The challenge is in choosing a room. Does a room filled with weapons lead to a world unsafe for travel? If the room contains vast treasure, does that foretell fellow explorers on the adjoining planet or unsavory thieves? What about boxes filled with alien stuffed animals? A hasty choice can turn out . . . unpleasant.
Several rooms still possessed their protective shield covering the doorway, signifying the dominant species of the corresponding planet had not yet developed to solving the simple math problem inside. Still, with hundreds, possibly thousands of rooms to the portal building, the choices seemed infinite.
Strolling along the hallway, one room finally caught his attention. It differed from the others in that it was empty. No boxes, crates or shiny objects. It was as if this species didn’t use the portal. A clear line of sight through the portal opening provided a view of sunlight and green, thigh-high grass. It seemed normal enough for a quick look-see.
Stepping through the portal, Clark covered his eyes until they adjusted to the brightness.
Huh. Just one sun. That’s familiar.
An open grass field surrounded him. He lifted his head and sniffed. The smell of pine trees and blackberries drifted in the air. Clark turned to look over his shoulder, momentarily forgetting that the portal was invisible from this side. Yards away rested a dense wooded area, stretching as far along the horizon as the eye could see.
Standing at the edge of the forest and vast grassland, Clark wondered at the beauty of the large green leafy canopy atop black-barked trees, mixed with the poison ivy-like vegetation that hid the wooded ground. Peculiarly, all of the vegetation displayed teal-colored streaks or spots. Even the pear-shaped fruit hanging from trees and white, heart-shaped flowers growing between the large leaves, were spotted with shades of teal.
He then turned and observed the light wind gusts blowing alternating “S” patterns in the tall grass. As Clark walked, he held his arms out by his sides feeling the top of the grass stems. Upon closer inspection, the thigh-high grass was also streaked with teal. He surveyed the landscape, searching for signs of danger. Seeing none Clark headed eastward, away from the woods. It didn’t take long to become comfortable in his surroundings and that made him feel strangely . . . uncomfortable.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was on Earth. There’s always differences, usually major ones, but here, other than the runaway tone of teal coloring, everything looks similar to home. The color of the sky, plants, trees, the height of trees, gravity; everything looks and feels very familiar. It even smells like home . . . kinda.
Hmm, hadn’t thought of that before. Every portal I’ve encountered has been located out in the country, away from villages and cities. That was true even for the one on my world just a few months ago.
Clark resumed his journey while musing about the landscape. Other than purple and teal flowers, nothing alien-looking popped out. Suddenly, a path in the grass appeared. He kneeled down on one knee to study it. It was definitely a path, even if barely discernible. It was unusual in that it was unpaved and not beaten down like a much-traveled path should be.
Surmising that it likely led to a settlement, Clark continued traveling the path in a southerly direction. Ten minutes later, he heard a soft whine approaching from behind. He sprinted several yards before diving to the ground. A large flying transport vehicle soon approached, resembling a futuristic train.
Painted silver, it stood out as a shiny bullet against the blue background of sky overhead. It showed off a pristine look. Even the underside gleamed as if it had just left the showroom. The absence of exhaust added to the mystique of it. Windows dotted the length of the train, filled with onlookers. Fifty-plus people sat in the driver less car.
Was I spotted?
If so, no one reacted. The vehicle continued without slowing. It propelled forward, speeding ahead, roughly ten feet above the ground, in the direction Clark had been heading.
Wow, cool! A flying vehicle with people in it. This place is obviously technologically developed. That was so fast! Wait, did I see humanoids? No . . . maybe. I’ve yet to come across anything remotely close to us in my travels.
Stupid. Should have taken out the energy-reading device from the start. Look at that! Tremendous energy spikes coming from every direction. So many readings. Seems that the bulk of them are coming from the same direction that train is going.
With newfound excitement, Clark took off on a run. Better to run and maintain the personal shield rather than fly and be defenseless. No use taking unnecessary risks. A steady jog took him from the grassy plain to a series of rolling hills. Clark was considering switching to flying when he began to hear a multitude of faint noises in the distance. This must be the last hill. He was approaching something resembling civilization.
Finally reaching the summit of the tallest hill in the series, a magnificent sight opened up before him. Encompassing most of the valley below was an enormous city, enormous in every sense. Spread out for miles in every direction, buildings reached taller than any ever seen with human eyes. The majority of the landscape consisted of skyscrapers; every one, a shiny bright silver tower. Nearly identical to each other, the only differences were in the various shapes at the top. Straight lines seemed to be the rule here. Some penthouses were shaped as triangles, some as rectangles, the others in similar shapes. Otherwise, the buildings were indiscriminate from each other.
Amazing. Everything is so clean. They sparkle. How many stories tall are the buildings? Futuristic looking. How exciting! Definitely going to encounter an advanced species here.
Clark resumed running, practically sprinting down the hillside. Nearing the city, he was drawn to an enormous building on his left. The building took up the equivalent of four city blocks back home. Additional flying transports became evident as he neared the city. Lanes of flying traffic extended between buildings at intervals up into the sky.
At the outskirts, the ground changed from grass to a raised grey surface. Black lines, three inches wide, paved a pathway alongside the buildings and beyond, like the taped colored-lines on a hospital floor. Closer examination spiked Clark’s curiosity.
Bending down, he touched the surface with his fingers and palm. Clark then swiped his finger over the surface and examined it to find no dirt or dust on it.
What? How can that be possible? We’re outside. There has to be dirt. There has to be . . . something.
He palmed the ground. There was a slight give to the material. It was hard as steel at first touch, yet when pushed, it gave a little. It wasn’t hot or cold, just comfortable to touch. The surface was dull, not quite metallic, but not concrete either. As he held his hand in place, he felt a faint vibration accompanied by a humming noise.
Wait, maybe it is a metal, some kind of metal I’ve never seen. What kind of metal could move when you push on it? Man, how much would it cost to build an entire city floor of metal? What kind of resources do these people have?
Clark looked up at the immense tower before him. Wide, expansive windows, each more than twenty-feet across, separated floors from each other, just as in the buildings back home. He couldn’t see through the windows into the building and yet, they did not give off a reflection of the landscape behind him either. He approached the building. The walls were non-reflective like the ground but a brighter silver color.
Reaching up to touch the wall, he felt a firmer surface with no give. This material was definitely a metal of some sort. The same vibration could be felt as in the ground. He reached out to knock on the wall with his knuckles. It produced a dull thud. Clark stood, marveling at the material used to build the mammoth of a building, when a movement caught his attention.
He cautiously made his way to the edge of the building. Peeking around the corner, he saw people, as well as the answer to the mystery of the painted lines on the ground. Each person stood on a square floating disk as it carried them around. Roughly two feet by two feet, the disks hovered just over a foot off the ground, carrying their riders like a scooter.
Despite his fascination with the prospect of meeting a new species, he was distracted by the odd elegance of the city. But, something seemed off, unnatural.
Wait, maybe that’s it, there’s no life evident other than the actual people. I can’t see any trees or plants of any type, no critters like squirrels. Nothing. As a matter of fact, other than the people, the only colors that I can see in the entire city consist of shades of silver, grey, and blue. Everything I can see is clean and bright, almost blinding in some cases. Even the smell is clean, like the city has been disinfected or something.
There are no streets, no motor traffic on the ground, yet the buildings are spaced apart along parallel lines just like home. How odd though to have no mailboxes, pay phones, trees, parked cars, nothing lining the outside of the buildings. It’s creepy, familiar and different all at the same time.
Well, I’m not going to meet anyone by just staring at them. Let’s get this started with a proper introduction!
Clark stepped out from behind the building. No one noticed the alien, so he began walking. Crossing over a set of painted lines, he cut a path toward the next set of lines, a couple hundred yards away. He walked in a direction perpendicular to all of the floating traffic. This garnered immediate attention.
Nearly everyone within sight came to a complete stop to stare at the foreigner. Others continued on until bumping into the gawkers. Within a few moments, the entire area came to a standstill. Fifty to sixty people floated in place, watching the oddity before them. Wide-eyed, Clark captured his first good look at the people. They did, indeed, look just like him. Well, almost.
They are humanoids! From behind, I could be in any city back home. From the front, they aren’t that much different. Except their flat, almost non-existent noses and tiny mouths, I can’t see any other differences. Oh wait, their foreheads are flat too. They seem to be of similar height, maybe a little shorter. Incredible! I’m looking at aliens that almost could have come from Earth!
They even dress in a similar, if futuristic fashion. I see suits with ties and kinda dresses. The women all seem to dress elegantly and colorfully. I wonder if today is a special occasion of some kind. What is that, some kind of nervous twitch?
Every minute or so, each alien (not in unison) would open their hands, wiggle all ten fingers and both thumbs, and then close their hands again. At first, he noticed the behavior in the aliens nearest to him. Continued observance, however, revealed that the entire group demonstrated the behavior. Even the few passing pedestrians in the background that hadn’t yet noticed their visitor, emulated the habit.
Uh oh, I’m just staring. Must seem like some kind of circus freak to them. Let’s not spook ‘em now.
Hesitantly, Clark held out his arms and tilted his head to demonstrate harmlessness, innocence. After few seconds of no response, he began walking again. The crowd gasped and backed away from him.
Uh oh, they may look like me, but they can sure tell I’m different. They’re very wary. Isn’t there a curious one of you in the bunch? Anyone? People are just staring, some pointing and chattering. I suppose it doesn’t help that I’m the only person around not riding a square floater.
Clark took a couple of steps back. He stopped, lowered his arms and sighed. Without thinking, he brought his left hand up to massage his temple. Again, a gasp came from the crowd.
What now? This isn’t working. How do I demonstrate that I’m harmless to them? What would I want a harmless alien visiting Earth to do? Ha! I’d probably pass out first.
Oh great, here come a couple of guys in uniform. That didn’t take long. Doesn’t look good. Just be calm. And polite. Be polite, let them be in control of the situation. Take a deep breath. Relax.
The officers floated directly toward Clark. As they neared, the two separated to take defensive stances. Age and experience separated the two officers. The man to Clark’s left displayed cold, experienced eyes contrasted to the fidgety young man beside him. Agitated conversation developed between them as they slowly approached. Noting their frowns and animated gestures, Clark tried talking to calm them. He smiled broadly, raising both arms palms up and open to signify his harmless intentions.
“Hello, my name is Clark. I’m a visitor. Well, you know that, but I’m here as a friend. Do you understand me?”
“Kinta mou huse vab ruul! Kinta mou huse vab ruul!”
Yeah, thought that was a little too much to hope for. I’ll have to wait for the timer to run out on the shield to switch to translation.
Clark gave the men a blank quizzical look. He shook his head back and forth. “I don’t understand you.”
The two officers continued giving Clark incomprehensible instructions. Their frustration at his noncompliance mounted but neither made a move toward him. They stared at him, looking for signs of his intentions. The veteran officer raised his voice, pointing to Clark’s mid-section.
“Raas glo tam meel! Vrtaal goons!”