The speed is driving me mad. All my thoughts, every memory, every feeling, rushing by, pouring out. I press my skull between my fists and scream at the top of my lungs. My eyes are wide open. I see only stars.
“Was that painful? I am sorry. I stopped it.”
I look around. I see only stars. I don’t even see myself.
“Who are you? Where am I?”
“I am Zefa. Your companion. We are traveling.”
Traveling? In space? I feel I should be terrified. I’m not. Not yet.
I start to laugh. “Have I been abducted by aliens? I’ll be damned.”
“I coped the genetic information on your planet and selected you for examination. I was trying to download your memory.”
I smile. “You did not copy every living thing on Earth. . . .”
I don’t see or hear my “companion” but we are clearly comunicating, somehow.
“I am a copy of my real self, you say? Why are you examining my life?”
“Curiosity. I look for life on different planets. I would like to learn about your species.”
“Why did you choose me?”
“You’re an observer.”
“I like, or liked, taking pictures. And I was a journalist for many years. But there are other people who could explain life on Earth a lot better than I could.”
Long pause. Reality, whatever that is, is catching up with me.
“Zefa, I don’t know if you can grasp the impact, the weight of this moment on me. I am somewhere in space talking to someone or something I am not remotely familiar with. It’s a lot for me to chew. Can you give me some time to reflect and digest a little?”
“Take all the time you need.”
*** *** ***
“Zefa, where am I and who are you, exactly?”
“By your measurement standard, we are five light years away from your planet Earth. I am from the planet Mio, in what your astronomers call the Sunflower Galaxy. I search the universe for new life forms. I study them.”
Five light years. My heart, wherever it is, sinks.
“What is your purpose?”
“To feed my curiosity.”
“Do you share your studies with your superiors, others?”
“I travel alone.”
"You downloaded my memory. What else do you need."
"The information alone does not mean much without some explanation."
“What happens when your studies are completed?”
“I save everything in my collection.”
“But why? What's the purpose of your search? Do you get paid for this? Is this your profession or a hobby?”
“I like traveling and learning about other living things. I am drawn to them.”
“But who pays for the food and gas? You need energy to survive don’t you?”
“Energy is all there is.”
“I don’t understand. But here we are. All I ask is a pain-free existence. Don’t hurt or bother me too much and I’ll tell you everything I know. How does that sound to you?”
“I have no intention to hurt or bother you. I can choose another person from Earth whenever you want to stop the conversation.”
“Then what happens?”
“Nothing but a code in a memory bank? Would I be living, thinking… anything?”
“I guess there’s no harm in talking. You seem like a gentle life form. Are you organic or synthetic?”
“I am alive.”
“How old are you?”
“Age is not relevant. I live as long as I want to live.”
“Fascinating! Are you a male or female?”
“We are only one kind. We do not have opposing genders.”
“Sounds boring to me. But as far as evolution goes, you might be more stable than us. Our gender-based existence is full of tension. My name is Noel by the way. I suppose you already know that. But I bet you didn’t know I was named after Santa Claus. A very important person. A rare good person.”
“Why is he good?”
“He makes people happy. He brings them gifts without asking anything in return. But it’s more complicated than that. Santa Claus symbolizes generosity. But in practice he has become the happy face behind more and more consumption. More production. More waste. More pollution. It goes on and on. It’s a vicious cycle. We are taking more than the earth can give.”
“Can’t your people see the danger in depleting and poisoning their planet?”
“Many do. But most are unconcerned or powerless to change things. The future is abstract. Nothing really changes unless disaster stares them in the face. And then it’s usually too late. Our world is driven by money. Countries are judged by how much money they make. People value themselves and others by how much spending power they have. They want more and more things to fill an endless void it seems.”
*** *** ***
“Blue is that you? What is she doing here Zefa?”
“Noel? Where am I?”
“Nowhere. Don’t worry. It’s just a dream. Zefa? Why did you bring her here?”
“You love her. I thought you would like to be with her.”
“Please put her away. Please…”
“Put me away where? What’s going on Noel?”
TO BE CONTINUED