Orphan of earth

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
There are just two days left before the earth will be destroyed, and only one person can be saved.

Submitted: April 22, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 22, 2017



The creature was young, undersized, female, and intelligent.  At this place they called a university, in a country called England, that was not unusual.  Called Mary, she was not, by the standards of earth, the planet of her birth, beautiful, but neither was she ugly.  She was just ordinary.  Her two eyes were green, her shoulder length hair was auburn, and her figure was plump.  She had a mouth that too readily broke into a nervous smile, and a way of speaking that suggested immaturity.  Mary was also unusually tenacious.  She had ignored my continuing indifference towards her to become my constant companion.

Let me explain.  I am not from earth.  The events I am about to recount happened sixty seven earth years after I first came to the planet.  My arrival, and subsequent stay, went unnoticed by the inhabitants because I have one remarkable characteristic.  I can change my appearance.  You see, it’s within my power to assume any form I wish, a consequence of my nature.  I am primarily a being of energy.  As such, I am eternal, travelling between worlds as a burst of pure energy.  Only when I interact with the universe do I manifest myself as matter, and only then for limited periods.  For most of my existence I am journeying, oblivious, between distant points of the galaxy at the speed of light.

I had originally come to earth because I had detected signs of an imminent catastrophe.  Unbeknown to its inhabitants, its parent star was in the last stages of its existence.  It had taken me over a thousand years of travelling, and sixty seven years of waiting, to be on the threshold of witnessing my fourth such event.  To me, there is nothing more exhilarating than to bathe in the awesome power of an exploding sun.  Words alone cannot convey how it feels.  It must be experienced to be appreciate.

It truly saddened me that the inhabitants of earth would perish, along with their world, for I was once a carbon based life form myself.  But there was nothing I could do.  I had neither the power, nor the knowledge, to avert the coming destruction.  I could, though, transform one individual into a being like myself.  Which is why I found myself, two days  before the world would end, about to tell Mary that she had to sacrifice her humanity if she wanted to survive.

We'd agreed to go for a drink on the evening.  So, at the appropriate time, I tapped on Mary's door and waited.  We were both living in a university hall of residence, I on the third floor and she on the first.  Each room opened onto a central corridor that traversed the length of the building.  With just a single window at the end, and lit by a string of underpowered bulbs, it was dark and gloomy.  And with poor ventilation, the air within was dry, dusty, and stifling.  

I heard a shuffling from within the room, then the lock being turned.  The door opened a few inches and Mary's face peered out at me.  She smiled and opened the door wide.  "Ready?" I asked.

"Yes," she answered, nodding.  She was dressed simply, in jeans and a patterned, short sleeved, blouse.  I stepped aside as she exited the room and locked the door.  Putting her key in the little bag she was clutching, she smiled once more.  "Where are we going?" she asked.

"The King's Arms is the nearest," I replied, "I thought we'd try there."

"OK," she said sweetly, nestling close to me.

"There's something I've got to tell you," I informed her as we descended the stairs, "but it'll wait until we're outside."

She shot me a mystified glance.  "OK, whatever," she replied with a shrug.

At the bottom of the stairs was a door that opened onto a path.  Outside the air was oppressively  hot, even though it was past seven on a May evening.  The reddish light of the sun, harsh in its brilliance, forced Mary to shield her eyes against its glare.  "Bright, isn't it?" I remarked.  "Actually, the weather's what I want to talk to you about."

"Really?" she said, looking puzzled.

"It's ... ," I hesitated, uncertain how to proceed.  "What I wanted to say," I continued, "is that the world's coming to an end.  That's why it's so hot."

Mary giggled.  "Stop being so silly," she said light-heartedly, "of course the world's not going to end."

"Yes it is," I replied, frowning, "the day after tomorrow."

"Well," she retorted, grinning, "that'll give us plenty of time for our drink, won't it?"

"OK," I said, "I can see this is going to be difficult."

Mary prodded me hard with a stubby finger and stuck her tongue out.  "Don't be a silly billy then," she chided.

By now we had left the university grounds and were walking along a street of substantial Edwardian villas.  I held my right hand up.  “See these,” I told her, wiggling my fingers, “watch them change.”  Before she could reply my fingers changed into cutlery.  My thumb became a teaspoon, my index finger a fork, my middle finger a knife, and the two remaining fingers were both table spoons.  The evening sun glinted from their polished surfaces as I jiggled them before Mary's startled eyes.  "Do you believe me now?" I demanded.

Mary uttered a sharp cry, and shook her head violently.  "No!" she wailed, "that's not possible."

"Believe it," I told her firmly, "because I'm an alien."

She looked at me as if I were insane.  "An alien?  You're bonkers."  She did a circular motion with her forefinger by the side of her temple.  

"You have to believe me," I insisted, "for your own sake.  The sun is going to destroy itself in a couple of days.  It's going to explode, and it's going to take the earth with it.  If you don't listen you're going to die."  

"No, no, no, no," Mary cried in disbelief, "you're making it all up."

"Don't you believe your own eyes?" I shouted, prodding her nose with the tines of my index finger

"Oh please, tell me it isn't true." she wailed.

I returned my fingers to their accustomed form.  "I'm not lying," I told her brusquely as I put my arm around her waist.  She flinched, but offered no resistance.  I hurried her to the end of the street, across the main road, and through the doors of the King's Arms.  Inside it was hot, and already crowded.  The clamour of voices, mingled with the sound of loud music, made speaking difficult.  I pushed towards the bar, Mary in tow, caught the barmaid's eye, and ordered Lager for both of us.  Then, with drinks in hand, we headed into the beer garden, where it was quieter and less crowded.  We found an empty table and sat in silence for several minutes.

"OK," I asked finally, "do you believe me?"

Mary looked at me and shrugged.  "I don't know what to think," she answered.  “It all seems so impossible.”

“Do you believe I’m an alien?”

She lifted her shoulders in a big shrug.  “I don’t know,” she said listlessly.  “Maybe.”

"We’re in the middle of May," I pointed out.  "Have you ever known weather like this in May?"

"No," she replied, "but they say it's due to global warming."

I snorted with derision.  "The temperature's shot right up in the last few weeks," I said.  "Not even the most ardent of warmists has ever predicted that happening."

"No, but, ... ."  She paused, frowning, "to say the world's ending, you can't be serious?"

"Yes I am," I told her.  "The sun will explode, destroying the earth.  I've seen it happen before, and it’s unstoppable."

"Then why hasn't anybody said anything?"

"I don't know.  Maybe because nobody wants to cause panic,“ I replied.  “Anyway, the reason‘s unimportant.  All that matters is that you’re transformed in the next few hours."


"Turned into a being like myself," I told her, "so you can escape to safety."

"Are you going to do that for everyone?"

"No," I said, shaking my head.  "I can only transform one person, then I have to recuperate, which takes a long time."  I slid my hand towards her across the table top.  “Wouldn’t you like to be able to do this?” I asked, changing my forefinger into a fork again.

Mary shook her head vehemently.  “No,” she said plaintively, “I want things to be the way they’ve always been.”

Growing weary, I delivered my ultimatum.  “I’m leaving,” I said.  “Either come with me, or stay here.  Your choice, but if you stay, you die.”  I pushed my stool back and stood up.  “Well, are you coming?” I inquired sternly.  Mary looked up at me, her eyes glazed.  A tear trickled down her cheek as she rocked her head from side to side.  Angry at her inaction, I grabbed her by the hand and pulled.  She rose without resisting.  “OK,” I said sharply, “let’s go.”  Without waiting for an answer, I led her out the pub and back towards the hall.  We walked in silence.  At one point she looked at me, but said nothing.

I took Mary to her room.  Taking the bag from her hand, I found her key and unlocking her door.  Pushing her inside, I followed.  I closed the door and locked it, threw the bag on the bed, and drew the curtains.  Facing her in the gloom, I touched her gently on the shoulder, keenly aware of how vulnerable she was.  

“What now?” she asked in a strained voice.

I held out my hand.  “Now,” I said, “you put your hand in mine.  There will be a moment’s pain, then we’ll fuse.  Don’t fight it.  That way it will hurt less.”  

“You’re not lying to me, are you?” she asked desperately.

I shook my head.  “No, Mary, I’m not lying to you,” I replied truthfully.  Mary looked at me gravely, hesitated, then placed her small, damp, hand into mine.  Quickly, I closed my hand firmly over it and squeezed.  Uttering a cry, her eyes widened in fear as first her hand, then her arm, dissolved into writhing, vaporous, mist.  Words were unnecessary in conveying her panic as her whole body transformed into seeming nothingness.  Then she slid into unconsciousness.

It was nearly an hour before we separated.  In that time Mary had become a being of ethereal beauty.  She floated in the centre of the room, an undifferentiated cloud of glowing energy.  Slowly, she  returned to consciousness.  As I had been when I was transformed, she was utterly bewildered by the otherworldly strangeness of her new being.  Both a blessing and a curse, she was now able to perceive so much more, yet feel so much less.

Her mind reached out to mine.  Like a little child in unfamiliar surroundings, she was terrified.  Inchoate thoughts swirled, unbidden, between us as she struggled to make sense of it all.  Ignorant of the rudiments of control, she was descending into a maelstrom of madness.  "Stop!" I commanded,  "focus on me."  I felt her rush towards me, all fear and longing.  "Be still," I ordered, "you must learn how to master yourself."  

"Where am I," she wailed, "I can't see anything."

"All in good time," I told her.  “First you must calm down.  Then I will show you all you need to know."  And show her I did.  Slowly, gently, I led her from ignorance to knowledge.  By morning she was able to form herself into the likeness of anything she chose.  It was time for her to travel.

The ability to move between energy and matter is the hallmark of my kind.  As energy we are able to traverse the galaxy at the speed of light.  And when we reach our destination we can transform ourselves into material beings able, within reason, to take any form we choose.  To impersonate a planet is quite impossible, but assuming the appearance of an elephant, say, is easy.  Please be clear on one point though.  We do not become the thing we are impersonating.  All we do is assume its outer appearance.  So we cannot experience the world through its senses.  This is the curse that we are afflicted with.  

Now, with the harsh light of morning filling the room, it was time for Mary to become a true being of the universe.  It was not a step to be rushed.  As pure energy, I had her move a few inches, then a few feet, and finally from one side of the room to the other.  Only then, when I was sure she had mastered the procedure, did I allow her to pass beyond the confining walls of the room.  As a first step we moved to the edge of the lake.  The lake formed the centrepiece of the park in which the university had been built.  Fringed with rushes, and bordered by overhanging trees, it had been a haven of tranquillity amidst the bustle of the busy campus.  Usually cool so early in the morning, it was now already sweltering.

A thick haze covered the lake’s surface.  Through it the ghostly outline of trees loomed, grey shadows in the mist.  Not a breath of wind disturbed the eerie calm.  No grebe honked.  No bird sang.  All was silence.  Mary turned to me and pointed at the sky.  It sparkled with a thousand shimmering colours, an ominous sign that the end was near.  Soon every living thing would be dead.  It was time to leave the earth.

“The end is near,” I told Mary voicelessly, “time to leave.”

“Not yet.” she pleaded.

“We need to get to safety,” I explained.  “Events are unpredictable this close to the end.”

“I want to see my family first.”

I looked at the sky.  As far as I could tell we would be safe for a few more hours.  “Alright,” I said, “but we must be quick.”  In an instant we were standing outside Mary’s house, a modest semi with pebble dashed rendering.  In the drive stood a tired looking hatchback, its green paintwork faded and dusty.  “In you go,” I told her, nodding in the direction of the front door.

She looked bemused.  “I can’t,” she replied, “I haven’t got my key.”

I shook my head at her foolishness.  “You don’t need a key,” I reminded her, “not now.”  Sensing her hesitation, I led her into the hall, where the heat was intense.  “They may already be dead,” I warned her.  “With this level of radiation nobody will be alive in an hour or two.”  She recoiled at the thought, her mind clinging desperately to the hope that nothing would change.

"Don't say that," she cried out, "please."  She raised a hand to wipe away non existent tears.  I watched as her face dissolved into a formless, featureless, blob.

"Letting them see you like that will definitely finish them off," I scolded.  Her face snapped back to its accustomed look.  She began to climb the stairs, hand on banister.  Half way up she paused, afraid of what she might find.  I climbed up to her and held her hand.  Then, together, we climbed to the top.  "Which is your parents' room?" I asked.  Mary pointed to a door directly in front of us.  "Alright, in you go," I said, "but be prepared for the worst."  She gave me a harrowing look before grasping the door handle and pushing.

She entered, and I followed.  Even with the windows flung wide open it was suffocatingly hot inside.  Two figures lay sprawled on a double bed.  Mary issued a silent, piercing, scream on beholding the putrefying bodies of her parents.  It was obvious, right away, that both were dead.  I grabbed her and dragged her from the room.  On the landing I held her tightly until her pain subsided.

"I warned you," I said gently.  "It will be the same everywhere."  I paused to let my meaning sink in.  "It's time to go."

Mary looked at me and shook her head.  "My big sister," she spluttered, "I have to see what's happened to my sister."  She broke free of my grasp and rushed into another bedroom.  "Ruth," she called out, "Ruth, are you all right?"  Hearing a weak moan I knew that Ruth, Mary's sister, was still alive.  Entering the bedroom, I saw Mary bent over a recumbent figure of a young woman.  I could tell, straight away, that it wouldn’t be long before Ruth, too, would be dead.

I waited patiently while Mary patted the face of her sister.  It was not a long wait.  I glided towards Mary and spoke.  "She's gone," I told her gently, "and now it's time for us to go as well."  Mary shook her head in sorrow, but did not resist as I pulled her away from her sister's deathbed. There would be time for mourning, but now we had to make our escape.  Leading Mary, I carried her upwards, upwards, and away from the doomed planet she had always called home.

Our first stop was the moon.  From its barren surface we stood and gazed at the earth, now covered in cloud as the oceans boiled beneath the pitiless sun.  Soon it would be as bleak and hostile as the moon, its protective atmosphere stripped away.  I turned and looked at the fiery red orb of the sun.  It was already expanding, and would soon consume the earth.  It was time to reach safety beyond outermost bounds of the solar system.

The last convulsive act of the drama happened a little sooner than I expected.  Even at our great distance, the outpouring of energy nearly overwhelmed us.  We were flung far out into interstellar space by great waves of energy and charged particles.

Both of us survived, though it took us time to revive.  When our wits returned we headed towards the heart of the galaxy.  Behind us lay the embers of a once bright star and the lost hopes of an entire species.  We will travel from world to world, marvelling at everything nature has created until, finally, I tire.  Then I will head off, like my teacher before me, towards the very edge of the universe.  Perhaps Mary will join me in this, my last quest.  Or maybe, as I chose to do long ago, she will continue to journey between worlds.

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