Futurism is a community on Vocal, a platform for discovering and supporting creators. You support this creator by reading, sharing and tipping stories. more

What is Vocal?
Vocal is a tool for artists and creators to fund and build community around their creative practice.

How does Vocal work?
With Vocal, people subscribe to support creators on an ongoing basis. In return, creators open the door to their creative practice — by sharing their process, notes from the field, in-progress previews, and other rewards. It’s a way for creators to build a community of dedicated and meaningful support around the work they make.

How do I join Vocal?
Right now, we have some early guidelines for the scope of Vocal. Vocal is for the continuous funding of creators, whether people or collectives, who have a creative practice in one or more of our supported categories: visual and performing arts, film and video, publishing, design and technology, music, comics, food and craft, and games.

To learn more about Vocal, please visit our FAQs.

show less

Remember What Might Happen

Little People

About the Micropolicians

It is a panel of eleven. Someone is thinking. The little people are hardly more than insects. We have found them to be rather irksome at times. We start to drill a well, we begin excavating a mine, we try to harvest a few trees … and there they are, communicating frantically in signs and gestures, implying they’ve been there for centuries or millennia, and we are destroying their world. And worse yet, they continue to attract advocates from the misguided tenderhearted academicians among us. They are hardly more than insects!

General Schmitt opens the folder and scans through the dozen or so sheets of paper. He scowls and looks around the table at the other members of the committee. His voice is effortlessly loud, “So … has anyone figured out what all this mumbo-jumbo is supposed to mean?”

A young lieutenant at the head of the table stands up. “If I may, sir.” The general nods. The lieutenant glances at his notes and surveys the group, the committee that has been appointed to study and create constructive relations with the Micropolicians, or as they are more commonly called, the Miniites. A recurring notion enters his thoughts. Perhaps we could start by finding out what they call themselves.

He clears his throat and nods to the group. “I’m Lieutenant Santiago … you can call me Jim, if you like. As some of you might not already know, since we first encountered these ‘little people’ five centuries ago – and that was shortly after the landing of our ancestors on the continent – we’ve been unable to learn any of their languages, and they’ve been unwilling or unable to learn ours as well.

“I say that because it has become clear over the years, from the relatively limited encounters we’ve had, that they don’t like us.” There is a collective shuffle around the table, a couple of grimaces, and a couple of chuckles.

The lieutenant continues, “But now, it would appear that they are actually reaching out to us. Somewhere, somehow, they’ve managed to engage their technology with ours, and they have activated one of our printers … right here in one of our offices … in a government facility that no one is supposed to know exists.”

The general shifts his derriere in his chair and harrumphs, “Well, that doesn’t surprise me. Considering that they’re smaller than my little finger, they could easily develop cam-bots that would be smaller than gnats to us.” He looks up at the ceiling with an air of suspicion and squints his eyes, impelling some of the others to do the same. “So … what the hell do they want anyway?”

The lieutenant nods, “Yes sir. It would appear that the, uh, Micropolicians have some grasp of some of our languages after all – our very old languages. The text they’ve sent us has turned out to be a mixture of some of the oldest languages known to us. One of these languages was almost extinct, and probably would be if they hadn’t used it here. The others, of course, have gone through several stages of their evolutions over periods of thousands of years.

“There is an enigma that presents itself here, which I believe merits our acknowledgement, at least.” Santiago speaks a little nervously now. He senses that the general is impatient. But he can see also that he has the group’s interest.

“We are talking about ‘our’ ancient languages, the languages of the Old World. When our forefathers came to this continent, they were already using the language we use today. Back in the Old World, these archaic languages had already evolved several times over. They were, in a sense, already dead.

“Now … these little creatures have never been known to exist anywhere else in the world. So how is it that they would know enough of the ancient tongues, ‘our’ ancient tongues from another time and place, to construct coherent phrases and statements?”

He sees heads nodding, frowns of inquisitiveness, and minor discussions going around the table. But he is thinking it is futile. There just aren’t enough of us who care to understand the little people. They are, after all, just tiny slivers to us, barely more than insects.

Memory and emotion preoccupy his mind. They have been found to be intelligent, and they do have their own technology. They have their tiny little cars and their tiny little planes, and they have infrastructures and their own communications systems.

And yet, in all this time, only two of their cities have ever been found. They were on opposite coasts, in very remote locations, in places we would probably never care to go ourselves. What we might perceive as harsh, uninhabitable terrain apparently seems to serve their needs just fine.

These cities are said to have been magnificent sights, each encompassing an area of perhaps one square mile. Nestled in those microcosms were tiny homes and neighborhoods with schools. There were tiny malls and stores, factories and warehouses, hospitals and restaurants, little hobby farms and airports.

I’ve seen pictures. Everything was thoughtfully and cleverly built under a natural projection, rain-safe, and well elevated. Their architectural designs alone would have been a boon to our commerce.

But there were no micro-citizens to be found, only tiny vehicles and tiny appliances, tiny tricycles and tiny playground structures. Months later, in each case, the first teams of scientists arrived, brimming with reserved eagerness and jocular skepticism, but the little cities had been stripped, collapsed, and abandoned.

They are such tiny beings, like little replicas of ourselves, except that they are endowed with little wings and able to fly short distances. And many years ago, it was discovered inadvertently that they have usable gills.

They are beautiful and fascinating! But they are still just tiny insignificant slivers to us, hardly more than insects – and they so often have gotten in the way of things.

Words of the Old World

For a few minutes, the young officer watches and listens with a self-contained gratification as people whisper and nod to each other, their eyebrows raised in genuine interest. A woman at the far end of the table raises her hand with a comment or a question. And suddenly, everything is disrupted by a loud noise that shakes the table!

General Schmitt has slammed his fist down on the table in an intimidating show of authority. “Enough!” he bellows. He turns to the lieutenant, starts out with a low growl and gradually builds up to a loud demanding voice, “I want to know what they have to say. I need to know what the hell they want. I need to know what they’re willing to do to get it – how far they’re willing to go. And I need to know what they got to throw at us.”

He looks around at the faces and reads the consternation in their eyes. “You folks keep seeing these … little imps … as cute little sprites full of goodwill and potential.

“They’ve had 500 years to reach out to us! Instead, they only show themselves to hinder our progress. We try to build a dam, there they are. We go to make a road, there they are. We start to clear some land … and there they are!”

He turns to the lieutenant again, “Now …they sent us a message. What the hell does it say? I need information, lieutenant!”

Santiago speaks calmly, “Please … sit down, General … please.” The general sits. Santiago is smiling to himself. He is thinking. This emotional outburst by the general will not go unnoticed and will likely have repercussions.

He turns to the committee, “As you can imagine, we’ve had some problems translating the languages. And we have, at this moment, one of our best technicians working on it. As I understand it, she had to reestablish contact with computers in the Old World, and she’s been trying to recover some deeply buried archives.”

There is a knock on the door, it opens, and a young woman sticks her head in. “I think we have it, sir.” she says to Santiago.

The lieutenant gestures her in and introduces her. “This is Sergeant Cheng. I will now let her tell us what we’ve all been waiting to hear.”

Cheng hands out some papers, and everyone ends up with one sheet. General Schmitt grabs his eagerly and looks at it with an intense demeanor. After the initial scan, everyone’s expressions, including the general’s, turn to puzzlement.

Having allowed a minute, the technician begins, “You’ll notice a title – ‘rules of engagement’. They used the most contemporary of the languages for this. It’s actually a dialect still used by poets today, and we refer to it consistently in the etymology of our present languages. This is clearly what they meant to say – it was a deliberate choice of words.”

General Schmitt is nodding slowly, and he murmurs in a low growl, “Hmm, now we’re getting somewhere.”

Sergeant Cheng continues, “The first five ‘paragraphs’ appear to be groupings of single words or phrases that seem to say the same thing, in a loosely relative way. It’s as if they sifted through the languages and found words or phrases that convey a related idea … hoping, perhaps, that one or the other, or maybe the combination, might make sense to us.

“The last ‘paragraph’ – ‘remember what might happen’ – which is just a sentence, comes from our oldest known dialect. It was almost lost to us. We know now that it was a bona fide language … once … because we have a record of it … well, we have one now … again.”

Sergeant Cheng stops and giggles, she takes a deep breath and composes herself. “Please, excuse me. What I’m trying to say is that there was this one last bit of reference to this dialect in the archives that were left behind in the Old World. The computer I recovered it from is half-buried in dirt … it’s got roots running through it … and I think there might be some insects or rodents living in it. It’s a miracle that I was able to retrieve anything at all from it.”

An old gentleman in a dated suit, with a full bushy beard and an unruly ponytail, politely raises his hand and comments, “The miracle, young lady, is that anything at all is growing there.”

Rules of Engagement

Everyone except the general nods solemnly, and there is a sustained moment of silence. When the general is heard taking in a deep breath and letting out a sigh, the sergeant continues.

“Anyway, I found it rather odd that all that is left of this language is what you see before you … a remnant that might have been lost altogether if the little people hadn’t used it. We don’t even know where or how it might have been expressed originally.

“You know …? Did it come from some famous poem … or a play … or from some imperial speech of long, long ago?

“And we have to wonder also … how did the little people know it was there … or did they find it somewhere else? Why did they feel it necessary to retrieve it, to preserve it? It is a statement that must mean something to them, or they think it should mean something to us. But in using it the way they have, are they trying to say something to us that is implied in the words, or do the words carry some message of historical value from our own people – something that might have become lost to us?”

The members of the panel gaze at the text for several minutes. No one volunteers a comment, raises a question, or offers any insight.

rules of engagement

1
do not disturb 
to rouse and expose is to disrupt and endanger 
wait
2
do not ignore
to overlook is to dismiss, to dismiss one is to slight all
watch

do not pursue 
the images and sounds of the world are distractful and frightful
be patient
4
do not hinder
life must unfold in its natural order, at its natural pace
be ready
5
do not seek to injure
beneficence begets benevolence
be nice
6
remember what might happen

Lieutenant Santiago clears his throat and speaks, “Well, obviously the matter of the little people is not going to be simple. I suggest that we all contemplate over these words, write down your thoughts and any questions that arise in your mind. And then we will share all of that, give it a good discussion, and try to move forward with it. You will be contacted about our next meeting.”

As people stand and leave the room, there is murmuring and thinking. I wonder why they hide from us. Five hundred years, and they continue to avoid us. They seem to want nothing to do with us. That second line of the third paragraph …

No one has noticed that the general has remained behind. He sits there and thinks. It could be simple. People are such idiots. I have to do something about this panel, get some different blood in here.

Contemplation, hrmph! What did that ever get anybody? The simple solution here is eradication – sure and swift. It’s been done before.

These little people are hardly more than insects …or mice …

External input signal terminated. Auto-return program activated.

r. nuñez                                                                                                             5/2012

Now Reading
Remember What Might Happen
Read Next
Are You Ready for aCommerce?