Editor's Note: "Affairs Quarterly", recognizing the growing concern over, and mounting evidence of, a subgroup of humanity dwelling among us, offers the following interview, leaving to the reader the task of judging the plausibility of its contents. It is the stated position of the interviewees, Martin and Heather Starke, that the time has come to present to the general public their, and ultimately our, story. They recognize the potential for adverse reaction, indeed panic, but against that possibility they have weighed the risk of allowing the current unrest, fomented by widely divergent rumors, to continue unaddressed.
AQ: I hardly know how to begin. The questions that are foremost in my mind will sound so preposterous, I almost hesitate to voice them.
HS: We understand. The answers, the truth of our lives, will likely prove even more so.
AQ: Well, okay, here goes. Are you representative of a new species of mankind? Of nature?
MS: A species is defined and bracketed by an ability to interbreed. I assure you that Heather and I share the ability, if not the inclination, to breed with any of the twenty billion plus members of the opposite sex currently crowding this planet. To answer your question more forthrightly, we are quite possibly a subspecies that no one in the past half million years has encountered, though certainly not a new one in, as you say, nature.
AQ: Are you implying you are from some other planet, or space station, or star system?
HS: No, not we ourselves. But we are each the progeny of a union between an Earthling and one not.
AQ: You mean one not of earth. Then from where? What manner of being?
MS: We cannot fully answer those questions. One each of our parents was, is, from another planet. It was never named. We never knew our fathers; nor did our mothers, except over a period of a brief few weeks surrounding our conception. As for what our fathers were, suffice it to say they were members of an advanced subspecies of humanity; Homo sapiens telepathic, if you will.
AQ: Which brings us to one of the most prevalent elements of the rumors. Do you possess telepathy?
HS: Not fully, and then only amongst others like ourselves. Allow me to digress a little. We each had a remarkably normal childhood. It was only toward the early teen years that we would occasionally "hear" other thoughts. Those times, of course, coincided with the proximity of another of our kind. You can imagine the consternation an event of this kind can produce. But these encounters were transient since our mothers carefully orchestrated the duration and spacings of these "introductions" at first. You see, although known to each other, our community is very small and widespread. Initially, of course, it was only our mothers who knew each other. Now we, all born within months of each other, are well known amongst ourselves and have largely intermarried. It is to our offspring, and their abilities, that we look; an outlook common to parents the world wide, I am sure.
AQ: For years there have been jokes about zero-gravity sex. Now we're beginning to hear one-liners about sex between telepaths. A popular one has each of the parties calling out, at the pivotal moment, a long list of names. But more darkly, we also have been hearing from those who, in the zeal of moral outrage, would link sex between telepaths to pornography, including group sex, voyeurism, and uninhibited exhibitionism. There have even been reports of telepathic rape. My question to you is, how does marriage, and sex in general, differ when telepathy is available?
HS: I'm glad you afforded us the opportunity to address these public concerns. What I find offensive is that righteous mind which could come up with the concept of telepathic rape. As for the pornographic allegations, I suppose there is the possibility of any of the three scenarios you mentioned. Afterall, sex and imagination have gone hand in hand for time immemorial. But telepaths, like most people, choose privacy for certain activities and simply turn off the system when they wish. Between each other a private connection may be established, adding a unique communicative intimacy to the act; or either party may wish to keep certain sexual fantasies to him- or herself.
MS: I would like to add here that marriage for us does have a slightly different character. We rely less on that one special relationship since we easily form close emotional bonds with other telepaths. I think the crucial element that we are missing, that makes marriage so distinctive for you non-telepaths, is loneliness. We never sense isolation. We feel known; and appreciated. The society of our peers, as a whole, is so nurturing that we need not seek acceptance so desperately or exclusively. It is my belief that the more indifferent a society is to its members, the more important marriage and the like become; thus the intense personal relationships forged in war. AQ: Let's move on to another popular attention getter among rumor-mongers: You are out to conquer the world.
HS: No -- to end conquering.
AQ: That's a bit enigmatic.
HS: We mean that through telepathy, humanity will be no longer so susceptible to the machinations of conquerors or demagogues. Also, decentralization of information access will empower the common man, in the same way that solar energy technology released us, in the past century, from economic control by utility conglomerates.
AQ: Then you do mean to absorb mankind into this new order, Homo sapiens telepathic?
MS: It is merely an evolution. The adult does not absorb the child, rather the child becomes the adult.
AQ: I'm going to read to you a letter, dated September 16, 2119, upon which I would like you to comment. It has only recently come to our attention and this will likely be its first complete public exposure, although its existence has been rumored for years. It is addressed to the FBI and handwritten but unsigned. This copy, apparently one among many distributed to various governmental agencies, was obtained from NASA. The text follows:
"After careful consideration, over a period of almost six months, I am writing this. I still don't know if I'll actually sign it, or even mail it. But for now I just need to get it off my chest. I'll agonize later as to its proper disposition.
"I am the close personal friend, intimate confidante, and occasional lesbian lover of a well-placed NASA official. Her name, if provided, will follow the body of this letter. It is her influence over the fate of the ultra-secret StarFlung Project that attracted the attention of... what I'll call the `floaters.'
"The StarFlung Project, a sophisticated attempt to seed humanity in other star systems, was conceived out of the fear that within the next half century the ability of the earth to support an out of control human population will collapse.
"However, there are interests `out there' that took exception with this territorial encroachment of humanity, at least of humanity as presently practiced. These `interests', by the way, are our telepathic ancestors. Earth was, half a million years ago, their version of an institution, read dumping ground, for the criminally insane. Or, more accurately, for the mind-erased, genetically altered, criminally insane. Lacking telepathy, a cultural memory, and a technical expertise, to say nothing of an infrastructure, the threat of these delinquents returning was long delayed.
"The floaters (the genesis of this coined term will be explained shortly), who had been haphazardly monitoring our progress for these past half million years, now surreptitiously contacted those who could mold (i.e., sabotage) the StarFlung Project and prevailed upon them, evidently without any real coercion so convincing was their argument, to make certain the Project was not actually flung star-ward. At least, not for a while, until humanity, nee Earth, had done some more growing up. They decided to provide some guidance.
"This guidance took the form of selectively impregnating the newly-converted, thereby re-introducing into the gene pool the nascent ability for telepathy. It was presumed that at least a portion of humanity was ready to accommodate telepathy and that over a dozen generations, if it survived, a re-habilitated humanity would have come of age, and be welcomed back into the fold.
My friend was infatuated with this telepathy and spent hours expounding on its potential. I'll synopsis some of what she was supposedly told of its history.
"It appears this telepathy is a tricky thing. One can withhold or reveal as much as one wishes, but lying is not possible. Right there the effect on the governing of human affairs was profound and beneficent. Within a fraction of a millennium, all of the problems which mankind had continuously inflicted upon himself and his first world ceased to arise, as masked greed, charismatic inanity and plain meanness were weaned out of the pool of those who sought to govern.
"An additional benefit eventually accrued as telepathic proficiency grew with each passing generation. A remarkable phenomenon slowly manifested. With millions of simultaneous participants as its source, a free floating bank of telepathic thought and emotion coalesced, into which any one at any time could tap for information, comfort, communication, entertainment, joy and communion. A pervasive sense of well-being and belonging finally united the human tribe.
"But over time, an insidious evolution of this ability took place, one which was slow to be realized but then quick to be held in revulsion. For a new toxic breed, telepathic lying became possible. Once again, the specter of those who would attain power through the path of deception threatened mankind with manipulation from within.
"But beyond the consequences to human relations and to the ability to be effectively governed, the effect on the Float (as this bank of telepathic thought and being came to be called) was devastating, tainting its sweetness as a rotten piece of flesh spoils the fruit. The trust essential to the enjoyment and utility of the float had been violated.
"It had come to pass that the integrity of this telepathy, and in particular that of the Float, was cherished as the most highly valued of human attributes. (Likewise Earthlings currently regard intelligence as their elevating virtue.) Recognizing a poisoning of the Float's seamless goodness by a relatively few despoilers, reaction was swift and final. This peculiar banishment to Earth was the result.
"My friend related to me her reaction to this fantastic other-worldly tale. Principally I recall two analogies she used. The first pertains to her susceptibility to this gestalt, and perhaps to her mental state. (I have only her word as to the validity of all this; and she has recently moved, telling me only days in advance, and then severing our relationship entirely.) To bolster her position that working with the "floaters", and thereby counter to the trust NASA had put in her, was a correct and natural choice, she said, and I quote: `Much as those individuals who feel trapped in a body of the wrong sex, I have always felt myself an alien in the human species.' When I asked her how she could feel that way, she answered, `Either you find yourself at odds with the ways and priorities of human society, in any of its many incarnations, as I do -- or you don't. If you don't know what I mean, it's useless trying to explain it to you.'
"Another time, when talking of telepathy, she claimed that it was clear that humanity had an innate memory of possessing it. `As one who has had an extremity amputated can sometimes still feel its presence, the so-called phantom limb, so we "remember" the telepathic Float in our timeworn thrashing about for religion, god and a soul. Our phantom soul is the lost life-line to our larger self, to the Float.'
"I give you these quotes that her sanity or motivation may be appraised more closely. I am distressed over her decision, her desertion. She, of course, asserts that the floaters adequately demonstrated their credentials -- through powers we don't possess or however, I don't know. She, as others in like positions (names to follow), completed her subtle sabotage and took off to have her child, a child of the floaters, of the future she would believe in. I... I write a letter I'm afraid to post. I sit here as a gray dawn wrests with the night, confused and betrayed."
AQ:In the end, the letter was sent to the authorities, but no names were ascribed to the principals of the matter. It was distributed but frankly thought incredible and no action was taken.
Which brings me to my original question, what is your opinion of this letter?
HS: It is consistent with our knowledge and experience. Of course, we cannot comment on its actual authenticity or genuineness. But it seems unlikely that it was fabricated. It is, in a word, true.
AQ: I would like to see some simple act showing the faculty of telepathy. Can you oblige me?
MS: Shall we
MS: each other's
MS: like this?
AQ: Very well done. But that very easily could have been a pre-arranged little act. It is certainly a question you might anticipate, and prepare for. I am only doubting you because there will be those among our readers who will. Perhaps something more...
HS: Please. This is not a circus stunt. It is not important to us to be believed. Perhaps better if not. We are either crackpots seeking media attention or offerers of a little perfection, eventually, in a manifestly imperfect world. The promise we hold for the future is wholly benign, a process of healing for all... between all.
MS: In either case we're not dangerous. That's the point we as a group wish to underscore by agreeing to this talk. We can read the mind of no one who cannot read ours in turn.
AQ: Thank you both. Editor's Postscript: One month after this interview, and just a week before this issue went to press, Martin and Heather Starke, along with fifteen other reputed would-be "floaters", were victims of a bombing that occurred at their home in rural Maine. There were no survivors.
Will Sand has been published in Aberrations, Ultimate Unknown, Dark Planet, and Ibn Qirtaiba. He is a retired chiropractor, dividing his time between the central coast of California and the nether-ether-land of the Internet. His spirit is as young as the hills, his body as old as the President's, and his website as new as the millennium. You are invited, nay compelled, to visit his web site.