The Policy

Conrad Altmann

Abraham had just finished his duties for the day. As village chief, he was responsible for settling any number of issues that might arise between neighbors. The issues could range from day to day, but there weren’t many people left in the village anymore, after most of the children had left for various cities, looking for work.

The most pressing of the issues today was a quarrel between two farmers, one had rented out the land adjacent to his to a friend, and that friend had decided to grow a crop that was slowly choking out the renter’s fields. It was a simple issue, but Abraham had decided that he would make a ruling on it the following day, partly to let the tempers of the two men cool down.

He had just arrived home, and was just placing his satchel on the stool by the door, when a flash of blue caught his eye from the other room. Abraham stepped back and leaned over to look again into the kitchen, and almost lost his balance. There, hovering over the table, was a sphere, bluish-green in color, and about a meter in diameter.

Abraham slowly inched his way into the kitchen, directing his attention to the sphere.

“What the hell is this‽” he muttered under his breath.

“YOUR INCREDULITY REGISTERS AS RECOGNITION OF OUR PRESENCE” came a voice from the sphere.

Thankfully there was a chair nearby, as Abraham stumbled backwards. He sat heavily, mouth agape.

“SHALL WE BEGIN?”

“What are you?” he directed to the shape.

“YOU MAY REFER TO US AS THE AGENT”.

“Agent of what? The government?”

“WE ARE THE AGENT OF THE POLICY YOUR SPECIES HAS AS STEWARD OF THIS PLANET. WE ARE HERE TO INFORM YOU OF A BREACH OF POLICY.”

Abraham straightened up. “What do you mean a ‘Breach of Policy’? I don’t have any contract or policy with you. I don’t even know what you are.”

“WE ARE HERE, AS WE WERE WITH THE FORMER SIGNATORY OF YOUR POLICY, FOR YOU TO NAME A SUCCESSOR. IN THE EVENT OF A BREACH, STEWARDSHIP MUST PASS TO A NAMED SUCCESSOR OR SECONDARY SUCCESSOR.”

“I’m sorry, I’m a bit confused. I wasn’t aware that we had a policy, or even needed one to live here. Can you tell me what sort of issue we have? Maybe we can come to a settlement.” he slid into chief mode automatically.

“WE RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ARE UNINFORMED AS TO YOUR POLICY. THE BREACH IN QUESTION IS THAT OF SELF-AWARENESS. YOUR PREDECESSOR NAMED TWO SUCCESSORS. YOU REPRESENT THE HIGHEST AUTHORITY FIGURE OF THE SECOND NAMED SUCCESSOR SPECIES WITHIN PROXIMITY TO THE SIGNING OF THE POLICY. SO WE ARE HERE TO ASK YOU TO NAME A SUCCESSOR AND SECONDARY SUCCESSOR SO THAT THE AUTHORITY CAN PROCEED WITH HANDOVER.”

“Self-awareness? Humans are self-aware.” He argued, in some vain attempt at somehow proving the agent wrong.

“OUR STANDARD OF SELF AWARENESS IS HIGHER THAN THAT OF YOUR SPECIES. THERE ARE TWO CAVEATS IN YOUR POLICY THAT DICTATE WHETHER YOU ARE ALLOWED TO REMAIN AS STEWARD OF THIS PLANET. THE FIRST IS INTELLIGENCE: THIS WAS PROVEN WHEN YOU BEGAN TO USE COMPLEX TOOLS, THE SECOND IS SELF-AWARENESS: THIS WAS FOUND TO BE IN BREACH AT THE ADVENT OF YOUR INDUSTRIAL AGE. YOUR GRACE PERIOD HAS EXPIRED. PLEASE STATE YOUR CHOICES FOR SUCCESSOR.”

The gravity of the situation had begun to dawn on Abraham. If he understood correctly, this being was here to show him, and by him he assumed humanity, the door. For some incredible reason, it fell to him to choose a different species to inherit the Earth. “I don’t know of any other species that are intelligent on Earth though, how am I supposed to pick?”

“ONCE HANDOFF HAS BEEN COMPLETED, THE AUTHORITY WILL PROVIDE THE APPROPRIATE STIMULUS TO INITIATE THE FIRST CAVEAT.”

“Well, this is a big decision for me. How much time can you give me?”

“YOUR DECISION IS UNIMPORTANT TO THE AUTHORITY, THERE WILL BE NO LASTING MEMORY IN THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR SUCCESSOR. BUT IF YOU REQUIRE TIME, YOU MAY HAVE UNTIL THE PLANET REVOLVES TOWARD THE LIGHT OF YOUR SUN.”

“Thank you.” Abraham stood, respectfully, and walked out of the kitchen into his bedroom. He sat on the edge of his bed, and then rotated to lay across it, his mind swimming with what he had just heard. Gradually, Abraham drifted off to sleep, thinking to himself as he did that this might be the last time.

Waking with a start, Abraham sat straight up in bed, still fully clothed. It was early morning outside, and the light was just beginning to stream through the window. Perhaps the previous evening has all been just a dream, he thought. Then, assuming so, he calmed down. It was just too outrageous to be true, but the conversation didn’t fade from his memory as most dreams do on waking.

Abraham slowly lifted his eyes toward the kitchen doorway. The table wasn’t directly visible from where he was sitting, but from the wall opposite it, he recognized a faint reflective blue glow.

science fiction, short story
2020-01-24 14:30:52

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