It wasn’t that he hated the house. No, it was a wonderful house. It was just that it reminded him of what a waste it had all been.
His entire life had been wrapped up in acquisition so much that he’d entirely forgotten what it was like to be human.
Well, that’s not exactly true. He wasn’t really human, was he?
But, he’d lived among them so long he almost felt like he was one.
Still, when the council decided to pull the plug, the whole experiment, he thought “Why?” There was so much to be learned – more than they could ever learn in centuries.
In fact, it had been centuries they were studying the humans, but nothing could have prepared him for what happened next.
Thinking about the recent call to return to planet Quanas, he tried to recall any memories of growing up there, but they were long dimmed as if it was another life.
Remembering the day he arrived on Earth and began to search for a host he was amazed at how surprisingly easy it was to find a host body.
It was a good thing the humans discarded so many of their young.
He didn’t like the idea of taking a life. It seemed beneath him, somehow.
That’s why the abortion clinics were a hotbed of activity for his kind. It seemed that many of his fellow travelers wanted nothing to do with taking an active host – with all of its memories and lifetime experiences.
No, it was better to start anew. Something fresh, untainted, as it were. It didn’t matter that they were dead or dismembered – if the child had been destroyed as long as 24 hours before the body was discovered it was possible to regenerate life; the soul had long since departed.
The question now was, what was he to do with this body? The council had suggested dumping it in a remote location, but that didn’t seem quite right. Sure, he wouldn’t leave behind a family or even friends, but there were acquaintances…maybe the council would change their minds and let him stay…after all, he’d been Frank Brody for so long now, it all seemed such a waste.
No, they were pretty absolute…doubt that could happen.
What if he did leave abruptly, leaving this shell behind?
Would anybody really mourn him? Would they even miss him?
Sure, Susie at the grocery store would wonder why he hadn’t been in to restock on his supply of Twinkies and Mountain Dew.
Man, he loved that stuff!
Yeah, it wasn’t good for this body, but still, it was wonderful tasting things, feeling things.
It was different on his home planet.
Emotions had been wiped out centuries before he had been hatched.
On his home planet emotions, while not specifically forbidden, were not spoken of and in fact, if any hatchlings were to suggest any feelings of any sort their peers and their role models would quickly stamp out any thought on the matter.
His planet had experienced countless wars on account of emotions, so when a drug – Solema – was invented that would wipe out any emotions, it was quickly embraced by the government.
Of course, the citizens, Frank learned in his history classes, did not want any part of it. They wanted to keep their baseless, useless emotions, so the first attempts at ridding his world of the cursed things were not successful.
It wasn’t until Quanas was ravaged by wars – engineered of course by the various governments – that some people began to agree that yes, emotions and by extension religion that fueled so many of these emotions, had to go.
Of course, there were some holdouts – especially among the more religious sects – but a combination of their leaders telling them it was okay to embrace the idea that perhaps there was really no God and that it had been all made up and a steady release of the drug into the water supply worked so well at eliminating emotions the government felt confident it had done the right thing.
Frank wasn’t so sure anymore that it had been the right thing.
He remembered the first time he felt fear.
It happened here, on Earth. He’d been hiking in the vast Montana wilderness when he heard a sound he never wanted to hear again. A growl so deep he felt pain simply at the sound of it.
Taking off at a fast sprint towards his Jeep parked about 400 yards from where he’d been standing, Frank never turned around until the engine had started and he began to move. He saw nothing, so to this day he never knew what it was, but that didn’t matter really. The fear had seemed to give his feet wings!
That was very unexpected.
Yes, the entire experience was frightening, but it was also exhilarating. He really felt that he was alive…as if every cell of both his own body and that of the shell he’d taken exploded into a thousand pieces, only to be returned seconds later.
There was nothing like it.
Only now, he’d begun feeling something even stronger and he didn’t quite know what to make of it.
Sometimes it felt as powerful as fear – but more often it felt ten times more powerful. But not in a bad way, actually, it made him feel more connected to everything…the universe…every single organism in it…as if he breathed along with all of creation.
There it was, that word again. why did he choose to use it?
He could think of no other word to describe a power that he knew his people had long ago rejected.
He knew, however, that the belief in a higher power, an entity that was at once alien to this planet, but part of this planet. what humans called “God”, worshipped under many names, but in fact, the creator of them all.
It was the idea that this love, this emotion the humans called love, was the connection to this God. It was almost as if, when this feeling consumed his every thought, that he almost felt like he could touch Him.
Any serious student of history knows how religion has destroyed civilizations. Sure, it’s built them up for a time, but at the end of it all, the believers have gone on to destroy the world and others around them as a result of their belief in a God.
This is why Frank rejected the notion outright.
There had to be something else. Maybe it was biological, chemistry, whatever you wanted to call it. It was something, but not an entity.
Or was it?
Ms. Bishop believed in God.
Frank believed in Ms. Bishop. She was beautiful, well spoken, and her heart, Frank imagined, beat only for him.
Or did it?
It was hard to tell. Emotions were complex things and since he’d never seriously afforded them any study he wasn’t sure, but something about them intrigued him.
Quanas quickly realized the problem with wiping out emotion on their planet – one they should have foreseen but didn’t.
Nobody wanted to procreate.
This was obviously a side effect of the drug and the mental conditioning his people had gone through for years, but the governments had enjoyed centuries of control and they were hesitant to stop the drugs and let people become emotional again, so they decided to let science take over the creation of new citizens.
Large biological factories soon began creating new life which was then raised in accordance with governmental protocol.
This strategy worked for centuries – until it didn’t.
Their population was slowly dwindling down and nobody understood why. Despite the most advanced medical knowledge and skills, people simply died hundreds of years before they should have.
There were theories, sure, lots of them. Some people said the climate on the planet was changing too rapidly, others said there were poisons in the water, the food, the air, still others said that it was just the way nature intended it…a species becomes dominant, then it dies out.
Despite all of the remedies they tried, people still died way too soon.
That’s when the governments decided to look off world for answers. Hence the Earth study. There was also a Mars study, one on Venus and Frank imagined there was also one on Saturn, but he wasn’t entirely sure.
Frank really believed that the answer lay on Earth, but that was really a moot point now, wasn’t it? Now that he was ordered to return to Quanas.
When he first learned how life came into existence on Earth he was disgusted. It was so..animalistic.
But that was years ago and now he thought nothing of it. It had nothing to do with him.
Well, that was until he met Ms. Bishop.
Although he was human by all accounts – after all, the body he took when he arrived on this planet had been discarded, tossed aside like so much garbage – Frank was uncomfortable with using this body for anything other than mere survival.
Maybe I’ve been here too long after all…
The council had given him 24 hours to wrap up his life here and return to Quanas.
He needed more time, but he knew it would be useless to appeal for more time. There was no logical reason for him to stay and an emotional one would be dismissed – quickly.
Looking at the softly falling snow as it dotted the landscape outside of this home, Frank was struck quite suddenly with an emotion.
Rather than squelch it with a dose of Solema, Frank let it come, wondering what it was even as it washed over him, clouding his mind and making his heart feel like a great stone block.
It was even hard to swallow, and as he began to feel his eyes fill up with tears he began to sob.
He’d never cried before. It felt strange.
After some time sitting by the window, Frank’s thoughts began to drift towards Ms. Bishop.
He imagined her sitting across the room from him, her long, silky black hair framing her delicate features as she looked up at him, her eyes full of questions that her mouth never asked.
Frank wondered what Ms. Bishop would do when she learned of his departure. Would she be sad?
A quiet knock at his door interrupted his thoughts. That’s odd…I’ve paid rent, so it’s not Mrs. Burninsky…I wonder who…
He opened the door.
“I’m sorry it’s so late…”
“No, no, please come in,” said Frank, pleased to see her.
As she stepped into the room, the smell of jasmine filled his nose. It was all he could do to keep from wrapping her in his arms.
“Please, sit down, Ms. Bishop,” Frank said, motioning towards a chair by the fireplace.
“Thank you…please… I’ve told you… call me Carol.”
“Carol…it’s so good to see you.”
Frank sat down in the chair across from Carol, looking at her intently. Something was wrong…
“What’s wrong?” said Frank, his voice full of concern.
Her blue eyes gazed up at him. “I had to come by…I’m afraid I’ve got…”
Not sure he wanted to know what it was Frank interrupted.
“All in good time…but first, would you like something to drink?”
Smiling at him, Carol said, “Yes, please. Do you have something warm?”
“I’ve got coffee…or maybe some hot chocolate?”
“Hot chocolate sounds wonderful…thank you.”
“Perfect…I’ll be just a minute…”
Returning from the kitchen with two mugs of hot chocolate, Frank watched Carol as she sat next to the fire, gazing into it as if lost in thought.
“Here we go…this will warm you up. Be careful, though, it’s hot.”
“Thank you so much, Frank. You’ve been such a good friend to me…I…”
“No, it’s you who’ve been good to me,” said Frank, beginning to feel the same emotion he had earlier. Now he knew what it was…sadness…melancholy.
“Frank…there’s something I want to tell you, but I’m not sure how…”
“Sometimes it’s best to just come right out and say it,” said Frank, “of course, what do I know…I’m only 25 years old, so…”
“Oh no,” said Carol, “You may be only 25 but you’re much wiser than anyone I’ve ever known. I guess I’m just afraid…”
Feeling emboldened, Frank reached across the space between them and grasped her hands.
The connection he felt was immediate…more than he’d ever felt before. Strange…
Carol didn’t pull away from his touch. In fact, she squeezed his hands back and smiled.
“Okay then…here goes.”
“I’ve got to leave…within 24 hours.”
Frank was shocked. “What? Why? Where are you going?”
Then, thinking better of it, he said, “No, never mind…forget I asked…it’s really none of my business.”
Carol said, “No…I want to tell you…it’s just that I’m not sure you’ll believe or…”
“Why wouldn’t I believe you? You’re not a liar.”
“No, it’s not that…it’s just that it will probably sound crazy to you…it almost seems crazy to me…almost…”
Curious, Frank said, “Well, I’ve got quite the vivid imagination, so go ahead…tell me and I’ll probably…in fact I will….believe you. I know the kind of person you are and…”
“Person…” Carol said, smiling slightly, “well…that’s not exactly right…”
Frank’s eyebrow raised and his heart skipped a beat. “What do you mean, “not exactly right”?”
“Frank…I’m not entirely human…in fact, you could say that I’m not human…at least on the inside.”
Frank released his grip and sat back in his chair.
Carol bit her lip, then she abruptly stood up. “I knew I shouldn’t…”
Frank looked up and reached for her.”No, no, it’s not what you think…”
“I’m sorry Frank, I’ve got to go…I wish I had more time, but…” She began to walk towards the door.
Feeling like an idiot, Frank lightly touched her shoulder, “Please, Carol…stay…I believe you, I do….please tell me everything.”
Carol hesitated, then turned around and looked into Frank’s eyes.
“I’m not from Earth, Frank. I’m from a planet in the outer reaches of this galaxy. I’m part of a team of travelers and I’ve received word that it’s time for me…for us…to return home.”
“Yes, I don’t know who the other travelers are, but I’ve been told that there will be at least five of us. We leave tomorrow night…at midnight.”
Unsure what to say, Frank stammered, ‘But…but…”
“I know it sounds crazy, and I wouldn’t care if you thought I was, I just didn’t want to leave without saying…”
Gathering his composure Frank interrupted, “Carol, no, I think you’re quite sane.” Then, smiling at her surprised look, he said, “I know you’re telling me the truth. I…”
“Frank, you don’t have to try to make me feel better…”
“No, it’s true…I do believe you but I want to know more…”
Carol moved closer to Frank, looking up at him, her blue eyes turning almost violet, “What, exactly, would you like to know?”
He thought she must feel his pulse drumming through his fingertips as they lay in her hands. “What planet did you travel from?”
Not sure to think, Carol decided to be totally honest with him. “The planet Quanas. Your planet calls it Planet X.”
That’s when he knew it. It wasn’t the lack of Solema, although maybe that is what helped to open his eyes.
God is real, thought Frank.
There’s no doubt.
In the entire universe, to fall in love…yes, he was in love with the beautiful Ms. Bishop, of that he was certain, with another one like he, a fellow traveller…it made perfect sense.
Carol studied Frank’s face. He looked…happy. She’d never seen him like this. In all the time she’d known him, he’d always had a rather steady, unemotional response to everything.
“My darling Carol…may I use that term? For that’s how I feel…you’re so precious to me.”
Carol’s heart nearly broke in two. Why, oh why did she have to return home? Couldn’t she avoid the departure site…stay here until this body died and then find another one?
“I’m sorry, Frank. I can’t…I mean, I do care for you, it’s just that…”
“My love…you don’t understand…let me show you.”
Frank pulled her close to him, wrapping her in his strong embrace.
“Look into my eyes,” said Frank, “and see why you have shown me, really shown me that God is real, that he exists. Just like you’ve said.”
As she looked deep into his eyes she began to laugh, her heart filled with joy.
“God truly is great”, Carol thought. “Their people would soon know just how great He is.”