Don’t Boil the Water

Such simple advice, such a deadly outcome.


Ignore them.


Don’t boil the water!

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(c) 2017 Simon Goodson.
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Don’t Boil the Water!

“Boil the water”, they said, those strange humans who came.

“Boil the water to stay safe,” that was their claim.


The creatures were strange, the creatures were odd. 

They had a head, but it had no pod.

They had two legs, not five as they ought,

And two arms which we have, but much too short.

Their skin was soft, their bodies lumpy,

Even their faces were excessively bumpy.


They came from the stars, or that’s what they claimed,

They came from the stars with wonders all tamed.

They showed us the water, they showed us tiny beings,

All wriggling away, those unseeable things.


They told us those things could make us sick,

They told us those creatures could make us die. 

Then they showed us that boiling the water

Killed all the tiny creatures, it was a slaughter.


The proof was right there, it was all we needed,

The proof was right there, and the proof we heeded.

We boiled the water, we killed the beings,

we boiled the water and saw amazing things. 

The black speckle, a disease most nasty,

Disappeared so fast we threw it a party.


Other diseases slowed or were stopped,

From them people no longer dropped.

Life was much better, life was good,

Though against the changes a few of us stood.

The oldest of old said it was not right,

The oldest of old said it would bring blight.


Don’t boil the water, they did shout,

Turn off the flames, put them out. 

This isn’t natural, this isn’t our way,

If you follow this path you will rue the day.


No one listened to the oldest of old,

No one did as they were told. 

We boiled the water, our health it improved,

We boiled the water, and to the oldest were rude. 

We told them they were stupid, we called them bad names,

We did those things, all to our shame.


For a year things got better,

For a year things were good,

For a year we were happy,

In a great mood. 


Then a new illness started to strike,

Then a new illness started to bite. 

People became poorly, people became ill,

People continued to boil water still.


“Boil the water, they said, those humans from afar.

Those humans with their knowledge from another star.

We boiled the water, but then we all cried,

As the first batch of people gave up and died.


They were the first, but far from the last. 

Thousands died as the weeks went past.

Something was strange though, something was odd,

Though many died, one group did not. 

The oldest of old were healthy still. 

The oldest of olds’ voices were shrill.


We told you, they said, to listen to us. 

Then there wouldn’t be such a terrible fuss.

Don’t boil the water, it is not our way,

Don’t boil the water and the goodness away.

Don’t boil the water, drink it like we,

Don’t boil the water and then you will see.


People were frightened, people were fearful. 

Parents of children were particularly tearful. 

They shook their heads, they refused to believe,

But their childrens’ symptoms they had to relieve.

Some started to drink the old fashioned way,

They tried for a few hours or maybe a day,

And within that time improvements they saw,

Their bodies no longer looked ravaged by war.


They felt better, their children as well,

Everyone else joined in, with no need to sell. 

Don’t boil the water became the new cry,

Don’t listen to the creatures from beyond the sky.

Don’t boil the water, it makes us ill,

Don’t boil the water, just drink it still.


The humans were upset, the humans were clear,

Boil the water they insisted, that course you must steer.

They wouldn’t back down, they wouldn’t believe,

That the water all our symptoms could relieve.

Do boil the water, was their chant,

But we all replied, no we shan’t.


Then we realised, then we saw,

Through the mask those humans wore.

They didn’t care, they didn’t try,

They just wanted to watch us die. 

They told us lies, they led us away,

From the gods to which we pray.


We told them no, we told them stop,

We will not boil another drop,

But still they shouted, still they’d claim

That the water could kill and maim.


Boil the water, boil it long,

That remained their constant song. 

So we boiled it, boiled it well.

But for what?  Well I’ll tell.

We boiled the water, made it hot,

Then put it in a great big pot. 

Then we stuck those humans in,

My, they made a dreadful din. 

We boiled the humans, boiled them good,

We stood and stared, we stared and stood.


Don’t boil the water, that is our creed,

Don’t boil the water, don’t do that deed. 

Diseases we have back again,

They cause discomfort, death and pain,

But nothing like the bitter strife

Of boiling the water that gives us life.


What of the humans, I hear you ask. 

We killed them all, no easy task. 

We boiled them all, and I must say

That that was a most wonderful day.

No more have come, no more appeared,

No more of those humans so, so weird. 


Now we live lives as we should,

Now we live lives that are good.

The water heals us, gives us life,

Along with some natural strife. 

The water saves us, it must not be spoiled,

And that’s why water must never be boiled!

* * *

Translation of a common song from civilisation C972NB.  This incident is now infamous and serves as a powerful reminder as to why the strict non-interference with alien civilisation laws must never be broken.

The group of pilgrims who happened across this new world obeyed none of those laws.  They stumbled straight in and started giving out advice which they were sure would help the local civilisation to progress.  They failed to perform even the most rudimentary medical and environmental checks beforehand.

If they had they’d have realised that the intelligent civilisation on the planet had a symbiotic relationship with a creature that, in other circumstances, would be considered a parasite, one that had an intermediary stage within the local water sources.  One that was quickly destroyed by boiling the water it lived in.

By boiling the water, the civilised race were killing themselves.  Toxins built up in their systems which their bodies were unable to deal with, toxins that the symbiotic parasites would normally break down. 

The results could have been disastrous.  If a small section of the elderly hadn’t stuck to the old ways then there would have been no control, no comparison to show what the cause might actually be.  With it, the race were able to claw their way back from potential extinction.  Our best forecasts suggest that at the worst point they had a matter of just weeks before most of the race succumbed and died.

The long-term impacts were still serious, though.  Technological progress stalled immediately after the ill-fated intervention.  We have had the planet under quarantine for more than three hundred years, now, but there is still no push for progress.  Their society is locked into the belief that any deviation from the old ways will lead to death once again.  By now we expected them to have flight, if not space-flight at a rudimentary level.  They don’t even have any form of steam driven machinery.

In fact things are so bad that serious consideration is being given to making an exception in this case, to intervening directly to kick start progress, but the race’s previous experiences with humanity make any intervention fraught with danger.

With all these problems, there’s a strongly held view amongst those tackling this issue that the pilgrims got off lightly when they were boiled alive.  One thing is constant, at least.  Down on the planet they still don’t boil the water.  And for that we are hugely grateful.

Dr Sevros Kasparas

Santanez Karavas Institute

235th day, 17th year, 903rd cycle.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Boil the Water

    1. Thanks Ed. Yeah… there’s quite a few stories I’ve written around plagues and pandemics or their aftermath which suddenly seem much more real!

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