The young author relaxed into the seat, stretching out her legs in the luxury of the space allowed in a train. Her head rested against the scratched window, marked with the dust of three states and the fingerprints of many travelers. Outside the soggy landscape rolled past in alternating waves of forest and farmstead. Her mind was blissfully empty, poured out in conversation with the delightful stranger who had shared the last few hours of the journey. It was a conversation ranging over philosophy, history, medicine, and great literature, a conversation where their minds had hummed together like perfectly tuned strings on a harp. Now the delightful friend was gone and the author was relaxing into that state of blissful hypnosis that only a long train ride can induce.
Then the trees opened and beneath the tracks appeared the roiling, turbid waters of the Great River. The river that had fed, carried, watered, and then powered, the population of this land since time immemorial. Like breath itself the river was a part of her. As the train rumbled over the bridge it interjected no more thought into her slack and open mind than the air itself. That is…until halfway across she noted the dirty green color of the water. A coil of more specific pleasure twisted inside of her. This was no crystal clear mountain stream, with ever pebble visible from the surface. No, this was a river that fed nations. It was dense with life itself. Life in the form of every creature that crawled on the surface of the earth and writhed through its waters. It was dense with the raw nutrients that fed ecosystems to rival the Great Barrier Reef.
And she shuddered. That was all the warning she had. As the train car slipped over the last quarter of the bridge a near formless creature leapt out of the water and into her brain. What if. It hissed in her innermost ear. How much do you love me? How much do you love your most treasured cultural treasure? What would you sacrifice to save the life of an alien? What is the value of my life? What cost are you willing to endure to preserve it? What happens when one value you hold clashes with another value?
The author’s hands trembled and without thought she snatches up her notebook. Words fall like leaves on the page at first. Fragments of ideas herded by fragmentary punctuation. The being morphs, at one moment a seal, the next a spider, then suddenly an idea. It thinks the newts are impossibly cute. The being is now fully formed. A cartilaginous skeleton, aquatic, long, so very long, three sets of limbs. A world from another story, another time surges up and the author know it to be this creatures homeworld. Deep canyons, bitter winds, complex underwater caverns. A novel forms in moments. A contrast of values. Arguments.
“How dare you ask us to give up millennia of preservation efforts, a sacred site?”
“The cost will be immeasurable!”
“This is a person!”
“There is no other way?”
“If it cannot be used for the good of the logos then why do you claim to preserve it for the logos?”
The author shivers, knowing that the questions such a novel will ask, if she does her job properly, will no doubt generate controversy. Offend. The immediate rush of inspiration is gone. Trapped on the pages of her notebook where it can be managed. She takes a deep breath and leans back against the window, searching for that happy, hypnotic state of being from mere moments ago. But her mind is no longer empty. In the place of the mental vacuum She now swims, filling the space, looking at the author through slits of eyes, demanding attention.
“Are you really my creation?” Whispers the author to this creature.
She smiles. She has her attention.