by Wilf James
(A translation from the rock inscriptions found in the African rift valley in 2024.)
Someday, someone will find out exactly what did happen all those years ago. In the meantime we will have to make do with the incomplete records which survive. To help later researchers I offer a summary of the facts as far as I have been able to check them.
The Exodus took place around 35,000 years ago after many thousands of years of preparation. It had been known since time immemorial that something would have to be done about dwindling resources, but it was not until the reign of Suma Topopi that a workable plan emerged. It was decided that the only way anyone could survive in the future was to reduce the population to a very low level. In this way, when the Exodus took place, everyone who was still alive could leave if they wanted to. It was calculated that if every couple had only one child for about ten generations, the population would be reduced to about 20,000. It would take 5,000 years, and would be a once-and-for-all effort which had to succeed.
Gradually, as the population declined, resources became available to build the fleet of ships needed for the journeys. During the last hundred years before the departure, the remaining population was divided between those who wished to set up the new colonies and those who wanted to end their days in their home surroundings. The future colonists were trained as far as was possible to cope with the new environments they would be living in. Those that were staying were trained to prepare the ships and to supervise their departure. Everything went according to the plan although there was much sadness when the final goodbyes were said.
The ships went in two directions. Half went out into deep space in search of a favourable planet in another star system. The others landed at two sites here, on the nearest planet.
The colonists were completely unprepared for the extreme severity of the living conditions. The hot thick atmosphere was hard to breathe and the increased gravity made movement on the surface almost impossible. Many died within a year or two of the landing because the stresses were so great. Somehow, about a quarter of the colonists survived to have offspring over the next century. Life expectancy was brutally short for the original colonists; few of them lived longer than 600 of their new planet's years.
Their children, although more adapted to the gravity, did not do a lot better; only one or two lived long enough to have a 700th birthday. Because of the terrible living conditions and the shortened lifespan, education was neglected and many of the old skills were lost. The early colonists had large families to try to restore the population level, but, as each succeeding generation became more adapted to the environment, the lifespan became shorter.
After many generations, we can move around without too much distress, but our lifespan is only one twentieth what it was on our home planet. Now, only a handful of us know how to read and write. In my own small community I am the only one left, so I have the post of scribe. I can't persuade any of the youngsters to learn my skills so it looks as if I will be the last in this neighbourhood who can record the history of our people. It is for this reason that I have tried to set down here what I know about our history, in the hope that, sometime in the future, someone from the star colony will come to read it.
We do not have a proper colony any more. There are only isolated groups of people who want to spend most of their time trying to avoid the gravity, up to their eyes in water. I hope that some of our race will live on in the star colony as we used to on our home planet. Those that live here will survive, but only by living a brutish, animal-like existence. We could not stop our home from becoming lifeless, so we had to leave it. The Exodus to our nearest planet was our main hope, even though the gravity would be stronger and it might be too hot for comfort. We tried hard, but the gravity of this planet has beaten us, and now we are stuck in the mud.
We are sorry that we failed you, Suma Topopi. I hope those from the star colony will not judge our failure to colonise Hippo Potamia too harshly.
Specially written for the Hyppo-Space edition of Hypospace 1985. (This was the fanzine of the then Hatfield Polytechnic Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (PSIFA). Please note that Hatfield Polytechnic became Hertfordshire University some years later.
Copyright (C) W. H. James 11/02/1985 Revised 25/6/86,11/06/96 & 30/11/98 (785 words) .
Wilf James,106 Jarden, Letchworth, Herts. SG6 2NZ, UK. E-mail wilf dot james at ntlworld dot com This version of my email address is to beat spammer's robots.
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