Big Echo

Critical SF

 Take Me to Your Leader

by Ahimaz Rajessh

Upon quietly landing in the resource-rich Zha-V, from a distance, the sight of its inventive quasi-organic technological interventions that cut through the green, laid out in formless patterns, whips up my bile of guilt. I pick out a Girl who’s trying to fix her tiny twisted excavator. ‘Take me to your leader, will you?’ I ask her. She takes a moment, offers me a detox drink, excuses herself and returns with her Sister. ‘You’re welcome here, Dear; we’ll take you to the leader in a bit’ she says. How rich is Zah-V really! My SmartwatcH begins tracing ore and other resources. If I can’t cut that favorable deal with the Zha, it’s more than likely that I’d be buried alive back Home.

Four seemingly unarmed Zhas drive me and lead me to an open-field dais, before leaving me behind to merge with the Swarm. One over the other they mount, dismount and mount and mount again. Do they mean to imitate the formation of mountains, I wonder, the fermented food that I had for lunch at painter Boy’s still feeling sour on my palate. Zhas form shapeless formations. NMN? VWV! Waves? Caves! Valleys? Anthills. Rivers! Rivulets? And then suddenly Hills! That speak ‘One that leads life as one wills it is a leader. W’all so lead our lives here, you see. Speak now, Dear Stranger.’ The atmosphere around me reverberates alive with the sonic throbbing of alphabets.

 First I introduce myself and then ask ‘Would you sign a contract that gives us your consent to import our goods?’ which elicits from them the counter-question ‘Would you sign a contract that gives us your consent to export our goods?’ which in turn elicits from me a short silence and I break it by asking ‘Would you also sign a contract that gives us your consent to drill into your mountains, which will in fact make y’all really, really rich?’ which elicits from them a long counter-silence that lasts for about ten seconds or so, and then all I can hear is the deafening burst of laughter that seems to last forever and ever. Something begins to twist and turn in the pit of my stomach.

I can speak what I want to speak to a leader that gives two hoots about His or Her subjects and leave Home in one piece, and remain in one piece too, but this! I have the talent to make devices that can blow up rocks and very many other things. I start strategizing escape routes as the welling up beads of sweat prickle my skin. Maybe who knows my talent might as well be put to use for constructive purposes. Either that or I can just stay put and draw away charts or just make things up. Who’s to say what is constructive and what isn’t, right! The laughter of Zhas get louder and louder, to the extent where parts of their chains of formation collapse to the ground like packs of cards.

Now I have no options left, except maybe just two: Leave here empty handed and be buried alive six feet under the tracts of still very much fertile land back Home or merge with the shape-shifting Swarm right here before me, excusing myself from here or embracing the Swarm being the only options now. For the love of Spock, when will the laughter end!

Before I know, parts of the Swarm that slither like snakes and trail like scandent vines reach out to me. I hesitate at first but then give in, allowing them to encircle me, which they do quite gently. Maybe I’m not the first Stranger to be integrated into the Swarm after all. I change my mind about allowing my ship to self-destruct. Holy mother of Pearl, when did the laughter end!

From the womb of the cave, I discern the sound of the painter Boy’s clack to the excavator Girl’s boom. They go ‘Boom! Clack! Boom! Clack!’ and do they go on and on. The eurhythmic collective expressiveness is a thing here, I see.

Next thing I know, some of us are taking apart my now utterly useless yet useful spaceship, inch by precious inch, in order to construct scavenger robots because the disparate People whose turn it’s for any given week to perform manual scavenging and other sanitation tasks, just to begin with their plight, always complain that they find it extremely difficult to keep down their food given the stench involved.

Their drainage system bafflingly isn’t technically as efficient as that of Sindhu Samaveli Civilization although one good look at the space-time continuum one freeze frame per third of a second indicates (though Ropeeps would have it that it doesn’t really indicate) that Zha-V Civilization is a continuation of SSC by other means.

At the Long Breakfast Time, the Ropeeps from Merku — them having loaded pulses, thrones made of thorns and such into their spacetruck after having unloaded red meat, spider-silk ladders and such — inquire as to what on therku we’re up to. I tell them that ‘Robotic scavenging — not My idea really, Peeps, but Our idea, I’d say, to be precise.’

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