Tuesday, 13 October 2009

(Extract from The Sex Tourist’s Planetary Guide, 398th Edition.)

Announcements have recently appeared on the Galactiweb extolling the virtues (so to speak) of Anubor, an utterly barren planet, of which ninety-nine per cent of the population are female. We have recently come into possession of a recording which, while forcing us to marvel at the human capacity for survival in the most adverse conditions, at the same time leads us to wonder about the real purpose of the advertisements.

We reproduce below a transcript of part of this recording, made by the Captain of the missionary ship Just Take Our Bloody Word For It, You Heathen!, which was recently found drifting, empty, in space.

Captain: I cannot see how, with no food supply, you are able to survive.

Native Spokeswoman: Before the Enlightenment, it was indeed difficult. The tribes warred incessantly among themselves, battling for the one source of food available – their own bodies. Barbaric, utterly barbaric: eating someone completely unrelated – usually tough and stringy too. Battles would take place at three-day intervals, when everyone had worked up a decent appetite, and usually in the afternoon, so that the victors could then banquet in the relative cool of the evening. Nevertheless, one’s anticipation of a good meal was marred by the reflection that one stood as good a chance of being one as of having one.
But then came the Enlightenment! Ah, that night, so long ago, when the Prophet Roger, a rough untutored warrior, lay sorely wounded and weak from hunger in a cave, while outside, his enemies, flatulent with the more acidic portions of his friends, awaited only the dawn to complete their repast! With him, his infant son, weeping piteously. Lying there, he recalls all the bitter years of war and misery, and can feel sorrow even for his foes outside, some of whom will almost certainly be slain with parts of himself still unexcreted.
And a Vision comes to him. The End of Hunger. The End of War.
He holds his son lovingly in his battle-torn arms, and speaks the words which in time will come to be known throughout the Universe, though often distorted, or hidden and embedded in local cults and myths.
“You,” he murmurs, brushing damp locks from his son’s brow, “are my seed, which must not fall on barren ground. The fruit of my loins. And as man has sown, so verily shall he reap.”
And on the morrow, strengthened by conviction and the flesh and blood of his son, he calmly approaches his enemies; and it is said that a mighty thunderclap heralded his approach, and bushes sprang into flame before him; and his enemies became his disciples and preached his Message over the whole planet. The New Age had begun!

Captain: He ate his own child!

Spokeswoman: Some parts he kept to share with those outside.

Captain: They all ate the little boy!

Spokeswoman: It seems so simple in retrospect, doesn’t it?

Captain: He murdered and devoured his own child, and you call that Enlightenment!

Spokeswoman : What is the whole purpose of reproduction if not to ensure a constant supply of food?

Captain: The purpose of reproduction is to propagate the race.

Spokeswoman: Which means to prevent its extinction through starvation. From constant war, we moved to constant peace, to proud self-sufficiency. What need to fight when food could be peaceably grown in one’s own body? Relationships became more meaningful, with the intense satisfaction of having earned one’s daily bread, first by the sweat of the groin, and then by the sweat of the brow.

Captain: But if you ate all your children, you’d be extinct in one generation.

Spokesman: Quite. The parents don’t eat all of them. Our females are very fecund, bearing five or more children at a time, but each couple is allowed to keep only three. It’s entirely up to them whether they consume all three. Frequently they keep one girl to bring up with tender and loving care, and the relationship is naturally extremely close, since the child is aware that a real sacrifice has been made for her. Of course, this is not to belittle that other equally intimate bond between parent and child – the sacramental union of eater and eaten, the beautiful ultimate return to the womb.

Captain (sotto voce): Or somewhere close to it. (Aloud) And the others?

Spokeswoman: They become common property. They are available to feed those who can’t grow their own food for whatever reason – illness, temporary infertility, old age, and so on. Of course, if a person repeatedly has recourse to the Childpool, they will eventually get eaten themselves.

Captain (triumphantly): Ha! I thought you said it was barbarous to eat each other!

Spokeswoman (patiently): We don’t. That is, we, the adults, don’t eat them. They provide food for the children in the Pool. (Indignantly) The little mites have to eat too, you know! Which is why we are so grateful to you for coming. I honestly don’t know what we’d do without the occasional windfall.
Here the recording abruptly ends, and, while one should not jump to premature conclusions, we feel the advertisements for Anubor should be approached with a certain circumspection.
(This short story was later adapted and incorporated into FISHER OF DEVILS)