First Night: The Conflict Between Hope and Cynicism
Story by Dr. Lee Brazil
Foreword and Epilogue by:
Written by Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
December 23, 2019, 1:58 A.M.
The home of God is with mortals.
He will dwell with them.
~ Revelations 21:3
At first Lee thought it was morning or that he was dreaming. A faint blue light filled the entire cabin. Lee sat up and rubbed his eyes. The light was still there. It was flooding into the room through the cabin’s window. Lee struggled to his feet and stumbled toward the source of the light. Through the porthole Lee could see a bright blue light. At first he thought it might be a searchlight on another ship. But no. It was high in the sky and there was open sky and, although faint, stars below it.
How far away it was, Lee could not judge. Joann had talked about a strange light in the sky on the night before they docked in Bermuda. Lee started to knock on her door, but didn’t. He glanced at his watch. 2:00 A.M. He could get a better look at the light or whatever it was from the deck.
He carefully opened the cabin door. The hall was empty and quiet. Eerily quiet. Lee closed the door gently. He started to dress, but realized that he was still dressed from the day before.
He had been told not to leave the cabin. But he felt a compulsion to leave. To immediately go topside. His hand reached for the cabin latch and turned it. His right foot stepped into the hall. He was walking toward the stairs. His feet moved slowly and silently. He mounted the first step. His right hand took the rail, one step after another.
His legs climbed a second set of stairs. He continued. He was on Deck 6. His body moved toward the starboard exit. His hand turned the door latch. He arm-cracked open the door.
The deck was bathed in light as he imagined it might look with a clear sky and a full moon. The only other lights were the lights from the deck bar. But the bar had been closed for at least an hour. The tables were empty. No one around. Or at least he thought they were empty. In the corner at the far end of the bar in the shadows, Lee thought he could see the silhouette of a man. An older man with bushy hair and a long beard. He rubbed his eyes again and tried to focus. Yes, he was sure someone was there.
Lee’s arm pushed the door open and his feet began to inch his body along the wall, staying in the shadow of the overhanging deck. The figure at the table was facing the light. Lee’s feet continued his silent approach. What the hell am I doing? I don’t know, he thought to himself. He was now within a few feet of the figure.
“Lee, come sit with me.” The silhouette was addressing him. The voice was familiar. It sounded like his old friend Griff. They had been friends since the Seventies. They had worked together when Griff had burned out with the church and with God temporarily and had decided that grant writing was his second calling.
“Come,” the figure said again. “We have much to talk about and little time.” The source of the voice turned to face Lee. It was . . . Griff. But how could that be?
“Sit down, my old friend.” Lee cautiously took a seat at the table without taking his eyes off of Griff. “You’re quite pale.” Lee said nothing.
“You don’t look well.”
“Should I? I’m talking to a dead man.”
Griff chuckled. The sound was familiar. He had always appreciated Lee’s attempts at humor in a tense situation.
It is Griff. He looked much as he had the last time Lee had seen him, a few days before he and the John Wesley II had sailed out of Casco Bay. He hadn’t aged. That was three years ago, now almost four.
Griff still had his beard. White. And a full head of hair, but thinning. Average build and weight for a man now in his late eighties.”
“We are not alone in this universe. We are all connected,” Griff said as he turned to Lee.
“That’s the distinct impression I’ve been getting in the last few days,” said Lee.
Griff smiled again.
“There are billions of galaxies out there.” Griff pointed to the light off starboard. “Billions.” He waved his hands.
“Yes, it would be foolish to believe otherwise, wouldn’t it? Life on other worlds. Why has it taken the human race so long to accept it?” Lee kept rubbing his eyes, but he didn’t speak.
Griff continued, “I suppose the same reason it took us so long to accept that our world was not at the center of the universe. That the universe did not revolve around us.”
Lee put his hand on Griff’s shoulder. It felt solid.
“Griff, what . . . what . . . are you real?” Lee said with continuing disbelief. “Are you part of a dream?”
“What do you think? Don’t I sound real? Don’t I feel real?”
Lee grimaced. “I don’t know, maybe. I could be imagining all of this.” Lee withdrew his hand.
“Are you alive?”
“In what dimension?” asked Griff, chuckling.
Lee reacted by looking even more confused and starting to rise. “Forgive the question, old friend. I’m here talking to you. Isn’t that enough?”
“Lee,” Griff interrupted, “I can’t explain all of this in the time that we have. I can’t answer all of your questions.”
“I don’t understand. You’re dead. We held a memorial service . . .”
Griff stopped him.
“What you must understand is that they have sent me to explain to you what you must do. They thought I could make it easier for you to understand.”
“Must do what? And who the hell are ‘they’? Explain that to me!” There was anger in his voice and he tried to rise to his feet again, but couldn’t.
“Calm down, Lee, and listen to me,” Griff said with a very soothing voice. “They are an old intelligence that I do not pretend to understand. They, I believe, have been in our universe since it began.” Lee looked away, shaking his head again.
“They plucked me from the sea when I was drowning. You must understand they saved the crew of The Carol Deering and The Enchantress and hundreds of others. If they had not intervened, we would have all perished.”
“Look at me, Lee. They have been with us for a very long time. Many of them walk among us. They mean the human race no harm, but they are not sure we mean them no harm.”
Lee shook his head again and stared away. His eyes came to rest on the bright, metallic blue light off starboard.
“What harm can our race inflict on them?” Lee said with a grumble. “We’ve spent most of the last ten thousand years trying to kill each other.” “True. It is not what we have done, but what we might soon be able to do. It is about the Singularity. About the computer that we may soon build.” Lee objected.
“We are still in our technological adolescence, and we’ll be lucky if we survive it without killing ourselves. Most civilizations in the universe I would assume have blown themselves up soon after figuring out E=MC².”
“But we are poised,” Griff said again interrupting, “to take a giant step forward.”
“Yes, I know,” Lee agreed. “A lot of people are talking about it. Congress has just appropriated money to fund the project.”
“But as we both know, the human race is not ready for this,” Griff warned.
Griff continued, “We are mere babes when it comes to our moral development. Yet, we are a very special species. We were created out of some of the rarest elements in the universe. We can dream beautiful dreams, but . . .”
And this time Lee interrupted and finished Griff’s sentence. “But we can create horrible nightmares.”
Griff stretched out his arm and placed his hand on Lee’s shoulder. “Lee, they do not want to take the risk of our species spreading our nightmares throughout the universe that they share with us. Lee, you must understand. They are tired of being ignored. Of being discounted. Of being seen only as the stuff of science fiction and no more. They will do something very soon to get the attention of the world.”
He took Lee’s hand. “You must also understand that there are other forces in our universe that will be neither as patient nor as benign.”
Lee smiled. “I could understand that.” And turning back to Griff,
“What are you expecting me to do about it?”
“You are carrying a very important package to Boston for Agent Jennings.”
“I am?” said Lee, remembering Father Allen’s words.
“And do you know what it contains?” asked Griff.
“No, but I suppose it has something to do with the spy game,” Lee said with contempt. “A list of secret codes or something like that,” said Lee, discounting its relevance to the present conversation.
Griff looked at Lee sternly. “Lee, the Cold War is over. The spying that is going on — and there is a lot of it — is one corporation spying on another. One mega-company trying to steal the other mega-corporation’s secrets.”
Griff had finally gotten Lee’s full attention.
“And what do these mega-corporations want more than anything else?” asked Griff.
“I suppose the plans for the next advance in IT,” ventured Lee. “The next super-computer.”
“Please don’t use that word. You sound like Jennings.”
“Lee, pay attention.” Griff was becoming more impatient with Lee. “The disk you are carrying does have secret codes on it. They are for the next giant step in IT. The ultimate super-computer. Hollocore wants to make sure you and the package reach Boston. But as you are aware, some of their competitors would like to see you dead and have the disk.” Lee turned away from Griff.
“But . . . Lee, look at me.” Lee turned to his old friend. “Hollocore has arranged to have the contract to build the supercomputer that our government will release in a few days. They will do what companies have been doing for centuries. They will have the government pay them to do something that they want to do and then reap the profits of having done it. They definitely want you and the disk to reach Boston safely. So why kill you?” Griff smiled.
Lee pulled the package out of his vest pocket.
“So that’s what the Greatest Hits of Rock ‘n Roll really is,” Lee said with disbelief in his voice.
Griff nodded. “But we have a plan.” Griff produced a package and laid it on the table next to Lee’s. The packages were identical. Griff continued, “Our disk has similar codes for a supercomputer but has a number of what we shall say are viruses. Hollocore will be unable to detect them. Remember, Stuxnet and Flame, the cyber weapons the United States and the Israelis used to screw up and slow down the development of Iran’s nuclear program? Our program will keep Hollocore busy for years trying to understand what’s wrong. It will set back their plans for decades and give the human race more time to . . . grow up, to develop our moral compass.” “Good luck with that,” said Lee, sounding skeptical. “So I must . . .” There was a blast of wind across the deck of the ship. Griff rose to his feet.
“So, my old friend, you must reach Boston. I am afraid I must go now,” said Griff. The air around the ship became more turbulent. A stack of bar napkins on the next table flew into the air and rained down like large pieces of confetti. The whiskey bottles and glassware on the bar rattled.
The turbulence increased and was accompanied by a humming sound that grew louder.
A large black mass lowered itself onto the ship’s helicopter pad. The pad, barely visible from the bar, was about a hundred yards toward the stern of the ship. Lee found his sea legs and stood up. He turned toward Griff, but Griff was gone and so was one of the packages. The bright light off of starboard that had led Lee to the deck had also disappeared. The dark had returned. The only illumination was a light hanging over the bar and the ship’s navigation lights.
Lee grabbed the remaining package and shoved it into his breast pocket. He backed into the shadows and began to retrace his steps to the stairwell.
The wind subsided, and the humming sound became a low groan. The cabin door of the helicopter slid open and a human figure slipped onto the deck. Three others followed, carrying what appeared to be automatic weapons.
The speed of Lee’s retreat increased. He slipped through the door to the stairwell and moved quickly down the stairs to the next deck, and then to the next. His heart was pounding in his ears. His breathing rapid. He was taking two steps at a time. He did not look back.
When he reached the fourth deck and turned toward the exit, a strange sensation ran through his entire body. It began as a sharp pain in his lower back and moved up, spreading into his arms and his neck and, finally, his head. He blacked out.