a short story – by Sha’Tara
Last day of school. Last day of formal training. Jerry Colmack, ignorant of most current political trends and protected from the endless wars they engendered, did not fully understand the reasons that had forced him to become a professional dreamer. From his viewpoint, it had just been an easy way to avoid boring and confusing calculus, physics, geometry, not to mention the hated regimented sports and enforced military training. Not that he wasn’t thoroughly versed in all the sciences, particularly astronomical physics and space navigation, but this knowledge had been absorbed subliminally to impinge upon his consciousness while in out-of-body flight as a unit of superconscious energy…
Nevertheless, as his Mentor was fond of saying, in life there’s no free lunch and now, just when he was developing an unabashed admiration for the fairer sex, he was likely to be chosen to explore for habitable planets. Damn! he mumbled, then rebuked himself. After all, TRAVEL was what he had trained for since the age of nine, his great dream.
But there hadn’t been girls in his dreams then, just his heroes of earliest space flight within his solar system, and now, there were! Particularly, there was Sylvia—lithe, dreamy, with laughter as clear as a mountain brook, black eyes reflecting life’s effervescence and long dark hair worn straight and free, henna and apple-spice, tickling the cheek, filling the air when she bent over you to examine your work, share ideas or whisper… Sylvia…
“MISTER Colmack, may I have your attention, PLEASE!” The voice thundered, shattering his mood. The Mentor was a large man with a voice to match.
“Uh, sorry Mentor, I was dreaming.”
“There is a time for dreaming and a time for listening. All right, everybody. This is your last day together. Soon, you will be assigned your respective duties. Don’t fail your school.” and in a gentler tone: “Don’t fail yourselves… Jerry!”
“Please come with me. The Inspector wants to see you.”
As they crossed the main corridor, he saw Sylvia leave the Inspector’s office. As she stood to attention with her back against the row of green lockers, she bowed low to the boy’s Mentor and stared at Jerry. Her face registered that she wanted to see him urgently. He even felt her trying to mind meld but he shrugged helplessly and discontinuing the effort, she turned away down the hall towards the main exit door.
An old man stood by an open door, holding its shiny brass handle as if for support. He waved them in a Spartan office.
“Inspector.” The Mentor bowed low. Jerry did the same.
“Mentor; graduate.” He gave a short bow of acknowledgment then turned a piercing gaze upon Jerry. “Graduate Colmack, your reports are highly favourable. As there is so little time, I am going to acquaint you with your first assignment in the quickest possible way. I need not go into details. Your preparation and training will fill in the gaps.” He handed Jerry a thin folder. “Memorize these instructions before your departure.”
Departure! He trembled involuntarily. This was it! The culmination of years of training, of enduring the taunts of those who knew nothing of dreaming. “Hey, dreamers, when you gonna get a real job? They should burn down that fancy bedding place of yours! What are the chicks like in sex dreams? What’s space like, spaceball? Bullshit, hogwash! Waste of tax money!” He had heard every kind of derogatory remark, been physically abused and made to feel as if he was responsible for the mess the world was in. Scapegoats, that’s what he and the small select group of his peers were. But it was worth it. He held his orders. He would TRAVEL!
The old man continued, “We now have our cryonics facility fully functional and totally self-maintaining, safely installed one mile underground and served by a fusion generator brought to peak efficiency by the newest computer advances: a combination of chemistry and biology; sentient software. Your shells can now be preserved indefinitely. We are ready to send out our first seekers. You know the task: to locate proper colonizing planets for those who want to leave and start new colonies where there is fresh air and space to grow.” He looked at the smoke floating past the stained windows and sighed. “Graduate Colmack, are you ready to enter upon your greatest adventure?” The question, to Jerry’s surprise was neither rhetorical nor condescending. He really was asking!
What could he answer? He didn’t want to sound too eager… or frightened, and he was indeed ready. He would take the jet lift down and enter the cocoon which would hold his physical body. While in deep sleep, prompted by auto-suggestion, his etheric body or ‘consciousness’ would rise out of his physical body and the sealed cocoon to float unimpeded to the surface. With the power of pure thought, he would leave the earth’s atmosphere. Using a technique developed during previous experiences in super-conscious travel, he would fling his energy consciousness across the time/space boundaries that had confined his race since it had come to inhabit the solar system. Out—into the great void, and to other worlds, other star systems, perhaps even other galaxies, probing, searching, for that one special world. Alone? Would he have to do this by himself? “Yes sir.” he answered simply, and added, somewhat self-consciously, “although I thought that perhaps I would have had a few days to see my family again…”
“I am sorry, Colmack, but your family at the moment is behind enemy lines, so to speak. Revolutionaries have cut communications between this sector and the Van-Mond hills. Perhaps when you return, things will have settled a bit. Listen, Colmack. We need you now. Earth, as a sustainable eco-system, is dying, understand?”
“I think so. Must I attempt this by myself, sir?”
“Shall we tell him, Mentor?” He thought he saw a twinkle in the Inspector’s eye.
“Yes. It is time.”
“Your file indicates you have developed a psychological bonding with a female member of the Institute. Give me her name, please?”
Jerry reddened, fumbled with his folder, uncertain. Had he committed some sort of indecency, violated some rule? Was this a trick to test him, or embarrass him? What about Syl? Had she been grilled about their feelings for each other? For that matter, what were her feelings? At seventeen, he knew practically nothing about girls, and in many ways, Syl had proved experientially his senior by years, even though she was his age… What did the Inspector really want?
“Her name, Jerry?” His voice had softened.
Oh, what the hell… “Sylvia Domona, sir…”
“Thank you, Jerry. You’ve just confirmed our choice. Sylvia is already on her way to cryonics. She will precede you in space by some twelve hours. You will locate her, join your consciousness with hers and together, we hope you will accomplish the miracle we will be waiting for. To avoid explanations and possible embarrassment for her, she was not told whom we would be sending up with her. It will be up to you two to make the adjustments and develop a mutual plan of action. Now remember the basics, boy. In so-called ‘space,’ your pure consciousness will link up with every part of the universe. You will ‘feel’ the stretching and gradually lose sense of self until you find your target and re-enter the ego-field. Remember the law: If you find a suitable host body on a habitable world, you must wipe all memory of your temporary presence from its mind before you withdraw. You must cause no psychological or physical damage. Your presence must remain undetected by the sentients. You must find such a world, one preferably younger than earth by a million or more years, without life harmful to humans, you understand? You possess more than ample knowledge to determine this, if you hold tightly to the disciplines taught at the institute and practiced in your brief training excursions within the solar system. Maintain your current physical sexual orientation at all costs. Enter only a male-type host. Sylvia has been likewise cautioned. Do not attempt a mind-meld with a hermaphroditic sentience. Man may have been such in his earlier stages of development but cannot return to that evolutionary period. Establish the ‘base,’ as per your instructions.
Remember: you are under oath to return to earth, and your earth bodies… whatever your feelings. Likely, you will soon find life in pure consciousness superior to life in the physical shell and will probably not want to return, but keep in mind that once your task is fulfilled, you will have that choice in any case. Do not forget us, son. You are our only hope.”
He cleared his throat. “A couple more things. You have already encountered other disembodied entities or forms of consciousness. You know they will try to attach themselves to you or try to sway you to join with them. That is one of the reasons we decided to have Sylvia accompany you and vice-versa. If the attraction between the two of you is strong, you will be able to tear away from the seduction of these creatures, if we may call them that. You will remain aware that only upon your return to earth will you be able to fulfill the physical attraction burgeoning between you and Sylvia.” He looked keenly, though not unkindly at the embarrassed teen-ager and continued. “Miss Domona rates the highest of all her peers in psychic awareness and intuition and your powers of observation and rationalization are unmatched, making you the perfect pair to attempt this preposterous, though I believe, not impossible, task—space travel and colonization using only the pure energy of the cosmos to carry individuality in consciousness throughout the universe.
“We’ve done everything we could to eliminate danger, loneliness and fear and to ensure your safe return after successfully locating at least one suitable world. Now, if I may express an old earth saying: God speed to the both of you.”
For the first time, Jerry felt a kinship to the old Inspector. He looked at the lined face and into the deep-set blue eyes under thick, graying eyebrows. His eyes involuntarily watered as he extended his hand to the man who had been responsible to single-handedly convince the Ruler, the ‘Max’(assassinated two years ago by his nephew who now held a shaky reign threatened on all sides by vindictive revolutionaries led by the Max’s son) that dream travel was not an aberration deserving mind re-orienting, but could become an opening to the planets of other star systems, under proper guidance, instruction and containment.
With reluctant authorization and funding from who knows where, he had founded the Institute, recruited trainers and trainees, and been instrumental in developing the biological computer that would “man” the cryonics facility. Yet, in the beginning, his plan had been but a ploy to save the minds of young children who registered out-of-body experiences and were being rounded up to have their minds re-trained for possible use as spies.
Of this and other political tricks and risks, Jerry remained blissfully ignorant by design. His task was not to resolve earth’s surface problems, but to open an escape route to habitable worlds in far-flung star systems within the Milky Way, the greatest adventure ever attempted by man.
As he walked boldly and proudly to a waiting heli-craft, all he could think of was the line borrowed from an ancient sci-fi anthology: “Tomorrow, the Stars” and he added “and Sylvia!”
How fitting that man’s new quantum leap in evolution would be harnessed to the greatest motive force known among the race: romance as expressed by the mutual attraction between a man and a woman. Would a planet in the Tau Ceti system some day possess a sacred book that would speak of its Genesis, and remark upon the beginning of its human race via a “Jerry and Sylvia,” with its God represented as an old Inspector in rumpled gray suit, striped tie and twinkling blue eyes under bushy eyebrows? The answer to that question is even now out there, in the stars…