The Emissary

I’m near the intersection of Houston and Broadway, in New York City, busy mid day. People everywhere. In the road I notice a strange little woman, naked, with bluish skin. She is maybe 4 feet tall but muscular. I may have noticed some tattoos on her upper body, some sort of tribal mark. Her head is shaved or bald, with small teeth, and tiny fangs for canines. She is crouched over a road-flattened pigeon, feasting. Like an alert animal, she looks up frequently, assessing her surroundings.

I make eye contact, and am noticed. I cannot draw myself away from the attractive otherness of this still-human creature.

My route along the street takes me towards her. Finished with her meal, she stands and steps to the sidewalk. Though she seems to join some (human) friends, and holds herself a bit like a standoffish punk, I introduce myself. There seems little need for pretense in a case this extreme, and I find her responsive and articulate. “What are you?” I ask.

“I am from the human future. This is what you [humans] become.” She hands me a pill. “Here. This pill will allow you to gain nourishment from almost anything.” Understanding begins to dawn on me. I think of a future where overpopulation and ecological disruption have changed the food supply beyond normal human capacity, but where the tools of science have not been entirely lost in the regression to tribalism. If the usual food supply can not be sustained, why not modify the body to accept what is available as food? I think of the dead pigeon. And the bluish skin — doesn’t this suggest lower levels of oxygen in the blood? Perhaps a corrupt and depleted atmosphere might some day give rise to such a condition in the larger population. I shudder at the vision.

Yet this human is healthy and efficient, emminently alive. She speaks to the survival of the Human amid unthinkable adversity. There is a pill resting in my palm. If I take this, it will change me in ways which I do not know. Will I start eating roadkill? Worse, will I survive while watching those I love perish horribly? The taking of this pill seems to have far-reaching implications. Dare I do it?

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