Today I’d like to do a little experiment.
KNOCKING ON THE SKY
After a short evening meal with his father, Zahn threw some supplies into a backpack and walked out the back door.
The trail to Zikhara Peak had many starting points, and one of them was on the edge of the forest near his house. As Zahn entered the thick of the forest, he wondered why Kavi had decided to come back now of all days. Why come back at the anniversary of his mother’s disappearance?
The path that led up and around the mountain was slightly misty, and the higher he got, the more stars appeared beyond the forest canopy above him. By the time Zahn reached the peak, the last traces of orange had left the sky, and the world was embraced in the darkest blues of the night.
Despite the warm season, the environment on the peak was much cooler than below, and when he arrived Zahn made a small fire to keep warm. Once the fire was going, he rolled out a sleeping pad over the bare rock and looked out over the archipelago to behold the breathtaking view. Below, he could see the mountain curve down sharply and level off to reveal thick forest until it became silvery beaches that met with the ocean. Tonight, the ocean appeared in a blue that was almost black.
To the northern edge of the island, he could see his village glowing like a million fireflies. And to the west and beyond, Zahn could just make out the outlines of some other islands on the horizon, a few of which had tiny dots of light emanating from them.
Sometimes the dark shapes played with Zahn’s imagination. In fact, if he squinted his eyes, he could almost imagine that, instead of being ordinary islands, they were gargantuan sea creatures with huge crystalline eyes that only came to the surface at night when the light of Avani’s moon shone brightly over the calm ocean.
Zahn enjoyed visualizing scenes like this. It helped him add a sense of wonder into his life and feel like he was still on the island he grew up on. Sometimes even stranger ideas would come into his mind. Sometimes, he had dreams that, not only was his mother still alive, but that she had been plucked off of Avani itself and taken to a far-off place. After all, they had never even found a trace of her.
When she disappeared, every airboat available had made dozens of high-altitude, and then low-altitude, passes over the entire archipelago. Yet even with the most sensitive instruments, they had found no trace of her. It was unthinkable, unimaginable, and inexplicable.
He looked out over the waters and turned his mind to the memory of the night his world came crashing down.
The logs showed that Zahn’s mother was working in the lower level of the Ashraya Observatory one moment, and then was completely gone a moment later.
Zahn recalled how the rescue team reported her as ‘vanished, presumed kidnapped’, and the report itself still made him suspicious. He had lost his mother, and his family was never the same again. After that day, the entire island changed for him. The home he once knew never felt whole again. Even after twelve long years, walking along the shore never failed to remind him of the times he would walk beside his mother on those early autumn evenings.
Now, it was autumn again. It was on clear nights like this, when he could see thousands and thousands of stars, that Zahn would look up into the sky and speak to her from atop Zikhara Peak. He would close his eyes and imagine his mother was there, somewhere just above him.
“Mom,” Zahn began. “I don’t know if you can hear me, but doing this gives me some taste of peace. I know Dad hasn’t been up here for a few years, but don’t take it personally. I know he still loves you. He’s just…”
Zahn paused to clarify his thoughts.
“…holding onto the possibility that you could still be alive is too much for him now. He hasn’t told me, but I don’t think he has nightmares about you like I do.”
Zahn closed his eyes.
“What can I do to make these nightmares stop, Mom? How do I find peace when I don’t know what really happened to you?”
Zahn looked up at the sky for a while in thought. The sight of thousands upon thousands of stars was magnificent, and he knew that it was only a tiny fraction of the whole. He considered the size of the galaxy and tried to imagine the trillion stars it contained. After all, in a galaxy so vast, why couldn’t Avani be visited by life from another world? His mother had vanished in the space of a second. Who else could make someone disappear without a trace?
He stopped himself. Even if there was life beyond Avani, and even if it was intelligent, he didn’t have any idea why anything would take his mother.
As it was, he had no proof to support his theory, but there was also nothing that could firmly disprove his theory, either. Up here, above everything he’d ever known, Zahn thought of the sky and imagined what life might exist on other worlds whirling around other fiery stars.
He closed his eyes again and centered his focus.
“Creator of All, if you can hear me, or if my mother can hear me, let me know. Give me a chance to find the truth. Please.”
Zahn sat in silence for some time, listening to the breeze, and soon fell asleep.
Glowing shapes filled his mind. Sacred geometries drifted around in his dreams, and for the first time in days, Zahn slept peacefully. Exactly how long, he was never sure, because after what felt like only a few minutes, a sound like a million thunders shattered his slumber.
He bolted up and saw a light high in the sky heading toward him through the clouds. In a flash, he stood up and watched it rapidly descend to the ground.
Its glowing tail flew past a nearby peak and down toward the beach. The forest obscured his view of the beach below, but that didn’t stop him from hearing what happened. Just a fraction of a second later, he heard a thud sound that was so deep that he could almost feel it with his feet.
Zahn knew he had to get down there as soon as possible.
He quickly compressed his sleeping pad, threw it in his pack, and raced down the trail. Gravity was on Zahn’s side, and soon he was back behind his house.
The darkness of night gave the forest a feeling of heightened mystery, and he ran around to the front which provided a good view of the beach below, now bathed in faint moonlight. Yet to Zahn’s surprise, he saw nothing and ran down to the beach to take a closer look.
Nothing was unusual at all.
For a moment, Zahn wondered if he had dreamt the whole thing, and he headed southward, down the beach.
Perhaps, I’ve finally lost my grip on reality, he thought. What if I really do need a mental advisor?
Zahn shook his head.
No, I know what I saw, and I’m certain I was wide awake. After all, why else would I have come down here in such a hurry?
He looked up at the sky and struggled to remember what he’d been dreaming about. When his eyes looked back onto the sand, he thought he saw a dark patch far ahead. Perhaps this was the crater he was looking for, and it was nearly in his front yard.
He ran over to it, his eyes widening as he grew closer. It appeared as though a bowl-shaped indentation had been carved into the beach sand, and in the center of it were flecks of a strange, pale light.
Zahn took a few steps into the crater. When he went to touch one of the glowing flecks of light, he moved some sand off of the source of the light, revealing part of an object beneath the sand. With the utmost care, he brushed the sand off of the glowing object, soon realizing that it was a triangular plate of some kind. He touched it, and it was cool, which surprised him. After entering the atmosphere at such a speed, almost any material would have still been hot to the touch.
Very slowly, he removed it from the sand it was embedded in and carefully examined it. It was thin, about the size of his hand, and he noticed that the moonlight seemed to slide off of it at certain angles. There was a faint pattern of lines on it, but if he hadn’t looked closely, he wouldn’t have noticed. Most of its edges were frayed, like it had been torn off of something.
Zahn wondered if it might be a fragment of something larger. He put some pressure on it, and it seemed strong, especially for its thickness. What in the world was this object? And what if it wasn’t from this world, at all?
The significance of what was happening began to dawn on Zahn in a powerful way. This was certainly not an ordinary meteorite. From a purely scientific standpoint, he had to admit that it seemed more artificial than natural. As an observer, he couldn’t see this object being part of any natural process. He had to admit that it appeared to be intelligently made.
“Perhaps I should tell someone… But if I do that, I might never even see it again. Scientists will be scanning it and prodding it from now until nova day.”
Zahn realized he was talking to himself now and sat in the small crater for a few moments while he considered his options. His mind drifted to the soothing sounds of the waves nearby, the cool silvery sand beneath him, and how stunning all of it had looked from up on Zikhara Peak.
He pulled himself back to the present.
“If this is what I think it is, there will be a lot of publicity around it. Around me. Around everyone close to me. It could be one of the biggest discoveries ever made on Avani.”
He picked at it with his fingernail. It seemed battle-hardened.
“But what if it isn’t what I think it is? What if it’s a Taskaran spy probe or something that’s been in low orbit for years, only to lose its stability and crash on Ashraya now?”
Zahn studied the fragment with cold eyes and thought about how the Taskarans hadn’t been heard from in decades. He knew what he had to do. He had to examine this on his own before he showed it to anyone. Who would believe his story, anyway? He had to be careful about how he handled this situation.
Now he was convinced. He knew he had to do his own tests on the fragment. Only then could he be sure if it really was from beyond Avani.
And stay tuned for more fun things during the run up to July 20th with the release of the 3rd book, The Mirage on the Brink of Oblivion!