Monday, May 20, 2019

The Tech by Saket Badola

A dying mob boss receives a visit from a man with a mysterious technology capable of healing him; by Saket Badola.

It was three in the afternoon when Olan arrived at the village. He gazed out the train window. He could see that the heat was dry, the sun was bright, the people were sparse, and the sleepy village was even sleepier at this time of day. Olan brought the tech with him. He'd taken the tech around the world many times over: from large cities like London and Hong Kong, to boroughs and suburbs, to so many nameless, faceless small towns. He liked the small towns. To them he was a stranger - a foreigner with no name.

Olan exited the train. He rubbed his face, dusted his long coat, kicked his shoes against the bench to shake the dirt off, and picked up his bag.

The platform of the train station was covered with bright red tiles. To his right was the train station's only building; it was small and bright yellow with large wooden doors. To his left, across the train tracks, Olan saw lush, green, purple, and red tomato fields. He walked out to the parking lot to find two men waiting for him in front of a Fiat.

The tall one was well built and bearded, wearing dark dull-black shoes with heavy soles, well-worn brown trousers and a denim jacket.

The other one was shorter, maybe five feet, five inches tall. He had intense eyes that immediately tried to size up Olan. He had a pencil mustache, hard eyebrows, and a slick, well-combed head of hair so thick that not a stray strand moved. He wore crisp khaki trousers and what looked like an English cricket vest and a light orange scarf.

Wow, Olan thought. Even the muscle in Italy is well dressed.

"Hello, I'm Olan."

The shorter man took the lead and shook Olan's hand with a firm grip. "Yes, Mr. Olan, we come for you. I'm Domenico. Yes, you come to meet signore Moretti."

The tall one stood motionless and stared at Olan with blank eyes.

Domenico pointed at the bag and said, "Tommaso."

In one lumbering motion, the tall one picked up Olan's bag and put it in the trunk of the Fiat. He then opened the rear door. Domenico climbed in first, followed by Olan. Tommaso started the car and drove down the main street. It was a cobbled street made of old stone that had been laid a hundred years ago. The sun shone brightly off the blue and white buildings on either side of the street. Tommaso drove slowly as Domenico spoke rapid-fire short sentences of accented, broken English.

"Mr. Olan, you come from America, yes. You... help signore Moretti, yes."

Olan nodded.

"You help with his medicine, yes."

Olan nodded tentatively, not wanting to give too much information.

"Do you think he'll be well?"

"Maybe, I'll have to see his condition first, then I can answer."

"So, you... doctor? Like surgeon?"

"No, I'm a scientist."

Olan saw Domenico hesitate. Maybe Domenico didn't understand English well. Or he was unsure how a scientist was here to help signore Moretti.

Domenico continued, "Mr. Olan, you help Mr. Moretti, how?"

"I specialize in medical technology. When we get to the house, you'll see."

Domenico nodded and looked out the window.

Tommaso looked at Olan in the rear-view mirror. Unlike Domenico, he wasn't studying Olan. He was staring at the tech.

They drove to the outskirts of the village and entered the flatlands. They were surrounded by green fields dotted by little huts and small European vans and trucks. After a while they passed the green flatland and entered desert country - no vegetation, no inhabitants, just arid land with mountains. They finally arrived at a lonely large estate, surround by high, coarse, dark-grey stone walls built with jagged rocks. The car slowed as they approached two large wooden gates covered in peeling, lifeless red paint.

Domenico rolled down the window and barked something in Italian at the guard. The guard quickly opened the gates, and Tommaso drove down the long driveway made of faded sun-yellow brick stone. The driveway cut through a bleak green lawn, with large patches of yellow dry grass. It took a few minutes to drive the bumpy half kilometer of road to the house.

Tommaso stopped the car in a large veranda outside a spacious Italian villa. It was covered with aged white plaster and had a brown terracotta roof. Its broad, square windows covered most of the front wall, and unkempt pale-green hedges covered the bottom.

The three men walked across the veranda, climbed the steps, and reached the front door. The upper half of the dark-oak door was mounted with unwashed glass panels. Tommaso opened the door, and they entered. The floor was laid with ancient Jerusalem stone. The sparse room boasted drab, plastered walls, and the air was dingy; it was as though no one was lived here.

They walked up the large, winding marble staircase to the back of the house, where they arrived in the master bedroom. It had a clinical smell, and the room was sickness cold. There were large glass windows on the right wall to let in the Italian sunlight, but they were covered with thick black curtains. In front of the curtains, there sat a grey hardtop sofa resting on black hardwood floors. The cabinetry was dark oak, and against the back wall was a large king-sized bed. Lying in it, on black sheets, was a small, shriveled man; he was little more than skin and bones. Tubes came out of his nose, chest, stomach, and arms, and they were connected to machines resting on the end tables on either side. There was a respirator that rhythmically breathed for him. There was a kidney dilation machine, a heart monitor, and an assortment of other machines beeping monotonously. Here was a man living purely on technology and willpower.

The man slowly raised his hand, and with his bony fingers, he motioned for Olan to come to him. Olan walked to the bed and sat down.

The man said something in Italian to Domenico and Tommaso, and they left the room. Though his body was frail, his eyes were alert, and his words shot forth crisply with command.

In polished English, he said, "Forgive the darkness. I've a skin condition, and I'm sensitive to light."

Olan nodded.

He peered at Olan, studying him, and said, "So, you're the one who can work the tech?"

Olan nodded.

"Well, we'll see. I've known many people over the years who say that they can. Some of them even made it as far as you have, to my house and in my bedroom. But all of them have failed me. We'll see if you're worth anything."

Olan said nothing.

"Do you know where the tech comes from?"

Olan said, "Where it comes from or where you found it? They're two different questions."

Moretti nodded approvingly, "Fine. Let's start with where I found it?"

"Nepal."

Moretti gave a squeal of approval, "Very good. You've passed the first test."

Tommaso brought them drinks.

"Ok, here is another question for you. To whom did the tech originally belong?"

"The man from the mountains."

"Ok, you've passed the second test. I can see I'm dealing with a contender," Moretti said enthusiastically.

"And going back to my original and final question. Do you know where the tech comes from?" Moretti continued.

"From beyond the mountains," Olan said.

"Yes, yes, you're the one," Moretti said with a loud cough and a wolfish smile.

Once the coughing spell passed, Moretti continued, "Ok, so you know the story. Only a handful of people on the planet do, and you're in our little club. Today, we'll see if you can do something with the tech. Can you?"

Olan nodded.

"You understand how it works? You've used it before?"

Olan nodded.

"Do you know how my illness started? Do you know who I am?"

"Only what I read in the papers," Olan said.

"The papers, dear Lord!" Moretti rolled his eyes. "They're filled with lies. I know because I owned several. Ok, since you're in our little club, I'll tell you my story. I'll start from the beginning so that you can understand why you're here."

Moretti took a slow sip of his drink and then started his history. "I was born in 1938 in Creatable, an Italian village. I worked on the farm with my father, but it wasn't for me. My father was a silent, strong type. He came from a long line of silent, strong Italian farmers, and then came me: the black sheep. I was very loud and O! so proud. My family for several generations tilled the land in the same village. But I'd big dreams, of running away, of becoming an actor in the movies. I was ready to leave at thirteen, but my father wouldn't have it. He wanted me to take care of the farm and he didn't want a young boy galivanting around the big city.

"I tried to obey my father, and I even made it as far as my sixteenth birthday, but I had to flee the village. When I was fifteen, I formed a gang with some of the local boys. We started small. We'd steal some fruits from farms and sell them. It was all very innocent. One day, we were stealing fruits from a farmer and noticed that no one was home. We entered his house and found a watch, some money under the bed, and then we found the farmer's wife's jewelry. We went to Merchant Street and sold the jewelry to a pawnbroker for sixty thousand lire, which is around a hundred American dollars, and back then that was a lot of money. We spent the money in Rome: on wine, women, and gambling at the casino. I was hooked. I couldn't leave the village and dishonor my father, but this was the life I would pursue all of my days.

"No longer satisfied with stealing a few lire from farmers, we started hijacking cars on the long road to town. Back then, it was common for rich people to carry large sums of money when they were traveling to Rome. So, I got rich quick, and as the leader of the gang, I kept the lion's share. I made more money in a week than my father made in a year.

"There were rumors about me in the village, and the police came to our house and asked my father questions. 'We hear your son is involved in the highway robberies,' they'd say. My father was concerned, but the police had no proof. So, when I was questioned by my father, I denied everything. For a while, the questions and insinuations from the police tried my father's patience, but I lied each time and quieted my father's concerns. The straw that broke the camel's back was when I decided to rob an entire train. My gang was against it; they said it was too risky, but I was adamant, and they yielded.

"We boarded the 9:00am train going to Monterotondo. We carried guns, we tied handkerchiefs around our faces, and we robbed the passengers. Most people were meek and mild, but some were defiant. I beat them with the butt of my gun 'til they were unconscious. We finished our great train robbery, and we then jumped from the rear of the moving train and disappeared into the countryside.

"We left that day with a fortune. I'd enough money to live at the casino for a year. But the robbery was reported in the national papers, so dozens of policemen were dispatched to all the surrounding towns and villages. In our town, a lot of rude questions were asked by gruff, beefy policeman. 'Who are the bad boys? Who are the criminals?' Of course, our names were mentioned, and the police interrogated members of my gang, and some of them relented under the beatings. They gave my name to the police, and one evening I returned home to find several police cars in front of my house. I climbed into the back window of the house, snuck into the living room closet, and hid behind the clothes. I could hear the police in the kitchen with my father and mother. They wanted to know my whereabouts. They had signed confessions from members of my gang, naming me as the leader. The police said that I would go to prison for a decade. They were loud, and my father was quiet. I left that night, never to see my family again.

"I took the money I had and went to Rome. I tried my hand at the movie business but had little success. I was handsome, but there were dozens of handsome boys, and finding a role, even a small part, was difficult. Soon, I ran out of money. I took a job as an errand boy on a movie set, but found it boring. Restless, I started a card game on the street, amongst the merchants in the red-light district. It started off small. I made a few lire here and a few lire there, but as you Americans say, it wasn't enough to pay the bills. You can only make so much money on the street amongst the poor. However, I had an idea. Back then it was customary for men to deal the cards, but I hired some of the prostitutes to deal the cards. My little street game became an overnight success. I made enough money to slick my hair, buy a gold watch and some flashy clothes, and I had a few lire left over. But it wasn't enough for the life I wanted.

"I moved the card game into the suite of a local hotel. It was respectable enough to attract the right crowd. I hired a bartender from a local fine-dining restaurant, the daughter of a respectable socialite as the hostess, and fashion models as card dealers, and I managed the clientele. I invited all of my friends from the movie industry, and soon we became a hot spot for low-level producers, directors, and up-and-coming actors. The money was good; it was certainly better than what I was making on the streets. I bought a brand-new sports car and two dozen expensive suits, and I rented a flat in the nice part of town. Things were going well, but I was still dissatisfied.

"One day, I was on a movie set. I knew the producer because he frequented my casino, and he owed me some money. In exchange, he gave me a bit part as a waiter in his movie. I'd a few lines, and it was a pleasant experience. It was a small-budget movie, but the producer called in a few favors, and he managed to get Giovanni Rosso to do a guest role in the movie. Giovanni Rosso was, at that time, the most famous actor in Italy. I arrived at the set and saw Mr. Rosso sitting by himself. No one would approach him since he was such a big movie star. I walked up to him and introduced myself. I chatted with him for a while, and soon we were fast friends. I invited him to my casino, and he said yes. Word got around the set that Giovanni Rosso was coming to my casino.

"That evening, all the tables in my casino were occupied by the top producers and directors of Rome. I had to bring in some chairs and tables to accommodate the famous actresses that were part of Giovanni's entourage. Needless to say, it was a great evening. I'd hired twelve card dealers, and their tables were full throughout the night. The socialite I'd hired did a great job of hosting the party. She was charming, and she kept the patrons' spirits high. The bartender had just returned from Hong Kong, where he'd been working at one of the top hotels, and he served all these exotic cocktails. Even the movie stars were impressed with the drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

"Giovanni gambled like a mad man but had little talent for the game. By the time the evening was done, Giovanni had lost a small fortune. But being the gracious host, I insisted on covering his losses, and I wouldn't take a single lira. I told him, 'What's money amongst friends?' He promised me he'd let all his friends know about the best party in town, and they'd surely come next week. Whatever I lost to Giovanni I obtained from the producers. Like Giovanni, they gambled heavily and had little talent for the game. That night after all expenses were covered, I walked away with six million lire, which is around ten thousand of your American dollars, and in Italy back then, it was a fortune. I'd never seen so much money in my life.

"The next night, I heard loud knocking at the door of my flat. I opened the door, and three large men in suits, with thick necks and stubbed noses, forced their way in. They told me that they were from the Lazio mafia, that they oversaw all the gambling in Rome, and I wasn't allowed to run a casino without their permission. I told them that it was just a little game that I ran for the people in the B movie industry, but that didn't satisfy them. They knew Giovanni Rosso attended my casino, so it wasn't some little card game. They told me that I owed them all the money I made the night Rosso was my guest, and they'd be taking over my casino.

"I gave them what little money I had in the house. One of them grabbed the money and punched me in the gut. I felt a sharp pain in my stomach, and I fell on the floor. While I lay there, they kicked me repeatedly, cracking a few ribs. They told me they'd be at the casino next Saturday. I was to be there, and I had to give them twelve million lire. That's six million that I'd made that night and another six million as punishment for running a casino without their permission. They'd then take over the casino, and I would have to leave Rome forever.

"After they left, I checked myself into the hospital, which is where I stayed for the next three days. While at the hospital, I sent a telegram to my old gang from the village and asked them to come to Rome. They arrived the next Friday, and I bought them a few guns and gave them all waiter uniforms from the casino so that they would blend in with the crowd.

"Saturday night, the three Mafiosi came to the casino and gambled with the patrons. At three in the morning, the casino closed, and all the guests left, except for the three gangsters. They went with me to the back room, and while I was getting the money for them, my gang stormed the back room with their guns drawn. I made the Mafiosi raise their hands as I took their guns. They were indignant and agitated. Something like this had never happened to them before. They told me I was dead. The mob would rain fire down on me, my crew, my family, my dog, and they'd kill us all.

"I asked them who their boss was, and they wouldn't answer, so I shot and killed the first one. These were stoic men, and the remaining two still wouldn't budge. I shot another one, and the third one gave me the name of Rene Falco, who was a mob boss and owner of the finest casino in Rome. I asked him where I could find Falco, and he told me he would be at his casino. I killed the third mobster, and we dumped their bodies in a river on the outskirts of town.

"Me and my men went to Falco's casino that night. It had closed for business. We went in the back room to find Falco with his men. They were six of them, and they were sitting around a poker table, passing around bottles of bourbon. They were quite drunk, and we had the element of surprise. We killed all of them in a shootout. That night, we let the Lazio mafia know that we weren't to be trifled with. If they wanted to come after us, they'd pay a price.

"After hearing what I'd done, a rival mafia called Banda della Magliana approached me and offered me protection from Falco's boss. They were going to force the Lazio mafia out of the casino business. If I joined with them, I could take over Falco's casino and run it for them, and I would get a percentage - a large percentage. I agreed, and next thing I knew, I was running the biggest casino in Rome. I was taking home six hundred million lire a year.

"Like most mobsters, I started legitimate businesses. I learned as much as I could about the textile industry, and then I bought mills, warehouses, and stores. Unlike most mobsters, though, I found I had a flair for business. I knew how to read the markets and run a frugal enterprise, and I developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the textile industry. I was good with people and knew how to hire talent. Soon, my legitimate business was earning more than the casino. I thought about becoming a legitimate businessman, but it wasn't in me. So I bribed politicians from every party, and I made sure the police commissioner was well compensated, and I bought all the local newspapers and kept my name out of them.

"By the time I was thirty, I was one of the richest industrialists in Italy. My name did appear in the papers but mostly as a textile baron. I married into Italian nobility and moved into a mansion in the heart of Rome. My wife and I hobnobbed in high society. I kept the casino, but it was in the background. By then I was so wealthy, the mafia came to me for loans.

"In the early 70s, there was a major effort by the politicians to reduce crime. The Mafia families had been feuding amongst themselves for territory, and there had been one too many car bombings. The public was fed up, and the politicians had to come after us, even thought they'd taken our money for decades. After the patriarchs of some of the families were arrested, I saw the writing on the wall, and I sold my share of the casino.

"I didn't become a legitimate businessman because I'd come to loath my previous life. It just was the right time for me to leave. With the life of crime behind me, I plunged forward, giving all my energies to my business. I traveled across the world and expanded my textile business into England, America, and Australia. Soon, my empire was a multi-billion-dollar corporation. I owned everything from railways to shipping yards to freight container companies to football teams.

"I'd accomplished everything I wanted, but it came at a price. I had no friends, only business acquaintances. My wife lived on the French countryside away from me, and my sons were raised in boarding schools. I was alone at the top. I'm not saying it bothered me; it didn't. As far as I was concerned, it was just the price I paid to become the man I wanted to be.

"After college, my sons came to work for me, and they quickly climbed the corporate ladder. They were both young, brilliant, and fierce. They were, dare I say, even more ambitious than I. They started as sales clerks, and within two years, they were department store managers. Few years later, they were regional managers, and within ten years, both were amongst the top executives in the company. Anyway, long story short, they took over the business in a hostile coup and ousted me from the company that I'd built. They didn't even let me have a seat on the board of directors, fearing that I might attempt a comeback. They bought me this house twenty years ago and left me here to die.

"When the coup happened, I was already undergoing chemotherapy for stage-four lymphoma. I had also acquired an assortment of blood diseases, because of which I was bedridden. My sons thought that I would die here, but I beat the cancer. I beat it again the next year when it returned and the year after that. Through medical care and determination, I fought the blood diseases. By the time I recovered from the myriad of illnesses, it was too late for me to fight for my business. I was a has-been, and none of my associates would return my calls. They were working for my sons and wanted to have nothing to do with me.

"I survived, but I've been a sickly man since. I'm ninety pounds of bones, and one disease or another has attacked me, and I can sense the end is near. Over the years I've employed some of the best doctors; I've experimented with all manner of healers, shamans, witch doctors, and alternative therapists. Finding a way to live has become an obsession for me.

"Ten years ago, I heard rumors that there were people who had managed to cheat death for hundreds of years. They weren't immortal but had technology that allowed them to rejuvenate themselves and age very slowly. It was just a rumor I'd heard from a shaman I'd employed. The kind of thing most educated people would dismiss as a folk tale. But I always had a keen instinct for profitable business deals, and my instinct about this story was that it was true, or it at least had enough truth in it for me to pay attention.

"I talked to all the top scientists in the world who were researching rejuvenate therapies and asked them if they'd created such technology. They all told me that it was too good to be true and that such technology didn't exist, but I wouldn't relent. I kept looking far and wide for information about these people, and then I finally found something.

"In a remote Nepali village, in the back room of a mud-hut bar, farmers who had been playing cards. There're a thousand such makeshift bars, but this one was special. One night, one of the farmers named Dhonu got drunk and told everyone that he cheated death. There was a foreigner who lived in the mountains and called himself Juddha. Juddha came to the village annually to get supplies. While he was in the village, he rented a room from Dhonu. One year, Dhonu developed a high fever, and the village clinic couldn't diagnose his illness. No matter what the doctors tried, they couldn't help Dhonu. Finally, the doctors gave up and discharged Dhonu and left him in his home to die.

"Soon after, Juddha was on his annual visit and saw Dhonu's condition. One night, when Dhonu's wife and children were sleeping, Juddha came to his bedroom and told Dhonu that he had the power to heal. If he could perform an operation on Dhonu, the farmer would live. With trepidation, Dhonu agreed.

"Juddha left the room and returned with a device. It was the size of a small book, but it was made from smooth, shiny metal. This device had a screen with all manner of colored lights on it. Juddha opened the side of the box and removed glowing tubes with needles at their tips.

"He left the room and returned with one of Dhonu's lambs. He inserted the needle end of the tube from one side of the shiny box into the lamb and inserted the other into the vein of Dhonu's arm. The device extracted life from the blood of the lamb and cleansed Dhonu's blood of its impurities.

"Before the night was over, the lamb had died, but Dhonu's fever had broken. The next morning, Dhonu had returned to good health and felt and looked twenty years younger. His own wife had difficulty recognizing him. Juddha had disappeared.

"The next year at the same time, Juddha returned to get his supplies. Dhonu's family was so thankful that they made a feast for Juddha. After the feast, the men sat outside the house around the campfire. Dhonu asked where this device had come from, and Juddha said that he lived in the mountains, but he came from a place beyond the mountains. One day he had to leave his home forever, and he brought the device with him. Every thirty years or so, he used the device to draw blood from an animal and rejuvenated his youth.

"Dhonu asked him how long ago he'd left his home from beyond the mountains, and Juddha said twelve hundred years ago.

"By the time I was told this story, I'd developed a bone disorder. Again, the doctors told me it was fatal and that I would die within the year. Again, I ignored them and beat the illness. However, I was weak and bedridden. So I send Domenico and Tommaso to Nepal to find this farmer, Dhonu.

"They went from village to village with translators and guides. After months of searching, Domenico found a grocery store owner who had heard the story about a farmer brought back from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger. The store owner had never met this farmer but knew of the bar where the story had been told. Domenico visited the bar, and the owner invited him to join the card game. That evening, Domenico, through a translator, was told the whole story in vivid detail by the gamblers, who had heard it themselves from Dhonu. They also told him that it was the time of year when Juddha would return to the village to buy his supplies. In exchange for some money, the gamblers gave Domenico directions to Dhonu's house.

"Domenico rented a house close by Dhonu's, and by night, Domenico and Tommaso waited in the cane fields and watched for Juddha. Three weeks later, Juddha returned to stay with Dhonu.

"One night, when the men sat by the campfire, Domenico and Tommaso attacked them and tried to steal the tech. In all the commotion, Dhonu pulled out a knife and attacked my men. Domenico struggled to take the knife away from Dhonu but accidently stabbed Juddha in his stomach. Domenico and Tommaso grabbed the tech, and they fled. Juddha, however, bled to death.

"My men brought the tech to me here in Italy, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to operate it. I spent days pressing every button, giving it every manner of voice command, hoping the screen would light up, trying to get the tubes to come out of the box, but I couldn't do it; that was five years ago. Since that day, I've sought scientists of every stripe and variety to make the tech work, but to no avail.

"The reason I wanted you to hear my story is to make this point. The Catholic priests in my village would say to us boys that we're all sinners and need to repent for our sins. I'm not much for repentance, but I do believe that I'm a sinner. I've lived a life full of sin and violence. Unlike most mobsters and business tycoons, I believe in a heaven and hell, and I believe that I'm destined for hell. There's no doubt in my mind that when I die, I'll go to hell. The reason I obsess over the tech is that, if I can get it to work, I won't have to go to the other side for thousands of years.

"That brings me to you, Mr. Olan. You're an engineer who specializes in medical devices. More importantly, rumor has it that you've seen the tech and are familiar with it. Is it true?"

Olan deflected the question. "Where do you think Juddha came from? What place beyond the mountains?"

"Who knows? Maybe he came from an ancient civilization, like the Egyptians or the Mayans. Maybe back then, they had access to technology far greater than ours, and through rejuvenation, some of them have survived thousands of years. Or it could be that he's an alien being. There're too many rumors to tell what's true. What do you think?"

Olan sipped his drink and said, "I think it'd have to be an alien civilization. The Egyptians or Mayans never had sophisticated technology. Those are just conspiracy theories on the Internet."

Moretti leaned his head forward and said, "Okay, you think he came here because his planet stopped sustaining life?"

Olan nodded, "Yes, exactly. Do you think Juddha is alone, or do you think there are others like him?"

Moretti adjusted his pillow and said, "According to the stories that I've heard, there have been other instances of such rejuvenations. I've heard that there were several hundred foreigners who survived the death of their homeland. They can't have children in this environment and can't intermarry with humans, but they continue to live amongst us. Again, these are just stories that I've heard."

Olan said, "I've been researching this field for quite a while, and that's exactly what I've heard. The device is too advanced to have human origins. So, an alien civilization is the only explanation."

Moretti nodded.

Olan continued, "Do you think the aliens will send someone after you, knowing you killed one of them?"

Moretti shrugged, "Haven't really thought about it. I guess they could, but I doubt it. They've been here for over a thousand years, and we haven't heard from them. Their focus is to live peaceably amongst us. They don't take over governments. They aren't titans of industry. They basically just live like monks, in the mountains, with no spouses and no children. I doubt they'll come after me."

Olan looked Moretti directly in the eyes, "Are you sure about that?"

Moretti tilted his head slightly and studied Olan. He nodded slowly and said, "If they were to send someone, would he try to kill me?"

Olan shook his head, "No, I don't think so. These aliens have lived amongst humans for twelve hundred years, without a hint of violence. None of the ancient stories about them mention them doing any harm. That's why they can rejuvenate themselves. Humans grow old because of the violence, the anger, the depression, the weariness they carry in their hearts. I've been to the village in Nepal, and I've talked to Dhonu. Though he was rejuvenated to his early twenties, he's growing older. He'll live to eighty years of age, which is old for a human but still fairly young for a man who had a miraculous rejuvenation."

Moretti spoke slowly and carefully chose his words, "If such an alien were to visit me, do you think he'd help rejuvenate me?"

"If you'd lived a peaceable and virtuous life, he'd help you. But if he found you wanting, he wouldn't. I know you've heard of a dozen stories of rejuvenations, but there have been over ten thousand. The aliens travel from town to town looking for virtuous people in ill health to rejuvenate."

"Do know how to work the tech?" Moretti said slowly, trying to control his voice.

Olan nodded.

"I'll give you anything, anything if you help me live," Moretti said with determined desperation in his voice.

Olan shook his head slowly, "I can't. As one of the ancients have said, he who lives by the sword must die by the sword. You've chosen to live by violence of this world, and you must die by its ravages. The ways of another world are beyond you. You left one of us to die, and you did it with malice in your heart, so I cannot help you."

"Then why did you come? Why are you here?" Moretti asked angrily.

"I wanted to see if you were repentant. I came because I didn't want you to die alone. If you can't die with your friends and family by your side, you should at least die with a stranger. I wanted to let you know why you must die and go to the other side. I wanted you to have an explanation," Olan responded plainly.

Not hearing him, Moretti continued angrily, "So, you'll leave me here to die!"

Olan nodded, "Yes, this is your last night on this side. You'll die tonight."

Moretti screamed a loud scream. "No! I won't allow it. It won't happen! I won't let you go! You have to help me!"

He continued, "Domenico! Tommaso! Come in here right now. Get a hold of this man!"

Domenico was the first one to run into the bedroom, but Olan was gone.

5 comments:

  1. Very nice! An effective inner story that is key to the main one. Good message, too.

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  2. A vivid tale of choices and consequences with a unique sci-fi twist...very original! Nice work.

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  3. The old man survivor loved only himself. How circumstances and choices change a life. I like the sci fi angle and complex plot

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  4. Wow...gripping plot, amazing details, cool sci-fi and nice message! Well done!

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  5. Very good story telling. The long, detailed inner story was easily read. It kept my interest. I also was impressed with the use of description in the early part of the tale. Excellent job.

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