The Herald of our times short story part one
I am in my bed, cold fear running through me, mixing with hot dread and a deep sense of foreboding, I am caught up in a miasma of truly bitter emotions. My body is soaked with cold sweat; it is taking every ounce of willpower to not physically shake with fear. I do not dare move; I do not dare open my eyes, my eyelids are tightly screwed up, like a child who believes he cannot be seen as long as they cannot see them. Thousands of thoughts are running through my consciousness, flooding too fast to be fully understood, but I know every last one of them are not attempting to rationalize the current situation I find myself in.
There is someone in the room.
There is someone in my room, and I do not know how it got in.
In any circumstance where an intruder is in your home a feeling of fear is as natural as the Earths orbit around the Sun. But this is different, I can feel my mind fast unraveling there should not be anyone here not for the lack of want for company- it should be impossible. It is impossible. It physically should not and could not be able to occur. But the presence is here, I can feel it, as sure as I can feel my heart drumming in my chest. I can imagine the room around me, the cold and sterile polished steel walls, the functional decoration comprising of cot bed in which I now pretend to slumber, my writing desk, a lamp which sits on the desk and a stool. But one thing in my room I cannot imagine is the interloper. Somehow even in the dead silence hanging in the air along with my eyes tightly closed, I am aware of the presence in the room, the way you are aware of someone staring at you from behind that un-explainable sensation of someone eyes upon you- though I can feel the presence, my mind cannot conjure up an image, all I see in my minds eye is a figure in black, lost in shadow.
I will not open my eyes, for if the interloper has not attacked me yet, the guise of me sleeping may negate my continued survival until I can pluck up the courage to challenge the intruder.
'I know you do not slumber.' Rasped a bitterly silent voice, which barely rose above a whisper. 'It amuses me that you think one such as I could be fooled by such a childish ruse, but such amusement cannot last forever' finished the voice, with a harsh but short chuckle.
I physically feel my pupils fully dilate beneath my eyelids with shock. Something is in here with me. I lie there for a long moment, which seems to stretch out for an eternity. Questions are circling in my head, is it really here? Am I going insane? Am I dreaming? Whatever is happening I cannot grasp at any form of logic to rationalize any of these thought streams.
'You are not here. 'I say out loud to myself, dredging up information taught to me in basic training. I say these words even though I do not believe them, how strange the mind works when in situations of extreme stress. 'You are a figment of my overstretched imagination brought on by my isolation for such a long period of time.'
There is another harsh chuckle, this one longer than the last. 'If you truly believed that, then you would not have felt the need to vocalize your thoughts would you, Themis?'
At that last word my eyes flash open of their own accord, I do not take in my surroundings, my mind is fast falling into a state of shock. It knows my name. Before I can possibly think of how it could know my name, I realize that not only are my eyes now open, I am sitting up in my cot bed facing the intruder. I can see it now, and how apt my imagination is, for the intruder is in black, shrouded in darkness. I cannot be sure, but it seems it is just the lack of light in my sleeping quarters, the sole source of light being the low wattage bulb in the lamp on my writing desk, which is masking the form of the one who has come aboard.
'How do you know my name!' I gasp as hot fear grips me. My head is pounding as the shock of it knowing my name threatens to send me into a catatonic state.
It laughs long and hard. 'Your flight suite in what I assume would be the maintenance bay. I had a look around before I came for you. I may know a lot of things but I cannot read minds.'
'What are you?' I ask, hoping against hope that I will never find out the answer. Somehow in the pit of my stomach I know it is not like me, it is not human, I can sense that much.
'You are a smart one.' It declares. 'For you did not ask who, but what. Even in your state of shock you have the whit about you to know I am not one of your kind.'
'What. Are. You?' I repeat, this time with a firmness I did not know I possessed. The shock is starting to ebb away, like a patch of ice on a warm winters day.
'The time will come for that, once I have decided if your mind could possibly comprehend one such as me.' Replies the voice in the darkness. 'Do not take that as an insult human, not many in this verse can comprehend what I am, the mind rejects what it cannot come to terms with, more often than not the effects can be devastating. For now, you may know me as the Herald.'
'Why are you here?' I manage, my sudden confidence melting away with every passing second. 'What do you want with me?'
'With you, well not a lot.' It replied. 'What drew my attention was this fine craft you are in. What do you call it?'
I pause for a moment, due to being wrong footed, and that my body is flooding with relief as it did not come for me. I had not expected to be asked such as basic question, for all tense and purposes I had forgotten where I was.
'We call it the International Space Station.'
'Truly it is amazing to see the human race reaching for the stars. The last time I was here, your savior was breathing his last breath.' Declared the Herald. 'Well the scriveners who were deciding the nature of his divinity said he was. How ironic it was that those who killed him would later call him the savior of mankind.'
I look into the depths of the shadow, the look of confusion must be written upon my features as the Herald laughs its low and amused chuckle once more.
'The one your kind call Jesus.' Continued the Herald. 'Of course he was not the man the Church proclaims him to be he was not much of anything to be frank- how the flock are so easily swayed.'
'How can you possibly know what the church says about Jesus if you were here well over two millennia ago?' I ask, what I really want to ask is, how is this being that old? what is it? what is it doing here? But I am struggling to think such thoughts let alone articulate them. I am still expecting to wake up and this to be a bad dream.
'Well, your kind have been emitting electromagnetic radiation at a phenomenal rate ever since you discovered what it could do. We have picked up all of your radio and TV broadcasts since your early 20th century, we have watched the decline of your species, you think the modern age that you think you find yourself in has enlightened you, you could not be further from the truth- we watch your evangelical Christian preachers dole out their lies in arenas fit for kings, while the ones of really need saving are dying in third world countries. I think your Jesus would be turning in his grave...oh, he rose from the dead didn't he?' said the Herald light heartedly, with what I am sure would be a wry grin on its face, if it has a face that is. 'A pleasant fiction such as it is. Your species is held down by religion, without it you can never truly be free. But, religion as an interesting topic as it is, is not what I am here to discuss, well not for the most part. We have seen your slavery, your World Wars, your persecution, hypocrisy and every possible inequity that has occurred and most horrifically is still happening to this very day. We have been watching, and we are not happy.'
'What are you!' I snap, my fear and unease has been replaced by frustration and anger, I jump out of bed, the maneuver looking very exaggerated due to the low gravity. My mind is no more clear than a few seconds ago, but my patience has snapped, it has intruded and is now speaking in riddles. 'You speak of humanities rise to the modern age as a spectator, you are speaking in tongues about nonsense, you have come on this space a station unannounced, uninvited and you hide in shadow like a coward!'
A thunderous silence settles on the room, I fear I have gone too far. I fear it is now going to kill me. I draw in what I believe will be my last breath and brace myself. I hope that in my last moments of life I can at least ensure I do not suffer the indignity of soiling myself before it ends me.
The silence is broken as the Herald steps out of the darkness, upon seeing its true form I collapse to the cold deck and double over, I immediately start to vomit over the floor, the pressure inside my skull is suddenly immense as my vision fogs over, I feel my ears and mouth begin to bleed, as well as my eyes. The view afforded of the room now is as if I am looking through crimson cut glass. I continue to vomit on the floor, as the bitter smell of half-digested food mixed with the iron tang of my blood is making me dry heave even after the contents of my stomach has been emptied onto the floor.
'I did warn you, Themis.' States the Herald. 'My physical form in this verse is too much to comprehend, you may not think it now, but you are one of the lucky few. The last being to see me spontaneously combusted, although I believe the high helium, methane composition of the beings genetic structure attributed to it.'
Any possible reply is stolen as I continue to dry heave, while I roll up into a fetal position, to try and stop my limbs from shaking. My eyes are screwed up tight once more, trying to stave of the flashing after images of the Heralds true form which are now plastered to the inside of my eye lids.
'The vomiting shall pass soon enough, however looking upon me will never be an easy task.' Continues the Herald, I cannot see it but I am sure it is now looking down on me. 'You will more than likely experience nightmares for the rest of your days, as your mind tries to expel what you have seen as fiction.'
'What are you?' I a manage through gritted teeth, as a bitter mix of saliva and vomit taint my tongue and the words I speak. 'Are you a God?'
'No, Themis.' The Herald replies in a serious tone, seemingly no longer in the mood for levity. 'I am in a position to pass judgement, but I am not a God. There are no Gods.'
'Pass judgement?' I ask as the pressure in my skull begins to subside, I am also sure I have stopped bleeding. 'On whom?'
'On you, Themis.' Replied the Herald. 'On your entire species, you have evolved into sentient beings and have failed to see what a truly magnificent gift it is, not only that you have been squandering it for thousands of years. The time has come for judgement. âyou reap what you sowâ I believe that is the proper use of the phrase.'
'You cannot!' I spit out, the sickly feeling almost subsiding entirely. 'You cannot judge an entire species on the same merits. There are billions of people on Earth. There have been countless billions who have died who committed much of what you speak, the ones born today are not responsible for those born yesterday.'
'You are wrong Themis. We can, and we will.' The Heralds voice rasps again. 'I
commend you on your analogy. But, tell me this Themis, have those born today
made amends for those born yesterday?'
'Of course we have.' I utter, my stomach cramping as my brain registers I am now hungry due to vomiting up last night's dinner. I stay in my fetal position not because I feel the need to, because I cannot look at the Herald again. Not yet. 'Look at where you are, if you truly were here two millennia ago, you will recognize how far we have come, we are in a modern age. We have advanced technology, we have created health care. We put it to good use helping mankind, we do not live in a perfect society but we are on our way to making it Utopian.'
'Themis.' Rasps the Herald. 'Advanced technology does not negate a modern civilization. Yes this technology and health care your species has created does improve your well being. But only if you afford it. The advancements of humanity are used to further improve the standing of the few, while the rest are ignored. The great many of those that inhabit your world suffer lives worse than death. This is needless suffering, the wealth of the few could feed the world twice over. This inequity cannot be allowed to continue, it has to stop now before the corruption your species carries can be spread away from your wretched cradle.'
'But there always has been suffering in the world.' I say, trying to make excuses for what I know is me trying to explain actions that I know to be truly deplorable. 'It cannot be stopped.'
'"The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good peopleââ said the Heralds. 'Do you know who said that?'
'Napoleon.' I reply. Dredging up knowledge of my high school history lessons.
'Exactly, and that was from the mouth of a despot.' Said the Herald. 'You can say what you like against tyrants but they know a thing or two about suffering. It has not just been said by Napoleon, but by countless other terrible beings in every universe we have encountered, it is the same where ever we travel, not those exact words but the meaning is the same.'
I am able to take in what the Herald is telling me but I cannot believe it, for it is telling me of other civilizations not only in this universe but others, not only now am I the first to make contact with another sentient life force, but I am also the first to know that there is a great many others, like before I cannot articulate any of this all I can manage is a pitiful question filled with self-preservation riddled all the way through it.
'What are you going to do to me?'
The Herald let out a low guttural laugh, as it comes for me. 'You already know, Themis.'