Categories
fiction Science Fiction short stories

The Silver Sphere Part 3


Art Deco Silver Vase 19th Century
19th Century Art Deco Vase

If you haven’t been following “The Silver Sphere” or need a refresher, click here for part one and here for part two.

“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.

1958 Plymouth Fury from the Movie Christine. James Cameron, Stephen King.

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.

Silver Sphere with Streamlined Sides and a Hole in the Middle.

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.

Neutron Star Explosion

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?”

Man Walking On A Moonlit Beach

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.”

The Mother Ship Dropped The Alien 5,000 Feet above the East Coast of Florida

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.”

The Artist With Spun Golden Hair and Intense Blue Eyes

“Then come along, Joseph. Let’s breathe new life into your lost love. I’m confident it will make you feel better.

To Be Continued…

Categories
fiction Science Fiction short stories

The Silver Sphere


Man Walking On A Moonlit Beach

I am writing this story at the behest of a super-intelligent synthetic being from a distant star system in our galaxy. If you missed part one, click on “story”.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this, aside from the urgent request, but I feel strongly I’ll have at least an inkling by the time I finish. I’m assuming a cataclysmic event will not intervene to prevent me from finishing. As they say; nothing ventured nothing gained.

My name is Joseph Aleksov. When I first stumbled upon an odd-looking shape on a moonlit beach, it had little patience with me. It called itself Arcon to facilitate communication with my simple human brain. I thought of the thing as a “he,” but Arcon isn’t really a he or she. He’s not even an it. Arcon is pure consciousness of an artificial variety. That’s the best description I can offer. I originally described Arcon’s physical features as follows:

“It was a shiny silver sphere punctuated by streamlined indentations on its sides. It had a hole in the center which, in the moonlight, revealed nothing but bottomless darkness. Hardly an eye, at least not a human one. I couldn’t look at it for too long. It pulsed every few minutes, as if it were breathing at impossible intervals. And then it started flashing.”

Silver Sphere with Streamlined Sides and a Hole in the Middle.

After Arcon convinced me to take him home to my friend’s plush split-level house on Daytona Beach, he finally stopped his irritating and painful-to-my-eyes strobing. I was able to look him straight in the eye, man to man, so to speak.

I had driven Arcon to the beach house in the back seat of my decrepit Mazda Miata. Arcon reclined there regally, like the CEO of a large corporation, ignoring my attempts at conversation. Occasionally, he flashed, vibrated, and made annoying electronic clicking sounds. Clearly something was up, but Arcon refused to let me in on the secret.

As we walked up the stone steps to the sculpted front door, I kept an eye peeled for voyeurs. My womanizing friend, Jeffrey, had commissioned a local artist to carve a seductive female nymph into the oaken door panel. Jeffrey’s amorous adventures were the talk of the town. Frustrated husbands in the neighborhood were known to point telescopes at Jeffrey’s door to catch a glimpse of his latest conquest. I shrewdly camouflaged Arcon with the light coat I had been wearing to protect me from the evening chill. I did not want to be caught smuggling a super-intelligent piece of alien hardware into the house.

When we arrived safely inside, I unwrapped Arcon and perched him atop a glass kitchen table. I took a seat opposite him and asked: “Why did you find it necessary to nearly blind me with pencil bolts of lightning shooting out of your eye.”

Arcon replied telepathically in my native Serbian tongue: “I needed to get someone’s attention, and I was thinking about my mission. Then you happened along, and a strategy fell into place.”

“Please let me in on it”

“Are you certain your friend won’t be returning any time soon to reclaim his house?”

“He’ll be in Paris for the next two weeks writing for a fashion magazine.”

Arcon’s silver sides glistened. “Good. Let’s get down to business. And don’t interrupt me unless you have a highly intelligent question to ask.”

I made every effort not to be insulted by Arcon’s cavalier attitude. I had gleaned from our discussions at the beach that the fate of the world was at stake. If that were true, I had to put my petty feelings aside.

“To put it bluntly,” Arcon began, “your world will be destroyed by a pulsar from a neutron star that exploded two hundred and fifty light years away.”

“What?”

Arcon seemed to pause for dramatic effect. “Unless we do something about it.”

I was too startled to respond, which seemed to please Arcon.

“As your people are fond of saying; ‘time marches on.’ In this case, time not only marches, it is taking a shortcut through a wormhole. The pulsar has heretofore been disguised by the wormhole. It will reappear fifty thousand miles beyond the outer reaches of your solar system. Think of it as a traveler walking to Orlando, and then deciding to hop on a supersonic bullet train to save time and sneaker soles. By the time the pulsar appears, it will be too late. We have seventy-two hours to save your planet.”

Neutron Star Supernova

I thought: This must be an elaborate ruse my trust fund friend is playing on me. What are the odds of something like this happening?

“Did you come here to share a bottle of twenty-year-old single malt scotch to enjoy what is left of our lives?”

“If I was capable of laughing, I wouldn’t.”

I stared back at Arcon wondering: How can a super sophisticated being like Arcon not be capable of laughter?

“I wasn’t created to laugh. It’s a waste of time and energy. Instead, I’ve used the time remaining to arrive at a solution to your problem. I must warn you that it’s not guaranteed to work. It all depends on you following my instructions perfectly.”

I closed my eyes thinking; Okay, I’ll play along.

“Why me?” I asked with faked timidity.

“You tripped over me.”

I sighed. “You win, great wizard of the universe. Where do we begin?”

Arcon vibrated and made clicking sounds, as if he were annoyed with me. “Stop thinking this is some kind of foolish joke. I’m not a cosmic comedian.”

“Okay. Okay. Don’t get more bent out of shape than you already are. What now?”

“You take me to New York City,” Arcon answered crisply. “To the top floor of the One World Trade Center building.

(To Be Continued)

Categories
humor short stories

The Goddess And The Tree Stump


A beautiful young goddess from another planet crash lands in the desert. crash la

There once was a Goddess who preferred to talk to fully grown trees rather than people. While searching for a splendiferous tree, she instead encountered a gnarled tree stump–a whole forest of them, actually.

The Goddess, named Marsha, was quite young. She was one-hundred-and sixty-two years old, which, in Goddess terms, is merely a teenager. Her parents, Atara and Gringold, lived in another quadrant of the galaxy. They had not heard from their daughter in over one hundred years. Obviously, they were very concerned about Marsha’s welfare.

Since there isn’t space in a blog to artfully parse out Marsha’s backstory, I will give you the bare bones and then move on.

For starters, Marsha really isn’t Marsha. Atara and Gringold gave her a proper Goddess name: Savasanti. It means “Beautiful Peace.” Like almost everything her parents tried to give her, Marsha discarded the name in favor of something else. This is not to say there is anything wrong with the name Marsha. I am only pointing out that it is unheard of to refuse a given name in the world of Gods and Goddesses.

As the dual suns beamed down on the idyllic world of Aleya, an argument ensued between Marsha and her parents in the parlor of their majestic mansion built on the highest bows of a giant Grazanga tree. (The fruit of a Grazanga tree resembles a football-sized pasticcio nut, by the way. They make a delicious and nourishing grab-and-go meal for a God or Goddess, either raw, roasted, salted or unsalted).

Shouting on Aleya is a rare event, especially between parents and their children. Nevertheless, the shouting between Marsha and her parents was audible on the marshy plain thirty feet below and outward to the neighboring tree mansions. As the conflict escalated, Atara and Gringold reddened with embarrassment and anger while Marsha’s spirits soared. Marsha always felt powerful when she irritated her parents.

Whereas they had every right to lose their tempers, Atara and Gringold, like the good parents they were, did not. However, the decibel count of the exchange increased to a level where it became necessary for a peace abiding neighbor to call the tree police to restore the tranquil vibrations of the neighborhood. The arrival of the tree police only served to heighten Atara and Gringold’s level of frustration and embarrassment with their daughter.

Exasperated, Atara cut Marsha off in the middle of a tirade. “As long as you live in this house, you will obey our rules.”

Marsha looked back at her mother, literally fuming with her long auburn locks ablaze.

“Our patience with you is at and end,” Atara added. “Your father and I expect you to curb your insolence, your selfishness, and your complete lack of gratitude.”

“If your behavior doesn’t improve,” Gringold said, “I will send you to Marsh Point where they will teach you discipline and how to act like a proper Goddess. This is your last warning, Savasanti.”

Marsha, as she was known to herself and a handful of insolent friends, glared defiantly at her parents.

After a few tense seconds, Atara implored, “If you won’t listen to us, talk to the trees. They are wise.”

“The trees are stupid. They say the same things you say.” And with that, Marsha stormed out of the room trailing behind her a long mane of smoke.

The next day, Marsha abruptly left home for worlds unknown.

Due to her premature departure, Marsha never learned the arcane secrets of navigating billions of light years across the galaxy and landing gracefully at a pre-determined destination. She arrived in Earth orbit, because the planet looked inviting from outer space, only to plunge like a meteor into the sands of the Gobi Desert in a failed attempt to land smoothly. I assure you that “failed attempt” is an exceedingly kind description of the event.

Marsha spent nearly a century at the bottom of a deep crater gouged out of the shifting and scorching sands of the Gobi Desert. The immense force of the impact left Marsha in a coma for most of this time. To be exact, the impact left Marsha’s cells in a coma because she no longer had a body. Her tissues lay scattered across a concave pit in the darkened depths of the crater. Over time, Marsha’s body reassembled, cell by cell. When her body was whole again, it still required a decade to recover from the shock of the explosive landing.

And then one day, Marsha’s eyes blinked open. She remembered nothing. She wondered, Who am I? What am I doing here.

For days, Marsha lay in the pit of the crater. Memories fluttered into her brain, slowly at first, and then quickly, like a drought stricken lake fully restored in a deluge of spring rain. She knew who she was and where she had come from.

With every beat of her heart, Marsha grew more curious about the planet she had landed on. She knew there was more to the new world than the desolate hole she found herself in. She remembered seeing lush land masses and vast oceans from her orbit in outer space.

Without another thought, Marsha jumped into the embrace of the darkness and flew out of the crater into the harsh sun and endless sands of the desert.

In any new situation, the first thing to do was to talk to a wise tree. This was especially true if you were not fond of people, as in Marsha’s case. Any dummy knew speaking to a tree first in a new situation was the smart move. And Marsha was no dummy. She had told her parents that trees were stupid just to aggravate them.

She kept flying until the land below turned from deathly pale sands into thriving shades of verdant green. After several clumsy and near catastrophic attempts to lose altitude, Marsha managed to ease into a cruising altitude near the planet’s surface. Ahead, she spotted a menagerie of trees in all shapes and sizes. Perfect. It appeared to be some sort of tree garden.

Full moon overlooking a Japanese tree garden.

She landed in a field of pink roses. There were no people or houses of any kind in sight. Marsha figured she had come to a public park, or perhaps the reserve of a very rich family. Whatever the case, Marsha felt safe enough to lie down and take a nap. The long flight combined with a century of bodily dismemberment and reconstitution had taken its toll.

Marsha had no idea how long she had slept. She awoke in the dead of night staring at a canopy of stars overhanging a ghostly full moon. The sight reminded Marsha of the museums her parents had taken her to as a child. Those were happier days, centuries ago and billions of miles away.

It was time to begin her new life. No sense laying around and reminiscing. Lifting herself up from her bed of roses, Marsha marched towards the tree garden. And then, Marsha saw something grotesque. She had never seen anything like it before. A ring of tree stumps surrounded the tree garden. Upon reaching the ring of stumps, she stopped suddenly. “Who would do this and why?” she wondered aloud.

“It’s unfair,” the nearest tree trunk replied. “We grew too tall and blocked the view of the garden. So the humans cut us down.”

“But–“

“I know. It’s abominable. The humans can’t communicate with us. Don’t ask me why. My name is Earl, by the way.”

“Marsha. Pleased to meet you.”

“Are you from around here?”

“No. I’m from the other side of the galaxy. I’m a Goddess.”

“You don’t say.” The tree trunk made clicking sounds, as if it were thinking.

“Maybe you can help me,” Earl the tree trunk said after the clicking stopped. “I’ve heard that Goddesses have powers. Is it true?”

“I’ve just met you and it sounds like you want something from me.”

“I need help badly. Look at me.”

“I suppose you want me to restore you to your former glory. That’s a big ask.”

“What can I give you in return. I once had powers of my own.”

“Can you show me what I look like?”

Like most Goddesses, Marsha’s outer beauty was beyond compare. She was, however, unaware of her looks. You see, there are no mirrors on the planet Aleya. No one needed mirrors because the Gods and Goddesses on Aleya were all astoundingly beautiful. And looking at oneself in a mirror was frowned upon.

“I can do that if you restore me to my ‘former glory,’ as you said so poetically. How long has it been since you’ve seen yourself, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“I do mind. Do we have a deal?”

“Yes. Absolutely. If I could pinch myself, I would do it, to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.”

“You aren’t dreaming. I’m sympathetic to your cause. Where I come from, no one would dare to cut down a tree.”

Earl breathed a deep sigh. “That’s reassuring.”

And so, Marsha raised Earl the tree trunk back to his former glory as the other tree trunks looked on in astonishment. They all began to clamor, “me too.”

Marsha ignored their cries. Business was business. It was time to collect her boon. She flew to one of Earl’s uppermost branches where she made a graceful landing.

“Alright, show me what I look like,” Marsha said impatiently.

“Happy to oblige,” Earl chirped. “Come closer and look deeply into the knot.”

Leaning forward, Marsha gazed into the whorl embedded in Earl’s skin, or more correctly, Earl’s bark. The whorl transformed into a mirror. Upon seeing the image in the mirror, Marsha gasped and turned away. “That can’t be what I look like,” she said in a tremulous voice.

Inner Portrait of a Recalcitrant Goddess.

“It’s what you look like on the inside,” Earl sneered. “Best case recalcitrant. Worst case, evil. I’m leaning towards evil. You don’t deserve your powers. I’m going to take them. Then I’ll rain hell down on the humans who reduced me to a stump.”

Before she could move, Marsha watched the bony ends of branches enter her arms and legs, and then her mouth. She tried to scream, but it came out as an impotent gargle. The pain was excruciating. It felt like the invading branches had set her blood vessels on fire.

As her strength ebbed, the same thoughts pounded in Marsha’s mind like a kettle drum, over and over again.

I should have listened. Why didn’t I listen?

A faint voice whispered in her ear. It sounded, no, it couldn’t be, but yes, it did. It sounded like her mother, Atara, speaking to her with some good advice for a change.

Marsha set herself ablaze. The torturous branches inside her body recoiled and withdrew, setting Marsha free.

Free to fall.

Marsha spread her arms to avoid another crash landing.

“Without anyone nearby to dowse the fire,” Marsha screamed at Earl,” “you will surely burn to ashes for the wind to scatter into oblivion; a fitting end for a criminal tree.

A nearby tree in the garden called to her.

“What do you want?”

“To apologize,” the stately tree said. “The humans cut down the circle of trees for a reason, but not because they grew too tall. They were infected with a virus that would have killed us if the humans had left them alone. I’m sorry your path led you this way.”

“Thank you,” Marsha said. “I, too, regret finding my way here. No offense to you.” She waived at the tree. “Live long and prosper, as someone once said.”

Then, Marsha looked skyward, and flew far away, determined to find her way home.