He stood deep in thought as we fed him calm words of reasons. From up above, our orbs watched and from inside the monolith we felt their thoughts. One was agitated, the others worried but the captain was neither. We observed him, brave yet vulnerable, and we called out again. We knew our telepathic voice could make the strongest go weak at their knees. But he resisted; neither was he tempted nor was he scared.
We probed his thoughts – they were of a wise man weighing his options. He was honorable and honor we respected. We took a step back and waited for the right moment to interfere with his thoughts.
By his side, the weaker Manivaya medic was on his knees crying as he watched his pain flitter through the monolith. He couldn’t bear the temptations and he now faced his own sins. Soon he would be free of them and would become one with us. We gently prodded his mind out of the misery that it wasn’t capable of handling.
An agitated scream; Gordan had noticed us in the skies. Our dance of coalescing orbs had finally caught his attention. We tried to calm him, but he was distraught beyond reason. We tried to tell him that this is how we prepare ourselves for their salvation. But we were unable to do so.
“What in the name of the devil!” he screamed, pointing at us. He was upset, nervousness borne of his mistrust of all. His daughter filled up his thoughts, drowning out our own communication. His mind was close to the edge and we quietly moved ourselves away from his mind. He was not ready yet.
The captain Benz looked up at our orbs and we decided that this is the right moment to continue speaking to him.
“Do not fear us.” He didn’t and nodded his head. “We are here to help.” He nodded his head again. We continued talking to him, linking ourselves to his thoughts until we reached a state of communion. Gordan held onto his arm and tried to drag him away but we had achieved intellectual resonance with Benz. Benz would not think of going anywhere now. Not for a while.
By his side, Manmeet had embraced the monolith and watched his darkness enter the monolith. The Kaldaran female looked at her own reflection that guided her through her deepest and darkest memories. Only Gordan and the captain remained; one fearful, the other in deep thought.
The captain called out to us, “Who are you?”
“We are your only hope”, we responded. Gordan heard us too and paused in his agitation to listen to our wise words.
“Hope?” He seemed uncertain by our answer. Perhaps we had been too vague.
“Yes. We are your next course of action.” We saw the confused look on his face, and tried again, “We are the beacon of life that has changed the course of your ship.”
“But why? We have to reach Shardin. Lives of millions depend on us.”
“We understand what you feel.” And we really did understand their predicament. Poor souls they were, with no idea of the truth. We continued, “But we cannot let you go.”
An eerie pause filled the space between us, our orbs cackling in their energy discharge. The captain looked at Gordan, who spoke aloud.
“Captain, I do not know what devilry this is. But we have to get off this planet. We are needed there. We promised. The people expect us. My daughter…,” his voice trailed.
His faced contorted as he felt a rush of emotions. He was weak, we concurred. He was so unlike the previous human, the tortured soul who loved the girl and was now one with us.
The captain looked up at us, at Gordan and then at the two crew members that lay by the monolith weeping. We knew he was being swayed by Gordan’s words and we spoke in his mind again, “We shall cure you. We shall cure you forever. But you have to trust us.”
He looked up at us again and spoke clearly, “How do you know?” He referred to our knowledge of him and his disease.
We spoke words of assurance, “We are one of time and space. We know all pain and suffering. No one deserves to die with so much pain within.” and we meant it. They have always wanted assurances from us and we have always given it.
By his side, Gordan was eyeing the two other crew-members and was trying to pull the captain away. He spoke of his fears, he spoke of the planet Schardin, he spoke of the disease that will kill millions unless they left our planet, he spoke of his daughter.
“It doesn’t matter anymore.” We said firmly.
But Gordan would not listen to us. He was diseased and we could now feel it. He continued with his foolish words, and we felt the captain’s mind waver. We could not let that happen – the captain needed us and we needed him. We reached into Gordan’s mind and amidst the tumultuous chaos of emotions we tried to grab his thoughts. We pierced through his psyche to his weaknesses. He screamed and fell on his knees, holding his head. We continued maneuvering ourselves through his mind, through the darkness. There was no light anywhere ahead of us to guide us anymore. He was a lost cause. There would be no illusion of free-will for this soul.
We concurred about our action. It had to be done. The human had to be forced into us. We shot out an electric current from our orbs, pushing Gordan against the monolith. He screamed as the cold monolith embraced his fevered body, and slowly we absorbed him into us. Resistance was futile, and the screaming was silent; all his pain barely leaving the face of the monolith. There was so much negative energy to feast on, by the time we were done there was little left of the human. The last human had been so much more satisfying, the perfect balance of guilt and love. This one had loved but had held onto the love rather than quit it. There was no solace for it in his struggle.
We watched the famished body of Gordan as it lay by the other two who we now beckoned into us. Captain Benz watched this in horror and took a step back. We felt his fear and spoke again.
“What we do is for the best, captain.”
“Wha…What do you mean?” He could barely keep his voice from shaking. The other two crew members had raised their hands to the large orb that hung above them, and we had slowly begun absorbing them into us.
“We are only doing what is meant to be done.”
“But… Who are you?” He looked at his crew members as they merged with the orb, and into the distance at his spaceship. We knew what he thought and we didn’t like it.
“Are you stopping us from reaching the planet? Is that what this is about?”
“You now belong here captain.”
He inched sideways, away from the orbs and the monolith to the spaceship in the distance. We knew that we had lost him. The spell had been broken, the intellectual resonance ruptured by our brute handling of Gordan. Mortals are so easily distracted, we concluded.
We spoke again, “Like you, there have been many before.”
We sent images into his mind, moving images that told him of the ones who we had rescued before. He watched the elderly Beningmar as she lay coughing blood in a corner of her house, alone and miserable. And then he watched her confronting her past, and then at her being absorbed by us – the monolith extracting her darkness while the orbs extracting the rest of her.
He watched a dying human by a highway. He watched the man in his final breath, beckoning to someone named Millicent. He watched the lips tremble as the man took her name. The body shivered, and he saw a pool of blood as the human struggled to survive as it lay in front of a stationary truck on the highway. He then saw the man standing in front of the same monolith letting go all of his pain and suffering, and then allowing himself to be absorbed into the orbs.
“But... who are these people?”
“They are from an instant just before yours. They were the last souls we rescued. They are safe now.”
The images continued. He watched himself and his crew, lying next to a crashed spaceship on a planet. The boxes of medicine burnt in the crash fire, as all four of them struggled to keep their eyes open. We felt the confusion in his inability to comprehend what he saw.
“What in Lord’s name is this? This cannot be true. We have to still reach the planet. Are these visions from my future? But…” we heard his bewildered thoughts echo in the recesses of his mind.
“Look carefully.” And we guided his mind into observations of reality, unclouded and lucid.
He looked and he saw the launch pad where the spaceship had taken off. An explosion; and he watched his ship crash back onto the planet, the four of them on the ground, writhing in pain and blood. The next image was him standing where he was currently; the image merging into his own sight of vision.
His eyes were wide in horror and disbelief at the realization; they had never even left home in the moving images.
We read his thoughts and assuaged him.
“But you are ok now. You are safe now. There will be no more suffering for you. All your darkness of the past shall be cleansed off you.”
“But I don’t understand. Is that how things were going to be? Before you saved us?”
“No captain. Those were things that have already happened.”
They had failed the mission. They had crashed even before they left the atmosphere. This was where he would seek salvation for all those he had failed. We will cure him of his disease, his pains, and his sins; free him for the darkness within him. We let him know so.
He shook his head, not believing us. We watched his mind as it raced through a muddle of chaos. The thoughts twisted and turned as he tried to comprehend what he had just heard.
“But the spaceship, it’s right there. This can’t be true. This devilry needs to end. I have to get out of here, and reach the planet before it’s too late…” we heard him think, and then he ran. He was scared and he had made his choice. Through the endless terrain he sprinted towards his spaceship.
But he would never reach it; it was only a mirage from a time long gone. We appealed to him but he wouldn’t stop. We stepped back and waited.
An eternity he would run and still find no escape. To us he will have to return and his sins he will have to confront. It is in us that he shall seek and find salvation. In us he shall become one and attain the purity of Nirvana. Here he shall find home again. There is no other choice but us. All roads that he shall take return to only us.
We wait for him to stop. We have all the time in the world. Our orbs cackle in anticipation.