Judith A. Boss
Imagine a world where there is no time or space or material substance of any kind—a world where
everything just is. Every so often this world intersects our world of time and space in the form of a sojourner.
This is the story of one such sojourner who, although really nameless, we shall call Tobe.
Tobe was about to embark on a journey into time and space. Many had gone before him. Now it was his turn.
In order to prepare for the journey, he had to be separated off from the changeless Oneness. It felt strange at first but Tobe soon got used to it. In a world of Oneness he could not really be separated from the inseparable. Separation was simply an illusion, necessary for making the journey. Knowing this gave Tobe comfort.
And now, at last it was happening. A vessel was available and Tobe had been assigned to it.
Though all sojourners eventually returned to the Oneness, since death, like time and space is an illusion, the journey was by no means without peril. The dangers of the time/space world were great and the price of failure or miscalculation high. Although the vessels or ships themselves were well-constructed and generally reliable, mishaps and even attacks from the outside, were a looming threat and many sojourners perished in untimely and gruesome deaths before reaching their destinations. Those who did make it sometimes suffered from trauma or succumbed to one of the many diseases found in the world of time/space.
The planet to which Tobe’s ship had been assigned was an especially dangerous and deceptive place. There was sometime hypnotic, almost numbing about it, he had been warned and it was easy to get caught up in it and forget who you really were. Tobe was well aware of the dangers. But he also realized that, as an envoy of the Monarch, he could learn more and accomplish more there that at some of the safer destinations.
Those who had already made the journey cautioned Tobe, “Do be careful and don’t forget us.”
“Ooh, how exciting!” chimed in those who had not yet made the perilous journey, as they fluttered aside to let Tobe pass.
“Would anyone care to join me?” Tobe asked peering into the vessel. “There’s room for two in here—maybe even three.”
There was a murmur from the crowd, but no one stepped forward.
“That’s okay,” Tobe said. “It will be more comfortable with just one. It is rather small after all.”
While the Other whirled and resonated with wishes of good tidings, the mechanics busily hovered about making last minute equipment adjustments.
The mechanics were a special class of servants who were able to travel instantaneously, without the need of a ship or time/space suit, between the world of the timelessness/formlessness and the world of time/space. This remarkable ability may give some readers the impression that they were a higher class of being—but not so. Their main task was to serve the sojourners by being on “24-hour” call in case any of the sojourners should need assistance.
The majority of mechanics took great pride and delight in their work. However, they often complained, and understandably so, that if the sojourners would just take the time to put in a work order when trouble first arose there would be far fewer problems for both them and the sojourners.
Once, a long time ago, a few of the mechanics got quite huffy about their station in life. One of them even went so far as to go down to the world of time/space where he stirred up a great deal of trouble. According to the latest reports, he is still at large skulking about getting into people’s heads and making mischief where ever he could. He even had the audacity to falsely declare himself the real monarch to those who gullible enough to believe him. Apparently he has amassed quite a following.
“Call whenever you need us,” said the new chief mechanic as she checked Tobe’s life support system one last time. “Remember, your communication device is built right into you time/space suit.” She straightened up and pulled out a parchment and unrolled it for the umpteenth time. “It’s very simple to use,” she said, pointing to the diagram on the chart. “Use it whenever you need it—even if you just want to chat.”
“I know,” Tobe replied. How could anyone forget something so simple—so obvious? But of course he didn’t say it out loud because he didn’t want to hurt the chief mechanic’s feelings. After all, she was just doing her job.
The chief mechanic scowled and tucked the chart back into a pocket under her wing.
Everything was ready to go. Tobe waved goodbye to the enthusiast crowd.
“Don’t forget us,” the Other called after him. “Remember to stay in touch!” The air was alive with the fluttering of wings and tinkling songs of good wishes for a safe journey.
Tobe was deeply touched. “Of course I won’t forget you,” he answered. “How can I ever forget you?” And with those parting words he slipped in the awaiting ship.
At first it didn’t feel very different. Tobe passed the time describing the new experience to the Other back home. The mechanics made periodic appearances. And just to keep them happy Tobe made sure he put in a work order to the Monarch at the slightest sign of any problem.
For hours on end, when all was still, Tobe would lie back and listen to the soothing sound of the life support pump. Ka-thump, ka-thump. Tobe delighted in the rhythmic sound. It comforted him and sent nourishment surging thought the life line to all parts of his new self. It was his lullaby in sleep and his companion when awake. The warm liquid in the time/space capsule pressed gently against his growing form. It was a strange, though not unpleasant, sensation as he floated though time/space to the alien world that would soon be his new home.
Sometimes the journey was so still and calm that Tobe wondered if the ship had come to a stop. At other times the ship lurched and jolted. But the liquid in the capsule cushioned him against harm.
Days passed, then weeks. Then, one day Tobe heard a second pump. At first the sound was very faint. He wasn’t even sure if he was really hearing it or just imagining it. But day after day the sound grew stronger and stronger until he could hear it quite distinctly.
And so the two pumps—one slightly faster than the other—beat in harmony to create the new form—the time/space suit which would protect Tobe in the harsh environment on this alien planet.
The suit grew steadily larger, more complex, taking shape, slowly, deliberately. He marveled at it, observed it, listened to it, touched it. The opportunities for education were endless. He reached up and touched is new face piece. He felt his mouth. He had never had a mouth before. It felt good and soft and warm. He rejoiced in the new experiences, the new sensations.
Now, with so much going on around him and so much to learn, Tobe was kept quite busy. He still reported back, though less frequently than before. When all was quiet he would take time out from his education to communicate with the mechanics, to get last minute instructions for his mission, and to chat with the Other back home. The communication device in his time/space suit was so simple to operate he didn’t now why the chief mechanic had made such a fuss about it.
One evening several months into his journey, the Monarch spoke to him. “Now rest up—you have a long and difficult job ahead of you. You will be landing soon. Take care and remember we will always be here for you.”
“Remember to call us any time you need help,” chimed in the chief mechanic in what sounded like a pre-recorded message. “Your communication device is built right into your time/space suit. I checked it over again and it’s in perfect working order. Remember, it’s very simple to operate. You just. . .”
Tobe tuned out the communication device. He smiled to himself. Yes, all was going well in this new world of time/space—so much to do, so much to learn. With that thought in mind he fell back into a peaceful sleep.
He was awakened a few hours later by an uncomfortable sensation. The ejection device had activated and was forcing him toward the hatch—pushing him, squeezing him. He tried to struggle. But it was no use. Tobe moved slowly toward the escape hatch dragging his life line behind him.
Then—all of a sudden—he was out!
The shock was dreadful. The harsh glare hurt his new eyes. And it was cold—so cold. He felt naked—even in his time/space suit.
Suddenly a huge creature draped in pale green reached out and grabbed him. Tobe was terrified. Who were these strange alien creatures? The creature jerked him away from the time/space ship and slashed his life line.
Tobe felt numb with fear. How could he live without his life line? And where was the other pump? Surely this much be a malfunction—and the end for him. He struggled, gasping for breath. Than he felt a cold slap on his back. He let out a shriek of terror and fell back into semi-consciousness.
“It’s a boy, Mrs. Hastings,” the doctor said triumphantly. “A healthy eight pound, two ounce baby boy. Congratulations!”
The proud parents beamed down at their newborn son lying naked and dazed in the clear plastic bassinette beside the delivery table.