Rise of the Tulusians
The scene of the barren desert floor flew past Dan’s side of the cockpit window at a dizzying rate, but, not to seem weak or wimpy he tried to find immediate relief in stealing glances into Marie’s beautiful, pale blue eyes, which were now fixed on the way ahead toward the path of the cave.
After several moments which seemed like little eternities without Marie saying a word, Dan decided to speak first.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes, Marie,” Dan said, somewhat stiltedly. Marie didn’t respond. “I said, you’re a sight…”
“What I just can’t figure out is how they knew!” Marie said, interrupting Dan. “I mean, it is not like there was a trail. It never rains. The desert floor is practically rock,” Marie continued, musing to herself.
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I don’t…” Dan began.
“And its not like they had a tracking device on you, could they, Dan?” Marie asked, now looking toward Dan, who sat and stared in perfect perplexity.
“Like I was saying, Marie, I’m afraid I don’t know what you are talking about,” Dan said.
“They obviously found you and took you back to the city. But how did they find you on the mountain? How did they know the path?” Marie questioned rhetorically.
“Who said they brought me back, Marie?” Dan retorted. “Who said I was found?”
“That’s true, I suppose, but how did you end up back in the city, then?” Marie responded. The glider was fast approaching the mountain range area where Dan recalled he had been the morning before. Though the place was changed by the waning light of day, it did feel familiar, such that Dan was confident he might know the way back up the path to the cave if let out of the glider.
“I don’t know. All I know is that, when I was getting close up the mountain yesterday, I saw a formation of gliders approaching where I thought you were. I must have got too excited, and in my already wearied state, I think I tripped or something and fell and hit my head and lost consciousness,” Dan said, then continued. “Which reminds me, that was you, wasn’t it, those gliders were surrounding. What happened anyway?” Dan asked.
“What I would have rather not have happened, but what did all the same. I had to use this,” Marie said, and produced from behind the pilot seat a bar of metal that gleamed even in the dim light of the glider’s cockpit, which now stood still, idling at the base of the mountain.
“What in the world is that!” Dan asked in bewilderment.
“This is a light mace. Very powerful. Very deadly,” Marie said gravely.
“You mean for me to believe that you, yourself a, um, girl––I mean young lady––single handedly took out a small fleet of gliders with a, um, piece of shiny metal?” Dan asked, between grunts and chuckles, which made Marie not a little miffed, not to mention a little testy.
“Get out,” Marie said in business-like fashion.
“What? No, I mean, it is not like I think girls, I mean ladies are weak or…” Dan said, but was again interrupted.
“Get out. I am coming, too,” Marie said, and both exited the glider. Marie walked several paces away from the glider, and motioned for Dan to do the same. “Stand clear the glider, Dan,” which he did in obedience. Just then Marie pulled out the light mace and began whirling it in a circular motion about her body with such dexterity and velocity Dan was hard pressed to even see if she held it or had hurled it over her head. Dan was going to ask if now was a very proper time to be dancing like a ballerina with a baton, when, all of a sudden a blinding blast of light shot forth from the end of the light mace which was now poised and pointed toward the glider. As fast as the light appeared, the glider disappeared in enveloping cloud of pure luminescence: no heat, no wind, no sound, just light.
After the cloud, as it were dispersed, or grew less intense, to Dan’s utter astonishment the glider was gone. No ashes. No wreckage. No evidence that the thing ever existed.
“What was that!” Dan shouted, which echoed off the foothills of the mountain.
“That,” Marie began, chuckling to herself now, “is how a girl single handedly took out a small fleet of gliders,” and brushed out the slight wrinkles in her white blouse, and turned toward where the mouth of the path was, with Dan following, mouth half opened.
A time had elapsed before Dan or Marie exchanged any words. Marie was first.
“How far did you get up the path before you had your accident?”
“Oh, I don’t know, probably about three-quarters of the way up. There were the stones you talked about. They had writing or drawing on them,” Dan said.
“You found the Guides. Good,” Marie said. “Did you understand them?”
“I tried and tried to understand, but only got faint impressions that I understood. I felt like they were directing me up the path, but I only had indistinct sense of it,” Dan said, struggling to recall the exact memory of the boulder’s writings and the impression they left.
The two carried on up the path together, as the day was ending over the mountain. Twilight was descending on the valley below, with soft purple hues mellowing and cooling the hot desert floor beaten by the heat of the day.
“We must hasten, Dan, if we are to make it in time,” Marie said, somewhat anxiously.
“Commander Rutherford and his gliders, you mean. I know,” said Dan.
“No, silly. Gliders don’t operate at sundown,” Marie corrected.
“Oh, yea. Forgot about that one. Science, or astro-engineering, was never my strong suit,” Dan said, trying to save face. “What do you mean, then?”
“I mean before the launch,” said Marie almost casually.
“The launch! What launch?” asked Dan exasperated.
“The launch of the vessel you were supposed to be on yesterday, but decided to get knocked out instead, apparently,” Marie said.
“A vessel launch to where?” Dan asked, almost shaking with curiosity.
“Where else, but to the stars?” Marie said, again, casually.
“You’re pulling my pant leg, aren’t you? To the stars? What does that even mean?” Dan asked in ridicule.
“Sometimes I wonder about my orders and your dossier, and whether I or my superiors made some kind of mix up. You are about as incredulous and backward as a jellyfish, not to mention as weak stomached,” Marie retorted.
“Well, what do you mean by to the stars, then?” Dan asked, trying to be more mature and serious.
“If you have any hope to play a lead role in this war, you will have to go up to the stars to do so,” Marie said, and quickened her pace ahead of Dan, up the path. Dan tried to keep pace and follow after her, but only managed to keep her in sight, but could not manage to keep the conversation going.
As Dan tried to keep pace after Marie who was tirelessly proceeding straight up the path, his head swam with the words she left with him. What war, he wondered. And to the stars? What could that mean, a figure of speech? He may not have been well-studied or read in science, but he was quite certain that star navigation was a thing of myth and religious legend, not fact or reality. And even the religious legends surrounding the topic were disputed among the scholars. “To the stars…” he murmured to himself, and chuckled and thought no more on it.
“Are you coming or what?’ Marie hollered down to Dan, who was trying his best to gain on her.
“Coming,” Dan gasped, and continued his labors up the mountain side path. The evening was settling heavy on the land, and things were becoming less visible. Thanks to the distance from the lights of Metro City, along with the clear sky, the stars were able to be seen tonight. Whether because of Marie’s words or the beauty of the low-light polluted air, Dan marked the beauty of the night sky as never before. He noticed how no two pinpoints of light were quite alike, with one a sparkle as of an azure gem, another like a white diamond, or burning amber, and a billion others with a billion other colors and complexions, a countless multitude of like treasures unseen, unknown, under the blindingly bright lights of Metro City.
Finally Marie lessened her speed of ascent for Dan to catch up. “We’re getting close now, just up and round this last bend, and that’s the summit. Did you notice the Guides in the dark?” Marie asked Dan who was now pantingly approaching her position.
“No, only their outline from what I remembered before,” Dan said, still somewhat out of breath.
“Oh, never mind. Had you my eyes, you would have seen them. You will,” was all her enigmatic reply was, which added now to Dan’s perplexity.
They walked now more relaxed, and Marie, allowing Dan to rest a bit here and there against the boulders, gazed up at the stars in admiration.
“Lovely, aren’t they,” Dan said, rather congratulating himself on his own aesthetic sensitivities and appreciation of the fine and beautiful.
“That wasn’t quite how I’d describe them,” Marie said with an almost rebuking tone.
“No? Pity. They’re beautiful to me, at least. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though,” Dan said, now tangibly smug.
“You nitwit. I didn’t mean they weren’t beautiful. But such words hardly do them justice. No, I’d rather describe them as terrifying,” Marie said, and as like one who meant every syllable. Dan presently stopped leaning against a boulder and walked up to where Marie was standing and just stood there staring at her. He noticed her eyes now as they reflected starlight and the distant and faint lights of Metro City, her white uniform and his near the summit of the mountaintop a mere two white specks of reflected starlight amidst a sea of black mass. Her eyes were watery and sincere.
“What do you mean, Marie? Terrifying?” Dan asked in earnest, seeing now she meant every word.
“You will soon see, Dan,” and with that proceeded to the very summit of their climb. Dan followed, utterly and unaccountably moved by her words to fear.
Once at the top of the mountain, Marie motioned for Dan to go forward to where a recess of rock was, out of which only blackness shown.
“In there? You want me to go in there? You are coming too, right?” Dan asked, obviously scared.
“No, Dan. This is your launch, not mine. I, as you, had to do the same, alone, and afraid,” Marie said sympathetically, but sternly. Dan hesitated moving forward toward the opening of the cave, stopped, and looked back toward Marie, then past her down the mountain. She guessed his thoughts.
“You know where that way leads. It is to the unknown that you must now go,” Marie said.
“Can’t you at least tell me what this is all about? I mean what war, and where do you really come from, and how is it that you were able to annihilate a glider with a rod of metal, and how am I to go to the stars?” Dan pleaded.
“No, Dan. You must go and see for yourself. I can only bring you to the brink of truth. You must look and leap over yourself, and trust,” and with that she slowly turned away and sat nearby on the ground. Dan turned back around toward the mouth of the mystery which lay before him. Slowly he approached the cave’s entrance. It was not large, about ten feet or so in diameter, rough-edged from what the reflecting surface indicated, but formidable to Dan’s spirit and senses. His legs quaked beneath him, yet he still approached. He looked back for the last time, and saw Marie sitting on the ground, her head resting on her knees and encouragingly watched him. He waved back to her, then turned and entered into the darkness of the cave.
The recess inside the cave must have been vast, for Dan could not perceive the returning echoes of his foot falls. He walked cautiously in, deeper and deeper, till neither city or star light shone in, but only enveloping black. He could not even see himself.
Soon, a tiny pinpoint of light glowed faint in what appeared to be to Dan an unfathomable distance ahead. He proceeded toward it, but it did not enlarge. The light simply remained the same, neither higher, nor lower than Dan’s eye on the horizon. Anxiety welled up in Dan, but still be carried on through the darkness toward the pinpoint of light.
“What is this,” Dan said aloud, walking now for five minutes toward the light without change. “Surely I should have found something by now!” The floor of the cave was smooth, not like the rocky surfacing outside. It made no sound to walk upon, nor, as Dan now observed, did there carry any sound of the walls of the cave or ceiling. The only things perceptible were his own body, the feel of the floor, and that light. Soon however, to Dan’s utter terror, the floor even gave way beneath his feet. He tried to step backward, as like someone who just stepped over a cliff hurriedly returns to the edge, but to no avail. There was no edge. But, to add to Dan’s terror was his astonishment that he did not feel like he was falling either. He didn’t feel motion. He only felt himself and that light. His focus returned to the light, as he calmed himself down from the fright of thinking he was falling.
The light remained as it ever had, just as small, faint and distant as always. Suddenly, he had a thought, which was that perhaps the thing itself was alive, moving away from him as he approached? The idea swept over his body like a wave of heat and fear, and his hair instantly stood on end.
“Fear not, Son of Woman. You are welcome,” came the voice, or rather a voice like a chorus of voices: voices like a thousand thunderclaps in power and majesty, yet as quiet as softly spoken prayers. Dan quaked uncontrollably, quite helpless to stop. “Be still. Be not afraid. You are known,” came the voices, like a gentle rainfall in spring. The sound of the voices calmed Dan to his bones, and the shivers ceased, and fear gave way to curiosity and almost something like affection, if one could feel for something completely other and unknown.
“What are you?” Dan asked, his own voice in his ears sounding like a mouse squeaks. “Where are you?” All Dan could see was the steady, still light in the distance. “Are you in the light?”
“We are the Light!” came the voices, swelling in might like the roar of the sea, yet Dan was no more frightened than if he were listening to the ocean surf.
“How can something so small sound so mighty and terrible?” asked Dan, now becoming more relaxed.
“Better to ask, how can something so mighty and terrible seem so small! Distance does make the mighty and magnificent seem insignificant and small. We are not as you perceive. It is a grace and curtesy we thus appear, Son of Woman,” sounded the voices. Dan couldn’t quite understand what that meant, but he took it to mean they weren’t small.
“Marie said I needed to come in to this cave to figure out who I was, and to go to the stars. Something about a vessel and a launch? Does any of that mean anything to you?” Dan asked.
“Lady Marie is known to us. She renders honorable service and wise. Listen to her,” said the voices. Dan almost added, “She can be somewhat snarky, though,” but thought better of it.
“So what about this launch to the stars, and about who I am and all?” Dan asked again.
“Are you ready, then, Son of Woman? Are you ready to take that flight?” the voices inquired.
“I think so. Coming in here was dreadfully scary enough. I think after doing that I am up for about anything,” Dan answered with not undue confidence.
“Then continue to approach the light. You will feel a slight tug on your body, but not to worry, you are in no physical danger,” said the voices. This last bit worked to somewhat lessen Dan’s confidence. He approached the light all the same. As he did so, a tugging on his body was felt, first at his toes and his finger tips, then up his legs and arms, and then on his core and chest and head. The feeling was uncanny, unlike any sensation he had ever felt before. He felt as though, were he a rubber band, he might know the sensation intimately. He could not see himself, but if he were he would not recognize himself. He was flatter than a flapjack. Little did Dan know he was entering another dimension through what his science textbooks would have called wormholes, but what was more like a hallway than a wormhole. He kept his eye fixed on the light.
“Say, when’s this tugging and pulling on me going to end?” Dan asked, but the voices didn’t respond. Then all of a sudden the blackness vanished or transformed into light, pure white light, or rather lights, as the room or space where Dan was was surrounded, above, below, and all around by a field of innumerable and unimaginably bright lights. Dan closed his eyes and opened them several times before he could keep them open without searing pain. The tugging sensation in his body subsided, but was still present. So he thought no more about it.
The lights all around him fluttered in intensity, then started to separate from each, or distance themselves, and take up space apart from each other, such that an intervening darkness or void could be seen between them. Up until now, all was silent, but now a faint sounding hum could be heard, but the hum of bees, but more tuneful, like a thousand violins all on the same note. Then, two things happened at once, the lights began to move about in orbiting circle around some invisible center, and the monotonous hum turned into a chorus of a hundred harmonies each mingling into each and yet distinct and independent. Then, though, two more things happened simultaneously, many of the lights which were twirling round and round in perfect pattern and poise dimmed noticeably, then blinked out all together, though, by the way the patterned orbits ran, Dan noticed that they must still be there since a shadow was being cast over the lights behind them, dimming their appearance every once and a while. That, and there sounded in Dan’s ear or rather he felt it in his chest, a rumbling, arrhythmical cacophony of low notes like the sound of whole symphony of out of tune cellos. Dan did not like this new music.
Then one light, brighter than the rest and remaining in its twirling orbit conjoined with other lights. These lights whirled round the regions where Dan saw the other lights go out. Then the scene changed from a great field of light and music to blackness as before in the cave. Not even the distant light shown. Dan could not hear the music either, neither the sweet sounds of the lights or the bitter of the shadows. A time had elapsed before Dan was about to ask aloud what happened, he could see opening up in the darkness what appeared to be a door which let light flood into the darkness of the space Dan was in. He could see himself again, his white uniform, dusty and worn, the floor of the cave, smooth but rock-solid, and the walls of the cave around, bare and ordinary.
He felt a strong desire to approach and enter through the door, to see what lay on the other side. He pushed open the door, wooden, rather ordinary to the touch, with a metal knob. The light again blinded him, but not unnaturally so, like the feeling one gets flipping on a light in the dark at bedtime.
“Son, my son, come in,” came rich masculine voice, which stirred Dan’s heart and made his throat throb with not unwelcome pain. As Dan entered he saw a man, old but not elderly, with a trimmed salt and pepper beard, sitting on a pleasantly cushioned sofa. “Son, come and sit,” said the man, who seemed so familiar yet a stranger to Dan.
“Who are you?” asked Dan with a respectful tone. “Are you one of the lights?” The man looked up at Dan and gave out a hearty holiday bellowing laughter which only after sometime did he recaver from. Then the man spoke, rubbing the mirth from his eyes.
“Oh, my boy, my boy. No I am not one of the lights,” and chuckled again to himself. “I’m afraid I have too much flesh and bones for all that. I am your father,” and looked lovingly and intently at Dan with his big brown eyes as warm as a fireside. “You are my son, Daniel Goodman. I gave you that name.” Dan’s head swam again with puzzlement. Give him dark caves, thunderous voices, unknown lights, and he is comfortably shaken a bit. Set him before his own flesh and blood father, and he melts like a wax candle too close to the fireplace.
“My, my father?” he uttered, with tears welling up full in his emerald green eyes. “You’re my father? I don’t understand. My father?”
“Yes son. It is time you know of your birth into the world. You are not of your time but mine, which is long before yours. Here we are where there is no time nor place but only between. Here your mother and I brought you…”
“My mother! Is she here, too?” Dan interrupted.
“No son. Your mother is not here. She has moved on from here to where we all shall dwell happily together at the appointed time. I have remained here for you for this moment,” Dan’s father said, sweetly but with a very keen note of sadness. He continued, “We brought you here to the between from the place of earth for there was a terrible place, overrun by hate and sadness. We wanted to show our gratitude to those who saved us, and offered you into their service, which they graciously accepted. We were told you must go back to the place of earth, but at the appointed time. We could not go, we were told. So only after a little while in the place between, when you were strong enough for crossing back, did we leave you in the care you have since received,” Dan was intently following this narrative of his biography closely and with great interest, when all his father reached out to hold his hand, and continued, “Son, that was the most painful thing I have ever done, to give you away,” and tenderly squeezed Dan’s hand, which filled his heart full to the eyes again.
“I think I am beginning to understand,” Dan said, still holding his father’s hand. “So this is the appointed time, then, when we can all be together?”
“Not yet, son. You have not yet completed your task. The world has grown wicked again. The time is ripe for the harvest, but few there are for the gathering. You must help reap in the yield, son, or else such will be left for the grazing and fire,” his father said, releasing Dan’s hand and standing up. Dan hardly noticed the room they had been standing in. An ordinary, if not quaint looking room, homely decorated with pictures of people and places he’d never seen before. A bay window let yellow sunlight in just behind the sofa. A scene of an old dirt drive stretched out into the horizon with golden fields on either side. A warm but waning sun was setting low over the fields. Dan noticed an old oak tree with long, low branches, on which was tied a tire swing which was gently swaying the evening breeze.
“What must I do, father?” Dan said, now standing up alongside his father. Both looked out onto the scene of the setting sun.
“You must believe and do what your fathers have ever believed and done, son. And you must help others to do the same,” Dan’s father said.
“That sounds easy enough,” Dan said.
“That is easy, yes, son, but you will be opposed at every turn. And those to whom you are sent will oppose you. Do not take this task lightly, for then you shall fail,” his father said, now very grave, which made Dan look up at him instead of out the window. “The window is closing and you must return to the place of earth now.”
“No! Wait! I don’t understand,” Dan said desperately.
“You understand enough, Dan, my son, enough,” was all his father said, and turned toward him, and kissed him on the head, then motioned for him to exit the door back into the cave. With tears again in his eyes, Dan did as he was bade and walked slowly toward the door to leave, then turned back toward his father who was looking lovingly at him and smilingly, though a tear could be seen rolling down his right cheek into his grey beard.
“We’ll leave the lights on, Dan. Come home soon,” Dan heard his father say as he passed into the cave from the open door. He looked behind him, but the door slowly slipped shut, the shaft of light ever shortening to nothing. Dan turned toward the opening of the cave and went out into the night air.