Second Coming

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Chapter 8

He arrives home from a very busy day. Sam spends a few minutes flirting with his mate, the mother of his children, two of the youngest, who are at the moment trying to climb his legs. She tells him that he looks tired. He is. Leiyana gathers up the children and moves them towards the playroom. “You should rest for a while.” He reluctantly agrees, then kisses the children and their mother and heads toward the bedroom.

He reaches for the media screen and locates the music section. Selection made, but before he lays down on the bed, he catches his reflection in the wall mirror. The hair near his temples is showing streaks of gray. The lines on his face are more pronounced. Living in this advanced and healthy society cannot undo his genetics. He ages faster than the rest of society. He has never mentioned it to her, but he knows that Leiyana will outlive him by many cycles. Still, he considers himself more fortunate than any who ever lived before. He has been allowed to live two lives.

The music plays as he reclines on the bed. He has removed his shoes and jacket. The soothing sounds of Beethoven help him release the stress of the day. Today he has attended a Council Meeting, performed some duties at the Com Center and then toured the new youth education facility. He also paid a visit to Felitra and her mate, who have just brought home their first child. Uncle To’mas was there as well, showing designs of toys that he has already begun building. It has been a long and tiring day, a good day, but he feels the need for some down time. He thinks that he should get up and see if Leiyana needs help with the children, but closes his eyes for just a few minutes.

The room seems to sway back and forth, as if he is on a boat at sea. There is a sound, a throbbing in his ears. He thought that he had been listening to music earlier. The room is dark except for an old fashioned banker’s lamp, which sets on a wooden table. The light is dim. A rolled sheet of paper lays near the lamp. It looks like an old world map.

Something stands in the darkness of the corner of the room. It is large and hideous. Its shadow fills the small space. He knows what it is, though he doesn’t know from where that knowledge came. Perhaps the Other called to him in the music, in the throbbing that still vibrates in his head.

Sam doesn’t want to look at it. He feels afraid. It moves toward the table and into the light. For just a moment, he thinks that he can sense it, read it, and understand its motives. Then suddenly, he no longer feels threatened. He doesn’t want to alarm the Other or appear threatening himself, so he stands still and observes the visitor from across the room.

The Other extends a limb toward the scroll map on the table. The limb is not so unlike an arm. The being appears to have multiple limbs of different lengths. The creature’s stance and body movements remind Sam of an insect, with an exception, its size. The creature towers over him. He remembers To’mas’ fantasy of years ago. The boy had got it right.

The creature’s epidermis layer is pale and so white that it appears translucent. Thin blue and green veins, just underneath its skin, spread across the being’s body. The light skin is slightly wrinkled in places. It has scattered darker patterns and striped markings, almost like tattoos. The texture of the alien flesh resembles human skin. It even has goose bumps.

The Other has unrolled the map, which has now become a thin metallic sheet. It looks at Sam with other worldly eyes, strange eyes, inhuman eyes, and then they blink. It has fibers that appear to be eye lashes. What a strange feature for a being which resembles a giant praying mantis. Sam wonders if he appears as strange to his bug like visitor.

It blinks at Sam, as if to communicate, and then turns toward the metal sheet. He understands and takes a few steps closer to the table to view the map. The creature extends a limb from one end of the sheet to the other. Each place that is touched on the metal map, lights up briefly. Sam sees symbols that he doesn’t recognize but understands their meaning. He dares to speak aloud, “My world, yes, and that one is yours.” Sam points at the symbols. The Other looks at him and blinks.

He awakens in the middle of the night. Leiyana lays next to him, sleeping. She has undressed him. He must have been very tired to have slept so soundly. The dream is still faintly with him. He rises quickly but quietly from the bed.

In his study he picks up his journal and pen and begins writing. For several minutes he attempts to recount the dream, the message. He sets down the journal and stares at the words he has written in English. He rises from his chair to return to his bed, next to Leiyana. Sam pauses and looks once more at the last line he has written in his journal.

They have sent an invitation. They will meet us halfway.

(Many Cycles later)

The aged Councilor gets out of bed, quietly. He does not want to wake her. He shuffles to the bathroom and tends to the duties of the morning. When she finally awakens and joins him in the dining area, he has already placed her tea and a bowl of fruit on the table. She kisses him on his bald head before setting down, “Good morning my most honorable Councilor. You are up early this morning.”

He looks in her eyes for a moment. She still possesses all the beauty that he first noticed so long ago. Not just an outward beauty, but a beauty that flows from her very being. It shines from her eyes.

“This is the day” He says, “I want to check with a few operation centers before liftoff.”

“There are many trained specialist overseeing all of the things that you want to check.” She knows how excited he is, but also, the sadness that he feels.

“A councilor is allowed, and today, I’m taking full advantage of my privilege.” He says in a tired voice.

“Sam, everything will be fine. We have all labored for years to witness this event. Much care and preparation have been put into every detail. Perhaps you should meditate for a while, you know it always helps calm you?”

“Yes Doc”, he smiles and nods, “but only if you join me.”

“As always” Leiyana reaches across the table, intertwining her fingers with his.

Hours later, they stand on the balcony, looking towards the horizon, past the rain forest, and view the craft shining in the late morning sun. Sam looks below the balcony where Garguth watches over the gardens, as he has for so many cycles now. He wonders if the wooden creature minds his weather worn coat and missing feathers, or the vines of flowers, entangled about his legs. Their children and grandchildren, have ridden him on many adventures. He wonders if maybe Garguth is sad today, as well.

On the other side of the yard, in another garden, he views the stone cross standing, their life joining gift of so many cycles ago. Sam had positioned it to appear as if Garguth was looking directly at it. He had planted rose bushes around it. He had never cared for roses, himself, but his love, Leiyana, adores them. He was pleased to discover so long ago that in this era, roses bear no thorns. Paradise indeed. Sam had joked with his grandchildren that Garguth was eternally mediating. He is trying to decide if he should convert to the cult of the cross.

The Councilor and Physician have dwelt at their surface home for over seventy cycles. Throughout the last few decades, many more families have taken up residence upon the earth. And still, society flows without disturbance. The earth is still in balance. Neither of them have minded their constant journeys back and forth between the sky cities and the surface. Their home upon the earth has provided them and their family, with a peaceful and meaningful life.

He has been monitoring the communications system, and has several screens open. Sam is attempting to follow the count down. The Chief Council had requested that he speak to all the citizens just before liftoff, but every time Sam tried to put together a speech, he became emotional. Though no one would mind. He decided this was such a special occasion, that he should not be allowed a chance to mess it up.

The craft slowly lifts from the platform, aiming for the heavens. Leiyana, Sam, and a few of their family and friends, all lift their faces skyward watching the rising starship. Leiyana reaches up, and wipes a tear from his face. He does not look away, as he plans to watch the craft until it can no longer be seen.

He coughs to clear his throat and says, “Godspeed my child, Godspeed.”

Leiyana pulls Sam closer and whispers, “This is what she wanted. For so many cycles she has worked toward this event. She brings honor to all of us. She does this to progress the path of the people.”

“I know, I know, still, we’ll never see her again.” Sam drops his gaze for just a moment to look in Leiyana’s eyes. She is crying as well.

He says, “Samantha told us several times, that when this day came, not to behave in this manner, but here we are, doing it anyway. And you’re supposed to be the one of us that’s the more emotionally balanced.” Sam gives a tired wink and fakes a half smile.

Leiyana says through her tears, “But she is my granddaughter as well.”

“May Garguth carry her, to the top of the mountain.” The ancient councilor proclaims.

The day has come for Sam to take his place among the Ones Before. Leiyana leads the procession of his memorial. Hontel holds her hand as they perform the ceremonial march. To’mas and Felitra, both with their mates at their side, march in line with Sam’s family.

Many from all of the cities, are gathered in the Hall of Sacred Words to honor Samuel Philip Smith. His name is placed upon the wall. The words are recited. There are many tears. Leiyana finds some comfort in the memories of their life together.

In future cycles, her name shall also be placed on the wall, beside his. Buildings, parks and libraries will be named for them both. Along with “Emergence Day”, a second annual holiday is now celebrated by the Shi’ann. “The Day of Awakening of The One Before”, continues to be an important holiday for all of the earth.

Epilogue

In the quiet and vastness of outer space, the Starship Garguth, moves toward its destination. Its journey has lasted hundreds of cycles. The crew, safe inside the vessel, sleep in their chambers, awaiting the wakeup call which will sound once the craft has reached the coordinates of the rendezvous. This crew, the finest in their fields of expertise, were chosen carefully from among hundreds of candidates. Each knew that this was a one way trip, and that the sacrifice of the life that they knew on Earth, was to progress the path of the people. They each understood that they will never see their home nor their loved ones again. Still, each is honored to serve on this mission.

She dreamed forever.

It was fantastic, important and urgent.

Then there was darkness.

Black silence for centuries, eons it seemed.

She awakes.

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