|The Lampshade's Shadow
Author: Nadie2 PM
A young girl has what she thinks are dreams, but turn out to be an alien's race attempt to contact humans.Rated: Fiction K - English - Sci-Fi/Supernatural - Words: 4,421 - Favs: 1 - Published: 10-23-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2963829
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
In the Lampshade's Shadow
By: Alisha Webster
I thought this would be a story I would never tell. Now I regret that all I can do is tell it, and not allow you all to live it with me. When I was a child I used to think there was two of me: the one who was awake when I was what we call awake, and the one who slept then and woke only when I dreamed. I used to think the second was the more powerful of the two. But this was long ago. Before I knew what a dream was.
When I was a child I had a terrible fear of aliens. I do not know when this fear began or why. I honestly don't remember ever hearing them mentioned. But almost every night in my dreams they would come. Only, I did not know they were dreams then.
The creatures landed their space ship in the yard. Then they would wander about. Sometimes they were in other houses. Sometimes they would stay in the yard. But most often they would be in my room. They were searching, always searching.
They looked very much like you see them look on TV, so I must have seen them somewhere. They were gray, had huge eyes, tiny slits for noses, and a smaller slit for a mouth. They had no ears or hair. There limbs were long and thin. Their fingers were longer and thinner still. They ended in large round tips that ran shivers down my back even though I could not tell you why. They horrified me by their odd proportions.
I cannot tell you whether they were tall or short. Because they would reach the top of the ceiling one minute, and be smaller then the outlet the next. Yet, they never seamed to change. Whenever they were in the room there seamed to be no contradiction between them being very large, and very small. It occurred to me one day while I watched them bob up and down in height that they were always exactly the size of something. Whether it was the dresser, the ceiling, the chair, or the floorboards. "They're measuring!" I thought to myself.
The thing that was strangest about these creatures was their shadows. Their shadows never looked anything like them, but they always looked like something. Like a curtain, or a window, or a bed. Each one had its own shape. You may think it is strange that they caste a shadow different from their shape. It is strange, but it never seemed so at the time.
The creatures were always searching. Always looking for something, and I had the greatest fear that I was what they were looking for. I never understood how they could not find me. But I knew they would do something horrible to me the moment they found me, so I knew they hadn't yet. So I laid very still, and very silent, night after night, month after month watching my nightly visitors.
I thought perhaps they could not see well. Perhaps they see worse in the dark then us, like cats see better. Later I thought this didn't make sense. If it was true they would bring lights.
No, it was certain they couldn't see me. But I think the reason lied deeper still. It occurred to me, by the way the creatures walked, that they couldn't see at all. Not that they stumbled, but they sort of groped. Not with there hands, but with their constant growing bigger and smaller. It didn't seam possible since they had such huge eyes. Then one night one of them tilted his head. It reminded me of how my elderly neighbor moved his head when he wants very badly to hear what is being said and can't. Except the creature moved his head to get his eyes closer to the sound. That was when I knew that they heard with their eyes. They must have some system like bats using sonar, for they never tripped or fell.
It was strange, for creatures that depended so fully on hearing that they never seamed to talk. For a long time I thought they were a species without language. I was young enough not to really understand what that would mean, but old enough it seamed strange. Then one day I heard it for the first time. They made sounds. I almost felt them more than heard them. It felt like when you lean against a piano, and someone plays the lowest notes. Or when you are in the front row at the opera or church, and a very high note is hit. Your whole chest kind of vibrates. Well, some of their sounds did that, only very softly. Some of their sounds I could even hear. Slowly, I learned bits of their language. I knew that not only the pitch of the sounds, but how loud they are mattered. Most of there sounds were to low for me to hear. But there were like blanks, and even blank can help you figure things out. So I learned words slowly.
I think it was their language that first made me dream I could like these creatures. For all there words were like beautiful songs. How could anyone be bad who went around singing all of the time? I would still lie silently, but for a different reason. I wanted to know them, and now I feared I might frighten them away by my presence.
Their searching still bothered me. I did not understand how they could always be searching, and never finding anything. Then it occurred to me that they did not really know what they were searching for. Life, surely, they must be searching for life. But how would they know what life was like on this planet? It could be like anything. Perhaps they thought this house was alive. Why shouldn't it be? Perhaps they thought they were inside the beast, examining its organs. Why should not the chair be as likely to be alive as me? Or perhaps most of all they did not think any of it was alive. Perhaps they were confused by the lack of movement. For a young puppy will chase a bag blowing in the wind, and leave the sleeping cat alone. Perhaps they did not sleep, and so did not understand what sleep was.
I came to like the little creatures, and even viewed them as my friends. I learned to tell them apart from each other. The easiest way was by their shadows. My favorite one was the one who cast a shadow that was shape of a lampshade. He seamed to be the leader. His voice was higher, so I could understand more of what he said. He grew, and shrunk less then the others, that was good because, that was rather startling. But best of all he did not seem to be searching as franticly as any of the others.
All night every night I would watch the creatures. Each morning I would awake feeling more rested then before, even thought I would only get to sleep very early in the morning. The threat of a sunrise would always chase them away.
My pleasant times with the creatures ended quite suddenly. My eyes opened one night to the more ghastly sight I'd ever seen. The curtain was open, even though I'd closed it before going to bed. The room was all empty. But from the outside of the window looking in was one of those creatures. The one who cast a lampshade shaped shadow. I would have recognized his face, even if I didn't have the shadow as a give away clue.
But it occurred to me I had never really seen their faces before. For a face in profile is a different then a face looking right at you. His eyes were larger. His mouth smaller, and you couldn't even see his nose. Those huge eyes were staring at me, and not a muscle in him moved.
The moment I had been dreading for over two years now had arrived. They had found me.
I tried to remind myself that they could not see. But that meant nothing to me now. They could hear, and I knew there was no difference between seeing and hearing. I had been foolish to ever think there was. There were those eyes focused on me. I felt as if the creature was either reading my mind or stealing my soul. I knew I was lost. Any minute now they would take me to their spaceship, I felt. But they would not kill me. No in fact I believed they had the power to make me eternal. That is what I most feared in that long tense moment. That they would make me live with them forever. That for all of time I would be forced to stare into those eyes.
I saw no way of saving myself, but I thought I must do something. I decided to scream. You may think it odd that I did not attempt this earlier. But I had been trying to stay hidden from them for a long time. I had been hiding from creatures who could only hear, and not see. The goal had been silence for years. I did not think that the screaming would save me. But I thought my parents might see the spacecraft take off, and so at least know what happened to me. Just think, all that time, and one thin wall had been all that was separating me from the human race. One thin wall, and I'd been in a different world.
I screamed a blood curling scream. As I did it I woke up in my own bedroom. Woke up, and looked around myself. The curtain was closed, and I was alone, for a second. My father rushed into the room out of breath. He said my scream was the most horrible sound he'd ever heard, and he'd been sure someone was in the room with me. I laughed a little uneasily at that. How much a fool I felt.
I thought I should have known they were dreams all along. Everything made sense when you knew it was a dream. That is why the curtains were closed when I went to bed, open when the aliens came, and closed again when I woke up. That is why there shadows did not match their bodies. That is why they could grow big, and small at will. That is why I always felt more rested when they came then when they didn't.
But the dreams did not return after that. They disappeared like the mist. I slept poorly for a while, afraid that they would return. But very soon I forgot all about them. But every now, and again something would bring it all back. There was the time we read PeterPan in school. My blood ran cold when they described Peter's shadow coming off, and getting away from him. Anything having to do with nonsense set me ill at easy. So I never quite finished AliceinWonderland although I started it many times. But most often it was something I learned in science class that sent the chills up my spine. I used to think of all kinds of excuses to get out of going to school when we studied the planets. Whenever people talked of life on other planets I would excuse myself.
The strangest thing that frightened me was when I learned about Easter Island. About how they had cut down every tree in order move the stones for those statues. Then with no trees they could not make boats to fish, and they all died. Those few sentences read in a book had made me cry. I lost sleep over them for weeks, and weeks, and I can't even tell you why.
The dreams ended when I was eight years old. The thinking about them happened less, and less as I got older. By the time I was twelve I had not thought about them in many years. Until the night when I dreamt again. This dream so much different from the others. I was at the lake around a campfire, my favorite place in all the earth. Many different conversations were happening at once, but I was not listening to any of them. I was looking around the campfire and thinking how odd it was that everyone I had ever loved was here in a circle tonight. I was so blissfully happy. The kind of happy which comes so rarely in life, and which never lasts to long.
"A satellite!" someone said. We all turned to watch it. But I knew it was not a satellite right away. "Well, this is only a dream then," I thought to myself. I thought about whether or not I should run. I decided I would rather spend the rest of my dream lost in the tall grass than in a spaceship. So I ran as hard and as fast as I could. I could see people being grabbed behind me. But I knew it was only a dream, and they were only after me. I saw a shadow like a lampshade in the grass getting closer, and closer, and closer. Terror filled my heart, and I kept repeating to myself that it was only a dream.
Two hands griped my shoulders. They felt cold, like an old medal swing set on a crisp fall day. They were stiff and fake feeling like a prank hand someone convinces you to shake, and that comes off in your hand, or someone's fake limb. But they had real skin on them. Not skin like we are used to. It was most like a frog's except it was very dry. The fingers were long, and thick at the end. They felt very much like I imagined the tentacles of an octopus to feel before I touched them, and not at all like octopus tentacles really feel.
It all seemed strange until I thought that perhaps on their planet the creatures are made of medal, and wear skin like clothing.
But in that moment I was not really thinking about how the hands felt. That is something I only came to ponder on later. In that moment I was seeing such wonderful things. But, I believe, seeing them as the creature would, through sound. They looked very different from how things usually looked, and a little like what things look on those little boards on ships and planes in movies. Only much clearer, clearer then our own vision thought it was colorless.
I saw things getting bigger, and bigger. I saw myself and him standing in a silent field all alone. The sky was overcast and the air was silent, pregnant, as if a storm was coming. I felt very small when I saw that. Then I saw the earth, and felt much smaller. I saw the solar system, and recognized all the planets. Although they were very different from how I had been taught to look at them. The colors were gone, and in there place was something else I can not name or understand. But it was better then colors I think. It meant more. I saw the planets, even the sun, getting very small indeed. I saw the milky way, getting smaller and smaller. I saw our whole universe getting smaller, and smaller yet. I thousands of universes rolled into a ball. Farther out, and I saw three of the balls, and they were going up in the air, and down again. Up in the air and down again. Then I realized what was happening. They were being juggled. Someone was juggling the balls universes! I saw the hands of this someone, and I saw his chest. The universes were going around, and around and around again.
I watched them for that moment that was forever and less then a second at the same time. Then I woke up, and I was alone in my bed again. I was sad. For know I knew I loved these creatures, and had been foolish to ever fear my dreams of them. For after all, if they were my dreams weren't I in control of them? I wanted the dreams to come back, but they didn't.
Now it was different things that reminded me of the dreams. Jugglers, of course, and apple cores though I don't know why. Hands, and octopus, and pictures of sonar could bring be back for a moment. There was a movie called Meninblack I wore out watching, because the jewel was a universe. There was a story by H.G. Wells that I read until I had memorized, because everything was a ring on a hand.
Years later in high school I learned about Absolute Zero on the Calvin scale. I understood it right away. The temperature at which movement stops, yes that is what the touch had been. Zero on the Calvin scale.
The memory would assault me when I gazed into the sky on a walk, or when I dove under water. However, strangely when I thought of it the most was at Easter time. I went to church once a year with my family. We'd sit in the carved pew, and watch the light stream in the stained glass window. Then they'd sing Handel's Messiah,and play it on the big organ so it vibrated my chest, and that is when I remembered it the most.
Again there was a long silence. It is only the breaking of that silence that prompts me to write again. For now, at least now, I am sure it is no delusion, and no dream. It started not long after I turned eighteen, and graduated from high school. I began to hear singing when I slept at night. In my dreams I thought the singing meant something. In my dreams I answered the singing with words.
One night I opened my eyes. The shadow of a lamp fell across my face. I looked up, and he was standing before me. He had his hand stretched out. "Come," he said in his language of song played by some thing at his tiny mouth far higher then his natural voice.
I grabbed his hand hoping to see the big things again. But this time I was shown the small. I saw myself first. But as an ant would see me, very large indeed. Then a fleck of my skin came off, and went falling toward me. I mean the me on the floor, the ant me. I saw inside the skin what I leaned in school to call a cell. But it was more beautiful then any cell I had heard about. All of its little parts were beautiful, complete, and perfect. I knew what each one was for, but they were not working. They were dead. But that did not make me sad. I was growing smaller again. I could see inside of the nucleus, the nucleolus, and the molecule of DNA. I could see the adenine on its beautiful winding colorless but meaning drenched twist. I was inside this now, and I saw the little atoms that made it up. I was inside of this then, and I saw the protons, neutrons, miniature electrons. I was inside one of the protons now, and inside it was even smaller things. They have them named, but I do not know the names for them. Inside of them were smaller things. Inside of those were smaller things. I lost track of how many smaller things were inside of each of them, but I knew it was many. Then I saw the smallest smallest thing. It was the juggler again. But there was not only one of them. There were hundreds, millions, billions all inside of the smallest smallest thing. I could not understand how the biggest thing was the smallest too.
I was terribly afraid that when this moment was over I would wake up in my bed again. But I did not. When he let go of me I was on the space ship. I did not know how I got there, and I did not really care. I did not know if it was still in the yard or going through space, and again I did not care. I do not know how long I was on the space ship for. I thought it was years, but I returned the same night that I left, so there must have been some magic in it. Perhaps all of what I thought were days occurred in one long Calvin temperature minute. Maybe all the rest of the world was frozen, and we were the only ones that were still able to move.
He explained everything. I was right about everything I had guessed in my room long ago. They had left their planet, because they had destroyed it with to much garbage and pollution. But they were not coming to our planet to steal it. I was worried about that for a moment. I loved these creatures, but I felt a quiet loyalty to my own people. No, they only wanted to share all of their knowledge.
"We may not exist anymore," he had said, "But we want our ideas to. Each species had only a bit of time allotted. But some learn to cheat time, and the Wise One lets us do it. Some change the world, and some change themselves. Don't be too proud about it, I speak of beavers, and dinosaurs as well as species like you and I. But some change themselves and the world enough to learn, and get very wise. Our species changed ourselves in the world a lot, and we gained a lot of knowledge. We did not want it to die when we do."
"Who is the Wise One? He is the big thing I saw when you touched me, and the small thing and the big thing are the same."
"Oh surely, you know that. I never imagined that a species could live as long as you without knowing who the Wise One is. You have different names for him no doubt. But surely you know who he is."
To tell the truth I think I always did know. "Well there is something we call God. But I did not know it was the same thing," but Handel's Messiah, I thought inside, "after all he always seamed so old, and dead, and this things was so alive."
"Old species sometimes think he is dead. But it is only because, they learned how to shut off the part inside of us that lets him talk to them. I feared your species might be one of them. You had such big houses. Strange your big houses, we used to think them beasts. Our people do not live in houses. But the houses make it so you can't see the sky. The sky is enough to remind you of the Wise One if you let it. "
"How did you find you planet in the first place?"
"The green," he said.
"Green? But you can not see colors can you?"
He tilted his head as he looked at me. He was surprised I had noticed that I suppose. Or confused by the question, I would never know.
"We can smell them though. Well not exactly colors, but certain chemicals. One of them is chlorophyll, and that is what this planet is covered with."
"Why did you come only at night?"
There was a little shutter that went down his back then. "Our planet is much colder then yours. We have, or had a thicker atmosphere. If we are out in your sun our selves turn red, and the skin burns off." He sighed, "We never used to need skin, back when the planet was good."
We talked on, and I learned much. He told me about the technology on his planet. How they made the skin they wore. What the animals were like on his planet. The greatest feats of literature his planet had obtained, thousands of years of philosophy and science, bits of history. It is strange to think of the things that matter in the end. It is not the things that matter in the middle.
He said he was leaving, in the last space ship. They would try to find an empty planet they could live on. But they did not think they would, "The Wise One does not make plants good, and then leave them empty." He said with a sigh, "We have overstayed our time by thousands of years as it is."
Then suddenly I woke up. I woke up in my room all alone. So in the end, it had only been a dream, the thought threatened to crush me. Then I saw the lampshade like shadow, and turned toward it. There was a little music box open there. It was singing a song, a pretty little song. It wasn't there speech at all, it was really a song, but made out of their words. It came out of the little box. Inside there was little creature. Not real of course, by very realistic. As big as my thumb nail. It was made out of hard cold rock, and draped with their fake skin. I don't know how they got it to cast his shadow, but they did. Just like they always did. I held the music box close to me, glad I had not dreamed it all.
The next morning I heard a commotion. People said there was a falling star. I went out to see the sight. It was a twisted horrible wreck, I could see why they thought it was only a falling star. But I knew. I knew what that little pile of medal with the liquid piles of pale grey around it was.
The scientists called it "space debris." They said it was probably the remains of a long forgotten satellite that fell to the earth. I called it the last of a dyeing world, and wept over it.