I placed the tea in front of him, my hands shaking so badly that I spilled at least a quarter of it on the stained formica table top. He ignored my
fumbling and looked kindly at me with those enormous black within black eyes.
“Thank you.” His voice was soft and musical, without an accent but still with something exotic and different in the intonations and gentle
resonances. My hip was starting to throb in spite of me leaning heavily on my cane. He picked up the mug in both hands and inhaled the aroma of the
peppermint tea. His facial expressions were strange, alien to me but in his eyes I could feel his delight.
“You hurt.” He said. I nodded.
“Please sit.” He motioned to the other rickety chair across the table from him. As I settled myself, he watched me while sipping at the warm tea.
It was a hot summer day, hotter than normal; but then every day this year had been hotter than normal. It seemed that old high temperature records
were being shattered every other day. I felt a pang as I suddenly remembered those days when I could afford air conditioning. I was soaked in sweat
and yet this.. this.. alien didn't seem to notice the heat. And he was drinking hot tea to boot.
“I should call the government or someone.” I wasn't sure if I was trying to make a threat or just thinking out loud.
“They won't listen.” He took another sip. “Besides, it's you I want to talk to, not them.”
“Me? ” Part of me noticed that I had no fear of this creature, human enough that he probably could walk out of my apartment and stroll around the
streets of Chicago unnoticed unless you looked close – and no one did that anymore. “I'm nobody. An old man waiting to die in a fleabag
apartment. I'm nothing.” I leaned forward. “So why me?”
“We have to make a decision.” He took another sip of tea. “We have to decide whether or not to intervene in the history of this planet.” He
placed the mug on the table and leaned forward to match me. “Your species has crossed a dangerous line and become a threat not only to itself but
to us as well.”
“By 'we' I assume you mean your people.”
“And others. The universe is teaming with life, a portion of it intelligent. We work together, and today we have to decide if your species is part
of the intelligent portion.” He leaned back and I felt sadness emanating from him as he looked down at his hands. “Or not.”
“If we are not..” I couldn't finish the question.
“This world as you know it will end.” He looked at me and again his eyes seemed to envelop me. “I'm so sorry.”
“So you are going to make this decision based on having bloody peppermint tea with me?” The absurdity of the situation was starting to dawn on
me. “That's just not fair to anyone. You should be talking to someone smart or in charge somewhere. Like some scientist.”
He shook his head. It looked wrong.
“When trying to understand the eating habits of wolves, you get a more honest picture by talking to the sheep. It's not just you, there are a
million of my species and others having this same conversation with a million people like you. A mother n Somalia watching her last child die of
starvation, a Indian in the Brazilian rainforest who has watched his home being destroyed by a lumber company, an old man in China who works for
pennies a day just to eat as he dies of untreated cancer. There are even some talking to dolphins and the hidden ones of this planet.”
“So I'm not the only one?” My mind was filled with questions. Dolphins? Who were these hidden ones? Before I could say anything he touched my
hand. A calmness came over me as he continued.
“Not far from here are those who live in luxury and ease. They, like their peers around the world, have raped this planet, looted it's resources
and turned you all into slaves. The earth groans under their abuses as they systematically exterminate the wisdom and knowledge of your species in
order to satiate their lusts. They have set into play forces without caring about the consequences”
“But there is so much that is good about us.” I protested but he shook his head.
“Don't be mistaken, I don't want you to speak for humanity. We know all about your species and civilizations and cultures. No my friend, I want you
to speak only for you.”
“What do you mean? You must know everything about me with all your technology and.. and..”
“Yes we do.” He cut me off gently. “But those are only facts, the data that defines your life. What we need to know is you -- how those events
molded you, changed you or affected you. I need to feel those 'facts' from the point of view of your experience.”
“You want me to tell you my life story?”
“No I want you to feel it. If you will allow me, it's all there inside you like a hologram. I just have to read it.”
I remembered holograms, odd how I hadn't thought of that word for years. My first instinct was to tell him to screw off, I didn't want anyone digging
around in my head. But in a moment of stark honesty I had to admit it was the first time in ten years anyone had even showed a sliver of interest in
me or my life. Even if it was some man from outer space.
I nodded. He was standing behind me, I don't even remember him getting up. As he lay his hands on my head, my mind exploded into images. It wasn't
like a movie, it was more like a thousand movies playing at once, and yet I could follow each one without the other interfering. I relived a million
moments of my life.
The birth of my son and daughter. The intense passion I felt the first time I made love to my wife. My puppy licking me awake on the first day of
summer vacation. The birds outside my window at daybreak. Holding my grandfather's hand as he passed away and feeling confused because I was only
But the pain. My god the pain. The endless years on the job, a job I hated only to feel the betrayal when I was left with nothing when our pension
funds went broke. Watching my son's life crumble after he came back from his tour of duty and eventually finding that broken soul hanging in the
garage. Identifying my daughter's body after she was shot because she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The days of slow agony watching
my wife waste away as her kidneys failed because we lost our insurance. The fear I feel just going to the store. The muggings. The filth. But
above all, the loneliness. So much loneliness and despair.
Every moment that affected me; every rejection, every failure, every hurt – they all ran through my mind and soul. I got lost in it, I swear it we
spent years going through it all – I could feel him right there, sharing every second of it with me. Then I was sitting back at the kitchen table.
According to the clock on the wall, about 18 minutes had passed. The images had been so real that it took me a few minutes to adjust to the fact
that this was reality.
There were no hands on my head. I twisted in my chair and saw my visitor crumpled on the floor. I stared for a few moments until I saw that he was
sobbing. I twisted around a bit more and was able to reach out a hand to him. I don't know why, I felt suddenly some sort of need to comfort him. It
was my pain that he had shared.
Then he was sitting across from me even though I have no memory of him getting up or taking his seat. He looked different. Older perhaps, shrunken in
on himself. His eyes were dull and I saw no trace of tears.
“It is rare for one of my kind to cry.” He voice was weaker, sadder.
I felt sorry for him. He felt my pain and now I think I could feel somewhat how he felt because of it.
“It is part of dying.”
I sat as the meaning of what he just said started to register.
“Did looking into my mind do that to you.?”
“Yes.” He picked up the tea again and took a slow sip. “It was expected and I was prepared for this outcome. Most of us who read your people
today also will die soon. It is our sacrifice to make.” He paused as if debating whether to tell me more. I could feel him now. “Yours was the
last interview. The decision has just been made.” I could tell this was hard for him. “We will not interfere.”
“So you won't destroy us then?”
“You misunderstand.” He said after a long pause. “To interfere would have meant stopping you from destroying yourselves. No, the decision is to
leave you to your own devices, to perish as you have done countless times before.”
“What?” I felt sick.
“Your planet goes through periods of rapid change between ice ages and temperate periods. This is happening now; the result of the warming of the
planet will cause the climate to shift. Based on history, only a handful of you will survive. We had to decide if there was just cause to interfere.
The pain of your life – a representative life – killed me. This is a measure of the capacity of you as a civilization to inflict suffering and
pain collectively. We could find no reason to act. ”
I felt rage starting to build until I suddenly saw he was right. By reading me, I became connected to him. I could see the sorrow he felt at what
was to come. I also knew somehow that this was not the first time this had happened, but the sixth time. Not much survived from the last time, some
stone structures like the pyramids and some legends and myths – and handfuls of survivors scattered around the earth to start again. We failed
“You can see now.” He said softly, and I think I saw him smile. “You have a few hours. Use them wisely.”
Then he was gone. I don't know how but he was just gone. I can feel him though and I know that the connection that exists between us is unbreakable.
He will die soon, and as he does, so will I. But his gift to me was this wonderful peace I feel.
My hand is tired from all this writing. I'm just going to go and lie down a bit..
edit on 16-3-2012 by metamagic because: typo
edit on 16-3-2012 by metamagic because: typo