.
Hearing a strange noise from behind, Magnus spun about in time to see a massive arm swing at his head. Then everything fell into blackness.
Magnus had awakened only moments before, and as the remembrance of these events swept through his mind, he lifted his head enough to look about. Both the bodies of men and aliens lay scattered on the ground, Magnus the last man drawing breath on Eden.
Tears formed in his weary eyes at the horrific sight.
How did it happen? What caused all this destruction?
Before humans had arrived, Eden had been a perfect paradise, but now it was destroyed. What happened to man's 'perfect nature' in which he had so strongly believed? Was his desire to live forever in perfect paradise impossible?
'Ashelon,' he whispered, gazing upon his friend's lifeless body. 'Not even you could escape.'
Magnus turned his gaze upward, and found the sun to be completely shrouded by black clouds. He shivered, his hands like blocks of ice in the frigid air.
His breaths came sharply, white mists of vapor fading before his eyes.
As Magnus looked about at the grayness of this world, the last ray of the sun's light fading behind the blackened clouds, last words parted from his final breath.
And Eden fell into eternal silence.