The Arrival

WE COME AT PEACE

UNLESS PROVOKED

“Wha… Wha… What is that?” asked young Natasha fighting her stammer as her beautiful little hazel eyes were fixed gazing onto the bright red inscription in the sky, carved out from the clouds. For the whole thing was something right out of a Hollywood movie scene.

“Hey, little one. How’s my beautiful girl?” said nurse Amanda with an ever-lasting smile plastered across her face. There was something about her smile which was as comforting as a cup of coffee on a cold snowy evening in London. It instantly got little Natasha to open her arms wide for an embrace as Amanda walked right up to her bed, sat beside and gave her a much needed hug.

“Where are my legs?” she asked innocently as her hazel eyes got flooded with tears.

“Sweetheart, shush.” Amanda said wiping her tears, “Such an innocent heart, such a beautiful soul, and such adorable eyes are not meant to cry.” she said holding her head close to her chest.

“Even my hair is gone.” she said half-sobbing and running her hand across the traces of hair on her butch cut scalp, “What happened? Where’s Amma? Where’s Appa?” she finally clubbed one sentence together fighting the stammering.

“You’re from India, aren’t you?” nurse Amanda asked, “Tell me, darling. What do you remember? Where were you last?”

“Well, hmmm… me, Amma and Appa had… had… come to London for holidays and… and… Yes! We were to go on that…” she said pointing out of the window.

“Oh! The London eye. That’s nice! Kids to adults, attracts everyone alike.” she smiled.

“And… and… then, we couldn’t. There was some cyclone or something coming and we were to stay indoors and then we took a cab to… to… our hotel room and…” she stopped utterly horrified and started gasping for breath as Amanda quickly comforted her in arms again.

“Baby Nat, so you do remember.” she sighed, “Can I call you that? Nat? Or do you have another nickname?”

“Amma, Appa called me Asha,” she murmured sobbing heavily, “It meant hope.”

“You are such an intelligent girl, especially for a 10-year-old.”

“Cou…ld you plee..ase, tell me… where my parents are?” Her stammer seemed aggravated.

Sister Amanda could not respond. She just sat there with a face as white as a sheet.

“No.” she wept bitterly, for despite her age she had read what her silence meant.

“Dear…” Amanda’s voice was the one faltering now, “You must have questions? Please talk to me.”

“Can I see their bodies?” she innocently asked.

Sister found herself speechless again. She was shocked to see the level of maturity a 10-year-old girl was exhibiting. “Maybe, you are the personification of hope. No wonder they call you that. Promise me, be the ray of hope always. For not many get a second chance in life. Promise me, despite the difficulties you will keep smiling, for that smile is precious.”

“Merry Christmas, sister.” Little Natasha let out a painful smile.

“Merry Christmas.” Amanda whispered under her breath clutching tightly onto the little girl.

[10 years later…]

The message had become posters:

WE COME AT PEACE

UNLESS PROVOKED

And some even read:

WE COME AT PEACE

 

UNLESS PROVOKED

 

The second line in deep red with dripping blood design. The posters had multiplied over the last few months as their second coming was much awaited.

18-year-old Natasha was seated in a self-driven cab with pre-fed directions to her medical college. She strapped her left prosthetic foot a bit tighter, for compared to the right it always loosened up unannounced having left her in an awkward and embarrassing position on many occasions. As she walked past her college gate, she could see the student union with banners and posters asking people to be ready for the arrival of their savior. She barely looked in the direction as she sped fast to her lecture hall. It was her first day after all, and the last thing she wanted was to be late.

Unfortunately, the class started with an elaborate discussion about the ‘Intellectuals’. Yes, that’s what the world called them; the extra-terrestrial beings that had visited our planet a decade back. But, while the rest of the world was busy singing the praises of their first arrival, Natasha had never been impressed. In fact, her hatred for them grew each passing year as the world anxiously awaited their second visit.

“Hey, Nati!” Natasha heard a familiar voice as she looked over her shoulder and saw her school buddy Rachel who came running behind her after the lecture got over, “What a way to start college, isn’t it? Joining MBBS is fun after all. For now, we may not just study human anatomy, but who knows even alien anatomy pretty soon!” she said beamingly.

“Ya, whatever!”

“What? First day, so dull. You should be more excited, after all I am the ‘management one’, while you my dear are the meritorious one!”

“Handicap quota, so much for that.”

“C’mon Nat, give yourself some credit, you are proper genius. You could have taken the general seat, for you score was that good. But you chose to take quota seat so that some other deserving candidate gets the benefit instead. Selfless as you are my dear, I am proud of you.”

“Hmmm.”

After anatomy class it was time for some physiology, where again the entire discussion was centered around the arrival of the Intellectuals. Then followed biochemistry, as the professor started by saying, “Perhaps the greatest chemistry we ought to study is between the biology of two different species altogether. For the intellectuals have shown how much they love us and we can’t wait for their homecoming this thanksgiving.”

“Bloody hell!” a voice blurted out loud.

“Excuse me, who was that?” the Professor asked taken aback.

Natasha quietly stood up.

“Is there a problem, miss?”

“With all due respect sir, I thought we joined MBBS course. But all we get to hear since morning is how phenomenal and adorable these so called aliens are. It is sickening!”

“What are you saying?” the entire class gasped their breaths unanimously as the Prof. looked distraught himself, “Are you trying to belittle their amazing contributions. Are you amongst those who highlight the second line over the first?” he said referring to the posters all around.

Natasha had been so tired of debating this argument time and again, that this time she just gave up, for all eyes were centered on her already, “Prevention better than cure, Sir! That’s all I am saying…”

She couldn’t spill out her personal vendetta here. It was a classroom brimmed with over a 100 people. They wouldn’t buy her analogy nor would they sympathize with her. In fact, she feared backlash, she feared revolt, so she stayed quiet.

3 months later…

“So they didn’t come this Thanksgiving…” nudged in Rachel trying to initiate a conversation.

“When did we Indians start having Thanksgiving? It’s not even a global thing. Just an American day…” Natasha replied casually.

“Ya, but they arrived exactly on Thanksgiving Day 10 years back. They who must not be named.” Rachel mocked making a fake expression of astonishment.

“So?” Natasha retorted.

“There must be a connection.”

“You think they’d be that naive too? Childish!”

“Nati!” she looked her in the eye now, “You never tell, why are you so cross about them?” she gathered her guts and finally asked addressing the elephant in the room, “How can you not acknowledge their gifts to us?”

Natasha stood up furiously kicking the chair away and in the process her left leg just got detached as she struggled for balance before nearly collapsing. Rachel grabbed her hand at the right moment. As Rachel helped her fasten her foot in place, Natasha couldn’t help but sit back and ponder on the positives.

There were only ounces of validity to her side of the argument. For, they had arrived 10 years back with quite a dramatic entrance. It felt like Armageddon. The lightening, the thunderstorms, the bouts of incessant torrential downpour in some parts, absolutely random snowfall in countries that had never witnessed snow from the time of their existence, mild earthquakes, and even volcanic eruptions. Some coastal countries registered hydrological disasters and then there were these gut-wrenching tornadoes; multiple and monstrous, especially sweeping the streets of Europe; United Kingdom to be more precise.

“Nat?  Hello?”

Natasha snapped back, “I was trying to step in your shoes for a while and think of your so called ‘Intellectuals’ and their so called contributions.” she said as she air quoted the ‘so called’ part twice.

“I don’t think so. You face looked petrified as you were thinking. Maybe you don’t get the big picture. Let me enumerate for you…” she said as Natasha, with her arms clasped in her lap and legs crossed over each other, assumed the position of an attentive listener.

“They made a dramatic entrance is something I agree upon. All the horrifying changes evoked, clearly even Mother Nature was petrified to her teeth. But then they rested their spaceship somewhere over England and started communicating via text messages in English, flashed concurrently on every computer screen, mobile phone, digital hoardings… basically every electronic platform. And I remember every line as fresh as yesterday:

WE COME AT PEACE, UNLESS PROVOKED

WE COME FROM A VERY DISTANT GALAXY

WE ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PRESENCE IN THE UNIVERSE

WE HAVE BEEN OBSERVING YOU FROM A RELATIVELY LONG TIME

WE KNOW A LOT ABOUT YOU, MORE THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY THINK

WE INTEND ONLY TO LEND A HELPING HAND

WE WANT TO BESTOW UPON YOU A GIFT AS A TOKEN OF OUR GOOD WILL

WE HOPE YOU SHALL PUT IT TO GOOD USE COLLECTIVELY AS ‘ONE PLANET’

WE WILL RETURN AGAIN IN 10 YEARS EXACTLY

WE COME AT PEACE, UNLESS PROVOKED

“Gosh! You’ve memorized them! Joblessness at it’s zenith.” Natasha replied.

“Most of the world has. Scholars all the more, trying to read between the lines.”

“I know, I’ve read the theories and trolls.”

A jet of blinding light had fallen upon central London and it had left behind a gigantic bronze colored sphere made of an element that doesn’t even exist on our periodic table. For the first time the world’s powerhouses united for a cause, mainly out of fear; fear of the unknown, fear of something immensely more powerful than any one of us, even our cumulative strength! And this fear reaped dividend.

In just under a year’s time we had extracted the source of energy within that sphere. And with that we have created technological marvels, something that would have taken us a century otherwise. Petroleum is a thing of the past; all our transportations are now powered by the X-fuel. The Factor-X1 found its way into water purification as well. Now, every drop of ocean water can be made potable within the blink of an eye. We have metals as light as feather and yet far more durable than titanium could ever be. We have developed trains that have been tested to travel at over 1000 miles/hour and a prototype for a flight that will cover a distance from one corner to another, say USA to Japan in such a couple hours and…”

“Rachel! Enough! I get it, I get it.” I said joining my hands in surrender.

“And all of this in just under a decade! Don’t you see, aren’t we marching ahead?” “No!” “We are flying or rather skyrocketing to heights beyond our wildest imagination.”

“So, where are they? Wasn’t their 10 years due like in August? Now, we are a week away from New Year. Clearly being so ‘Intellectual’, one wouldn’t expect them to be late?” Natasha replied sarcastically.

“Ya, ya. Your turn to mock. Space travel takes time I suppose.” Rachel replied bluntly.

“Ok, then tell me, these extra-terrestrials got conveniently nicknamed as Intellectuals, attributed to them unanimously as they world felt deeply indebted to their wonderful gift… approved and granted. But my question for you is, why didn’t they talk to us? For it was just a one-sided conversation with literally instructions being bulleted down. And we were reduced to some school children who were to take notes attentively without uttering a syllable. They were more like some sort of rules or commandments been laid down, so much so that the world cheekily dubbed them as the ’10 Commandments’. You memorized them, you should know better. Second, and most importantly, why didn’t they show themselves? Why stay invisible to us?”

Rachel had no answers. These were the pressing matters most world leaders had their hands full with, and there were no concrete answers to it. No doubt they were a race far more superior to us and yet chose to be a benefactor than be a nemesis, despite possibly having the power to threaten our very existence. But despite all the good will gestures, the mystery surrounding who they are? How they looked? Why they never revealed themselves? …was more deafening than their silence.

“Hmmm, I agree.” Rachel said quietly under her breath, “So then, holiday week starting tomorrow. I’m excited for once, for our family trip to Europe would finally be underway.” she announced jumping in her seat and changing the subject abruptly not realizing her grave mistake.

“Hmmm. Merry Christmas and happy holidays, dear.” Natasha replied in a tone so low that her voice barely reached her own ears as she sank deeper in her chair. She couldn’t decide what upset her more about that statement; whether it was the fear of the word ‘Europe’ or the fact that she didn’t have a family.

“Sometimes I feel I need a filter between my brains and my lips. Wish the aliens could provide that!” Rachel announced pointing a finger gun at her brains as a faint smile escaped Natasha’s face, “C’mon, let’s wipe those tears before they smudge your make-up, and allow me hand you a pizza treat.” she added, as Natasha dried up her tear laden hazel pearls. They headed for the nearest pizza joint.

1 hour later…

“It’s an earthquake!!” One of the staff at the pizza joint announced as all the customers went berserk. Most ran for the exit, while some tried taking refuge under their respective tables.

“Oh my God, it’s intense! God save us!” Rachel screamed out of pure fear. Please God, not on Christmas!” she begged joining her hands in prayer as they both sat under the table.

“It’s not God. It’s them! Your Intellectuals!” Natasha announced unfazed by the drama around her.

[10 years later…]

USA had been long reckoned as the land of opportunity and the last 20 years had only patented their brags.

“The ‘Immortals’ have visited our Earth twice, on two decorated days and left with two gifts unparalleled in magnitude. The first helped us harvest unimaginable power that led to a breakthrough on a technological front, helping us invent gadgets and discover newer prospects which were only possible in dreams or on celluloid. But 10 years back when they rested their invisible spaceship over the Indian subcontinent on Christmas, they left a gift that humanity desperately needed and deserved.”

Dr. Natasha paused as her left leg was bothering her again. She quietly leaned a bit more against the podium to counteract the imbalance. She couldn’t pause now to re-strap her foot. That would be embarrassing, “The colossal silver sphere that they left here in Mumbai slammed down all the doors that had kept the medical community strangled, chained and confined. Powered by a factor – The Factor-X2; the sheer fabric of which was not something we could define by our existing nomenclatures, in the first couple years most endemic and pandemics across the globes were totally eradicated. Then as more time eloped, and as the best minds got to work, we started decoding every mystery and untied every knot.”

She paused again as she could feel a sudden rush of emotions sweeping her, “Today, we stand with a permanent cure to any form of cancer, the HIV virus can be entirely separated from our DNA at any given stage. Even organ regeneration of any given vital organ has entered its trial phase. And with that I say, that we’ve barely begun scratching the surface…” as the audience could not contain any more and arose in thunderous applause.

“So how long are you in India?” asked one of the reporters to Dr. Natasha as she was winding up to leave for the airport.

“Oops! Dear, my flight’s in a couple of hours.” she replied with a smile as she untied her black long thick locks which had been tucked above her head the whole time during the talk.

“We know quite a deal about your past. You are quite an inspiration. Childhood tragedy to one of the youngest pioneer in medical research and now pursuing fellowship to become a space surgeon at the tender age of 28. Must say, despite all your physical limitations, your accomplishments are simply extraordinary!” she remarked, honesty echoed in her tone.

Natasha just gave a content and generous smile.

“Just a couple more questions; is there a mister perfect somewhere? Perhaps in America? Is marriage on your mind?”

“Just when I thought, you were being too sweet,” Natasha taunted, “You are media after all. But I will answer your question. The answer is… NO! There is no special one! As you mentioned a while ago, my accomplishments despite my limitation! Well I’m afraid limitation always has the last laugh.”

“Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am, last question; can we predict when and over which country will the ‘Immortals’ arrive this year?”

“I’m afraid, no one knows but THEM!” Natasha smiled as she left for the airport.

As she boarded the flight, she looked back at the week that had gone by. Dusshera was indeed an amazing time to visit the sub-continent; the food, the colors, the lights and all the flavors of celebration were something incomparable to any festival in the west. At the same time looking ahead, she knew the answer to the last question the reporter had asked… Yes! She knew exactly when and where they would arrive next and that’s exactly where she was headed too.

2 weeks later…

It was Diwali day and if Natasha’s assumptions were right, THEY were to arrive today and park their invisible fortress over USA this time and deliver a pretty obvious golden sphere. But that is not why she had embarked on this journey 10 year back after the show-down in Mumbai. She had toiled real hard, publishing many articles and even few books trying to decipher THEIR mystery. Her works were a hit, and with her instrumental role in research work with the X1 and X2, she had earned a place to be in the same room amidst the global leaders from where the conversation would be made. Yes, a conversation, for last time along with their new set of 10 commandments, for a change they had demanded something in return. They had agreed to participate in a text conversation the next time! And since, the world and Natasha in particular had been eagerly awaiting their chance.

And it happened again…

There were torrential rainfalls, enormous tides sweeping the coast, the Antarctic was melting steadfast while the deserts across the globe were getting submerged in layers of snow. The ecological imbalance lasted a few hours. Finally, it paved way as the air rushed in and all the corporates, leaders, officers and scientists at the pentagon could feel the quiver. But, just like the previous two times nothing could be seen. However, courtesy satellite tracking they were able to locate the obstruction across the stratosphere. As per the initial data obtained this was the largest spacecraft ever. This got the world media super-excited.

And then came in the messages.

24 hours’ later…

In their usual string of 10 messages, they had issued a 24-hour period to decide on a few fronts. They wanted us to abolish currency and such materialistic wealth, give up nuclear weapons and leave our petty wars and fight for supremacy behind, so that we could evolve and be like them. They wanted to take us along on their journey across the universe and join them in their quest to decode the mystery of death to become ‘invincible’.

So came in the text flash one every screen:

WE ARE READY TO EMBARK, ARE YOU WITH US?

ITS NOT THAT SIMPLE, we replied back.

WE DID SO MUCH FOR YOU. YET YOU STILL FAIL TO GET IT?

WE APPRECIATE YOUR GIFTS. BUT WHAT YOU ASK FOR IS RISKY, we replied.

WE HAVE ALL THE POWER. FAR MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE. STILL WE HAVENT CAUSED ANY DAMAGE TILL DATE. YET, YOU DON’T TRUST US?

The leaders were caught in a trance. Clearly THEY felt offended. THEY sounded a bit agitated. As the leaders were busy formulating a reply, a message on their behalf popped up.

You have the audacity to say you haven’t invoked damage? I’m afraid you are more blind than invisible!

There was panic across the room. Someone had breached the line and replied in their name. Security breach was sounded and attempts were being made to secure the line and find the culprit.

WE ARE OFFENDED. WHAT LANGUAGE IS THIS?

Oh c’mon, don’t be such a cry baby now. And please tell me your vocabulary is better than starting with WE each time!

WHO IS THIS? I THINK WE SEE YOU.

You better do. I am right here in the pentagon and before the officials catch hold of me I want you to hear a story…

20 years back, a young Indian man had saved enough money to fulfill his long overdue promise to his wife, a honeymoon trip to Europe. It was a little late for a honeymoon, not much; just about 15 years and one 10-year-old child late. But nevertheless, they embarked. It was supposed to be a 10-day trip across Europe, and on the first day they landed in London on a fine and pleasant Thanksgiving day. And this little family, the first thing they wanted to do was fulfill their 10-year-old daughter’s biggest desire, take a ride on the London eye. As they waited their turn and were about to step in, they were told about a sudden unusual climatic disruption. Everyone was asked to get indoors. Unfortunately, their hotel was a little too far for comfort. By the time they got a cab, a giant tornado stood in their path. The cab was consumed, spun the f**k out and spat back onto the roads. The cab driver was dead on the spot; his body was recovered in pieces. The couple were brutally injured and battled for life for few days before they passed away. And for the child… Well, life wasn’t so nice to the 8-year-old, for it didn’t kill it. Sadly, it didn’t leave her unharmed either. Life always comes at a prize. At the tender age of 8, she had to trade both her feet for life. A life without family, and a life where at the age of playing with dolls and friends, she was supposed to get up on her own feet and walk. And this my dear geniuses was the day ‘you people’ arrived the first time.

WHAT HAPPENED NOW? ‘WE’ DONT HAVE AN ANSWER? GOOD! INVISIBLE…BLIND…DUMB!

Wait! That’s not all. The second time you came, this same girl was in Mumbai, secretly hoping you’d never come again. She thought she was safe at home, for the whole world was confident your next destination would be America. She was seated in a pizza place with her best friend, quietly celebrating Christmas. But then you arrived, with all your drama again. They could not run away, the place was crowded. And for a girl with prosthetic legs, running wasn’t her thing. Her friend couldn’t abandon her as they took shelter under a table. Trying to keep her handicap friend safe, she slipped out trying to pull one more table for cover. Alas! The wrong time, the wrong place again. The chandelier came crashing on her head. She died on the spot, in MY very arms. There is nothing I could do.

WE ARE SORRY, came their reply.

Human after all, huh? Do something bad and say sorry. We know that already. We’ve being doing it for centuries. We don’t need you for that. We crowned you the ‘Intellectuals’, the ‘Immortals’ and now people will even start with the ‘Invincibles’, but let me hold a mirror up for you. I urge you – take a good hard look!

I, just like the rest of the world, fully acknowledge your gifts. You are truly gifted. You are truly evolved. I get your messages very clear. Thanksgiving and UK, Xmas and India, Diwali and USA. Each time, keep yourself invisible, not even let us hear your voice, simple messages in black and white, in simple English. You wanna be a teacher. Narrate one clear message – don’t divide, don’t discriminate. Unite, become one as humans, unite… to evolve to the next level.

It is beautiful I agree. But in this attempt, somehow you could not resist playing God. You got blinded by you own crave for supremacy. So desperate to be hailed, to be worshipped, that you who can gift us the X1, the X2 could not see the havoc you wreaked on your arrival. This is not just my story, but the story of so many like me who lost lives, lost loved ones, got fatally injured, who are permanently scarred for life because they were crushed on your path of arrival. You wanted a hero’s welcome, a red carpet to walk to your coronation. Guess what? You got it! For the world loves you, adores you. But I must just remind you, the carpets are red for they are soaked in the blood of the people whom you trampled under your wheel during your grand entrance. Just take a peep underneath, you’ll find all the bodies who trampled on, all the bones you crushed, all the souls you failed…

WE WILL MAKE AMENDS.

Oh, no you can’t! What you did, it cannot be undone. The dead aren’t coming back, nor are my legs. In your obsession to evolve, you forgot the basics of existence! I am sure you are devoid of emotions and that’s where I think you can learn from us. Yes, we are a species that has so much to learn from you, but a relation is always a two-way street and so is the case in evolution. ‘Symbiosis’ – feed that to your dictionary! You learn from us, we learn from you, together we evolve. How about that?

“Miss, you need to stop.” said one of the official as in barged in the room where I was hiding. “We spotted you like ages back, but we let you… you know. Now let THEM breathe.” he said, as we both let out a smile.

Few minutes later came a voice: “WE COME AT PEACE. SORRY ABOUT THAT PROVOKED LINE. WE WISH TO MEET YOU. WE WANT YOU TO SEE US. MISS NATASHA, YOU ARE AMAZING AND A COURAGEOUS YOUNG WOMAN. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SOUND ADVICE. WE ARE EXTREMELY SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS. WE WANT YOU TO BE THE FIRST PERSON TO SEE US. COME, TAKE A TOUR OF OUR SPACECRAFT. NO PRESSURE INTENDED. THE CHOICE IS YOURS. IF YOU ARE WILLING, WE WILL SEND A TRANSPORTATION TO ESCORT YOU TO OUR SHIP. IT’S A REQUEST, PLEASE BE OUR GUEST. LET US SHOW YOU OUR HOSPITALITY, YOU WON’T REGRET IT.” as the deep male humanoid type voice ceased talking.

“Yes” I replied almost instantly.

As I was being taken up in a glass cubicle which was designed in the shape of an egg floating and navigating effortlessly against gravity, I was nervous as well as excited, for it was a new chapter in the evolution of mankind. “Let’s build a better tomorrow.” I told myself as the cubicle entered a door which was pitch black on the inside. “LET THERE BE LIGHT.” I heard a humanoid voice echoing inside, as the room was filled with a blinding white light. Tomorrow had arrived.