The planet floated ahead, a serene cerulean orb in the sky. The Visitor sighed, wringing a last burst of power from its speed-source, casting its thought-form towards its favorite pet planet with the last of its energy. It was pleased, through the weariness, for it had long desired to return to this world and check on the experiment it had begun. The caretakers it had engendered must surely by now have reached a level of intelligence conducive to—

The thought-form of the Visitor tattered then rewove, disrupted by a metal object of unnatural origins. Startled, the Visitor focused its awareness on the world and would have sworn if it had known any words that could express its disgust. The experiment had gone awry.

The evidence was starkly, glaringly visible, everywhere the Visitor looked. The humans, creatures it had created as caretakers, had grown more intelligent than it had anticipated, and in doing so, had completely lost sight of the responsibility they had accepted with the first breaths of consciousness into their fragile minds. Now the world lay warped and twisted, suffering in technological agonies, where the supposed caretakers had sought to twist nature to suit their own ends.

The Visitor wept and raged in the fashion of its kind, showering the world below with thought-fragments composed equally of grief and outrage. The inhabitants of the suffering world looked to their sciences for answers to this strange new phenomenon, but found none. In the manner of humans they began to adapt, learning how to live with these strange emotional fragments tormenting them, until one day the strangeness stopped. But it hadn't stopped, only shifted a bit in degree and kind, for the Visitor was done mourning and raging and ready to speak.

"Humans, what have you done?" it cried out, and its mind reached out to each technologically advanced and utterly blinded speck of intelligence down on the planet, wrenching them free of their mundane jobs and careless acts of destruction and pollution, acts which were now so commonplace they were not even noticed in day to day life.

"What have you done to this, your responsibility, your world?" the Visitor cried, mourning, and forced each and every human mind to remember the bargain those ancient ancestors had struck at the dawn of consciousness.

People the world over cringed away from the memory in shame, for they had known this still and chosen to ignore it. "Man was granted dominion over the earth," they muttered in self-righteous voices, trying to dispell the guilt. "Dominion, dominance, the right to do with as we choose!"

And the guilt did not do the trick. The humans adapted. The world cried out and suffered. The Visitor grew more heartsick.

"I shall bide my time," it decided. "Let the humans realize their mistake. Then the experiment will return to its proper track."

The Visitor hung above, watching the humans. Some few of them showed signs of returning to the fold, so to speak, but the majority just retreated deeper and deeper into their artificial worlds, drowning out the pervasive sorrow of the Visitor with artificial lights and sounds, burying the nagging guilt at the pit of their collective soul with the mantra of the day: Faster, smaller, better! Progress waits for no one!

The Visitor watched, and sorrowed. At last, one transition of the planet from dayside into night, it could take no more of watching. "Enough!" it cried, and seized the power which drove the technologies of the humans. All power, everywhere, was shut off in the blink of an eye. Howls of outrage, harking back to the ancestors of humanity, echoed around the diseased globe. Toasters quit toasting. Radios quit playing. Programmers cursed as three hours of hard work was deleted before they could hit "save."

And the Visitor heaved a deep sigh of relief, scattering shimmering thought-flakes evenly across the land, for the aggravating hustle-bustle-hurry-scurry-must-go-faster world was brought to a standstill. Perhaps now the people could see.

But it did not work. The people merely huddled in on themselves and whispered in terror at the strange Visitor who had been wreaking havoc with their carefully designed and manipulated lives, causing nameless sorrows, rages, and longings for nature to disturb all of humanity. And then, when the whispers had given them the courage, they spoke out louder, and then louder yet, against this Visitor who dared shut down the source of their modern lives. Outside their carefully insulated and barricaded homes, the last of the light pollution died away, leaving one half of the earth in such darkness as it had not seen in half an eternity.

And then, when the humans began to adapt, the Visitor played his trump card. One final chance it would give them, one more shot at redemption.

"See!" the Voice cried out in a despairing command, "See!"

And the people cried out in fear and horror, for they could only see that the Visitor had pulled the plug on their artificial electric glory.

"Look above you, you poor blind fools!" the Voice entreated. "Can you not see it? Can you not care about the beauty?"

So the Visitor exerted itself, and the humans were hauled all unwilling out into the night. Off their couches they came, away from their recliners and their remotes with which they clicked futilely at unresponsive televisions and satellite systems. They came from their computers, from the beds of their lovers, even from the depths of the closets where some had hidden themselves in fear of the Visitor. Everywhere they came out, all across the land, reluctant and complaining.

"Eh, did you see that?" some were saying. "That Visitor, he just up and shut down the power, just like that!"

"I say we nuke 'im," other voices were saying. "Yeah, nuke 'im! Lousy bastard deserves it for shutting down the power when I was about to reach twentieth level in my game."

But the Visitor wasn't listening to the voices of discord. "All of you, look up and see!" it cried again, exerting itself once more to turn every human face upwards.

Cries of terror once more rang out as the horde of humanity shook in fear. The light shone down on them, unhindered by human interference, stark and beautiful with a clarity that none living had seen before. The constellations their ancestors had known formed once again, offering reproach to those who had sought to mask them forever from sight with the false brilliance of artificial light.

But not all were afraid. Here and there across the land, some of the people looked upwards willingly, with great joy and wonder. "At last!" they cried, laughing like little children. "At last we can see the stars! At last we can know what the Milky Way looks like! At last we can understand what a constellation is!"

And hearing these voices, sensing these joyful souls, the Visitor received a faint hint of encouragement. It marked the humans out who were pleased and set its mark on them, a glittering psychic beacon that told it which of the humans were worthy of redemption.

And then the Visitor grew impatient. It had done nothing cruel or inhumane, merely forced the people to look upwards at the unmasked skies, and yet the humans were whining and crying as though suffering the worst possible torture. Perhaps they were, these withered souls who sought to defy and defile the natural order of life. Perhaps their love of nature had so far atrophied that to them natural beauty was purest poison. The Visitor watched them writhe in discomfort and outright agony as the stars blazed fiercely overhead, consumed with a combination of pity and disgust.

"Fools! To think what you have done with my gift. But what I have done before, I can undo now. Wretched creatures, abide no more in this twisted parody of a land! Begone, to the matter which you were made from!"

And the Visitor reached out with its great power and gave a sudden wrench to the very fabric of humankind. It had a care for those souls which understood, leaving them out of the vast repair job it accomplished all in the space of a heartbeat. Human bodies shivered and shimmered briefly, then became as they were before, on the Visitor's first trip to this once-lovely world: still roughly human-shaped, but now undeniably animals.

The remaining humans looked down from the blazing glory of the uncovered sky and gaped in horror at the sudden reversion of human to animal. The wiser, more educated among them looked into the faces of these beasts, which looked like no living being on the modern planet, and exclaimed in surprise, for it was obvious the creatures were living examples of what had been termed the "missing link."

But the curious were only a few. More prevalent was the reaction of further shock and dismay which swept through the last surviving remnants of humanity as we know it. Before the shock could progress beyond the stages of mere thought, the Voice rolled across once more across the land.

"I give you the Earth, my little humans," it said magnanimously.

"And what of our friends, our families? What good is the earth without them?" cried many voices.

"You are the ones who understand," the Voice replied.

"But why do this to them? They never did you any harm!"

This came from a single small voice, a young child who had been asleep until the Call had come, and he had stumbled outside into the rich velvet tapestry of true night.

"A great evil has been done, and I have righted it," the Visitor said gravely. Human survivors cocked their heads from side to side, listening and perhaps even agreeing as the Visitor continued to explain. "I never intended for the human species to be the destructors of this planet, but rather the caretakers. The trust has been failed. The lovely planet which I knew of old is no more. The caretakers have gone rogue and only think of themselves, so drastic measures were taken. I am certain they will be happy. But you," and here the Voice expanded to include all the remains of humanity, "you understand. You will do good as caretakers. You will remember that from nature you came and to nature you return, and you will care for this world as it should be cared for."

"What gave you the right to decide?"

The Visitor actually laughed at this, a sharp and bitter sound. "I have this right, as it was my experiment that went awry all these many long moons ago."

The Visitor ceased explaining its actions then, for the humans were truly not much more than exalted lab-rats to it. It insinuated itself into every heart and soul left intact and charged each and every one with the care of the homeworld. Come what may, Earth would survive the next few stages of its development intact. Of course, the Visitor could sense resentment and fear within the souls it had spared. It sighed with resignation. It was just going to have to live with that. But the world would go on, and it would be repaired. The Visitor would luxuriate once again in the many splendid sights the earth would have to offer, when it could spare the time from its busy schedule. Never again would it return to its garden-spot to find the beauty destroyed by a plague of humanity.