This is a work of fiction. A short story of less than 900 words.
Seventy-six was happy. He was at last back to the pod. Lifting the entrance hatch, he slipped inside, climbing down the metal ladder into the spacious interior. As the hatch closed behind him, he switched off the invisibility generator, pleased to be able to view his own form once more. Connecting the feeder tube to the inlet, he checked the amount remaining in the nutrition tank. He would have to go carefully, as the next supply ship would not be arriving for sixteen more of these Earth years.
As the liquid revitalised him, he rested before completing his reports. The lounger was creaking underneath him, and might soon need replacing. Like much of the pod, it had remained the same for centuries, used by many other Watchers before him. Then again, it was installed long before The Pyramids had been built, when even mighty Rome had been little more than an Etruscan backwater, so a little wear and tear was to be expected. After disconnecting the tube, he checked the log. It was showing day 5,038. So many days he had been here already, and many more to endure yet.
Being a Watcher was considered to be an honour. Even though you had to spend most of your life alone, and return to a home completely changed and unknown, you could not refuse the mission. Despite losing your name and being known as a number, serving as one of the elite five hundred was the pinnacle of achievement. It brought prestige to your family, and assured influence and wealth at the end of your duty. If you could bear the isolation, and survive the disgusting habits of those you watched, later life would be comfortable and rewarding. At least that’s what they had told him.
He attached the transmitter to his head, and thought his reports into the device. They would be coded and sent later, adding to the hundreds of thousands of other reports stockpiled for generations. There was little about this sorry planet that escaped them. Since the inhabitants had first walked on two legs, they had been watched. After looking for countless thousands of years, this had been the only other planet where similar life had been discovered. They had made sure that it was watched, as their own safety might well one day depend on detailed knowledge of it. But it was only ‘similar life’, thought seventy-six. Far removed from their own, and familiar only in its rapid development, and some physical similarities. That was where it ended.
His people were appalled by the violence they had seen. The killing of animals, the thoughtless use of natural resources, and the enslavement of their fellow humans. Then there were the wars, the murders, the crimes. These things were so ancient in their own memories that they had become legends. Stories to frighten children, that few believed in any more. And the noise. Oh how he hated the noise. The different races speaking in different tongues, striving to be heard above others. He had come to revile their everyday habits too. The eating with their mouths, the consumption of alcohol, the selfishness and competition. And the sex. They did it so much, and for no reason other than pleasure it seemed. Grunting and shouting, slipping and sliding. He hated having to watch that, most of all.
There were times when he wished he could just give them some technology, or simply tell them a few things that would change not only their outlook on life, but their whole evolution. That was not allowed of course. They had to be careful. Already some supply ships had been seen, and some of his own kind captured and cruelly treated. These humans could never understand, and would not attempt to. They lived purely by instinct, and fear made them kill. Now they were reaching out to the stars. They hoped to find his kind, or others like him. When they did, they would probably try to kill them, of that seventy-six was certain. But their feeble experiments in space travel were just as children playing with toys. They had no idea how far they would have to go, and did not have the technological capability to achieve it either.
So for now, they watched. The five hundred Watchers, all over this horrible planet, making sure that every advance, every change in habits, all was seen and recorded. They walked unseen amongst these animals, disdainful of their presence, unconcerned by their pitiful progress. They stood in laboratories, scoffing at the perceived advances in medicine and physics. At the shoulders of the writers and thinkers, in case they had a useful thought for once. The presumed culture was no culture at all. It was simply entertainment at different levels, catering for the needs of the humans of mixed abilities, pleasing the masses, or soothing the minds of the more intelligent. If only they knew. Even their greatest brains were not at the level of a child where he came from. They had so far to go, and still believed that they were almost there.
Just thinking about them made him tired. He would rest soon, after making sure he had charged his equipment, ready for tomorrow.