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                                               Chapter 2.  Then There Was Light 

...And then I saw the light. 

     So radiant and bright, it seemed like a supernova or a gamma burst. Thus began a strange series of events, which I thought you would find incredible. I am sure you have never heard anything like it.

    The beams came in an instantaneous flash of brilliance. Its radiance shined throughout the room with such intensity that I wasn’t able to see anyone or anything. I had to close my eyes again, although I found that light was so bright it even seemed to penetrate through my eyelids. I hadn’t yet realized I was not alone, so my first instinct was to get up and turn the other way until I could figure out what was going on.

     “You can open your eyes, now” he said, as he shut down the beam of light.  I then opened my eyes, but the radiance of the bright light which had been shining into them had blinded me momentarily.  Slowly I turned around, and though I couldn’t see a thing yet, it became apparent that someone was trying to make verbal contact.  I didn’t know if it was photon lasers that blinded me.  I was glad these phasers were only on the stun setting and not the sun setting or something worse.

     “Do not worry about the momentary blindness, you are going to see what is out there very soon”, said the voice.  And gradually my eyes became re-adapted to the room, with all its familiarity and purpose it had had before.  I couldn’t think of anything to say, and all I could do was ask “What do you want?” 

     “Just a friendly conversation, really that is all”, the luminary said.

     I still couldn’t see my uninvited interloper, but he did speak with a strange accent, something between an Eastern Irish Brogue and a western Stonehenge articulation, something seems to explain his quaintly tasteful English accent.  I was hoping this student of the druids would not need to look for a human sacrifice in a bizarre Beltane celebration. 

     My judgment seemed unimpaired as I wasn’t scared by the hideous visitor.  Perhaps that is the irony of blind justice:  What I couldn’t see couldn’t scare me.   Sometimes the unknown can be a passive comfort.  He may have been a shaman or a showman practicing some altered state of consciousness, but whatever the case, I was curious as to his true intentions. 

     Still reeling from a momentary blindness from the initial flash, my sight was getting better little by little I asked “Why did you blitz me just now?  I know I am a light sleeper, but those beams were rather strong.”

     He ignored my light pun in favor of a response that was most intriguing:  “We creatures from the planet Zatox have found that when we encounter intelligent life forms on your planet, we need a little lead time to investigate if they as individuals are not in fact a threat to us.  By blinding you momentarily we check whether or not you have the integrity to be trusted, and whether you will harm us with your primitive weapons.  Once we have been assured that we are not in danger we turn off the blinding beams of light so that the individual life form can become reacquainted with its surroundings.  We find this is much more effective than regular abductions.  I do say, of course, that I would not know because I have never abducted anyone.”

     That was a relief.  His explanation seemed rational enough.  Though it sounded well-rehearsed, it was logical from step to step across its many moving parts.  I appreciated this. At least he didn’t greet me with the popular demand “Where are your rebel bases?”  I had no idea where they were anyway, and was still preoccupied with where I was in the scheme of things.   

     Now feeling wide awake and admittedly challenged cerebrally, I was able to begin trying to figure out which one of my crazy but bored friends was attempting to fool me in this insolent practical joke.  Whoever it was, the intruder was dressed up in what appeared to me to be one of the most elaborate alien costumes I could have ever dreamed up.  Those tenaciously tantalizing tentacles and spirally elaborate appendages were just too much.  And that head seemed a bit too original to have been created by anyone these days.  Could he have been some prankster from Candid Camera?  Was it Alan Funt under there? 

     Somewhat amused, I debated whether to play along, or to find out who was behind the prank.  I decided to let the curiosity get the best of me.  “Okay”, I said, pulling at what appeared to be visitor’s head or whatever you could call it.  “Off with your head!” I yelled as I grabbed at the intruder’s top appendage.

     “Hey!” he screamed.  “What sort of greeting is that?  I am pretty sure from observing your planet that that’s not a typical greeting you make to one another.  Is that how you greet aliens to your planet?  Like something from Alice in Wonderland?”

     Having decided I was wrong about the earthly derivation of this weird wanderer, and accepted for the moment that he may have actually been from a distant planetary system, I was considering telling him that this was indeed our earthly custom and represents how we humans greet aliens who visit us.  But then I reconsidered this, and decided that it would be impolite to give the visitor incorrect information.  It would be a disservice to his research efforts to purposely give him the wrong idea about our customs.  Besides, even if this is really the accustomed way many of us greet our fellow humans in our fantasies, I really didn’t want an alien trying to pull my head off.  So, I thought carefully about my next statement.

     “I’m so sorry, I thought you were trying to invade my planet.”  Then I thought that was a dumb thing to say.  But then again, the alien did succeed to catch me off-guard.

     “Not at all”, he responded quickly as if his response was prepared.  It seemed to me he knew the head-cover story was just a cover up.  He should, after all, been made aware of human behavior, and should know that we invest a lot of resources just to cover up our mistakes.  I think he may have already had an idea who the real monsters were behind these masks we wear.  “I am just seeking out certain individual people who can help me understand human society.  Our sociologists on Zatox want to know why you people do what you do, in order to enhance our understanding of alien socio-economic behaviour” he assured me.

     I was somewhat amused by his Stonehenge English education, and the accent which was apparent in the pronunciation of the word “behavior”.  He didn’t stutter like a stranger in a strange land would.  His patois seemed totally au-naturel.  The druids had taught him well.

     Now that my eyes had adjusted to the light, I noticed that he didn’t look like an Earth human or even a lunar luman.  He was as weird looking as an Outer Limits Luminoid conducting a feasibility study of the inner limits of the human brain and the effects that our dumbing-down media has had on those limits.

     But like others before me, I didn’t know why I was selected.  So I asked an elementary question posed by someone who has been selected but isn’t sure whether that person has the qualifications. 

   “Why ME?” I asked, in one of those questions posed many times, ever since the beginning.  “It would be better that you demand what other aliens have traditionally asked in the movies:  ‘Take me to your leader.’ Why indeed me, of all people?  Certainly there are other more qualified people who can help you in your research.  Obviously, I’m not the best human to help you out.  I am not part of the workforce and am something of a disengaged alien within my own social strata.  After all, I have been unemployed for so long that I should be seen as something of an outsider – a social outcast of sorts.”

     His response was immediate: “That is exactly why I need to talk to you and other disenfranchised humans like you.  After all, who would be better to explain human behaviour in society than someone who feels left out of it?” he asked somewhat rhetorically.

    “Why?  What’s so special about us?” I asked the probing alien with intrepid curiosity of my own.  I wasn’t afraid to listen to what he had to say.  I thought I had heard it all before, anyway. 

     “The long-term unemployed comprise a uniquely qualified group.  No other class of people is more dedicated to be successful at any job.  No group of people has ever worked harder and more earnestly without earning anything.  They have developed unique coping skills of survival and perseverance.  They are constantly exercising the brain cells as to how to get inside the door.  If rejected at the door they try opening another one.  When all the doors are shut they try to get in through a window.  Constantly thinking, strategizing, calculating, they have developed nimble skills in skulls that otherwise would go numb with atrophy.   They rely on untapped innate talents and creatively explore the inside of their minds to find solutions.  They are always trying to find a neural pathway to success.  They are pathfinders with a desire to dig deeper.  They have fired more neurons than the fireworks on the fourth of July.  In looking for creative ways to earn their keep, they have kept their wits about them, flexing their brain muscles with exercises of neuroplasticity, knowing full well that the exercise could be just another one of futility.   But they don’t throw in the towel.  Like the search for intelligent life in the stars, they continue looking, seeking, reaching out.  Despite their feeling of being ignored they continue their quest.  Despite all the rejections they have encountered along the way, they have succeeded in keeping a positive attitude.  They are a creative bunch.  They don’t give up hope.  They never surrender.  Their ability to work hard is unequaled by anyone in the workforce.”

     “They may be experienced professionals whose skills are getting rusty.  Or they may be recent college graduates who just want to get their careers started in an honest hard-working job and put all their education to use.  They may also be returning veterans who have developed a strong, reliable work ethic to perform with grace under pressure.  Whatever the level of experience, they have been looking for work for a long time and despite the temptations to do so, they do not give up.  They are earnestly eager to earn.   They are like flying Dutchmen ships seeking new ports for docking and new doors for knocking.  They don’t stop working hard without recompense.  They know they can and access and retrieve their experience and talent that are untapped by those very employers who reject them.  They are dedicated to family and society.  When they are not volunteering their time and contributing in to the community, they are looking for a paid job.  They try to follow rules so as not to appear too pushy, while finding ways to follow up even when an ad reads “no phone calls please.”

     Wow!  His refreshing diatribe really made me think.  Someone was really watching.   His exposé was quite an eye-opener, one which never seemed to impress the newspapers.   The media never seemed interested in our story, preferring to expose scandals and celebrities.  The alien’s remarks seemed to indicate first contact with a problem that has plaguing persons of our civilization for too long a time. Someone was actually taking notice of the long-time “wannabes” who strive not to be “wouldabeens” or “couldabeens”.   It was the first time I heard anyone from this world or another one talk seriously about us and take notice. 

      He had been raising titanic points of cerebrally superior strategic analysis.  He understood our weakness.  Though he was aware of the underlying causes of social decay, he was determined to better understand the underlying economic problems plaguing civilization specifically on Earth.  He perhaps wanted to compare these observations with those made on other planets, comparing the resulting dilemmas which occur when the talented and motivated natives not utilized, credited, and nurtured. 

     He then added, “It is important to my species to understand the nature of human waste.”

     The alien obviously didn’t understand the double-entendre of his wording.  I did, after all, feel like a product of human waste.  Feces of the human species. 

     The alien seemed to take notice of my reaction.  Then, realizing he had just made a serious faux pas, he tried to effect reparations:

      “I have selected you to act as my teacher, because you seem epitomize a group of people who tend to feel wasted.”

      Another faux pas on his part.  I tried not to smile, but it was difficult.  My amusement was short lived, however, when I realized the importance of such an investigation.  Though he was interviewing me, I felt privileged to represent and speak for the many others out there who could have helped develop the nation.  I myself had felt that I could have helped prevent the embarrassment generated from various software projects.  We don’t hear much about them in the news like the Affordable Healthcare Act website, but I know that the site’s problems are symptoms of other misguided projects out there in the national cyberspace mall of infamy. 

      I had been selected by the alien to represent a larger class of unemployed talent victimized by a bizarre and anomalous demonic morality that demoralized an entire class of people.  This amoral de-morality motivated me to make a personal commitment to spill my human guts even if that may disgust this extraterrestrial whose external guts disgusted me already.  If this weren’t a dream, his guts would be giving me nightmares for a long time.

      I have had nightmares before, particularly this recurring one:  It would start with me lying on the ground.  I look up and see someone else that looked like myself at the top of a balcony overlooking a railing, then after a deep breath, that person would turn away from the balcony and look down in my direction.  Then I see another person looking like me running up the stairs, yelling “Hey you!  Hold it right there!”  When he gets to the top of the stairs the two guys who look like me start arguing.  A struggle ensues, and the guy who was at the top then falls over the balcony railing into an abyss.  I then yell up the stairs to the murderer “Hey you!  Hold it right there!” running up to the top of the stairs accusing him of murder, and we start pushing each other.  The next thing I know, he is going over the side.  I would then look over the railing where he fell and see nothing but darkness and wonder what was in that abyss that a body could fall without a noise.  Then I would turn around away from the balcony and see another person that also looked like me materialize on the ground where I had been when the dream started.  I was about to call out to him, but then was interrupted by someone yelling “Hey you!  Hold it right there!” while running up the stairs just like I did a moment ago.  When he gets to the top I notice he also looks like me.  He wants to know why I pushed that guy off the balcony, and we start pushing each other.  In one of the shoves I go over the railing.  I then feel myself falling and falling into some dark abyss, and no one is ever there with a rapid eye to catch me in the rye. 

      Unlike most endings, this end would precede a new start.  After the end I would wake up with a start.  And so the transition from witness to pursuer to victim would have to continue in another round in the next subsequent REM cycle to be started all over again.

      The alien’s comments had been most intriguing.  And entertaining as well as stimulating.  For the first time in a long time I felt myself intellectually challenged, trying to connect the alien’s salient points in order to comprehend his line of reasoning.  His enigmatic accent added to the intrigue, and now I began to consider the perceptions of my own self-worth going on the rise, at least momentarily.  This was indeed a welcome change of pace.  After a morning of job submissions and guilt-trips that tired me to no end, I thought the prospect of helping an alien justify his own trip in order to better understand us was a worthwhile task.  If this were a dream, I suppose I was playing the part of witness in something that seemed at least to be novel material. 

     Then I thought:  Could he be a spy trying to see what the foundations of our social weaknesses are?  Was I right in my first impression about his desire to perform a feasibility study as prelude to invasion, so that his species could better understand our own outer limits of intelligence?  Was he looking for structural weaknesses in the tenuous beams that hold up the unstable molecular structure of society?  Was he working to ring down the structure?  Could he have been part of a reconnaissance team, gathering information as a prelude to invasion prior to the first wave?  

     Then I thought again.  If this interstellar investigator was really trying to prepare his people to invade and take over our planet, his kind would have already succeeded in doing so.  If this alien visitor was any indication, his extraterrestrial species could have easily taken over our planet.  Their technology was obviously more advanced than ours, as indicated by his ability to travel vast distances across space.  Only a species with such a superior intellect could have understood the intricacies and challenges inherent in designing technology for interstellar travel.  It takes more than just a human thumb and forefinger to develop a technology that would enable making such a big leap that mankind could only dream of.  A race of superior minds with enhanced reasoning capacity would be required to come this far.

     So, I responded to his request to better understand human social behavior.  “I would be most pleased to help you out in your research.  What do you need?”  I asked, rather pleased to have been selected as a representative.  At least now I was bringing value to the galaxy.  For the time being, this being of time travel was ready to give me something to do, and something of great universal value: laying the groundwork for mutual understanding across vast distances.   

     He paused, as if to cater to my own self-indulgence in perceiving myself as being useful.  Then, after he noticed I seemed to return to earth, he summarized his tactics, saying:  “I would just like to carry on a conversation. Something like an interview,” he said, seeming to choose his words carefully. 

     I liked that word ‘interview’ and immediately was sold on the idea.  I had, after all, not had too many interviews over the past several years.  So, having nothing else to do, and times being what they are, I took the ‘job’ without thinking about compensation.    

     My first thought after calming down and experiencing the return of my visual senses was, could I write down this conversation and sell it to the public in order to be able to pay rent and put food on the table?   

     As if in answer to my thoughts, he said: “You can write down whatever you want, but please do not try to record my voice.  Your contraptions will not be able to pick up my words, anyway.  Also, before I leave I may have to erase your memory of everything that happened from the moment you saw the beams of light I shined upon you”

     This provision of memory deletion worried me.  I didn’t want to live under the influence of one of those flash-beam-pen devices from the Men in Black movies which they called a “standard issue neutralizer” (SIN) that would erase my memory, because I felt I earned all the memories I experienced and had a right to remember them fondly if they turned out to be good ones. 

     I would be greatly disappointed that the alien would consider flashing the beams of one of these SIN devices in my eyes.  It was the principle of the thing, a matter of male pride.  A man’s pride is his castle and caste of his memories, and it’s no coincidence that the Hebrew word root word for masculine is also “to remember”.   Call it Mars-like male pride, a type of “Yang” that motivated me, but I was dead set against the of the SIN device.  I wanted to remember; to remember everything, lest I forget.  

     On the other hand, perhaps more important the sunny and bright yang side against SIN was the more practical and sombre yin side that understood the practical benefits brought about by the opportunity to tell the public about my close encounter of the fifth kind so that I could make money big bucks selling and telling my story.  I really needed the money, so I was further motivated to not allow the SIN device from being employed. 

     With both the Yin and Yang arguments balanced in support my tempered thinking, I protested:  “Why do you have to erase my memory?   Is there a danger to you if my people find out about your existence?  To live through such an experience and not be able to tell it – well, that’s like being involved in a close encounter of the worst kind.” 

     Now for the first time, the alien seemed unprepared for something I said.  He may not have understood my protests, and it looked like I made him have to think of what to say next.  Why did he need to use that memory erasing device?  Did he feel that there was a danger to his own alien-kind if we found out about them?  Were they afraid of our negative influence?  Were they being prudent just in case our own human stupidity infected them to the point that they might try to imitate us?  Or, maybe his bosses would fire him for writing material that was considered unbelievably far-fetched science fiction for them.  No alien in his or her right mind would believe our stupidity.

     I wished I could be a fly on the wallpaper of his thoughts – then finally I could get the advantage.  After having considered my question he replied: “The danger that exists is not so much to me, but to you.  I am concerned that you would be ostracized and alienated by your society and then labeled ‘insane’ by many of your fellow humans.”

     This time I couldn’t hold back.  I had to smile and chuckle a bit.  His comment amused me after having considered the long time I had been out of work, knowing full well what that feeling of alienation meant, particularly when one is among one’s own people. It was also ironic that an alien from the outside was concerned about my own alienation from within.  I responded, “That’s all right, I don’t mind being made fun of.  Actually, it might be a good thing and help bring a little money into my life.  After all, the UFO abduction industry is really big here on earth.  And by being part of that industry I could become an instant celebrity.  That’s why I would like to ask you to please not erase my memory of this encounter!”

     The alien frowned a little – at least I think he did - and thought some more – at least it looked like he did.  It seemed to me as though he was thinking for an eternity, weighing the pros and cons of our business arrangement.  He certainly appeared to know how to think in an original and creative way, and that was something I was not too familiar with these days on Earth. Then finally, after what seemed to me to be another eon, he appeared to have made up his mind.  

     I still wasn’t sure about his intentions vis-à-vis Earth.  Was he a friend or foe or fey?  A capitalist from a red state or a communist from a red state?  Was his planet rogue or Khmer Rouge?  Was he a buddy or a comrade?    One of the folks or a subversive shpion?   A Bolshevik red-rum master spy?  Was this alien ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’?  

      “I will tell you what,” he proposed.  “If you assist me in my research by helping me understand some why the human experience is the way it is, I will reward you by keeping our encounter in the realm of a dream.  I will not be erasing your memory, but it will be remembered as a day-dream only.  You can write all about our encounter afterwards.  That way I can be assured that there will not too many pauses in the course of our discussion, which I would prefer to run smoothly.  Is that all right with you, human?”

     Wow!!!  Was such a thing possible?!!!  I had heard of turning dream into reality, but never the opposite.  I was intrigued – and perhaps very curious – about such possibilities…but to leave me a memory without proof...that would by a pseudo-reality rather challenging to live with. 

    I remember when I was a student at the university I had a mentor, Dr. Irvin Levin, a noted physical chemist who had a profound influence on my life, had told me about an unpublished manuscript he wrote called “The Archangels” in which Adam was being shown by Gabriel or Raphael the future of humanity.  In his story, Adam reached out and touched the portal and it was gelatin-like. This was one of the sequences he talked about, but other than the jelly-like portal into our future, I was sorry I didn’t remember more because the book sounded compelling but was never published and the manuscript got lost.  I thought about “Archangels” for many years, and together with some parts of Milton’s Paradise Lost, it provided me the enjoyment of philosophical pondering.

     In the meantime I was thinking over the alien’s proposed dream idea as a proposed condition to continue the encounter, and wondered if people would believe a story which was progressing like mine.  Would they consider it balderdash or codswallop insanity?  I then asked the alien somewhat apprehensively, “You won’t need to do any poking or stabbing……..as part of your exploratory operations as we have heard about every now and then, will you?”

     He snorted in a way that reminded me of a laugh I have heard people make every now and then, and I supposed it really was a laugh.  “Do not worry.  All the investigations will be communicated verbally.  Do you have any questions, human?”

     The alien evidently had orders to find and test a subject and I was the test subject.  His mission was to examine and perhaps to compare my tempra-mental, experi-mental case with other mental cases among the human-beings.  Perhaps I should have felt honored at being selected.  Instead, I was a bit concerned, as I didn’t really like needles.  

     “So are you sure there won’t be any stabbing?” I asked.

     “No.”

     “No cutting or piercing?”

     “Only through mantles of uncertainty.”

     “Any poking?”

     “Only for the truth out there.”

     “Any needles?  Any injecting?”

     “No. Only of ideas.”

      “Any pain”?

      “Ah, that is a different question,” he responded, putting an end to all his snippy answers.  “I cannot guarantee that some of the discussion will not cause some sort of mental anguish, because they are, after all, human related.  But I promise I will not pull your hair, pinch your skin, give you a hot-foot, engage in water-boarding or cause any type of physical wounds your sadistically creative human imagination can conjure up.  Nothing personal, of course…”

     Did he mean “nothing personal” in terms of the possible pain, or in terms of his previous comment about the sadistic nature of human beings?  His ambiguous choice of words indicated to me that this close encounter would be uniquely intriguing.  To keep the conversation moving, I asked “I’m relieved to hear there won’t be any wounds involved”.

     Besides, I thought, if he poked me too much, wounded me too severely or even pinched me too hard, I might wake up, and that would be the end – of what, I’m not sure.  In any case, the end would be way too early, before its time. 

     The alien continued with his reassuring disclaimer:  “No physical wounds, human,” he corrected me rather insolently but reassuringly. He seemed a bit nasty, but frank and apparently honest.  He was gradually building up trust with me, by employing frequent disclosures and disclaimers.  “You should be made aware that we may be touching some sensitive spots and could possibly open some contentious emotional wounds to which you may be sensitive.” 

     I understood the distinction.  Mental anguish could at times be equally painful and in fact be exceedingly so.  I guess there’s some truth to the expression ‘No pain, no gain.’  I then considered the long term aspects, asking “Will I have recurring nightmares or other unseemly dreams?”

     “Not unless you resort to your own prolific imagination.  Where you row, row, row your boat is your business, even if life is but a dream.”

     Interesting, how he knew about that song.  I continued the disclaimer interrogation I had initiated:  “So there won’t be any use of traditional human torture techniques?”

     “None of the inquisition type which members of your species have customarily applied towards themselves.  Everything will be done in a most civilised manner, even by your primitive human standards.”  

     Though condescending, my guest was polite. His British phonetic style with preferences to suffixes spelled “ise” rather than “ize” implicitly suggested that I should perhaps consider serving my guest some tea, although it was only a little past noon.  While I went to the kitchen sink to get water to boil, I admit I was relieved to hear that he was a civilized alien.

     I was enjoying the banter; it was altogether refreshing!  Having thought even more about the research-interview, I was in fact more than relieved!!  I was now trying to hide my excitement, although with such a being I had a feeling that was useless. “That’s fine,” I said.  “Let’s get started.  Can I serve you some tea?  I have quite a selection from which to choose.”

     In fact, I was more than excited.  Here I was, involved in what perhaps was the first interstellar contact!!!  I couldn’t wait to get started with the research process.

     How did that childhood song go?  Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily…merrily…merrily…merrily…life is but a beam…

     I was feeling giddy and a bit silly, perhaps justifiably ecstatic from the first encounter.  If this were indeed an impossible dream, maybe that double negation turned this into a positively possible reality.

     “So, what are we waiting for?  Let the investigation begin!”

     I couldn’t wait to get started.        

 

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    Click here for the next chapter: 3. "Trees of Life"