by Walt Trizna
Table of Contents
appeared in issue 228.
|Chapter 7: Elmo Returns Home|
[Withdrawn at the author’s request]
Suddenly Elmo found himself back in his cellar, standing next to Valmid and near his time-space machine. Valmid made a sound that could only be described as a chuckle as he examined Elmo’s machine.
Upstairs, Elmo could hear Mildred in the kitchen. Even though it had only been a few days’ journey, with all he had learned and seen, Elmo felt he had been gone for a very long time. The two travelers slowly made their way up the stairs.
In the kitchen, Mildred was just cleaning up after dinner, washing a cast-iron skillet when she heard someone coming up the cellar stairs. “Elmo’s back,” she said to herself. She couldn’t wait to hear about his adventures and what it was like to travel in space and time.
Then she thought, “Wait a minute. I had to control the machine in order for him to return.” With that thought, she clutched the handle of the skillet with two hands ready to battle whoever had broken into the cellar.
As she watched, the door leading to the cellar slowly swung open. Out stepped a young man she did not recognize. She screamed, “Who are you? If you don’t leave right now, this skillet will make a lasting impression on you. Now get!”
The young man just stood there and said, “Mildred, it’s me, Elmo.”
“Who are you trying to kid?” answered Mildred, now studying the stranger more closely. This young man was younger than Elmo had been when she first met him, yet he was starting to look vaguely familiar.
The stranger then said, “It’s me, Doll.” Elmo was the only one who ever called her that. After nearly forty years of marriage, he still called her Doll when they were alone.
After the stranger uttered her nickname, Mildred studied his face more closely as the skillet slipped from her hand and crashed to the floor. “Elmo, it is you. What on earth happened to you?” As she was finishing her question, Valmid appeared, ducking his head through the doorway behind Elmo. That’s when Mildred crashed to the floor.
* * *
When Mildred came to, she was lying on the couch and the new Elmo was dabbing her face with a wet cloth. He explained how he arrived on the planet Roth and found that the creature he had transported to Earth was a pet of one of the inhabitants of the planet. He went on to tell her about Valmid and how she would be able to communicate with her new guest.
Next, he explained the complexity of time-space travel and the fact that he surviving his trip through the wormhole was just dumb luck. Finally, Elmo described the increasing invasions the planet Gylex was mounting on Roth and the information Valmid required to repel the invaders.
“Now prepare yourself, Mildred, while I properly introduce you to Valmid,” he told her. As Elmo said this, Valmid entered the room. He seemed to be studying Mildred and communicated to Elmo, “Your wife is still very disturbed by my presence. Perhaps we should do some research on your computer and gain the knowledge of chlorofluorocarbons and give her time to digest your youthful appearance — and my countenance.”
Elmo gave Mildred’s hand a pat and told her that they were going to his study. He then led Valmid up the stairs. Soon Elmo was punching away at of his keyboard while Valmid shook his head at how such an archaic device held information that might save his planet.
Locating a web site giving the history of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Elmo began to read. Discovered in 1928, CFCs, a group of chemicals including freon, had many uses in both industry and the home. The gases were considered harmless. In fact their inventor, Thomas Midgley, once took in a lungful of one of them to demonstrate its safety and then blew on a candle to show it was nonflammable.
After many years of use, CFCs were linked to the destruction of the ozone layer. Their manufacture declined and other gases replaced freon. Elmo explored further and located the chemical composition of freon, including the formulation and conditions necessary to produce it.
Valmid was greatly pleased and was sure that the chemists of Roth could manufacture freon with little trouble, and since he had never had any ill effects before or now from breathing the air, he felt that freon would not harm the inhabitants of Roth. He had accomplished his mission and was anxious to return to his planet and start planning the deterrence of the demons from Gylex. He had other plans to consider, but for now, the welfare of his planet was his prime concern.
Valmid turned to Elmo, and Elmo sensed what he was about to ask, “Now Elmo, what are your plans?” Valmid knew the confusion Elmo was experiencing, torn between his new taste for adventurous space travel and his love for Mildred and the life they had shared for so many years.
Valmid suggested, “Perhaps you and Mildred should spend some time together. I’ll stay here and amuse myself with your computer.”
Elmo made his way down the stairs and found Mildred sitting at the kitchen table. He sat opposite her and extended his hands. They sat there holding hands for a few moments before Mildred spoke. “So many changes, Elmo. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected during my life with you, but never anything like this. You could be my son; you’re so young. And there’s a gray seven-foot alien upstairs waiting to return to his planet. It’s too much to comprehend all at once. Elmo, what are we to do?”
Elmo had given the possibilities a great deal of thought and had formulated a plan. “Dear,” he told her, “I must return with Valmid to see if my theory for repelling the Gylexians is correct. If it is not, he will need my help to investigate the history of Earth and what could generate the mysterious substances needed to return Roth to its former tranquility. The safety of Earth is also at stake. And there is still so much I want to learn about Roth. I may want to stay there for some time. Mildred, once the planet is safe, I want you to travel to Roth with me. For wherever you are, that is where my home is.”
Mildred did not know what to say to this proposition. Elmo seemed so certain, so confidant, and her mind was full of so many doubts. They talked for hours, sitting and holding hands at the kitchen table. “Mildred, I left here an old retired scientist, I returned a young adventurer involved with a planet that needs my help.” Then he told all he knew about Roth. How, even though it was an alien planet, the biology and geology were very similar to that of Earth. He struggled to voice his emotions.
“The inhabitants of Roth are different on the outside, but inside they share the same hopes and fears as we, the same love and dreams for the future. Roth is not safe now, but when it is, I’ll be back and I hope you will return with me to share my adventure.”
“I just don’t know, Elmo; I just don’t know.”
Elmo stood, “Think about all I said, Mildred. My future is with you, and we can have a future neither one of us had ever dreamed of.”
They could hear Valmid making his way down the stairs. Elmo stood, kissed Mildred, and made his way to the cellar door. Valmid appeared in the kitchen, bowed to Mildred, then made his way down the stairs with Elmo. A few minutes later a blinding flash emanated from the cellar below. Mildred knew she was once again alone.
Copyright © 2007 by Walt Trizna