Although we think we remember those epic moments of shared history when everything we thought we knew came tumbling down, research into memory taught us that we create a narrative about those moments, a story we tell ourselves and others that doesn't always coincide with the truth. Regardless of whether it happened like this, this is how I remember the moment that we learned we weren't alone in the universe. They came from the stars in ships, a people who'd destroyed their own world in much the way we feared we would destroy our own. These Travelers consumed until their was nothing left to consume and then with little other choice some took to the stars to find a new home, a new world to consume.
In a universe as large as ours, with the number of stars and astral bodies revolving around them, it came as no surprise to some that we were not alone. They came from the stars and it gave them the advantage. With no locations to fortify, no unmovable fortress they had us at the advantage. Their technology surpassed us. I wonder now if they thought we'd be an easy target. We proved tenacious, our long history of fighting amongst ourselves prepared us for to fight others. Lives were lost and even as we lost ground to the invaders we developed new ways to fight them. Mankind would not go silently into that good night.
I lost my reason for existence in the first attack. Their smiles and laughter haunt my dreams both waking and sleeping. A husband who loved me with all his heart, more than just a lover and partner, but my best friend. And, my sun & stars, my gift from God. I'd been unable to have children biologically and the journey to adopt my precious little girl had resulted in own share of tears and laughter. What more could I ask for? Did I not have all that a woman could want and more?
And then in a blink of eye, every breath, every memory became a painful gasping of air. Where once I was filled, now I was emptied? Why had God allowed this? Why had he given me them only to steal them back? How did I not hate these invaders that had come to take all that I had? I joined the fight like many others trying to salvage something out of my fractured existence. Desperate to find some meaning, some purpose in the loss I endured.
It would not be some great technology that would save us, but their own arrogance. Our biologies were so similar, the same number of chromosomes…our invaders could be our biological cousins. And their great enemy turned out to be what H.G. Wells in the War of the Worlds so aptly predicted. Germs, viruses, bacterias. The very smallest things of our world became the weapons they could not fight. The Europeans nearly wiped out the Native Americans when they came to North America, but we nearly wiped out the Travelers with the flu. Our enemies sued for peace with us as they lacked the resources to care for a species wide epidemic. The armistice began a week ago and the military leader of the Travelers is making his way to the neutral territory to negotiate a lasting peace treaty.
I had made a name for myself among the resistance, because I treated the prisoners we captured during the war with respect. I did not tolerate cruelty or acts of revenge. For those who knew my story of loss, it garnered strange looks. Even broken without my human anchors, I tried to rest in the one who never failed. My faith sustained me even when I yelled in anger and sorrow at God. I was one of the first to notice that the prisoners were becoming ill. It was the quick response that I and the medical staff attached to my unit had that saved the lives of hundreds of Travelers. I had saved my enemy. Was that not enough?
Today, I knew God was testing me as the leaders of the Earth called on me to join the negotiations to sit across the table from the man who'd ordered that first attack that had stolen my every peace and joy. He would only negotiate this truce with me, because I had set aside differences in the midst of war to save my enemies. It was unlikely that he knew my story in entirety, but there were few if any people on Earth who had not lost some loved one in the war. Could I forgive this man for murdering my child and help forge a future of peace? Or would the rage I fought against, the anger, pain that threatened to become bitterness and hate, consume me and use this opportunity to take my revenge? A test. Would I chose forgiveness? Would I choose obedience to the God who I claimed to serve? Or would I choose my own way?
…Her laughter echoed in my ears. Tiny arms wrapped around my neck. Whispered I love you's and a heart that overflowed…Could I forgive? Would I forgive?
In the end, it was my choice. I could drink from the cup of bitterness. Or not.
The ship opened and he emerged. A striking man even if he was an alien. My hand squeezed around the knife I'd tucked in my jacket pocket. I would get close enough to use it when we greeted each other. As he approached, I struggled in a battle for my soul.
God, I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to forgive this man. How did you forgive us for the murder of your son?
And …I knew that forgiveness was also a choice. A choice I'd have to make again and again until it stuck. Only I could release this man from the debt I felt he owed me for what had been taken. My fingers unwrapped from the knife as the translators introduced us. I choose to stick my hand out and take his. I choose to no longer dwell on the moments I would never have with my husband, with my daughter, and be grateful for all the moments that I had been given.
And I would have to choose that many times again and again over the days and weeks, months, years to come. Choose to forgive until one day I no longer had to choose forgiveness, because somewhere along the way I had learned to love my enemy, to call them friend.