by John Nation
The hero in this story has to make a decision on the fate of the Earth.
Decisions. I have a hard time with them. Don’t care for them at all. So, how did I end up here, having to make the Big Decision? All I ever wanted to be was a farmer. Born and raised in Kansas, I am a fourth generation farmer. I am happy when the main decision I have to make is whether to feed the horses or the cattle first. Never able to make up my mind, I alternate.|
So, here I am, at the local Wal-Mart, making my big decision of the month. My new jeans, will they be blue or black? After a huge five minute mental debate, I drop my selection, (blue), into the buggy and move on. I pause at the electronics department and look at all the televisions. My old set at home is about to go out. I turn it on, and it does not want to show a picture. I figure soon I will have to decide on a new one. It is not a task I look forward to.
I turn and walk away, glancing at all the movies for a moment, seeing if I can make up my mind to buy one or not. I look up from the selections when I hear the customers around me start shouting and yelling. Coming at me is a herd of humanity. For a split second I wonder what I had done that would make everyone want to lynch me. To my vast relief, they ignore me and hurry on past. I turn around to see what the ruckus is all about.
All the televisions are showing the same scene. All over the planet, spaceships are entering the atmosphere. They move at a fantastic rate and slow to a stop over the Capitol of every country. For a few moments I wonder if perhaps it is an advertisement for the latest space movie, but then as if given a signal, half the viewers dart away and shove armfuls of food off the selves into their buggies. The other half stayed glued to the TVs. In minutes the lines at the checkouts resemble the ones I see on Christmas Eve. Many shoppers skip the time checking out would take and push their buggies straight out of the store and straight to their cars. I make a rare quick decision and leave my much thought about jeans in the buggy and walk out of the store.
By the time I am in my truck and start the engine, more vehicles are racing into the parking lot to get anything remaining on the shelves. I figure I have enough stuff to last me for a while. I live alone so I don’t have to divide up what I have. I once had a girlfriend, but could not decide if I was going to marry her or not. She made the decision for me and left, never looking back.
Half an hour later, I am out of the truck and entering my home. I turn my television on and wait. Nothing happens. After a minute, I kick it in the side. Still nothing. I am ready to kick it once more when I see the screen go from black to dark grey. That lets me know the TV is going to work one more time. I walk to my chair and by the time I am seated, the television shows me scenes from around the world of cities with spacecraft hovering over them.
I cannot tell how large the ships are, but a helicopter is shown flying over the White House. It appears to be high up and still able to pass under the ship. The picture changes to a reporter in front of the Capitol, telling us all she knows, which really amounts to nothing I do not already know. On both sides of her is a line of other reporters, each trying to be the first with a tidbit of information not already known. Other cities are shown, and it is pretty much the same story in all of them. After a time I get tired and go to bed. I leave the TV on, because I am not certain if I turn it off, it will come on again.
I rise the next morning and watch the TV as I cook my breakfast. Flying around the spaceships are jet fighters, loaded with missiles, waiting on the order to fire. Scattered along the ground are Surface to Air missiles that surround the ships.
By now the stations are interviewing experts in the field. I wonder for a moment where these experts have been hiding throughout the years and how they got to be experts. It’s not like anything similar to this has ever happened before. There are now two different fields of thought on what will happen next. One opinion is that the aliens will wipe out all life on Earth and take it as theirs. The other opinion is that the aliens will enslave all life on Earth and take it as theirs. They do have a little information I did not know before I went to bed. They tell me the ships are two and a quarter miles long and one and one tenth of a mile wide at their widest point. They hover four miles over the ground.
Right as I pull my eggs and bacon out of the pan and put it on my plate, the television picture goes blank. I figure the TV has had it and I will have to listen to the radio for the next development. Before I have time to turn the radio on, the picture comes back. The reporter and the person being interviewed are gone, and in their place is one of the aliens. You could see it was an alien, but it had a lot of similarities to humans. It had two eyes, two ears, one nose and mouth, and a nice set of dark brown hair on top of its head. What I noticed more than anything else was the smile. To me the smile looked genuine. It was not one from an actor.
“Greetings and salutations,” were the first words humanity heard from an alien race. “We are the Carpathians. We come in peace and friendship. For four of your decades we have observed you. In this galaxy you call Milky Way is a great Confederation of Planets. There are over a thousand different races we have found so far. We are here to invite you to join us. Please understand, you are not being forced to join. That is for you to decide. Once you join, you may leave at any time. There are great benefits for Confederation members. There will be trade opportunities and chances to exchange ambassadors. We have great artists that will visit you, and we look forward to your performers visiting us.
“As a token of our sincerity, we offer you a gift. You will have two gifts to choose from, but you may only select one. The reason we place this restriction is we have discovered giving too much too fast can have devastating and unforeseen consequences to those that receive them.
“The first gift you may select is the cure to cancer. This cure is for every type of cancer. If you accept this as the gift you want, lung cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, and every form of cancer will be eliminated. From this point on, cancer will only be known in your history books.
“The second gift you may have is we will give you the schematics, plans, diagrams, and manuals for a warp drive engine. Our data of your current technology indicates that within twenty years of selecting this option, you will build ships that can travel to the stars. This galaxy is over a hundred thousand light years across, but you will be able to reach any point in it within six of your days.
“Millenniums ago when we first did this, we let the governments of the world decide which gift they would select. We discovered this almost always created gridlock and contention. There were even wars over the selection. For this reason, only one of your race will decide what you will be given. There will be an elimination process as one by one the number that may decide what gift you receive will go from over seven billion down to one.”
At that moment, the alien disappeared and the Earth as seen from thousands of miles out in space took his place. Surrounding the planet were thousands of spaceships. Out of each of those spaceships shot out tens of thousands of beams of light.
I jumped out of my chair when in an instant I was surrounded by light. I ran around, trying to escape, but every move I made was matched by the ray of light. I hurried outside to see what was going on. I looked to the sky and it seemed to me that the sky was filled with beams of light. I saw a car race down the highway at over a hundred miles an hour, the driver encased in the light could not escape it. In the distance was a large jetliner making a landing. Over two hundred rays of light touched it. I figured every person on board was experiencing the same thing I was.
I did not have any idea what to do. I stood motionless and the light was still. After a few minutes I figured the light was not going to hurt me. The way I saw it, if they had wanted to harm us, we would all be dead by now. I went back and retook my seat in front of the TV.
The aliens must have released the television waves because on the screen now were the reporters and the ones they were interviewing. I watched with amusement for about fifteen minutes as they tried all sorts of ways to get rid of the light. It made no difference. They went into closets. They went into underground garages. The beams came through the tops of the closets and out of the ceilings. It took them awhile, but eventually they came to the same conclusion I reached and nervously retook their seats. The only times I moved was when I had to go to the bathroom and once a quick trip to the fridge to grab some cold leftovers.
Now instead of talking about the spaceships and aliens, they discussed the light that surrounded every person. There was speculation on how the elimination process to select the one that would make the decision would be picked. They told me that the second a new person was born, the light moved to them. If a person died, the light vanished. There was concern at first about the dead people, but after a couple of more hours, reports came in that the ones that died did so because of illnesses or accidents. As far as could be determined, the alien light rays were not involved. It was six hours later when there was a new development. The beams from the ships began to turn off. A person would be in the shell of light, and then it was gone. The first ones to be freed were the very young. Those newborns had the light vanish as did everyone under the age of twelve. The lights turned off slow at first, but soon they picked up speed in shutting down.
By the time twenty-four hours passed, almost half the planet had been released. I was still encased and I looked forward to when the glow around me would vanish. By the time of the next sunrise, there were only a couple of thousand beams still surrounding people. It did not make sense to me I was still one of them. I was just returning from feeding the animals when the government car pulled into my yard. All four doors opened as one and everyone got out.
“You need to come with us,” the man I assumed was in charge said. They did not discuss it with me, but two of them took an arm each and a third put his hand on my shoulder as they lead me to the car. I was put in the backseat between two of them and off we went. It was almost an hour later before we reached our destination. In front of me was a large warehouse. I could see four rays of light come out of the sky and into the building. When I entered there were five beams inside the warehouse.
I was put in a holding cell. At least it was comfortable. We each had a leather chair and were given food and drink whenever we asked. When I needed to go to the bathroom, the same five men that took me from my farm were around me again. I figured I must have been assigned to them. Before I went in, two of them went in and made sure no one else was in there. That seemed odd to me. I was in their place and no one except one of us surrounded by light and the handlers were there. Once satisfied there was no hidden assassin waiting for me, I was allowed in.
When I came out less than five minutes later, I saw one of the people that had been with me led away. The light no longer surrounded her and they were removing her. I hoped I would be the next one removed. Instead, over the next two hours, one by one, the others with me were taken back home as the light left them.
I was in my prison for almost two more hours when one of the people assigned to me reached for his phone as it rang. He had it in his hand and to his ear before it could ring twice. He listened for about ten seconds before he said, “I understand,” and closed his phone.
“There are only six left,” he told his companions. “Two in China, one in India, two in Europe, and him,” he said as he nodded his head towards me.”
I was about to say something when the light around me began to flicker. I was relieved. At last it was going to leave me. But, instead of leaving, it started to change colors. It went from the clear it had been to green and red, then repeated it over and over at a faster rate.
It had been doing that for about half a minute when the agent’s phone rang once more. After he hung up he said to his teammates, “It’s him. He will make the choice. Bring him. The President wants to speak with him.”
Again they went to take my arms, but this time when they did, they could not touch me. As much as they tried, they could not get their hands to enter the light. It did not hurt them, it just would not allow them to pass through it. I got up and walked for the exit. No matter how they tried, they could not slow me down.
I had no sooner left the warehouse when a huge wind flung dirt into the air. I looked to the sky and the ship that sent down the beam to encase me was landing.
It landed and once on the ground a door opened and stairs came out. One of the aliens walked down them. He stopped a foot in front of me and said, “You have been chosen to select what gift we will give humanity. If you wish, you can tell me now, and it will be done. However, we realize when a decision as important as the one placed on your shoulders is to be made, time is needed. We will give you forty-eight of your hours to decide. If at the end of that time you have not made a choice, neither prize will be given. It may be that is the right choice for you.”
He held his two hands out to me and opened them, palms up. In one hand was what appeared to be a red ball and in the other was a green one. They looked to be about two inches in diameter. “Take these, please,” he said.
My entire body shook as I took one in each hand.
“These canisters will be the method you use to decide. If you crush the red one, you will be given the cure for cancer. If you crush the green one, you will have selected the warp drive. The canisters are sturdy and as you measure it will take eight pounds of pressure to break. You are capable of producing that pressure. Do not worry about being cut or injured as you crush one of these balls. The material it is made from will not harm you. Once one canister is broken, the other becomes inactive. If the canisters are crushed at the same time, both gifts are forfeited.”
That said, he turned and walked away. Soon he was in his ship and it moved to the sky. Not far into the sky however. It rose a few hundred yards up and stayed directly over me, still sending down the beam of light that surrounded me. Carefully, I put one of the balls into my left pocket and the other into my right. Then I walked to one of the cars. The keys were still in the ignition. As I started it up, one of the agents that had been with me ran to where I was putting it into gear. “My father is dying of cancer. Please save him.”
I drove to the nearest town, the agents following close behind me. I saw a hotel and pulled into the lot. There was an open door and a maid cleaning the room. I walked into it. The agents hurried the maid out and a few minutes later when the manager arrived, they told him the government was taking the hotel and would pay for its use as long as it was needed. I set down at the small desk and tried to figure out what I should do. In an hour, there was a company of soldiers surrounding the building for my protection. The way I saw it, that alien light around me would shield me from anything puny human technology could throw at it, but I let them do what they figured was best.
It was not long after that the first of my government sanctioned visitors arrived. Three agents surrounded me at all times and anyone coming in was thoroughly searched. I will say this about who they let in. They were fair. Half of them pleaded with me to select the cure for cancer as the gift we would receive. They told me of the millions of lives that would be spared each year and about all the suffering I would stop.
The other group begged me to pick the warp drive. They told of an overcrowded Earth and its dwindling resources. They told me more people starved each year than died from cancer and if we reached the stars how all that would be behind us. Both groups offered me billions of dollars and anything and everything I would ever want.
There was less than an hour remaining when I told my guardians I would take no more lobbyists. They at once pushed away the people waiting to see me, ignoring the curses and threats thrown at them. I set there almost motionless and I tried to make up my mind, I knew that whatever choice I made, I would be called both a great hero and a great villain. There was only three minutes remaining of the forty-eight hours when I made my choice,
I crushed the ball.
|This book is currently empty.|