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The Judas Goat

They release a goat, you see. Onto the island. The island is rotten with wild goats. A goat is to a man as a man is to God, is he not? And yet the men could not for all of their efforts track down the wild goats that wandered in that wilderness, so they return to the beach, they release one goat they have captured, and they wait. The Judas goat, they call it.
The goat never even notices the collar. The goat has no more idea of radio than it has of God, or quantum physics. All the goat knows is that it wants to be with other goats. Much like a man! Isn't that amusing?
The island, yes! The Galapagos, on Earth. A wild place, much treasured for its native life. The goats were invasive, you see. Not native. They spread there, and they were hard to wipe out. Damaging, the men said, to the valued and unique local wildlife. The goats had no value, they merely needed to be eradicated, you see. They multiplied too fast, they ate everything in sight.
Such a nice settlement you have here! A small farm, a power unit. And your children, you say there are six? So proud you must be. Could I have another taste of that roast? What do you call it, blue-pig? And they are wild here, you say? Such fascinating life, this place has. And so delicious!
So the men release the goat. And the goat... what does he do? What can he do, but find more goats? It is the nature of a goat, to find more goats. Even if the goat wanted to be alone, can a goat stay alone?
Have you ever tried to be alone? Not for a day, or a week, but for months, years, always alone? You can see other people. Settlements, planets, colonies. You are a man, you know how to find people. Of course you do. You know what sort of place to look for, what sort of climate and what features on the map. A place near water, in a temperate zone, not prone to storms or earthquakes, the water not too salty, the atmosphere not toxic, and there it is! Just as you thought it would be.
You know you should stay away, you know it is wrong to go to them. But what will you do? Be alone forever?
How can it be wrong, just to go in for a night? To see a family, have a conversation, eat a meal and look at people's faces? To talk again, who would not want that? Like the goats, are we not? We need each other.
I do wonder about the goat, though. Can he conceive of what he is doing? What must he think, when over and over his new friends are slaughtered, but he is left alive to find yet another group to betray? Has he any idea? Does he feel guilt? Does he stay awake at night? Does he agonize, and swear this time is the last, that he will head out to open space, never speak to another person again, wander among the stars until he dies?
Does he go mad? I think he must, don't you? I think in time he would have to go mad.
But why do you look at me like this? Yes, of course I've heard. Colonies wiped out, yes, tragic. One after the other, swaths of them. Tragic. I've escaped such a fate myself, happily. Just lucky I suppose. What else could it be?
What sort of creature could do such a thing, wipe out colony after colony, one wonders? And how? How could they find these places, these tiny settlements, these farms and mining camps of a few dozen humans, scattered deep in space, hidden away on minor planets in far systems? Who can say. Those who do this, they are far advanced, and to them we are as vermin, I guess. But how they find them, of that none of us have any idea, I'm sure.
A wonderful meal! But now I must go. No, I always sleep in my ship. A prejudice, you might say, or a custom. I land and meet people, laugh and talk and enjoy, but in the morning I wake and leave and never look back. I never even open the ports. Amusing, is it not, my little custom? One evening only, I allow myself, then I leave and never return, never even so much as glance back or send a message on departure. I'm sure it seems an eccentric routine, but it is mine. I will launch in the morning, so good night to you. I've enjoyed meeting you and seeing your faces. I've enjoyed talking to you. It was worth it, I think. Don't you? I think it was worth it.
Good night.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 28th, 2020
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