DEAD END

His name is J’onn J’onzz and once upon a time, there were others like him, walking tall and proud under the Martian sky. No better than the Tellurians and no worse, they laughed and cried, they ate and drank, they made love and war. They did it in other ways than humans do, but they did it all the same. With the passing of time, the differences blur and fade, like the memories J’onn tries to hold onto.

Someone lived. Someone loved. Someone thought. That’s all it comes down to in the end. J’onn tries to write it before it’s gone. Before he’s gone, with them. Eventually and inevitably, he forgets places, then names. Ma'aleca'andra becomes smaller in his mind. Becomes Mars, shorter and more palatable to Tellurian tongues. He becomes John Jones, himself. The notes he scribbles late at night cease to make sense. Dead languages, obsolete alphabets, people dead a thousand years and more. Their lives and philosophies have no meaning in this world. J’onn’s duty is to the living. It took him awhile to figure that out.

But he does his best, standing green and tall. He could choose any physical form, but he likes the reminder that he was Green always, in mind and body, less a warrior than a philosopher. He still is, even if his colleagues in the League can’t tell the difference. To them, he is the Martian, much like Clark Kent is the Kryptonian. Of course, there is a planet out there bursting with Kryptonians and Clark’s exile is a voluntary one. J’onn is the last of his line, the last of any line. The only one to remember Phobos and Deimos rising in the morning.

Ma'aleca'andra in his mind is a planet lush with life and vegetation, resplendent with great rivers and oceans. To this day, it hurts him to see the arid desert it has become. He knows the shorelines, gorges, riverbeds and islands; he can still pick them out in NASA photographs, though all water is long gone. He wonders how long it will be before there is life on Mars again.

In the meantime, he tries to protect the Tellurians from themselves. They may be frail and misguided, but he has come to cherish their foolish, short-sighted courage and their kindness to strangers. No matter how they gobble up their natural resources, he feels like their indulgent uncle. He has been there, done that, become extinct because of it. He wants to spare them, if he can.

Odds are, he won’t be able to. When the oil-based economies crash, when the ozone layer thins out beyond regeneration, when the Ebola virus mutates and becomes airborne, he’ll be no more than a helpless observer. He’ll let them down, just as he did Ma'alefa'ak and move on to the next world with nothing but another set of languages that just died.

Once upon a time, glorious winged creatures flew free in the Martian skies. Once upon a time, there was more of J'onn J'onzz, and what was there was better. He drives a cab now. He saves the world, sometimes. When the planetary alignments are just right, he looks up at his world with red, red eyes.

FIN