The Package

By Ilan Herman

           Gilbert was watching the news in his living room when a knock sounded on his apartment door. He opened the door and nodded at the lanky mailman who’d been serving the apartments for ten years. “How ya doin’ John?”

      Holding a mid-sized cardboard box, the mailman smiled through his graying mustache and asked, “What you order?” He inquired only because he knew Gilbert wouldn’t consider the question intrusive.

      “I didn’t order anything,” said Gilbert and eyed the box.

      “But it has your name and address on it,” the mailman said. “Why would someone bother to send you something you didn’t order?” He rapped his knuckles lightly on the box. “Good packing job.”

      Gilbert shrugged. “I’m not sure I want it. Maybe you should take it back.”

      The postal employee who wished to avoid carrying the package back to his van and back to the warehouse, chuckled. “That doesn’t make sense. It’s not like they’re chargin’ you or somethin.” He held out the box. “Take it. It’s yours.”

      Affected by the mailman’s hard sell but also curious about what the package held, Gilbert took the box—about two square feet and five pounds.

      John saluted. “US Mail delivers once again.” He turned and rumbled down the stairs with one more glance and a smile at the bald and heavy-set middle-aged man standing at the door to apartment 106.

      Gilbert set the package on the living room table. The label didn’t have a return address. He liked the fact that his last name, Symoneymous, was spelled correctly. Many times he’d requested an order only to see his surname jumbled by the sender, though never to the point of a botched delivery.     

      The box held a red fireman’s helmet of excellent quality and authentic look. His first name, Gilbert, was etched on the front of the helmet that vibrated and hugged his scalp and cheekbones with warm vibrations.

      An egg-shaped sky-blue creature formed from thin air and floated a foot off the ground. The creature had no limbs. One watery-brown eye centered its round face that had no mouth or nose. A stubby tentacle, like where a belly button would be, centered his chubby frame.

      Gilbert gasped and took the helmet off. The creature dissolved. A moment passed and the creature was still gone. Gilbert padded the helmet inside and out but found nothing unusual. He put the helmet on. The sky-blue life-form appeared. Gilbert kept his shaking hands on the helmet, ready to snatch it off, when the creature said, “Hello,” in a deep, friendly voice, like the one on National Geographic documentaries, when a British chap follows the exploits of a family of chimpanzees. “I promise not to harm you.”

      Gilbert squinted in disbelief, though with less trepidation. “Who are you?”

      “I am Koy, from planet Zoomar.”   

      “You’re an extra terrestrial?”

      “I am. Zoomar is about forty billion light years away from earth.”

      Gilbert let out a long, low whistle. “That’s amazing. How do you travel? Do you go through black holes? Did it take you millions of years to get here?”

      Koy gurgled like someone rinsing his mouth after brushing his teeth. “Yes and no. I have been traveling for millions of years, actually much longer, but it did not take me very long to get here. I appear anywhere I need to be regardless of the space-time continuum.”

      Gilbert laughed. “Star Trek lingo? Okay, the joke’s on me. You’re a hologram or something. What is this, some kind of promotional thing?”

      He took off the helmet. The creature vanished. He sat on his couch and fondled the helmet, tapping on it with his fingers, caressing the interior with index and thumb. Deep in contemplation, he gazed out the open porch door. Oak trees had recently bloomed and shielded the roof with shade and greenery. Late May was quickly warming up.

      Gilbert put the helmet on. The sky-blue alien appeared, shiny skin shimmering with tiny ripples.

      “Can I touch you?” Gilbert asked.

      “I do not have a physical presence,” Koy said. “Your fingers will feel only air.”

      “So you are a hologram?”

      “I am pure energy, which allows me to travel faster.”

      Koy’s direct demeanor served to lessen Gilbert’s anxiety as he realized that a close encounter of the third kind was indeed taking place. Calm reigned as he sensed that Koy meant no harm. Comfortable silence ensued as the human sitting on the couch and the alien hovering a few feet away observed each other.

      “Why did you choose to show yourself to me?” Gilbert asked.

      “Because you are wise and compassionate.”

      “Me?” Gilbert laughed. “You got the wrong guy. I’m a surly fellow, some say acerbic.”

      “Let he who cannot be judged cast the first rock,” Koy said.

      Gilbert rolled his eyes. “It’s ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ But that’s bullshit.”

      Koy’s tentacle quivered and turned yellow. “I shall make that correction.”

      “Why the fireman’s helmet?” Gilbert asked.

      “Humans like official hats and other colorful trinkets.”

      “Why through the mail?”

      “Because primates have an uncontrollable curiosity to open boxes and see what is in them.”  

      “It’s a really nice hat,” Gilbert said and took the helmet off. Koy vanished. Gilbert put the helmet on and took it off five times in rapid succession. The alien came and went and wasn’t bothered by the childish display of human curiosity.

      “Can anyone else see you?” Gilbert asked.

      “No.”

      “And what if someone else puts the helmet on?”

      “They will see nothing.”

      Gilbert sighed. “So I can’t share what’s happening with anyone else?”

      A shrug sounded in Koy’s voice. “You will not be able to produce proof of my existence.”

      “What’s the point?” Gilbert said. “It’s like inventing electricity and you can’t share it. Everyone should know about you and planet Zoomar. Wake people up big time.”

      Koy gurgled, which Gilbert now understood was his way of laughing. “Disaster would come from all humans knowing about me. Great confusion would set in when billions realize that their God is dead.”

      “Do you show yourself to people other than me?” Gilbert asked.

      “One more.”

      Gilbert sat up. “That’s it?”

      “Yes. The rest are not ready.”

      “Who is that person?”

      “She is a woman who lives in England. Her name is Matilda Parnell.”

      “Can I meet her?”

      “I am sorry, but at this point you cannot.”

      Gilbert slumped on the couch. He wanted to share his fortune with his good friend Myron, say that he spoke with an alien when he put on the fireman’s helmet…but he’d be unable to prove his claim…. Myron would be offended… the friendship would suffer. The same could happen with Alisa, who’d been understanding even when Gilbert dabbled in alchemy and spent two years trying to convert nickel into gold.

      Gilbert took off the helmet. Koy vanished. He packed the helmet in the cardboard box and placed the box in his closet, and then walked to the Starbucks across the street from his apartment, sat on the patio, and sipped a cappuccino. The coffeehouse hummed with young professionals perched over laptops. He wanted to stand up and shout, “I met Koy, an alien from planet Zoomar. He’s pure energy and travels light years in an instant.”

      Gilbert withdrew into his chair and sighed deeply, consumed with mutiny: He’ll hide a video camera in his belt buckle and film the alien…set up a sensor to track the vibrations of Koy’s shimmering glow… the intent to rebel amounted to nothing….Gilbert knew that trying to put one over the alien was absurd.

      His frustration having abated somewhat, new questions came to mind. Gilbert rushed home and put the helmet on. Koy appeared.

      “How long have you been coming to earth?”

      “About five billion years.”

      “But you’re not God even though you’ve lived that long?”

      Koy gurgled. “I am not God. I am the result of timeless and infinite consciousness, the same you come from.”

      Gilbert entwined his fingers and tapped his thumbs. “If the universe is infinite, then it has no center.”

      “I can vouch for that,” the alien said.

      “And when are you going to die?” the human asked.

      “By your definition of death I have died millions of times, but try to remember that thought triggers matter, and that thought, inception, never dies…”

      “Because it is timeless and infinite,” cried Gilbert.

      “You understand that,” said the guest from Zoomar; a smile rippled in its voice. “That is why I am here, with you.”

      Gilbert frowned. “But I can’t share your existence with my friends?”

      “I am sorry,” Koy said. “Human beings are not ready to know me.”

      “What about reincarnation?” Gilbert asked.

      “Does not exist,” the alien said, a tad of sadness in is voice.

      “What’s wrong?” Gilbert asked.

      Koy’s sigh was a high-pitched whistle, like the one used to alert dogs on a duck hunt. “There is one fact I have not shared with you.”      

      Gilbert nervously sat up on the couch. “What is it?”

      The sky-blue alien explained that life on earth wasn’t a result of spontaneous evolution, rather, it was an experiment conducted by him and his associates in GEPA, a genetic study of how life evolves from the molecular to the bird, or fish, or tiger, or man. “We created earth and infused it with seeds of life. We did the same with other planets. On H12, we have the Koomar, an intelligent race of birds. They have excellent language and governance. much better than yours, perhaps because they use their wings instead of cars. We have not done well with creating life on Earth.”

      Gilbert listened to Koy’s confession and then asked, “So we’re like germs in a Petri dish? We’re genetically engineered? I can dig that.”

      Koy’s voice choked with cosmic tears. “We tried so hard to make a good world for you. Our best minds labored tirelessly to help humanity succeed. We failed and we are sorry. Man is a toxic animal.”

      Gilbert scratched his bald scalp. The alien sounded like a frustrated five year old whose tree house had collapsed. “Why are you so upset? If we all come from the same timeless infinite intuitive thought, then we’re still all an extension of God, with you as a facilitator, a prism to life. It’s all good.”

      “I am happy to hear you feel this way,” Koy said, “for what you say is true. We are all one. That is why I need your help.”

      “To do what?”

      “To be an emotional translator, to live on our spaceship and guide humanity to evolve before it is too late. The planet will die unless drastic steps are taken to change the consciousness of man.”

      “I’ll pass,” Gilbert said. “I don’t like people. Look elsewhere. And find a better term than ‘emotional translator.’ It’s bulky and preachy.”

      Koy’s frame shrunk. “Matilda likes it. She says that you are one of only few who possess the wisdom to affect the needed change….”   

      Gilbert frowned. “What part of no don’t you and Matilda get?” Then he chuckled. “Besides, you could be someone else’s experiment.”

      The alien’s sky-blue skin dimmed slightly. “I am not sure what you mean.”

      Gilbert held out his palms like a teacher frustrated with his second grade student. “Like us humans are your experiment, though only Matilda and I know that, maybe your race is also a Petri dish set up by another race.”

      “But I have revealed myself to you,” Koy said, a cheer in his voice. “If what you say is true, why have I not met the race that created me?”

      Gilbert rolled his eyes. “Because you’re not one of your race who’s supposed to know. You’re not ready.”

      Koy’s shimmering ripples turned yellow. He shrunk to about half the size of when he’d first appeared, and hovered only several inches off the carpet. “That is a silly theory,” he finally said.

      Gilbert raised his arms in mock surrender. “If you say so. You’re probably right. After all, you made me, so you know better.”

      Koy said nothing. Then he vanished, even though Gilbert was still wearing the red fireman helmet.

      Gilbert took the helmet off and placed it on the coffee table. “Nothing new under the sun,” he said and hoisted himself off the couch and walked to the fridge for a glass of milk. Pouring the milk into the glass, he chuckled and said, “And that’s not a bad thing.”

Ilan was born in NYC but relocated to CA and now lives in Playa Del Rey–an iconic 60’s counterculture beach town that time forgot. Ilan keeps the lights on by writing and editing web content, but is always writing fiction, some of it quite good. Please Google Ilan Herman Kindle to visit his author page

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