I first heard “Cornflower Blue” as the opening song on Kate Wolf’s 1983 double album “Give Yourself to Love.” As I listened to the album many times over, “Cornflower Blue” grew on me (no pun intended). I began to appreciate the exquisite beauty in the lyrics and in Kate’s lovely singing voice.
Oftentimes, songs like this one will find their way into my heart and I feel compelled to play them myself. With this song, I had my doubts. The chances were good that I might not pull it off. Learning how to play “Cornflower Blue” like Kate does was like learning how to walk again. The style is completely counterintuitive to what I’m used to, but I’m glad I made the effort. I hope my cover of the song conveys some of the mystery and beauty of the original.
I carried an expensive mahogany bar chair from Jeffrey’s den into the garage. My friend, Jeffrey, has a trust fund that allows him to pursue a career as a freelance photojournalist and writer. I have to admit the man has talent and good taste. And, despite all of our trash talk, Jeffrey has proven he’s a loyal friend with a generous heart. He shares his good fortune with close friends. That’s how this whole thing got started. Jeffrey lent me his posh beach house while he was away in Paris on assignment. One night, while walking on the beach among fingers of salt water waves, and lost in thoughts about endings for my latest mystery novel, I literally stumbled over Arcon.
As I walked back to the house to retrieve Arcon, I came to the conclusion that fate had placed me in this situation. Jeffrey might be writing this story as easily as me. It actually makes more sense for Jeffrey to be writing the story since he writes non-fiction articles instead of fiction novels like me. And, he lives year-round in his stunning, ultra-modern house fronting a lone stretch of Daytona Beach. (Except when he’s not off somewhere on an adventurous assignment).
I planned to take advantage of my good fortune, if I can call it that. I’d write a screenplay and a novel along with a factual account of my experiences with Arcon. With any luck, I’d be able to crawl back into the good graces of my agent and my publisher. Assuming, of course, Arcon and me and the rest of the world survived the next sixty hours.
I noticed Arcon had remained unusually quiet since the conclusion of our latest mind-boggling discussion in the kitchen. I sensed that my friend from the other side of the Milky Way was gathering his energy to restore my old car for our impending trip to One World Trade Center in New York City. I had read it was the tallest building in the United States, and we were headed to the very top of it. I figured if my interstellar friend had it in him to pull this off, it would be nothing short of a miracle, even for a super-intelligent fellow like Arcon.
After carefully carrying Arcon from the house to the garage, I placed him comfortably on the bar chair. A few feet away, my decrepit red Mazda Miata waited for whatever might happen next.
From what I casually refer to as an eye in the center of his sleek silver body, Arcon began scanning the car with a beam of pale blue light. Suddenly, the blue light bloomed into a cloud. It engulfed the entire car. Then, frenetic energy forms emerged from the cloud. For a few seconds, I was looking at an abstract light sculpture suspended above the car, until the forms shot off to do their jobs. Each glob of energy serviced a different part inside and outside of the car. Then, the blue energy globs congealed to create a throbbing blue blob surrounding the car.
I expected to see my ancient sports car begin to morph into a new version of itself like a movie I had once seen. That’s not what happened. Arcon’s only predictable feature is that he’s always unpredictable. I kept my mouth shut. I knew instinctively that I’d be excoriated if I interrupted.
I heard grinding noises coming from underneath the sheath of blue energy. Then came screeching sounds of metal moving against metal, almost like the car was screaming in agony because Arcon had forgotten to administer an anesthetic before the operation. After several minutes of nerve-jangling scaping and crunching, the sounds became more subtle and less excruciating. I heard faint crackling noises. It sounded like Arcon was whipping up a huge batch of popcorn in an oven. Finally, I began to detect the pungent odor of paint thinner.
“I think you should leave now,” Arcon said to me telepathically in my native language of Serbian. “The fumes might make you sick.”
I wasn’t used to this kind of concern from Arcon. Maybe he’s starting to warm up to me, I thought.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Arcon shot back. “We don’t have time for you to recover from a poisoning episode.”
“Right. I almost forgot. I’m just a means to an end.”
“Not quite. Now, what color would you like the car to be? Keep it conservative. We don’t want to attract attention.”
I settled on something called atomic silver, a glossy dark gray.
“Done. Now, be a good boy and wait in the kitchen. I’ll call you when it’s safe to come back.”
Following Arcon’s instructions, I returned to the kitchen and cracked another beer. I closed my eyes and thought about the ending of my novel again. The elusive ending finally dawned on me. The detective and the beautiful FBI agent realize they are both too strong-willed to commit to a long-term romantic relationship. To make matters worse, their next cases required them to work undercover in distant locations. ultimately, they come to a decision: to stay friends and perhaps occasional lovers if their paths cross again.
The thought of unhappy endings generated images of something much worse. I saw the deadly pulsar emerge from a wormhole and slam into Mother Earth. A few hours after the Earth exploded into a blinding fireball, there was nothing left but stardust. All the hopes, all the dreams, all the achievements, all the moments of joy and sorrow, all the beauty and all the ugliness—all gone in a heart-beat. It was not science fiction. It was a reality hurtling towards us–getting closer every second.
“Come, Joseph,” I heard Arcon say inside my head.
A few minutes later, I stood before a glossy new 2012 MX-5 Mazda Miata. I noticed Arcon had made it a convertible.
“Looks even sportier with the hood added.”
“I thought you might like it,” Arcon replied proudly.
“Is there any chance we can take turns driving to New York?”
“Get real, Joseph. Hurry and pack your things. We’ll only have time for a few cat naps and bathroom breaks on the way. Our window of opportunity is shrinking as we speak.”
Apparently, Arcon was picking up our vernacular with each conversation we had. I did not relish the thought of the journey to New York. I’m sure Arcon didn’t have to read my mind to know this. My expression had to be a dead give-away.
I thought I heard Arcon heave a sigh.
“Don’t just stand there, my boy. It’s time to rock and roll !!!”
“How do you expect to get us to New York quickly?” I asked Arcon, and then immediately regretted it. I expected another irritated rebuke for wasting his time. There is no way a super-intelligent AI being from the other side of the galaxy would not have a solid plan for the journey. I braced myself for Arcon’s withering response.
Arcon made humming and clicking noises, as if my question amused him. “Well, since I can’t fly or beam, I suppose we’ll have go the old fashioned way. We’ll take your car.
“Let me get this straight. You want me to drive you over a thousand miles to New York City in my ancient Mazda Miata with 120,000 miles already under its belt?
Arcon made crackling sounds. I imagined the noise was his latest way of communicating his impatience with me. “It beats taking the bus, don’t you think?”
“The odds are less than fifty-fifty my car can make the trip without having a coronary thrombosis.”
“Give me an hour alone with it in the garage, and I’ll have her as good as new.”
Shades of the movie “Christine” flickered inside my head. I saw my car reconstituting itself like the 1958 Plymouth Fury did after it was destroyed by a gang of bullies. I remembered the movie’s tagline: “Body by Plymouth–Soul by Satan.” I strongly suspected I was in some kind of elaborate nightmare. Perhaps this was my subconscious proving it.
We were sitting at a chrome and glass table in an alcove of my friend Jeffrey’s ultra modern kitchen. Being a silver sphere about the size of a bizzarely sculpted basketball, Arcon fit right right in with the decor.
I rose abruptly from the table. “Excuse me, I need a beer.” I was beginning to crack under the pressure of the situation. If what Arcon told me a few minutes earlier was true, the Earth had less than seventy-two hours before a giant pulsar from a distant supernova fried the planet into a crispy ember. Unless, of course, Arcon and me managed to do something about it.
After removing an Amstel Light from Jeffrey’s built-in stainless steel refrigerator, I rejoined Arcon at the kitchen table. I was grateful that Arcon had sagely decided to reveal his plan and my role in it one step at a time. I was having enough trouble wrapping my head around step one.
“So, we drive to New York in my resurrected Miata, and then I somehow smuggle you to the top of the One world Trade Center building. Does that about sum it up?”
“You won’t have to smuggle me. I know how we can get past security.”
“Somehow I don’t feel relieved.”
“You shouldn’t be,” Arcon reminded me with his typical lack of diplomacy. “The guards are the easy part. I’ll disguise myself as a gorgeous 19th century Art-Deco vase. You’ll carry me into the building in a case. When you open the case, the guards will be astonished by my beauty and originality and ask silly questions. You’ll say you are delivering me to a collector at an investment firm on the top floor of the building. You’ll show ID and go through the scanners with a polite smile, and we’ll be on our way.”
“You make it sound simple.’
“It will be. Even for you.”
Another question presented itself. Risking another reprisal, I asked: “If you made it from the other side of the galaxy to a beach in Florida, why can’t you project yourself from here to the top of the World Trade Center?”
Arcon answered telepathically, as he always did, in my native language: Serbian. All of our conversations were held in my native dialect to reduce the odds of eavesdroppers comprehending my end of our top secret discussions.
Arcon must have concluded that I needed to hear a nonabusive answer to my query to gain my trust and commitment. To my surprise, he replied to my question calmly.
“The mother-ship dropped me five thousand feet above the ocean. I’m able to navigate and land safely in free-fall, but I can’t propel myself, as I’ve mentioned. It’s a trade-off, Joseph. I don’t have room onboard for brains and propulsion.”
“So how will you get back to your ship?”
“I won’t. I’ll remain here on Earth, if there is an Earth left.”
I wondered briefly if that meant Arcon had more adventures in store for me, if we survived. Then, I remembered my latest novel and its sad status as distressingly past due. I imagined my editor calling to announce that she had finally lost patience with me and the book was cancelled.
Arcon seemed to sense my utter despair. “Why don’t you join me in the garage and watch me bring your old car back to life. Does she have a name?”
“Mathilde. She reminds me of a French woman I once knew with sunrise golden hair and intense blue eyes. I still have one of her paintings.”
“Then come along, Joseph. Let’s breathe new life into your lost love. I’m confident it will make you feel better.