Baggy Shorts

The Grays

by Kelly Welles


The Grays are unremarkable. They exist in the infrastructures we helped them to build with deadness in their eyes and a sense of belonging that bears no relation to the uncertainty and fragility of their lives. This is just one of many inconsistencies we have been unable to resolve.

We all use the infrastructure, of course. We have to. We’re as much a part of it as they are, these days. But all the while we’re fully aware that it’s not ours. It’s theirs. We’re pushing our luck by circulating through the concrete arteries, veins and capillaries that function as host bodies for them, but as long as we don’t disturb the delicate constructs that form their rights,
they’re happy to let it pass.

At least, they were. There’s been a shift in recent decades. Gradual, but perceptible nonetheless.

We’ve always been weak – at least since physicality was proven to be a poor determinant of usefulness in civilised society and pursuit outlawed – but where once there would be no distinction in overcoming a lesser being, now even the tiniest margins are ripe for exploitation.

We don’t belong here.

Can they smell it on us? Taste a faint, metallic tang in the air as we pass?

We’re chronically awkward in the areas they inhabit with ease, it’s true. Vulnerable in coffee shops, corridors, crowds and car parks, our discomfort incongruous, probably obvious. We’re not perfect. We have blind spots.

But they restrain themselves to looks that slice through the thin veneer of credibility we’ve knitted together using observation and careful aping of their behaviour. Under the scrutiny of more, two or three perhaps, who exchange looks and whispers, it tears back like a scab, revealing the quivering, pinkish fragility beneath and sometimes the pain is so raw, they might as well have punched us.

They do that too, of course. Sometimes they can’t contain the helplessness and frustration that roils and scorches their insides and without warning, the animal inside emerges, clad in fists and kicks, and we fall easily beneath the blows because we’re not fighters. There’s no battle to be won but hearts and minds and you can’t win the mind of a Gray.

We know that now.

We knew that when we came here. This enterprise wasn’t undertaken lightly, and plans were laid out, examined, critiqued and adjusted hundreds of times before a viable planet had even been identified.

By the time we’d located a test subject that fulfilled our requirements – a size that facilitated objective observation coupled with an evolutionary process that had discharged its energy by dragging life out of its swamps and onto the land, teasing them onto their feet and into the exploration of rudimentary systems before collapsing to its knees, spent – everything was already in place.

Even after the strand of our DNA comprising components we believed would kick start development had been introduced into the human genome we had to wait for its effects to take hold. Question the validity and ethics of our actions as we watched them learn to sculpt the clay with which they’d build their lives. We moved among them, feeling the pain of every setback, the joy of every stumbling step forward because we wanted them to succeed. We are them and they are us. It was never just a project.

And that’s why we couldn’t interfere. It was one of the first tenets. For a successful outcome to be valid, they would have to arrive at it themselves. Debate raged for a while after the assimilation, prompted mostly by the sudden escalation in capabilities. Manipulation of fire, creation of tools, development of agriculture were all results of our ‘interference’, the argument went. What would be the difference if we righted their course a little now and then? Evading failure became the point for some.

But while it’s hard to watch them hurl themselves down this path to self-destruction, we’re obliged to. If we hoped to bathe in the glory of success, we should have also prepared for the bitter, coarse taste of failure. The realisation that the creative energy we imbued them with would sour in those who failed to understand the laws of motion, the need to move forward. It would gather in their corners, swelling and bloating until they darkened and began to rot. No wonder they glare. No wonder they punch and kick and spit and fight.

I don’t blame them. We sit astride our superiority and look down with thinly concealed interest as they whine and scream and protest at the unfairness of it all. How, if they’d just been given a chance to be better they would have been and how they never win anything, but it’s not like the answers are kept a secret, locked away and buried like the Ark of the Covenant, only available to those prepared to battle against enemies both subjective and objective.

We left clues everywhere. We wanted them to succeed. Their forefathers wanted them to succeed. They developed language and quickly worked out how to compose messages and maps for future generations. They left warnings of errors on micro and macro levels, and while those mistakes kept on repeating themselves we comforted ourselves with the notion that the organic spread of information takes time.

We were wrong. Wildly so. The theory that the strand of DNA we introduced would have been sufficient to repel the animal instinct was scientifically endorsed at the time. We had no reason to suspect an external variable like material wealth would nourish the innate need for self-preservation that is key to survival, or that the two would forge such an intense symbiotic relationship.

They didn’t become empowered by the protection from fear and pain they surrounded themselves with and seek to ensure all were sheltered within its walls. The acquisition of material wealth became a preoccupation that crushed any notion of social responsibility impudent enough to rear up in its face. Individualism reigned.

And fatally, they used the reasoning skills that built the machines they used to reshape the world to rationalise their behaviour.

I watch people splash and play swimming pools filled with bright blue water while just metres away children are dying from exposure to disease from the dirty brown fluid their parents have walked miles to find.

I watch people shoot and beat each other to death over the way they choose to express themselves, and people protest over the shooting of a single wild animal because they can see it, while tacitly approving the mechanised slaughter of hundreds of thousands of animals a day because they can’t. I watch the poor starve while the rich spend their excess wealth on ever more ingenious ways to distance themselves from reality.

Today, each huddles on either side of a gaping chasm, clinging on to their beliefs and rights and entitlements for dear life while those who stretch themselves ever thinner to bridge the gap are destined to plummet into its maw, unheard, or worse. Unnecessary.

The truth we must face, perhaps the conclusion we must draw, is that the Grays are binary creatures. Capitalism or communism. Wealth or poverty. Good or evil. These simplified concepts are functional in a primitive civilisation but our belief that their brains would evolve to cope with multi-dimensional ideas has proven erroneous and led to the suffering of millions.

Natures abhors a vacuum. If we allow them to continue, the walls of the civilisation they have built and hold onto with grim determination will crumble into the chasm and we’ll have to watch.

Who knows what atrocities will occur as a direct result of our meddling with a species that now has the capacity to create life in a laboratory but no self-control? We could allow more time for global communication to bed in, but the success of The Earth Project was always contingent upon the right foundations being in place when the necessary technologies were developed.

While there have been promising periods of development intermittently over the last 1000 years or so, there has been a persistent failure to learn from the mistakes of the past. When combined with the indicators of response to communications on a global scale, the next phase and the further investment of time and effort required render the project not viable. It’s for this reason that I’m recommending the cessation of the experiment, and further, that it be aborted. The planet should be stripped of assets, both biological and technological, and destroyed, as should all records.