From a place beyond the cloud, the Cylinder whooshed through the star-eyed nightlit sky, glistening with reflected moonbeam light, a black and silvery thing, disappearing, reappearing, till it vanished past the far side of Arrow Lake.
Lannie looked out from the porch of her cottage on the near side of Arrow Lake. Her eyes blinked reflexively, an automatic nervous system response to such an odd and eerie sight.
It must be a beautiful dream, she thought, a momentary lapse into a dreamy doze, where fanciful poetries grab the mind and dazzle it with starships and monsters and fairy-like things.
She was awake though. That much she knew. Then why was she seeing such a thing. It wasn't the cylinder, that silver-streaked across the summer night, that frightened her.
What sent a chill fluttering across her skin was the idea that the beautiful starlight ship was nothing but her imagination running free. Because she had been alone for almost a week in an isolated cabin in the Canadian wilderness, her mind, it seemed, had let itself go and conjured up a waking dream, an event that it never would dare attempt, while locked in the city-scape, where all her like imagined city friends could keep such errant mindtrip-flights in check.
On the other side of Arrow Lake, there was a sudden flash -- a ball of white light surrounded by a pulsing aura of bluish-golden blush. Several seconds later, just as the halo glow across the lake began to fade, the echoing thunder of an explosive tear tumbled across the water.
A blast of wind brushed through Lannie's hair.
She held back a lock of her wind-touched hair and looked again out to the darkened shore across the lake. The wind was real. That she had felt. She could question the sights she saw in such a seeming foreign place as this. She could even doubt the rolling noise of the thunder sound. But her tangled hair was another thing. Her body material had been touched, and thus, it made her wonder whether what she saw and heard were just as real as her tangled hair.
Was the silver thing real? Was it more than a monetary dream? A dreaded feary chill danced once more across her skin. It was a prickly, cold-like wave that emanated from somewhere deep-within her abdomen and chillfully spread through every cell, radiating out its icy aura-field into the summery night.
She looked across the lake again. There, beyond the black water-pool, beyond the far rim of black-night trees was a soft dome of faded light -- a gentle breathing radiance.
Something was there. It was real for she knew she was not asleep. The light on the far side of Arrow Lake was more than a pretty dream, that might be dreamt by an idle mind enchanting itself, whiling away the time, as a sleeper slumbered through the darkened-side of another night.
As she let certainty of the realization come to be, that what she saw was real, her fear settled. Her mind took over and began to explain to her all that it could be. A plane that had crashed -- a lost and wayward artifact of men's machines. A meteor -- a piece of astral stuff falling from the sky. A military missile -- the beginnings and endings of a war. Each thought-image-idea was brought forth, and each examined. Each was right in a simplistic way, each explained one facet of the starry riddle, yet each finally gave up its claim to explaining all of what she had seen.
What should she do?
Run away -- into the forest? It was near midnight. She had no car, no phone, no radio. She was alone in a cottage that stood by a lonesome lake with not another house, another person, as far as she knew, for at least five miles. There was no where she could go.
Run to it? The light radiated from across the lake. A mile of water lay between it and her. There was nothing for her to do except wait and watch it pulsate from afar.
She knew, that with this something on the other side of the lake there was no possibility of sleep for her that night. She would stay with this thing all night long.
Lannie sat down in the wicker chair on the porch of the cottage and stared out at the bluish-golden light that glowed from across the lake, a light that expanded and diminished, as though it were a heart, slowly throbbing with the force of life.
There was nothing to do but wait for the dawn, which was at least five hours away, and hope that the light of the sun would make the pulsing vision go away.
It was a cloudy-inky night. The stars appeared in patches, shining in the breaks of the black, billowy cloud- stuff, that raced across the moon's single beam that bore down upon the water, creating echoing-rows of semicircular, silverfish reflections on the crests of the wavering lake surface. As the minutes wore to hours, the moon traversed the dome of the night sky, arcing through the clouds and disappearing behind the trees that stood on the near side of the lake.
Now, there was just darkness, and the throbbing glow from the other side of somewhere. She sank deeply into the timeless blackened space, gazing continuously toward the beckoning beacon of light.
As Lannie waited for the sun, her time seemed to vanish. For a moment, she was suspended without time. There was no stars, no moon, no sun to clock the earth's revolution. The totality of the darkness, with the one light radiating out there, trapped her in her solitary moment, a second of forever, a timeless packet of eternity.
Then, just at the borderline of her perception, she thought she saw an array of speckled lights upon the black canvass in front of her, as though a school of electric, flying fish had leaped all at once from out of the water. But it was gone again -- instantly. It flashed once more -- silvery, luminescent dots, flicking on and off, just beyond her seeing.
One by one, each speck, each dot of light settled into her field of sight. They were there. Lights on the water. An army of them, growing in power and size, coming toward her.
What should she do? Run? To where? If they were coming for her, they would no doubt find her. So she sat, and watched, and waited for the looming, light-filled things to grow and come ever closer to the near side of Arrow Lake.
Each speck of light grew into a glimmering dot, and with each moment each dot grew larger still, until each was a glowing globe filled with a white luminescence. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty or more globes, she couldn't tell, floated just above the water line, calm and undisturbed, sliding over the gentle, waving swells, each ball of luminescence reflecting a wavery image of itself in the black water. As the minutes moved forward with ever slowing deliberation, Lannie could see within each globe, and see that each was filled with a whitish light, that swirled and eddied with the faint tint of rainbowed-prism auras -- like twirling colorpools, each current of liquid light casting another shade of a delicately phosphorescing hue.
The globes came up to the near shore of Arrow Lake, softly lighting and revealing the shore line. They stopped at a spot that was maybe fifty yards from where Lannie sat in her wicker chair on the porch of the cottage -- watching.
Each globe seemed to turn itself off, like a series of lightbulbs going out. Lannie squinted trying to see through the darkness. The globes were silhouettes outlining black circles against the larger setting of lakes and trees. It appeared as though figures were emerging from each globe, ghost-like shadows that separated from the black circles and stood by the shore.
One by one shadows began to approach her, each taking slow steps in her direction. They appeared to be no more than the characters from the other side of a darkened dream.
Lannie's heart-pulse quickened a bit, her grip on the wicker chair tightened. The thought came to her that she should be frightened by what she saw, but somehow it didn't seem to bother her a great deal.
They were coming for her. If she ran away they would find her. It was clear that it was she whom they sought. Somehow, she knew with a deep knowing, that they knew who she was, and that they were here to find her. It was that common knowing, that she shared with them, that made her not afraid.
The small army of shadowy figures came closer. In the darkness it was hard to tell whether they had a human shape. They were the same size, maybe a little taller. They had the same long narrow shape that a human might have. But they were still far away in the night for Lannie to tell whether or not they were human, They felt like blackened memories from her dreams. They were there, but not really there -- just forgotten shades that lived on the edge of her awareness, that would vanish if she could only rouse herself from such a dream-filled night. It seemed, if she indeed this was a dream, that if she chose to remember, they would stay with her for a while longer. So she chose to stay with it (there never really was a choice), as she knew they were real, and that no matter how hard she might try to deny the corporeality of what she saw, it would not go away.
When they were no more than twenty feet from her, they stopped and stood before her arrayed in a large semicircle.
For a moment there was absolute stillness, thick with an almost sensual scent of expectancy.
One of the figures near the center of the circle moved forward. The shadow began to take on shape and definition. Its body was covered in a black plastic-type cloth. To Lannie it was difficult to tell whether the figure was male or female. Its form appeared to be androgynous, slender shapely arms, a narrow chest that tapered to a widening at the hips and set on a pair of long thin legs.
The being came closer and stopped a few feet from the porch. It tilted its head forward as though it wanted to look carefully at Lannie. She tried to discern its features, but it was difficult, for its face was still hidden in the shadows. She felt a sudden and strong urge to look upon the face, to clearly see the features of this creature, to understand and know who and what this being was -- that had come to see her.
She stood up from he wicker chair and stepped down the three steps from the porch to the wet grass. She walked directly up to the being.
There was a warmth to it. A gentle radiating heat that emanated from its body. It made Lannie feel good just to be near the being, to bask in the gentle warmth that banished any chilling fear that she might still have felt.
The being was more than a head taller she -- well over six feet, but still, it seemed quite human. She looked up into its face. It appeared to be a human face, but once again Lannie couldn't say whether it was male or female -- was it a man, a youth, or maybe a tall and elegantly handsome woman? Lannie looked for its eyes so as to look into the being's very soul. It looked down at her and their eyes met. She could not tell what color the eyes were, but as she looked, she sensed that there was a radiance and fire that emanated from within the being. She could almost see that the pupils of its eyes had a swirling orange glow to them, like the eyes of a cat reflecting the head beams of an oncoming car on a deserted night road.
The being held out its hand. Lannie looked down at it. It was human, though long and feminine.
She took the hand in hers. It was soft, very elegant and warm, imbued with a liquid tenderness that made it seem to almost melt away.
And suddenly, the whole world was melting away. The being in front of her faded; the cottage, the lake and the trees evaporated into a melting mist, and she felt as though she was falling backwards, tumbling through space, through the timeways of the Universe. It seemed as though she were a giant -- spinning and spiraling through the star systems. She saw the galaxies twirl by her as small miniatures, puffs of light, popping out from the blackness of spatial nothingness, appearing to her giant perspective as inconsequential specks against the Universal black.
The visions melted, giving way to the seeing of a city suspended in a twilight sky among the clouds, the checker board lights of the avian cityscape twinkling, as though it were a mile high, skylight chandelier.
She saw mountains of an awesome height and girth bounded by beautiful canyons of a seeming unending depth that were far beyond the scope of any earthbound geography.
She saw inside the Cylinder. Sleek, chromed and empty, a lighted oval chamber, filled with a watery mist.
And she knew (saw) from what planet, from what star system, from what dimensional plane, these beings had come; she knew how they had traveled, how they had come to be and how they had come to find her. She saw their temples and crafts, their books and their lives, and she knew these people. She knew that they were her special friends, who had come to find her, to see her once again, to make their place with her. This she knew, all at once, and so much more.
The touch of the being's hand had reawakened in her an ancient past that had been locked in the very memory of her cells. It was not as though she had been to the place she saw, but the memories of those places had been bonded to the very structural elements of her chemistry, and now, the touch of this being, that held her hand, had re-ignited these forgotten facets of her history.
Her instantaneous journey through her own pre-dawned history tumbled in upon itself. She opened her eyes and there was sunlight.
She closed them quickly and tried to return to the other place. But now she was here, within her body-place.
She opened her eyes again. She was in bed, in her nightgown under the covers. It was day. The sun fit into the upper left corner of the window. It was at least nine o'clock.
She didn't remember going to bed. She didn't remember getting undressed. Though she did remember the silver thing that leapt across the sky and the explosion and the globes of light and the being-things.
Was it just a dream?
But it was much more than that -- that much she knew.
But was it real?
Or was it neither reality nor dream -- but something else -- a place in between such polarities.
She touched her hair as she lay in her bed and felt its tangles, remembering the wind that had rushed through it in the night.
She pulled away the wool covers and got out of the bed. She walked to the window and looked out onto the lake. It was a clear and beautiful morning. There were no clouds, just the sun -- a brilliant disk, surrounded by a white, silky sky that melted to a pure blue. The waters of the lake were glassy, and across the lake, there were only green trees. She could discern nothing that might remind of what she remembered from the night.
Perhaps, indeed it had been no more than a dream, a passing fantastical fragment that had touched her for a moment. An image (a hope?), which possesses a more intense sense of reality than most other dreams, that sprang from some deep longing, from somewhere more than she knew.
She dressed and ate her breakfast of oats and grains, slowly and deliberately. She was surprised that the cereal tasted sweeter than the day before.
It was time for her to return to the village; otherwise, the old man with the jeep, who had brought her to the cottage, would come and look for her. Besides , she was eager to return and ask if anyone else had seen a silver cylinder whoosh through the sky and disappear into the clouds.
If all that she remembered had been just another dream, then, what did it mean? Did it mean that she desired to stay, here, in the cottage, alone; or was it meant to mean that she wanted to run away -- to another planet, another star?
She catalogued the memories of what she remembered of the strange night -- the tall figure with the red-burning eyes, the cylinder, the globes, the shadowy people. Were there meanings behind the images, symbols of deeper feelings and conflicts that lay hidden, unrevealed to her? She wondered about where did such dreams came from. But she could only guess about the answers to such things.
Now she would walk five miles to the village, where the old man would drive her in his jeep back to the cottage to collect her belongings. Then they would return to the village, where she had left her car in the old man's driveway, and she would drive the five hours home to her city, where she had first belonged.
She put on her red nylon day pack, opened the door of the cottage and stepped onto the porch. The morning sun-air was warm, its temperature rising, part of the natural ritual of a hot August day. Once more she scanned the far side of the lake, hoping to see a trace, a momento of her night's trance.
But there was nothing.
For a moment she felt a slight sense of dizziness, her mind sensed a wavering, as though the atmosphere itself rippled. She had an odd feeling that someone was watching her. She didn't look around though or peer over her shoulder. She wasn't fearful of this feeling, as she might be in an urban landscape. The feeling of being watched was a comfortable one, it was the cozy feeling of being looked after by a delicate lover-friend, a sense of being totally exposed, all-vulnerable -- yet, safe.
She started her hike through the woods, on the path that would lead her back to the village. There were two gentle ruts on the edged of the path, showing where cars had often driven right down to the shore of the lake. Just before the last bend in the path that would take her out of sight of the cottage, she looked back once more at the far side of Arrow Lake.
She moved on. The day became hotter. Lannie looked at the world. The leaves of the trees brushed against the breezes. Each leaf was visible -- leaf after leaf. She noticed the immense variety of greens and browns. There were not just two colors, but a range of greens and tans, ambers and browns, blending into each other, creating an endlessly colored variation. She had never noticed before how many different colors there were in a forest. she could choose any two leaves and see the color difference between them. In fact, she noticed how there were no two leaves that shared the exact same color, no less the same shape.
As Lannie made a turn in the bend of the path, she came across a doe and her fawn. The deer were feeding on the bark of a birch tree. Lannie was surprised that they had not sensed her approach and fled, for the animals were no more than fifteen feet or so from where she stood. She must have been upwind from them, Lannie thought to herself; otherwise, they would have smelled her scent and fled deeper into the forest, shying away from the approach of a human. The doe turned its head toward her. Their eyes met. Lannie held her breath, wondering again why a doe with a fawn to protect had not run away. The animals's eyes were jet-black and stared at Lannie, locking into her eyes for what seemed a moment of forever. The doe's intense gaze made Lannie realize that she understood the animal, that they shared the common understanding of their communality as life-beings. The doe carefully and deliberately strode toward her. The fawn followed. The doe continued forward until it came right next to her. It was a large tawny creature that came up to her chest. Lannie could smell the animal's scent. The fawn was maybe two-feet high, its dappled spots just beginning to fade. The doe nuzzled her nose into Lannie's hand. She put her other hand under its neck and stroked it. They must be domestic deer of some sort, Lannie thought, that had somehow gotten free from a game farm.
How else could such a shy, wild animal act so friendly and tame? She bent down and stroked the head of the smaller deer. The fawn lifted its head and also stared into Lannie's eyes. Lannie fell deeply into the little animal's gaze, and for a giddy moment, she sensed that somehow she knew this deer; but it was a profound knowledge, a sharing-knowing, like the knowing intimacy between two lovers. She felt the total sensual awareness of what it was to be this fawn. She knew all at once what it was to smell and to see, to feel and to taste, through the sense of this creature. She knew what it was to stride and stand in such a sinewy four-legged form. She knew what wonder it was to look at such a tall, odd figure as Lannie, a human-form.
She stood up and walked away from the two animals. The did not follow, did not move; but, just watched her disappear along the path into the woods.
She did not think about what had just occurred. In fact, Lannie no longer found herself thinking at all. She felt as though she were floating along the ground, like the globes of light she had seen in her night-dream, the dream that had almost been real.
She came to a clearing in the woods and looked up into the sky. A hawk circled above, and suddenly, in a dizzying spin, she found herself looking down from aloft, as though she saw from the perspective of the hawk, that spun on the soft wind, hundreds of feet above the ground. She saw in a way that was dimensions of mind removed from her own. She knew no such things of birds, colors or light; but, she saw the world with an alacrity of seeing beyond other seeings. She saw lakes, trees, rivers, distant mountains, sun, sky -- but her seeing encompassed the entire panorama all at once. The one perspective of her mind-eye perception processed the entire 360 degree circumference of the world. Yet, as the same time, impossibly, she saw every detail, the jagged cut-edge of every leaf, the crawling of every insect, the rippling of every wave on the lake, the hushed rushing of every animal, the eddying of every river whirlpool -- even the currents of the wind that flowed through the air seemed to have a visuality that she could perceive. Then she saw herself from above. She seemed to be growing larger, coming closer. Suddenly, all in a moment, she was looking directly at herself from an eye-level perspective. She was tall and lanky. She looked familiar to herself -- friendly and likable. Then, with a delicate rippling, she found herself looking at a hawk that sat on a branch of a tree several yards from her. The hawk's set, blinking eyes stared back at her.
She did not feel frightened by her odd experience, just a bit of the same peculiar tingling that she remembered from the night before. She looked at her hands. Maybe it was another passing fancy, another mind-flight from too many days alone. Her mind had freed itself from the casters of the Earth and now was moving freely on its own.
With a deep arch of its unfolding wings, the hawk leaped from its branch and climbed into the sky.
Lannie continued her trek through the woods. She came to a hill and walked up a winding path to its crest. At the top she stopped and looked down at the village in the valley below. She became aware that she was Lannie, but also, that there was another presence, a sense that she was not alone. It felt as though she was someone else as well. She discovered that she could switch her perspective from her Lannie-self, to this other-self. The other-self looked at the world with a quiet intensity, as though it was looking at it for the very first time. Lannie watched the other-self watch. It was like an unfolding accordion of awareness. It was a perception that could extend itself at will and then quickly fold back upon itself. It was as though a bubble had emerged from her own awareness, detached itself, and hovered above Lannie, looking at her as she looked at it. The presence, the awareness, could move anywhere at once, see from any perspective; yet, was still within her. Another mind, another soul, a person that was her and wasn't, had come to be her, as though a being had come into her and was sharing her eyes, her ears, her very skin and body, and using it to view the world, with the simple wonder of a child. Her memories leapt back to the dream, the nightmare, the reality that had occurred the night before. Was this what had happened to her? Was it true? Was she still her, the same person, the same thing as she was the day before?
Her eyes opened, setting wide in her skull. They scanned the world that lay before her, moving with another will, another power besides her own, another force looking out onto the Earth -- awake and seeing.
But she wasn't frightened. The Other, this entity that had come to/from her was a friendly thing, that radiated the same warmth as she felt from the night-being from the Cylinder. In some way, it caressed her, held her in a loving, invisible arms. The being needed her to sense and be in the world, and so she knew it would take care of her.
As Lannie let herself fall into the delicate net of such a gentle love, a thought came to her. Had she at long last found her true lover, the real fulfillment of a life-longing? An acknowledgment came -- not a set of words, but a knowing assurance and an invisible caress that it was so.
Lannie looked down from the top of the hill at the little town of humans that lay in the valley. She wondered what her human friends would think of her now. Would they think her mad, perhaps a bit touched from staying too long alone in the country? Or would they even notice?
Somehow Lannie knew that such notions were the concerns of human thoughts, ideas that the Other could never care or even know about.
And so, with a quiet assurance, she took the first step back to an older place, an older time -- for the very first time -- hand in hand.
By Stuart Diamond
All Rights Reserved 2008