Esmerelda had walked Mathpart back to the kitchen table, had given him hot coffee, had soothed him. She had also spoken soothing words, in gentle tones, to the cat, who had been behind the stove awaiting the end of the world when they came in the door. By the time she left Mathpart’s farmhouse, she had been able to help him to the conclusion that it was no use whatever to tell anything of what had happened to the authorities, who would only laugh at him. He had also talked himself into believing that Esmerelda and her three cohorts were helping the government in some secret way. Esmerelda had not denied this. She had simply told him that she couldn’t talk about it. Mathpart had been satisfied. Happy to do his part to help his country by keeping silent. They parted on good terms. The cat had even let his tail unfluff and was sitting at Mathpart’s feet, as was his usual habit when they were both in the kitchen.
They were waiting for her in Theodore’s car, the two visitors sitting serenely in the back seat. They had really come. She had had no real doubt that they would; no one had after the affirmation of the ritual. But the telepathic message which both Theodore and Esmerelda had received while they saw the two bodies of light in the temple was a mental picture of a craft coming to rest in what was recognizable as part of Pablo’s three hundred acres, in half-light. Neither of them had been able to discern whether that light was the illumination of dawn or dusk, and so they had watched both times of day. Since Joshua always got up early during the week, to visit his television studio in Washington for the daily interviews that were taped for New York, and since Pablo got up early out of real preference, those two had covered the sunrises, and Theodore and Esmerelda the sunsets. The craft had landed on the seventh day after the ritual.
They had expected the ritual to culminate in the space people’s arrival; they had prepared for it; they had awaited it eagerly. But the actuality of their visit was still a shock. Esmerelda smiled at the two in the back seat. It was so uncanny to see them, almost like looking in a mirror. Esmerelda, with her tawny coloring, her six feet of height, her slender, smooth-muscled figure, was not at all accustomed to looking at someone who so closely resembled her. It was an unnerving thing at first.
Theodore was driving to Joshua’s house rather than the farm, because Pablo had gone to New York early that morning on business, and had told them not to expect him back until midnight or a little before. It was barely seven o’clock now. They found Josh lounging by the front window, watching the lit screen of his big television set. They met at the front door, and after he had taken each of the visitors by the hand and greeted them, he walked them back into the room, turning off the TV. “One of my scripts. Had it on to see how badly they’d butchered it.”
Esmerelda walked over to his bar, taking out glasses and fruit juice. Joshua sat the people from space down on a long sofa that went across the end of the large, windowed room, and stood looking at them. Their beauty was very bright. “Well. I’ve worked out what I think will be the most efficient way of orienting you to this planet, my friends. It will take some time, perhaps a week or ten days for each of you. But I think it will be the quickest way. Let me ask you right now never to leave your physical bodies under any circumstances while you are on this planet, unless I am with you to be sure you’re safe. I know that this is far different from your normal habit on your home planet. But you will find that this planet is different. Will you do as I suggest?”
Both the space visitors nodded. “Yes.”
“Good. I cannot quickly explain to you the dangers which could befall you here, but as you learn about us, I think you will come to understand. Now, what I had in mind was for one of you at a time to leave your physical body, and spend some time in a complete tour of the mental planes of this planet, watching our planet’s history, which we call the Akashic Record. I have a trusted and competent guide for you. He has been my own teacher for many years. He can well protect you, for he is very familiar with this planet’s mental planes; he has been discarnate and functioning within the teaching realm for several thousands of years. My brother, I thought that perhaps you could be the first to travel through the astral realms, and view our Akashic Records. Would this be agreeable to you?”
“Good. It will be a simple matter for Esmerelda and me to summon our teacher, and prepare a resting place for your physical body while you are not using it. We shall go to my temple.” He turned to Theodore, all business. “Ted, can you drive our sister to Pablo’s?” A room had been prepared for each of the visitors at the farm. “I’ll bring Esmerelda home later, probably around one or two; late, anyway.”
Theodore was distinctly taken aback by Joshua’s brisk approach to conversation with the aliens. He had given them no chance to speak, beyond a few monosyllables; he had indulged in no small talk, no getting to know each other. It struck him as a little unfriendly.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Joshua. Theodore looked at him in surprise.
“Look, Ted. This is a very peculiar place, this planet. Nothing we say to them will have much meaning until they’ve assimilated a great deal more about our history.”
Theodore recovered. “OK, Josh, sure. I’ll take her home, and we’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Right. Thanks, Ted.”
Theodore rose from his seat, went over to the space girl’s side of the couch, and took her hand. “Let’s go.” He both said the words and tried projecting them mentally, and was rewarded by a telepathic agreement which matched the girl’s smile. He could do it with her, as well as with Esmerelda. Very good.
The matronly, ungainly Ford began to rock gently around the curves of country road between Joshua’s place and the farm. It was the largest road in this part of the county, four-lane, though not new or smooth-surfaced. It was a pretty road to drive down, with windows down and the sound of crickets chirping past them, the scent of the dew and the dusty road on the quiet breeze. They passed a roadhouse, the sort of place that springs up wherever there are a number of fairly well-to-do people residing in a rural area. It looked like a dump from the outside, with its neon lights and pockmarked gravel parking lot; inside, it was too dark to see whether the place was dumpy or not. There was a small dance combo, a small menu.
The girl from space stirred for the first time. “A ceremony is in progress.
Theodore took a quick glance at her face, then another, longer one. “What?”
“The ceremony was there.” the girl pointed.
“Oh, that? That’s just a honky-tonk. A place where they dance.”
“We shall see it.”
We would? Theodore puzzled over the positivity of the girl’s statement. Why would she want to go there? He looked at her clothing. Both she and the man with whom she had come wore two-piece outfits that looked to him like ski suits, except that they were of very thin material, like jersey. They were silver in color, and clung faithfully to the lines of their bodies. Very faithfully. As Theodore considered her appearance, it became obvious to him that she wore nothing under the long-sleeved, high-necked top of the suit; the effect was aesthetically pleasing, but in the context of the American culture, unfortunately startling. He couldn’t take her in anywhere. Could he?
She was looking at him, apparently sure that he was about to escort her to her “ceremony.”
Well, why not? Her costume wasn’t any more daring than a lot of others that he’d seen. It could do no harm for her to see the strange gyrations of his fellow humans. He backed into a side road and turned towards the roadhouse, pulled into the hillocked parking area, and found a place for the venerable Ford.
They went through the double doors of the tiny vestibule and stopped dead, trying to see into the fitful darkness. A light show was in progress, and the wall of sound was pulsating past their ears. The music was visible; it was tangible; it could be tasted. The electrically amplified guitar, bass, and organ were not in the hands of virtuosos; however, the amplification system didn’t know and didn’t care, and the harmonies, shaky or not, came pushing against the dancers and onlookers around the edges of the room in an innocent violence of noise. The drummer was valiantly keeping up with his amplified string-playing brethren; the beat had glorious existence here.
Theodore stood next to his new friend, watching the proceedings with the bemused eye of the outsider: he had never been able to dance or to want to dance. The panoply hurt his ears and eyes and moved no muscles to life. It was just loud and tiring. He turned to see how the girl from space was taking the spectacle; she was not there. He could see the shimmer of her clothing as she walked away from him. Her hand had been taken by a kid in a flowing shirt and modishly cut trousers; they were going to dance. Theodore groaned out loud, and pushed his way towards her through the line of tables.
But it was too late. The lights flashed on, off, on, off, on. Movements seemed jerky, exaggerated, suspended, strangely beautiful as the electronic pickup of the amplifier activated the color and frequency switches of the lighting system. They seemed to be activating the girl in her silver clothes as well. With a further, inward groan, Theodore noted that he was no longer the only onlooker who was watching the girl from space. Her lovely, taut body, outlined carefully by the clothing she wore and shimmering against the flashing lights, moved as though she were part of the music. Which got louder; the band had noticed her. She got more and more frenetic: how could she do that, wondered Theodore. She was easily the best dancer he had ever seen. Her supple body moved with the sexual, primitive beat of the music, her yard-long hair drifted and whipped with it. The go-go girl who had been matter-of-factly holding forth on the small apron of the stage jumped down, and good-naturedly motioned to the space girl to take her place. “Oh NO,” thought Theodore, as the girl bounded the four feet up without missing a beat in the heaving line of music.
Now the place really began to notice her. People who had been sitting at tables at the edges of the room began moving in on the room’s center, which had been already more than full of dancers, People who had been dancing stopped, and began shoving for a place. Everyone was clapping, shaking back and forth with the pulse of the music; the musicians were going mad trying to pull extra decibels from their equipment. The place was too crowded for the excited citizenry, suddenly. There weren’t enough places close enough for a clear view. Someone got the bright idea of climbing up on someone else’s table and the man whose table had been chosen objected violently. A chair broke under someone’s weight; there was a faint moaning sound audible through the tiny cracks in the noise’s surface. One man apparently felt that his lady of the evening had been rudely used by the feet of a neighboring male; there were sudden shouts, and the ominous crack of another chair; the first fist met the first face. The music went on; the girl kept moving like the wind. Theodore could see only half of the room; he counted three separate altercations. It should take no more than ten minutes for the police, no doubt now being summoned, to arrive here.
No way to get to the space girl presented itself to him until a hazy idea of finding the fuse box for the place dawned. Theodore went down the dirty little hallway that opened into the restrooms. No visible fuse box. There was a utility closet; he opened it, and found a black metal box in the wall. This looked like just what he had in mind. He pulled the lever at its side, and a gratifying blackness dropped over the little hall. The strobe light stopped, and the instruments went dead, leaving the drummer starkly alone for a measure, until he lagged-and stopped playing too.
There were several varieties of screams, and an awesome crunching sound as tables and chairs began being moved wholesale. The riot was on. Now, the object was to retrieve the girl from space, and get out the back way before the police came and tried to identify a girl who had no past. And who would probably be dragged into the station for indecent dress. Oh boy.
He checked the small rear exit. The Yale lock yielded, and outside was the parking lot. Theodore put his back to the concrete wall of the hallway and attempted to clear his mind of the confusion. Could he call her here? Mentally, he sought the linkage between his mind and hers that he had tentatively tested once before. He summoned her; with relief strong in him, he felt her acknowledgment and, in a few seconds, her hand in his. She had had a simple time coming off the stage and through the door to the restrooms which was right by its side, out of the way of the mobbed dance floor, and the front entrance towards which everyone was shoving.
Theodore took her by the hand again and ran with her to his car. He had managed to pull out on the highway before his ears caught the sound of police sirens. They had made it. A quarter of a mile down the road they met the two police cars, their blue lights blinking, screaming down the road too intent on their destination to notice one old Ford. The danger was past.
Theodore began to be very stern with himself, inwardly, for taking his charge anywhere but home to bed. And, how had she managed to learn the dances that quickly?
The girl from space turned and beamed at him, eyes dancing with the same golden flecks Esmerelda’s held. “The people of this planet are very wise.”
Theodore was too numbed by relief to say more than, “What?”
“There is much growth of spirit in their temples.”
Lines appeared between Theodore’s eyes; his nose wrinkled. “Temples? That wasn’t a temple. That was a roadhouse. A place where people go to have fun.”
The girl continued to regard him with her serene, dancing smile. Her voice was calm, a little husky from dancing so long without refreshing herself. “Many of those who were there wished to mate with me. I should return.”
Theodore’s eyes closed briefly. Oh boy. “Hold it. You can’t go around on this planet mating with everyone that wants you to.” He thought to himself for a minute: just why couldn’t she. “It’s governed by the law on this planet.”
“I know the law of mating.”
Theodore knew that she and he weren’t communicating. “No, no, I mean man-made law. It is not lawful to, ah, mate on this planet unless you’re legally married.”
“I am not aware that man can make laws. I am aware only of the Creator’s law.”
Theodore knew what she meant; he had thought often about the Creator’s law of mating, since he had met Esmerelda, had been drawn so simply to her. It had seemed to him that the physical attraction between them was an expression of polarity made possible for them by their affinity for each other; they seemed, somehow, very much in the same key.
But the girl from space shouldn’t trust to that law; there were too many people around who couldn’t care less about affinities or polarity. He tried again. “No, it doesn’t work like that here. People have written things like marriage down on pieces of paper, and called them laws. These laws are accepted by all the people as correct. Then, anyone who does not follow these laws is punished by the rest of the people. They put restrictions on them, and call them criminals.
The girl’s eyes wondered at him. “But that is a violation of the Creator’s law of freedom of choice.”
It was coming clear to Theodore why Josh had been so businesslike and brusque with the people from space earlier. Until the girl got more acclimated to this planet, it was going to be impossible to communicate with her about the environment to which she had come. He smiled at her open, questioning face. “I think it will all be made clear when you have seen the Akashic Record, and partaken of the knowledge of the planet.”
This was feeble, but it seemed to satisfy the girl; she accepted it happily and readily, and spoke no more during the brief remainder of their journey. The rest of Theodore’s task was short and easy: he offered her food, which she declined, and showed her the room which Esmerelda had prepared for her stay. There were some clothes from Esmerelda’s closet for her to put on in the morning; the covers of the bed were folded down. He left her and went across the hall and away from the head of the stairs one door, to his own room. It was almost eleven. Time for bed.
The house darkened, and then slept.