by Snezana Zabic
One day after his death, D. Boon woke up on the planet Suratas, in the Hitogar system, here in our little part of Galaxy, opposite to the part where your Sun and Earth stand. When he opened his eyes and thus entered a new life, first he saw blazing images moving around under the strong light. He had to rub his eyes and look again and now he spotted only some familiar faces. A chain of heads was bowed above him, with eyes curiously waiting for his first reaction, first words.
"Oh, thank god I'm alive. I thought I wouldn't get through," he stated.
The people who watched over him until now, started laughing and talking out loud, everyone at the same time, which only confused D. Boon, and a peculiar notion enetered his mind. Those faces are not only familiar, they are famous. Sid Vicious. John Lennon. They didn't change much. And a few middleaged people are here, looking exactly the way Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix would look like now... D. Boon found himself in a most unusual company. A company of dead stars. Dead stars that move, talk and laugh, and he's lying here without any kind of burns or any kind of signs of the recent accident. Probably a thought like this crossed his mind: "This is all nonsense, or a dream, but the most important thing is to stop it as soon as possible." He sat up and leaned against the wall.
"Would you please tell me where I am!" D. Boon said, expressing more begging in his voice than he wanted. The people quieted down.
A plump woman, looking like Janis Joplin, smiled and said:
"Don't you recognize us?"
As soon as they became serious and D. Boon got out of bed, they bursted out laughing again. Their new friend was wrapped from waist to ankles in original Suratasian hospital suit. Every Earthling would look funny in it, it's hard to describe why. Until you see it...
And while they writhed and shedded tears with some childish, liberating laugh, this time together with D. Boon, a woman entered the room. She was about two meters tall, with lightviolet skin, big black eyes, long fragile arms, wearing black dress with some kind of hood. The way she was bulit resembled the way women from Earth are built, which is the consequence of the essentialy very similar evolution process you Earthilngs and we here went through. A kind smile, into which hostess' lips spreaded, uncovered two lines of pointed white teeth and the rosy inside of the mouth. She seemed very lovely, even to D. Boon who saw a real Extraterrestrial for the first time in his life. She said in English:
"Here you are, we fixed your clothes."
She handed him a pile of neatly folded clothes and she went out. (That was my brilliant colleague Blon, who owns encyclopedic knowledge about the writers from Earth and has a great deal of respect for their work, for nothing but her love am I striving hard with this short story.) D. Boon was so appalled he couldn't even thank her or anything, he just dressed quietly, while others suddenly turned sad, because Blon's coming reminded them that someone always watches them and sees every move they make, reads their thoughts and tries to decipher them.
And for all I know, nobody watched them but me at that time, nobody but me cared. Anyway, it's time for me to make some things clear. D. Boon, as well as other five Earthlings on the planet Suratas, really died once, all of them died, each in their own time on your ill-fated planet. (Ill-fated, but dear to me.) A new life, on the opposite side of this common Galaxy of ours, was granted them thanks to the scientists of Suratas, but the way the scientists did that, I cannot explain to you. Even if I had enough time and space, I wouldn't be allowed. It would be as if one of you took a gun with the safety catch off and gave it to a child to play, even worse. All I can tell you is that not each and every one who lives on Earth can expect that we will "resurrect" him after his death and place among us. A condition for a new life lies in the life led before, and not even that is enough because the project is very limited. There are three general types of life (let me tell you that this is extremely simplified). A lot of people live vain lives, too weak even for that limited term - but they are necessary, they carry the possibility of life-fulfillment, possibility, but not fulfillment itself. Those who destroy senselessly, they are important as the opposition to the meaning of fulfillment. And there are people such as hero of my story D. Boon. He made songs. People all around the world recognized those songs as something meant for them, feelings were provoked, after that they continued with whatever they were doing in a new way. It's just one of many examples of the magical processes unfolding among people, silently and unapparently. On Suratas, as on Earth. Our science and technology is so developed, but those processes are still mysterious and exciting enough, especially now that we finally dare to face Earthlings.
We had to do it, I think that it's about to become apparent that it was useful. I better shouldn't tell you how sceptical some people were. When you invented radio and television, it helped us a lot to study you better. The things became especially exciting from the mid fifties. You know that the programs offered mostly wars and catastrophies, on one hand, and on the other hand there were stars of the show-business, which means entertainment, which means music. Drums, electric guitar, bass, voice. I am still surprised and enthusiastic. Ever since Buddy Holly died, some of us suggested we should invite a rock'n'roll star "to be our guest", but we had to wait awhile for that idea to find a place in the hearts of majority. When Brian Jones drowned so unfortunately, we didn't wait anymore and we brought him here. When everything was alright with Brian, there was no reason not to bring Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix soon. I don't know how this sounds to you, but you should know that we had nothing to do with their deaths, all of those were unfortunate cases we couldn't prevent, we are responsible only for their new lives. The similar thing followed with Sid Vicious and John Lennon and at the end with D. Boon, who was the last in line. No wonder I chose him for the main character of this story. He is my favorite. I'm still sorry that Buddy Holly isn't here. He also met with a misfortune very young, I wish I knew what he would make in the years that death took from him so suddenly. However, he's lost for the time being.
On Suratas, Earthlings couldn't possibly feel at home. And it took time until they realized, at least up to a piont, what the hell happened to them! We were ready to give them everything, especially affection and care, which they needed most. Only, they didn't want to cooperate with the science crews, simply no use came from them at the beginning. After a longer while, each individual fitted into circumstances pretty fine, primarily thanks to young inhabitants of suratas. Our children were so enthusiastic about them and their music that htey started copying their style, from the first days, and still this fad didn't cease. For a while there were whole bunches of Suratasian punk-rockers because that style is suitable for the kinds of fabrics and shapes we here like and the natural colors of our hair: black, green and silver. If you ask me, Suratasians dressed in clothes from Earth are not less ridicilous than D. Boon was in that Suratasian outfit the first day. But maybe I'm too obsessed with the outward appearance. Janis Joplin and her husband Slog are not, and now they have children and grandchildren who are such heavenly creatures!
I followed D. Boon for years since he came to my planet, I watched him change, I was able to be with him every moment through a Suratasian kind of television, without him being aware of that. Still, we know each other personally too, beacuse we were neighbours and colleagues during his first months on this planet. We both taught at a science-educational center, I at the philosophy department, he at the Earth history department, actually, he talked with the students of more or less current events on Earth, difficult for them to understand only on the basis of the past historical events. One time D. Boon decided to quit all that.
"You know, Kvand," he told me that day, "I would like to travel this planet a little bit. I don't want to be transported from one place to another in a few seconds anymore, I don't even understand it. I want a primitive trip, by land, by sea and by air, a slow rolling along the planet. And I want to stop using this little translating machine all the time. I see how you open your mouth this way and that way, you speak your language and it seems like I'm hearing English. I know it's the only way for the moment, but it's driving me mad and I want to learn your language. I know you have only one. I don't want to play the professor any more. Why, it seems not even I understand Earthlings, how can I explain them to students. I'll take my guitar with me too. Maybe I'll start writing songs on the road."
And so, in ten years that followed, D. Boon got to know Suratas pretty well. He always kept his guitar and mostly traveled alone, like a pilgrim. He saw the fields of black and white flowers - big biuldings chiselled in the green rocky mountains - little glowing fish swimming in the deep, deep, otherwise dark oceans - blue deserts, warm and immense - sad processions of dwarfish beings, who are very intelligent, but during the evolution they lost the power of speech, long before we developed, and besides, they never had any fingers (we have ten of them, like you). D. Boon traveled on the ancient roads on the planet's huge body, those rare roads that were preserved after we switched to the underground transportation lanes. Actually, only the main arteries of the surface roads are presevred, more like a souvenir, they cut the continents now. For some reason, D. Boon was trerrified of underground traveling, not only the "transmission" (I see you anticipated that in some "space operas", congratulations), so he was often forced to beg those from the air traffic to give him a ride, and there mustn't be a lot of them, because of our birds. Eventually nothing else was left for him but to learn to drive himself, so he was given a museum-piece of a universal hovering-floating vehicle. After that, he simply couldn't think of anything else to visit. People on Suratas live long, things don't change quickly, nothing like the life on Earth, and the whole human kind is one and only glittering-violet race, everyone speaks the same language, we live in prosperity and inviolable peace. A challenge to us today is to get closer to other cosmic civilisations. But D. Boon didn't feel ready for that yet.
Eventually he decided to accept the invitation of inhabitants of that unusual city chiselled in the green rocks and went to live with them. People who live there are somewhat isolated and wild. On Suratas, people are used to living completely separated from the nature, they involved science and technology in everything they could. People from the rocky city represent a small number of people who went to another extremity. In their speech, words like drought, flood and survival don't sound a bit poetic and archaic, as they don't sound like that to you on Earth. They use only inventions like wheel, lever, letter and similar things they can make with their own hands out of materials directly from the nature. That's where they drew the line between what's useful and where the rest of us are - in their opinion, we got involved in something unstoppable, but dangerous too, incalculable.
Well, that's the company D. Boon found himself in. He was to learn which plants are edible, and which are not, how to prepare them for eat. He learned how to climb the mountains and how to make simple tools. All of it was often toilsome, but after all, who knows how he would end up otherwise, I mean if he hadn't found that place. He made good friends, it seems they understood each other well from the beginning. Continuous work and struggle for survival made him free from thinking, during the day, from a feeling that haunted him sometimes in nightmares, until he fell into deep refreshing sleep. That feeling was a strange and unpleasant mixture of loneliness and inner emptiness. He was troubled with questions and dilemmas no one could make clear for him, and the years passed.
Hardly anyone of you would recognize D. Boon after ten years he spent on Suratas. Even those who knew him from his early age, certainly wouldn't recognize him on the first sight. Because fisically, he changed a lot during that time, adapting with his own strenght to the new home-planet. The fat that he had too much of once long ago, disappeared completely, and his strengthened muscles are naturally always stiff. His hair turned completely white, and his skin got brighter. And not only that - as an effect of water, air and food, he turned glittery, which is typical for people around here. Eventually, he replaced his old teeth from Earth with snow- white, ideal pionted teeth. All in all, for the celebration of the tenth aniversary of his new life, he looked great, I must admit. He celebrated alone (because we are not used to celebrating jubilees) and that by sleeping long and idling the whole day on the beach, playing with some children and playing his old songs to them. At that time he already resigned himself to the thought he won't be able to write another song aynmore, but there was always someone who hasn't heard the old ones, so the old guitar still brought lots of joy both to him and the others.
Before evening, he went back to town. While he walked past a house, something caught his attention irresistably and he couldn't help looking through the window. Women danced inside. People were seldom having fun over there and he was wondering if it could be a rite maybe. He thought about it Suratasian way. A word like "rite" doesn't even exist here. He watched that unusual scene constantly. (I found it equally unusual, and I saw all kinds of things following him on the screen and "traveling" with him that way.) And the more he watched, the more it seemed to him that something there was missing. Little by little, he felt with every nerve, he felt it in his head, in his heart what the dancers missed, it was music, his music. He started playing. For the first time on this planet his fingers on the guitar strings made completely new sounds. At that moment, the dancers stopped, all except one, she moved the same way uninterruptedly and only said: "Keep going, follow the music now," and the dance went on again, more spirited now. They followed D. boon's music, he followed them, well aware he had never seen such a dance, at the same time sophisticated and wild and passionate, and then nothing mattered anymore, not even the origin of all that, the only thing that mattered was the wish it never ended, and who knows if it would stop, if the dancers didn't fell down from exhaustion, and D. Boon's fingers almost stiffened after full hours of playing. The children already gathered, and while D. Boon and these women talked some more for a while, they made noise pulling the guitar strings with their clumsy little fingers. Together witht the night, tranquility came to all corners of the city, peace finally filled D. Boon's soul. And so D. Boon found his new song.
After that, I switched myself off for a longer while, and life took me down the roads that are sometimes very distant from Brian Jones, Janis, Hendrix, Sid, Lennon and D. Boon. I wonder if they feel my absence as well as they felt when I watched over them and I wonder - if they are more comfortable now...
I must say something for the end. Following these dear Earthlings, I was equiped with up-to-date tools, and I succeeded only up to a point in comprehending them, relying on things they said, on how they conducted themselves, and from time to time I could presume how they felt just by one look. Regardless to all their justified discomfort, believe me, there is no way of reading thoughts. Thoughts are, if I can put it this way, too closely typed texts, and moreover typed one across another. That goes for Earthlings, as well as for Suratasians. Earthlings still seem to doubt that, if they invented literature. Nevertheless, I like your literature very much, so much I couldn't resist but trying my own skill. This story was my attempt. It's a pitty I am too much of a Suratasanian to judge if it's any good.
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this page created 20 aug 97
this page created 20 aug 97