Second Coming

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Chapter 2

The door opens and Leiyana walks in. She is holding folded garments and a few other stacked items, as Sam stands there naked, staring at his reflection.

“I see that you are eager to get dressed and begin our tour “, Leiyana says, her eyes scanning his body and stopping when she meets his gaze. Sam apologizes and turns his back to her.

Leiyana says, “I am not offended. Sam, I have seen you nude before. You need not be embarrassed.” But he is. Leiyana gives a brief description of the garments and he begins dressing.

“Can you turn on your cool little gadget and produce a mirror. I would like to take a look at myself. My body is different.” Leiyana opens a screen that grows to fill a small section on a wall, from ceiling to floor, with a clear mirror. Sam looks at himself, shaking his head.

Before Sam can speak, Leiyana offers,” It is not exactly the face that you remember, is it?”

“No, I am younger, much...younger” Sam moves his head from side to side in the mirror.

“We matured your biological form to the state of optimum operation.” Leiyana explains, “We wanted to give you a healthy and strong body. Are you displeased with what you see?”

Sam smiles, “Not at all, not at all, it’s just a little unsettling.” He cannot stop staring at himself. He gazes long into the familiar eyes, but the face seems to belong to someone else. Leiyana’s form joins Sam’s in the reflection. Sam is examining the garments that he is wearing. Brownish pants, which are a cross between a pair of dress slacks and pajama bottoms. Loose fitting and comfortable. The shirt seems to be a type of tunic. The light blue color reminds him of faded denim. The shoes almost seem like slip on sandals with build in socks.

Sam takes a final look at his dressed form and turns to face Leiyana, “Doc, you did really well with the clothes, do I look all right? Is this good enough for a tour?”

“Sam, you look very nice, are all the pieces adequate?”

“Most certainly, I’m ready for my night out on the town.”

Leiyana ask, “I understand you to mean, that you are ready to tour the city?”

Letting his right hand wave towards the door, Sam says, “Lead the way, Doc!”

Leiyana wants to question the word that he called her, but when she looks at him, he is smiling. It causes her to smile back. She leads the way towards the door.

Sam thought that he was stepping out into another hospital hallway, but instead finds himself on a sidewalk of sorts, surrounded by a vast city. There are many sights to take in, so much activity occurring. He sees buildings, parks, trees, people everywhere, ponds, and fountains. Sam stands there with wide eyed amazement.

He views trolley type trains that glide without tracks or wheels. Elevators and escalators devices moving people about in every direction. Above his head is a blue sky with a few thin white clouds. It takes a moment to realize that he views the sky through a glass shield. A covered sky continues in all directions. Off in the distance, Sam can see multiple levels of the city, with buildings, walkways, highways, even hills. Sam whispers to himself, “H.G. Wells ain’t got shit on me.”

Leiyana steps closer to his side, “Sam?”

“You haven’t lied to me, have you?” He turns to look at her.

“Sam, I have no intention to deceive you.” Leiyana stretches her hands outward, “City Seven of the Shi’ann welcomes you in peace with open arms.”

“Thank you, and I am very glad to be here. The Shi’ann? ”

“What we call ourselves.” Leiyana says with confidence. She moves toward a waiting vehicle, a two seated machine, similar to a golf cart. It’s color, metallic gray with sparkles of blue. No wheels to be seen. It has a storage compartment at the rear. She gets in on the right side, Sam takes the other seat.

The vehicle moves forward slowly. “Where to?” Sam ask.

“Our destination is a dietary center, but I would like show you a few places on the way there.”

“Great! This is some city. I’ve never seen anything this...wonderful...fantastic. I feel like an Australopithecus at Disney Land.”

Leiyana looks puzzled for a moment, but smiles as she directs the vehicle toward their destination. Sam strains his neck and moves his head, trying to catch views of everything as they travel. He notices all the people, looking his way. They are smiling. Every person that Sam looks at is returning his gaze. Everyone is watching him. He feels very self-conscious at this discovery.

Leiyana notices his discomfort. “They are all very excited to see you for the first time. The entire City has awaited your appearance.”

“What, like I’m some kind of celebrity or politician?” Sam seems confused.

“Sam you are the first human that we have ever reconstructed. All of the Cities have followed your development. Your presence among us has been anticipated and everyone is very excited that you are here.” Leiyana explains.

“Well, I sure hope that I don’t disappoint them.” Sam is not comfortable being at the center of everyone’s attention. Still, he feels like a kid in toy store. He wants to see everything.

The next few hours are filled with discovering and exploration. Clothes shops are visited, in which he is encourage to select from. He does not understand their commerce system, as he is welcome to take anything that interest him, without asking any type of payment in return.

He sees food shops, parks, and manufacturing centers. Students of different ages are attending classes of all kinds. Groups of people are meeting under shaded trees, beside ponds, and some are setting on mats that are spread upon green lawns. The people seem happy and content. They are joyful and overwhelmingly courteous.

Sam witnesses several hundred citizens throughout the day. He still cannot decide the predominant ethnic group of these people. The skin tones vary, but all seem to have a glow to their complexion. The population appears to be a blend of many of the races and groups of which Sam is familiar. These people all seem peaceful.

The styles of clothing are varied. Most garments, though some very colorful, seem practical, basic and simple. Hair styles though, in this society are a broad spectrum. From bald to braided, long to close cropped, facial hair even beards, but mostly smooth skinned. Sam does not notice any jewelry or such adornments.

The average age of the citizens he encounters on his tour is twenty something to thirty something, Sam guesses. He will later learn that it is difficult to tell if someone here is thirty or seventy cycles in age. He views some adults with children. Only once or twice does Sam see anyone with graying hair. The majority of the City’s citizens seemed thin and small bodied. Only a few are Sam’s height. The average citizen is approximately five feet tall.

He witnesses open expressions of affection everywhere. People walking holding hands or arms entwined, regardless of their gender. Some stop to greet others and visit. Their conversations ending in embraces and hugs. He sees romantic scenes where lovers hold each other and kiss passionately in full view of all the other citizens. These actions do not seem to draw much attention, but only bring smiles to others passing by.

Sam ask a few questions at the various places they visit. The shop keepers, maintenance crews, and other citizens are eager and friendly when answering him. Later, Sam will be told that his first outing into the general public, was announced city wide. All citizens had been requested to not interrupt him or ask him any questions, but everyone wanted to. They all complied with the request, waiting for the time when he can be approached. Sam is to the Shi’ann, a glimpse into the past, a much honored guest and as he will later discover, their hope for the future.

The Dietary Center, has the feel of an old world market. Food presentations are displayed throughout the building and its numerous covered patios. The various themes or styles of eating arrangements, give the impression of a multicultural event, a celebration in sight, sound, smell and taste. Musicians play wooden and string instruments from different areas of the building. The floor space is wide and spread out. As Sam walks following Leiyana, he is delighted at the different styles of music and melodies that he hears.

They set in a booth type structure, decorated it seems, to represent a style of statues and fountains that he had seen throughout his grand tour. The closest comparison of the architectural structures of the Dietary Center, is a style reminiscent of ancient Rome and Mexico.

Hontel approaches them smiling. He has come to take their order, but first, he sets drinks of clear liquid in front of them. Leiyana explained that Hontel currently is involved in several different training sessions. She attempted to explain that he had been Sam’s technician, when Sam said, “Yes, I’ve met Hontel. He is one of my friends here.” Hontel nods and smiles.

The drinks are water with just a hint of lemon flavoring. No menus are presented. Leiyana ask, “Sam will you trust my selection for our meal?”

“I guess I should trust you by now”, with sly smile, “I wouldn’t know what to order anyway.”

Leiyana names items as the young man nods and smiles. The young waiter cannot stop staring at Sam. Leiyana, so pleasantly, informs Hontel, “You may speak to him.”

With a slight bow, “Sam Smith, I am honored to serve you. I am your provider this evening, and I welcome you in peace with open arms.”

Hontel spreads his arms and gently embraces Sam, who is seated. Though he feels awkward, Sam attempts to hug back. Hontel rises, smiles at Leiyana and walks away to attend to their food.

“A language expert and a waiter in a fancy joint, that Hontel is ambitious?”

“Yes he is and like all of the Shi’ann, he is excited that you are now here, with us.”

Sam says, “This new celebrity status that I have, is strange. I’m not accustomed to being treated with so much respect...honor!”

“I am glad that you understand. All of us wish to show you honor.” Leiyana seems so sincere.

“Well thank you very much, it’s just that, I’m not sure that I’m worthy of it.”

“But Sam, everyone is worthy of honor.” Leiyana speaks as if she is imparting a sacred truth.

They discuss the day’s events, as Sam ask numerous questions. Leiyana’s answers are so fascinating, Sam does not notice that Hontel has returned, plates in hand.

The plates are steaming in front of them, but Hontel continues to stand there hands clasped in front of himself. He is smiling waiting for the proper to time to speak. Sam smiles at him and nods, urging the man to speak. Pointing at Sam’s plate, he says with a smile, “Sam, that’s a fuk!”

Sam burst out laughing. Leiyana laughs too, though she doesn’t know why. Hontel joins his laughter to theirs. People across the room are staring at them smiling. It’s their smiles that cause Sam to continue the uproar.

Leiyana ask, “What’s a fuk?”

Sam thinks that his sides will burst. Tears are forming now at the corner of his eyes. Finally, and with much effort, Sam gains control of himself, and catches a few slower breaths. “I’m sorry folks that caught me off guard. Hontel was repeating a word that he heard me use. It’s an old word. It’s a cultural thing. When he said it, I realized that I haven’t heard anyone say it in so long now, I guess the moment got the best of me.”

“You do not need to apologize, Sam. Your laughter is nice. I enjoy laughing with you.” Leiyana is sincere.

“Thank you. It’s just that I’m twenty-two hundred years in the future, and my only contribution to the human race so far, is to reintroduce the F word.” Sam laughs even more.

Before they begin eating, Leiyana closes her eyes for just a moment. Sam thinks that she is praying. She will later explain this action to be a moment of reflection and gratitude. Leiyana is not praying to a deity, rather she is recalling the efforts and work of “The Ones Before”. Sam will come to understand better, the great respect that this society has towards their ancestors.

The meal is wonderful. As Sam has already discovered, the Shi’ann are vegetarians. His taste buds are not disappointed though, exotic flavors, spices that tingle the tongue, fruits that are sweet and sour. The pink square tonight, to Sam’s delight, taste like smoked salmon. A very satisfy meal. After they have eaten, Leiyana motions for Hontel. “Let Martark know that we request a visit.”

Martark is already making his way towards them. The man is bigger and thicker than the other citizens Sam had seen so far. He also carries himself differently, compared to the other Shi’ann. Sam thinks that he walks boldly. His face reveals that he is of a jolly personality.

Martark bows as if he is in a Shakespearean play, “I welcome you in peace with open arms.” Sam stands to greet Martark and feels as if a bear has grabbed him. Sam repeats the greeting. Leiyana smiles, pleased that Sam has caught on to a social custom so quickly.

“Leiyana has told me much about you but I could not wait to meet you!” Martark says with flashing eyes. Sam was certain that he has yet to speak with any Shi’ann who are as expressive as Martark.

The two men exchange conversation for a few minutes. Martark briefly explains his duties as a nutrition specialist, a director of the many Dietary Centers throughout the city, member of the historian society and by his self -given title, “The Wine-Smith.” The Dietary Director presents a red glass bottle to Sam. Leiyana has to help Sam open the bottle. Hontel brings very small wine glasses to their table.

Drinks are poured for all three at the table, for Martark has taken a seat next to Leiyana, with one arm around her shoulder. Martark raises his glass in toast, “In honor of the Ones Before.”

Leiyana repeats the toast, Martark down his drink. Leiyana looking at Sam, only takes a very small sip. Sam follows her lead. The drink has a tart and bitter taste, but Sam smiles as he swallows it down, even though the burning in his throat is intense. “Wow, I think this stuff has a kick to it!” Sam can feel the warmth of the drink in his body already.

Leiyana informs Sam, “One must drink carefully, the drinks which Martark sets before one.”

Martark laughs and says, “Nonsense, one should drink and enjoy the labor of such an artist.”

“I am accustomed to a drink every now and then myself.” Sam shares, “but I think that a few of these,” he waves the glass, “will have me at my limit. Seems to have a high alcohol content.”

Martark doesn’t understand the comment but takes it as a compliment and smiles. Leiyana explains to Sam, that his current biological form, has never processed this type of chemical mixture. “You may become intoxicated.” She says.

“Isn’t that the point?” Sam says with a smirk and a wink.

Martark roars out with laughter, “I see that he is a man after my own heart!” Leiyana gives Martark a look of dissatisfaction. Martark hugs her with his one arm that is around her shoulder, pulls her close and kisses her forehead.

The conversation consist of questions about Sam’s recent days. Martark tells simple jokes and laughs before he shares the punch line. Sam feels very comfortable with Martark, his boldness reminds Sam of home. After Sam has sampled a few fermented drinks that Martark has brought to the table, he realizes that he can feel the effects, and is becoming very relaxed. Leiyana, notices that Sam seems tired, then she mentions the need to help him get settled into his new apartment. Once in the vehicle, Sam realizes just how very sleepy he is becoming. He yawns several times as Leiyana guides them to Sam’s new home.

It is not really an apartment, but rather a small house in a scenic area of the city. The “little box,” as Sam will come to call it, is surrounded by tall trees. There is a small pond that is just a short walk from his box. The lawn is green, the house is a cross between a college dorm room and a space station lab. Leiyana and Sam both make several trips to the vehicle, unloading the storage compartment. Once inside, Leiyana gives a brief instruction of the communications screen, bathroom and food area devices. There is a type of couch in the main room. The bedroom contains a single size bed. The closets even have technology, Sam calls them “smart” closets. He stores his clothes and other shopping acquired items.

Leiyana ask, “Is this space acceptable for your needs?”

“I’m sure that it is as I don’t even know what my needs are.”

“Sam, you conducted yourself very well today, it was my pleasure to be your guide.”

“And you Dear Doc, are a wonderful guide!”

“Doc, what does that word mean?”

“Slang language from the good ole days. Doctor, Doc same as a physician. If ones likes their physician, maybe even considers them a friend, the word Doc is used.”

“An endearing term. I am pleased that you call me this. I shall attempt to be the best Doc for you.”

“You’re doing great, but how long will I be a patient? Not that I mind you coming around at all.” Sam says.

Leiyana states that “All citizens are my patients, and you are the oldest one!” She cocks her head and imitates one of Sam’s smiles. She winks at him.

“A joke, you told a joke!” Sam laughs, Leiyana joins him. She has a nice laugh.

She explains her schedule for the next day and covers a few more house items that Sam is glad to learn of. He is free to come and goes as he likes and has a communications device to reach her, if he so desires. She will contact him around noon to see how things are going. Perhaps they can share lunch? Sam thanks Leiyana again, as she heads towards the door.

She stands in the doorway, and he looks in her eyes, a few seconds pass, she acts as if she doesn’t want to leave. The silence has become awkward when Sam says, “Hey I wanted to comment on the greeting given several times today. “I welcome you in peace with open arms”

“Yes this is how we greet all others.” Leiyana speaks with pride.

“And then a hug, then the greeters hug.”

“Yes, Sam, this is to display the openness spoken of. An embrace is offered.”

“But when you greeted me, at the beginning of the tour, I didn’t get an, uh, embrace.”

Leiyana thinks about it, remembers and says, “Sam Smith I welcome you in peace with open arms.”

Her hug is more than a brief embrace, and Sam hugs back. Many thoughts are running through his mind, his attraction to her, does she have a lover, her hair smells really nice, the warmth of her body against his, but finally, she breaks the embrace. “Sam. your blood pressure, is increasing.”

Sam is very aware of that fact but says, “You keep saying that, are you ever off duty? Do you have a pocket monitor checking my vitals all the time?”

“I have no device, Sam, I am a physician, and I do not need technology to detect changes in your biological systems.”

“Wait, I don’t get that, you are reading my vitals, my body ... how?”

“By close proximity to others, a physician can detect heart rate and several other biological functions.” She steps back inside the door, sensing this topic will require further discussion.

“So you’re psychic or something like that?”

She thinks about his comment and says, “Sam, no one can read minds, but all Shi’ann have this ability, to sense others energies, to some degree. This was not so in your culture?”

“Well, there were some who claimed it, but they were mostly regarded as charlatans and fakes.”

“I see. Interesting, we had assumed that this ability has always been present in humanity. In our culture, it is present in everyone. Those who reveal it in a greater capacity, usually pursue an occupation in which this ability can further progress the path of the people.”

“So, the surprises continue. What a remarkable society you have! So, can you tell me what’s going on in my body right now?” Sam ask daringly.

Leiyana moves closer to Sam and whispers, “You are aroused.”

Blushing, “Hey, that’s not fair. I mean, it’s just that, I am attracted to you, but I wasn’t going to announce it. I am not even sure what your customs are with this kind of thing. I apologize.”

“No apology is needed, your situation is a normal occurrence for our species. It was not my intention to embarrass you.” Leiyana looks in his eyes.

“I don’t even know if you are involved with anyone, I don’t want to act improper towards you. You have done so much for me, I am very grateful.”

“Sam, I do not have a mate, and you have not acted improper. I have enjoyed our time together. I must leave and let you rest. Until tomorrow, rest well Sam.” She hugs him lightly, then leaves.

As Sam lay down to sleep, this, his first night in his new home, his mind runs back through the day’s events. So much to take in, so much more to learn about these people, this place, this time.

His thoughts fade, as sleep takes over. What was it, he was just thinking about?

An alarm is sounding. Will someone turn it off? He reaches for the night stand and turns off the alarm. She snuggles in next to him and whispers, “Did you get a call?”

“No, just had my alarm set, sorry.” He pulls her close, “Go back to sleep, Babe”.

“You had your alarm set? Isn’t it Saturday?” She mumbles.

“Yes, my bad.”

She rubs her face into his neck, breathing across his skin. He runs his hand up her back and she makes a soft sound. Sam lay still for a moment, trying to go back to sleep, but Bea’s roaming hands lets him know that she has no intention of going back to sleep. He rolls over on top of her smiling, looks into her face and sees Leiyana’s eyes staring back at him!

He sets up quickly breaking away from the dream. He moves to the edge of the bed trying to remember the dreams that he has drifted through during the night. Scenes of his children, different stages in their lives. His brothers searching for him in a large grassy field. He called for them to help him, but they could not find him.

He had dreamed of Bea over and over throughout the night. He suddenly realizes how much he misses her. She must have worried when he disappeared. What took them from each other? He will never see his children again? What had become of them? He feels guilty. Guilty that he is here, alive and well, and they are not. He feels guilty of his attraction to Leiyana, as if his relationship with Bea was nothing. Why couldn’t she be the one that was “reconstructed”? He would have chosen her to live again, not himself, she was worthy of a second chance. Why couldn’t it have been Bea?

He rises and prepares for the day, with dark and heavy emotions, adding weight to his efforts.

The bathroom equipment, oddly, is not that different from what he was accustomed. Except the bathing unit. No water, just waves of vibrating sound. Still, it is better than taking the swab baths that he had daily in the biological center. The sound bath is a strange experience, but afterward, he feels clean and refreshed. Sam wonders why the sound bath does not refresh his heavy heart.

He dresses and locates some fruit in the kitchen for breakfast. He wonders if these people drink coffee. A bit of searching and he locates some type of tea. After a time of trial and error, he figures out how to prepare it. In just a few minutes, he taste his own efforts. Not coffee, but not a bad drink for morning.

He sets on the couch thing in the main room. The effects of the dreams are still with him, a heavy burden, a shadow over his being and he cannot seem to think about anything else.

Beatrice and the kids would love this place. He can see their reactions as he explains the wonders that he has experienced here. His brothers, wouldn’t know how to act in this strange world of sky cities and cloned humans. But he will never be able to tell any of them about it. They have been dead for over two thousand years, and he is the only one alive who knows that they ever even existed. Well then, he’ll be damned if he ever forgets any of them. The dark mental cloud forms even larger, filling his awareness. Sam decides to go outside for a while. Some fresh air may help his mood.

Outside the front of his apartment he can see the citizens already about their business, traveling in vehicles, on foot and the elevator devices. Some wave good morning to Sam from the walkway.

He waves back but really doesn’t feel like being their special guest today. He examines the small front lawn and then drifts to the area behind the building. The “backyard”, as Sam will impart to the Shi’ann, is surrounded by tall trees. Much larger than the front lawn, this area has been designed for outdoor living. A patio area and several gardens grace the home. A sense of privacy is present in the yard as the trees block all view of the world outside.

The nature scene does not brighten his mood. Sam sets in a patio chair and tries to change his thoughts by staring at the trees, watching the birds and clouds. The depression is creeping in. He sees faces in the leaves of the trees. Even the shapes of the clouds remind him of people from his life. Tears flow again. He misses them all. He feels lonely. Finally, he rises from the chair. He needs a change scenery, one that will not remind him of home. He goes back inside the apartment.

Inside, the communications screen is flashing, it’s an incoming call. Sam reaches for the control to open the line.

Leiyana’s face fills the screen. “Sam, I hope that you are doing well.”

“Yes, as well as can be expected.” Sam was glad to hear from her. Strange, he noticed his mood has already brightened just as soon as he saw her face.

“I wanted to inform you that I will be unable to join you for lunch, but I also wanted to check and see if you need anything.” Leiyana seems worried and excited at the same time.

“Is everything okay with you? You seem concerned. Any problems at your end?” Sam was really looking forward to spending some time with her today. He hides his disappointment.

“There are several cases today that require my attention, I expect to be active for most of the day. No problems, perhaps a bit of a mystery, I will tell you about it later if you like.” Leiyana is speaking faster than normal. Something must be urgent.

“I would like that very much. Don’t worry about me, I’ll get along fine.”

“If you would like, you could attend lunch at the Dietary Center. The one that we attended yesterday is but a short distance from your apartment. Martark should be having lunch with Jerdon, a Counselor who serves with the City and Chief Councils. I’m sure he would enjoy meeting you.”

“Councilor? As in council member?” Sam ask.

“Yes, that is correct.”

“He sounds like an important fellow. I’m not sure I know how to act around dignitaries” Sam wishes she could be present when he meets the Councilor.

“Why do you think that you should act any differently than you normally do? Jerdon is looking forward to meeting you. You will find that he possesses a wealth of information regarding the history and society of the Shi’ann.”

“I guess I’m still learning to deal with a different culture. I believe I will visit the Dietary Center. Do you think it is too early for lunch? Sam realizes that it has been hours since he had breakfast.

“Martark is very punctual for meal times. They should be eating soon. I will contact him and let him know that you will be joining them for lunch.” Leiyana seems rushed to finish the call and get back to work.

“Very well. Thank you Leiyana, don’t work too hard.” Sam smiles.

“I look forward to speaking with you later. Have a good day Sam.” The screen goes blank.

Sam rises and heads towards the door. Outside he walks to the edge of the yard to look around. There, he sees the Center, off in the distance, maybe a ten minute stroll to get there. He goes back inside to freshen up.

Martark comes up to greet him as soon as Sam walks through the door. Martark’s greeting is warm and loud, as Sam will come to expect of him. Compared to the average Shi’ann, Martark is a bit eccentric. That is what Sam likes about him. Once seated Martark informs him that he has taken the liberty of not only selecting their meal, he has also prepared it. While waiting for the meal to be served, Martark begins with questions about Sam’s comfort, health and all the things a kind host ask.

Sam answers his questions, and there are many.

“Yes, the apartment is very nice.”

“Yes, I feel well.”

“Yes, I slept very well.”

“It was only a short walk.”

“I am very impressed with the city.”

“Everyone has treated me very well.”

Finally, the Councilor has arrived. Martark stands to greet him. Their embrace seems different. The men kiss. Sam thinks, perhaps that’s how a Councilor is to be greeted, but since he isn’t sure, he offers the standard greeting that he had learned. The Councilor’s reaction proves that Sam had got it right. Martark introduces Jerdon, Councilor for City Seven and also serving with the Chief Council, who oversees all Shi’ann matters.

Jerdon is of slim build, handsome features and with curiously familiar eyes. His eyes remind Sam of Leiyana’s. He wonders if they are related. Jerdon has an air of importance about him, but seems very calm and pleasant. Jerdon too, ask questions about Sam’s last few days. After a few moments of brief pleasantries, “Sam, on behalf of all Shi’ann, I welcome you to our society and want you to know that we anticipated your awakening with great joy. You are much welcome here.”

Jerdon explains that his reconstruction was monitored by all of the citizens. His progress in the maturation chamber was reported weekly. Sam is a bit overwhelmed. Now he is starting to understand his celebrity status.

“All are surprised that you retain memories from your era. We have reconstructed animals and plant life for many cycles. So many species had perished during the Great War. We have brought some of them back. You however, are the first human to be reconstructed. Still, it is a marvelous phenomenon to behold a human from before the Great War, who has arrived here with all of his memories intact.” Jerdon displays the skill of a trained orator, and does not stop speaking even as the meal is being placed in front of them. As they begin to eat, Jerdon pauses and closes his eyes. Sam pauses and waits for Jerdon to open his eyes before he begins eating. Martark is already enjoying the meal.

The food is delicious, as was expected. Martark’s talent for food and drink are legendary. The conversation is fascinating. Jerdon begins explaining earth’s history from the time of the Great War. Sam is captivated by this tale. Numerous times, Sam interrupts, begging further explanation for details. Jerdon and Sam engage each other for over an hour. Martark excuses himself from the table to tend to other duties, but promises to return before Sam leaves.

Sam feels that he is a school boy being instructed in a history class. His mind is a sponge soaking up every detail that Jerdon has to share. Sam learns of Nantara, the first voice to call forth to the other survivors.

There are many legends about her, but some facts have been proven by records found in the various first surface communities. Nantara was probably not her actual name, as in the ancient language that it comes from, the word means “to call forth.” She sent out the first message to ask, “Is anyone out there?” And thirteen voices responded. Fourteen communities had survived the Great War. All of these communities dwelt beneath the surface. Nantara revealed to all, that it was safe to live once again upon the earth. As the spokesperson for City One, Nantara, decreed, Day One, Emergence Day, the day we came forth. This day also establishes the calendar by which all Shi’ann mark the passage of time. This day is now a holiday that is enjoyed by all citizens. Gifts are given to each other and feast are prepared, festivities enjoyed.

Nantara’s second question to the remnant of humanity, “Will you stand with me to build a better world?” This question was also answered by the other thirteen voices, and thus began the great work, of which this present society, is the fruit. Sam hears Jerdon speak with much reverence of those who labored so diligently, of the many whose fruit of labor was never to be enjoyed for themselves. They all went to their graves having yet to accomplish the goal that they had worked for. They labored for their descendants, and their descendants honor them to his day. Sam begins to understand why this society seems to work so well, and why it has remained peaceful and positive for these many years. There is an understanding of the tremendous loss the Great War had caused. All humanity has sworn to never again take the path of violence and destruction.

After several hundred cycles, the Shi’ann had developed the technology that allowed the construction of the sky cities. Scientist had also developed the ability to re-engineer the planet, thus the need to move the cities out of the way. Though some Shi’ann still live on the earth’s surface, it is only in the areas of the original fourteen communities. Most of these citizens are specialist, working to help restore nature. The earth is being allowed to heal, and the Shi’ann assist.

Jerdon continued to tell of the development of their society, explaining the governing bodies of councils. One for each of the fourteen cities, and one Chief Council, which oversees matters for all of society as well as the planet. A system has been developed that allows a rotating group of leaders that changes every two cycles. All citizens of the appropriate age are eligible to serve. Each performs their duties responsibly, as all are delighted to progress the path of the people.

The education system seems complicated but Sam is excited to know that everyone is allowed an education, in any field or subject one desires. The economy is not capitalistic. Actually, no one pays for anything, and no one is paid for the duties that they perform. The resources of the cities, which appear in abundance, are there for all of the citizens to share. Everyone serves at their respective careers with a since of duty, to progress the path of the people.

Sam is so impressed with this society that he is beginning to think that mankind has finally gotten it right. Has Utopia become a reality? Over a thousand years of peace. This society has finally moved beyond the senseless violent and destructive attitudes of the cultures before them.

Sam continues to ask questions and is still captivated by Jerdon’s explanations. Jerdon is just beginning to describe what he called “the marvelous mystery of the Shi’ann”, when Martark returns looking concerned.

The giant man is speaking rapidly, “Councilor, your presence has been requested at Bio Center One. The call was urgent!”

Jerdon excuses himself, but first embraced Sam, then quickly hugs and kisses Martark, and hurries away.

“I hope everything is okay” Sam is concerned because he is sure that Bio Center One, is the same facility where Leiyana is working. Martark sets down and begins to assure Sam that the excitement is not due to a crisis, but rather an unexpected development has occurred. Such a development would need to be reported to the Chief Council, and since a Chief Council member was present, he should attend to the event as a first hand witness.

Across the room, Sam sees a young lady walking arm in arm with another female. She reminds him of his daughter. He cannot see her face yet, but her build, the way she walks, seems so much like Desiree. Finally, the young lady takes a seat and he can see her face. Even her facial features remind Sam of his oldest child. He remembers his son, Benjamin, as well, and feels the heartache again. How he wishes he could see them one last time.

Martark begins playing the host again, laughing he ask “so did Jerdon provide you with enough facts to keep you thinking until late into the night?′

“He must be a walking encyclopedia of your history and society. I found him very interesting, I could listen to him speak all day. I hope I have a chance to again.”

“Yes, of course you shall. Jerdon is a very intelligent man, with the wisdom of a sage and the manner of a gentleman. He makes a very good Councilor. He serves the people well.” Martark speaks with pride.

“You two seem close, how long have you known him?” Sam ask.

“I have known him most of my life”. Martark’s face beams and then he states, “We have been mates for over thirty cycles.”

“Mates?”

“Jerdon and I are life partners. We met in Masters School. We have been together, happily, for many cycles.” Martark speaks humbly.

“I see.” Sam says.

“What it is, Sam? That look in your eye, something has surprised you.” Martark is very observant. Sam is surprised by the revelation, but was attempting not to show it. This explains some of the scenes that he had witnessed on his tour. It appears that this society has succeeded in an area where his own, had failed, social equality.

“Martark, in my time, relationships such as yours and Jerdon’s, were discriminated against, by some. There were progressive groups though out society that were becoming more accepting, and efforts were being made towards equal rights for all, but still, there were some who were violently opposed to such relationships.”

Martark laughs, “Yes, we have found records from the time of the Great War, about such matters. They were a barbaric people, thinking a person’s heart can be ruled by dogma. They did not realize that personal freedom with all of its choices, makes for a much better society. The Ones Before knew this, and set forth a foundation of equality for everyone.”

“It seems that humanity has moved beyond its past prejudices.” Sam says.

Martark nods at an attendant, “Enough of humanities’ past errors, let us share a drink!”

Walking home, Sam realizes that the few small drinks he had shared with Martark have made an impression on his mood. He is feeling a bit intoxicated. He laughs at his own thoughts. He just realized that it’s been thousands of years since he’s been drunk. Well then, he was long overdue.

He hugs the pouch to his side that his friend had given him. Inside the pouch are two bottles of Martark’s finest wines. He laughs inside himself as he realizes that the pouch, looks like a purse. Then he laughs out loud thinking of the jokes he could tell about the man purse that was given to him by his gay friend. Well, there is wine in the purse. And then the thought occurs to him, that no one would catch the joke. At least not anyone here, but in another time only.

A dark cloud of emotion sweeps in, and Sam is thinking of his family again. All of them. He wishes he could share this wonderful world with them. But he cannot. They are gone, and have been, for so long now. Did anyone mourn for them? The tears begin again and he hurries his pace. Sam does not want to cry in public, he does not care how advanced this society has become, he only wants to make it home, where he can mourn in private.

Leiyana sounds the greeting chime, but Sam does not answer. After several attempts, she opens the door, and calls his name. He is not inside, but she notices the red empty bottle in the food area. She walks out the front door and begins her search.

Sam sets in a patio chair beside one of the gardens, the half empty blue bottle, is logged between his knees. He is intoxicated. He is slumping in the chair, but appears to be awake.

“Sam, are you okay?” Leiyana moves to stand in front of him. She sees that he has been crying.

“Oh what has Martark done to you?” Leiyana seems angry.

“He’s been my friend, leave him alone. The question is, what have you done to me?” Sam is angry and slurring his speech. “Did you folks ever even think that I just might not want to be reconstructed? Huh? Maybe I wanted to stay dead? Maybe I liked death just fine. Oh no, then you folks had to come along and say, ′ hey let’s see if we can bring a cave man back to life.′ No, death was serving me just fine, because when you’re dead, you don’t feel anything. I wish that I didn’t feel anything!” He begins crying again.

Leiyana places a chair in front of him and sets down, facing him. She wraps her arms around his shoulders, but he pulls away.

“Nope, I don’t need any of your comfort. You don’t need to do that. I think maybe, I should just be alone. Why don’t you leave?” Sam slurs.

“I am very concerned about you. I understand that you use aggression to mask your pain, but I see that you are hurting, and I cannot leave you alone. Your loss is great, I understand.” Leiyana says.

“You understand? How the hell do you expect to understand? What have you lost, Sister? I’ve lost my entire world. I’ve lost my reason for living. I lost all those who I cared about. What do you know about that kind of loss?” Sam spits as he speaks. “I’ve lost my children, my family, and I’ve lost the one person who loved me and understood me. I’ve lost the friendly little man at the corner store, I’ve lost the neighbors who argue out in the yard late at night, I’ve lost everyone! My world is gone, and I don’t want to be here without them!”

Leiyana seems calm, she looks Sam in the eyes. “Sam, my life mate died tragically, six cycles ago, and I think of him every day. I do know something of loss.”

He sees the tears forming in her eyes, and feels ashamed. “Hey, I’m sorry Leiyana. I got carried away. Please forgive me.” He reaches to embrace her, and she allows him. Even though intoxicated, he wants to comfort her. After a few minutes of weeping into his shoulder, Leiyana speaks, “If you would like, I could help you inside. You may wish to lay down and sleep.”

“Yes, I think you’re right.” Sam whispers.

Inside the house she leads him to the bathroom, at his request. Once finished there, he lays down on the bed. He kicks his shoes off, pulls off his shirt and throws it on the floor. He looks up to see Leiyana taking her shoes off. She sets on the bed beside him. He reaches out to take her hand, “I know that you’re upset with me, I’m really sorry for being such an ass.”

“Shhh”, she places her fingers across his lips. She lays beside him. He stretches his arm around her and she draws close to him. They sleep in that position until morning.

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