The Orb from Beyond

One of my favorite weekly photo fiction prompts is Sunday Photo Fiction.

I always enjoy the artwork from Al and his Mixed Bag.

That first day, the Orb floated down to us, gently, cautiously.

It was nearly transparent, but not quite, as though it were using some sort of camouflage to allow for the proper background, but blurred, like it couldn’t get it quite right.

It didn’t matter. What mattered was inside. The beings were similar to us. They stood nearly two meters tall, varied colors of flesh, though most in that first Orb were light colored.

“We come from the next planet,” the shortest one said. “The planet farther from the galaxy’s star.”

There was no need for translation. They spoke our language adequately. They admitted to studying us for some time. They had also let us know they were coming — in peace they told us. We had readied in case they lied, but that was three cycles ago. They hadn’t lied.

I was there the day the Orb landed. That image is frozen in my mind.

I’d dreamt of traveling to other worlds since I was a boy. Now here I was, on board one of their Orbs, heading to their planet.

I couldn’t wait. The name of their world played over and over on the tip of my tongue: “Earth.”

 

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It wasn’t until the crashing surf sprayed over the rocks and hit me in the face that I realized where I was.

I remembered getting in my car and putting the key in the ignition. I remembered throwing the car in reverse, backing out of my parking spot at my now-ex-employer’s office and then throwing the car in drive.

That was the last I remembered.

The fog laying over the ocean mimicked the one that had settled over my mind.

Another wave crashed into the rock I had subconsciously chosen to perch on, the water trickling behind me, pooling  in little holes of granite that had withered away over the last several million years. I could relate. Life was withering away at me lately. First, Joanie left. Then, Mom died. Now, I was unemployed. The first and last problems paled in comparison to Mom being removed from my universe by a drunk driver. She was here and then she wasn’t. No time in a hospital to say goodbye. No time to tell her what I thought of her. Just a knock on my door and a policeman asking to come in.

Work gave me time off, “all the time you need.” But a week later they were asking when I was coming back. So my body showed up the next day. My mind still hadn’t arrived. That’s why neither were being asked to come return. Ever.

The worn rock was smooth under my dock shoes. No jagged edges, no lips biting into my soles. I ran a hand over its surface, wondered what it would be like to just sit here and do nothing for eons. Would you get bored? Would you beg the ocean to stop pelting you? Would you try and move, even though you knew you had no chance? When would you finally submit; realize that no matter how bad you wished or how hard you tried, life, like the tide, was inevitable. I looked over the edge, watched the waves crash violently into the flat rock. Ignored the spray dousing my hair, dampening my face, mixing with my tears.

The memories of my drive to this outcrop started to seep through, but in reverse. This was the tallest rock along this stretch of gloom. I’d instinctively headed to it. My feet had alternated knowingly between sand and granite, picking a path that led me around puddled salt water, somehow keeping my feet dry until I reached my perch.

I’d never been to this strand before. Wasn’t sure that I’d even seen it before. But when a brown sign saying, “Beach” with three squiggly lines indicating waves had popped up on the side of the road with an arrow to the right, my arms and feet had reacted. I didn’t fight them. They knew what they were doing.

Joanie was another matter. We’d been dating for two years, living together the last nine months. Talk of marriage had been frequent, though playful with nothing definite. I’d loved her. Still did. Or still thought I did. Looking for the delineation between sky and sea, I wasn’t really sure any more. But it seemed to fit in with the rest of the world crashing down upon me.

Another wave hit, and I saw myself in my car, taking turns through a part of town I’d never visited before. Houses the size of small government buildings. Cars the price of most houses. Lawns the size of the town’s parks. Another turn and I was on the highway, paralleling the Pacific. Pushing past the tourist bars and shops, registering everything, but noticing nothing.

The spray on my face was cold, but comforting.

I’d hated my job. Hated my boss. Hated most of my coworkers. But I made good money. So I put up with it, with them. I was good at it too. Consistently ranked in the top three for sales every month. Sales for nothing that made a difference in the world. Selling something I had no use for. Something most people had no use for. But at some point in humanity, our product was deemed must-have. Which meant I must-sell.

I watched another wave smack the rock. What must it be like to be the water? Would you be scared to splash the rock? Would you worry it would hurt? Was it terrifying knowing you had to do it again? At what point did you understand fate was unstoppable?

Or was it?

The rock never moved, but pieces of it did. Pieces that had been rubbed away by the ever-lasting waves eventually broke free and set sail in the tide, winding up somewhere else. Of the same water that kept crashing against the rocks over and over, droplets landed on me, on the rock, in tide pools. Some of them evaporated, some were carried off into the mist, maybe into the sky only to return as rain.

I wiped the moisture from my face and went to wipe it on my pant leg. There, on my bent knee, was a yellow dot. Faded, but definitely noticeable. A ray of sun. I watched it grow to the size of a quarter, a half dollar, a golf ball, a softball. It stayed like that for a minute, maybe more. Then it was gone.

Another wave cascaded over the rock, soaking me, waking me from my contemplation. I stood up and searched for the sun. It was gone, back into the depths of fog that somehow had parted just enough to shine a beam of light on me.

The sun would return. As would I.