Johnny Hammond didn't realise his public library was the pathway to interstellar travel..
|Libraries had always held a strange, almost surreal fascination for Johnny Hammond. Their aisles of books stretched into the distance, and reminded him of a maze which lured you in, and had only one escape route. But, in a library, you could always find your way out, yet you didn't really want to as there was always something new to discover, a book you hadn't read, or an author you had never heard of.|
He was 18 years old, and turning from adolescence into adulthood, somewhat reluctantly. His father had told him to pull himself together, to stop reading about parallel universes, and interstellar space travel: he needed an education, or else he was in danger of following him into the family business, a builder, working with his hands, rather than his mind. His father had joked that Johnny had the brains to be a doctor, but, if not, he could always be a lawyer.
His parents were concerned, and putting pressure on him to be a little more ordinary, to give up the daydreams of his youth. But Johnny wasn't ready, he still believed one day he would be in outer space, looking back at the blue planet, and not as an astronaut in NASA's space program either. How, he hadn't quite figured out...yet.
Today in the library, however, Johnny was a little distracted. He had noticed a girl, who he recognised as Lisa Thornton, acting a little strangely. Lisa was a fellow student in a class he was taking, or rather failing, at UniTech. She was sitting at a desk, reading a book called "In Search of Distant Lands", seemingly unconcerned. He was taken aback a little when she stopped reading, and started writing notes directly into the book, which was something very much frowned upon in library circles, but he had done it a few times himself, so who was he to criticise?
But then Lisa had started to look around, surveying the other library users, almost as if she was selecting a candidate for something. Her gaze paused at a middle aged man, with greying hair and glasses, before moving onto a young girl, her head buried in a teen magazine.
Rather disconcertingly, Johnny realised her gaze had now turned in his direction, and she was looking directly at him. For a few moments they just looked at each other, before smiling briefly, as acquaintances might, and then Johnny, a little embarrassed, looked away.
Johnny went back to his reading, but was now a little annoyed. He went to the library for the peace and quiet, to be alone and free from distractions. He realised his mind was drifting back to Lisa, her smile seemed a little more than casual recognition, or was he imagining something that wasn't there? He had seen her in class, and had wondered if he should make an attempt to get to know her a little better.
He couldn't resist the temptation, and allowed his eyes to lift from his reading, and glanced in her direction. She was still looking at him: this time without the smile, a sort of neutral, serious stare, as if to say: pay attention. Lisa arose, with her book, and wandered off, down one of the aisles. When she returned, her hands were empty, and Johnny presumed she had returned the book to its place on the shelves, and he watched as she left the library.
Johnny had a slightly obsessive personality, when his mind was hooked on something it was difficult to shake. He wasn't really thinking about Lisa, as such, but about the whole situation. The look in her eyes as she left, almost as if she was trying to tell him something. But more than that, the way she had looked around the library, almost checking people out. It was very odd, he told himself.
The librarian woke him from his daydream. "Are you finished with that book Johnny, I'd like to start clearing up now if I could? It's nearly time for me to close up." Johnny frowned at the librarian, and then at the book he had been skim reading, some sci-fi fantasy that he couldn't really get into, and wondering briefly how the librarian could have known his name.
Passing the book to the librarian, he realised something was nagging at him.
The look Johnny noticed on Lisa's face as she returned the book to the shelves was surely not his imagination, and before that, she had been writing notes in the book. Feeling a little guilty, he decided to find out what she had written, and wondered if it she could have been writing something about him, or was it simply Lisa writing notes as she read. Knowing his history with girls, probably the latter, he chuckled.
He would soon find out, he thought, as he proceeded down the aisle. Feeling a little silly, Johnny realised he only knew the name of the book, and the titles were sorted by author. Retreating, he found the library computer, and typed in the title: "In Search of Distant Lands".
"No such title exists in this library"
Strange, she clearly left the library without the book, so it must have been placed back on the shelf, surely? He did a general seach for the title, across the entire library system in New York City. A sidebar on the browser said the branch libraries in New York held some 4,404,750 titles, so he assumed it would be in one of those.
"This item has either been destroyed or not returned. It was removed from the Lancaster Branch library on February 12th, 1982"
Frowning, Johnny Hammond's confusion only increased:1982? Lisa wouldn't have even been born then!
He checked the author: Lisa Thornton
Lisa, a published author? No way, she was only 18, he guessed, and the book was clearly published before 1982. A namesake, or her mother, perhaps?
Johnny made his way back to the library aisle and headed for the "T" section, hoping she had put the book back in the correct classification, rather than some random location. As he searched for the book, he felt he was becoming a little fixated, almost as if he was in a hypnotic state.
He found the title easily enough, although it was in a fairly non-descript part of the library, where someone would find it only if they were looking. Opening the book, he found it was well read, and a little tatty. Leafing through it, he quickly found a page with some rather neat handwriting on it, female he guessed, so crisp and neat was the lettering. Lisa Thornton's notes.
You have opened me now,
so please do not close me just yet
for when I will come this way again
I really cannot say
Johnny pondered the words. A simple verse, the writings of a teenager, Lisa Thornton. He checked through the book again, and found no other handwritten notes, so this must have been what Lisa had written. Why had she looked at him in that peculiar way then?
As he was about to close the book, the page became a little fuzzy, misty almost. A little bewildered, Johnny shook his head, as if to clear up some confusion. When his eyes returned to the page, some new words, miraculously, had appeared on the page below the verse:
Johnny Hammond, you have been chosen.
Welcome to our world.
Absolutely certain the writing wasn't there when he first opened the book and found Lisa's strange verse, Johnny felt giddy.
He had no idea that his world, life, and universe was about to change. He felt a presence beside him, and turning around, he saw Lisa Thornton standing beside him, holding out her hand. "Lisa, what....", her managed to mumble, but she cut him off gently, placing her finger to her lips. "My name isn't Lisa, and it's true, you have been chosen. Johnny, please don't be frightened, you'll be okay. Come with me."
The rows of books, the aisles, and the entire library seemed to dissolve in front of Johnny's eyes. The next thing Johnny knew he was drifting, almost like a boat on a flat, calm sea, but this was through the air, and he felt he could go in any direction, such was the freedom and majesty he felt. All the time Lisa's hand was in his, guiding and protecting him in their journey, but a journey to where, and how?
Johnny felt like they were flying, yet it was something else, where the laws of physics and gravity somehow didn't apply. Could he have been dreaming? He had a brief glimpse of where he had been sitting in the library, and instead of an empty seat, he saw himself sitting there, engrossed in his reading. Feeling Lisa's touch on his hand firm a little, he was brought back to, what? Reality? But before he could even consider that maze of possibilities, he saw what he could only describe as a gentle flat cloud ahead, and it seemed like they were going to land on it. Except they didn't land as such, somehow they were just there, as if movement didn't exist, you just thought something, and it happened.
Sitting on the cloud, they were soon joined by an elderly white haired gentleman, and Johnny considered the possibility that he was dead, or dying and this was the transition. What was it, he wondered, some kind of brain clot, an undiagnosed heart condition? Soon, there would be nothing, and his life would be over. Emptiness, and darkness would prevail.
"No Johnny, you're not dead, or dying. Look over there." Lisa's quiet voice stopped him in his tracks. He looked in the direction she indicated and he saw himself, once again, in the library, not reading this time, but smiling and chatting to the librarian. He also realised he was not watching himself, but was actually there, back in the library, briefly. "You can return there any time you like, Johnny. But here, you're safe and protected, you just have to have faith, and trust."
"Why don't we begin?". The elderly gentleman introduced himself as Ankor, and Johnny had the feeling Ankor knew everything there was to know about, well, everything.
"Johnny, we are from a time and place which is such a long way from your own reality," the old man said. "Do you remember the dreams you had as a child, the visions about interstellar space travel, and distant lands, and how real they seemed? Well, those thoughts and emotions planted the seeds for what you are about to discover today."
How could he know? thought Johnny, having trouble speaking, and then realised he didn't need to. The old man seemed to be able to read his thoughts.
"Human beings have always had trouble understanding abstract concepts like time and space, concsiousness. We are from your future, Johnny, 100,000 years in the future." Ankor paused, as he watched the words sink in. "Can you imagine human evolution over that time? Not your physical evolution, but your mental evolution: the power of your own mind."
Johnny was beginning to regain his focus, beginning to grasp what Ankor was saying to him. These beings, from the future, were talking to him? Was this just one of his daydreams perhaps?
"Well, yes, it is a sort of dream." Ankor answered Johnny's thought with his own. "In the future, this is how humans have evolved. You will be aware of how your industry has developed: computers, cell phones and other technologies. But, soon your technological advances will begin to stall, and the human mind will begin to progress it's own evolution. Things that were frowned upon, mocked even, will begin to achieve their own reality: communication without speech, lucid dreaming and astral projection, to name a few examples."
"In our time, we are able to project through space, and yes, time. But, you are thinking, is it real, or just some kind of dream?" Ankor paused to gauge Johnny's reaction. He had known other humans to go insane throught the acquisition of such knowlege, that was why they took their time in selecting appropriate candidates for the universal truth. "It matters little whether it is real, or not. For, what is reality? We are able to move through galaxies, and time, and yet not leave our own world. An experience is what it is, nothing more, nothing less."
I still don't understand where I am, or why you are here, said Johnny's unspoken thought.
"In our time, part of our responsibilities include projecting ourselves back in time, to help humans evolve, and develop their consciousness, their mental evolution." Ankor's hands came together, and he closed his eyes, as if he was considering something profound, a wise decision to be made.
"Johnny, please listen carefully." Ankor's voice was so soft and gentle, it demanded absolute attention. "Our time here with you is nearly finished, it will soon be time for you to return to your own reality."
But Johnny had no wish to return to his everyday life. He was here now, why could he not stay with them, travel with them?
"My dear boy, you are simply an infant, with much to learn, as we are still learning. You must live your own life, in your own universe, and be happy, and contented. Only then can our craft be revealed to you, a little at a time. If you can do that, then you can return to this place, anytime you choose, to grow your abilities, and to evolve."
Johnny felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, giving him comfort and security, and he guessed he was about make the transition back to his own world.
He was back in the library. The dull, gentle buzz of people talking quietly, pages being turned and librarians answering questions allowed Johnny a smooth and gentle transition back to his own world.
He reflected on what had transpired. Lisa's role was to, well, recruit him. Looking back, although he had noticed her in class, he couldn't recall her speaking, or participating in class at all. He guessed she was some kind of apparition, a spirit, which was why she could only point him in the right direction, and not approach him directly, or talk to him. The book, the writings, even searching the library database never actually happened, not in his own version of reality, anyway. It was simply a way for his mind, his conciousness to find its way to a safe place, where he could communicate with the beings from the future.
Ankor was a guide, a teacher. In the future, the mental abilities of human beings would be developed to such an extent that technological advances would be irrelevant, and so, presumably, wars, starvation and disease would be eliminated. But that was 100,000 years in the future, and he, Johnny Hammond, had been one of the human beings selected to begin that development. He had a lot to learn, but an eternity of time in which to do it.
He walked from the library with a spring in his step, clutching the information pack from the Stanford Medical school under his arm.