A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #2

                                                                                      episode one / chapter two…

This was stupid.  He could only think about what his boss would say.  Deep down, he knew such a focus was a waste of time.  There existed so much to be concerned with, to be worried about.  To be freaked out about, actually.  This was a disaster that he had no idea how to deal with.  And yet, he sat still, obsessed with trying to formulate some sort of explanation as to what had happened that his non-present boss would accept.

Could he come up with anything that the forever grumpy Floomer would find believable?  Something that he wouldn’t instantly reject?  Perhaps, given ample time and peace and quiet to concentrate, a reasonable story might be concocted.  Was that possible now?

Erke turned and looked back at his commuter saucer.  Smoke billowed out from the engine section.  The energy shield sparked and fizzled.  His mug of warm instant lay broken on the snowy ground, spilling its’ delicious brown contents all over the Earth.

The Earth.

Unfortunately, no, it didn’t appear likely that there would be any time, peace, or quiet in his immediate future.

He let out a heavy sigh and walked around to the back of the ship.  It rested, crumpled but intact, sticking up from the solid soil at a forty-five degree angle.  His hands reached up and pulled the smooth black bars of the access panel, which broke away easily with one modest yank.  Where it had been, three small compartment doors remained.  Erke reached for the middle one and typed his five number code on the keypad.   Nothing happened.

“Oh come on.”

He punched the sequence again.

“Ugggggggggh!  Would you just open?!?”

Three more tries, but no change in result.

“For…you…stupid…piece…”

Erke’s fingers flew over the pad several more times, pushing the keys in the right order, then in any order, and then all at once.  He wanted to punch the panel hard to show it his fury, but instead slapped it softly with his right hand, so as not to cause himself pain.  He tried to kick the mounted device in frustration, but his foot didn’t reach that high.  With the miss he spun in place, finishing his tantrum by stomping both feet on the hard icy ground.  He looked down.

“And why is it so cold here?!?”

His bass-laden voice boomed, bouncing off the terrain and carrying far through the peaceful white meadow.  He scanned his surroundings, momentarily frightened that his outburst may have awoken some massive earthen beast.  When nothing stirred, he returned his attention to the ship.

“Fine, I don’t get my dumb travel bag.  Whatever, idiot broken down useless ship.  Maybe there is something else I can use to warm up.”

He poked his long face into the passenger module, where he had spent the long and unplanned journey away from his home planet of Shifka to this horribly freezing world.  The area was a state, with nothing in its original place.  His white, nearly pupil-less eyes looked over the mess, trying to spot something that could provide some sort of barrier against the cold.  From under the pilot’s chair, a tuft of red fabric caught his attention.

“Ah, emergency blanket.  It’s better than nothing.”

Erke reached in and pulled the neat bundle from its home.  He undid the strap around it and shook it out to its full length.  It appeared roughly six feet long, or about one foot shorter than the figure that held it.

“Of course.  What is this, child’s size?”

He took the corners of one end, tied them together around his neck, and draped the rest of the blanket behind.  With a shrug at the otherwise bare surroundings, he stepped in the direction of the one structure in view.  A small dilapidated dwelling sat nestled not too far away.  A soft breeze began blowing from ahead, billowing the blanket draped from his massive shoulders.  From a distance, it almost appeared as if this large creature, walking purposefully in the direction of Joe Logan’s property, was wearing a cape.

There seemed no good reason to linger next to his incapacitated vessel.  Nobody on Shifka knew about his plight, thus a recovery transport had little feasibility of dropping out of the sky.  Plus, a crashing saucer might be the type of thing that drew the attention of nearby humans.  He didn’t know what they were like, but being away from a gathering horde of earthlings seemed like good strategy.

Erke got a C-minus in Outer Civilization Humanities.  The class, a degree requirement, tested him on pictures and diagrams and factoids of the dozen or so worlds that contained life outside his planet’s jurisdiction.  These were places where the prime inhabitants were at least moderately evolved and, as a result, considered dangerous enough to be worthy of being studied.

The twice weekly lecture had been based on observations and intelligence culled from years of reporting from on-the-ground scientific surveyors.  This information was supposed to be beneficial to the students, in case they ever took a vacation on these far off lands, or had the desire of a career as a surveyor.  Erke had neither.  Traveling sounded like a hassle, as he hated the idea of being anywhere that didn’t broadcast his favorite shows.  And who wanted a job in surveying?  He couldn’t imagine anything more boring.

His concentration waned during the classes, making understanding the differences between Hoarks and Upper Medulians and Earthlings all the more difficult.  They all looked alike, he complained.  So this one needed oxygen and this one didn’t.  Who cares?  Disinterest nearly torpedoed his schooling, until he rallied in the last two weeks of the term by creating a complex and well received presentation for the final.  Well, his younger brother Emkie created it, actually.  And Emkie didn’t make it for him, but for a class at his own more highly regarded junior institution.  Still, Erke had to explain the in-depth production in front of the whole class.  That was worth a passing grade in the end, he figured.

Erke got through the scholarly requirement, and surmised that his lack of attention there wouldn’t cause any problems or lost opportunities in life.  He had given no real thought to the people and places of the outer contingent since the C-minus, and everyone seemed to get along just fine.  In fact, as of just one day prior, there had not been a single instance where he wished he absorbed some, or any, of that subject matter.

Eighteen men in green fatigues held black devices in their hands.  They each pointed the narrow, hollow end at the unknown being.  He looked at them blankly, unsure what kind of greeting this was.  Was this a common type of welcoming?  Or, were they threatening him?  The answer to both questions, he began to realize, was yes.

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #1

                                                                                episode one / chapter one…

Joe Logan gazed forward at the horizon. The future lay ahead. It took him to the past.

His eyes were covered, sitting at the head of his family’s weathered and stained pine dinner table. A swirl of voices and noises blew around the room. Three of his best friends from the fourth grade yelled and laughed and belched from somewhere nearby. The whir of the engines of the Millennium Falcon vibrated from the oversized television speakers and put them all waist deep in a low roar. His younger sister, Abigail, sat to his right and hummed loudly to herself amongst the chaos.

The blindfold felt tight around Joe’s head. His Mom didn’t want him to peek at the upcoming birthday surprise, so she made sure to pull it snug. The sharp scent of pepperoni poked at his nostrils. He sat up straight and fidgeted. The anticipation was driving him crazy. He wanted to see, but the black cotton that pushed hard against his eyelids allowed no secrets to pass.

“Hit the lights!”

Someone, Abby probably, heeded mother’s call and went to the nearest switch. He heard the click. His friends got quiet. It must be time now.

Joe assumed the room had been darkened and that, finally, the surprise would be revealed. He bit his bottom lip. His sister giggled. He got warm.

“Ok, take it off!”

Joe’s hands sped to his face and pushed his torment up as fast as possible, scratching his left cheek fairly deeply in the process. His eyes focused, and then refocused again. The glare from the rectangular outline of dozens of small, lit candles made him squint.

He opened his eyes wide again, despite the glow, determined to see what the tiny torches surrounded. The flickering wicks bounced shadows off beautiful, perfect, white.

A massive slab of gleaming frosting lay before him. His jaw dropped at the majesty. Joe glanced to his Mom briefly, whose smile somehow seemed brighter than the cake itself. He looked back to his birthday gift and into the middle of its sweet plateau, where two plastic toys had settled.

One of the toys appeared to be an alien space ship. Or, at least as Joe, and most people, imagined it. A thin, green disc with painted black windows had wedged itself halfway into the dessert. It gave the appearance of a crash.  Understandable, considering the immense size of the tasty surface.

About three inches away, leaving a trail of tiny footsteps, stood the craft’s likely pilot. Big shoulders, all muscles, flowing cape. He fit the superhero model. Clearly he had set out on a mission from his world to rescue someone or, perhaps, obtain a side of ice cream.

Joe looked back at his friends, who all displayed the proper and well deserved gaping of silent awe. His sister leaned forward, likely more excited to get her hands on a corner piece than anything else in the world at that moment or ever again. Joe grinned at her, and then back to his mother. She continued smiling.

“Happy birthday Joesy, I love you.”

“I love you too Mom.”

Her right hand reached for a spot behind the cake and emerged with a massive, metallic knife. It reflected the white frosting to everyone around.

“So, whaddya say kids? Anyone want some?”

“Yeah!!!”

The five voices responded as one.

Joe watched his mother position the blade over the nearest corner of dessert. His body stiffened. From somewhere inside, he felt something. It pushed the hunger and wanting aside, and filled his guts. He had never suffered this pit in his stomach before, not in such a way. Joe felt sadness.

He realized that, once she brought the knife down, this wonderful moment would be over. Seemingly from nowhere, there came an understanding of imminent loss. His childhood, like the perfection of the cake, would reach an end. Joe had aged. This wasn’t what he wanted on his birthday.

As his mother brought the sharp tool within an inch of the incision, Joe did the only thing he could. He stared hard at the unspoiled gift, and then shut his eyes hard to lock in its memory. For the count of ten alligators, nothing could get through. Neither the singing nor the clinking of knife on plate pushed its way in. More importantly, though, for that period, nothing would get out.

The clear blue sky of Barrow, Alaska stretched for miles. It had reached late June, and the dense ice fog that often settled in during the summer had so far not appeared. Sunlight and icy ground collided, giving the surroundings an over exposed sheen.  Joe looked out past his back fence, and shielded his eyes.

Beyond the shed with the wood he’d need to warm his house come fall and winter. Beyond the two rusty tractors in mild disrepair that needed to be fixed for his boss. Beyond even the ancient barn he used for target practice when he was bored and/or drunk. Further than all of that, he stared.

Shimmering white snow stretched just short of forever. The canvas had always remained blank. Today, for the first time, it wasn’t.

In the midst of it all, two things had appeared.

An unusual, yet somewhat familiar craft.

Someone, or something, walking his way.

Joe closed his eyes, and felt hungry.