One score or so centuries ago, a sentient being sat on a hill. I would say he was a man but that wasn’t technically true, despite all those he knew and those who knew of him believing he was of the same species.
His eyes were fixed upon the stars. His mind was fixed upon existence. Not his own though, he knew he would be fine soon enough.
He was called Josh in the tongue of those living in this particular sector of this particular planet. Josh was not called Josh where he came from but he figured there was no point in ruining the fun now. They wouldn’t be able to pronounce his true name anyway. Their ears couldn’t pick up such a frequency.
Yet even with the astonishing simplicity with which their minds operated, he had grown fond of a good few of them. And those he wasn’t as fond of still triggered a very sincere pity within him. He was concerned for them as a whole for while they were generally capable of passion, potential ability and wonderful heaps of kindness, they all would act incredibly stupid more than once in each of their lives. Some never ceased to be moronic. But even those at the highest mental capacity for their species at that time, could be so unbelievably stupid.
However, their primitive cognition is most likely what made Josh’s parlor tricks such a big hit. Most would listen better after they saw something they couldn’t quite understand. Similar to the effect dog treats have on dogs. The issue that had been becoming more and more prevalent, is that not all of them liked that they didn’t understand things going on in the universe around them. Josh knew they were going to do something about it. Just like how some dogs will bite someone that they don’t care for, or if they’re told to. Sad but it is true, some dogs don’t stand a chance.
Josh called them parlor tricks because that’s all they were to him. Everyone who had seen them thought they were much more miraculous.
Sometimes his parlor tricks were just to cancel the result of something incredibly stupid the locals would do. To give an example, there was the time that a whole mess of people travelled pretty far out of their way to listen to Josh talk and no one thought much about bringing food for the journey. To give another example, a wedding he was at once ran out of wine. In both instances, a few of the gadgets he had salvaged from his wrecked ship were able to rearrange and reproduce atoms to make more food and much more wine. To them it was mind boggling. To him, it was child’s play.
If Josh ever struggled on this planet, it was trying to understand how someone could be so stupid and cheap as to not get enough wine for a wedding. As he saw it, there was no point to weddings besides drinking way too much wine.
Other times, he would do something to prove a point. Josh hoped that they might be inspired enough to seek the answers to their questions and not just hope something happened that made it go away.
To show them how malleable their physical world can be, he once jumped from his friend’s boat and floated above the water. Where Josh came from, everyone could manipulate and concentrate their bodily energy enough to counter a relatively weak source of gravity as was found on this planet. His friends in the boat were thoroughly impressed but he often thought they didn’t understand what he was trying to say with his actions.
But there he was, looking up at the stars towards the closest cluster he could see in the direction of home. He had received the message that his emergency beacon had been picked up by his comrades and they would be on their way. When this would happen he wasn’t exactly sure, as they had to travel a bit through time as well as space to get to him. He had only been stuck for about 30 or so trips around this particular sun, which to him wasn’t much at all.
After he’d gotten caught in a rather testy wormhole, his ship was tossed off course and crashed in an area with a good bit of sand and rock and scattered grass. This sand and rock and scattered grass was on the outskirts of the area conquered by the people from a boot shaped land. With the last bit of his ship’s battery he did two things. First, he sent out a distress signal with his galactic coordinates. After that, he ran a scan of the planet and the dominant life forms. It took so little time for the results to emerge that the ‘ping’ the machine made caught him off guard. When he read what the scan came up with, Josh couldn’t help but laugh. To him, these folks had just barely crawled from the mud.
His species had over the course of several thousand generations developed the ability to alter the size and shape of their physical manifestations to blend in whenever they needed to not be noticed. So Josh made himself look like a baby and found his way to a nice, but rather poor family. He knew that much fewer people would ask where he came from if he was a baby. They adopted him as their own and since they were not able to conceive a child themselves, considered little Josh a gift from the deities they worshipped. Or so they would tell the people who met little Josh.
From his analysis of this planet, he was able to time out his growth to match that of the species he was using as his disguise. Only on a few occasions would Josh slip up and start talking about enlightened ideas with those whom he met. They would never quite understand him but they enjoyed what he would say and knew that there was something very special about him. So he kept it up for a good few years until he had spent enough time feigning development to reach the mature form of the native species. It was around then that he received a response to his distress signal. The message was this:
Apologies for the delay, it took a little bit of time to pinpoint where you had gotten stuck. There is literally nothing out there, so we didn’t believe the signal was coming from such a place at first. We’re looking up directions, grabbing some lunch and then we’ll be by to pick you up.
Since he knew that he would still have some time to kill, especially in the scale of the tiny lives of the tiny people on this tiny planet, Josh thought he might do some good and try to help these homely folk get a little further out of the mud.
So he would walk around and talk to people and do his little parlor tricks. He never went far from his ship, to make sure he could still catch his ride out of here. Josh would tell people to be nicer to each other and to work together to solve problems. He knew they all had so many questions but they weren’t ready for even a fraction of the answers he could give them. So he kept his talk vague but as inspiring as possible. He made sure they knew that ‘creation’ as they liked to call it was vast beyond their imagination but if they worked at it generation after generation after generation, they could explore far beyond this miniscule portion of the universe. There was a good chunk of the local population that listened and tried to follow his advice. But as his popularity started its meager growth, he noticed that certain people in the regional social structure were not too fond of his talk. These folks would make money and power with fear and that fear depended on people never knowing that they truly had nothing to fear.
So Josh took a deep breath and let out an even deeper sigh and stood from the rock he was seated upon on this particular night. He went back down to where his friends said they would stand guard while he was up on the hill. The lot of them had fallen asleep and Josh was a bit peeved.
So he woke them up and raised his voice a bit. He told them that if they wanted to sleep, they should have stayed in their beds. They told Josh that they were worried some people were coming after him and they wanted to stop them. Josh told them that it didn’t matter who was coming for him because they wouldn’t really be able to do much to him anyway. He told them that if they wanted to get better use of their time, they should look up at the sky and wonder about what is out there.
He had told them earlier that evening that he would be leaving them soon. Josh didn’t want them to be afraid and even though some people were going to try and kill him that he wouldn’t die. To explain how his species is able to regenerate would be too much for their delicate minds to handle, so he left that part out. His friends said they would go to war for Josh and he told them they had better not.
These people who wanted Josh dead were never fond of him from their first hearing about him. But as Josh’s talks and parlor tricks began to get bolder, they grew more concerned that he might actually be a real threat to their livelihood. The final straw happened when Josh went into one of their bigger clubhouses and flipped a bunch of tables over and did a whole bunch of yelling. Josh told the people there that they were wasting their time with all this buying and selling and gambling and that they had better start appreciating the beauty and bounty of the world around them. After that, the club that at first had only a mild distaste for Josh had grown to brew murderous intentions.
Josh knew they would be coming to the hill soon because one of his more terrified and confused friends would tell this club where he was. They would come with torches and swords and few members of an even bigger and more powerful club and drag Josh away. From there, he knew they would accuse him of a whole array of things and sentence him to be beaten and strung up on a carved up tree. So he would let them do it and he would pretend to bleed and die. After a few days, his body would regenerate and he would go back out into the world to wait for his ride. He worried whether it was the right thing to go back and see the friends he made on this planet after they believed he died or if it would be best to just disappear. Josh figured he would have to make that decision after all this business with his public execution had settled down for a bit.
He was already concerned that he had gone too far already with all his parlor tricks and talk of the universe. He feared that despite his best intentions, people would skew his ideas and use them to do bad things to each other. He worried that over time, these skewed ideas would be used as a means to control and influence others and how they chose to live. He worried that people would take these skewed ideas and argue and fight and kill other people whose skewed ideas were different from their own. He worried his friends would be too bent on revenge and forget all those things about kindness and compassion he had tried to tell them about. Josh worried if he had done the right thing trying to help these mud people out, or if he had just given them more excuses to be mean to each other.
But while Josh was worrying, the flicker of torches and the sound of arguing and yelling grew at the bottom of the hill. He heard swords being unsheathed and knew he couldn’t stargaze any longer. So Josh got up from his rock and began down the hill picking a few olives from the trees to munch on along the way to the bottom. He thought that maybe if he told them he would be coming back someday they might not lose sight of all he’d been saying all this time.
“Well,” Josh said to himself. “What’s done is done. It’s time I got going anyway. They were on their own before I showed up. If they have it in them, they’ll keep going just fine without me.”
He looked up one more time before the glow of the torches drowned out the stars. Josh was really just glad to be going home.