“Legend has it that a mass of thick silver clouds will appear in the dark sky. Time will stop and everything will come to a standstill. The innocent and the meek will get back their lives and dwell forever in the land of eternal joy.”
The audience gasps; murmurs follow.
The storyteller continues, “These clouds are no ordinary clouds. One day they will emerge from the deeps of space and save us all from our agony, our pain, our suffering. Trust me, my dear lambys. Do not fear the silver clouds, for they will take us to paradise.”
The audience giggles; their faces beam under the glow of the full moon.
“So tomorrow when I’m gone,” proceeds the storyteller, “do not be sad, do not cry. Know that no harm will come my way. Believe me, lambys. Always keep the faith.”
“But why only the elders are taken, father?” I ask.
My friend Blakki stands and blurts out, “Yeah! We are still little. Silver clouds must know that little ones should be with their bigger brothers and sisters, and mothers, and fathers.”
“I’m sure the silver clouds have their reasons, my dears. Be patient. Soon, you‘ll have your answers.”
That night my father’s words keep me awake. A few moons ago, the two-leggeds, also known as humans, took my mother away. Our elders claimed the devils took her to a the House of Murder, a place where the two-leggeds tied her legs together, hung her upside down, slit her throat, scraped her skin, and chopped her into pieces. And that all of us will have the same fate as my mother. The two-leggeds feed on our flesh, they said. I trembled in fear hearing this. But my father remained calm. He assured me my mother was fine. I believed him.
Since then, every time we cuddled in the meadow at night and father told us a story, it was always the story of the silver clouds.
“Just like tonight,” I mutter.
The next day, a huge truck comes. They call it a trailer. It has lots of wheels, unlike Mr. Bass’s jeep that has only 4. The two sides have bar railing. It stops and its back door opens. A platform slides down to the ground. Then using sticks and rods, Mr. Bass and his men line up some of our elders, including my father, and lead them into the truck.
Before father enters the truck, he looks back and calls me. “Remember the silver clouds, son. Believe me! Always keep the faith!”
“I believe, father! I believe!” I reply.
Six months later, my turn comes. It is still dark when I’m woken up by the sound of the dreaded trailer. Like the day when the two-leggeds took my father, Blakki and I and all the sheep of my age, including some elderly, are huddled together. They draw us to the trailer. Those who are slow are prodded in their ribs. Old Lamby is one among them. Though some yelp in pain, Old Lamby endures it.
Soon the trailer becomes crowded. There is no space to even turn around. Blakki stays close to me. We stand on the right side of the truck, next to the cold steel bars. We can see the road from there. But the opening is too narrow for my head to peek through. Then I look up, searching for silver clouds. There are none. I sigh. For a while, my head feels light. I begin to breathe harder.
The doors are shut and locked. It brings me back to my senses. The truck is now filled with sheep. All are my family. And they must be recalling the words of our elders. That our blood will be spilled; our heads will be severed; our hooves will be crushed; our intestines will be shredded; our bodies will be chopped into pieces, packed, and sold in stores. My heart beats fast as I play them in my mind.
I watch the others. Everyone looks sad; their heads are bowed. Some lean on each other’s neck, like two defeated souls finding comfort in each other’s company. But the words of my father keep ringing in my ears.
“I’m scared, Wolli. I don’t want to die,” Blakki said; tears start flowing on his face.
“I know, Blakki. I’m scared too. But remember the silver clouds. My father wouldn’t lie. We have to trust him.”
Soon the truck moves. The landscape changes. Big buildings replace the fields that I’m familiar with. Small trucks pass by. The air feels hotter. Some of my brothers collapse, their breathing becomes heavier, their mouths foam.
In a crossing, another trailer joins us. I see crates loaded with chickens. I hear chirps, yelps, squeaks. Voices of despair and hopelessness.
“Are they going to the House of Murder, too, Wolli?” Blakki asks.
“I think so.”
Blakki falls silent. He is staring at the chicken truck but his eyes are not watching anyone in particular. He groans.
“This is it, huh! Our life is over in the blink of an eye?”
“Silver clouds, Blakki. Don’t lose hope! Always keep the faith, remember?”
Blakki doesn’t answer.
Then the truck comes to an abrupt halt and we are pushed to the front. Wondering what’s happening, I peek out. The chicken truck stops, too. I hear cackling and squawking. My gaze rests on the driver. His hand, holding a bottle of beer, is frozen in mid-air. The car in front of the chicken truck stops moving. The plastic cup that one of its passengers tried to throw out is hanging inches above the ground. Every thing as far as my eyes can see has come to a standstill. My heart throbs as though it is about to burst. I remember my father’s words –
‘A mass of thick silver clouds will appear in the dark sky. Time will stop and everything will come to a standstill.’
Instantly my eyes look up at the sky. The dawn is breaking dispelling the darkness around us. But I can see no silver clouds there.
The back door of our trailer opens. Two tall creatures appear before us. They look like the two-leggeds but different. Their heads and eyes are big, and twice the size of the usual two-leggeds. Their ears are long, straight, and pointy. Their bodies and limbs are slim, and they have stick-like fingers. I don’t fear them like I fear Mr. Bass and his men. I think they are angels.
One of them speaks in the softest voice I’ve ever heard in my life. “Don’t be afraid. We are here to take you. No harm will come to any of you. Fall in line to the right side, please.”
The voice is soothing. It sounds like a lullaby. It calms and comforts us. All we can do is follow it.
“I told you, Blakki. My father was right.”
Blakki remains silent. I turn my head only to see him snorting. I nudge him.
“We’re not going to die, then?” he asks, between sobs.
“We’re not! Come. Let’s fall in line.”
We move along without haste. Nearing the door, I glance at the chicken truck. Similar looking two-legged-like creatures are carrying the crates down, while a few others are carrying them up.
“What’s going on?” I mumble as I see sheep that look like us making their way into our truck. They have numbers on their body and their ears have tags. Just like us!
Knitting my brows, I address the spindly creature, who I think is an angel, in a firm tone, “Who are they?”
“They are you! But don’t worry. We’ll explain everything further once you’re out of this truck. Now please, follow the others.”
“No! I won’t get down. They are my brothers, too! Why are we getting down and they are getting in?”
“Little one, you have to trust us. No harm will come to them. Believe in the silver clouds, don’t you remember?”
I stand there stumped. ‘Why does it sound like my father’s words?’
As though my feet have a mind of their own, I walk behind Blakki; my eyes not leaving the sheep replacing us in the truck. They look calm; they are not sad. They don’t look like they are being forced. No one is prodding them to get into the truck. They fall in line and settle inside one by one.
I make a full turn and see that everything has stopped. Even the plastic bags that were stranded in the air stay where they are.
“Little one, it’s time to go,” one of the angels says.
I turn and almost fall on my knees. Before me is a gigantic ship that looks like fluffy silver clouds.
“My dad was right!” I laugh and run towards the ship. I enter.
Inside, all my brothers are assembled together. I join them. The chickens from the other truck are also out of their crates and are lying down on the floor. Some try to flap their wings, even the broken ones. Their yelps no longer sound painful.
“Welcome aboard, everyone! I am Angus and you are in Obnube-6, one of the ships from Planet Agape from the Andromeda galaxy. We have a long journey ahead so sit tight and relax. Have some rest.”
“Where are you taking us? What -”
Angus interrupts, “I know you have a lot of questions. I’m going to answer them one by one. But first, look to your back!”
We all turn to the oval windows. Every thing is in motion again.
“What will happen to our brothers down there?” Blakki asks this time.
“We will get to that in a bit. Now, in front of you is a screen. You will see some images while I narrate a story to you.”
Angus begins. “Millennia ago, humans split into two factions: the Angelos and the Demonos. The Angelos were kind and compassionate, not only to each other but also to all the inhabitants of the Earth. They were called The Rainbow Warriors, for they fought against all cruelty and denounced all violence. They freed the caged; they gave shelter to the homeless; they tried to revive the dying planet ravaged by the Demonos. They ate nothing but plants and rejected everything that caused harm to other creatures. They came to realize the One Great Truth of the Universe –All is One and One is All.”
Images of the two-leggeds appear on the screen. They all look slim and slender; their skin healthy; their eyes glowed when they smile. They seem energetic and full of vigor and enthusiasm. Then slowly, their features change. They now look like the angelic creatures in front of us.
“You are hu…How did…”
Angus smiles and says, “I’ll tell you everything.”
He continues, “The Demonos, however, were violent and irrational. They refused to see reason. They mocked those who tried to liberate you and your kind. For every creature that the Angelos saved, they killed twice the number. They refused to see the truth and continued to breed other kinds for their flesh. The Demonos cleared thousands of acres of land and felled countless trees in their greed for the flesh of other kinds. And what more, they themselves multiplied like swarming flies while the Angelos watched the destruction in despair. Soon the rivers ran dry, the hills crumbled to dust, and the once thriving lands became barren deserts where sandstorms raged night and day.”
Images of the Demonos appear. They look savage and grumpy; they seem angry all the time. I shudder as I remember Mr. Bass and his men. They all look like the two-leggeds who had sold us to the House of Murder.
“Since the Demonos always resorted to violence and could not see reason, the Angelos built a spaceship and left planet Earth. Before they left, they vowed to come back one day and rescue all other kinds from the treacherous grip of the Demonos. But they were unable to find hospitable worlds to land on. After years of drifting lost in the vast reaches of space, alien beings from the Planet Agape picked up their signal and invited them to their home. These aliens have been observing planet Earth for millennia, you see. Once, they even planned to exterminate humans, but they had no ways to selectively wipe them out without harming the other kinds. Until they met the Angelos. Us!”
“So you are a human being!” I clarify.
“Once, yes! All Angelos that have been taken to Agape eventually evolved to look like me.”
Guffaws, whispers and nods from my brothers follow. I am dumbfounded.
“Please, uh, continue.” I manage to say.
“The aliens knew we are intelligent so they were not surprised to hear our plans on how to rescue your kind. But with our limited resources we told them we couldn’t finish the project. But they had the solution!”
I watch my brothers listen in awe. The older sheep even moved forward to hear the story properly.
“With our ideas and their technology, we finally came up with a master plan. We called it “Project Operoid”.
“Operoid?” Blakki says loudly. All heads turn to him.
“Yes! What happened to you a while ago was part of Project Operoid. We take other kinds on their way to the House of Murder and replace them with their exact replicas. The Demonos won’t be able to tell the difference. But the good news is ovoids (sheep androids), bovoids (bovine androids), porcoids (pig androids), aviods (bird androids), piscoids (fish androids), galloids (chicken androids) etc. are simply made of artificial materials molded into the shapes of other kinds which can move, walk and make basic sounds. We have engineered them to smell and taste like the flesh of other kinds and bleed as they do. But they aren’t alive.”
“Are they like battery-operated toys?” I ask.
“Yes, you can say that.”
Old Lamby stands and clears his throat. “I have a question.”
“Please,” Angus says.
“Why do you wait till we are sent to the House of Murder before you rescue us? I mean, you can simply do it on the farm itself! Right?”
Angus smiles. “Brilliant question! Before I answer that, let me show you something. Face the screen, please.”
An image of a zoomed ovoid appears. With a pen, Angus traces the figure as though he is re-drawing the ovoid. When he is done, he says, “Look closely.”
Angus switches off the lights and the only thing visible is the figure of the ovoid and a tiny green dot in the neck area. Slowly, the tiny dot melts and it spreads all over the ovoid’s body.
“That green dot is a pill. We call it the ‘seed of compassion’ or seedcon seeping into the ovoid’s nerves and muscles. By the time they are killed, seedcon would have incorporated into each replica’s body.” Angus pauses. Everyone gazes at the screen wide-eyed with their mouths open.
He continues, “To be precise, seedcon is a virus that we implanted into each replica. It converts violent humans into kind and compassionate beings.”
“Really? You mean it changes Demonos into Angelos? Wow!” I say, standing on four legs.
“Yes and no,” Angus remarks. He turns on the light. “Though its success rate was good in the beginning, many Demonos have become immune to this virus and are not affected anymore. But we do get a few converts every now and then. Once we are certain about their full change, we contact them and take them to Agape.”
Angus faces Old Lamby and proceeds, “Now to answer your question. In farms, you and your brother pigs, chickens, goats, cows are bred purposely for your flesh. Since we have not yet found the absolute solution to this problem or the technology to make these androids procreate themselves, we cannot let the farmers know about our operation -that we have been replacing you with androids while you are being transported to the House of Murder.”
“How long have you been doing this?” Old Lamby asks.
“Over a century.”
I hear gasps all around.
Blakki stands and goes closer to Angus. “You mean to say that…that my mother and father, Wolli’s mother and father, and all our friends who were taken away before are with you?”
I stand too and say, “You mean, for years now the two-leggeds are not feeding on us but our replicas?”
A sudden burst of laughter floods the silent chamber of the ship.
“Is there any other question?” Angus asks.
I think. Somehow I want more proof. So I say, “I have.”
“Yes, Wolli. What is it?”
“Our elders said that in the House of Murder, the two-leggeds, now we know they are the Demonos, will slit our throats and bleed us to death. That before we die we will writhe in extreme pain. Thinking about it all, my heart feels like it’s being squeezed and it hurts. How can you assure us that the operoids are fake and not truly alive?”
“Let me show you,” Angus says.
The screen disappears. An ovoid replaces it.
An Angelos comes out carrying a rope and a knife. He hands in Angus a remote control.
Angus presses a button and the ovoid in front of us crumbles into parts. He presses another button and the pieces assemble together. In a second, the ovoid is back in whole.
We all watch in wonder.
The Angelos steps closer to the ovoid. He ties its legs; it tries to kick him back. A pulley comes down and he hangs the ovoid upside down. It wriggles and writhes. Lifting the knife, the Angelos stabs it in the neck. It cries and squirms. Blood gushes out, splattering on the floor. For a moment the body sways back and forth, jiggling. And then it suddenly convulses and the breathing stops.
Silence shrouds the hall. Not one dares make a sound, even when the ovoid is taken and the floor is cleaned.
Before our own eyes, we witness how the two-leggeds would end our lives. And the scene will remain with me until I die. But I feel relieved knowing none of us will undergo such horrors anymore. And so is the fate of those who will be rescued after us.
“Touchdown in 5 minutes,” a melodious voice in the background announces.
Agnus instructs everyone to sit tight and relax. Moments later after the ship wobbles, the door opens. Outside are green meadows, blooming trees, bubbling streams, fresh air. The Angelos and the Aliens of Agape welcome us all with smiling faces. Beside them are our family and friends.
“Welcome to the promised paradise. Your forever home!” Angus says.
As I smile and dart towards my father who is standing right beside my mother, I remember his words.
Believe me, son! Always keep the faith!
* * * * *
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