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Generation Armonia: a day in the life of an ongoing mission - by Tracey Follows

As I drifted into land on Armonia, I could feel the breeze whisper something to me as it brushed along my neck and ears, and I shivered. I could smell something completely new, I don’t even know how to describe it, but it was something like mint, an ancient herb that used to flourish on Earth but now only existed in the memories of the older generations of Earthlings. Or was it just the smell of very thin, very pure air? Whatever it was, it was heady. It was also cold. And I could feel the tears start to form in my eyes, the water smarted, but I wiped it away. I could see what looked like a wild garden stretching out in front of me, as far as my stinging eyes could see. I slid off the cotton wool cloud that I had arrived on. And when my feet touched the ground, I bounced back as if I were walking on a trampoline. It was hard to regain my balance as I stumbled around like a newborn foal and finally bobbed along the grass walkway that had been trampled underfoot by something rather large. Whatever it was, the footprints impressed on me that it had six feet, so presumably six legs. I wondered what it might be. And how fast it might be able to run. I heard the crack of a branch behind me - it was deafening in the thin air. And as I floated around in what felt like zero gravity, I came face to face with a tiny being with a silky smooth, transparent skin. It had a concave chest and huge bulbous eyes. “Don’t worry”, he whispered as the words formed like rings of fog from his lips. “that’s the indigenous Armonian Falcon-Bear, they’re not dangerous, but they do get hungry”. I wasn’t sure what to make of that! But I was prepared for the strange spoken language of the Armonians. Armonians, you see, are said to be voiceless. I could now see - and hear - that myth was true. Over time, Armonians had lost the ability to make a sound using their voice box, so when they spoke, they emitted what seemed to be a smoke ring or a series of misty shapes, making out the spelling of words rather than the sounds. It meant that their communication was slower than ours, more deliberate and well-thought through. When they ‘speak’, they mean every word they say - that’s the effect of living in such thin air. That kind of slow, deliberate language that has to be seen and interpreted rather than heard, rendered the planet almost silent. But more than that, it made for more harmonious communication across the whole species and, in between species, too. The young misshapen boy who had appeared then quietly led me to a white building on the edge of the forest. We battled through the undergrowth and I could feel myself gasping for air. My 92 head started to swoon a little and I was grateful to reach our destination, and sit down for a little while. I had been summoned to Armonia to mediate the tension that had recently and uncharacteristically emerged between the two generations living here. It had already been explained to me in the briefing that only two generations now existed on Armonia: young and small, slightly-built children who lived to about 13 years of age; and the elderly who were tall, stringy and survived into adulthood, living until about 200 years. What had happened on this planet was a genetic divergence. The young, short, small generation were those born with underdeveloped lungs, who struggled to grow and live beyond their teen years. The elderly were those who genetically inherited strong, healthy lungs and they just went on forever, or so it seemed. The two generations had lived alongside each other for decades but lately there was growing tension. The young and short-lived were starting to become resentful. Not because they knew they were to live a shorter life but because they knew that the Respira plant, when grown, harvested, and fermented, could produce the medicine required to repair these young and underdeveloped lungs. But the elders had not been nurturing the Respira plant and had allowed it to dwindle away. They knew that the plant gave off a scent that affected their epigenetics and rendered the duration of their lives to about the same as a human being, around 80 years old. As the plant looked to be heading to extinction, so would the young generation. Meanwhile, these elders would live on for two centuries or more. Though it was not in the elders’ interest to nurture this plant particularly, it was time to redress the balance, and that was what I was here to do. It would be a challenge as there is no word for ‘sacrifice’ in the Armonian language. There had never been any use for it. Inhabitants had always lived harmoniously alongside each other within their beautiful aerated environment. But things had changed, and now the elders would have to sacrifice something to prevent the early deaths of the young. I manifested my holographic laboratory and showed the small boy named Aasha the Respira plant. His eyes widened even more, and his greyish, ghoulish skin appeared to flush pink. I immediately understood that this was something he had been dreaming of, as he whispered the fog-word ‘hope’ into the air, and it hovered between us. “I have to get to work,” I said, “we have no time to lose”, and I started towards the air-house laboratory in which I was to carry out my important work. And as I reached the reflective door, the sun bounced off it, startling me. I could see the reflection of the other Earthlings in my team arriving on their clouds. Here was the backup. “Right”, I commanded, as I looked at the gleaming face of young Aasha, “let’s get to work”.

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