An attempt at a Sci-fi story.
As the airlock encloses me I ponder the bizarre events of forty years ago. Momentarily, I relive a time that is still vivid in my memory; a time that is so real to me that I am once again there.
“I’m afraid I haven’t got good news for you Tom.” My specialist usually said Mr. Smith; my heart hits my boots. Not good news is obviously going to be bloody awful news.
“Don’t wrap it up Doc, give it to me straight.” I don’t recognise my own voice and the words I use are equally foreign, as though I’d picked them up from a third rate soap opera.
“Your latest results have confirmed my worst fears.” He’s trying to say what he has to say gently but he might as well clout me with a baseball bat. It hurts just as much. I wince from the violent impact of those eight words.
“How long have I got?” I try to make it casual but my lips are trembling and my voice shows it.
“Ten to fourteen days.”
Oh God! I didn’t expect that. I feel myself go cold, colder than I’ve ever been before, even when I was first diagnosed. It’s a cold that starts at the top of my head and then flows in slow ripples down my body to the soles of my feet.
“You can stay with us if you wish. We can look after you.” He’s trying to be kind.
“No; thanks; I’ve got things to do, arrangements to make,” I hear my newly strange voice mumble. My mind’s numb and I get up and leave. I don’t even say goodbye.
The exit from his rooms leads onto a market square which throngs with busy, healthy, long lived normal people. Will they mind the walking dead mingling with them? I shuffle along one edge of well stocked stalls and head for the Victorian covered market hall. Vendors offer me a three year guarantee on their goods. I mutter an obscenity. They’re not being unkind, they simply don’t know. I’m not in charitable mood. Ahead of me is a street musician.
There are two things wrong to my eyes; the man himself and the instrument he’s playing. Both are very odd. I know the one because I’m an orchestral musician myself; or I used to be in a previous, healthier life. I can’t identify the instrument except that it’s flute-like but is definitely not a flute, either ancient or modern. The sound that’s coming from it is, frankly, exquisite– this is no common busker. I know orchestras that would kill to employ him. The other, the player himself, is also strange. He’s wearing very large dark glasses in mid winter and is enveloped in an all covering cloak.
I halt my shuffle four or five yards from this spectacle and listen, entranced, temporarily forgetting my condition completely. There is a therapeutic quality to some music and this fellow’s unidentified composition is very special. I stand there for as long as my weakened legs will tolerate but I’m eventually jostled to normal consciousness and the reality of my lot by impatient passers by. Opening my wallet I take out the one large bank note that I’m carrying in it and place it in the musicians tin. I can manage quite well now with the change in my pocket. I don’t look at him and carry on to the market hall and the small café I know.
“Yes dear?” the girl behind the counter asks.
“Just a coffee please,” I hold out trembling hands. “Would you bring it to me; I think I’d spill it all.”
She looks quite concerned, bless her. “Of course I will my love.”
I sit down my increasingly gaunt frame inside my increasingly ill fitting suit, at a corner table, with my back to the rest of the room. They won’t want to look at a wreck like me. It’d put them off their food. The sugar is in a bowl instead of a pourer. I manage to get some of my three teaspoonfuls in the cup and hope that no one’s watching. I sigh, what a mess! No ones fault, just one of those things. I simply can’t believe what I’ve been told. Ten days and then – nothing?
Staring into my coffee I feel myself beginning to dive headfirst into the deepest of justifiable deep depressions when my self pity is interrupted by a hand briefly touching the skeletal bone that’s become my left shoulder. I don’t know how I know, but even before I see him I know it’s the musician. He sits down in the corner opposite me with a glass of sparkling spring water in front of him.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” he says. His voice has a hissing quality and the words are punctuated with small clicks. Wherever he comes from, he isn’t a native of my shores.
“Pardon?” I sit back in my chair, startled.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” he repeats, with the same hissing clicks.
“What the hell? Who are you? What do you want?” I wear my surprise on my sleeve, there’s no hiding it.
“You are important to your planet.” More hissing and clicking is directed at me.
I look around for possible support. Raving lunatics always have that effect on me. Then cold dry hands grip mine which are wrapped around my coffee cup. I spin back to face him, the few hairs remaining on the back of my neck bristle with shock. If I was able to move I’d hit the café ceiling but he holds me firmly in his grasp.
“Look at me,” his hissing clicks insist.
My mouth opens to shout out aloud as a means of getting some attention but male pride gets in the way, so I look. Releasing one hand he takes off his dark glasses. The eyes behind his shades are wrong. They slant the wrong way and the pupils are perpendicular slits. My cold waves begin rippling again. Before I’ve even begun to recover from this shock he replaces the glasses and spreads his fingers in front of me. They are fully webbed.
“I am from a region of space you call Alpha Centauri.”
He wants my attention. He’s got it; my best, well behaved, speechless attention.
“In a months time you will perform an act that is vital to your planet’s future.”
I get my voice back. “You’re too late friend; I doubt I’ll be here in a week let alone a month.” I take off my permanent head warmer to display my almost bald skull with its few bristles left around the nape. “That’s what Chemotherapy’s done. Chemo that didn’t work; you’re talking to a dead man.” I’m somehow perversely pleased to contradict my weird visitor.
“Take those,” he hisses at me. “First the red and then the blue and lastly the yellow, the order is vital, do not forget.”
Three capsules appear in front of me. And then he’s gone, he just gets up and leaves without another hiss or click.
One month later and I’m out and about getting some fresh air. I took the capsules; well I figured I’d nothing to lose. And here I am feeling well and beginning to fill out my clothes again. It’s a miracle. My stroll, yes, I’m strolling now instead of shuffling, is taking me towards a busy junction across which lies my route home.
“Hello, Mr. Smith.”
It’s my next door neighbours’ eldest lad.
“I’m glad to see you looking so well,” this one has an old head on his shoulders.
“Thank you.” He’s always been the biggest pest in the neighbourhood. Not bad, simply hyperactive and a noisy god damn nuisance. He’s rumoured to be a bit of a prodigy but I don’t neighbour so I miss most of the gossip.
We reach the crossroads together. I stop and true to form Robert doesn’t. The invincibility of youth principal seems to rule his life. The continental juggernaut that’s powering around the corner at full throttle seemingly hasn’t come across that principal. It appears to have one purpose in life and that purpose is to disprove the invincibility of youth principal and blend young Robert into the metalled road surface beneath its fourteen wheels and forty one tonne.
Robert sees it at the last moment and I watch him freeze. A woman at my side screams. The drivers open mouthed face is in shock. How I get to the boy to grab the hood of his jacket and step back in time with him in tow, I don’t know, but I do. Is this the predicted vital act? It doesn’t seem likely at the moment.
The internal door of the airlock whispers open and finishes with a metallic clunk that shakes me out of my reverie and returns me to the present. It is Saturday 22nd March 2025. I’m getting on a bit now at sixty eight but I’m still in perfect health. Robert’s fifty two and something big in the National Space Agency. He’s invented some kind of Interstellar Engine or Drive or something. It’s going to be the saviour of the human race and the dying Earths fauna and flora. This craft is the first of many Arks to come. He’s never forgotten my contribution which is why I’m here as his guest for this inaugural flight.
As soon as we’re in space I intend to tell Robert about my musician.
Hopefully we may even try to find him. Alpha Centauri is no distance at all now. Thanks to Robert and the musician and me.