The Universe Awaits
Some people thought Alfred a quiet person. Some people thought Alfred a private person. Some people thought he was crazy, and others thought him merely retarded. But most people didn’t think of Alfred at all, including his wife, Gertrude. They had been married for more years than Alfred liked to think about, and so he didn’t think about it. However, how they came to be married isn’t important to this story because this is the story of how Alfred discovered his place in the Universe.
You might say that Alfred had always been a dreamer. As a young boy, he had liked most to lay on his back, night or day, and look at the sky. In the daytime, he looked at the cloud shapes and turned them into meaningful apparitions. When it was stormy, he followed the movement of the clouds, measured the wind on his cheeks, counted the time delay of the lightning strikes and tasted the rain drops. In the nighttime, he counted stars, recognized constellations others had defined and created new ones with his own meanings.
And the one fantasy that was always present for as long as Alfred could remember was that one day, Aliens would descend on him, lift him from the face of this puny Earth and show him the magnitude of the Universe. That thought had been with Alfred forever, and even as an old man, he remained convinced it would eventually happen. He only had to be patient. He didn’t, however, share this thought with others.
He especially didn’t share this thought with Gertrude, who screamed at him above the loudly tuned TV that she could barely hear. During the day on most days, Alfred could be found away from his house in the barn or riding his tractor into the field or woods. He was no longer an active farmer in the sense that he made his livelihood from farming; he had relegated himself to the status of acting farmer in order to leave the house and get away by himself as much as possible.
Most evenings he could be found on his rocking chair on the porch looking across the hills and into the sky, always watching for the telltale lights that would announce the coming of the alien spacecraft. He was sure that they were coming; it might be any day. He was gut sure. The slow churning that began deep in his gut every evening he took as a sign that he was simply being made ready for the arrival of the aliens and his subsequent departure from this earth.
He had been experiencing this deep rumble for several months. He thought at first that it was simply indigestion from eating the food that Gertrude prepared. But when he more carefully consumed what he thought to be a healthful diet, the rumbling didn’t stop. He next thought that it was what he heard people talk about as heartburn. He wasn’t sure exactly what the symptoms of heartburn were, and as there was not really a pain or burn in the area of his heart, he quickly dismissed the rumble from this possibility.
As he had no other symptoms of any type of illness that he knew about, he accepted the rumbling for what it was and figured that the aliens had probably sent a probe to determine if he was a worthy specimen to travel with them while they learned all they could about earthmen. The rumblings, he decided, were simply due to the waves of the messages being transported into the waiting ears of the aliens, if they had ears.
Over the years he had tried to envision an image of the aliens. He had tried to watch movies and tv shows that depicted aliens, but had stopped that activity when the images they projected fit none of imaginings of his own. There was always some shortcoming in their pictures and usually it focused on the message that aliens were in some way hostile to human beings and wished to harm people. In Alfred’s reasoning, this was inconceivable, because it would negate the possibility of a friendly encounter for himself. Alfred was very much looking forward to the coming journey and would never admit to himself that he was in any danger whatsoever.
Even if he should never return, Alfred could not see that as a bad thing. It held no threat to him. His productive life as a human being was essentially over and the people that he would leave behind would simply move on with their lives just as he had moved on with his own after the passing of his own parents and grandparents. If he had learned anything from his life, it was that life goes on.
Alfred had encountered “the big bang theory” early in his schooling and he loved the image of the ever expanding Universe that began from a speck, no, less than a speck, and then quickly expanded outward at incredible speeds forming as it moved all of the stars, planets and other heavenly bodies that populated the sky that he worshipped night and day. And the idea that it was still expanding, even as he watched it, even though it appeared stationary, was astounding to him. It meant that he, too, was expanding, a mere particle of the Universe, ever evolving into something else.
Alfred got excited thinking about it and wanting to experience it in its entirety, longed for the aliens to get to him soon before his body wore out and could no longer contain his being. Of course he shared none of this with anyone. He knew from his long life what happened to people who had thoughts the rest of society thought were unsuitable.
On one particularly warm June evening, Alfred was in his rocker watching the night sky. The rumbling had commenced and he noted it and held his hand to the area where it seemed to come from. He had tuned out the too loud tv noise and the words from Gertrude that reached the porch and focused instead on the twinkling of the stars.
Alfred mentally calculated the positions of the stars and planets he could see and counted off the anciently named constellations. The movement, of course, at such great distances was minutely discernible, and Alfred did his best to keep his focus on what he knew. But on this particular evening, his attention kept being drawn to an area that contained nothing he could name.
It was as though he was being called to look in that direction, not in words, of course, but still, he was being called. And so he gave himself over to the view and thought everything twinkled more brilliantly. He thought he detected movement first in a wavy manner, then in a zig-zag, and finally in a back and forth motion that made the heavenly bodies appear first larger and then smaller.
Any other human being on the planet would have ignored the phenomena, or would have assigned it to something that he had eaten, or a drug reaction, but Alfred was sure it was none of these things. He was sure that the movement he saw was a signal that the Aliens were about to approach and he was excited to think of their coming. His pulse raced, a bead of sweat appeared on his upper lip and it was all he could do to make himself stay seated in his chair. He didn’t want to be off his rocker at such a monumental moment.