"A VISITOR FROM XYRALITE"

It was a dark cold night when Professor Vichitra Aavishkary was driving back home after a visit to his dear friend Professor Adhunik Rahamdil, his one and only true friend. People called him "The Mad Scientist". The professor was a keen inventor who had more flops than hits. His latest experiment concerned water. It was a dark night as there was no moon, only a few stars twinkled in the sky. As he was driving home, he saw strange lights flickering in the sky some distance away. They were brighter than any star he had ever seen. He reached the spot and got out of the car to investigate, but by then the lights had disappeared. He did not have a torch so he could not see anything strange. He drove back home in a puzzled frame of mind. He lived in a lonely and desolate area where there were only a couple of other houses. One house remained locked up while the other neighbour was out of town for a few days. The professor ate his dinner alone in silence and then went to bed.

That night he had weird dreams about the strange lights. He suddenly woke up in the middle of the night, sweating all over. He heard loud crashing noises down in the hall. Cautiously he walked down armed with a stick. He turned on the lights and looked around. There was nobody in sight. But there was a big mess all around. He searched everywhere but could find no sign of an intruder anywhere. He dialed 100 but unfortunately recognizing the number, the police refused to believe him. The eccentric professor had made too many such calls in the past. Disheartened the professor went to bed again.

Next morning he sat down with his tea and newspaper. There was a report of a few wells and a swimming pool going mysteriously dry in a nearby area. The professor went to his laboratory after having breakfast. He was soon immersed in his new experiment and forgot all about the night's incident.

He was secretly trying to convert saline water to potable water using solar power in a cheap and economical manner. That night he again heard the strange noises.

He crept downstairs on silent feet and turned on the lights in the living room. There stood a strange creature - tall, brown in colour, with large green eyes, no nose, a wide mouth and three arms. The professor gasped and took a step backwards, tripped over the carpet and fell down. He lay there for a few minutes with his eyes closed, murmuring "This is just a bad dream….. This is just a bad dream." When he opened his eyes, there was this creature bent over him. He screamed out in fear. Hearing him the creature too screamed in a high pitched shrill voice. The professor stammered, "Who.. are… you? What do you want? The creature stared back silently without a reply. Once again the professor repeated his question. The three armed creature held out a claw like hand with seven fingers. There was a small object which looked like mini earphones in its hands. It gestured for him to put it in his ears. When he did so, the creature made some weird noises. Moments later there was a voice speaking in English in his ear. The earphone was a translator of some sort. The voice said, "Do not be afraid of me. I am Ekkis Ungli from the Planet Xyralite. I come in peace. I require your assistance. I had to make an emergency landing here due to technical difficulties. I need a large amount of distilled water to fuel my ship to free myself from your planet's gravitational pull and go back home." Professor Vichitra agreed to help him.

The next morning he woke up to find Ekkis missing. He opened the door and picked up the newspaper. The headlines screamed, "Lake mysteriously found dry!!!" He realized that the strange lights he had seen the other night were in the same area. He was still reading the paper when two men dressed in black suits knocked on his door. They were from the CID. He was required to report to the local police station. There they showed him his wallet which he had dropped while investigating the strange lights. One of them said, "We know that you are currently doing experiments with water. Since your wallet was found near the lake, it is clear that you are involved in the drying up of the water sources nearby. You have to undergo a polygraph test and we will get the truth out of you." Professor Vichitra stood dumbstruck. The polygraph test did not provide any conclusive evidence. The police had to let him go.

The bewildered professor wondered if he was going insane. The professor thought over the previous night's happenings. He decided to pay a visit to his good friend Professor Adhunik. Over coffee at his friend's house, he described everything that had happened in the past couple of days. A little dejectedly he confessed, "Am I going mad?" Professor Adhunik shook his head and said, "No, I don't think so. There have been many reports of UFO sightings recently. I think you should try and help Ekkis."

On the way back home, the professor thought over what his friend had said. The creature did need his help. It required a vast amount of water to get back home. But there was no such water body nearby. The only alternative was the Thane Creek where the water was saline. When he reached home, he found Ekkis poking around his laboratory. He seemed excited. He hugged the professor and said, " I see that you have built a desalinating machine, that too such a compact and powerful one. This should help me a lot." The professor shook his head and said, "No, it is not ready yet. It is still experimental. I have a few problems yet to overcome." "Let me see if I can help you," said Ekkis.

Ekkis with his superior technology was able to help the professor iron out the kinks in his invention and soon they had the machine running smoothly.

It was sunset as the spaceship was ready to go. Ekkis thanked the professor profusely, climbed aboard happily and with a wave disappeared inside the craft. The Professor looked forlornly at the closing doors for he would miss the company of Ekkis and would have liked his help in future experiments.

The lights came on and in a few seconds the spacecraft was ready to take off. The ship took off in a blast off hot steam and disappeared into the sky.

Professor Vichitra Aavishkary smiled a secret smile. He was visualizing the future. Winner of numerous awards including the Bharat Ratna, his photos were splashed in all the papers and magazines. Headlines screamed, "Indian Scientist saves the world from Thirst!!!!"

BY R. SRIKANTH