The People with the Missing Nothing

The People with the Missing Nothing


J J Dewey

(This is another early story. I believe I finished it early in 1962. It is over 12,000 words and will take a little time but I think you will enjoy it.)

The snow crunched to the pacing of my weary feet. The air was bitter and cold; the twilight still, calm, and undisturbed. I looked up at my destination; that which would be my conquest, my exultation, that obstruction which has exhilarated the minds of man from the beginning. This mountain along with others has brought courage from the coward, strength from the weak, dreams from the unimaginative, and conquest for those who have ventured upon it. So beautiful was the white blanket which covered it, so great its size, yet ever so treacherous is its surface.

Vulnerability was becoming apparent as my limbs lost their sense of existence as my body grew numb, yet my soul found peace, my being sought rest. The motion of the organic and non-organic was still as tranquility reached its apex.

Suddenly nature seemed hurried and applied its forces to strip me of mortality. The earth seemed to shake as the whiteness of the snow grew dark and the conscious ceased to exist. The period in between was like the twinkling of an eye but whether long or short, I don’t know. The unforeseen consciousness was becoming apparent as a warmth; a flow of life seemed to again dominate my body as the crystals of frozen fluid within my limbs were again liquid and responded to the beat of my heart.

I opened my eyes to view heaven, or hell, only to find myself enclosed within a rectangular box about ten feet long with a width and height of about half that. My eyes were filled with light which was emitted from the walls — so bright were the rays emitted that it caused my flesh to glow with exceeding radiance. These rays seemed to give my body warmth and supply my soul with energy. I felt my body growing increasingly stronger, my limbs were again flexible. As I arose, I noticed the side which made the length opened like that of a sliding door to reveal a group of spectators. Each had a look of keen interest on their faces. Perhaps I should have jumped up and down with joy and asked for Saint Peter — but the memory of the warm room canceled the thought, and perhaps I had not yet bid farewell to mortality.

Well, the guys were yet staring, and they didn’t look like angels or devils; just ordinary men. Their dress was slightly unusual. One of them wore a cape — obviously its purpose was to distinguish authority. They chatted among themselves with a mumbo jumbo I never encountered. Their lips articulated their words very sharply and formed an accent which would be impossible for any man to acquire or imitate. I felt they must have a hell of an alphabet if they put their words in writing.

I saw no means of communication other than sign language. They must have noticed a touch of curiosity in my eyes for they finally took notice and motioned me out. As they did so, one of them with a cape took my hand. His grip was firm and the contact of our flesh seemed to send a voltage of energy tingling through my body. It was unexpected, like that of an electric shock. Following the impulses of the natural man I resisted. My unwillingness caused a static within my brain. Immediately I dropped his hand. I noticed his wrinkled brow – as if my resistance caused a disturbance in his brain also. He raised his hand again, smiled and motioned or me to take it. It was long and slender. The tight stretched skin made the bones very apparent throughout his body. His face had only the essential characteristics and his eyes were etched deep in his forehead revealing the wariness as well as weariness of his leadership. His hair as well as the others was a very light blond and extremely short – probably a few millimeters in length. Something like a three-day beard.

I again looked at the hand. It was quivering slightly — as if it were telling me to take it. I realized that nothing went wrong until I resisted the force of his being. Perhaps if I had allowed the energy to maintain its flow there would have been no alarming effects. Still, I feared the unknown. Finally, the man who appeared to be the leader motioned to two other individuals and spoke a couple sharp words. Their language seemed so acute that I feared it would pierce the soul if spoken loudly. The two men joined hands, closed their eyes, and thrust themselves into a state of concentration. After a short time, they dropped hands, looked my direction, and by the look on their faces they seemed to be saying — “See, won’t hurt you”. The leader again stretched forth his hand. I bit my lip and reached for his. As I held to it I noticed he closed his eyes and concentrated — I did the same. This time I allowed the power of his being to flow into my brain. It brought a rather pleasant sensation. My cranium throbbed upon receiving the impulses of his thought. It brought pictures within my mind which were, no doubt, the same as those contained in his. Consciously the impulses meant nothing, but somehow, I could feel their meaning. The sequence brought meaning through feeling, the same as sound with hearing the difference being that feeling is understood universally. A dog, cat, or even a wild animal can feel love, hate, fear, or anger with no vocal communication. A man communes and makes friends with his dog by using feeling — such as petting him on the head, speaking in kind tones, or using friendly movements. Kind words may be spoken in harsh tones and interpreted by dumb animals as being offensive. The same may be said of humans. By the same principle I could feel his thoughts and get more meaning than if they were spoken, for the world of thought has an unlimited vocabulary.

Within my mind were pictures of the place I was in. It was a large green valley with a shield of ice overlapping hiding the sky. Even so the valley was very illuminated.

I could feel his thoughts; interpreting them from my inner consciousness to the ego: “The pictures you see within your mind are that of this valley which is called Sheldon — named so because of his greatness as our founder. If not for him we would not be, we would have no purpose; for our organization is after the pattern of his thought. I am Evondi – the leader of the people within this valley. A quake opened a gap which created a passageway into this land. You were found near there, your body frozen solid. Because you were not crushed we were able to bring you to life. You shall find our scientific knowledge much superior to yours.”

“This valley is within a mountain range, of which the mountain you were on is one. You see by my thoughts a glacier over our heads yet the valley is warm and green. Also notice the walls of the mountains are illuminated and the ice shield instead of absorbing the light is nearly a perfect reflector and adds to our illumination. The walls formed by the mountains gives off a radiation which heats our lower atmosphere.

We have existed as civilized beings for over 30,000 years. At one time, about 20,000 years age there were about twenty million of us who existed in this valley. At that time our science wasn’t far enough advanced to support any larger number. Our only hope for survival was to set restrictions on reproduction. Tests were given to sort out a select few who were far above par both mentally and physically. These few are our forefathers. From generation to generation the average individual became increasingly more intelligent. We began to obtain great mental powers along with our scientific advancement which has developed at the fastest rate possible considering our population which is now less than 100,000.

You are the first visitor on record from the outside world. Up to this time we have not been able to reach your world by physical means, but the earthquake which brought you here opened a gap through which it is possible to pass.”

“What do you mean ‘by physical means’?” I thought.

Immediately I felt the answer: “Our science has recently, that is relative to our standards of timekeeping, mastered the secret of teleportation With this we have selected certain persons, decomposed them into pure energy and recomposed them on the outside. Unfortunately a tremendous amount of energy is required to accomplish this For every pound of matter we teleport the machine has to use a pound of anti-matter. The element which is the key to its manufacture is presently non-existent. Its supply was exhausted with our last teleportation — five years ago.”

“And during this time when you did visit us you were undetected?” I interrupted.

His thoughts were slightly delayed. “…Yes. We had to be for no one would have believed our real purpose or origin. Those sent on missions were disguised by an artificial means. Our identity shall be made known in our own due time.

During the previous fifty years we have sent a very limited number of persons into your world on varied missions, namely to gain knowledge of your civilization. Our knowledge is limited for soon after teleportation the person is recreated at his place of departure. Because of our mind reading abilities upon contact we have a considerable knowledge of your character traits. Before this gap was opened, we thought any further gain of knowledge about you was impossible, but this hole gives us new hope, hope that we can establish contact with your world and share our scientific wonders. The most advanced of your world would stand in awe when their eyes view our most primitive machines. Our only wish is to establish a peaceful co-existence between your people and ours.

After a time, we shall enter your world and make our presence known – until that time we shall strive to make you most comfortable. Any further questions shall be answered by your guide. Now, if you will please step into this chamber.”

He loosened my hand and motioned me into the chamber. As I sat in the chair within, I feared slightly – the chair looked as if it might have been a means of electrocution. They strapped me down and pulled a few switches, after which a flow of energy vibrated through my body. Within a few seconds the hum of the machines died down and a couple men released me. Others gathered around looking at some data on a screen. Evondi hefted me from a chair thinking: “This process is to determine who shall be your guide. It has analyzed your personality and selected the girl within a select group for whom you’re best suited. Already she is being prepared to meet you. It shall be her duty to answer your additional questions and show you our efforts to make our land great along with the wonders we have produced.”

We discussed further for a time until my head was motioned in the direction of a most beautiful girl, a very most beautiful girl. Holding our hands, Evondi introduced us: “This is Amondie; indeed she is a perfection of beauty. She shall be your guide during your stay. No doubt you shall acquire a notable gain of knowledge from her. I need say nothing more; I sense you shall discover each other with no additional help.”

Evondi joined our hands as we studied each other. Her hair was very much unlike that of the males’. It gleamed with the color of platinum and hung gracefully below her shoulders. So perfectly was it put together that a mere few strands seemed out of order. This in itself added upon perfection. Her skin was very fair; her hand in mine felt tender — so soft and smooth, yet was not limp and was vibrant to the touch. As I studied her face, I realized how incomplete my vocabulary is. A description beyond the symmetrical slanting cheek bones is found only in the world of thought and that would be incomplete. Her beauty… overwhelming; enough said.

Dark blue eyes — staring, a look of devotion, over-supplied with love. They reflected and softened the lights of the building more so than the moon does the sun. The connection of our hands released a world of thought which made clear the purity of herself. My inner self rejoiced upon so much as viewing such a female and immediately felt love — a different kind of love for this girl. Somehow, by the connection of our thought. I was able to know her all at once – because of this, my desire to become close to her was nearly overpowering. She would be the fulfillment of any man’s dream.

All doubts faded as Amondie proved herself to be as I expected. Her personality entranced me. As the first day passed into the second so did our friendship grow into a greater attraction, I knew their mating machine would be a great gift to mankind; having the infallible ability to select mates. Any man would think so after having had such a selection made for him.

She showed me the marvels of their world. Many were beautiful manmade imitations of nature. I grew to feel she was nature’s single inimitable creation.

I grew to love their form of communication, with aliens that is. Everywhere we went we held hands. I thrived upon the impulses I received — they were so clear, penetrating, and meaningful. I felt as if I were becoming more receptive and my power to concentrate was increasing. It was becoming an increasing thrill to the soul to commune in such a manner, for such a feeling is non-existent elsewhere and there are not words to describe it. The same as the word “pain” was created to describe a hurt and ‘joy” for happiness a new word would have to be made for the feeling of drifting in thought.

A thing intrigued me — their swimming pools. For every section of land there was a large swimming resort. I grasped Amondie’s hand: “Why all the swimming pools – you have many more for the size of your people than we?”

I felt her gentle thoughts: “The radiation of the mountains causes our skin to dry. To prevent this we must submerge ourselves in water at least every two days. We use these swimming pools because of their soft water. We must go swimming soon.”

I thought: “We must .”

We did.

Amondie and I were lying beside the pool on reclining chairs. As I was thoroughly enjoying my rest my interest was acutely centered on two men beside me. Amazingly my attention was focused on the smoothness of their bellies. As good as my vision is — I couldn’t see a navel! I glanced at others, but trial and error revealed no indentation upon their stomach. Ah, I had at last found a physical difference, but the realization soon brought sorrow for I feared Amondie and I were different. Perhaps these people were androids created by an even greater people, or more likely they evolved from a different origin than the outside world. Fearing the answer, I cast the thought aside and let things happen as they would believing I would find out soon enough by investigation.

After our swim we continued our touring. We viewed their all-embracing laboratories and witnessed their vast machines manufacture food for their populous. While walking together I beheld an enormous building at least covering a square mile of land and towering a dozen stories skyward. Women passed in and out as they pleased. Strange that I had noticed no men. Curiously I thought, “Amondie, what’s the purpose of the large building?”

Suddenly I felt a throb of energy jab through my being — as if the question shocked her. “I mustn’t tell you; not now — we are different and it would be unfair to spoil our relationship. Please don’t mention it again … Come, I’ show you our park.

As expected the park was beautiful. Each blade of grass was an ultimatum of perfection. We were lying side by side under a tree holding hands watching water of a stream trickle past us. I felt Amondie’s thoughts: “What did you do on the outside, that is before you entered this valley?”

Thinking a reply, pleased at the interest she was showing: “A little of everything you might say. Painting namely. A release of emotions you know, My pictures were pretty much in demand. I was paid rather well when compared to the average artist, but as I said I did it as a release of emotions. If I wasn’t in the mood to paint, I didn’t – I couldn’t. Because of this my income was that of the average painter. In between my moods I was in dire need for money. I did every thing from picking fruit to haul’n hay to factory work to earn my salt. I hated whatever job I had so bad that I usually quit to try painting again. Just before the quake I was climbing a mountain. I find the sport very refreshing and satisfying. I happened to be on my vacation. You’ll never guess where I got the money for such a luxury?”

“Where?” she thought — her eyes alive with interest.

“I painted my masterpiece, abstract art. I named it ‘work’. I just slopped what I thought of work on that canvas and behold — the critics loved it. Easiest thing I ever painted.”

I looked into her eyes and was silent a moment. Finally, I revealed my thoughts, “I don’t know what you call it here, but I know you must have it.’ Getting down to the point. “On the outside we have what we call a kiss.”

Her thoughts affectionately replied: “Yes, we have such a thing here. From what I’ve learned of your world our kiss is somewhat different. It differs in meaning and feeling from yours. In it we may unite and become as one spiritual being. This is the maximum state of mind and while in it the will has the power of carrying out any desire, even to the extent of the life we possess. If you want, you may experiment.”

I drew her close and as I did, I felt her thoughts, her love, her being coming nearer, deeper, more meaningful. We touched lips. I felt myself being released from the burden of my body and sensed the fusion of our two beings. Such a merging of love, of spirit which brought forth a heaven previously unknown to any homo sapien. Her soul was clean, pure, and undefiled by any mortal sin. Her thoughts were my thoughts, her memories my memories; her being was that of which I was. The core of my spiritual being throbbed with an exaltation, a thrill such that the physical body is unable to encounter or one’s mortal self to comprehend.

Our eternity terminated with our caress, yet the forever we spent had not withered the leaves nor eroded the earth — even so we existed infinite within the fall of a teardrop.

She smiled and thought: “Amazing, putting a picture together with your own hands. Why such a thing is unheard of here. Our science reproduces everything we desire. How I would like to see one of your paintings — to actually see a reproduction with feeling, thought and emotions would be a new experience.” Then modestly she thought “Do you think you could do a portrait of me?”

I looked at her face. “Why of course. She would be the best portrait in all creation. Why if I could capture but a portion of her…”

I sensed she was capturing my thoughts. Her face looked overjoyed as I thought a positive answer. “I will need some tools.”

“I’m sure I can get you everything you shall need. When would you like to start?”

“Anytime,” I thought eager to commence my masterpiece.

“Tomorrow” she thought hopefully.

“I’d start right now if I could; I’m in the right mood.” She moved closer. We continued conversing. She was interested in every move I’ve ever made – the same as I was of her. Questions? A bountiful supply she had. I enjoyed every one of them. I loved to watch her face glowing with interest and feel the sincerity of her thoughts as I told her of many of my past experiences.

Some time passed. I tried changing the trend of thought: We were lying side by side holding hands staring at what should have been the sky. There was a slight breeze. I turned my head towards Amondie whose long platinum hair was swaying rhythm with the motion of the air, I touched the soft flesh of her cheek and moved my hand upward to remove the few strands of hair which cached her deep blue almost purple eyes — staring so intently, reflecting the beauty of her soul. Her loveliness becoming a growing attraction.

Our trance was broken as she jumped to her feet. I felt her tugging at my hand thinking: “It’s time for me to show you your place of rest. We must go now.”

I followed rather reluctantly. She led me to a small but extremely futuristic and roomy building. “This is where you will spend your nights during your stay. I am required to tell you to use the thought intercom to contact the supreme center before you make any journey outside of this building without me as a guide. You are to have your purpose okayed and you shall be expected to fulfill only that purpose. I hope this doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable or that the superiors don’t trust you, but I am told it must be so for security measures for your people and mine. And remember – if your mission is doubted you shall be followed by a monitoring system. I am sure nothing will go wrong; besides, why would you want to leave before morning? Oh, yes, you will find much more comfortable clothes in the closet than those you’re wearing… And you will have breakfast served as you desire – I hope … Now I must go.”

I clutched her hand — “Amondie–” My thoughts lagged unfinished.

She seemed receptive to my inner thoughts and drew herself near for a goodnight kiss. I felt her thoughts: “The magnitude of our kisses are controlled at will and in this we shall not leave our bodies. The kind which you are accustomed to seems fitting for the occasion.”

A mortal kiss was never so gratifying.

Yes, I was very comfortable — physically. The bed made me feel as if I were floating in the zero gravity of outer space. I laid awake – staring at the ceiling wondering worriedly. Amondie’s thoughts flashed repeatedly through my mind “We are different” — Just how different were we? I wondered if it was impossible to make her my mate “She doesn’t have a navel” I thought in my own kind of humor. My thoughts continued: “Ha — kinda funny when you think of it. Just how much does a navel of a difference make? Seriously, these people are made of real flesh and indeed they have original personalities. Perhaps we are of a different species, if so perhaps it would be against the law of nature to make Amondie my companion.”

Not being able to sleep I got up and paced tie floor. Absentmindedly I started outside for some air. As I passed the doorway I felt the thoughts of authority jerk through my being: “Your purpose for leaving?”

The question jarred to recollection the memory of Amondie’s instructions about using the thought intercom to contact the supreme center before leaving. I talked into open space — “I just wanted to get some fresh air — I couldn’t sleep.”

The thoughts came in return: “Your language is yet hard for us to understand and speak. Many shall have mastered it within a week; for the present you must use the thought intercom. Merely place your hands on the bar-like structure and release your thoughts.”

I did so and thought the same sentence I spoke.

The reply came: “You may, but you shall be watched on our communications screen. Proceed.”

I felt uncomfortable outside — the feeling you get when you suspect someone of looking over your shoulder.

I ignored the feeling and studied the night. The ceiling which covered the land became tinted and spread a moonlighted darkness over the area. The thoughts glanced from my mind — “How about that — an artificial night. The walls of the mountains still glowed, but the non-reflecting ceiling made for a perfect night.

I casually paced around my dwelling yet thinking worried thoughts of Amondie. In our kiss there were a few thoughts held back; thoughts that in all probability she didn’t want me to know. There was something mysterious about that large building — she seemed to hide her thoughts on it. Somehow in the near future I must find out about it. I mustn’t appear prying — I may have my freedom taken away. As it is, I’m feeling a bit uneasy – these people seem to be going to the extreme with watching me; as if they fear my discovering something … it hardly seems the thing for such a peace-seeking people to do. They say I am watched for security measures. This arouses my curiosity – this they should never have said.

At first it was without form like that of phosphorescent paint sprayed in thin air. Fragments of seconds passed; it became more illuminated and began to take form — at first fuzzy against the screen of the atmosphere, but within the wink of an eye a solid material arm ending at the elbow appeared floating in midair. A clenched fist unfolded to reveal the palm upon which was a small capsule. I felt the thoughts pierce my mind:

“I sense that you are restless. This pill will relax you; you may sleep well with it. It has no harmful effects and doesn’t dull the mind or require repetition as many of those of which you are accustomed to does. Many of our people take them for they clear the mind and sharpen one’s thought. Of course, you need take it only if you will and when desired. No doubt you need rest — your body is limited in endurance and is weary.”

My body responded to the surprise and the fear which existed at first. The rapid but powerful surges of my heart were dying down as I reached for the capsule. I was curious of the existence of the arm and commenced vocally to ask a question only to have the memory of our language difference cause my vibrations to fade.

Thoughts flowed into my mind: “If you desire communication take my hand.”

I stood awestruck, watching the arm floating in midair I felt like grabbing it and giving it a big harry yank. I wondered if I would pull a body out of nowhere — or perhaps I would be stuck with an extra arm. I perished the thought and clasped the hand.

As I was thinking of what to think I felt additional thoughts: “I sense you have questions on your mind. You wonder why I can communicate with you with no bodily connection — and you not with me. This is simply because of our greater mental powers. No offense please — but because of your weaker mind, that is in comparison to our people, you are capable of what our people are not. That is receiving thought with no physical connection, Your ability to receive thought will vary according to your distance from the sender and your concentration. The only reason you have not received any as of yet is that none have been directed at you.”

After a slight pause: “An even greater question on your mind is, of course, how my arm appeared here… especially after you were informed that we no longer have teleportation. You see, we are no longer able to teleport outside of the valley — for as you were told, this requires a large amount of energy, of which we no longer have. Even so, we do have a system whereas we may transmit ourselves anywhere in the valley from this main center. As your people say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words — come my direction, I’ll show you.”

His hand pulled me toward him. Suddenly I felt as if I were dissolving and found that I had passed through an invisible screen into the supreme center. I felt myself to be assured that I had reassembled in one piece and looked at the person whose hand I held. He was one of Evondi’s men. “My name is Soloni I am an adviser to our leader Evondi. Behind you is the screen through which you passed.”

I turned and studied it. It was shaped like a door, but looked, more like a hole than a screen. It was as if I were looking through a window with no pane. Within this so-called screen was a picture of the place where Soloni’s arm first appeared. He explained: “This is our teleportation device, the only one in existence. It serves as a screen for viewing anywhere in the valley, and as a teleporter. To contact you all I did was focus the screen on you and stick my arm through it. I didn’t force my whole body through, for once this is done one can’t return, except by some other means. In other words, part of my body has to be on this side of the dimensional hole before one can enter — there has to be a connection. When we joined hands such a connection was made. If you wish to return to your place or departure, you merely need to walk through the screen… And if you desire a good rest I’m sure the capsule will help.”

He dropped my hand and motioned me onward. Walking through the screen I felt a tingling sensation along with that of dissolving. Perhaps it was created by the realization of how fantastic the thing I was doing really was. As I passed through everything behind me faded and became immaterial.

Walking into my dwelling I scrutinized the capsule between my thumb and finger — along with the idea of taking it. True, I did need a rest and was finding it hard to sleep. On the other hand, I feared it would be even harder sleeping wondering if Soloni had told me of its real purpose. I comforted myself thinking: “If these people wanted to give me a drug for their own purpose, surely they would not have me take it on my own will.” Deciding to take the capsule I started searching for water. I found a most peculiar hydrant from which I drew sufficient water to devour the pill. I walked over to my bed, flopped my body out, and waited for results. The bed grew more comfortable — to the extent that my body was unaware its existence. The pill seemed to be a catalyst for my imagination. I felt as if I were drifting in a world of thought, of dreams — very realistic and creative dreams in which my conscious mind seemed to exist. These were controlled dreams, my spirit moved at will, In them I had no worries, no discomfort I knew my body was receiving a maximum or relaxation.

I was awaked by the warmth of soft fingers on my brow forging themselves through my hair revealing the thought: “Breakfast is served.”

I lifted my eyes and saw the object of my desire – Amondie. A look of soberness turned into a hopeful smile as she motioned towards a tray of food. As I partook of the delicacies I wondered if the wonders of their science made the food so delectable or – Amondie’s good cooking. I preferred to think the latter.

As I took the last bite I sensed that Amondie was hopefully wondering how I liked my breakfast. I gulped down the last bite, grabbed her hand, and thought the most complimentary thoughts I could pry from my mind. She smiled modestly, gave me a brief kiss on the cheek, and released the thoughts: “You’ll get lazy if you stay in bed all day – time to get up.”

She walked over to a closet, yanked out some clothes, and tossed them in my face. Then she took the tray, opened the kitchen door, turned around, and gave me a motion which I interpreted to mean: “Be back in a moment.”

I got out of bed and examine the clothes. In my opinion they would be termed as — “very casual”; something like an artist would depict clothes of a hundred years in the future. I hurriedly put them on before Amondie returned. They were very roomy and comfortable and would probably fit a person twice my size. Nevertheless, the material contracted and expanded easily to take the form of the wearer and it fitted me nicely – I thought.

I walked into the kitchen to get Amondie’s opinion. She was putting away some already washed dishes which were probably done in one of the machines the place was furnished with. She turned, grabbed my hand, smiled with approval, and thought: “You’re one of us already. We must go, the superiors have a busy day planned for you.”

She spoke some words into thin air and an arm appeared. She grabbed it, held to me, and we walked through the teleporting screen into the supreme center. Instead of Soloni, a group of men awaited us. I assumed they were made of scientists and government authorities. They had a busy day planned. They put my body through a large series of tests, possibly to compare it with theirs. One thing which really made them marvel was my navel! I supposed it was something new to them — after all, they lacked that amount of empty space, or nothing, out of which it is composed. They really gave it a going over. They must have taken twenty pages of notes — more surprising still, they took a mold of it! Ha -probably envious.

Along with the physical tests they put hordes of wires all around my head, arm, legs — all over me; you guessed it …even my navel. Afterwards they asked me simple questions; nothing secretive – something like a preparatory for a lie detector test. Upon my answering, their machines hummed and screeched out an awesome tune as the many lights flickered their messages. They took great interest as they decoded the symbols.

Most of the day was taken by being scrutinized, but there were a few remaining hours to do as I pleased which was, of course, with Amondie. We spent our time in the park, sometimes walking, other times sitting side by side, but always holding hands thinking: “Amondie, about that portrait, I…”

“You still want to do it — don’t you?” Reassuring, I thought, “Yes, more than ever.” A gleam of happiness appeared in her eyes. She turned and again spoke some words into thin air. A few seconds passing, a hand appeared dishing out all manner of painting supplies. Amondie sent her thoughts: “I learned of all the material you need from the information gained from probing your mind with our machines. All that needed done was to feed the coded information into the production machines. They change the atomic structure of any material used, such as air, earth — anything material, into the figuration described on the code. All that needed done was putting in the information and bringing out the finished product. Of course, only the superiors are allowed to use the machines. Fortunately, they heeded my desires. They want you supplied with everything you want. A good impression is their only desire. Perhaps you would want to examine your new tools.

“You bet”, I thought eagerly. I examined the instruments. There was everything I could remember ever wanting in paint supplies. There were many accessories, plus hundreds of shades and colors, much more than I’ve ever used. Feeling that both or us wanted to get started I hurriedly set up the canvas and prepared for an eternal masterpiece.

“The pose, the pose”, I thought to myself. Any position would do as long as she was posing. I looked at Amondie, “Of course”, I thought. “Just as she is now is perfect”. I pictured how I would paint her as I viewed her sitting, not entirely reclined, under the shade of a leafy tree by a small stream of running water. “I shall have to add a blue sky with a few clouds”

I straightened her slightly and visualized the completed canvas. I wanted to capture her look of soberness — her mouth, not quite smiling having a look of sincerity, of tenderness. I wanted her eyes reflecting that special tint of light; revealing the love glowing within her which was so radiant — glowing with a look of hope, of happiness. And how much I wanted to capture the over-all benevolence of her face — showing with the tenderness of the Virgin Mary. How I wished for the masterful lines of Da Vinci!

As the days passed the picture began to take form, and as it did I could see the work of my subconscious. The portrait was capturing the beauty of her soul, something deeper than that material part represented. I could also see my soul in the portrait represented in her. Over and over I told myself that she and I made the picture; we were both there.

She was as anxious as I to see its finish. She seemed so joyful to quit posing to see how much I had done, yet she was an excellent model; once in position, she stayed there until I motioned for her to relax; immediately after I was rewarded with her interest. Often while looking at the portrait, she would grab my hand and think: “How much longer? Surely you have flattered me enough already. It seems so perfect; each day I wonder how you shall add upon it, yet you always do. Our machines merely imitate but you seem to do so much more.”

“There’s still much do be done. Your eyes are not yet perfect and I have to add upon the color. When it’s finished it shall represent the perfection of an eternity of God’s creation.”

“Your thoughts flatter me more than your painting.” She glanced at it again and added thoughtfully, “Well, maybe not, but I am not as much as either. Even so, I love you for the way you think… and the way you draw.”

She drew herself close; the nearness became one as we spent another eternity, as we had many by this time. Each brought a new joy and knowledge as we discovered one another. Each brought happiness as our love grew. And each brought greater fear of our difference. How I abhorred the thought of having my dreams of announcing her to the outside world as my wife shattered. But within our eternities – all fear was gone, replaced with peace of mind and an incomprehensible feeling of joy and knowledge of things immaterial,

Amondie was learning English. They were setting up schools to teach their people various languages throughout the earth. Even so we preferred our former means of communication. It was much more enjoyable holding hands, drifting in a world of thought.

I spent the night alone. When alone with nothing to do I do a lot of pacing, thinking. On one of these nights I felt Soloni must have had pity on me. I was surprised to see an arm appear with a bottle of sleeping tablets. Still later it seemed as if his sympathy was growing for every night, he extended his arm for me to clasp to join him in the supreme center. He worked alone there at nights; since his job required little attention, we had much time to keep each other company. Soloni was also working on the English language. It gave me a feeling of importance for a person of such superior mentality to ask me to explain certain elements of it. Our friendship grew with each passing night; our conversation never lagged.

One of these nights while he was working adjusting some of the machines I was relaxing half asleep, my mind blank. Suddenly I felt thoughts: “I wonder if all the outsiders are like him – if so, I take much sorrow in their extermination. I shouldn’t, but it makes me sad that a quake opened a passage for our age-old plan of vengeance. I would join them in death if Evondi knew my thoughts.”

The thoughts jerked me from my slumber. I thought perhaps I was dreaming but a dream entering your mind doesn’t wake you. What had Soloni said? …I am able to receive thought because of my weaker mind, but these weren’t directed at me. But then he also said that my perception varied according to my concentration. Perhaps for an instant my mind was opened to his thoughts and if I were to concentrate, perhaps I would receive more information.

I relaxed, leaving my mind opened, concentrating. I received more thoughts. This time they were directed towards his work.

I was horrified at the reality of’ his former thoughts I tried to remain calm as I spoke, covering a yawn with open fingers: “Soloni. I’m rather tired. Do you mind if I get some rest?”

He spoke as he turned from a large switchboard: “Fine with me. For the time being I would be a poor conversationalist — I shall be busy for a while. The screen is set on your dwelling; you may use it.”

In my room I was nervous, I would had been a damned fool not to have been. I didn’t take a pill, my desire for sleep was gone – completely. If I were to do anything; find out anything I should do it as soon as possible Now was my best opportunity; while Soloni was busy. First I wanted to find out about something of which I had been curious of a long time, the large building.

I walked out the door as if I had accidentally forgotten to contact Soloni. There was no interruption. Even so the silence was disturbing. I had to assume he didn’t see me leave or didn’t really care.

After walking a couple miles, I came upon the building. I marveled at its enormousness. Its length stretched an approximate mile in the distance with ten evenly spaced openings on a side I stood on the corner watching, hesitating. Even during the night women passed to and from the building.

Viewing the door nearest me I decided to test my power to receive thoughts As I concentrated they came — at first weakly but grew discernible as my thought was intensified: “My tenth donation. If it’s a girl it shall be named Agathelia; but if it shall be a boy it shall be called the same as Sheldon, the greatest of the forefathers. Oh, the joy I would receive if I were to live to see this one and the others born and raised.”

Of course, this made little sense (very little) and very much aroused my curiosity I approached the first opening — concentrating as I did to receive thoughts of anyone near me. By doing this I was able to avoid those in my path. I passed through several perpendicular halls after which I viewed one which ran the length of the building. The walls of the long hall glistened with the light reflected from the radiant ceiling. Moving a few steps forward I saw the reflecting material was transparent glass. Through the glass I could see eggs set in rows of about fifty feet, the thickness of the walls. Guessing at how many of the giant halls were in the building I knew there must have been millions — billions of eggs! Obviously this was their method of reproduction; inwardly I had thought of it but bad been unable to convince myself.

I pressed my hands on the glass walls and moved close to examine an egg. It was much more slender and pointed than a chicken egg. The length was nearly twice the width, of which I would guess the length to be a foot and a half. The color was an illuminated powdery white with tiny brown spots scattered at random. I examined others; naturally they varied slightly in size and color. They appeared to be extremely advanced within the evolutionary process of their species.

In my amazement I failed to sense the warmth of the walls for a period of time. The temperature seemed slightly greater than that of my body. Impossible — a giant incubator! I reasoned that they must have spent millennia gathering such a large number of eggs. They would rot after a short period of time – unless through their advanced science they were put in suspended animation. To be hatched all at once?? But why? Could it be to provide a populous for the outside after our extermination? Yes, it was a horrible thought, but I feared it true. Once these eggs were hatched there would be no room for the civilization outside. But perhaps they would keep a few of us for the sake of keeping our species from being extinct. Possibly we may be pets; some of us servants — perhaps slaves for their physical labor. No doubt their conquest would begin upon the hatching of the eggs. How long? I wondered. What did it matter? I knew those outside would be powerless against such an advanced race. That was speaking of the billions outside — I was just one. My chances of stopping their desired conquest was infinite. If I had escaped no one would have considered believing such a civilization exists. I knew I must try — surely God wouldn’t have those created after his image and likeness destroyed by another race.

I ventured further through the building exploring some of the perpendicular halls. Concentrating as I verged upon an opening I received the thoughts of a worker of some kind: “The incubation is in order. Within a week the first million eggs shall have hatched. Each person shall have ten children to raise. After they reach maturity each of them and the capable living will raise ten – requiring the hatching of ten million eggs. Next one hundred million, and eventually the entire six billion shall be born and raised to take the place of the outside race whom we are sworn to destroy and replace. How I hate them.”

The thoughts changed towards his work. They were from a male guard looking after the eggs.

I wanted to get the hell out of that place. The guard’s thoughts brought a great fear to my mind as the reality of our destruction became more apparent. I felt as if I must hurry — get out of that maze; I was getting warm enough to be hatched.

As I was trying to find an exit I bumped my elbow on a bar-like structure which sent warm vibrations through my body, like that of thought impulses. Being curious of their origin I touched it again: “Attention — people of Sheldon;” The thoughts were forceful and caused me to draw back at first. I thought that perhaps the bar contained instructions to the people. After a time I gathered the courage to grab it firmly.

The bar repeated itself and continued: “We are the elders. This message shall be handed down from generation to generation and you must know of our purpose whether you are living a thousand years from our death, or however great the number may be. There is a great desire for vengeance in our hearts — one which we know we cannot fill. At the present it is all we can do to exist for this valley is a place of damnation. Starvation and plagues have taken a heavy toll. Sheer will power, determination, and desire for vengeance is the nourishment of our people, and they are looking upon you — our posterity — to do that which must be done that we may go down to the grave with peace of mind.

“We were once a prosperous people on the outside. We had wings and soared as the fowl of the air. We were peace, loving people and we loved our fellow man. Even so, we were often pursued by wild two-legged mammals who were ruled by their savage impulses of hate and destruction. Since our wisdom was so much superior to theirs, we could have easily overtaken and destroyed them. But such a thing was against our law and each time they came upon us we moved to avoid any contention. Often, we would give them food, clothing, and precious things to soften their hearts that they might have peace with us. Even after all this they still sought our blood for they were desirous of our wings and it was a great honor among them to obtain them from us. He who had such proof of himself slaying a birdman was considered a great warrior. Finally, they did gather themselves together in a great band that they might come upon us and destroy our people from the face of the earth. And they did attack us unexpectedly and came upon us with a great desire for our blood and all were destroyed except those few of us who did flee to this valley which they did cause to be sealed up forever.

“We found the mountains to contain a deadly radiation which would cause death on anyone who would remain near them for an extended length of time. Thus we had no hope or digging our way out. We were forced to build our homes some distance from the mountains that the radiation would not be deadly to us. Even so it does cause our skin to dry unless we keep ourselves near water and we fear that within a few generations that it will produce a mutation which will rob us of our wings. The children born in here so far have wings smaller than their fathers.

“Now we leave with you the burden of making up for our mistake of tolerating those creatures outside. For when you do find a way out, co-existence with them will be impossible, and we do not want kindness to bring disaster upon you as it did us.”

“We leave with you our hope that you will carry out our desires — and we leave with you the order of the eggs that the smallness of the valley will not cause our posterity to dwindle. Even so, remember that each egg represents a life and generation the outside people have halted.”

The bar started repeating itself.

I released the bar and continued my search for an exit. The thoughts the bar released brought some sanity into my mind and I was able to think a bit more clearly – and the reality of destruction became more apparent in my mind.

I left with my mind full of wonder. I knew that our only possible salvation would be to cover up the cavity wherein I entered, but to do so I would need an explosive charge. Meanwhile I had to get back to my dwelling before Soloni noticed I was absent.

Knowing I needed rest I took a pill and went to bed.

As usual I was awaked by Amondie I stared at her lovely face. Surely she did not seek vengeance nor want to see me and my fellow beings destroyed.

Amondie spoke cheerfully – much more so than the mood I was in desired for conversation: “Hurry and get ready, I want so much to see the portrait finished. It is nearly done isn’t it?”

I spoke solemnly, “Yes, just a few more days.”

Amondie changing her mood – more seriously now: “Your voice quakes; is something troubling you?”

I looked up at her; her round eyes glowing with a tint of reflection: “What could be troubling me – perhaps the long hours we have to spend apart. Now go do the dishes and I’ll get ready.”

Reassured she smiled, swooped up the tray, and hurried towards the kitchen. As I watched her I knew there could be no desire for vengeance within her; nevertheless, I had to find out for sure.

While walking towards the park holding hands I concentrated, trying to feel bitter thoughts or any knowledge of their plan of vengeance. This assured me of her innocence for I felt no malignant thoughts. I knew she had to know their plans — that is unless they have machines that can control the mind. Perhaps she was not controlling her own.

Amondie must have sensed something was on my mind. I did very little on the portrait. Every so often while I was painting our eyes would meet. She knew something was troubling me but seemed afraid to ask.

That night, as usual, Soloni teleported me to the supreme center to keep him company. As we were drinking a brew those people found very pleasurable I looked at my host, “Soloni” I said, could you tell me of your weapons — I would assume your race has created many.”

He looked pleasantly surprised – as if I hit upon a topic of interest. His thoughts revealed no suspicions “Yes, of course, we do have a large variety. Take this one on my side — a paralysis ray. Effects only temporary.”

“And your other ones?”

“…The same thing but of a different magnitude.”

His hidden thoughts revealed it to be a much more dangerous gun than that. I assumed from his thoughts that one may consider himself dead after having come in contact with the ray it emitted. He told me differently because he didn’t want me to wonder why anyone would be equipped with such a deadly weapon.

He continued: “Perhaps you want to see our museum of weapons dating to the present. If you want, we may visit it now.”

He turned the teleporter on one of the larger buildings in the land. This time we both walked through the screen. Soloni left a thread through the dimensional hole to keep it opened, permitting our return.

We entered a room full of all manner of weapons. Some of those of the past millennia resembled those of our twentieth century. Some were handmade and were fine in workmanship, better than some of those they now use. Of course, I presumed the present ones were more effective. While observing the guns I felt Soloni’s thoughts: “He’d be surprised to learn that all of these guns were created with one purpose in mind – with the hope that a passage would be opened to the outside so the reason for their creation would not be in vain. Now after thousands of years, even tens of thousands, we were able to cause a quake which opened a suitable gap.”

As I concentrated harder I could see how they did this by setting charges in the earth at exact locations. An image of the machine which controlled them also appeared. His thoughts showed there was one charge left. I realized that if this was detonated it might close the gap making passageway impossible. It would be much easier than stealing one of the guns which were closely guarded. Besides, I probably would have gotten the wrong gun.

I started a conversation by asking questions. Soloni spent hours telling me of their old guns. That was his main interest. The new ones he eluded.

We returned to the supreme center. I viewed the machine I had received from Soloni’s thoughts hoping I would get a chance to use it. I was sure I could operate it, Soloni’s thoughts made it seem simple. All I needed was the chance I wondered if it would come – and how?

I returned to my dwelling, took a pill out of the bottle, but instead of taking it I put it in my pocket. This night I preferred to lie awake thinking – planning.

The night passed into morning. It brought with it Amondie and my breakfast. This morning our conversation lacked fluency. I felt as if I were at fault. On our walk through the park I felt there was something I had to tell her: “Amondie”, I said.


“I must leave you I said – fearing to tell her the reason why.

She looked at me with a face full of sorrow: “Don’t be speaking the truth – please.”

“I am speaking the truth, Amondie. I must leave – perhaps tonight.”

“But the superiors — they may not allow it. They say you are their responsibility.”

“I know, but I must try and leave. If you knew my purpose you would force me to. I can’t tell you if you know; if you don’t know now, you will soon.”

“If it has to be that you must leave – then I will go with you.”

She said that which I expected – that for which I had hoped. I felt she would remain true to me; nevertheless, I hadn’t included her in my plans. “I want you to come,” I said, “but we are different; you wouldn’t like our world.”

“Who am I kidding” I thought to myself — “In most probability my world shall soon cease to exist – and she with it if she were to come.”

I continued, “You would soon find me to be an old grouch; besides, danger is involved, and it is greatly increased with two instead of one. I would rather be without you than have your death on my conscience; you shall be safe here.”

Suddenly she drew back as if mesmerized, then put her hands over her face and wept. I had forgot to conceal my thoughts. I hadn’t thought of her holding my hand. She looked at me as if she were unmercifully awakened from a sleep and said: “It true. It’s terrible — terrible. You’re not responsible for the actions of your prehistoric grandfathers.”

She continued, “At first I was like the others. I was glad a way had been opened to the outside — a means of conquest. Throughout the past eons the hate of our forefathers has been kept alive. It was thought long ago that the hate for the outside people might die so a system was set up for the superiors to carry it out. Through this the people’s hate for your fellow man has not dwindled.”

“I was very trusted by the superiors; nevertheless, they feared I might release thoughts of our conquest to you. To eliminate this possibility of failure they censored my mind of all memories which they wished to remain secret. Even so, your thoughts jarred them back. A memory cannot be erased completely. With my complete memory back I should hate you. But now I realize how many lies were spread causing us to despise you. No memory could make me hate you — ever. The portrait you painted disproves all the lies ever spread. In it there is love and feeling — something we have not had for a long time. How I wished it could be finished, now I know it can’t.

“You must have come from a wonderful people; I like them already. I must go with you. From your thoughts I know you have a plan. It will work – it must. It is much better for this people to continue existing as they have then to have your billions die.”

From nowhere an arm appeared. This time the hand clenched a weapon. A voice spoke as another hand appeared: “You are ordered to come. Take my hand. You have destruction for your disobedience.”

Amondie and I looked at each other. Her eyes helplessly motioned for me to obey. I took his hand and Amondie mine as we passed through the barrier. This time we were greeted by a group of men. Evondi spoke: “We have under estimated you. How you discovered our plan, we don’t know. We know nothing of yours, but it must be stopped.”

He grabbed Amondie and threw her towards a couple of his men ordering them to take her into another room. I couldn’t stand seeing any force used on her. My fear was replaced with adrenaline as Evondi felt all my power condensed in a fist. Words couldn’t express my satisfaction of seeing him slide across the floor and bumping his head on the wall. Ha – served him right for building a slick floor.

Naturally some of his men grabbed me. A couple others revived Evondi. He got to his feet — gnashing his teeth, coming at me with both hands clenched to a fist. He relinquished his anger with three heavy blows on my face after which he had me thrown into a cavity on the wall and threw a switch.

“Go ahead and leave that hole,” said Evondi. “It’ll kill you.”

His hideous laughter echoed down the hall as they took Amondie away. Tears ran down my bloody face as I stood powerless. Wondering what Evondi meant about death upon leaving, I moved my foot forward slightly. As I did I felt a burning pain as I watched the tip of my shoe disintegrate. I looked at my foot and noticed my big toe got a manicure. If I had left, my body would have burst into nothingness. It was unbearable thinking of what they were doing with her. I feared they may have killed her.

There were footsteps. It was Soloni. I nearly cried to him: “Have they killed her — did they?”

“You needn’t fear for her life. They plan to brainwash her to make her think as they. Physically she shall remain unchanged, but after they are finished she shall hate you for Evondi plans to have her kill you. After the correct thought tapes are run through her mind, she will want to. It will be a while yet.”

What a horrible thought – having the girl I love so much; that loves me to cause my death.

I looked towards Soloni. Our eyes met. He had a sympathetically worried look of indecision on his face. I sensed that our friendship may pay off, “Soloni! You’ve got to help me escape. I am no monster. You know that. You can’t see me killed for something my ancestors did thousands of years ago.”

His lips moved and the whisperings were to himself. To my surprise he turned the same switch Evondi had. This time the hum of the machinery dying down told me he had turned it off. He motioned me out saying: “Evondi has gone mad. The vengeance set up by our forefathers is insanely childish despite their wisdom. I can’t let it be carried out. I was supposed to be in charge of your annihilation including your women and children. I’d rather die than have such a thing on my conscience.”

“Then you will help me?”

“To keep from slaughtering women and children — I’ll do anything.”

“The explosive charge that is left — will it close the gap?”

Soloni looked surprised. “The explosive charge… but how’d you?” Pausing to think. “Yes, it’s a possibility. On the other hand, it might open a wider gap. That was its original purpose. I have a different plan. The only thing left to do is for you to close the gap.”

“Go on.”

He handed me a grenade-like devise, instructed me how to use it and said: “You shall escape through the teleporter after which you must run as fast as possible. When you are a few feet from the cavity throw the grenade.” He paused a moment… “But I warn you. You may not survive. A landslide could bury you forever.”

“I’ll get buried anyway.”

Reassured he said: “Good, then you will do it. I shall focus the teleporter as near as possible to the outside.”

“First we must get Amondie… We’ve got to save her. I can’t let her hate me.”

He grabbed me firmly, my head looking the direction they took Amondie, as he said: There’s not time. The lives of billions of people are at stake – your people. To delay would mean their destruction. It’s better that she be brainwashed than for your world to perish. She will live.”

“And you?”

“I chose my fate when I released you from your prison. I want your world to continue living. You must go now.”

My mind drifted back to Amondie. “Amondie’s pure thoughts being replaced with hatred. I can’t have that done. – I can’t.”

Lost in a world of concern I shoved Soloni away and started running the direction they took her. Having taken a few steps I felt as if I were running in honey. My limbs grew more frigid until I stood motionless. I felt Soloni carrying me back to the teleporter speaking as he did: “I had to use the paralysis ray. Everything is at stake and we can’t delay. I am going to teleport you to the designated spot. In a few seconds you shall be able to run again. At that time you must run as fast as possible. Evondi will be back soon.”

He shoved me through the teleporter. I looked up and viewed the opening. It was a short ragged climb. I started running — hurrying, grabbing at the rocks for support. The fresh air of the outside was nearly in my lungs. Suddenly a silent beam vacuumed the air and touched my shoulder and my body was over-whelmed with weakness. I began to fear that it was the death ray I had learned of from Soloni’s thoughts. No doubt it was shot at me through the teleporting screen.

My strength faded and I collapsed to the earth. The wound was drawing the force of life from my body. I could feel myself, as well as hope for the billions outside, slowly dying.

Through the numbness of my brain I could hear movement of bodies through the dimensional hole which was still opened. Without doubt Soloni had been discovered. I looked up at the cavity and sensed the nearness of the blue sky waiting to be seen. I wondered if fate had planned it this way. Perhaps it was nature’s way — “The survival of the fittest”.

I turned my head and saw a mirage — a hopeful mirage. My dying eyes prayed it was real. Amondie was standing before me. If she were real, then she must have escaped and passed through the teleporter. But then the horror of another possibility overwhelmed me with fear. Perhaps Evondi had sent her to finish killing me. Perhaps he is waiting with eager eyes forcing himself to hold his laughter until that time when I would abhor it most.

Then I remembered Amondie’s words: “No memory could make me hate you.” Hesitating I spoke; my voice drolled out, barely audible, with some fear, some hope, and wavered with a question mark of uncertainty. “…Amondie, you’re still the same — they didn’t…?”

She bent over me. The soothing motion of her hand on my forehead, like that of a mother caring for a sick child, removed the shadow from my doubt. I felt her thoughts, vibrant and strong with the love and feeling she had; “Yes, I’m unchanged. Soloni saved me from being brainwashed. He gave his life for the world he loved — your world,”

“I’m dying Amondie.”

She drew herself closer. My blurred eyes could see her tears. You won’t; you’ve got to live. The lives of the billions outside are in your hands. You will save them. You must.”

She pressed her lips to mine. I could feel our spirits merging together with an even greater love than before. My soul was filled with joy as I gained a true knowledge of the surety of our love and, as before, all fear was gone.

We spent our last eternity.

I felt myself returning to my body. Lying on my back clenching my fist I could feel that my body had its normal strength. Amondie was lying by my side motionless. I touched her cheek, my voice quavered as I spoke her name, I said it twice.

She opened her eyes, They were viewing nothingness, yet they still contained that special tint of reflection. She managed to speak: “The force of life which was mine is now supporting you. I will have joy if you will remember me by it as you live. I want you to live your life for both of us on your world which must be so wonderful. My love for you shall not die with my body, such a thing is immortal and has no end. It shall be with you always. I have willed it.”

Something inside of me died as she closed her eyes. From the grip I had on her hand I felt that her last thoughts were for my safety, that I must hurry and close the gap and save my people.

My sorrow was so very great. I had to leave her fragile body lying on the rocks as I escaped. I wanted to look back, but I couldn’t. It would have only added upon my grief. Perhaps I had already taken too long.

I again started pawing my way to the outside hoping the radiation wouldn’t be too great. The rocks around me were glowing with a strange light and caused a much greater slowness in my escape. I looked up and saw the sky. I wanted to wrap my arms around it and pull myself the short distance I had yet to go for safety.

Suddenly a beam passed a slight distance over my head. I turned and saw Evondi and his men emerging from an invisible screen and pursuing me with great haste.

The shock was great enough to give me the needed energy to get outside and run a good throwing distance from the cavity. I lifted my arm to throw the grenade — I couldn’t. My soul was in torment. Evondi’s thoughts — his men — they were directed toward me-on me -within me. I couldn’t fight them. They weighted my spirit. The concentrated thoughts of their superior minds were trying to control my actions. They weakened my will, my spirit, and my body. I was barely capable of standing. They were emerging slowly and confidently from the opening, taking their time walking toward me.

As they came nearer their thoughts became more intense and the agony of my soul became greater than any physical pain I have, ever endured. My mind did not seem to be my own and I had nearly lost all concern.

I began to swim within myself searching for hope; reaching for something — someone. I did not know if I were alive; or whether I was lying with my head in the snow or standing waiting to be shot down. All I knew was that I was in conflict with something intangible and I could not tell if my eyes saw light or darkness.

Then I felt the soft flesh of a gentle hand radiating thoughts; pure and filled with love. I saw the face of a beautiful platinum haired girl and I kissed her and was with her and all the torment was gone. We walked together for long time, or perhaps a short time, and I loved her.

Amondie’s love was with me and I had somehow regained will. My mind was clear; my body strong.’ The grenade was tight in my hand and I threw it. I felt the concussion and my body was thrown back.

I was hurt and unable to walk. I lifted my eyes and saw that the gap was closed. Evondi was dead. I knew that I would soon join him. I would die as I nearly did before. I would freeze. The bitter cold chewed at my hands and face. Then I realized that my body within my clothes was warm and that the material out of which they were made must have been a perfect insulator. Remembering how stretchy the material was I stretched it over the bare parts of my body and fell asleep.

I awoke in a comfortable bed. Some inhabitants of a nearby village found me and carried me to safety. I had visited them before climbing the mountain and they nearly considered me a god for surviving weeks in snow and ice. After a few days they were able to move me.

Ah, but primitive civilization was a comfort. The environment was good for my wounds and I was healing quickly.

After settling back in the outside world my financial life improved immensely. I had some reverse engineering done on my clothes and the pill I stuffed in my pocket. I then filed for several patents that I sold to large corporations.

I started painting with greater regularity. Someday I would recreate the portrait I had painted in the valley. I know Amondie wanted it finished. I had numerous sketches of her. It brought back so many memories each time I saw her face appearing as I forged the smooth lines of it on a drawing pad.

I spent much of my leisure time swimming, a habit I acquired in the valley. I was basking on the side of a large public swimming pool reading a paper, thinking of Amondie. My heart ached with a longing for her as I thought of her dark eyes staring so intently. Sometimes when I lie on the twilight of sleep I would swear she were near – trying to commune with me just as she did when she saved my life for the second time on the mountain. Often in my dreams we walk together holding hands, lost in a world of thought. When awake I felt I really was with her, for I know her spirit didn’t die.

…And Soloni — he gave his life to prevent our conquest. I shall never forget him. He would be glad to know that his life was not given in vain. This people on the outside are now safe.

Feeling a bit content, I leaned back to read the paper. “Hmmmmm — so Russia’s testing again.” The first line of the paper read: “Russia announces plans to show proof of their having a new generation of nuclear bombs in a test scheduled for next week.” I read for details. The paper said that the location of the detonation would be approximately the same as that of the valley. It seemed rather odd that our people should end up destroying them. Now the outside world would never know they existed.

Then something kind of peculiar happened — a strange object was floating near the edge of the pool. I scooped it up in my palm and looked at it with a kind of horror as I thought: “A lot can happen in a week.” The sentence ran over and over through my mind as I viewed the object; an artificial navel… Then, I felt their thoughts.

Oct 14, 2007

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