Bonus Short Story: You’re On!

You’re On

“I don’t give a good god-damn who you are, get out of my house!”

Arvin was pissed. Clearly. The fact that he shouted this particular phrase down the barrel of long-nose .44 didn’t hurt in conveying his otherwise less-than-mellow state. The problem was, at least from his wife’s perspective, there wasn’t quite anyone there for him to be shouting at.

For the last twenty years, Arvin and Marjorie Dunn had been blissfully married. They’d survived a long-distance college relationship, ten years of growing older and bitter, tying the knot and two kids that were now grown and out of the house. In all that time, Marjorie hadn’t seen Arvin raise his voice nor hand in anger. He’d never needed to. He was a frightfully stern-looking man, with eyebrows made for the colossal grump he appeared to be. But really, he was a teddy-bear– all soft and cuddly, and stuffed with more plumped up fibrous tissue than a life-size version of the aforementioned.

In the moment, it didn’t seem to matter. Any of it, in fact. He cocked back the hammer of his home-defense .44, ready to rain swift hell-fire on the air. Marjorie was still frozen in horror behind him, not sure whether to run or cry, but all the same unwilling to anger the beast with the large revolver. She wasn’t sure what to do, nor of how things had progressed quite to this point.

She’d already traced it’s origins; this had all started when the Matthews’ moved out. They’d been the Dunn’s neighbors for nigh-on fifteen years, had been there twice as long as anyone else in the suburb– one of the first families to settle the subdivision when it was first built. Granted Warner Matthews was always a couple decades older than Arvin, they grew together as friends.

And for fifteen years, the two men grew older, fatter, balder while they counted the time in barbecues and beers, football games and nachos, and fourth of Julys and hot dogs. They were the best of friends, helped to keep each other grounded. That’s not to say that Darlene Matthews wasn’t the same for Marjorie. They too were the best of friends, but in the way of women whom largely preferred to sit at home with books or cross-stitching were. They just weren’t quite the level of close the other two were.

It was always known between Arvin and Warner that one day the latter’s pension would come due. He and Darlene would pack up their most precious belongings, sell the rest, then run off to Florida to live out their days. Promises to visit on both sides might eventually be upheld, but unfortunately, it just hadn’t been long enough yet to tell if there was any truthfulness to that.

Indeed, the day they did finally finished selling off the less-desirable elements of their home and history, they packed up Warner’s old pick-up (Darlene’s car atop a long-bed trailer towed behind it) and drove off into the sunset. Arvin was happy for them then, as any man or woman might be watching another achieve their dream. He was even happier the next week when they received a post-card of the new condo on the beach in an envelope with a picture of the boat the couple had bought from selling their vehicles.

But that too, was the day when all of this started. It seemed innocuous enough when Marjorie returned home with groceries, and Arvin saying something about new neighbors. Being laden with armfuls of groceries, she didn’t quite hear him, and his mind was too easily swept up in aiding her in the task otherwise. The conversation didn’t re-emerge until the next day, when once again Marjorie came in from the car, keys jangling as she set them in the bowl just inside the door.

Arvin said something about new neighbors again, this time mentioning that he’d only seen the one car. Evidently the new couple– a husband and wife in their thirties– preferred to share a car rather than have two payments. Marjorie’s suggestion to run across the lawn and introduce themselves was met with the curious recollection that he’d seen them both leave just before she’d arrived home.

“Well then,” Marjorie replied. “You’ll just have to make sure you tell me when they’re back so we can introduce ourselves. Otherwise we’re gonna’ be livin’ next to strangers ’til we’re dust.”

He’d chuckled with a casual compliance, but the thought had left his mind somewhere between there and dinner, and by the time that was over, he wasn’t sure he had the energy to get off the couch. The cycle of one thing or another keeping them from meeting their neighbors continued for almost a full week.

That’s when Marjorie noticed the first of a series of insidious changes in Arvin. Where he’d always been one to rise with the sun, have himself a wholesome breakfast before work, then putter off to wile away the day at the salt mines, he was suddenly late for work. For anyone else, it might’ve slipped by unnoticed, but Arvin was a punctual man. Provided you caught him on a normal day, you’d be able to set your watch by him– so long as you knew what time he did what each day.

For Marjorie, this lapse raised her guard. Ever the housewife, she watched three days pass like this, her time wasted in worry rather than up-keeping the house and flower-beds. The front petunias withered, only saved by a short rainstorm that managed to perk them back up. Even so, Marjorie’s routine was as shaken up as Arvin’s.

On the fourth day, she paced about the house, so tense at Arvin’s shift she wasn’t sure what to do. Over the previous days and nights, Arvin had spoken more of the young couple next door. He’d managed to run into one of them at the gas-station and introduce himself. Unfortunately, due to their schedules, the two were almost never home, both instead absorbed by positions at a mutual job concerning computer-something or other– Arvin couldn’t recall, he was too old for computers to make sense to him.

On that fourth day, Marjorie devised a plan. By four AM of the fifth day after Arvin’s failure to rise began, she was up. She lurked in the shadows of the window that faced the Matthews’ old house. She refused to leave, almost refused to blink, even when Arvin rose, once more late for work. He left as the sun settled into its passage through-out the sky, and by the time Marjorie recognized high-noon coming, she’d devised another plan.

She didn’t wait to execute it. Instead, she sneaked over to the Matthews’ old house, through the back, wooden gate, and across the paver-block patio that Arvin and Warner had built one summer a decade ago. She rifled through the mulched flower-bed beside the back door, fished out an old, fake rock that contained a key to the door. Evidently, the new neighbors hadn’t moved it yet, or even replaced the locks: the key slid in just as it should, turned without issue.

She slipped into the house only to be chased out moments later by a bilious feeling that sent shivers through her spine: the house was empty, just as she, Arvin, and the Matthews’ had left it after they’d filled Warner’s pick-up and Darlene’s car.

To be standing between the kitchen and front room now, watching her husband curse and swear with a gun in his hand made her feel all the more guilty. When he’d returned from work, she’d confronted him. With little more than a short argument, and a promise to bring one of them over, he’d left the house. What Marjorie didn’t realize was that he’d retrieved the .44 from the bedroom after he’d stormed off. Why was anyone’s guess, but all the same here they were.

“I said get out of my house god damn it!”

“Arvin there’s no-one there!” Marjorie wailed.

“The hell there isn’t!” He said.

He fired two rounds through the air into the man he saw before him. A moment later, the man was on the ground before Arvin, blood pooling on the cream, shag-carpet. Suddenly Marjorie saw him too, but it wasn’t a man. Instead, the long, distended features of caricatured humanoid creature lay before them. Arvin dropped the gun, back-stepped in horror. He’d grown too frustrated, angry at the world and the break in his routine. Marjorie hadn’t seen him snap at his co-workers, or flip off other drivers, or feel the rise in his pulse and blood-pressure during the argument.

It all seemed to make sense to Arvin, but to Marjorie, nothing made sense.

“My god, what is that?” Arvin said, finally seeing the creature’s true form.

A woman appeared in the doorway, fell to the ground wailing, “No, no!”

The woman suddenly lit with a bright, glowing light. A similar figure to the creature became apparent through it. Marjorie fainted.

When she awoke, Arvin and the two creatures were grouped around her, but they once more resembled their human selves.

“Honey, I think we need to listen to these people,” Arvin said, still sickly pale.

The woman spoke, the man still clutching his side, though no longer bleeding. “We’re terribly sorry for all of this. We knew we could not keep the masquerade up forever.”

“I… I shot him,” Arvin said breathlessly.

The wounded man gave a grunt, “We heal… quickly.”

“You’re… not human, are you?” Marjorie asked.

The woman shook her head. The man attempted a joke, “For once that’s… a good thing.”

“I-I didn’t know… I swear. After what Marjorie said… I-I-I thought you weren’t real.”

The man gave a shrug. The woman grimaced, “This wouldn’t have happened if we were honest with you to begin with.”

“Honest?” Marjorie asked. “About what?”

The two creatures exchanged a look, then, the man gave a pained nod to his partner. She frowned, “The Matthews, the ones you believed lived beside you? We’re them.” A mutual “Huh?” escaped the Dunns. The creature claiming to be Mrs. Matthews explained, “We’ve lived her for a long time. A lot longer than the short life-span humans carry.”

“Problem is…” the man said. “Every few decades we have to change our appearance or else we draw suspicion. I mean, we can fool you with gradual aging, but eventually humans have to die.”

“We don’t die so easily,” the woman added.

“So clearly,” Marjorie said, overwhelmed.

Arvin shook off his guilt long enough to speak, “So… you’re telling me, you two are… what Aliens? And every sixty or seventy years you change your appearance to keep blending?”

The man’s features flickered from the handsome thirty-something to the wrinkled, white-haired countenance of Warner Matthews. “That’s the long and short of it, pal,” he said with Warner’s tell-tale buddyism.

“Warner?” Arvin said. “It really is you!”

The man morphed back into the thirty-something, gave a nod, “Yeah-huh.”

The woman explained to Marjorie directly, “We didn’t want to move away from our home, our friends. So we just pretended to. We’re still waiting on having the new furniture delivered– that’s why the house is empty.”

“But what about not seeing you?” Marjorie asked.

The man replied, “Just bad luck. We had the day off today. When you came in to examine the house we hid ourselves– the same way we trick you into seeing these forms instead of our true ones.”

“The trickery requires focus, concentration, that’s why you saw him when he was shot,” the would-be Darlene said.

“My god,” Arvin said. “You really are our neighbors then.”

The young man chuckled, already almost fully head, “Yep, that’s us.”

“Can you ever forgive me for shooting you?”

Warner smiled, “You’re my friend, Arv and I couldn’t trick your wife and you together yet. It was as much my doing as yours. I wasn’t sure if I should tell you everything, and I’d’ve had to after we saw Marjorie break in earlier.”

“So… it’s really my fault, isn’t it?” Marjorie asked.

“Let’s just say,” Darlene began. “Everyone made mistakes.”

The human couple swallowed hard and exchanged a look. Arvin glanced up at his extra-earthly neighbor, “Lemme’ at least make it up to you. I got some steaks and some beer, we’ll have a cook-out– just like old times.”

Darlene and Warner exchanged a laugh, the latter nodded, “You’re on pal.”

Short Story: Our Benevolent Friend Part 2



When our friend, benevolent and kind as it was, returned from the stars; he was greeted by unanimous contemplation from the peoples of Earth. Many waited for him to speak with an aura of excitement and fealty, others with bated breath, suspicion. Some knew not what to make of its grayish-blue, leathery skin, or its elongated, oblong features. The foreign, extraterrestrial frightened most for unknown reasons. But for the Doctor’s part, he was not fearful nor suspicious, he readied himself to greet his extra-terrestrial compatriot as though he seeing an old friend after an eternal interlude. He donned his most formally-casual apparel, and embarked an all-terrain vehicle to race for the ship’s desert landing-zone.

On arrival, he was struck cautious; the land was hazy, wet, smelled of fluids and materials foreign to even his well-traveled olfactories. The putrescence of biology labs mixed with the desert’s natural odors and hinted the scent of fresh vegetation despite its absence. Perhaps, he thought, it was a by-product of the ship’s landing procedures, the mist the ship exuded seemed to do so from vents alongside the ship. The strange secretion was continuous, deliberate. The Doctor prepared himself for the worst, feared his friend as foe. He hurried up the Pyramidal structure’s doorway– the same one he’d seen his friend enter before it had blasted off for the unknown.

The door opened promptly for the Doctor as he approached. He hesitated a moment, giddy and curious as a child yet with a cautious, adult air about him. His mind remained consumed by the strange mist, but his curiosity, gained the upper hand, compelled him inward against his volition. A hallway led to an open domed structure, the bio-luminescent rocks he’d seen once within an ancient crypt all around him. They were dialed to full-strength, emitted a bright, greenish-white light that flooded the ship’s innards. Viscous, transparent membranes barred the inner room from the massive engine pods behind them. The Doctor could only fathom as to their function, craned his neck to scan their tops near the dome’s apex.

Every area of the ship appeared to have been utilized for one purpose or another. Even where he stood, though comfortably situated, was filled with crystalline stalagmites that glinted and gleamed brilliantly in the bright lights. He scanned the room, stepped forward. His friend emerged from behind a crystalline tower, donned in the same, ancient Egyptian garments it had left in. The Doctor, betraying his misgivings, hurried forward to greet his friend.

“Forgive me my friend, the door was open,” The Doctor said in greeting.

“Ah, opened for you though,” It replied.

The Doctor smiled, “I must admit, I feared you wouldn’t return. I thought, perhaps this world was no longer intriguing to your learned species. I meant no offense, but–”

It raised a hand to silence the Doctor, spoke with its uncanny smile, “I understand. It is perfectly within logic to assume as much, but it is also the reason that my return was delayed.”

The Being motioned for the Doctor to follow, led him around the stalagmites and toward a small area of rock-like chairs. It motioned to sit. The doctor sank against the stone that gave way with a peculiar softness. He ran his hands along another, viscous barrier, now visible beneath him.

“Interesting,” the Doctor remarked.

“It is but one of many things I will teach your people to build,” the Being intoned.

“Yes, about that,” He began cautiously. “Your ship seems to be emitting something– a mist. May I ask; what is it?”

“Ah, the purpose of that mist is rather exciting indeed!” The Being said in good humor. “I took the liberty of beginning a Terra-form of the desert around the ship. I will turn the barren area into useful land as a demonstration of my technology and peaceful intentions.” The Doctor’s face was open in alarm. The Being addressed it warmly, “In short, there is no need to fear, Friend. I’ve noticed a large portion of your planet goes unused for anything in particular. Reforming it can help to rectify several problems, most notably the starvation and hunger of your planet’s minority, and its dwindling atmosphere.”

“So it is yet another benevolent gesture!” The Doctor exclaimed, as if in triumph.

“Quite.” The Being replied in kind. It explained, “Though, I must say, this is not all I’ll do to correct these problems. I have, in fact, several types of enzymatic catalysts that can easily be bred into your crops to allow for faster, more efficient harvests. Agricultural land can then be put to continuous use without fear destabilizing it.”

“My word, that is quite amazing,” the Doctor said. “And as always, a most gracious gift.”

The Being gave a throat chuckle with another, uncanny resemblance to its alien friend, “It is hardly a difficult thing. My people long ago encountered and conquered that problem. As for the pollution of your land, we must convey the plans of non-polluting transport vehicles, and urge that they become the standard means. Then we can focus on cleaning the land and air. There are many ways industry can be carried out. Unfortunately, your peoples’ way is one of the most detrimental. As an outsider who’s seen many these destructive ways cripple many civilizations, I can impart what data has been collected from it. In essence, teach you of the non-polluting, highly productive alternatives.”

“My friend!” The Doctor exclaimed. “Does your kindness know no bounds?”

The Being gave a small tilt of its head, “Perhaps. But not quite so finally, I will help your people to scrub the land and air, remove the garbage from your fills to be broken down into fuels, and recycled into useful products for the future. Of course, all these means will be given to your people in the hopes that your people will aid ours in something we can not do it alone.”

“Friend,” the Doctor said candidly, stunned by the benevolence before him. “You intend to grant unimaginable kindnesses upon us all– even to those that will surely oppose you. I am afraid to have to ask again, but… why?”

The Being held sincerity above the notes of sadness in its voice, “As I said during our first meeting, I wish for a peaceful universe. I will not deceive you however, many of my people do not feel it fitting to bestow such gifts upon you. They think it unwise given your young age as a species. However I, as well as a several others, feel it is our duty to do so. To no offense, we are a technological superiority, see it as our purpose to help you join our majority. We will do this. It will take time– a few years perhaps, but by then the face of your planet will have changed. Your people will live healthier, less wasteful lives. We will tailor our immunological gifts to your physiology, increase your life spans a hundred fold, give each you the chance to do what I have done.”

“You mean live forever!? A million years! Glory be, what could we ever do to deserve or repay these gifts?” The Doctor asked, his words dampened by his amazement.

The Being explained, “Friend, you live and breathe. That is all you must do to deserve them. Forgive me that these gifts have not come sooner, but as you know I was in absentia for millennia. They would have come sooner, and I feel sorrow for all the lives I might have saved had I could. Fortunately, it only fuels my desires to impart these things now.”

“My friend,” the Doctor said, sensing the Being’s soulful unrest. “Those ancient peoples should not way so heavily on your mind. Though I understand your sentiments, had it not been for those war-minded peoples, we would not have our greatest feats of history. Much of the last ten thousand years has been fruitful for our kind, despite the bouts of darkness between. I fear, had you intervened, we would not have developed properly as a people. I thank you for your restraint, on behalf of all of my kind. But Please, do not blame yourself. If you feel there is a debt to be repaid, I assure you, your return has already fulfilled it. More importantly, your benevolent promises, if sincere, will leave us indebted to you. One I know we cannot repay for ten-hundreds-of-thousands of years!”

The Being, affected by the consolation, promptly rose with its awkward, “Come now, friend, we’ve a people to forward!”

In the days that followed the Being’s return, a strange and glorious sight overtook the desert around the ship. While the Being had stated a Terra-forming had begun, none dared dream the extravagance that appeared. In all directions, foliage and greenery crept out, ended abruptly. As if in moments, a dense rain-forest had sprung up.

Admittedly there was apprehension at this gift; despite it being touted as a token of kindness, the suspicious nature of Humanity questioned the assertion’s validity. Either from feeling undeserving, or as of yet unbelieving of their guest’s beneficent ways, there was extensive, public scrutiny and caution. Overlooking these concerns however, the scientific community feared for the indigenous desert life and the stability of the global climate from the sudden appearance of rain-forests in place of deserts. Some argued life could not adapt fast enough to the new conditions. Others said the significant change in climate would force an evolutionary adaptation, render desert life obsolete.

Despite the lack of visible, negative effects, questions arose about the desert’s necessity. Graciously, the Being met with world leaders and foremost scientists to discuss this subject and others. With its friend, the Doctor, at its side, the Being reached a consensus with the assembly to halt any further Terra-forming for a short time. If, in that time, no significant threat to the global climate appeared, it may proceed as planned, or else repeal the changes that had been made.

Among other things, this meeting marked the first time Humanity saw its guest speak for itself. There was not a single television channel or internet stream or post that was not devoted entirely to the Being during its meeting– as if, for once, the world collectively stopped to watch together. Many were humbled simply by its presence, others decried a hoax. Still more shied away, hid in the shadows to let come what may and re-emerge later on. Through it all, the Being remained cultured, mannered, ever-polite and warm. It was as if it saw Humanity as its kin, one it had not seen for far too long and had missed in the interim.

It was only days after the Terra-forming questions were first posed that others began to arise. What had become of their guest’s home-world? What would gift might come next? Was there truly no price to be paid in return?

These questions and more were asked, but only a few, broad answers could be given in reply. It was shortly after the first assembly that a second was formed to parrot the most pressing questions directly to the Being. It explained in short order, that its society had made many, great strides in technology during its hibernation. Though none so great as what would be measured between Humanity’s society and theirs, the advancements were important nonetheless.

Furthermore, it explained, to measure time as humans do was difficult. Given their long life-span and billion-year evolutionary path, to mark history the same would be misleading at best. Their star, billions of years older than earths, had already entered a white dwarf state, lost its mass and pull. Their planet therefore, revolved much slower than Earth, its years and thus their history much more complicated. Not only did this shifted star change the Being’s society, it also imbued them with their gray-blue skin over the eons from blue-spectrum light. The day their sun would die out in a supernova, was nearer than not, preparations were under way for a mass exodus.

These facts seemed of little significance to those whom wished their questions answered, but it was necessary in order to understand that the two civilizations nearly coincided in matters of formality. The only difference being the near three-to-one ratio of planetary time. Where a research grant on earth might take six months to process through formal channels, on the Being’s planet it might take eighteen months or more. Such was the languid pace of formal action upon the home planet.

These understanding led to a question on even the Doctor’s mind; what of the Being’s people, and their enemies? Again, time dilation factored into understanding. At length, the Being relayed That the governing council, once every year– or every three, depending on your perspective– was followed to a strict discipline. If council was held too often, it risked corruption; too infrequent and it risked discontent. The council leaders voted on matters of planetary importance accumulated over their previous, solar year, and decided the fate of their people.

However, in the previous council before The Being’s emigration, many controversial matters had been voted upon. Unrest was furthered by discontent mounting from previous years’ councils, and met a boiling point when a certain set of voices went unheard for too long. Many of that minority rose up, banded together to march on the council headquarters, and demanded an emergency session be held for the first time in their people’s history. When it was not, the unrest climaxed in violence that prompted a military response. Their enemy then, had not been one of another system or galaxy, but of their own people, was only rectified when the next, solar council had been held.

These recollections and explanations met the ears of the assembled parties whom listened with bated breath. Their fear was transparent– a fear that they had opened Pandora’s Box. The Being, either from instinct or telepathy, assuaged the fears: So long as we meant them no harm– which we could not have lest we lose everything promised to us– there would be peace between us.

With the fears put to rest, the Being told of what it had brought to this world: hyper-galactic transportation, teleportation, techniques and industries light years ahead of us. It was then that the Being, benevolent and kind as it was, told of the gene therapy that would soon be implemented to increase the human life-span, make then immune to near every form of disease and sickness known. Of these gifts, hyper-galactic transportation was relatively new to their race. As a result, they were only willing to allow its secrets to be revealed under certain terms: Because of Relativity, in which it is stated that nothing can travel faster than light, they had been forced to find a work around. This workaround came in the form of a specific type of ship engine, only capable of igniting in certain parts of space. In parlance, it was known as a wormhole acceleration drive.

“This,” the Being explained before the assembly, “Was the cause of my delay. Several requirements must be fulfilled before the drive can engage. Most notably, a certain, minimal amount of amount of particle-wave interference must be reached. In order to operate, the drive must generate what is known as a wormhole; easily explained in human physics as curved line beneath a straight-line of points A to B. The curved line effectively is shorter due to the curvature of space-time.”

“For all of this to begin,” it explained. “Massive amounts power are required in a stable point of space. This is difficult to place given the ever-changing, sub-atomic nature of the universe. You call this quantum physics. Unfortunately, any interference above a certain variable may translate through the open wormhole with the ship. This is troublesome because it may destabilize the wormhole, spitting the ship out before its intended destination, and possibly leaving it stranded.”

Though these things furthered already vocal concerns, The Being assured the humans given ships would be well-trained before taking the helm. It was then placed at humanity’s feet, the true compensation for this gift; “First and foremost, we need your help in finding permanently stable regions of space for wormhole jumps. This is the only… catch, as you would call it, to our gifts. Simply, the universe is an infinite place, and we graciously request your help in charting and exploring it.”

With humanity at their side, the Being’s people hoped to finally master their space-fairing pursuits.

It was after this assembly that an unexpected event occurred. The human population, hearing of the visitors return, and of the gifts its people wished to bestow, demanded a more public, informal appearance. The Being, gracious and hospitable as always, obliged. Until then, masses of skeptics and non-believers still shouted rumors of a hoax, or otherwise distrusted their alien guest. Furthermore, several activist groups had revealed a shocking divide in the population’s opinion of the Being and its gifts. Many wished counsel to help in solving the world’s problems, others condemned The Being as an incarnation of one of the apocalypse’s horsemen– the mythical beings that would bring about Humanity’s destruction.

The Being took it in stride, calmed The Doctor when angered by his own people. To it, the reaction was amusing– relieving even.

“Zealotry,” it said. “Is the sign of an intelligent people. There was once a similar demeanor in my own people millions of years ago.” These words comforted the Doctor. It continued, “The divide between the zealots and non-believers spurred us to seek the universe’s truths. This was the origin of our sciences, our research. It is comforting, as given our history, it means Humanity is indeed on the right path.”

It went on to explain that their own mythology had been rather amusing; they had believed the universe’s creation came from the sternutation of an omnipotent. By their own admission their people believed all of existence had been sneezed into being. This notion, though ludicrously held to heart for millions of year, was not entirely inaccurate of the human’s current picture of the beginning of the universe; the Big Bang. Similarly, the two theories stated an explosion of massive force propelled all of space outward. The Doctor and his friend agreed, in this way perhaps the big-bang did resembled a sneeze.

Whatever the strange machinations of zealotry might have been, it was clear that the two species showed striking similarities. Most importantly was their to deconstruct the workings of the universe. There was still much that The Being’s species had yet to learn such as the initial conditions of the universe of the Big Bang– a problem humanity shared. The completion of this research might finally provide a solution to their FTL travel problems. Even the Being’s less-educated people knew they could not hope to discover the answer alone.

The Being itself was fond of a vision it often spoke of to The Doctor; “Imagine if, for one, brief instant, every human dropped what they were doing, and turned their attention to the stairs. I believe we may achieve that here, once the others arrive. Every human is wondering one of two things: Are we to invade, or bring about a new, golden age that will send us across the universe together?”

The Being was fond of this thought, and his friend no less enamored by it.

“No doubt,” the Being once said. “When they realize we mean only peace, that event will take place. Petty land discrimination issues, and greed will dissolve into cosmic dreaming. Why kill or die in taking another’s land when you could have a free, bio-spherical dome upon mars, still visit Earth each day? The universe is a vast place, and there is no doubt somewhere in it for everyone.”

The true desire and will of its species seemed summed up in these words. Though there was hardly perfection in either species, their meeting was the bridging point that might eventually lead there.

As time crawled forward, and the others’ arrival drew nearer, Humanity’s fearful divide became more apparent. When the day finally came, and the first of the others stepped from their ship onto Terra-firma, Humanity paused all at once. Collectively, they held their breath; toed the lines between adulation and terror. The Being and Doctor, both present at the arrival, greeted them as old friends. The Beings exchanged a peculiar greeting; their hands, thumb out, over their cheeks with a bow, The Doctor attempted it in good nature. A tense silence ensued before the gesture was returned.

The Other spoke, its voice lower that the first, “My ship contains all the knowledge you seek. In time, it will be converted to a format accessible to you, duplicated and distributed freely for all that seek it.” It raised its arms high, bellowed over the crowd, “May our two races conquer the stars together!”

An uproar emitted from the crowd. The Doctor smiled with humble warmth, “Thank you, and welcome to our home.”

They bowed to one another, and the Being lead them to an awaiting vehicle.

What happened next is a matter for longer tales, best summed thusly; the two races, so different in ways, and similar in others, joined as one in search of cosmic truths. In the days and weeks that followed the second’s arrival, more of the Beings came to meet with world leaders, their kind, and other humans. In time, and as promised, they addressed the poverty, homelessness, and starvation rampant in the world. Once rampant, these things ceased almost abruptly, and just as Humanity questioned what might come next, the first, human-built ships went into production. In short order, the Terra-forming continued, the new industries and counter-measures rejuvenating the atmosphere while people zoomed back and forth in personal, electric aircraft.

In time, new technologies were devised, pollution all but eradicated. Certain, specific deserts of the world soon became lush jungles, saw Earth on its way to a new age of health and glory. Then, the first trials of the life-extending gene-therapy began. With its immediate success, Humanity finally exhaled, allowed itself to dream with the newcomers. Together, they envisioned star-systems full of Terra-formed planets of both species– and perhaps others– together in harmony.

Soon after the first ships were launched, their human captains now well-trained, Humanity took the helm to fulfill its promise to its benefactors: to map the stars for one and for all. When plans to Terra-form Mars began, it seemed the Doctor’s friend had finally seen its dream come to pass. Indeed, Humanity had largely turned away from pettiness. In admiration and longing, and with new hopes and dreams, the two species looked skyward to the stars.

Short Story: Our Benevolent Friend Part 1



An arid sun baked a desolate patch of sand somewhere between Libya and Lake Nasser in the seemingly endless Sahara. Around it, for a moment, people were scattered like ants tending to the entrance of their colony. Even smaller specks from their equipment and instruments outnumbered them twenty to one in the vast dune of the place. There was but a single anomaly in the uniform flatness and waves of windswept dunes to break the otherwise immaculate, golden sea; a blackness, no larger than a common automobile, in the center of the people and their instruments.

At a near enough proximity, the blackness became a hole– an opening to an underground cavern, where the refraction of light from dust occasionally swirled or spilled inside. The archaeological dig here hoped one day to prove what few scientists and archaeologists believed. These conspiracists, as they were sometimes called, believed they had stumbled upon the oldest, most comprehensive cache of ancient knowledge in existence.

Only time would tell what the diggers might uncover as they shoveled, pick-axed, and brushed their way deeper into ancient catacombs. Speculation and theory ran rampant; perhaps it was the lost library of Alexandria, or perhaps somewhere inside, was the chamber to the lost city of Atlantis. The academic ponderers kept themselves grounded, speculated it might be the tomb of the oldest, first pharaoh. One that predated Narmer, and even still the first Egyptian dynasty, thereby solidifying that the Narmer was not, in fact, he who unified the lands of Egypt in ancient times.

If such were the case, who then might have? The King Scorpion, speculated to have passed unified Egypt to Narmer? Or was it perchance, one yet unknown to the historical community? If so, was the loss of his name due to time’s ravages? Or was it from the tyranny of his rule? Had he decried the population were heretics, struck them down? Was that the reason for this tomb to be so far out of the way, buried where no-one could ever dream to look?

This last speculation had merit, if only for the nature of the catacombs’ discovery– seemingly the most fortunate mishap of man to date. Its serendipitous nature may have rivaled even the great, but wholly misconstrued tale of Newton’s apple and gravitational theories.

While it is common knowledge that both sandstorms and earthquakes are known to occur, their frequency within the deserts and lands surrounding Egypt are less known. Earthquakes are prevalent on the coasts, rare within the confines of the desert. Sandstorms inversely so. But on one particular day, the two seemed to coincide.

An earthquake beneath the Mediterranean sea, felt as far as the Sudan, caused a tidal wave to wash over much of Cairo. It was a terrible thing to happen. Terrible, but revealing. Most of all, it was fascinating. As the ocean swelled, the shock-wave of the most catastrophic earthquake ever recorded occurred. The latter forced the former deep into the desert, threw sand into the air that caused a storm almost equal to that of the Earth’s shakes. The inhabitants hunkered down in their coastal cities, held on until the end might come. For many, it did. Others were more fortunate. The desert though, was soaked by the massive tidal wave that moved inward for hundreds of miles.

This waves destruction walled up sand in its path, collided with the sandstorm to strengthen its reserve. The latter raged forward in destruction where the water could not. After days-long floods, and still more, smaller storms the climactic series of events finally ended.

Clean up and rescues efforts were enacted immediately. Humanitarian aid was sent from all over the world in the forms of food, water, clothing, even helicopters. It was one such ‘copter, diverted from Libya, that was ordered to fly low over the desert and survey the damage. The hole in the Earth was first spotted then. The helicopter’s crew made note of it, continued forward until their fuel forced them back toward the cities.

It is a curious coincidence that a Doctor, who shall go nameless, was searching for a hidden set of catacombs when the seas rose and the dust blew. It was curious, but not altogether uncommon. When he received word of Earth’s peculiar opening, and travel in the regions had been restored, he bee-lined to the site. It took ten, harrowing days before his group uncovered the stones that marked the catacombs’ start, a further two days before the blocks were removed, and the passage was opened.

Gathering their instruments, wits, and their skepticism, the Doctor and his team climbed down into the shaft. They lit their way along with twenty-four hour flares that burned illuminated the passage, threw shadows of a the dozen bodies along its cramped, narrow walls.

At a brick wall deep within the passage, the Doctor and his team were forced to remove more bricks. One-by-one, they gingerly placed bracing devices to stabilize the tunnel, carved out, then heaved out the blocks. With the passage open again, they ventured forth, their shoulders scraping the side walls despite their single-file trudge. They followed the twists and turns for hours, dropped flares every few feet, and headed deeper into the Earth at a gradual slope.

Unlike most tombs and catacombs, these passage ways were unmarked, composed solely of granite blocks arranged in a usual manner. Their fervor was restored when someone speculated this lack of symbology might connect the Great Pyramid to whomever lay buried ahead. The easy air of speculation and banter returned. It was only another half an hour after this that a second brick wall, larger and wider than the last, appeared before them. Again, they placed their braces, carefully removed the bricks, and stepped through.

Nothing less than a spectacular, massive chamber, greeted them on the other side. Flares and headlamps reflected light off golden walls, supplemented a strange irradiation from an even stranger bio-luminescent rock scattered about the room. Again there was no writing, but the presence of stacks of gold coins, gold-plated pottery, and other artifacts bore the unmistakable glyphs of ancient Egypt. Though this dialect was new, or rather so old it was unknown, there could be no doubt of its lineage.

The room’s center was occupied by a most unremarkable slab of stone– at least, it would have been unremarkable were it not for its ornate surroundings. At its head, over-arcing others, was a statue of Nut, the night-time Sky Goddess. Beneath her to the left, Ra, the Sun-God, while at the right, a massive Ankh of life. Someone posited that this pharaoh must have been looked upon as the creator of life, bringing the sun from the darkness.

Something struck the Doctor; the pharaohs were all identified by the headdresses upon which their grave slabs were inscribed. But here there was none. It was not unheard of, but strange given the obvious reverence placed upon this particular ruler. Why had they not included this? Surely, he commanded their respect and loyalty. It was suspicious to say the least.

The Doctor gave the word that they must open the slab at once, an instinct that he would later recollect upon as his greatest compulsion in life. The others would agree.

Together the dozen men and women fought the top of the slab, pried it apart carefully. It slid sideways, was set to rest upon the ground. Shock once more flickered through the faces of those present; they found no discernible identity to whom lie inside the ancient sarcophagus within the slab. Again, not unheard of, but suspicious given the sarcophagus was cast in that same, pure-gold that lined the walls.

What happened next was nothing less than truly mesmerizing.

Slowly but surely, electricity began to arc from the walls of the chamber. Some fled in fear of electrocution, but the Doctor was frozen in place beside the slab. The electrical discharges grew in speed, strength, quantity, but only zapped from the walls to the sarcophagus. The room filled with the buzz and cracks, and blue light of electricity. In the center of it all, was the Doctor.

The ancient coffin began to stir, and with a light click and a hiss, it parted in twain. Its top rose slowly, as if on silent, mechanical hinges. After a moment of unfathomable uncertainty, the electricity stopped. The room was darkened, silent again.

A fine layer of dust and smoke had rose from the innards of the open sarcophagus, while the rest of the team inched their way back toward the Doctor. He led them the pair of steps forward, to look down in bewilderment at the coffins’ contents. It was a man, or rather, something man-like. Nonetheless it was there, perfectly preserved. The bio-luminescent rock shined off of a gray-blue skin, its brilliance metallic, yet leathery.

With a joyous cry, the Doctor exclaimed, “It’s breathing! Look, the chest!”

Indeed, the creature’s chest with a hypnotic, rhythmic motion. Silence fell once more, not a man nor woman dared to breath, fearing they might steal the creature’s last breaths. The eyelids began to flutter on the oblong head, and in an instant, snapped open. Two, bulbous eyes looked out upon the team and the Doctor, as it eased upright.

It spoke a garbled, indiscernible dialect of ancient Egyptian, seemed frustrated at multiple attempts of the same pattern of words. The team engaged each-other in debate of how best to explain their speech. It silenced itself at once.

After a moment, the Being closed its eyes, tilted its head downward. A moment later, its head rose again, and with a fickle gesture its hand, the rocks grew brighter, the room enveloped in a day-time light. It stood promptly. The slab hissed, clicked, sank lower into the ground. The group had frozen in curiosity, terror. The Being stepped across the chamber to a wall, waved its hand. A doorway appeared. It disappeared inside, returned momentarily, clothed in garments of an ancient, ornate fashion.

The group had watched in utter perplexity. Their minds alight with possibility, but their bodies and tongues too stunned and tied to move. The Being stepped for the doctor, its robes trailing behind it, and bowed its head.

It spoke flawless English, “What year is this?”

The Doctor fought his frozen muscles to explain the shift from Egyptian time to that of the Roman system. “It is possible you’ve been here ten thousand years.”

The Being pondered this for a moment. No doubt his species was aware of his presence here, why then, had they not come to check on him, the Doctor wondered.

“I will explain to you in a moment, the fallacy of this expectation,” he said to the Doctor, knowing his thoughts. “For now, I must inform you that I require sustenance.”

Hands went to pockets and backpacks, offered the Being masses of energy bars, sandwiches and other, easily accessed consumables. Someone collected them, handed them over. The Doctor passed forward a large jug of water. The Being sat, gestured for them to join, and promptly devoured each morsel. With the fury of a man denied sustenance for ten thousand years, it shoveled the food in with table manners at home only within the tomb.

It finished, wiped away bits from its leathery skin, and thanked them, “I have not eaten in millennia, I was beginning to feel it.”

Chuckles emitted from the group as an air of elderly storytelling descended upon them from their guest.

“I must confess,” the Being began. “I expected to be roused much longer ago than this. But I am satisfied to be here now. I will relay to you my own history, before I ask that you relay your own.”

The Doctor was satisfied with this, as were the others. Each of them sat in their various ways, looked on the Being with undivided attention.

It continued, “I came to this planet thousands of years ago, from a place even further away than that in light’s time. There was a war on, and many whom wished not to fight were allowed safe passage and sustenance enough to last them their million-year life-span. I, being a social adept, wished not to live alone, but left as such in any case. My ship’s automated scans located a world– this one–, which read that possibility of intelligent life had begun to evolve. As a curious mind, I wished to observe this evolution. I landed here, rather unsuccessfully, and took a detachable pod to look-over the planet.”

It seemed to bear a happiness in its chest that seemed familiar, yet uncanny in its alien features; “I traveled every passing step of it time and again, making observations. Then, one day, appeared an intellect of rather knowledgeable species. I began to teach them, much as you would an animal. As time carried on and their intellects grew, I further advanced their knowledge in all walks of life. In gratitude, they asked for help in construction of a shrine. I wished for no shrine, but granted them the means to build one. In this, they built a massive pyramidal structure, resembling my ship. The technology I had given them however, was not cohesive with the primitive tools they used to construct it. And so, we broke them down, used their parts.”

A note of sorrow seeped into its voice beneath the warmth of recollection, “More time passed and it came upon me that, perhaps one day, I would no longer be with the people I had found here. Either in death, or for some other reason, I might no longer be capable of imparting things to them. So, I had them print the entirety of my ship’s databases onto their scrolls. Perhaps you can answer later, what became of them.”

The note of sorrow became a chord, as if a symphony were harmonizing it together beneath its voice, “Then, one day their came a plague that spread across the planet. Resources in certain areas grew scarce, and other civilizations I had not seen to became envious. In-fighting began, but I wished not to witness it. I also however, wished not to leave. So, I set upon building my freezing chamber. Those who worshiped me, as it soon became evident that some did, aided in the construction of this place. The assumed luxury served a purpose I chose not to regale to them– the electricity might baffle them, but I couldn’t allow that it might one day be used for their warring. And so, after my chamber’s completion, I buried my ship and laid myself to rest, waiting to be awakened by a war-less civilization.”

There was a moment of quiet introspection before its gaze shifted outward with a warm smile and its uncanny face, “And here you are.”

The team exchanged some manner of shame. The Doctor, as with the others, contemplated how best to explain. He did his best to retell the expanse time, Humanity growth, and its ills and deeds. In short order, the Doctor had built a rapport with his ancient acquaintance.

Finally, tired but elated, the Doctor raised a singular question, “What will you do now?”

The Being thought intensely, replied with a succinctness, “I must un-bury my ship–” It hesitated at a slight air of disappointment that rippled over them. Someone asked if it would return. “In due course, of course. It shall only be a year. Our technology is well off enough that even ten thousands of years ago, I was able to make this destination in a few months time. I will update my data-banks, see what has become of my civilization. Then, I shall return to you and your cultures, in the galactic name of peace.”

The Being stood, stretched, its movements curiously human. The others mimicked the motion as the Doctor spoke in earnest, “My friend, you’re a most benevolent being, but may I ask; upon your return, will you reveal yourself to the masses, tell your story?”

It smiled its best smile, “In due course, of course.”

And so, the great ship lifted from beneath that tomb, rocketed skyward and disappeared into the heavens. The Doctor and his colleagues watched, eager for the day it would return and bestow upon them more curiosities than man could quite conceivably imagine. No doubt with a life-span such as theirs, eons of progress had commenced during its hibernation that now required a renewal of knowledge. With each passing night and day, the rumors of its existence spread and humanity slowly glances skyward– searching for our benevolent friend on return from the stars.