The Return Cover

The Return

Hi everyone! I’m sharing a short story with you today that I wrote a long while ago, after reading an article in which Neil Degrasse Tyson spoke about how it might be theoretically possible to move a planet. I remember having all kinds of questions about what the consequences of such an action might be – and they are what inspired me. I hope you enjoy it!

The Return

‘Time for bed, Naidon,’ said the white-haired old man as he appeared in the doorway, ‘have you prayed?’

‘Yes, Grandpa,’ Naidon replied. He moved the last piece of his stone picture puzzle into place on the thin, dark rug and then hopped up onto his bed.

The old man came and sat by him. ‘Tell me,’ he said, ‘what did you pray for tonight?’

‘The same thing I do every night,’ Naidon replied, ‘I asked the Goddess to bless us with a good harvest.’

‘You’re a good boy,’ said the old man, ‘perhaps one of these days she’ll pay us a visit, instead of just passing us by as she does.’

‘Why does she not come, Grandpa?’

‘Ah, well, I suspect she’s wary of us, Naidon. After all, we are not the first of her creations. There were others, once, and they did not treat her with enough respect.’

‘Other people?’ Naidon asked, ‘Like us?’

‘Indeed, the Sacred Texts seem to imply that they were just like us,’ the old man replied. ‘I expect our creator, having decided to begin again, is rather content to keep an eye on us -at least for the time being. Until she feels we will not treat her with the same disrespect as those who came before.’

‘What happened to them?’ Naidon asked as he lay his head down on his pillow.

‘Nobody really knows for sure, but there are stories, pieced together from passages in the Sacred Texts.’

‘Stories?’ said Naidon. He loved stories. His father used to tell him stories before bed every night, but lately, he had been spending more and more time at the observatory.

The old man smiled. ‘Would you like to hear my favourite story about what may have happened to the first humans?’

Naidon nodded eagerly.

‘Alright,’ the old man said, ‘but when I’m finished you must promise me that you’ll go right to sleep.’

‘I promise,’ the boy replied, making himself comfortable.

The old man ruffled the dark curls on the boys head, and then he tugged at his long, grey beard thoughtfully.

‘A long time ago, and in a place not so unlike here,’ began the old man, ‘there lived a great civilisation that had flourished and thrived and-’

‘How long ago, Grandpa?’ asked Naidon as he pulled his thin, flax blanket up to his chin. The thick yellow-brown candle which had been burning on the windowsill beside his bed flickered as he moved, causing the shadows on the bare stone walls to dance.

‘Oh, so very long ago,’ said the old man, ‘though, nobody can say for sure how long, mind you, since they were all long gone before any of our ancestors came into being.’ He shifted around on the thin mattress, settling into a more comfortable position before he continued.

‘They were a very intelligent people,’ he went on, ‘they had incredible technologies and even taught themselves to build special ships that could sail to the stars, and-’

‘Why would they want to sail to the stars?’ Naidon asked.

‘Well, why does anybody go towards anything, my boy? The old man replied, ‘to get nearer to it – to explore.’

‘Will you and Papa build a ship to the stars, Grandpa?’

‘No, no, no. There’s no need. Your father and I can see the stars well enough through the telescope in the observatory. Besides, nobody today would know how to build such a thing, our people never learned. A ship for the sea, yes, but a ship to the stars is quite a different thing altogether, I would imagine.’

Naidon thought for a moment. ‘Where are they now? Did they all go to the stars?’

‘We can only guess from the fragments of stories we have, but it is surmised that these other people lived on a planet similar to our own – a planet right next to ours, in fact, and-’

‘Right next to ours? But there is no planet right next to ours. What could have happened to it?’

The old man sighed. ‘If you would just let me speak, Naidon, then perhaps you would find out.’

‘Sorry, Grandpa,’ Naidon said.’

‘It is thought,’ the old man continued, ‘that the people of this other civilization became far too intelligent for their own good -and arrogant with it. Our Scared Texts show that they plundered the resources of their own world, and when they depleted them, they set their sights farther afield, sailing their ships to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and claiming them for their own.

‘Soon, they began to think of themselves as superior to the Goddess. They grew to believe that the entire universe was theirs to control.

‘Up until that point, the Goddess had let them alone to live freely and learn from their mistakes, but then they began to turn their backs on her and eventually, they stopped believing in the Goddess all together.

‘Finally, they went too far-’

‘What did they do?’ asked Naidon, hanging on his Grandfather’s every word.

‘They were quickly outgrowing and destroying their world with ever increasing speed and so, they decided that they’d need a new one – that they would take a dead world and revive it with their technology. There would be flowing rivers and flourishing greenery once again on a world that hadn’t seen the spark of life in such a long time – if ever.’

‘It sounds like magic!’ Naidon exclaimed. He had been getting heavy-eyed a little while ago, but now he sat up in his bed, enraptured.

‘It might seem magical but it would have taken them a long time to accomplish such a feat – and what a feat it would have been – to be able to mould a whole world – to bend its ecosphere to their will -but sadly, it was never to be.

‘Why? What happened, Grandpa?

‘They got in their own way, that’s what happened, my boy. They could have sailed their ships to their new world, tried to become a more responsible people and perhaps, that would have been that – but they didn’t.

‘Instead, with their overinflated egos, they decided it would be a good idea to bring the planet to them!’

‘A whole world?’ Naidon said, ‘but moving an entire world is impossible, how could they move something as big as that through the sky?’

‘Impossible for us,’ the old man told him, ‘but our Sacred Texts tell us that they succeeded by attaching enormous nets to their ships, flying behind and around their chosen planet, enveloping it and then towing it out of its orbit and into a new position in the solar system.’

Naidon gasped. ‘Which planet was it, Grandpa?’

The old man leaned forward and – in a hushed tone – he said, ‘Venus!’

‘But that’s this planet!’

‘Yes,’ the old man said, ‘but many hundreds of thousands of years ago, our planet was hot and arid until those other people began to change it.’

‘What happened next?’ asked Naidon.

‘Our Venus settled rather nicely into her new orbit and all that was left for the people to do was wait.’ The old man shrugged. ‘Though, as you can no doubt imagine, our Goddess – the creator of all things – was not at all pleased with these people – in fact, she became enraged at their audacity. How dare they play with the ordered perfection she had created?

Of course, she could no longer put up with their picking apart of her finely detailed plans.’

‘What did she do?’ Naidon asked.

‘The stories in the Sacred Texts say that she expelled their whole world, that in her rage, she flung them right out of the solar system, forcing them to travel onward into the coldness of space forever, leaving Venus alone once again – to grow into the world we call home.’

‘Would the Goddess ever allow them to return?’ asked Naidon.

His Grandfather smiled brightly at him, his eyes twinkling in the candlelight. ‘My dear Naidon, you really do take everything at face value, don’t you?’ he ruffled his curls again and patted his shoulder. ‘It’s just an old story. Nobody really fully understands the teachings of the Goddess, we can only ever guess – the language of the Sacred Texts is very ancient.’

‘So there were no other people?’ asked Naidon.

‘Oh, the people were real enough, but as for where they came from, where they went or how they lived, we can really only rely on some faded pictures and half-understood words.’

‘It is a good story, though, Grandpa. I think it’s my favourite.’

‘Oh, I’m pleased to hear it!’ the old man beamed. ‘Now, we had a deal, did we not? – I’d tell you a story, and you would go right to sleep?’

‘Yes, Grandpa,’ Naidon replied.

‘The last thing I want is yet another telling off from your Mother and Father for keeping you up at night with my tall tales.’

The sound of sandals pounding hard and fast down the stone corridor drew their attention to the door and a moment later, Naidon’s father appeared.

‘It’s confirmed, father!’ he cried, raising his arms excitedly, ‘it’s definitely her!’

The old man jumped up off the edge of Naidon’s bed. ‘You’re sure, Galyon?’ he asked his son.

‘Yes, father, and she’s closer now than she’s ever been before!’ Galyon made to leave but stopped in the doorway. ‘Come on – come and see for yourself!’

‘I want to see,’ said Naidon. He had no idea what they were talking about, but he had never seen his father so excited.

‘No, Naidon, lie back in your bed, we won’t be long,’ his father told him, shooting a look of disapproval to the old man. ‘It’s very late and your mother would be mad to think that you were still awake this late.’

‘Oh, let the boy come, Galyon,’ said the old man, ‘after all, he does pray every night just like the rest of us. Besides, his mother is still at the forge, she won’t be back for at least another hour, and we shouldn’t leave him alone.’

‘But you’re talking about the Goddess!’ Naidon cried before his father could reply. ‘I thought she only ever passed us by, keeping watch over us!’

‘Perhaps she heard your kind prayer tonight, my boy,’ said the old man, ‘and maybe she has seen, finally, that we are devoted, that we’re more respectful than those who came before. Perhaps she considers us worthy!’

‘Alright, Naidon, you can come,’ Galyon grinned and the three of them, full of energy and excitement, headed out of the small, stone house and into the street.

#

The old man, Galyon and Naidon made their way through the rows of identical, small stone houses which lined an enormous square of lush, green grass – in the centre of which there stood a round, stone building – larger than the houses and with a wooden, slatted domed roof that had been collapsed in two halves into it’s ‘open’ position. The Observatory.

Once inside, Galyon moved to his small, wooden desk off to one side and checked the notes he had scratched onto a small piece of paper, while his father ran to the large telescope reaching up and out of the open roof.

‘She’s magnificent!’ the old man said as he looked through the eyepiece and saw the familiar brightly glowing ball of white. ‘She’s even more beautiful than when she passed us by two years ago.’

Galyon took the piece of paper over to him. ‘If my calculations are correct, father -and I believe they are – the Goddess will be here within the month.’

‘She’s made no sign of heading away?’

Galyon shook his head. ‘This is it, father! This is the reason our ancestors built the observatory – the reason they built the metal mountains in the north with their ancient messages painted on them. Since the very day our people were given life, we have longed to meet our creator.’

‘And now we shall, my boy!’ said the old man.

‘Let me see!’ said Naidon, who had been waiting patiently beside his grandfather at the telescope.

The old man stepped aside, his face beaming, and lifted the boy so that he could reach the eyepiece.

‘That’s the Goddess?’ Naidon asked. He had never seen anything like it – and it wasn’t what he had been expecting at all.

‘That’s her,’ said Galyon.

‘How do you know it’s her?’ Naidon had expected to see the image of an actual woman, with long flowing robes and perhaps a beautiful, smiling face, framed by flowing, golden hair – not a giant sparkling snowball.

‘Well, son, that’s just what the Goddess looks like,’ his Father replied.

‘But how do you know that?’ said Naidon.

‘We just do,’ said Galyon looking to his father.

‘It’s not exactly written anywhere,’ the old man explained, ‘and nobody has ever met her in person – but it is thought that the Goddess can take on any form she chooses. That large, beautiful object in the sky has been with us since the very beginning – always coming a little closer with each visit, but then moving on as though she’d changed her mind.’ He paused for a moment to let the boy take in his words. ‘What else could do such a thing, if not the Goddess?’

‘But why is she visiting now?’ Naidon asked.

‘You may get the chance to ask her yourself when she arrives,’ the old man told him.

‘Perhaps we ought to say a prayer,’ Galyon said, ‘before we go and tell the village.’

‘Yes, my boy!’ said the old man, ‘that’s a splendid idea.’

Galyon hurried over to his desk, rummaged through its mess of notes and calculations and returned a moment later with a small booklet.

‘Let us read a passage from the Sacred Texts,’ he said.

Naidon looked forward to hearing all the stories from the Sacred Texts – especially if they were all like the one his Grandfather had told him.

‘PREPARATIONS,’ Galyon read aloud, ‘FOR THE EVENTUAL RETURN OF PLANET EARTH – A REPORT BY THE ALPHA LANDING PARTY ON VENUS.’

END

As always, thank you for spending your valuable time reading my words!

Until next time,

George
© 2019 GLT

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