A Crystalline Herbal and Bestiary:
A Journey To An Alien World
Part VIII - The Journey Home (Conclusion)
by Richard L. Howey, Wyoming, USA
Visit the Micscape Library to read other parts in the series.
The next morning Consul Zettel came to escort me back to my ship for the journey back to Earth. It was a lovely morning and the two distant suns made Bromonia a mildly warm and pleasant place (with some major help from the satellites). I strolled slowly, not at all anxious to leave this fascinating world. This had, without question, been the most edifying and exciting series of experiences in my life.
Zettel was most cordial as we parted. I set a course that would allow me once more to fly over the southern hemisphere and finally the polar region. In an area outside of the small city of Antimonia, I got a glimpse of a lush river valley.
It was very colorful and restful. As I continued toward the southern pole, I could see great glaciers on the mountains below.
Then, just as I was getting ready to take another photograph, I heard my wife’s voice saying, “Richard. Richard. Wake up. You’ve been asleep for almost two hours. I’ve never known you to fall asleep in front of one of your microscopes. I think you had too much brandy at your birthday celebration last night!”
I shook myself awake like an old tired dog and smiled sheepishly at her. Only two hours–impossible! An intensely vivid dream? But I rarely dreamt and certainly not in such coherent detail. I was highly annoyed with myself and so naturally I took it out on my wife. “Go away,” I snarled. “I have a lot of work to do.”
“I’m sure you do,” she said in a supercilious tone and walked away smiling. When she got to the stairway going down to the kitchen, she paused and asked, “Would you like me to wake you for dinner?”
“Go!” I bellowed. I felt confused and very uneasy. Had I simply been having a vivid hangover? Was I suffering from a brain dysfunction? Had someone slipped an hallucinogen into one of my drinks at the birthday party last night? That was the likeliest explanation. Some of my obstreperous graduate students were not above such a prank. If I could find out who did it and prove it, I would make his life miserable.
However, I then thought about the three answers I had been given to the questions I posed to the Uromercs. The points they had made were not new, but if they could be developed into a coherent, incisive report which was widely distributed, such a document might have a significant impact. However, who would listen to the rants of some obscure professor? Such a report would in all likelihood be dismissed as liberal, idealistic nonsense. The neoconservatives would undoubtedly attack it as a dangerous left-wing conspiracy.
For the next two days, I was in a living hell, wrestling with whether or not I should be so presumptuous as to try to write such a report. Finally my wife insisted that I tell her what was bothering me so. I gave her a copy of this journal which I had written on the return flight. But that was crazy–there was no return flight; there was no flight at all!!! Even if I were a sleep writer, I couldn’t have produced such a journal complete with images in just two hours. Unfortunately, this made the option of having been unknowingly given an hallucinogen less likely. What was much more probable was that I had been suffering from a delusional dementia for months and had constructed this journal without even realizing it. My head felt like it was going to explode. I took a half a Valium and tried to read an old Eric Ambler spy novel while my wife was reading my journal. However, the spy novel only made me feel even sillier and more paranoid.
When she had finished reading, my wife turned to me and said, “I think you should write the report.” Her statement was not simply supportive; it was authoritative and definitive. I felt a momentary surge of confidence and then doubts descended again.
“But who will pay attention to anything I write? If I simply present this as a series of ideas and projects which are my own, they will be dismissed with contempt. If I include the journal account with the images, I will unquestionably become a celebrated loon. Either way, no one will take me seriously.”
She smiled at me in that loving, devoted way that only a wife can smile and said, “If I were you, I’d go for the loon option. Millions and millions of people are fascinated by the possibility of aliens and some real benefits might result. The aliens you describe are clearly benevolent and many people will likely embrace the sort of opportunities which they represent, even if they aren’t literally real. No matter what you do a lot of nonsense will be written and spoken. If you want to remain content and comfortable, then don’t write anything. You have to decide whether or not to take the risk. If you do write it, you should make five copies. Send one to the Secretary General of the United Nations, one to the President of the United States, one to the New York Times, one for your safe deposit box in a new bank, and a copy for your friend Carleton, who will certainly see to it that it has worldwide distribution if there is an attempt to suppress it.”
Sometimes I had the thought that my wife was a reincarnation of Machiavelli. So, the choice was to do nothing (and I knew I couldn’t do that ) or become a first-class loon on a worldwide scale.
For the next two weeks, I worked like a madman (and perhaps I was. I still hadn’t sorted that part and was content to ignore the whole issue for the time being.) I wrote and paced and wrote for 12 to 16 hours a day. When I had a full draft complete, I gave it to my wife to proofread. It turned out to be longer than I had anticipated, but it was coherent and incisive. The thing I like most was the potential promise of the Bromonians without there being any threat if we didn’t form a pact with them; no threat, that is, except the extermination of our species through our own stupidity and shortsightedness.
My wife read the draft very carefully and a day later handed it to me and said, “Copy it and send it.” I asked her to write a three page summary and she agreed. It was brilliant. It grabbed ones attention and outlined all of the key issues.
I went to the copy center at the university and had the copies made and wrapped for shipping. Then I went to a bank I had never previously used, rented a safe deposit box, put my copy in it, and mailed the key to my lawyer. In my hurry to get everything sent off, I had forgotten my checkbook. I went back home, grabbed my briefcase, tossed in my checkbook, gave my wife a hug and headed off to the post office. I was tired and my briefcase seemed heavy, but I was determined to send the copies off personally, registered with requests for signed receipts.
At the post office I waited ten minutes in line. While waiting, I thought that I needed to get a couple of nights of sound rest and then make an appointment with a neurologist for next week to have a complete brain scan. When it was my turn, I put the four copies on the counter and waited patiently while they were weighed and the fees added to provide me with the total amount owing. When the postal clerk told me, I reached into my briefcase for my checkbook and cut my finger. “What the devil’s going on?” I asked no one in particular. I looked into the bottom of the briefcase and there was the feather of the Kohltrat which Zettel had given me.
All comments to the author Richard Howey are welcomed.
Editor's note: Visit Richard Howey's new website at http://rhowey.googlepages.com/home where he plans to share aspects of his wide interests.
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