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Piercing light seeps into the shadows 'til the darkness fades away. And then it all spins into focus. The wreckage is apparent for miles; the earth has been ruined. Even a fool could grasp such a simple concept.
The soil is unclean; it is hard and rough and crumbling. An awful drought has settled upon this planet. Death is the landscape, and there is an unworldly stillness about the place. Nothing stirs.
This was not a beautiful demise. It had been inevitable, but they chose to be blind. When it came rolling in, a foggy cloud of disease, there was only time for one last gulp of toxic atmosphere. And then it was over. The humans were no more.
The three-toed creatures stepping out onto the terrain are certainly not human, but they are gorgeous. They are foreign. They are alien. Moonlit skin, bodies smooth and willowy like a youthful sapling reaching up towards the sun. Long are the faces, and sharp are the chins; in place of a nose, a circular filter, almost a gasmask, lets in only the purest air.
Their eyes are huge pools of shining oil. Each lash is long, curled, in such a way as to shield from contaminants. Every one's hair is different, filled with exotic colors and unimaginable luster. And on a hand there are two fingers, a thumb and fore; this species is only interested in the necessities.
Unabashed, they are covered only in their milky skin. Perhaps they do not know the rules of this world, or perhaps they have never tasted the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge.
Surprisingly, there is still other life around. A human male, tall and broad, approaches from the distance. An excited chatter rises up amongst these delicate beauties. As he comes closer, it is easy to see that he is nothing in comparison to them.
Beneath the protective shield of a mask strapped about his head, his face is worn age and worry lines; the creases seem to dominate his face. His cheeks are stained sanguine. Dark colored fuzz sprouts in every which way about his chin, mimicking the style that he has aquired atop his head. A quirky smile seems to permanently being pulling his lips into a tight grimace. This slightly unnerving look, however, is overwritten by deep-set, chocolate eyes. They are calm and inviting. In fact, they soothe the leader of the creatures.
"Dr. Rhines?" asks one, who has suddenly stepped in front of all the others. It is a male and his hair is a vibrant red. He holds himself up with pride, watches the doctor with calculating coldness. "You are the one we spoke with, correct?"
"Well, who else would it be? Of course you spoke with me, I don't imagine you get calls like that very often. Besides, not many people have the technology I do." Dr. Rhines becomes boastful. The leader of the creatures blinks at him a few times, before a gargled noise springs from his throat.
"You amuse me, Dr. Human," he replies slowly, still trying to get a grasp on the human words on his tongue. A smile never once crosses his eyes, or even his lips. His face is a blank slate. "But down to business. You said that you would help my people and me. Our world is falling apart, much like yours has done. I expect you want something in return for the solution you have uncovered. Tell me something," he suddenly adds, eyes intent and staring. "Is anyone else alive?"
The doctor flushes scarlet up to his ears and his teeth catch on his bottom lip as he gives a nervous smile. "Yes, well. My two rivals are living with me in our lab. Actually, we predicted the catastrophe years ago. No one listened, of course." He begins to fiddle with his loose, maroon tie, clears his throat. "As for payment, I would like you to help me with my world as well, ah... um. What's your name, if you will?"
"Rndr." The leader only waits, unimpressed, lids dropping slightly in disinterest.
"Okay, right," Dr. Rhines continues, now nervous and a bit humiliated. "I am wondering how you are," his clears his throat. His voice grows more confident, and he stands a little taller. "I am wondering how you are in the area of souls. I am trying to bring back the human race, and you are very similar to us. You do have souls, right?"
Rndr does not laugh, but there are excited titters behind him. The human knows nothing of their make-up, their history, their way of life.
"Dear doctor, let me tell you a little bit about us. Many years ago, there were only two bodies. Inside them lived the first souls of the universe. They were able to create more souls and bodies, but we may only make new souls through combination of old. We are a renewing species, we do not waste, unlike you. We live for two hundred years - at forty, a chemical which preserves our bodies from age kicks in. At two hundred years, we must take our mate and combine our souls to be placed in another body. The combination knows no gender. But that aside, we have always lived to protect our planet and please our ancients. And see us physically - we drink in moonlight to keep these bodies charged. We do not need these skins, but they are certainly useful for communication and seeing each other how we truly are. Over time we have removed unecessary parts."
"What about your reproductive organs, then? Do you engage in sexual revelries?" Dr. Rhines grins sheepishly, feeling suddenly as though he is ten years old again, sneaking into the girls' locker room.
Rndr tilts his head, sighs a little. "They are something unfortunately we are having problems removing for good."
Rhines pales and winces, pondering what all possibilites that could entail. "I see. But do you not engage in sexual acts for..."
"For what? We do not reproduce that way."
The doctor is caught off guard and a bit anxious now. "Well, for... for merriment."
"We do not feel the need. These complex emotions that you humans possess - love, lust, greed - we do not have them. They only complicate life. This is why your species has failed."
"How do you pick a mate, then? How do you know who is right?"
Rndnr makes the choking noise again. Rhines hopes it is his version of a chuckle. His teeth are black shards, glinting like glass. They are spacey and long, shaped strangely similar to toothpicks. They match the claws on his hands and feet.
Absolutely lost now, Rhines stares at the strange being in front of him. Are the pollutants seeping through his filter? The others are not perturbed, perhaps he speaks the truth. He waits for an explanation.
"Our personalities, you can see them through color. Our eyes are programmed to see not details, but shapes and colors. Our hair color corresponds to different personality types. I am strong. I am a leader, therefore my hair is the first color, red. Whereas magenta would be weak and shy. Certainly below me. We often try to choose our complementaries. It makes for the best combination. However, there are some exceptions. We do have some outcasts. Sometimes two souls who should not combine, do. As a result, unclean souls are formed. We see these through hair, too. Like Ulr, here."
Another male inches up towards Rndr, bows his head. He is lankier, much younger, and his hair is silver.
"Ulr is unclean. It is not his fault. So we do not kill him, we simply shun him."
Ulr seems to have no personality. He does not care that he is being talked about in such a manner. He simply nods in agreement, stares blankly around, as if waiting for instructions on how to live. It scares the doctor, but he makes a mental note that he will be the perfect subject.
"However, here are three more examples for you. Erz, she is a soft-spoken doll - her hair is a dark shade of violet." A female finally steps forward. She is uneasy at the way the doctor eyes her body. "And Tok, our dearest Tok."
The next alien that Dr. Rhines lays eyes on has no gender, and its hair is orange. He must be catching on, because he thinks it must mean the alien is bold and outgoing, but not as strong as Rndr. "Tok is gorgeous, is it not? Not defined by standards of gender, no excess parts. We keep things simple and Tok is surely this. It is in the body of an original."
"Finally, there is Vex. He is our peace-maker, if you cannot tell by his emerald locks. He could be my compliment, my mate, if I liked."
Vex shows the most emotion out of all of the 'examples' - a languid smile pulls up the corners of his bright pink lips.
"Ah. I think I understand," replies Rhines, nodding in interest. He is already deep in thought.
"So it is a deal, Dr. Human? Can we return the favor?"
" It is. More than you know."