Alfred identifies himself as an artist and tries to envision his connection to aliens.
Chapter 2 "A" is for Alfred the Abstract Artist
Alfred had never fancied himself as an artist. In fact, other than the doodles he once engaged in on his papers in school, he had never seriously put paint on canvas or any other medium that would permit an artist to create. And yet, he had a certain imaginative flair he discovered over time, that no one else ever observed, never being privy to the inner workings of Alfred's mind.
When given an opportunity, however, on vacations, in cities, or wherever, Alfred drew himself to venues that exhibited art works. He methodically perused the displayed works and found that with practice, he could close his eyes and reproduce the art work exactly. He found it mesmerizing to do so and often sat in his rocker with his eyes tightly shut. To the casual observer, Alfred was sleeping. But that was not the case at all. Alfred was revisiting the art he had absorbed for decades. It was a most austere collection that rivaled any other museum of art.
There were two categories that intrigued him. These he would revisit frequently as he considered the incredible artistic skill required to produce them. One type of painting he never grew tired of looking at was the portraits of people whose eyes followed you as you crossed the room. Somehow the artist had discovered a technique that allowed the observer to conclude the eyes of the personage in the artwork were always upon the observer. These people seemed realer than real.
The first time Alfred came across such a work of art, he couldn't tear himself away. He crossed the gallery time and again, his own eyes never leaving the eyes in the painting. Finally, the guards in the gallery had to turn out the lights and escort Alfred from the building to get him to leave. It was then that Alfred discovered that he only had to shut his own eyes to continue to enjoy the painting anew.
The second group of paintings that Alfred enjoyed were those painted so realistically that one had to touch the artwork to make sure it was art and not just a display of the actual objects depicted. Looking at this art, it was possible to tell it wasn't a photograph. The artist made it look more real than even a photograph could display. Touching it was the only way to know. And that was what Alfred did the first time he saw such an artwork. And because he wanted to touch the art, the guards escorted him from the gallery.
To his great relief, Alfred discovered that he could remember these works and recreate them in his mind in minute detail. Sometimes he entertained creating works of art, but decided instead that just enjoying them at will was enough. This exercise brought to Alfred one of his greatest discoveries that allowed him to always relax regardless of circumstance.
He discovered that there was no difference between the physical "reality" that one witnessed with the senses, and the mental "reality" that one created with the eyes closed. Either would suffice, and depending on individual needs, one might prove to be more engaging than the other. It was not always possible to be at an art gallery to observe the works of art. Therefore, the mental gallery that one could build was far superior to the physical one.
And as Alfred sat in his rocker and contemplated the heavens and all they contained, he found occasionally he could almost "see" an alien ship ready to descend on him. He only had to close his eyes and witness the ship as the Aliens considered if Alfred was ready for the voyage. That was the key factor, Alfred convinced himself, that would determine when the Aliens would come for him. His readiness was pivotal.
On the particular warm June evening in question, when Alfred first witnessed the waviness of the heavens in an uncharted piece of the Universe, Alfred closed his eyes to see more clearly what he was being shown. He focused on the movement and held each phase in mind while witnessing the next variation. This had a layering effect akin to applying successive layers of paint to a canvas.
The result had no visible relationship to each of the applied layers and yet without each one, the end would be not be discernible as reality. And so, Alfred "painted" the sky in all its magnitude and the image he produced made him open his eyes, startled by what he was being shown. It was unbelievable, so much so he slowly shook his head and turned away unable to grasp the reality he felt the Aliens were sending to him.
The rumbling in his gut had magnified, and he went to the barn and get a small glass of Peppermint Schnapps to settle the discomfort. It was infrequent that he resorted to the Schnapps, but he knew peppermint had a medicinal effect on the stomach and the warmth he felt whenever he imbibed was soothing. Obviously, he kept the Schnapps in the barn so that Gertrude would not deplete his small stash.
When he returned to the porch and his rocker, he closed his eyes to recreate the startling image that had been forming. However, it didn't come. The image with his eyes closed was fuzzy, almost as fuzzy as the "real" sky he saw with his eyes open. Disappointed and frustrated, Alfred sat and rocked and let his watering eyes blur the scene before him even more. And then softly, ever so softly, he let his eyes close and pleasantly drifted into a real slumber and not the pretend slumber he so often displayed.
In a sweet dream, the image of the heavens once again took form, but this time Alfred would not recall the image, because he had always had trouble remembering details of dreams. He knew he dreamed, fairly often he dreamed, and in each dream, he would vow to remember each of the details when he awoke, only to wake and remember only that he wanted to remember the dream. And this time would be no different.
Alfred would once again disappoint the Aliens, showing them he wasn't ready for their descent. There were skills yet to master before he was ready. He had come far, very far, but not far enough, yet. The image that Alfred could reconstruct was incomplete. He thought he saw a path, perhaps a hallway, perhaps a bridge, and to the sides of the way, there were openings, perhaps windows, perhaps doorways, and bits of light shown from the other side of the opening, and yet because there was nothing solid like a wall, it was hard to tell if the light was shining from outside in or from inside out. And then everything got fuzzy again and Alfred didn't receive the complete message of the Aliens.
When Alfred awoke in his rocker, he had a headache, but a settled stomach. No more rumbling and he realized that he had spent the night on the porch. Gertrude had left him there, or perhaps she had tried to wake him and he didn't respond. Another night had passed, and he was still on the porch and not in an Alien ship on a voyage across the Universe.
Alfred decided that on this particular day he would not think of Aliens or the Universe at all. He would not try to imagine anything, but would do his chores, whatever was before him to get done, attacking the list that Gertrude was harping at him to complete. He couldn't remember what exactly was on the list, but he knew that she had one and that he was responsible for completing the tasks it contained. This day Gertrude would see a new Alfred. But first he would go to the barn and gather the tools, supplies and most of all, the energy to become a new Alfred.