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Our Last Humans

Two Dancing Lords at the Pub

“Complainers. That’s what they are.” The speaker adjusted the drape of his robe with a coordinated ripple of his starboard legs. “And we’re better off without them cluttering the landscape.” The two Dancing Lords strolled diagonally across the Quad, their sidewise gait suggesting millipedes in love. It was a pleasant evening. “I am right on this,” said the senior.

“Unquestionably,” answered the smaller of the two. The spiral braiding of his decorative caul indicated inferior rank. “But it is simply a question of their cosmological opinions. It is not as though they were calling for the overthrow of the state.”

“Opinions rot the fabric of society. They must go. You are with me on this?”

“Wholeheartedly.”

The Lords scuttled along through a gathering drizzle. The smaller shuffled to keep up, tapping the ground with his portside antenna, making a rhythmic counterpoint to the rain. “Must you do that?” asked the larger.

“I am starting to molt.”

His superior shot him a glare. Molting or not, this fidgeting was annoying. “Ah, well... it will pass.” The senior Dancing Lord emitted an olfactory indicator of pleasure.

At that moment a dense blast of sonic energy struck the two and sent them rolling sideways across the Quad and into a cenotaph.

“Ouch,” exclaimed the junior.

“Concatenation of expletives,” snorted the senior Dancing Lord. He released a noxious secretion.

“The freshman class,” choked the junior as an angry outburst of drums, flutes, guitars and the synthesized strangulations of souls in torment descended upon them. A wailing voice, perhaps human, perhaps not, roared and squealed. “The latest chartbuster by Trailer Park Retards. It’s called ‘Infuse My Essence.’ Very paleo.”

“WHAT?”

“THE BAND, THE TRAILER PARK RETARDS,” the junior Dancing Lord shrieked over the din. “PALEO.” The words he spoke grated with many consonants, clattering and harsh in the aural cavity. The music subsided with a rustle of settling brickwork. “Ah, that’s better. I was saying that the band’s name, Trailer Park Retards, translates as ‘Sojourners of Innocence.’ The title translates as ‘Hark the Pipers’ in the local tongue.”

“Mmm... spiritual. Why don’t these perpetrators simply say so in the first place and save us our hearing. Human are they?”

“Human. Yes. Our last humans.”

The senior Dancing Lord gave a sigh that made ripples cascade down the length of his body. “Sentience has its costs; we will be well rid of them. This bunch are but our latest challenge — to be overcome or used. They present a conundrum because they are to all appearances useless. Still, life goes on.”

“They are capable of surprising flights of creativity. They have a culture.”

“So do bacteria. Bacteria don’t vote. Yet.”

“They sing.”

“Ah, a plus point, say you. By ‘sing’ you refer to the caterwauling which requires a piano. Bacteria do not ‘sing.’ They are therefore the superior species.”

The junior Dancing Lord shuddered and curled up in a ball to protect his vulnerable underside, a gesture of deference. “We promised a free exercise of opinion when we assumed responsibility for them.”

“So? They are noisy and fractious; they ask but never listen. They will now have a world to call their own. And it’s somewhere else. Would we could send our own freshmen there as well; said world is notorious for its bad weather.”

“Their God will accompany them? This is a tenet of their faith.”

The greater Dancing Lord turned to loom over the lesser. “I promised that they would have guidance. Yes, their Supreme Being has already abandoned this world. The humans would become unruly without their temples, choirs and song books. I have authorized the sending of a piano to drown out the choirs. They will be happy.”

“One piano on a barren planet.”

“Barren is as barren does. I might have sent a jukebox. What say we ponder these doings over a flagon of ethanol?”

“Delighted.” A potentially nasty social situation had been discussed, defused, and dismissed. The relieved Lords exhaled comfortably through their spiracles and went to partake of distilled spirits.

“And have you heard the one about...” this was some hours later. The senior Dancing Lord chortled hilariously. His body segments rattled.

“I do not think I have, Sir.” The lesser Lord called for another round of drinks.

“Uh-oh,” said his superior, “I believe I have reached my limit. Time for hearth and home.” With that he curled in an unsteady circle and rolled toward the door, legs waving unbecomingly in the air. At the door he paused, “You have been good company,” he slurred.

“I say, Sir, that sounds quite terminal.” Through an alcoholic haze, the junior Lord perceived a disturbing tone in his superior’s utterance. “Like a good-bye.”

“It is, rather.” The senior Lord hiccoughed, then uncoiled himself. “You report to the mines tomorrow. No more humans, you see. Pip-pip.”

Left to pay the tab, the lesser Lord reflected woozily on being alone on a planet with no suffocating hierarchy, no noisy, contentious complainers underfoot. From the jukebox the Trailer Park Retards bellowed at full volume.

*  *  *

The Dancing Lords as forerunners of human civilization is explored in Return of the Orange Virgin, where I found them more satisfactory as an off-screen presence.

copyright 2020 Rob Hunter

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