Fast forward. Play the movie at double-speed. A whole new world appears.
As it turns out, starfish reveal themselves to be vicious predators, quickly overwhelming slower-moving creatures that cross their path.
At a tempo calibrated to the pace of humans, starfish are splendid, beautiful, and slow-moving.
But at a tempo calibrated to that of the starfish, the human observer is now unable to track the individual starfish, which has been swept up into a mass, a mob, a horrifying horde, stripping the pray to the bone, to the very marrow, the victim unable to escape.
Across the spectrum of tempo, of pace, the quick overtake the slow, the small group to devour the large, but nature has its balance, the mighty ying to the attacker’s yang, which sends the assailants reeling.
Trees living hundreds or even thousands of years, evolved to signal one another of high-pace threats, one species for example emitting a low-frequency moan when victimized by predatory beetles.
Adjacent trees, in individual and yet orchestrated response, elevate production of toxins that ultimately deter and starve the beetles.
Waves flow in, tide goes out. Fresh lava pushes back the waves, which in turn pound the rock into sand.
Friction: nature’s push and pull, strike and counter-strike, provides life’s heat. A species secures a victory; vigilance devolves into bored complacency; and falls into victimhood once again.
Cycles, viewed from great distances, and from the perspective of an entity able to witness events over the range of millions of years, 99.99% of nature’s story features a repetition bordering on the mundane.
As with all stories, the exception is what makes things interesting, elevating itself from the backdrop of repetition to create contrast that captures attention, demands focus, and provoking as if by reflex a response, a reaction on the part of nature to drive out all deviations from the norm.
Somewhere along the way, and within a blink of an eye, humans screwed everything up. The perfect meal became the perfect predator, and it almost happened too fast for the Great Ones to properly respond.
But when they did, their manifestation was devastating, without precedent, and breathtaking in its ruthlessness.
After-actions report. Post-mortem
We’re still not sure what happened. Small, relatively hair-less, tree-dwelling, no claws, no fangs, they were frankly not very remarkable; a pretty good source of easy protein for many of the animals dwelling upon the third planet, and not much more.
Humans were slow-moving, relative to their predators, but naturally and like other terrestrial forms operating at a pace many countless times more rapid than the tempo of the Great Ones. Many generations of humans live and die between a Great One’s solar-respiratory cycle.
Officially: temporal discontinuity. We believe that’s how it occurred. The cold product of math cranked to its highest tempo, conditions ripe for the inevitability of algebraic aberrations resulting in fatal consequences.
Anyway: the mutation occurred, and the manifestations were too rapid for proper response.
At one point they were like all other beasts, their high-tempo lives serving as the ideal habitat for the Great Ones’ primary source of food: bacteria, viruses, etc, their DNA manipulated such that they operated in symbiosis with the crops they carried, without realizing that their miserable existence was to serve as a vehicle for tiny living creatures, which in turn: serves as the Great One’s krill, stated in Earth’s terms.
We think it started with ants, and we think it occurred about 5,000 rotations of the yellow star prior.
Our theory is that humans realized they could emulate the ant’s cooperative model to maximize their ability to survive seasonal cycles.
Humans refer to this as the invention of “society”, but that’s merely because they fancy themselves above ants, bees, and other of their fellow creatures. The Great Ones had seen this before; they had merely never seen it manifest in the way it did.
In any event, one moment they are on their bellies, like all the rest, and the next thing we know, they traveled to the small moon, and just a few hundreds of solar cycles prior had figured out how to create and sustain a state of abstract personhood whose will transcended any individual human animal; what they call “a corporate entity.”
Of course, this initiated a galactic spitting of the coffee, so to speak, but before anyone could respond in the usual manner (by initiating species-wide die-off due to a “virus”), humans had achieved a certain pace, and before we get too far into its details, it’s important to merely pause for a moment and highlight why this is important:
It’s when they saw us.
As mentioned, we’d only noticed they’d actually left the planet before we realized their corporate machines had become extremely sophisticated. We tried to pin-point, tried to identify what happened, tried to see what changed, and realized their “brains” had expanded.
And we’re not talking about an expansion of human organic material; the abstract personhood called a “corporation” enabled a certain will to sustain its accumulation of knowledge in such a way that triggered the statistical anomaly referred to previously. And as noted, it happened too fast for anyone to respond before it was too late.
Mea culpa, we should have seen this coming
We’d noted how keenly humans had expanded their range of vision and of sound by partnering with other animals, notably dogs. We should have seen the tendency, predicted the metaphoric foreshadowing, charted the vector, done a better job of defining possible outcomes.
They managed to merge their machines to massively expand their range of sight and of sound, and of course like all other species the humans were manipulated to blindness beyond the narrowest range of frequencies. As everyone knows, we did so to allow us to move among them, hide in plain sight.
But suddenly, they could see us, or more precisely: they could discern our presence in negative space, so to speak, and at first their response was too rapid, it overwhelmed us, their tempo and pacing outmatching our own.
This mean and tough little feeder, rapidly racing around in its pathetic little Petri dish, could discern our presence, and they proved to be deadly.
Ironically, their infection of our world was by allegory precisely how we had long managed them, but before we could cook up a course-correcting antidote, they had driven the Great Ones nearly to the point of extinction, and threatened to infect other Gardens.
Of course, the collective response on the part of other Gardens, while slow even by the standards of the Great Ones, was breathtaking, for we are the trees, and they are our fruit.
Our future as a living aggregate entity is contingent upon how these young ones treat even the least among them with dignity and compassion, and this is ultimately what invited such a ruthlessly thorough cleansing on the part of the Great Ones.
The threat had long since become existential.