ExcerptMake peace. Give gifts. Offer hope. Make friends.
Make peace. Give gifts. Offer hope. Make friends.
Zao Janeg stood on the waiting platform, checking his tie one more time and looking at the sky. It was evening, and the first star had appeared on the horizon. Its given name was Noree, but only the scientists called it that. No, to him it always was, and always would be, the Twilight Star. He checked his watch once again. 7:52. Never had the minutes ticked by so slowly. Someone in the crowd cleared his throat. Probably one of the other Ambassadors. Funny, he never expected to act as Ambassador in his hometown, or for that matter, in any town surrounded by water. He flipped his wrist over again. 7:52. Hmph. They were supposed to make Primary Contact at 7:54 and 38 seconds. Two minutes to go.
He pulled his sportscoat closer as the first chill swept through the air. Winter. It was coming. Oh, God, let me live through this Winter. I promise to make you the Center. Of all. Of me. My life to Thee. He recited the ancient mantra without thinking about it. It had always given him hope as a boy, even though he didn’t understand a couple of the words. It was coming. But would they even live to see Winter 2699? If only the Visitors could be friendly. Or weak. But how could they be weak? They had obviously mastered interplanetary travel, maybe more. They probably had weapons of mass destruction. Maybe they were even the ones who had leveled the Inner Land, hundreds of years ago. But perhaps they were peaceful. One could only hope. Maybe they held the cure for cancer, AIDS, or Yearms. Maybe even Winter. But that was too much to hope for. No one had ever mastered the weather.
Zao felt moisture trickle down his fingertips. Annoyed, he glanced at his wrist, then shook his head. Why do things like this always happen to him at the worst possible time? This could well be the defining moment of his career – of his life. And his watch was leaking. He delved into his pocket and found a plastic bag. (At least he had finally learned not to leave home without one.) In what he hoped was a discreet manner, he swept the watch off his wrist and into the bag. In a matter of seconds, the bag was back in his pocket, heavy with its fresh content. Zao just hoped that the reporters were too focused on the sky to have noticed.
7:54. Tie: straight. Smile: plastered. Knees: ready to buckle, but what could he do about that?
Grrrhhh! His hands flew to his ears as he responded to the sudden eardrum-numbing noise, but it wasn’t enough. He couldn’t shut out the piercing scream. It was a sound he had never heard before. Nor had anyone on this planet. The shrieking reverberation of lightspeed engines slowing suddenly to a halt. Then, as quickly as the noise began, it ceased. But the throbbing pain in his head continued to remind him of the Visitors’ attention-grabbing entrance. Was that really necessary, or was it a just a tactic to put us off our guard?
The ship was not as large as he had been expecting. Maybe it was just a scout ship, and they would come swarming in later in larger numbers. If he had to die this way, at least he wouldn’t have to struggle through another Winter. Death would mean respite, and with the impending doom of Winter on its way, the prospect of an easy death was looking better by the day. The ship had settled. Any minute now the door would open, and the monsters would reveal themselves. No! Mustn’t think of them that way. That would just create negative vibes, and heaven knows, there were enough of those in the group to make up for any that he may lack. Soon the Visitors would reveal themselves. Soon the door would open. They would come face to face. Any minute now. What was taking them so long? Were they preparing weapons?
Make peace. Give gifts. Offer hope. Make friends. Make peace. Give gifts. Offer hope. Make friends. He tugged at the knot in his tie. Make peace. Give gifts. Offer hope. Make friends. Why was he here? Standing here on this platform, right at this moment? I should never have taken that call. She told me not to take the call. Could he sneak away without been seen? Without being stopped by security? He’d never work again, but would it really be all that bad? Moving to the Inner Land, away from society? They said that the Inner-Landers had to scavenge for food. It is said that they take their food in solid form. Now, he had been known to indulge a tomato every now and again himself. Nobody’s perfect. But all solid foods? Unthinkable! They were even rumored to hunt, whatever that means. He had never asked; the word was always spoken with extreme distaste, and he wanted nothing to do with hunting. So I guess I’m seeing this thing through.
The door! It’s open! A silhouette slowly emerged in the doorway. The head was perfectly spherical, reminding him of the old space comics he had read as a young teen. Make peace. Give gifts. Offer hope. Make friends. Make peace. Give gifts. Offer hope. Make friends. Zao took a step forward. Then another. Make peace. Give gi…
“Greetings!” The Visitor called to Zao with an ancient salutation. An ancient English salutation.
What could this mean? Zao panicked. I have to get away! Why am I here! How did I get here!