Listen to this story as narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry
Urtan never asked for the mission.
The enormity of it made his guts rumble in protest.
But the Supreme Council of Creations wanted him to go. He heard of their plans just hours before appearing before the august group, from a friend. They were waiting for him in the throne room right now.
He paused outside the great doors and sighed. He had no choice.
It was his duty. The Elders of Eras Minor had made him a Lord because they trusted him, and believed he could handle any task. Straightening his stance, he stepped forward as the huge doors opened.
“We have a mission for you Lord Urtan …” one of the four elderly men said from atop a high four-way throne of alabaster.
“Mankind is destroying their own planet. We’ve watched for eons as they developed more terrible weapons and polluted the skies, the sea, and even the air. Our scientists say that if we eliminate all life on earth there’s still a good chance we could restore the planet’s environment.”
“What then,” Elder Ohji?” Urtan meekly asked.
The last speaker quickly replied, “We colonize. We know how to treat a planet. Look at all of the planets that belong in our confederation.”
“You are going to judge if mankind is worth saving. When you report back in seven days we’ll consider what you found before deciding humanities fate, ” Elder Ohji explained.
Urtan bowed and walked out as the lights dimmed behind him.
No amount of preparation and study could have prepared Urtan for the experience of living among people who seemed in a constant state of chaos.
Because the Elders had been monitoring earth for eons they knew what Urtan had to have to blend in with the humans. Fortunately, the people of Eras Minor looked a lot like humans.
He was provided with money and earth clothing; a pair of blue jeans and a plain blue t-shirt with a pocket. The sandals on his feet felt awkward, but he liked the feeling of the air tickling his toes. No hat. They also added a mustache that caused him to sneeze at odd times.
Sitting in a small diner in Boise, Idaho, one morning, Urtan witnessed his first fight among humans. Two heavily tattooed bikers got into an argument with two men wearing all black with red armbands sporting swastikas.
Customers panicked and ran out the door as the brawl intensified. Knives were drawn and used with deadly effect. One of the bikers was bleeding badly from a deep gash to his belly, and one of the black-clothed men lay on the floor bleeding out from a dozen wounds that would shortly take his life.
Urtan never left his table. When the police came he told them what he saw. Afterwards he thought about the senseless violence and what had spurred it. He came to the conclusion that cultural differences could cause violence.
After reading newspapers that reporting on world events, it was apparent that not only could individuals be reduced to combatants over trivial matters, but countries could, which often led to all-out warfare.
He found that humans were quick to hate and slow to forgive. Urtan went to airports, concerts, horse races, and colleges. He watched TV news every night at 5:00 o’clock. He mingled with people in community parks, and went to a National League football game where opposing fans broke out in drunken melee.
He talked with homeless people from Idaho to California. He made a point of taking public transportation everywhere he went. He listened to and observed people closely. His disguise allowed him to blend in with the erratic humans wherever he went.
By day four, Urtan was beginning to think there was no hope for the human race. Hate and fear was a toxic mix, and most humans seemed to have plenty of both. He witnessed violence, in one form or another, every day.
There was one interesting thing about the humans that gave Urtan pause.
They often adopted other lesser species, like dogs, cats, and horses. Where Urtan was from it was just the opposite; lesser species were treated harshly, and were never kept as pets.
It fascinated him how some lesser species were considered food, while others were literally adopted into earth families who loved them. It made Urtan wonder if there was flicker of hope for mankind.
Could he justify saving the world because humans had pets they pampered? He thought about what the Elders would say. It was unlikely they would see that as a reason not to wipe out all the living inhabitants of earth.
With one day left before he had to return to his planet, Urtan went for a walk in a small town in the California High Sierras. Snow had fallen the night before and blanketed the little main street with a coat of white.
He noticed that there was a man lying on a bench in front of a gift shop. He had pieces of cardboard on him for a blanket and was shivering. A tiny dog peeked out from his place next to the man’s face.
As he watched two young boys came by. They stopped and looked at the man and dog, then left. But an hour later they returned with blankets and some supplies. The elderly man wept as he gave his dog some of the food they brought.
The boys stayed with the man for an hour. Talking with him and encouraging him. When they left the old man wrapped his blankets around himself and his dog and curled back up on the bench.
Urtan was impressed. Could it be that when the humans are young they did have good hearts? That would make a good argument for their survival. The chance that a new generation could bring positive change to the world was there.
The Elders listened attentively to Urtan’s report.
When he finished they conferred among themselves briefly and the eldest one said, “It sound’s like you think there’s hope for humanity. Frankly, we’re skeptical of your optimism, but intrigued by the story of the two young earthlings who showed so much compassion.
“So here’s our decision; we will give the earthlings another 100 years to prove themselves worthy of living in the universe. Then we will send another messenger to make that determination.”
Urtan bowed. He was at loss for words he was so happy. He wasn’t going to be the messenger of death after all.
As he walked down the marble corridors that led to his room in the palace, he wondered, once more, if there was really hope for the human race.
As It Stands, man is his own worst enemy.