by Josh T. Alto
Eddie is a dreamer, waiting for a sign, something which makes his life worth living
|(Word count 2,115)
The heat was unbearable and depressing, it hadn’t rained for five weeks; the leaves of the chestnut trees along the main road turned into yellow and only hung parched from the branches. It was the middle of August and the town looked like a dry riverbed. Even the nights were sweaty but at least the wind brought a fresh breeze around midnight.
Two men were sitting on the terrace of the local pub, just finishing their last beer. It was closing time; they could clearly hear the sound of the midnight train in the distance. They emptied their glasses and stood up; it was their habitual time to leave. One of them, called Eddie, a rather tall man with his eyes always searching the sky as if waiting for someone or something to appear, stopped outside in the street.
"Can you see that star above the horizon over there?", he said, "It’s my lucky star.", and pointed at a group of rather distant stars over the treetops,"That’s the brightest star of the constellation Aquarius, my sign in the zodiac. It’s called Sadalsuud, that means the Luck of Lucks, they say. It’ll bring my luck one day."
His companion smiled and slapped him on the back. "So you’re a water sign, that’s why you prefer beer to water.", he answered and laughed, "You’re an incurable dreamer. You’ll never have any luck in your life and neither will I; luck is for people at the other end of the world."
His friend was right; sometimes even he saw that he was chasing a mirage, he hadn’t had any luck in his whole life. As a child he lost his father and he grew up as the only man in the family. His sister went to high school but he had to stay at home with his sick mother and make a living for the family. His sister married someone a few hundred miles away and he saw her rarely; then his mother died and he was left alone in the empty house.
Earlier when his mother was still alive he didn’t think about the future, he never planned to start a family or have children, and afterwards he felt somehow that he had been stranded in that old house at the end of the town. He was too shy to start an affair with any of the few single or divorced women he knew in his age group and there was also his lack of confidence.
So he flew into his world of dreams, with creatures from outer space which were watching him from above and he was waiting for them to take him away in their spaceship or at least give him a sign that confirmed their existence. He used to sit at his telescope outside in his garden on warm summer nights like that and scan the sky inch-by-inch but without any results so far.
He didn’t have many friends, most of the people found him bizarre with his strange ideas and at times rather odd behaviour. As he was standing there in front of the pub with his friend he had a curious feeling, why couldn’t that night be the one he had been waiting for. It was rather dark, the moon wasn’t up yet, there were only a few streetlamps near the town hall a few hundred meters away and they didn’t give off too much light. The sky twinkled with billions of stars above their heads.
Suddenly a falling star drew a bright line on the cloudless sky. It wasn’t the first one that evening, they had seen quite a lot from the terrace while drinking their beer. They were the Perseids as he explained to his friend but this one started from the location Eddie was pointing at and disappeared behind the trees. What they heard afterwards was a kind of a far-off bang from an explosion, or rather like the sound of a cannonball hitting the ground, and then they could see smoke rising up faintly in the distance. It couldn’t be too far away; they had the feeling they could even sniff its burnt smell in the air. Eddie froze for a moment, as if he saw an angel flying over their heads and became so excited he could hardly speak.
"That’s for me. It’s fallen in my garden.", he stammered and started running through the parking lot and along the main road in the direction of the smoke.
He felt dizzy, his steps echoed on the empty street, in his ears and throughout his body like African drums.
He was sure that was the sign he had been waiting for so long. He must be the one who finds it; it’s for him and for no one else. As he ran the drumming in his ears became stronger and stronger like the chugging of a train. He lived at the skirts of the small town, in one of the last houses of the main road, in a dark and deserted area with almost no streetlights at all. While running through the dark park he missed one of the stakes at a newly built playground and hurt his knee while falling through the frame of the sandbox. His nose was bleeding but he stood up and continued his race against time with an even more embittered face. In his garden the first thing he could see was a black, burnt-out spot in the dry grass with a pan in the middle, at one end glowing even then in the faint wind.
He brought a torch, put it down to light up the blackened area and started to dig in the dry sand with his bare hands. The sand ran out through his fingers but after a while he could already see the rounded edges of a small stone. As he first held it in his sweaty hands he thought he could even see some lines as if carved in its surface but later as he took it in the house and dried it with a towel there was nothing to see. It was about ten centimetres long, and had the shape of a car at first sight. It’s surface had a dark bright colour he couldn’t identify, but totally homogeneous, not a scratch on it.
As he sat there sweaty, sand falling from his hair and dried blood on his face, shorts and shoes, he felt a kind of satisfaction. All his life he had always been waiting for something from above, a sign that would tell him things he hadn’t known before, something about his future, evidence that there was a higher intelligence above, since that very night he first found his star in the sky in a past summer night, thirty years ago. He knew even his friend was smiling at him when he showed him his lucky star but at last he had the evidence in his hands.
He could hardly sleep that night; he wanted to find out what the message was, if there was a meaning behind it at all. He gathered and sorted the information he had from the stone and tried to draw some useful conclusion. Its shape resembled a car but he didn’t have a car and he didn’t have a driving licence either so it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with him. The scratches he thought he had seen on its surface had disappeared if they had been there at all.
In the morning he called one of his friends who worked in a research centre for physics, explained what had happened and asked him to analyse the stone. They tried rays of all possible wavelengths and a large scale of light emission devices without any results. There wasn’t a sole stain on or under its surface, nothing but a totally homogeneous piece of stone. He went to the public library and sat there hours browsing different books about similar meteorite findings and about the symbols of the cabalism but he didn’t know what he was looking for so he didn’t find anything.
He put the stone in a leather case and always had it around his neck as an amulet.
As he couldn’t find out anything about the stone he almost gave up his quest to find a meaning behind it but at the back of his mind he was still waiting for something that would help him to work this mystery out. He was sure a day would come when everything would be clear. Indeed the day came rather soon.
One night he went home earlier than usual because of a lunar eclipse he didn’t want to miss. There were some clouds gathering in the sky and he wanted to have a look at the moon through his telescope before it would be obscured by the clouds. He also had a crazy idea that night while drinking one last beer with his friend; maybe the sign only could be seen when holding the stone at a certain position in special light conditions: why couldn’t he try the lighting effects of a lunar eclipse. But, like the other ideas he had had over the last couple of days, that didn’t work either.
At home he ran into the garden but forgot to close the gate. He went into the house and brought his telescope just in time to see his dog running out to the street. He ran after him and tried to call him back when a car appeared and drove down the main road in their direction. His dog stood in the middle of the road as if paralysed, he couldn’t move from the spot. The car was approaching too fast and the driver, trying to avoid the collision with the dog, drove to the left and hit one of the stones at the roadside, changed direction and while crossing the pavement rolled over Eddie who had just stepped forward from behind the gate. The car hit one of the posts of the fence, turned over and slid slowly down into the ditch.
Eddie landed on the pavement, bumping his head against the asphalt, turned over and lay there motionless. The stone fell out of the leather case and came to a halt in front of Eddie’s face. The car started burning and it’s flares lit up his face. Finally his dog left the road went slowly over to him and licked him on the face but he didn’t move.
Then it started to rain after more than six weeks of drought. Raindrops as big as peanuts were falling on the road’s dust and dry blades of grass. The water flew down on Eddie’s hair, on his cheeks and started dropping down to the pavement mixed with blood from his nose. Suddenly he opened his eyes, reached out his hand and grabbed the stone. As he gazed at it in the flickering light of the burning car, as if carved with a laser light there were small drawings appearing inside under the soaked surface.
Through the tears in his eyes he thought he could identify the moon, partly shaded by the Earth in the same phase as it had been in the sky a few minutes before. Beneath this image there was a car, a dog, and someone lying on the pavement.
A smile came onto his face, he was relieved finally, he was right, there was indeed a message, there was a sign he was not able to interpret, but he got it. A message he had been waiting for his whole life. He now remembered holding the stone for the first time in his sweaty hands, when he thought he could even see scratches in it. He wondered why it never appeared to him to plunge the stone into water; it probably seemed too obvious to do so.
He closed his eyes slowly and the stone rolled out from his palm softly as if in a slow motion picture, rolled further down into the ditch and stayed at the bottom among other pebbles and stones unremarkably. The dog snuggled up to him and leaned his head on his shoulder; everything had happened so fast, he still looked scared and confused. Perhaps as a send-off for Eddie the dog started howling in the abating rain.
First, there was one far-off response then more and more dogs joined in. Eventually it echoed from all directions swinging over the houses, rising above the clouds towards the sky. It was midnight, the howling of the dogs sounded like a last outcry for Eddie accompanied by the mournful sound of the midnight train.