by Clyde Andrews
Part 1 appears|
in this issue
|part 2 of 4|
Roy felt annoyance when the being of light — dancing hypnotically before his very own eyes — described him as a ‘naked ape’.
“I’m... I’m not naked-”
“Your fabric is only a small barrier for us: if we want to make it so, even walls and steel are all permeable to our form, offering no other function than the aesthetic.”
Roy blushed. “Oh.”
“Don’t be alarmed nak... human boy.”
“Please, if we’re going to get anywhere, call me Roy.”
The three ethereal beings’ fluid-like light bodies flashed a different colour for a split second, as if they were communicating with each other on a different level. Then the humming subsided until Roy couldn’t pick it out from all the other background noises of his house.
“We agree,” Mondaras said finally, confirming Roy’s suspicion that communication with him was obviously more primitive than what they were used to. “Roy it is.”
There was a silence between them. Then, without even remembering it had happened, Roy noted that he was sitting down and the beings — the aliens — were now in the house with him. How he hadn’t noticed them ‘pass’ through the sliding door he couldn’t even hazard a guess. But there they were, shimmering with a beauty he’d never seen before in his life. It was awesome, humbling, and frightening, all at the same time.
“So, how can I help you? And what do you want from me? And now that I think about it, what can I, a useless excuse for a human, offer you?”
“You are not useless. You are unique, special, and important.”
“Tell that to my dad,” Roy snapped back.
There was another moment of excited light flickering and oscillated humming.
“What?” Roy added, knowing something was up.
“You and your father will be the key to our salvation,” they all said in unison.
“Oh, just great,” Roy sighed. “Just when I thought this was going to be a special moment.”
* * *
After much discussion, mainly with Roy still unable to believe that aliens exist and that they were in his house, he decided to go with the flow of this bizarre situation for the moment. They, however, seemed happy just to hear him talk, almost as if the more he talked the more they learned from him. Roy was fine with that. Company was company, even if they were from another world.
“Was it you that I saw and heard the other day?” Roy said, rubbing his chin.
“Then, umm, can you tell me why I was thrown across the room last night, Mondaras?”
The ethereal being Roy referred to flicked a rainbow pattern across its ‘body’. Instantly, and just like before, it returned back to its more natural white light state. Mondaras then said, “We were... learning. Our communication methods are primarily by sight, pressure, and mental sound. We wanted to greet you using our secondary method first, thinking it the most benign. We were wrong and we apologise for hurting you. From what I can see inside you, you weren’t damaged, thankfully. We would not know what to do otherwise.”
“Neither would I,” Roy admitted. “Then you tried the third method — that’s why I heard you.”
Mondaras flashed green and hummed. Roy took that as an affirmative response. He had to admit it, he was learning from them just as much as they were from him.
“You can see through me as well?” Roy added.
Again the green flash.
“Why me? And more importantly, why have my Dad and I been chosen to help you, over all the other humans on this planet? Like I said: I’m nothing special, and my dad’s just as big a loser as I am. The fruit don’t fall far from the tree, as they say.” Roy winced, almost embarrassed by admitting what he just did.
Mondaras seemed to confer with his colleagues for a long time, their bodily light changing from white to purple to green to red to blue to black and back again. The humming became deafening. If Roy hadn’t known any better he’d swear they were having a heated discussion.
Finally Mondaras said, “Because of what your father does for a... career. Is that the right term for what adult humans do?”
“Where he works has something to do with helping you, you mean?”
“That’s ridiculous!” Roy laughed.
“He works at a — oh, some sort of government place that’s all secret and hush hush or something. Anyway, who cares where he works? He’s always out... working all hours or so he says,” Roy spat. But, as he said it, he suddenly realised this was not as black and white as he’d first thought. “He doesn’t... work... just ‘anywhere’, does he?”
The ethereals flashed with a kaleidoscope of colours again. Mondaras answered, “No.”
Roy turned around, half expecting his dad to be standing there, letting him in on the joke this seemed to be. It was not so. It was only Roy, the three ethereals, and his stone cold dinner on the table, with the half empty bottle of Scotch next to that.
He sighed, “So what does my dear old dad do for a career then?”
Mondaras flashed green again, adding, “He is working at the Solaris Institute in the city you know as Canberra. He’s the head researcher there.”
Roy couldn’t breathe. The air in the house was suddenly stale, and he needed to get outside. He needed some oxygen. Why hadn’t his dad told him about this? Then again, as he thought about it, why should he? He never spoke to him about anything anyway. Why the hell should this be different? The bastard.
“Are you all right... Roy?”
He was gasping now and bolted for the door anyway. Ten minutes passed outside, and Roy finally managed to compose himself. He was doubled over, holding his knees in an attempt to calm himself. What was his dad doing at a research institute? What was he researching? Did mum even know about this? Why are these aliens even here? Why? Why? Why?
“Okay, what research does he do there?” Roy whispered, using the last remnants of air from his lungs. He then sucked air, coughed, and added, “And does it have anything to do with your being here?”
Mondaras sensed Roy’s discomfort. Cautiously he said, “No, we are here because of our own misjudgements. We need your father to help us get back. He is working on something we think will help us do just that. It will travel the tunnel so we can safely get to our ship.”
“Excuse me? Can you talk sense? If I am to help you, I need to know everything. You hear me, Mondaras? Everything!”
“Go inside your home. There, sit, eat, drink, be comfortable. I will then tell you.”
Roy eventually nodded in agreement, but not before he sucked in another clean lung full of night air. He was, he had to admit, suddenly very hungry and thirsty. “The truth makes one peckish, that’s for sure.”
“There is much more to the truth than you can even imagine, Roy.”
“I knew it. I just bloody well knew it.”
* * *
Roy, after raiding the fridge, gorged himself on chocolate biscuits and milk. He was now ready for what the ethereals had to say to him.
“Okay, hit me with it. I’m all ears.”
Mondaras flashed purple. “No, you’re mostly water, carbon, calcium-”
“It was a figure of speech, Mondaras. I meant that you have my full attention, that’s all.”
“So I can proceed?”
Mondaras communicated with his comrades using the flickering coloured light method. Mondaras then glided aside, letting the one on his left come forward. Roy remembered its name as being Escallosh.
The next sentence spoken confirmed it. “I am Escallosh, the keeper of the records. It is my duty, my privilege to inform you, naked ape — Roy — about what you need to know. I will tell you everything.”
Roy, his memory jogged by what Escallosh had just said, remembered that they could see through everything. He crossed his legs — now self-conscious — in an attempt to ‘hide’ himself from them. He sipped from his glass casually, the milk cool and refreshing as it went down his throat. He, however, was still unsure how to take these beings. Were they telling the truth when they said they could see through anything? He raised an eyebrow. “Please, go on,” he said as calmly as he could, so as not to arouse their suspicion.
“We were on a survey mission, examining your planet. We miscalculated your atmosphere, and this error on our part caused our vehicle permanent damage. You see, your atmosphere has changed somewhat since the last time we visited. It has more toxins for one thing. Something we did not calculate into the protective shield. We are stuck here.
“Sending off the distress call was not of any concern, it happens automatically. What is of concern is how to get off this planet so we can get into our rescue vehicle without being noticed.” Escallosh paused, as if waiting for something from Roy.
“Go on,” Roy repeated impatiently.
“You are too kind.” Escallosh said, flashing blue. “We had to learn as much as we could about you... humans... if only to find a way home. We learned of your esteemed father and the valuable work he does—”
“Now hold on. This can’t be about my dad. Surely you’re jokin’.” Roy paused, adding: “Are you sure you have the right man? My dad is the pathetic doofus that works as a government drone somewhere. As far as I know all this talk of him being a head researcher is crap.”
“I am sorry to correct you, but we are not mistaken on this. Is your father not John Edgars of seventeen Livingstone Lane, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, latitude one-?”
“Okay, okay. I get the picture,” Roy said, suddenly feeling short of air again. “Please continue.”
“The institute your father is working at makes solar probes. Spaceships capable of gathering data on all sorts of cosmic events. One of these probes will be launched tomorrow. We must all be on it.”
“I can see why you’d want to be on that probe, your ship has been damaged. But why the solar probe? Why not the space shuttle, or, well, even a rocket?” Roy said flatly.
“Because, in conjunction with the launch there will be a solar eclipse over this part of your planet. The probe will study your star, and the circumstances make it ideal for us. The tunnel will be created. It will give us our chance, you see, for we can leave this planet without being detected. The shadow creates the tunnel. The shadow will be our salvation.”
Roy looked puzzled. “I think I understand.”
“We have only this opportunity,” Mondaras added. “Once it has gone we would be stuck here, having to find another way to get off this planet. We are sensitive, well your atmosphere in its current condition is damaging to us. We need to... no, we have to get away. Another chance may not happen before it’s too late for us. You understand now, don’t you, Roy?”
The three ethereals flickered back and forth between green and blue, before settling once more on white.
“Oh, I see. But it would have to be well timed. Total eclipses don’t last very long, do they?”
“Agreed, Roy. We would have to get to our ship before the diamond ring... You have your father’s intelligence I see,” Escallosh chirped.
“Don’t say that,” Roy snapped. “He’s a jerk. If I do this, I do it for you and for you only. Don’t forget that.”
“But you have half of his biological material. There is a bond there that is more than physical.”
Roy rubbed his chin in thought for a long while. “That don’t mean nothin’ in my book. But I do want to go to this institute, just to see the look on his sorry face. He’ll know right there and then that he’s been busted.” Roy slowly smiled.
“So, you will help us then?”
“I agree to help you, but I’m not leaving mum alone. She needs constant care.”
“You don’t have to. Lapizious is the carer, just as you are. He will tend to her.”
“Oh, just perfect. That’ll be the icing on the cake as far as tonight is concerned. My mum waking up to see one of you guys.”
“She won’t wake. Lapizious is a master of his craft. Your mother will be serene. I promise.”
Roy eyed the ethereal suspiciously.
“We don’t have much time. The launch is tomorrow at 1:00 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.”
Roy nodded, and Lapizious disappeared instantly. One-third the intensity of light in the room diminished as he did so.
Mondaras added, “She is at peace with Lapizious. Be at peace too, Roy.”
“Let me check on her all the same. Then we can go.”
The two remaining ethereals flashed so many colours that Roy became dazzled by it.
Mondaras said, “As you wish. And thank you.”
* * *
Roy climbed into his car. “Is this why my dad didn’t come home tonight? He’s preparing for the launch.”
“I would imagine that to be so.”
“He promised he’d be home... He promised,” Roy mumbled as he turned the key and fired up the engine. “Say, aren’t you two going to be rather conspicuous? Can’t you hide or something?”
There was a brief conference between the ethereals.
“We can hide, but it may be tricky.”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2007 by Clyde Andrews