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The Masked Visitor
It was a rainy afternoon at the Durbin Farm. It was a good thing for the crops, but a bad thing for little Sally and Bobby Durbin. They couldn’t go outside and play. In fact the whole Durbin family was cooped up inside, Papa with his newspaper because the fields were flooding, and Mama knitting away even though it was midsummer.
So it put a dash of excitement into the day when the children, who were staring out the window, praying that the rain would cease, saw a bolt of light streak across the sky. It certainly wasn’t anything natural, for it went in an irregular pattern across the dark gray sky. Its turns were too perfect to be anything from NASA, or even a private company.
“Mama look, a shooting star!” cried little Sally, pointing out the window at the falling object.
“It can’t be a shooting star honey,” replied the girl’s mother. “It isn’t nighttime.”
“But Mama,” Bobby said, “I see it too! It looks a lot like a shooting star.” Sighing their mother set down the scarf she was knitting and approached the window. She peered out for a moment and she too stared at it in disbelief.
“Hal, come look at this. I think the children might be right.” Grumbling, the farmer got up as well and joined his wife and children at the window. And now it was his turn for his jaw to drop in amazement. They watched as the thing slowly fell toward the ground, and finally disappeared behind their barn, maybe only one thousand yards away.
“Well whatever that thing is, it’s landed on our property. I best get out there and take a look,” said Farmer Durbin.
“But Hal,” protested his wife. “It’s storming like crazy out there. You’re not actually going out, are you?”
“I can and I will,” said the farmer. “Besides, if that thing’s some alien spaceship like that thing that landed near Roswell in 1947, this place might turn into the new Area 51.” In minutes Farmer Durbin was in full anti-rain garb. He donned a bright yellow raincoat, hat, and rubber boots, as well as one of his thickest pairs of overalls.
“Wish me luck,” he said as he trudged out the door and into the swirling melee of wind and water.
It was a short, but not so sweet journey. Torrents of water poured down on poor Farmer Durbin. As he moved away from the farmhouse it became more and more difficult to spot, and soon it could not be seen at all. But no sooner had the house disappeared then the farmer practically ran into the barn. He was right in front of the double doors that were the entrance into the barn, with a large board holding them shut from the wind. He saw a soft glow from under the door and thought that he should investigate, even though he was sure that the thing had fallen behind the barn. He hefted off the board and opened one of the doors just a crack so that he could squeeze through.
The silvery light made the farmer wince when he entered. It was a bright harsh light unlike the soft yellow glow of the flashlight that Farmer Durbin normally kept by the door. Squinting against the light, he was able to determine that it came from the hayloft up above the cows’ stalls. Farmer Durbin approached the nearest ladder, ready to investigate whatever this foreign thing may be. The farmer didn’t like trespassers; hated them in fact. If this was another hoodlum kid from the town, he was going to press charges like crazy. It took only a few seconds for Farmer Durbin to scale the ladder. Once in the loft Farmer Durbin saw what the source of the light was.
It was some sort of spaceman, lying in the hay, wearing a bright silver suit. The light was coming from the suit itself, illuminating the entire barn. The figure was humanoid, with two arms, and two legs. Farmer Durbin couldn’t see the alien’s face, for it was hidden under a large bulbous helmet, made of a dark kind of glass. Everything that adorned the alien was silver, his glowing suit, and his bright belt onto which were attached some kind of futuristic instruments.
“What in the name of St. Joseph?” asked the farmer to thin air. When he had made the joke about the spaceship and Area 51 that’s all that it had been, a joke, purely humorous. And here he was now, faced with a real live alien. Suddenly the figure gave a low moan and rolled over, slowly getting to its feet.
“What are you?” spoke the Farmer, not really expecting an answer. The alien now turned to face the farmer, or at least he thought that it was. It was hard for Farmer Durbin to determine which way the alien would be looking with that helmet on its head.
“Greetings,” spoke the alien, but its voice was that of a computer. The device was probably translating whatever the spaceman was saying in its language so that Farmer Durbin could understand him. “I come with a message. Are you a high ranking official?” Farmer Durbin didn’t know what to say. He of all people was actually making contact with an alien species. Amazing! He had always dreamed of aliens and spaceships as a little boy, but his father had kept him on the straight and narrow path of farming.
“I repeat,” said the alien, “are you a high ranking official?” This time the farmer was able to shake his head no. The alien nodded back very discretely.
“Do you have a way to contact your nearest high ranking official?” By now Farmer Durbin had broken his spell of silence and was able to talk.
“You can come back up to the house with me and use our telephone to call Mayor Bennett. He’s the mayor of Pinetown, the closest settlement around.” The alien nodded and began to follow Farmer Durbin, back down the ladder and out the barn door. The alien’s suit didn’t glow anymore, now that they were out of the darkness. However it still seemed to glisten a bit, even though there was no sun out. Beside the point, the alien didn’t seem to mind the rain.
“I had to make a crash-landing, but I believe that my ship will be alright. There was no serious damage done to it as far as I could tell. I decided to take shelter from the falling liquid in your agricultural hut.” The two continued on in silence, even though Farmer Durbin was bursting to the seams with questions. What was the alien’s planet like? Did it have the rich natural resources that Earth did? What did the alien look like? He was obviously humanoid, but in what way did he differ from Earthlings? What was their social structure like? So many questions, but the farmer thought it would be more appropriate to ask them once they reached the farmhouse.
The storm was receding now, and it didn’t take the two as long to walk back to the house as it did for Farmer Durbin to reach the barn. The Farmer swung open the door and held it for the alien to enter. At first the silver figure didn’t seem like he was sure what to do, but then he passed through without trouble. The Farmer’s wife, Alma, and little Sally and Bobby were still sitting in the parlor, waiting for him to return. A sharp gasp issued from Alma when she saw the spaceman enter the room and there were surprised and confused looks from Bobby and Sally as well.
“If you could be so kind as to direct me toward your communication device,” said the alien.
Farmer Durbin nodded saying, “Of course, of course, but why don’t you meet Alma and the kids first. Alma this is…”
“Ragel,” said the alien. “Ragel Untermire. So pleased to meet your acquaintance.” Still all that Alma Durbin did was stare on in silence.
“Are you an astronaut?” asked Bobby. “I wanna be an astronaut when I grow up.”
“Is that so,” answered the alien. “Well I believe that that is a very fertile career option.” Bobby clearly didn’t understand.
“He’s saying that’s a good choice,” clarified Bobby’s mother.
“Now if you would please direct me to your communication device,” repeated the alien. Farmer Durbin nodded and brought him into the kitchen where the phone was located. He dialed the number for Mayor Bennett’s office, but he only got an intense beeping noise. Farmer Durbin hung up and tried again. The same noise. He turned back to the spaceman with a disappointed look on his face.
“I can’t reach him,” said the farmer. The alien nodded.
“I believe that the meteorological disturbance in your atmosphere has somehow disabled your communication device. Since I am on somewhat of a tight schedule, I suppose I will simply have to tell you my message, and hope that you pass it on to the Mayor.”
“Of course I will,” said Farmer Durbin. “Why don’t we head into the parlor for this?” The spaceman nodded and together they reentered the parlor. The farmer reclaimed his seat and leaned over to his wife.
“The alien is going to tell us his message. Can you believe it!?” Alma shook her head.
“I don’t like him Hal. What if he’s come to take over our planet or something?”
“Oh Alma, don’t be so paranoid. Let’s at least hear him out first.” By now the spaceman had situated himself in front of the entire Durbin family, including Sally and Bobby, so that all of them would be able to hear.
“I come from a place,” began the alien, “quite similar to your own. However, unlike you, we have devastated our world, and not through a single catastrophe, but through many. War, disease, global warming, destruction and wasting of our natural resources, all of them contributed to the apocalypse that the planet has become. There are no trees there, rain and water in itself is scare. Disease is common and doctors, especially ones with medicine, are rare. What people are left alive fight over what is left for themselves. That is the one rule of thumb where I come from, keep yourself alive. I myself am part of one of the last groups of organized and civil humans left. We were not sure what we were going to do, but then our sensors detected a wormhole in space. We could tell that it was a disruption in both space and time, and lead here, August 7, 2011 1:26 PM. We thought that by coming to the past and warning you of the approaching dangers then perhaps we would be saved.” Farmer Durbin was confused by this last bit.
“How could coming to our past change your present?” he asked.
“I will show you,” the spaceman replied. He reached his silver-clad hands up and began to remove his helmet. It had remained on this entire time, but now it would come off. And when it finally did, the Durbins were faced with a puzzling conundrum. Ragel Untermire was a human male. Only he seemed extremely malnourished. His dark black skin was stretched back tight against his skull, his eyes tiny and beady sunken closer to his brain. His hair was scraggly and many scars crisscrossed his face. Welts and spots of some kind or another dotted his face. He looked like walking death.
“I do not have long to live. I tell you that your past is my future for I do not come from some alien planet, but from Earth. I come from the year 2346 on planet Earth, and that is why what you do now will affect who I am,” he said, his voice not filtered by a computer. It was cold and barely a whisper, the voice of someone who was terminally ill. “I warn you. Take action, some way or another and prevent not only my death, but the death of trillions of others as well. Conserve your natural resources, clean your water supplies, and nurture your endangered species. Attempt to advance your medical technologies as much as possible. Banish corrupt government and make peace with everyone you can. Love your friends, but love your enemies more. Show everyone you know the same compassion that you showed me. Do not judge others by race, religion, culture, or ethnicity. The more you conserve, the more people you help, the better the odds will be that I will return to a clean and stable world. I must go now, but remember what I have said, or all will be lost.” And with that said the spaceman strode to the door, helmet still removed. He threw open the door and stepped out into the rain. But before he was gone he turned back to Farmer Durbin.
“Thank you,” was all he said. But it was enough for the farmer. And the spaceman was gone, swallowed up and lost in the wild storm outside.