Stories from an Alaskan Cabin: Chapter Seven

John was a gourmet camping cook. He had everything measured out and out into plastic jars that wouldn’t break or leak if they got frozen. He put together a meal that was fit for kings, and they dined well that evening. When Gerald added a freeze-dried dessert to the menu, the men took great delight in enjoying the end of the meal.

George set his drink down, “So I guess it’s my turn…” He leaned back a little on the bench. “Let’s go outside.”

They all got up and went to the porch.

He pointed up into the night sky. “You see that star up there, the red one?”

They all said that they did.

“Great. That’s Aldebaran. Most people think that’s a burning mass much older than our sun is. However, the latest tests in light spectral analysis have shown that Aldebaran is actually a large mass of crystals, which gets its color by magnifying the light from a smaller mass behind it. The mass behind Aldebaran is a planet made entirely of molten lava. Thus, Aldebaran is red.” He went back inside and sat down.

They followed him.

“My story is set on that planet. There are some religions that believe that God or the creator or the universal spirit or whatever you want to call him, her, or it — for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use “the creator” — set up several hundreds of planets with the same evolutionary starting point – single-celled organisms. When the creator allowed the organisms to develop, they all became the same thing. This bored the creator, who would wipe out species of entire planets and only allow one to remain to see what they evolutionary results would be. The creator was hoping to be surprised by the results.

“Whether or not the creator was surprised, no one knows. What we do know is that there are hundreds of planets within our visual range that host humanoid-shaped beings of different stocks. There are planets evolved from dogs, cats, dragon lizards, pterodactyls, cows, swordfish, and any other animal you can dream of or name. In fact, our concept of mythological creatures comes form a time when our ancestors had contact with those creatures, which were split from us during the time of the Tower of Babel.

“At any rate, that lava planet behind Aldebaran was home to the evolutionary apex of birds. It is currently on its descent to its nadir, figuratively speaking. Here’s how their downfall began:”

The music from the birds outside was beautiful. It was a symphony, but Donald would never admit it. His voice was scratchy, loud, and unmelodic. He opened the window and stuck his head out. “SHUT UP!” He shouted at the birds as if anyone could believe that Bragians were descended from such lower life forms. He took his slipper off his webbed foot and threw at the tree. “Get out of here, you vermin!” He squawked. He let out a loud, dissonant honk of irritation. “Stupid birds.” He closed the window and scratched his bill.

He walked over to his dresser, pulled out his clothes, and went to the shower. The water rolled off his back in a comforting way. He then switched to the dust option to make sure he got rid of any mites or other little creatures. He looked in the shower’s mirror, fluffed up his plumage and smiled. I’m not a bad looking guy, he thought. He smiled. His orange bill broadened until it melted into the orange of his face. The other birds need to listen to me. I need to find a way to make them listen. Donald stepped out of the bathroom and dressed in his finest clothes. Today would be a big day at work. He was sure his plan would be viable, but if no one listened, it would be doomed from the start.

Donald flew to work and strutted straight to the boardroom where he would make his presentation. His head, held high, bobbed in time with his steps. His plumage always seemed to be a little behind or ahead, but never aligned with where he was at the moment. He turned his head sharply and side eyed all the Bragians at their cubicles. “Today’s the day I change their lives,” he grumbled to himself.

He strutted in like he owned the space, set his briefcase down at the head of the table, and looked at the gathered company. They were all singing to each other. Their melodies comingling into a harmonious whole. He popped open his briefcase, pulled out his pointer, and unrolled a scroll he had set up in the room the night before.

“Birds of a feather,” he squawked. The others in the room side eyed him. “I am here to change forever how we do business. I am here to make this company more profitable than you could ever dream. I am here to revolutionize your thought processes and begin us on a journey that will allow us to nest where we want, eat only the best bird feed, and use labor saving transportation devices that are better than our own two wings. We only have to adopt a few changes of habits, and we will control this world.” Donald smiled before continuing. He could see he had their attention. “We must treat our competition like the Catians of old treated our population. They devoured the young and the sick. We, too, must do so metaphorically,” he honked. “When we apply a win-at-all-costs strategy, we will be able to fly sky high while leaving everyone else on the ground.”

For the next half hour, Donald outlined his plan loudly, gutturally, and with the flare of a tone-deaf squeeze box player. He shouted, exhorted, pleaded, screamed, cried, and used all of the power his gravelly, slightly nasal voice could provide. It was a virtuoso performance. He had them right where he wanted them. He crowed with glee.

When he finished, the room was completely silent. The Bragian at the far end of the table stood up and whistled, “Who are you?”

Donald stammered, “Donald from accounting.”

That same Bragian fluffed his feathers. “And who invited you to screech?” He sang.

Screech? Maybe it hadn’t gone as well as Donald had hoped. “I, uh, the VP said I could.”

The Bragian looked at a seated Bragian, who shook his head. “Hmmm, it seems like you’re lying. Or our VP is lying,” He said sonorously, indicating the seated Bragian with his wing.

“Well, I mean…”

“It doesn’t matter, Donald,” chirped the Bragian, “Your proposal is not only ludicrous, but it is also dangerous. If we were to treat our competition in the manner that you suggest, we would begin a battle that would use up all our resources without having to fend a territory.”

Donald interrupted the Bragian, “I don’t think you understand,” he tweeted. “This is the best plan. Our business is our territory.”

The Bragian shook his head. “It’s you who doesn’t understand, Donald.” He sang. “We survive because we live in harmony with each other and our surroundings. We thrive because of teamwork and friendly competition, and we do so not as a corporation or a country but as a planet. Your discordant ideas would have us tearing at each other’s feathers to get to the down and removing the down to get to skin. It would reduce us to flightless, featherless imbeciles.”

“All I want to do is make us great. We can do that if we follow this plan,” Donald shrieked.

The Bragian filled up his chest with air and whistled out harmoniously, “Getting to the top of the tree doesn’t mean breaking the branches below us so others can’t use the tree at all. Donald, take advantage of our health system and talk to someone about why you want to hurt others. Our success comes from helping those who most need it.”

Donald belched out a loud honk. “You don’t know what you’re doing! You have to break a few eggs if you want to make and omelet.”

The shock of what he had said rippled physically through the room. It was one of the worst curses he could use.

The Bragian sniffed and called out for security. “Donald, you cannot use such language here. You will leave the premises at once. Your items will be flown to you by carrier pigeon. I urge you to find help.” The Bragian motioned to the guards.

“You haven’t heard the last of me,” Donald tweeted. “You haven’t heard the last of me,” he shrieked. “You haven’t heard the last of me!”

Security pushed him out the building and Donald opened his wings. He flopped to the ground below. He turned around and shook his feathers at the business. “I’ll show you! Harmony isn’t better than winning. Winning is the only thing that matters!”

The next morning, the Vulturians were at Donald’s home. He had died in the night. The details of the death weren’t discussed though some who knew about it thought there had been some sort of foul play. They hauled his body away, but Donald’s ideas were out there. They were ready to take hold. Because as much as we like to think, in the case of those who are doing righteous work for the betterment of the world, you can kill a man, or Bragian, but you can’t kill an idea, it’s as true for bad ideas as it is for good ones.

George picked up his cup and took a sip. “John, it’s your turn.”