Jens looks at his legs, still outstretched and beginning to glisten in the early daylight. It has been a cool night, and his body needs a few minutes to warm up enough to get up and walk. Taking a deep breath, he smells the dew evaporating from the ground, and as long shadows slowly shorten, he waits for the sunlight to crawl its way towards him. Patience feels natural to Jens; he never hurries, never rushes. Whatever subtle cravings borne of night and sleep will fade as the golden dawn bathes his smooth, green skin.
He runs his hands across the moist, mossy ground cover and collects dew on his palms; bringing them to his lips, he licks the water from them. He tastes slight saltiness, the result of dissipating marine fog that settles over the hillside during the night. His mind turns to thoughts about the creek at the bottom of the hill, its water redolent of fallen leaves and sweet decay. This place, peaceful amid the quiet forest and grassy hillsides, is where he’s lived his entire adult life. Other than awareness of seasonal cycles, Jens has little sense of time; no clocks, no deadlines, no other place to be. No future tense absorbs him. He’s never worked, been hungry, or worried about tomorrow. He just is.
Warmth begins to spread as sunlight crosses his body. He feels an immediate surge of energy as the chlorophyll-driven photosynthesis of his skin begins to produce carbohydrates that then circulate throughout his body and give him strength. He spreads his arms wide to catch more of the deliciously refreshing rays, wakening to life itself. He relaxes into the feeling of feeding on sunlight. The subtle cravings of darkness fade and are replaced with feelings of well-being and comfort. He is at peace. Like others of his botanicus kind, Jens is part of the new human race, plant and animal hybrid, a chimera created in Pierre Gittleman’s lab.
Beings like Jens have no need of agriculture, industry, borders, and in warm climates, now nearly everywhere, no clothing or shelter. Sunlight, minerals in water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide satisfy their basic needs of ordinary life. Hunger itself has faded into a collective mythology of ancient, troubled gods tortured by greed and craving, who in their final desperation gave birth to Jens and his people, a theogony of creation. Jens is not alone, but a member of a small community, all green-skinned, all descended from a small group of beings Pierre created, raised from birth, and set loose upon a changed world in hopes that humanity would not disappear completely.
Jens slowly rises to his feet and turning toward the bright sunlight, his body rippling with strength, walks downhill in towards the laughing of others splashing in the soft current of the creek. Calling out, his voice almost bird-like, he coos a morning song accompanied by clapping his hands together. In the quiet morning, most species of birds and insects now extinct, his musical greeting is carried through the silence by the breeze to his clan, who respond by joining in, a melodious chorus, the new sounds of dawn.
Reaching the group, Jens embraces each, their naked green bodies changing color where they touch. Shades of green shift from light to dark, yellow ochre, even splotches of red, as waves of color move across their shiny, hairless skin. These displays are not simply a matter of touch, but displays of emotion, and they comprise an entirely new way of communication, an effect of Pierre’s including selected octopus-derived chromatophore genes in his creations. The color, breadth, intensity, and speed of skin color changes all contain information, immediately visible and conveying the complexity of feelings, an entirely new grammar of creation.
Altogether there are thirteen individuals in Jens’ community, nine adults and four juveniles. The group began as four adults nearly twenty years ago, and their population has grown slowly. Although the drive to procreate remains, it is not an ever-present urge as it is in Homo sapiens. Recognizing that uncontrolled population growth made a major contribution to earth’s ecological disaster – seven billion-plus were too many human mouths to feed – Pierre incorporated estrus cycles of much greater length into the genes of Homo botanicus, and limited sexual pheromones strictly to those cycles; accordingly, sexual activity is not their preoccupation. At the same time, he enhanced oxytocin levels, the “parenting” hormone, in both males and females, effectively equalizing the positive emotions of relationship and rendering parental gender distinctions moot. Botanicus, by design, are gentle and loving.
As the group gathers, their skin-signaling displays begin to synchronize, almost like the activity of one organism. They form a tight circle, arms around each other, the pulses slow, their green color changing from vibrant to muted. In silence, they remain huddled for a few minutes; their activity reinforcing the deep bonds of affection they feel for each other. Although individuals, none feel autonomous nor separate from the whole, an emotional construct that extends not just to each other, but to the entire world around them. Self-and-other is not in the lexicon of botanicus, yet another effort by Pierre to unwind a faulty mechanism of human imagination that had brought humanity to the edge of extinction. He achieved this by reinvigorating the dominance of the brain’s right hemisphere.
The right hemisphere, Pierre understood, realizes the relatedness and wholeness of reality rather than concentrating, as does the left hemisphere, on isolating its parts. The tragedy of human civilization, Pierre believed, could in large part be traced to its over reliance on the left hemisphere, the mind of separation. While vital to survival, the left hemisphere’s making of distinctions and its psychological act of designating “things” produces an illusion of autonomy and consequent ego-clinging that elevates competition over collaboration. The result on human society was the objectification of other beings as “things,” continuous conflict over possessions, craving influence, exerting power and striving for control. Such urges, combined with high intelligence and self-awareness, had hoisted Homo sapiens on its own petard. Subordinating the isolating role of the left hemisphere allows the right hemisphere, the mind of wholeness and relationship, to assume its proper place in the ordering of reality.
As the sun rises higher, Jens and his clan move away from the creek, settle together on a grassy hillside, and begin to chatter. Their voices join in rhythmic waves not unlike the color pulsing of their skin, rising and falling in unison and occasionally scattering into gales of laughter. Finally, they stand up as a group, and walking a well-worn path into the dense growth around them, they seamlessly disappear into the green.