Varun pulled the white lab coat closer around his neck. His palms were sweaty around the megaphone in his hand, he was so wrong for this job, but it needed to be done. He raised the megaphone, “Ladies and Gentlemen…” Varun said into the megaphone, his voice sounded loud but nervous.
No one seemed to pay him any attention, then again it was weekend at the mall, people continued to flow around him. Just as he was about to raise his megaphone again few people approached him, Varun smiled at them. “Excuse me…” one of them said, “ Did you just address all of us all ladies and gentlemen?” Varun was puzzled, “Um…yes I did…but can you please sign this motion to stop the asteroid that is hurtling to our planet?”
The person gave him a quizzical look, “look here, I don’t identify as ladies or gents so that public address of yours just offended me…”
“What? No no no, I didn’t mean it like that. Sorry.”
“Oh yes, my person is offended too.” “Yes, very offended”. “How dare this person address us like that…” the other people surrounding Varun said.
A clear voice spoke in all of their ears, “Good morning. Public offense detected. Offense level 10. The Offender is Varun Naik. Thought freeze time 10 seconds.”
“No no, wait…” Varun said, before he felt a current pass through his head, it felt like a sheet of ice was being dragged over his brain. He couldn’t think for the next ten seconds. He watched time tick by thoughtlessly until the ten seconds had passed and he could think again.
The people who had been offended by his address had left.
Varun had the urge to just leave and go home. But this was important. His hand shook as he raised the microphone again, “Citizens of Earth…
Another group of people stopped before him, “Did you just refer to all of us as Citizens of India? I am a martian and that was very insensitive of you.”
“And I am a refugee from the diamond wars on Titan…and frankly I haven’t heard of such planetism even there…”
The clear voice spoke again, “public offense detected. Thought freeze twenty seconds.”
“But, but there is an asteroid heading towards the planet as we speak…” Varun said as the brain freeze took effect and he was immobilized for twenty seconds.
Varun raised his megaphone with a shaking hand, “My fellow human beings,… Our planet is in grave danger…”
“Excuse me…” a family of green-skinned people stopped by him, “ did you just refer to all of us as humans? I have plant DNA in me and I am proud of it.”
“Seriously this blatant discrimination against us plantoids needs to stop!” The green lady said before breaking into large green tears.
“We are offended…” the green man said bristling with some thorns.
The clear voice said, “Public offense detected. Thought freeze for one minute.”
Varun watched the world pass by for a minute.
He raised the megaphone again, “Sentient beings.” He said and stopped to see if anyone was offended, he continued, “ I am Dr. Varun Naik, I am a prominent astronomer and scientist. Please believe me when I say that a large asteroid is hurtling towards the earth. If we do nothing to stop it, the earth will be destroyed. I need 1 million signatures to prove that we will not be offended if the asteroid is blown out before it reached the earth’s atmosphere. Please sign this petition and help protect our planet.”
All lot of people stopped.
One of them approached Varun, “ Did you just announce that you were a doctor and a scientist. Well some of us never made it beyond primary school. And I find the blatant display of your intellectual superiority frankly disgusting. I am offended.”
The clear voice said, “Public offense detected. Thought freeze two minutes.”
Varun watched two minutes pass by. He was starting to get used to this. It almost felt like meditation. He didn’t suffer from existential angst for those two minutes.
When Varun was able to think again another person approached him, “Did you ask us to believe in something? I am an atheist and I find that offensive.”
“Thought freeze, five minutes.” The clear voice said.
Varun watched the sun move along the sky as the asteroid hurtled closer to the planet.
Once he was unfrozen, another person approached Varun, “I am a member of the space society for celestial consciousness. We firmly believe that all celestial bodies have consciousness. And hence the asteroid hurtling towards the planet is sentient and has the same rights that you and I do. Who are you to deny it it’s right to lovingly bump into another planet? Who are you to deny it its relationships with other celestial bodies? And who are you to want to destroy it? I am offended.”
The clear voice said, “Ideological offense detected. Thought freeze for 12 hours.”
Varun stood there watching people flow around him and the sun creep across the sky and set.
When he was unfrozen again another person approached Varun, “I am an adherent of the Martian religious dogma of non-interference. We firmly believe that no matter what happens we should not interfere. As such, you plan to interfere with the asteroid is offensive to my religion, or it would be if we interfered on such matters, we, of course, don’t.” The person walked away without waiting for Varun to respond.
The clear voice said, “Religious offense detected, thought freeze twenty-four hours.”
Varun stared as the sun rose and crossed the sky and set again. He watched as night set in…and he watched as the night sky was illuminated with the brilliant orange blaze of the asteroid as it entered the atmosphere.
“Offense detected…” the clear voice said as the asteroid hit the earth’s surface.