Monday, May 25, 2009

On the Second Floor: Chapter II

Could I have been aboard their ship? It seemed likely, but what kind of ship has fields, trees, and a sky no less? Perhaps, I thought, I'd already reached their world. If that were true, then there really was no telling how far I'd gone. To think I could leap across star systems, without even leaving my apartment!

The buzzing was gone. I'd heard it the entire time I was flying, but it had suddenly come to a halt in the field. Was it a tractor beam? Like I'd been towed, by some interplanetary tug boat? Again, I paced the floor, pondering the incredible possibilities.

I found my jacket on the floor and put it on. Cautiously I crept toward the front door. I stared through the peephole for a while (silly, I know), until finally I gathered my courage. In one giant leap for mankind, I went outside.

The scenery was lightly forested with what looked like seasonal, broad-leaf trees; the leaves were autumn orange, and some of these lay scattered at the base of the tree trunks. However, neither the trees nor the blue-green grass underfoot looked like anything I'd seen on Earth. I plucked a blade and tasted it, and it seemed to be a real grass, though it was much sweeter than I expected. At least I won't starve, I thought.

I approached the pillar. It was perfectly cylindrical and towered above me, looking as though it really did stretch all the way to the sky. As I got close, I guessed that it must be about three meters in diameter. I admired its smooth, polished surface, gleaming silver-white in the sun, but wondered how so tall and thin an object could stand without toppling; there was a breeze to contend with, after all. I stopped short of touching it, unsure as I was of its function or purpose. Once more, I had a mystery.

In the distance, I heard the gentle sound of running water. I thought that I might find some animal life, and maybe store some water for my survival. After one last walk around the monolith, I set out in search of the stream.

Walking past my apartment, I made a note of its condition. To all appearances, it had been neatly separated from the rest of the building, so that it now resembled a modestly sized L-shaped house. The exterior walls appeared normally, but the walls which had been in the interior of the building now revealed their pipes, wiring, and insulation. The water and ga pipes ended abruptly, leading to nowhere. Once again I had to stop and wonder. I knew (at least, I thought I knew) that I had traveled millions of miles through space in this thing, but a wooden apartment with exposed pipes is obviously not a space-worthy vessel. And to think that the process of separation, which must have horrified witnesses on the street, hadn't even woken me up!

But these questions could not detain me, as I suddenly heard a new noise. It was the sound of whirring gears,perhaps as loud as a sports car rushing past on the street.Greatly startled, I looked about for the source of the noise. At last it struck me: the monolith was sinking into the ground!

I could now make out the top of it that silver spike, as well as the tiny black hole it had left behind. So, the sky was not a sky after all. It was a ceiling, perhaps painted to look like a sky. It seemed I was still in the ship's interior.

After no more than perhaps a minute, the top of the pillar was nearly even with the ground. It was then that I first saw my hosts. Atop the elevator (what else could the structure be?) stood three men. At first, I could not see their features, because the light of the sun (how could an artificial sky have such an authentic-looking sun?) shone from behind them; but I could see that they were very tall.

The elevator came to rest at ground level. In spite of my awe, I found myself slowly retreating toward the front door of my apartment. I must have known I could not hide from them, but I could hardly stand to see the three approach me.

They were tall. The man who stood in the center looked perhaps eight feet high, and the two who flanked him were shorter only by a foot or so. I say they were men, but they were clearly not human beings. Their skin was chalky white, and their hair was pale yellow. They had large heads, similar in width to a humans, but roughly square and stretched almost twice as far from chin to crown. Their hands were similarly proportioned, with four long, refined fingers each. The shorter ones wore light-green robes of a silk-like fabric, and each carried a sort of metallic briefcase. The tall one wore a grey robe of much rougher material, and his hands were empty.

I could not think of a single thing to say to them, and frankly it was a miracle that I could still stand on two feet. But the tall one spoke first, in clear, unaccented English.

"Greetings, human from Earth. Welcome to Elysia. We trust that your transportation was comfortable."

"You speak English?" I asked, amazed at what I was hearing, barely able to get my words out quickly enough.

"No. We have circumvented the language barrier to our mutual communication with the aid of a translation device. You will hear my words in English, and I will hear your words in the language of my people."

"Oh, well, I guess that makes sense."

"Human from Earth," he continued, "please walk with me, while my assistants restore functionality to your home's plumbing systems."

"Uh, yeah. That sounds like a good idea." It couldn't be like this, I thought. Why would these people be so accommodating? But no sooner had I replied than he was walking, and impulsively I followed.

After five minutes or so, we came upon the little stream that I had heard. It was clear enough to see through to the bottom, and it was actually quite deep, perhaps deep enough for swimming. I was disappointed to find no evidence of animals; I could not even hear any insects. As we followed a small path parallel to the bank, I stopped. The tall man kept walking for three or four paces, then came to a stop as well. I saw him turn and gaze upon the water; perhaps he also found it unsettling to hear no insects.

At last he faced me and said "I have fashioned this habitat for you to use while you remain on Elysia. Do you find it comfortable?"

"Yes," I replied, uncertainly, "but where is 'Elysia?' Where am I?"

"Elysia is the name of my research vessel. You are aboard it, and currently, Elysia is in orbit around the planet you call Mars."

"How long will I be here?"

"You will remain on Elysia for ten days, as we return to my planet. There you will disembark for further study."

I did not like the sound of that. The tall man's face changed slightly; it looked like a smile. "Depending on the progress of our research, you may be returned to Earth within a year's time."

The tall man began to walk again, and I followed. Soon we had returned to my apartment (or was it a house now?). I saw that the previously exposed pipes were now connected to the ground. "Now," explained the tall man, "water will flow in and out of your domicile, just as it was designed." The speed with which this project had been completed was astounding; it could not have taken more than ten minutes. The tall man's assistants were again standing at the spot where the silver pillar had sunk into the ground. I was led back to my front door, where my host again turned to face me.

"The sky has been designed to reflect the passage fo time in your native region of your planet. I will come to visit you daily for the next ten days. Please let me know if your habitat may be improved in any way. Now, farewell."

With that, he left to join his assistants. The same whirring of gears began, and the three swiftly ascended up to the heavens.

The "sun" was setting now. Accordingly, it was getting colder. I stood at my door for a while, awestruck and fearful, contemplating the elevator. Finally, I resigned myself to my strange voyage. I went inside to prepare my dinner. Once more, water flowed freely from my sink.

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