The three women were silent while the black velvet expanse above them was splintered by pinpoints of light. She spoke first. The other two women held her gaze. They knew that no one could stare at her directly and stay sane. They looked away. The orb hovered in front of them. It was spinning slowly. She prepared to consult it and moistened her lips. Shadows of darkness gathered around the orb.
"Now I put it to you...what shall we do with this one?"
Jake sighed. His old man was tapping at the door with his walking stick. Jake nodded at him. His Dad smiled slightly and raised his eyebrows. Jake tried not to laugh out loud in embarrassment. He took the cup of coffee from his father's unsteady hands. Then walked quickly out of the apartment.
The foreman was pacing and swearing to himself. Jake approached with caution.
"Where is that little bastard...there you are you little..."
Jake stopped and knew what would come next.
"You've got two minutes before I kick your ass...If you keep showing up late then that's it...you're gone mate..."
Jake tried not to run. But then he did run. He ran to the loading bay clutching the coffee cup to his chest. He didn't even notice the coffee slopping out of the cup and all over him. Some of the men smiled and others laughed out loud. Jake tried to smile but the tears in his eyes told a different story.
The next day Jake arrived at work half an hour before he clocked on. The manager was shuffling paperwork and rattling his pen. He looked up at Jake then back down at the piece of paper. The manager screwed up the paper and threw it on the floor.
"Do you know what that was?"
"It was your ticket off the planet."
"This is your last chance son."
The hall was full. They writhed and cried out as one voice. Some stood and swayed and others were motionless in their seats. Then the prayer began:
"Universe...light and darkness...stars that splinter blackness...blackness that swamps the sky...when will you shine ...when will you shine...lightness and darkness be upon us...when will you enter our minds once more...great God of the universe speak..."
But there was only silence and they wept. Some stood still, and some cast themselves down on the ground and writhed about, and others gibbered with their tongues. Then the oldest and wisest of them stood up and clutched onto the seat in front of him. His eyes blazed with great authority and his voice quavered slightly. Those around him were silent.
"Silence..." someone whispered and the whisper was urgent as it passed from mouth to mouth. They were still.
"Now let him speak.” He cried out.
And they were still and silent.
The old man smashed his gnarled fist into the seat in front of him. He was blind in both eyes but he could hear them all breathing and wondering: What in the great heavens? Who is this son of Earth? How did he get in here? And they began to murmur and mutter.
The old man sighed. "Then I will speak for him. If you will not listen to God. Then I will speak. You fools...you carry on...when will you listen...when you will ever just be silent and still and listen for God and then he will come to you in abundance...just stand still be silent...be still and then...listen."
And for once they did just that they stood in absolute silence. They did not cry out and demand God's voice. They did not expect God's voice to come to them. They were still and then He spoke to them.
It was a whisper and it was one word.
And they waited in silence for more. But that was all they heard.
Jake woke up crying out, "Why did you bring us here? Dad?" His voice trailed off. His room was dark. He stumbled over a pile of clothes and then nearly slipped. Jake groped at the door pushing himself up and away from it. He slowed himself down by breathing deeply and with each exhale he wanted to scream. But a muffled cracked sound came out of his mouth instead.
"Dad where are you?"
"What the heck is the time son. Where are you boy?"
He burst into his father's room and turned on the light.
"My God son...you scared me...What do you mean why did I bring you here?"
Jake looked around the room and then he sat on the edge of his Dad's bed.
"What's it like out there Dad?" He said pointing up towards the ceiling.
"Well you've seen pictures and movies of what it's like..."
"Dad I'm eighteen. I've had eighteen years of this shit hole. Why don't I apply for a job as a pilot or a space engineer, or a co-pilot..." Jake trailed off.
"Because then son where would I be...what would I do without you here by my side?"
He reached out to hold Jake's hand but Jake jerked it away.
"What do you mean?"
"You're all I have left son."
"Listen, how the hell did we end up here?"
"Because where else was I going to go...we hardly had any money...your mother and I wanted to get the away from our parents...as far away from them as possible..."
In the morning, Jake and his old man could barely look at each other. Jake left in silence. He arrived at work the next day and felt exhausted before his shift had even started. The shift manager ran up to him and grabbed him by the arm.
"Jake we've had an emergency. We need you to be on board within five minutes."
"Where's it headed." Jake asked.
"Does it matter?"
"Not really..." Jake replied.
Jake was in front of a massive cargo ship. He was inside the ship and the engines had already started to warm up. Blue flames began to burst from the side ports. Slowly, he turned to the droid which was focused on directing the ship out of the station. Then he remembered his father. He started to fidget with the belt buckle that held him in place. But it would not unlock. A small bead of sweat began to slowly trickle from his scalp as a grey hand hovered in his peripheral vision. It grasped his shoulder.
Jake's father turned over the picture in his hands. There he was, his son, smiling at the camera. His piercing blue eyes were so very clear then. That blond mop of hair on his head was almost white when he was four years old. Where was Jake now that he needed him the most? Peter sighed and began to mutter to himself. "Where is that boy?...just like his mother...always taking off...always leaving me by myself.”
He took a sip from the large glass of whisky he held in his left hand. Then he glanced occasionally at the picture of his son as a young boy. All those years ago when they left her behind...Mary...was she still even alive? Peter looked at the picture one more time and carefully placed it back in the drawer by his bedside. He turned the glass of whisky around and around in his hand. He looked up at the ceiling above him and started to weep. When was the last time he said those words? God. Where is my boy? What had brought both of them here to this red planet?
All those years ago when Jake had been an infant the radioactive dust had settled on the buildings from the copper clouds above. Peter and Mary had been lucky enough to have government jobs and money to bribe officials to be amongst those to be shipped to Mars. The war had escalated quickly and Earth had long since been an ideal place to live. The natural environment was mostly gone by the time the war occurred. The third space race had led to an escalation in a build up of nuclear weapons. Peter and Mary had planned it carefully. They would go to Mars with the child and start a new life there.
“A new planet...a new beginning...” They used to whisper to each other. Hoping that it would be exactly that for each other and their new child.
They could see the white cylindrical point of the spacecraft from the holographic image that hovered before them. Peter held his wife's hand as they waited for the countdown to begin.
"Launch begins in one minute...please prepare for boarding."
The red embers of dusk began to drift across the horizon. Peter held her hand closer in his own. She cradled the baby in her arms while the crowd began to move towards the chamber that would transfer them to the space vessel. Mary wasn't beside him. Where had she gone? She had taken a step backwards with the child in her arms. Peter was stunned. "Where are you going Mary?" He asked cautiously.
"I don't know! Why do we have to leave?"
"What are you talking about? We've been warned about this by the government...Haven't you been watching and listening and don't you realise what will happen if we stay?"
"I don't give a damn...what about our son? What about our boy? If we take him up to that planet how much better would that be?"
"Look we've got to leave now! We've talked all of this through already."
Peter reached out and took the child from Mary's hands. The child began to scream. Mary let him take the child and then she took another step back. He cried out to her, "Mary what are you doing?" Mary turned and began to run. He started to follow her. He understood then what he needed to do. Peter kept walking and he left her standing there. It was only when he was in the boarding chamber that the horror of what he had done began to enter into his mind. He wanted to drop the child but he could not. He wanted to scream but could not. He wanted to remove the image of her screaming out for him to come back, to leave the child and come back to her, but he could not. He turned and began to beat at the closed boarding chamber with his hand. But it would not open. The boarding chamber started to rise up toward the space vessel. Then the crowd was pushing past him. He looked down at the child in his arms and then walked to his assigned passenger seat. The child was safely secure in its own space capsule. As the ship began its ascent into the stratosphere Peter looked down at his hands.
Jake came face to face with a grey creature with a grey face. He screamed which startled it. The creature clutched his shoulder and hissed at him. "Be quiet!" It looked around nervously while its eyes glanced at Jake's neck and then it began to dart around the room mumbling to itself.
"What the hell are you?" Jake said struggling to get out of his seat.
The creature glanced at him and hissed at the seat belt which immediately slid open. Jake stood up unsure of how that was possible.
"How did you do that?"
"Oh it's not so hard..."
Jake was fascinated as it glided and scuttled about the room. It stopped and looked back at him.
"What are you problem by?"
"Why do you say problem by?"
Jake raised his eyes and whistled slowly.
"Are you even real?"
"What are you talking about?" It screeched.
"Ah...ok...well here's the thing...where are we going and why am I even on this spaceship and what the hell are you some kind of monkey, dwarf, alien or something?"
The creature started to moan and a green tear fell from its narrow eyes. The tear fell and burnt a hole through the floor leaving an acidic smell behind it.
Jake stared at the floor, back at the creature, and then back down at the floor.
"What are you really?"
"I talk no more."
"OK you talk no more..I mean I...I will go and find out what the hell is going on..."
Jake moved quickly from the front of the vessel throughout the whole space craft. He reached the cargo room that was full of crates with strange symbols on them. He opened the edge of one of the smaller crates. There were packages inside containing a noxious green herb. He sniffed in the fragrance and the room began to spin around him. He closed the edge of the crate forcefully. It was the first time he had inhaled chemically generated Marijuana and if it could do that from just the vapours he tried not to think what it could do if somebody actually started smoking the stuff. Some of the other crates had air holes in them and he could hear creatures inside squirming around. There were many different crates of all sizes and shapes that had come alive with different sounds now that the things inside them knew there was someone else in the room. Jake came to the horrifying realization that he had no idea where he was headed, that he had left his father alone by himself, and that the first Alien he had met was smuggling drugs and rare species of livestock.
Jake walked back taking his time and trying to focus. He was hoping that the Alien creature would not be there when he got back. But sure enough there it was sitting at the controls of the space-craft. It turned those narrowed eyes at him and winked.
Jake took a step back not sure what it would do next.
The three women were very silent as they observed Slade and Jake sitting in silence while the craft began to prepare for light speed. Then she spoke "So...we have brought them together but we must be careful of this one..." The old blind man was brought into the council chamber. He stumbled and nearly fell. One of the three women smirked while the other two smiled. He did not bow his head in shame or embarrassment instead he raised his head up and stared straight ahead of him. The leader of the three women rose from her throne and beckoned the guards to lead him forward. The guards took him and led him roughly to stand in front of her. They knelt before her. "Now leave." She shrieked. The other two women stayed seated with their legs crossed and a slight smile upon their lips. The guards left the room. "Now kneel before me." He did not kneel. He stood there resolutely with his chin thrust out. "Kneel you dog." She hissed at him. He did not kneel. She quickly strode towards him down the three steps that led to where he stood trembling slightly with shame and rage. She struck his face with her palm, and spat on his beard. The other two also rushed forward now and struck him with their nails and their fists. He fell forward. trying to cover the blows that rained down upon him with his thin weak arms. Then after they had finished spitting on him they walked away from him. "Take him out of our sight. Take him to the room of isolation." The guards lifted him up from where he lay. He was weeping openly. They led him away.
The ship landed and Slade strode down the exit hatch. Jake followed cautiously. All around them were things that looked like Slade in male and female form. They moved about carefully unloading the crates and moving them into a large holding bay shed. Until they saw Jake. They stopped what they were doing and began to shriek and wail. Jake stood there puzzled. Why would they be so alarmed. He meant them no harm at all. Jake walked cautiously down the ramp. They weren't afraid of him anymore. They went back to what they were doing and watched him very carefully. He was still puzzled by their strange appearance and behaviour but he seemed quite strange to them too. So Jake waited at the bottom of the ramp while Slade walked away from him and joined the others. Jake was alone while Slade talked to his people in a strange language. Slade looked him up and down and spoke to the others once more. They were deciding whether to let him walk amongst them once more. But Jake knew that he was not one of them, that he belonged on another planet altogether. He knew he belonged on Earth, and Earth was a waste land now. Slade stopped talking to the others and approached Jake. Slade spoke to him with his voice rising to a high irritating pitch, "How dare you make me cry?"
"Sorry." Jake replied. "I never meant to hurt you...any of you."
Slade turned away from him and shrugged and kept talking to the others around him. Jake shrugged as well and stood there waiting for an explanation. Eventually, Slade turned around and looked surprised to see Jake still standing there. "Do you want to know why we brought you here?"
"Yes. Why did you kidnap me and bring me to this place...What about my Dad?"
"Oh...that is not our problem...you see we want your power..."
"What power could I possibly have?"
"You mean you don't even know?"
"No...I don’t even know what you are talking about...."
Jake waited for his answer. Slade smirked at him.
“Look I don’t know why you have brought me here…But my old man needs to know what’s going on…”
“Put Jake in the pit until he tells us how he does it.”
“Does what…what is it I do?”
They circled around him and began to pull him down to the ground. He struggled but he knew there wasn’t much point in that. Every time he tried to push them off of him there were several more ready to keep him pinned to the ground.
They pushed him into the pit which was full of mud and clay so there was no way to climb out of it. He struggled to claw his way upwards. More mud fell on top of him and he knew there was no way out of this. So he stood there while they hurled insults from above him. They spat on him and they threw a tattered sheet down to him. He was naked now. His clothes had been ripped to shreds by their hands. He wrapped the sheet around his mud stained, bruised body. The side of his head was cut open.
They left him there. Slade was the last to leave. “We will leave you there until you give us your power.”
“But what power is that?” Jake asked.
Slade wandered off to join the others.
Jake was shaking from the adrenaline pumping through his system. He could see the black expanse above him broken by splinters of light. He put his hand to the side of his head. Then he took it away to see blood and mud mixed together. Eventually, he did fall asleep only to find himself screaming out loud. He closed his mouth and then screamed again in his mind. He stood up and tried to wipe the mud off the sheet that was around his body. It was covered in grime.
He stood there for some time looking up at the stars. He jerked his head towards the edge of the pit. He could see golden bright eyes peering down at him. The creature that was at the edge of the pit was as pale as a cloud and slightly transparent. It held it's finger to it's lips and Jake began to whisper up at it.
"Can you please get me out of here?"
The creature nodded slowly. It raised it's hand and placed it on the ground next to it. Jake looked down and began to feel his feet to start to rise up from the bottom of the pit. He was amazed. It was only when he was out of the pit that he realised she had just raised him out of the pit with the power of her mind. She was unlike any other woman he had ever seen. She stood beside him and raised her hand to the side of his head and whispered some strange words under her breath. Jake started to jerk away from her hand but then he relaxed when he realised she meant him no harm. Jake felt a tingling feeling along the side of his head and when she took her hand away from him Jake knew she had healed him completely. Jake was astonished. How was such a thing possible? The female spirit beside him beckoned him to follow her. Then she put her finger to her lips so that he would remain silent.
They walked quietly together for some time. Every time that Jake would stumble she would steady him with her hand. He couldn't help but look over at her every now and then to see if she was real or not.
The landscape around them was quite surreal . They walked past plants and trees that Jake had never seen pictures of before. Everything around him was so fresh and clear. It was only then he realised that he had been breathing sterile, recycled air for most of his adult life. He stopped walking and she also paused beside him. Jake reached out to touch a plant. She didn't try to stop him. He could feel the dry edge of the plant's leaf. It was crisp beneath his fingers. He wondered what the plant would taste like. The spirit woman beside him placed her hand on his shoulder and pulled him away from the plant. She smiled gently at him. “There is plenty of time for that later on. We must keep going."
Jake had been staring at her face. But the strangeness of it was that her lips had remained closed.
"Now," she said without opening her mouth to speak, "telekinesis is real for you too."
Jake nodded in silence. “Thank you...but why are you helping me?”
“We have to keep walking…” She replied.
They reached a steep descent. Smoke trails were coming from the huts all around him. Jake and the woman had been walking for some time and the sun was starting to rise over the village. He looked back to thank her for leading him to the village. But she was nowhere to be seen. He could tell he was being watched. He looked up at the sun and waited for someone to speak but there was no sound at all. It was so beautifully still all around him. He could hear nothing at all. Then they were all around him touching his arms and pressing against him. They looked similar to the woman who had rescued him. He tried to move away from them but they pressed closer to him. He tried to close his eyes because he was ashamed of the dirt, and grime that covered his body. They led him to a stream near the edge of the village. They washed his body and cleaned the cuts and bruises on his arms and legs. They bandaged the side of his head with a cloth. He wept then and the tears flowed freely from Jake’s eyes as they sang to comfort him.
Slade was furious. What was he supposed to do? The one known as Jake had disappeared. Slade sat down to think. There was nothing at all beside the pit, no sign of a struggle. Slade began to step around the empty pit. There were some tracks leading off towards the east. He could already hear some of the others starting to wake up and get ready for the day. The three sisters would be furious at him if he came to them empty handed. Why were these humans so tricky to find? He began to stride quickly toward the east while the sun rose. He glared at the light while it pierced his eyes and he pulled his hood down so that he wouldn’t be blinded. The grey scales on Slade’s arms and hands glistened with moisture as he kicked at plants and shook his fist at the sun. “Damn you sunshine…damn you Jake…When I find you then you will see.”
Slade walked with his head down. He preferred the shadows and the darkness as most of his kind did. He was so used to staying indoors and out of direct sunlight that the outdoors made him nauseous. Slade saw an outcrop of rocks nearby. He decided to shelter there in the shadows until the nighttime would fall and then Slade would search in earnest for him.
Night fell and Slade sprang up eager to begin the hunt. He ran madly across the landscape. His tongue lolled about in his mouth until it was dry. He didn’t mind the scrapes on his arms and legs that came from running through the scrub.. The three sisters had sent him a dream. They knew Jake had escaped and the sisters had told Slade to go East to the village that was hidden in the valley. Slade arrived there at dawn covered in bruises and cuts. He paused for a moment and looked down at the village and smirked. Slade knew a direct approach would never work. So he clambered down along the rocks and waited at the bottom of the valley to ensure nobody had heard him. He stuck to the early morning shadows and crawled his way forward towards the nearest hut. Slade waited there for some time and listened. He could hear Jake’s voice.
Jake woke dressed in clean clothes. He was sleeping on a soft mattress that was sewn together. The hut was clean and well maintained. There was a pot of stew cooking over coals in the centre of the room. The smell of it made Jake groan. He didn't recognise the smells of the fresh food cooking in the pot. But the aromas made his stomach ache. He wanted to leap out of the bed and devour the hot dish that had been left there. He raised his head up and felt the blood rush upwards to his skull. He almost passed out from the effort. He had been running on adrenaline and fear for the past twenty four hours and now it was all catching up with him. One of the women cautiously entered the room. She smiled at him. He tried to smile back but even that was an effort. He lay back down and thanked her for all her help. She came forward and sat on the bed beside him. She placed her hand on his chest and pushed him gently back down onto the mattress. He was unsure of what she wanted.. Her fingernails gently trailed along his stomach and down towards his groin. Jake gasped as she began to place her hand around his erection.
Slade grinned to himself and kept quiet. He had crawled further towards the hut where Jake was staying. Slade was hidden by a large plant that covered him in branches and shadow. The other women were pretending to be keeping busy with their daily work instead of listening in to the noises coming from the hut. When it was all over the women in the village all nodded to each other and went on with their day as if nothing extraordinary had happened at all.
Jake turned to her and asked her what her name was.
“I forgot to tell you my name. I don't think you would really be able to pronounce it. So what would you like to call me?”
“What about Marion?” Jake replied. “I remember reading this story as a kid. It had a picture of this stunning woman in it and you remind me of her.”
Marion kissed him gently. “Yes that's as good as name as any and thank you for the compliment.”
They lay there for some time and then she left him. Jake lay there staring up at the ceiling of the hut and fell asleep. After he had eaten some of the stew he looked outside and night had fallen. The others in the village had gone to sleep.
Slade was still watching Jake. But he wasn't sure what approach to take to lure Jake towards him. Slade stayed where he was and whispered softly to Jake.
Jake stopped walking and looked across at the bush.
Jake began to walk towards the bush taking care to walk slowly. He couldn't quite make out who's voice it was.
“Over here...” Slade said once more disguising his voice to sound like one of the women from the village.
Jake was now standing right in front of the bush looking over it and around it to see where the voice was coming from. He paused for a moment and started to turn away. Slade rose up from where he had been hiding and grabbed a hold of Jake from behind.
Peter was being shifted to a higher care facility now that Jake was gone. He was trying not to cry. “He will be back though wont he?” Peter said for the fourth time to the nurse who was leading him by the arm to his hospital bed.
“Yes I'm sure he will be...It won't be long and he will be back.” She said unable to look Peter in the eye.
Peter sat on the bed in the small room that smelt like disinfectant and sighed.
“What happened Jake? Why did you leave me here? Where are you my boy?”
The nurse unpacked Peter's belongings and put his clothes away. Peter sat there trying to understand how things had changed so rapidly. He lay down on the bed and fell asleep.
Jake woke and started to remember how Slade had held a piece of cloth with some pungent chemicals on it to sedate him. Jake was lying in a desert ed area some way from the village and he could see the drag marks on the ground. Slade was standing over Jake. He grinned at Jake and leaned forward with the cloth to try and sedate him further. Jake tried to raise himself up from where he was lying on the ground. But he could barely move. Slade waved the cloth about.
“Careful now Jake...we wouldn't want you to pass out again would we?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Oh...you've become quite a valuable commodity that's why. Now can you walk?'
“I'm not sure...”
Slade sat beside him. “I don't hate this one...but I don't like him all that much either.” Slade said looking across at Jake.
“We will wait a few more minutes. I'm sure they'd give me a reward whether I bring your body to them alive or dead. But probably more money if I bring you alive.”
“I don't really know what you're talking about.”
“Jake...you don't really need to know either.”
Jake lay there breathing heavily as his vision went from grey to full consciousness. He looked back toward the village and he knew even if he screamed it would be unlikely they would be able to hear him or even be able to help him much. The sunshine was strong as Jake struggled to get up while Slade stepped back unsure of Jake's intentions.
“All right Slade...I'm ready...I'm tired of running...take me to them...”
A voice started up in Jake's head.
Are you sure Jake?
No I'm not sure. But what other choice do I have?
I will be with you. When the time comes I will give you the words.
Jake was silent. He was standing in front of three women. They were all strikingly beautiful but there was something wrong with their eyes. He couldn't quite figure out what it was about their intense stare. He would grow weak at the knees and his eyes would become blurry when he tried to stare straight back at them.
They were sitting on three thrones. The throne in the centre was made of gold while the other two thrones either side were made of silver. Jake was stunned. The woman on the throne of gold moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue and then spoke to him gently, “Jake...we finally meet... Now you must be wondering what this is all about? Well let me explain. You see you are someone we have been looking for a long time...”
“I'm not sure what's so important about me...'”
“Well Jake it's quite simple...we have had a bit of a look into the future...and we don't like what we see at all...”
“Well what's that got to do with me?”
“Not everything is clear cut Jake. But your name keeps cropping up again and again. That and the fact our power dwindles while your star shines brighter and brighter according to what we see happening. So now's your chance Jake to let us know if you work for us or against us?”
“I don't even know who you are...But I know this much...I don't like being dragged halfway across the galaxy to be faced by three angry women.”
All three glanced at each other and their frowns turned from anger to spite.