The Equinox

June 13, 2014
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At exactly 9:00 on the morning of January 1st, all citizens’ radios crackled into life when an announcement from the chief executive came through. “Today is January the 1st, it will be cloudy… My, my, it’s already The Equinox. Well, take a rest everyone, and I’ll see you all back at work tomorrow!” he announced, with feigned enthusiasm. At exactly 9:00 on the morning of January 1st, the people on planet Xeroid rested on the only holiday of the year: The Equinox. At exactly 9:00 on the morning of January 1st, everyone’s lives were changed for the better.

For centuries, people had lived on planet Xeroid peacefully. Too peacefully, so that it was impossible to tell the difference between one day and the other. Each page in the people’s lives was the same, and the people stayed on page one, never daring to turn to page two. The people had nothing to unite themselves with, nothing to look forward to, not even a glimmer of hope that things would change. There were only two events that were worth to be noted on the calendar: The 31st December, a day where the calendar for the next year would need to be purchased, and January 1st: The Equinox. The only holiday of the entire year, The Equinox was a break from the monotonous drudgery of working.

On the outskirts of Atlantica, the capital of Xeroid, a dull gray banner had been carelessly put up in the town square saying “EQINUOX”. A few street vendors loitered around the town square, hoping to sell their “Equinox” themed goods that were an excuse to charge for more. One would expect bustling celebrations on such an important occasion, but not a soul could be seen on the streets; most people had let their minds drift into a restful slumber, dreaming about the work they had to do the upcoming year.

The clouds that dotted the gray sky glowed with a faint red aura as the rising sun announced the beginning of a new day. A yellow butterfly emerged from behind the banner and then settled on a sunflower that poked its head out defiantly next to the crumbled sidewalk that led to the town square. For a moment, the planet was lifeless, and then two young men emerged from the path and headed to the town square. “A day. It’s just a day. The Equinox is nothing more than a day.” A small man with a crooked back from all the hard labor of working day and night grumbled. Sighing, the other man said, “George, I dunno. I have always wished that there were something… Never mind. You wouldn’t care. Nobody does.”

“Well, don’t mind me.” Slowly, George trudged on into the desolate town, nodding slightly, but not displaying any emotion when his neighbor passed by. Having nothing else to do, Lenny followed George like a puppy.

Above both men, a streak of white light suddenly blazed across the sky, illuminating the landscape. The streak of light bounced across the sky, then morphed into a fireball that slowly dipped its head down and came crashing into the ground.

An earsplitting crash echoed across the town. A few kilometers ahead of the two men, a conflagration erupted, sending puffs of red flames dancing around the barren area.

“What was that, George? What was that ball?” Curious, Lenny ran after the ball, his paws barely touching the ground. Arching his back, George made his way closer to the fire.

A while later, the two men stood on the edge of a giant crater gaping with their mouths open at the spectacle that unfolded in front of their eyes. In front of them lay the alien object that had just entered into Xeroid’s atmosphere. It had hit the ground at such high speeds that a crater 150m in diameter had been carved out of the ground. The once barren plain was littered with curious objects of all shapes and sizes. Pieces of charred metal were scattered across the plain, like bits of carcass after a slaughter. Fragments of melted plastic seeped into the ground, dyeing the color of the ground white. In the middle of the crater, an unmistakable white disk the size of a car lay motionless with a large fracture down the middle of it, smoke pouring out from underneath it. Beneath the disk was a small capsule, gleaming in the faint morning light.

As the blaze lessened in intensity, the fire grew smaller so that only a few sparks flickered here and there. Lenny called out “What is it, George?”

“Some kind of alien spacecraft, I guess.” George slowly snaked his way down the crater, avoiding the pieces of debris until he made his way to the bottom of the crater. Lenny followed closely behind. Upon closer inspection, the two realized that the capsule was largely undamaged. Apart from a few dents and bruises, the capsule was mostly intact. On the side of the capsule facing west, a door was attached to the side. On the other side of the capsule, the sun cast light upon the words that were engraved on the side.

“Voyager 9 Spacecraft” George read out. Contorting his face as he always did when he was in deep concentration, George muttered the words over and over again.

“Lets go in it!” Lenny piped in. After some thinking, George nodded and pulled down the latch on the door, before pulling it open. Ducking into the small capsule, George slipped into the module. As Lenny listened attentively outside, he heard George let out a soft exclamation. Then, George turned around and carried a golden disk out.

“Wow. What is it?” George stared at the disk for a long time. The disk was the size of a dinner plate. It gleamed golden, and had one single blue button on the middle of the disk. Cautiously, George hovered his shaking finger over the button. He counted 3 seconds in his head, before he pressed the button.

After a slight whirring sound, the disk popped open like a shell, until it opened 90o. The screen on the disk then burst into life.

“Greetings from Earth. We have sent out the Voyager 9 spacecraft in hope that we will be able to communicate the story of on Earth to you. This present from a small, distant city is a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts, our feelings, and most importantly, our celebrations. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.” Then, the screen displayed images and sounds of the various aspects of life in the foreign planet of Earth.

After a while of engrossed watching, George and Lenny found that there were many similarities between both Earth and Atlantica; both had stunning skyscrapers, a prosperous economy, and an orderly society. However, both George and Lenny’s jaws dropped when they saw the “Celebration” part of the documentary.

“In the hustling and bustling cities on Earth, where people are under constant stress from all the work, there is so much of monotony and pressure in everyone’s lives that every once in a while, we all want to escape from it,” the narrator explained, as pictures of people holding lanterns on Mid-Autumn Festival, pictures of dazzling Christmas decorations, and pictures of Easter eggs flashed up on the screen. “And what better way is there to do so than celebrations? Celebrations give people something to look forward to and can unite our population towards a certain cause. They add structure to our social lives, and give us a distraction from our daily exhausting routines of life. They are an inspiration to remember the important things and moments in life.”

By then, a small inquisitive crowd had gathered around George and Lenny, absorbed by the stunning new epiphany that was engulfing their minds. Slowly, these complete strangers had started to talk to each other, something that rarely happened before.

“Look at those Earthlings George! They’re so happy, united…”

“Lenny. These people have others they can count on, things they can look forward to. Look at us. We have nothing. We just…”

“Plod on everyday, without a cause, without any result.” a woman from behind finished.

It was then that a small spark had been ignited in the middle of their minds. It was an obsession, something they could work towards, a flame that could not be put out. They envisioned a day when the planet of Xeroid would be united in one common theme, when the people of Xeroid would have something to look forward to, when the calendars would be filled with festival after festival, when the town square of their town would one day be filled with dazzling banners that radiated merriment and cheering crowds screaming their voices hoarse… They vowed that they would show the world how page one could one day be flipped to page two, when one normal day could be changed into a day of celebration.

Over the course of the year, George, Lenny, and the others who had witnessed the Voyager 9 Spacecraft spread the word about the mysterious “Voyager 9 Spacecraft”, and how the lives of those in Hong Kong had one main difference between the lives of those on Xeroid. They worked day and night trying to organize a celebration in which everyone on the planet would be united. For the first time in their lives, George and Lenny worked for a cause.

Around the globe, people started to contemplate who they were, and what the objectives of their lives were. They started to live not the lives of dogs and cats, but the lives of a community as one. Talking to strangers was no longer an unusual thing. People finally had something to look forward to.

The next year…

At exactly 9:00 on the morning of January 1st, all citizens’ radios cackled into life when an announcement from the chief executive came through. “Today is January the 1st, it will be sunny… My, my, it’s already Equinox. What are we waiting for? Let the celebrations begin!” At exactly 9:00 on the morning of January 1st, everyone’s lives were changed for the better. At exactly 9:00 on the morning of January 1st, all the people on planet Xeroid erupted in celebration so loudly that even the people on Earth would have been jealous, commemorating the year that had just past, spending time with their loved ones. Except for George and Lenny. They were getting their well-earned rest, but they weren’t dreaming about the work; they were dreaming about the fireworks.

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