by Richard Lau
If you asked the President of the United States, it was Russia’s fault. The Russian Prime Minister would beg to differ. Both leaders would agree that China had some hand in antagonizing the situation.
But things had grown so heated between the two nations that they had officially “ceased talking” and communicated only through impersonal, official e-mails.
The US President sent the following: “Due to the importance and precariousness of the moment, I am sending this message from my official personal account. Please immediately halt your aggressive advances in Eastern Europe, or the United States will be forced to become involved, as a beacon of democracy and freedom. As we Americans are a peace-loving people, we are eager to negotiate to avoid further escalation between our two great countries. With much hope in hearing from you soon, God bless.”
At the same time, the Russian Prime Minister sent a message of his own: “Whether subduing terrorists or enforcing stability with our geographic neighbors, Russia will always seek to protect its borders and its people. Any action by the United States or any other country to interfere will be viewed as an attack on our sovereignty and be addressed with the full might of the Russian military. However, there is still a chance to avoid unnecessary hostility between our countries. Please advise if you are interested in further discussions.”
To the consternation of both leaders, neither received a reply from her and his counterpart. And eventually, after several more iterations of unacknowledged digital olive branches, both sides sent almost duplicate ultimatums: “Respond or else we will let our nuclear warheads and space technology continue and finish the conversation.”
The threat of nuclear war did not go unnoticed by the alien civilizations who had long been monitoring the situation with equal amounts of growing concern and dread.
The Venusians contacted the members of their alliance: “For the sake of the solar system, we must insert ourselves as peacekeepers into the Earthling drama before the conflict gets further out of control.”
The Martians had a different solution: “We must destroy the Earth and its humans now before this madness spreads.”
The Martian approach dismayed the Venusians who asserted, “Mars has been wanting to attack Earth for centuries and is just taking advantage of this unfortunate point in their history as an opportunity to achieve its long-desired and self-serving goal.”
The Martians replied, “Have you seen those movies they constantly make to demean and disparage our race? Now is the right time for the right solution.”
And so, bitterness, resentment, and the threat of a new war enveloped the two planets bordering the Earth. Soon all communication between Venus and Mars had withered down to primitive e-mail as well.
From the Martians: “Any effort to help the humans resolve their conflict will be interpreted as endangering the rest of the Solar System and will be dealt with appropriately. Please let us help you reconsider what will surely be a mistake for all involved.”
From the Venusians: “Any aggressive move to worsen the situation on Earth will be taken as a justification for war. Please, let us meet and discuss a solution that will satisfy all three of our planets.”
Neither Mars nor Venus thought to communicate directly with Earth, upholding a long-held policy of keeping their junior solar-system siblings ignorant of the other lifeforms around them. And neither Venus nor Mars received a reply from the other, even though calmer multiple blue heads and oversized green heads tried to prevail with entreaties for peace.
The people of Jupiter, who naturally believed “size matters,” instructed both Mars and Venus to stay out of Earth’s conflict or face the wrath of the Jovian Empire. Neptune sided with Venus. Mercury sided with Mars. And Uranus just acted like an a-hole.
Interplanetary e-mail was the common communication platform between all of the civilizations. It was the easiest for algorithms to parse and translate. And the technology was easily developed and shared freely.
As the mushroom clouds sprouted across Earth’s surface like fungi after a damp winter, and the flaming tails of rockets arced back and forth between the second and fourth planet from the sun, pleadings for an end to the violence from the other members of the solar system fell upon blind eyes.
The rest of the Milky Way galaxy wondered, “What are they drinking in that star system?” These “outsiders” sent polite inquiries through the established e-mail system, and their missives for peaceful negotiations were ignored.
Slowly, galaxy after galaxy fell into battle, sometimes taking sides in what was termed “The Earth Conflict,” but more often avenging their own grudges. Long-festering wounds re-opened and newly perceived injuries were inflicted.
Over time, most of the older civilizations had managed to survive by tempering their aggressions, healing their pain, and developing a nonviolent method to settle disputes. But suddenly, the leaders of these peoples could not understand why no one seemed interested in being neighborly anymore.
And so, they, too, launched their weapons, which were not only capable of mass physical destruction but also able to tear and rend the very fabric of time and space.
The end of the universe had arrived. And all because no one checked their Spam Folder.
Richard Lau has been published in newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and the high-tech industry.