After they’ve gone
Earth, Year 2371 (in human numbers)
Hello? I really hope this thing is working… My name is Tev’Dilar, and I’m a researcher from the species of Ser’Lidin. We inhabit many planets, but our homeworld is Dinen’Vilas, about two hundred lightyears away from Earth. Oh, I suppose I need to explain that I’m from a different part of the multiverse than you, but we also have an Earth here. And from a very young age I’ve had a keen interest in humans. When I was still in my Community training – it’s similar to your schools – we had to prepare a project about an alien culture to understand better just how diverse the cultures in our universe can be.
Being the curious child I was, I scoured the archives to find a worthy subject. In some old records I discovered studies of humans. They were brief, but they piqued my interest. Their societies, hierarchies, religions, and philosophies were so different, yet oddly familiar on the fundamental questions. It became my passion project: with our technology, I could tune into their radio stations, watch their reels and news. I didn’t understand the language, but that made it all the more irresistible – to find out more, to dive deeper into their culture. I suppose that project was what started my love for…in your language it would probably be called xenoanthropology – the study of alien cultures. Back in my own planetary system, I got to know many species, observed their habits, and lived in their societies for decades. I have to add that my people live for hundreds of years, perfect for long-term investigations.
But my interest in humans always drew me back. The space between Dinen’Vilas and Earth at that time was impassable due to pollution caused by the Evdhari wars, so I could only keep watching them from afar, piecing together events. Over time, I learned human languages to understand them better. I admired their tenacity, their stubbornness and nearly unstoppable will to survive in any conditions. But of course, by then I already knew that they were considered extinct…The problem of such a long distance between us was that all we could observe reached us hundreds of years after the fact.
For a long time, humans were building up their mighty countries, reaching new heights of intricate technology. But in the process, they also took all they could from their planet, driving it into deep imbalance. They were aware of the looming crisis, but somehow did not address it. The rulers of wealthy empires and unions of states knew that for the time being they wouldn’t be affected as much as the rest of the world. So they chose to look the other way when others started running out of water and suffering from unbearable heat. Their advances kept pushing their planet’s climate to the edge, until eventually their biosphere started to collapse. Millions of people from poorer countries had to flee rising waters, abandoning their homes because wildfires would paint the skies red and suffocate all living things.
Scared of the fleeing masses and unwilling to share, wealthy states surrounded themselves with walls and armies. Desperate people started storming their borders. But not everyone chose to be selfish – the Balkan Union was the first to accept refugees, the Uralic States were soon to follow. Nonetheless, the tensions were high between those who welcomed refugees and those who didn’t. The latter grew concerned for their resources, spurred on by politicians who wanted to stay in power. Small conflicts flared up between the states all the time. And then an unfortunate raid by an anarchist group on Pyreneia’s water storage was mistaken for an attack, and a full on war broke out.
All the beauty and might of human character seemed to be devoured by greed and a wild animal will to survive, even if they’d have to drown others in blood to achieve that. And then…then it only took one short-sighted ruler to make a wrong decision and use the bioweapons left over from the Atlantic War that would quickly wipe out all humans from the face of Earth. I don’t think they intended it. But the effect was swift and within a short time their weapons brought about the end of the human race.
It was painful to watch, knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it – it has already happened, we were watching the past. Yet I still dreamed of reaching Earth and seeing the remnants of human culture, even if its creators were long gone.
I’d been studying various alien species for about fifty years when our engineers invented the wormhole stabilizers that would allow me to reach the Solar system and Earth, bypassing the Evdhari Void. As soon as I got the chance, I stepped down onto the now peaceful plains of their planet. Finally, I could touch the stones of their bridges and walk in their cathedrals. I landed in what humans used to call Europe, walking through cities and towns now abandoned and overgrown. There was beauty in desolation – other species have reclaimed human spaces, even though humans have only been gone a couple hundred years. The land still bore signs of their presence, but animals and plants reigned now in the ruins. Could humans have imagined how fast their legacy would disappear after they were gone?
I walked in their steps through forests and mountains, not knowing whether what I wanted to see with my own eyes was still there. I’ve always been fascinated by the Gothic cathedrals humans built – they perfectly reflect this desire to rise higher than ever before, to tame the wild and bring symmetry into the chaos.
I wanted to see whether the ancient Cologne Cathedral was still towering over its surroundings. I still remember the first time I saw it in the distance – a green giant in the sea of trees. Grass was growing inside, sunlight pouring through broken windows. It was falling apart, everything that made it so glowing and lively was gone, impossible to recover. But it was a reminder that even though humans failed to unite in the face of crisis and spent their last moments killing each other, they were capable of creating beauty. A beauty that would surpass them in time.
I was curious if Earth’s biosphere recovered in the meantime, so I stayed here for another decade or so to merge with the environment and listen to its many voices. That’s when I decided to record this message, even if it went against my people’s tenets. We already knew about the multiverse, and I thought that maybe somewhere out there there is a second Earth, one where humans are still alive. Maybe the story of our Earth could be a warning to others. Maybe at least in one world they could preserve their planet and overcome their greed and indifference. It’s unlikely I’ll ever reach them, but just knowing that somewhere they might have a chance for a different, better future, gives me hope.