A Quest for Heaven
by James Rumpel
The doctors were the best money could buy. The facility was the most advanced in any region of space. As the CEO of a large neural stimulation company, Tormot could afford the best care available. Unfortunately, it was not enough.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Sompo,” proclaimed the chief medical official, “your daughter has Pulmian’s Disease. There is no cure.”
“There has to be a cure. With all the technology available, how can there be a disease that we haven’t solved yet?”
“Believe me, sir. Pulmian’s Disease has been thoroughly researched, and many possible treatments have been tested. None of them is fully successful. The disease attacks the cells at their very core. We can slow the disease’s assault, but we cannot stop it.”
“How long does my daughter have?” Tormot could barely utter the question. Amaria meant everything to him. She was his only child and his sole remaining link to his late wife, Sophie, killed in a tragic shuttle accident. Amaria’s unfettered love was the only reason Tormot had survived the heartbreak of Sophie’s death. Now, she too was being taken from him.
“If we keep Amaria in cryo-suspension, we can keep her alive for three or four years. The suspension will slow the deterioration of her cells but eventually, the disease will win.”
The doctor’s doleful expression seemed genuine, but Tormot did not desire the man’s compassion. “So, you are saying that in order to keep her alive, we have to put her into suspended animation. Isn’t that the same as being dead?” He knew his tone was sharp and angry. He didn’t care.
The doctor shook his head as if to say there was nothing else that could be done. “Maybe a cure will be developed in the future. Without cryo, Amaria will not survive for more than a month.”
Tormot took a deep breath. He tried to rein in his anger. The doctor was only the messenger, he wasn’t the one Tormot should be upset with. “Go ahead, begin the suspension, but let me have some time with her first.” After another pause, he added, “How could God let this happen to a child?”
To the heartbroken father’s surprise, the doctor answered the rhetorical question. “I don’t know, but it would be nice if we could ask Him.”
Anger welled inside Tormot over the doctor’s flippant comment. Little did he realize that, soon, he would attempt to do just what the doctor suggested.
* * *
Estas, the investigator Tormot had hired to help search for a miracle, had been extremely thorough. Tormot had no reason not to trust the findings. When would he learn to avoid getting his hopes up whenever he heard about a new possible cure or outlandish treatment?
“The planet does not have any magical recuperative powers. I tracked down over a dozen people who claimed to have been cured while visiting that world. It’s a hoax. None of them were cured by the planet. Most were never even sick.” The woman handed a disc containing the findings to her employer.
Tormot took the data storage device and tried to not allow his disappointment to show. In the last three months, he had sent investigators and researchers to every corner of the galaxy, looking for a lead on a cure for Amaria. Every rumor, every claim, had proven to be fallacious or unfounded.
“Thank you, Esats. I will let you know if I find anything else for you to look into.”
The woman started to leave but paused at the door. She slowly turned back to face Tormot. “I don’t know if I should even bring this up. While I was looking into the planet, I met a being from a world on the far outskirts of known space. He told me an incredible story.”
Tormot didn’t know if he could handle another amazing tale. For all he knew, Esats was simply coming up with a scheme to earn another month’s pay while investigating another dead end. Still, somehow, a glimmer of hope survived within Tormot. If there was any chance to save Amaria’s life, he would do whatever it took to try to make that glimmer a reality. He motioned for Esats to continue.
“The man claims that he knows the location of the center of reality. He called it heaven. He believes that anyone who passes through the boundary that protects heaven will encounter God.”
A desperate man will grasp at any available straw, thought Tormot. The outrageousness of the story nearly made him laugh. Yet, could he allow himself not to investigate every possible means of saving Amaria? He owed it to her to, at the very least, check the lead out.
“Bring him to me, please.”
* * *
Cralim of Lavion was a strange little being. His appearance was not very different from most of the humanoids of the universe. He had the standard number of arms, legs, eyes, and ears. He may have been shorter than the average creature, and his green-hued skin was dry and cracked, but that was not what made him strange. It was his demeanor that set him apart. Cramlin was very fidgety. He jumped at every little noise and was constantly surveying his surroundings as if looking for some unseen threat.
“The planet is not located on any map. The authorities have declared that region of space unsafe for travel but, in reality, they are just perpetrating a ruse. They are hiding the planet.” Cramlin finished with a gesture toward the sky. The meaning of the gesture was lost to Tormot, but the theatrics were not.
“If it is not on any map, how do you know about it?” asked Tormot.
Cramlin stared deeply into Tormot’s eyes. “My planet is near to that region of space. Years ago, my brother and I were thrown off course by a navigation error. We found ourselves lost in that area. Suddenly random waves of some inexplicable energy started bombarding our ship. The first wave took out our main shields and almost destroyed us. Luckily our ship was equipped with a cloaking shield, for business reasons, and that shield was not as affected by the waves of mysterious energy.”
“By some miracle, we survived,” continued Cramlin. He had managed to climb onto a chair as he told his story. His arms waved furiously as he talked. “We noticed that the energy waves were coming from a small, nearby planet. Each wave started small, sent from some single point on the surface, and expanded in a cone as it moved out from its source. By getting closer to the planet, we were able to slip under the energy waves. They would pass us before expanding to the point where they could not be avoided.”
The diminutive alien peered around Tormot’s office before continuing. “The spot where the energy waves were coming from was enveloped in a brilliant glow. There was something very powerful and, very possibly, valuable on that planet. The energy waves were protecting something, and that something was hidden within the glow. We did not have the means to land on the planet. Our vessel was meant to dock with space stations or other ships. We returned to our homeworld but vowed to go back and investigate.”
“Why didn’t you?” asked Tormot. Cramlin’s tale seemed farfetched, but Tormot wanted to be convinced it was true.
“The authorities did everything to prevent us from telling our story. Soon, my brother was arrested on some trumped-up smuggling charge. While waiting for his release, I researched the world we had discovered. Information was nearly impossible to locate. I’m certain it’s being kept secret from the public. However, I was able to discover a few ancient texts that the government must have missed. One described the planet as the epicenter of reality. The others simply called it heaven or the home of God.”
Cramlin’s melodramatic pause seemed to last the better part of a minute. Finally, he continued. “The books I found told stories of men who tried to visit heaven. Men who attempted to push their way into the region bounded by the glow. They were convinced it was the path to the birthplace of all creation: the face of God. None of them ever returned.”
“You haven’t told me why you never went back to the planet.”
“I have been waiting for my brother to be freed from his imprisonment. I am beginning to believe that will never happen. I have avoided his fate by remaining quiet about our discovery. But I am tired of waiting and withholding what I know. If you are willing to undertake this adventure, I am willing to guide you... for a small fee.”
Every inch of common sense told Tormot that it would be a mistake to trust this creature. Esats had investigated his claim with painstaking care and was unable to prove or disprove the alien’s word. Trusting the story could be a costly error. Yet, it was another straw for Tormot to grasp. The thought of his daughter frozen in a cryo-tube, yet still slowly dying, made the decision easier than it should have been.
“I’m in,” announced Tormot. “Let’s get started.”
* * *
The ship was smaller and less powerful than it should have been. It was the best Tormot could afford. The expenses of medical care, the bribes paid for flight permits, Cramlin’s fee, and the accumulated cost of multiple investigations of assorted miracle cures had dwindled his bank account to the point where he had been forced to sell his share of the company to fund the expedition.
“We are getting close to the section of space where the energy waves started hitting us,” announced Cramlin. “I suggest you turn on the cloaking shield.”
“Do it,” Tormot said as he nodded towards Esats. She had proven to be an excellent pilot during the journey.
Within minutes of activating the special shield, the first energy wave hit. The small vessel was shaken and pushed off-course by the wave, but the shield held. No damage was done.
“The waves are going to get stronger as we near the planet,” informed Cramlin.
He was telling the truth. With each additional energy wave, the ship was tossed and turned. Esats managed to steady the vessel after each impact. With catlike reflexes, she would regain control and move closer to the planet. Much like a sailboat tacking against the wind, the ship continued to advance.
Had the trio not been buckled into safety harnesses, they would have been thrown about the interior of the vessel. The increasing strength of waves made each collision more powerful. Tormot’s mind was telling him, as it had since day one of this endeavor, to give up and turn around. Tormot’s heart did not agree. Somewhere deep inside his soul, he knew that what he searched for was on the other side of this barrier. If he persevered, he would be rewarded.
Finally, everything was still. The energy waves were missing the ship. They were finally close enough to the planet that the expanding waves could be avoided.
“All that battering has done some damage to the controls,” proclaimed Esats. “Nothing too bad, but we might not have the smoothest landing. The good news is that leaving the planet should be much easier. With proper timing we can miss the waves. If they do hit us, they will push us in the direction we wish to go.”
“I’m not worried about going back,” replied Tormot. “I’m concerned about someplace else,” and he pointed out the bow window.
All three passengers stared in silence. In front of them was the small planet. Most of the world appeared to be covered with water. However, a significantly sized continent could be seen near the equator. At the approximate center of the landmass was a golden ball of energy.
“That’s where we are going,” directed Tormot.
* * *
Esats managed to safely bring the trio to the surface. The ship would require a few repairs, but it would be able to make the return trip.
The trek from the landing site to the edge of the glowing boundary was relatively easy. The mysterious area had been an impressive sight from space; it was even more amazing from up close. What Tormot saw was an ever-changing kaleidoscope of color and shape. At one moment, the barrier appeared to be a golden ball; the next it would be a crimson cube. It would hold a form for a brief moment in time and then instantly morph to some other shape and hue. The size also constantly fluctuated. At any moment the trio would be standing at the very edge of the region only to have it suddenly transform to a much smaller size and appear to be far away.
Most disturbing of all was the fact that, when the barrier was near, Tormot could see the silhouettes of figures moving around inside. Whoever or whatever populated the region would change or disappear along with the barrier itself each time a transformation occured.
“Are you certain you want to go in there?” asked Esats. Her usual self-assured demeanor was nowhere to be found.
“Yes, I need to get to the center of that thing. I just know it. I can’t explain how I know it, but I do.”
Cramlin surprised Tormot by suddenly slapping him on the back. “Well, I wish you the best of luck. I’m not going in there.”
Tormot nodded. “I didn’t expect you to. Thank you for your help in getting me here. I doubted your story at times, but your aid was well worth your fee.”
He turned to Esats. “If I am not back in one day, you and Cramlin can take the ship and head back. I should be able to have my answers by then. If I don’t survive, or if I don’t need to return, there is no reason for the two of you to wait here for any longer than that.”
Esats nodded her head. “Okay, sir. It has been a pleasure working for you.”
Tormot was about to step into the mysterious barrier when Cramlin tapped his shoulder. “So, if you don’t come back, can I have your ship?” he asked.
Tormot couldn’t help smiling, something he had rarely done in the last year. “I think I’ll let you and Esats figure that out.”
He turned and stepped into the glow.
* * *
Copyright © 2020 by James Rumpel