Gerard did not miss civilization. In fact, he enjoyed his self-imposed isolation over the last two decades within the Arctic Circle. With the sun poised high above a distant tundra ridge, he estimated the temperature to be around a pleasant thirty degrees Fahrenheit.
A crisp afternoon breeze moved by as Gerard paused. His snowshoe tracks ended in the deep snow near several claw-marked trees. He heard something from the direction of the river. His senses already tuned to what sounds were safe and which meant danger.
The half-mile-wide waterway was close. It weaved through the valley and provided much to Gerard during his time there. Being early April, the water near the center flowed freely with some broken ice at the shores. The unusual sound came again, like a slap of something against the ice.
He listened until pinpointing as best he could, then quietly maneuvered through the treeline until breaking through.
Just ahead, a dark figure clung halfway out of an ice-hole that Gerard had cut earlier in the day. It was a man dressed in a black robe, his legs still below the frigid surface. Barely conscious, he would die if not immediately warmed. Gerard pulled him out of the river and fitted a quick harness of rope around him. In haste, he pulled the body toward his small cabin.
Makkan awoke in a dark place. He still had underpants on. His wet robe was replaced by a heavy blanket. The last thing he remembered was taking a shower, then sipping hot korvas on the open deck of the Sascorsha while it advanced in a silent hover over the rolling landscape. The night sky above shimmering with lighted curtains of the aurora. Makkan could’ve picked one of the unpopulated planets of this region as his getaway, but the oxygen atmosphere here required no space suit.
All he wanted was some rest. Especially after surviving his tribe’s Rite of Passage. A recent memory stabbed into his aching head. No, the last thing he remembered was the abrupt tilt of the deck, and his horrid fear while falling into complete darkness.
The cabin door swung open. Daylight flooded in as a fur-faced human entered and lit a small flame. Makkan was offered a drink, so he drank. Next came some meat. The taste so unlike his sequenced food-packs. When his rescuer spoke, Makkan couldn’t understand. Yes, there were language-packs onboard the ship to transfer into his parietal lobes, but he hadn’t planned on meeting anyone so why bother? In retrospect, that was a serious error.
As his painful headache subsided, he recalled the moments just before the accident. The onboard AI of the Sascorsha had informed him of its increased need for shield power to compensate against an unusually massive solar flare. The charged particles would soon bombard Earth’s magnetic field lines and race down the poles directly to their position. Makkan must have been thrown off the deck when something went wrong.
His thoughts led him to a sobering conclusion. If he didn't find his ship before it completed repairs, it would auto-navigate back home without him.
The man Gerard rescued did not try to speak. Language was the obvious barrier, but Gerard’s hand gestures were understood enough to nurse the man back to health. As soon as the stranger could stand, Gerard showed him that the next meal wouldn’t come for free. Living in Nature required each to feed and clothe themselves. There was always fish, and access to new hunting grounds after the breakup of ice.
Within a few days Gerard named the stranger Hans. The broad shouldered man was built like a professional wrestler. One of his arms covered in tattoos, the other fitted with a tight metal ring around his upper bicep. The armlet was ornate in design, with a distinct metallic luster of which Gerard had never seen. Its intricate pattern reflecting beams of firelight in all directions.
Despite the stranger’s rugged looks, he showed no skill at surviving in the wild. Soon though, Hans quickly caught on to Gerard’s cues while navigating the river in a canoe.
They worked their way through the wilderness setting small game traps and field-dressing a bull moose that Gerard had taken down after three days of hard pursuit. Hans eyed Gerard’s aging Remington 700 rifle carefully, but never attempted to touch or take it.
Late one evening, Gerard pointed to the metal ring around Hans’ upper bicep, making a motion to show friendly interest in it.
Hans touched the arm ring with reverence. “Shabbanth core indigus,” he said.
Gerard shook his head, figuring it would be a long time before they could converse.
Makkan, or Hans, now his human-given name, learned ways to survive he never imagined. Such low technology required amazing physical effort, so unlike his own world. His training involved the use of Verothian technology, far surpassing human knowledge. Regardless, he appreciated how these primitives had toughed it out on their island of rock and water.
Thirty Earth days had passed when Makkan finally pinpointed the location where the Sascorsha went down. His and Gerard’s daily search for food had finally brought them within range, causing Makkan’s arm band to vibrate. They were on foot at the edge of a small lake, so it must have submerged itself there. He’d have to return and swim the ice-icy waters to get the strongest signal, then dive deep to reach the access port. Without his full skin-suit, he faced the high probability of death by freezing.
At last Hans spoke. “Must, go, home,” he said as he stood up from the morning campfire and motioned at Gerard’s canoe.
Gerard understood. “I will take you there.”
They paddled up the river with Hans pointing the way. About an hour later the waterway opened to a wider lake with a surface like black glass.
Hans dived in.
Gerard looked on in shock, wondering if this was his strange friend’s way of ending his life. A minute, two minutes, ten minutes went by with only a few bubbles breaking the surface. Then they ceased altogether until without warning, the boat rocked from churning water all around.
Gerard quickly made for shore. Once there, he looked back to see a massive boulder rise from the roiling waves. The oblong-shape lifted higher until Gerard realized it wasn’t made of earth, but was more like the brushed metal of an antique bronze sculpture. The spaceship hovered over water without a sound.
Gerard stepped out of the boat in awe. He walked along shore a few paces, so consumed with the floating vision before him, that he failed to see the brown bear come from behind. A low growl made Gerard spin around.
Gerard tried to draw his rifle, but a massive claw swiftly raked into his shoulder and down his arm. Blood spilled through his sleeve while the gun skittered away. Gerard cried out in pain and made for the boat. He jumped in with the bear close behind. The wild beast raised on its haunches to strike again, but a beam of brilliant white light exploded from its chest instead. Pieces of flaming fur and chunks of raw meat landed on Gerard, accompanied by the coppery smell of burning flesh. The bear collapsed into the boat alongside Gerard. He pushed away from the lifeless animal and left the boat, thinking the odd thought that undercooked bear meat is not safe to eat.
The strange metal ship approached with Hans standing proudly on a top deck that hadn’t been there a moment ago. His odd friend smiled and wore a silver colored body-suit. They eased ever closer to shore and to Gerard until maintaining about a twenty-foot distance. Hans’ voice boomed like that of a Viking god. “Sorry I had to eliminate the innocent creature.”
Gerard stood his ground dumbfounded, pressing his palm over the worst injury on his arm to stop the bleeding. “Yeah no problem, but how can you speak now?”
“I cannot explain so you would understand, but you saved my life before, and I want to thank you.”
Hans’ expression changed to one of concern. “In your vernacular, an Extremal Black Hole ejection is on its way. You’ve probably never seen one being so far from your galactic center. The incoming shards of ultra-dense matter will desolate most of your star system.”
Gerard couldn't believe what he heard. The end of the world would come much sooner that he had ever guessed. It saddened him, but at the same time he knew that Earth would not last forever. He chuckled at the thought of finally finding life in space besides our own, only to be wiped away soon after by a natural disaster.
“So you’re what, an alien?”
“Yes. I am from another star system, much like your own.”
“And you came here to warn me, I mean, us?”
“No. I came here to get away from it all, as you say. But a faulty shield-circuit coupled with bad timing caused my accident.” Hans lowered his head. “In truth, your survival is of no concern to my people. Our race prides itself on advanced technological protections. Survival means different things to us than to you.”
”That’s okay by me,” Gerard replied, “things don’t work out the way you want them to out here. They work out the way Nature wants them to.”
“I’ve learned that, my friend,” Hans replied, “But I’ve also learned that reliance on oneself does not preclude the acceptance of exterior aid.”
Gerard scratched his bearded chin. “Wow, you really have learned our language.”
Hans pulled off his arm ring and held it high, “Take this,” he said, and threw it over.
Gerard caught it using his good arm and examined the gift, “What’s this?”
“It is my thank you.”
Gerard felt the pulsing vibration of the metal handiwork. It was lightweight yet he felt it possessed great power in some way.
“It has helped me,” Hans said, “and I’m sure its molecular composition will astound your scientists. More than that, it contains a detailed map of your system along with the knowledge you will need to save your planet against the coming fury.”
The immensity of the gift overwhelmed Gerard. He now sat cross-legged on the ground, wiping a tear having spilled from one eye.
“Oh, and my name isn’t Hans, it’s Mak-kan-Voo-rian-Faa-loo-Ry-gaal.”
The words sounded like a chant in an ancient tongue to Gerard. He smiled, “Thank you, Mak-kan.”
The open deck of the space-ship turned the same bronze color as the rest, hiding Makkan from view, then it shot into the air without a sound.
As the craft disappeared into the sweeping blue sky, Gerard considered that the people of the world might find a way to come together in peace, especially if they were certain other and more superior beings existed.
With this confirmation, however, he figured it was on him to pass along the revelation, and the chance at keeping the Earth from being shredded into oblivion. It would be difficult to rejoin humanity though. Many years ago he swore to stay away, ever since a pandemic ravaged the city he used to live in, and took his family with it.
Gerard always suspected that Earth wasn't the only place harboring sentient life in the Universe, but he never thought he’d be the one to have proof of it. Those beings were indeed watching, even waiting for mankind to venture away from their quiet home in the galaxy, and do more than just survive.
Text copyright © 2021 by the author. Illustration by Pixabay, used under license.
About the Author: D.M. Woolston (website) is an author who enjoys reading many genres, but he is partial to Science Fiction paired with hot cocoa, whipped cream, and infused with just a smidgen of peppermint schnapps. After his craft landed in the pre-apocalyptic wasteland known as Las Vegas, he set to the gargantuan task of cataloging adventures too amazing to be believed. And he is totally having a blast doing it.