The Amazing Adventures
of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Chapter Two: Arrival
woke almost ten hours later. It hadn't been the first time he'd slept on the
couch. He expected to be sore and tired as he always was following a road trip, and early
indications were that this time would be even more so. Especially after what he'd
been through last night.
The memory made him practically leap off the couch
and pop open his eyes. Oh, boy, he thought. There'd been some changes in
There were hints of color developing like
the early stages of a Polaroid. Her clothing had lost its vacuum-pack clingyness in places
and fallen away from her body. More detail was beginning to emerge, like better-defined
skin texture. Individual hairs were falling out of the seemingly carved mass on her head,
shiny and golden.
Well, he thought, this proves it.
He reached out
and tapped the figure. It was still rigid, massive and hard. Even where the cloak had
fallen away it felt like armor plate in spite of its thinness, completely unyielding and
acoustically dead. He gingerly felt a loose strand of hair and discovered he could have
easily sliced his finger if he'd grabbed at it. It yielded to his touch not at all.
What looked like hair felt like a cable on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Whoa, he said to himself, impressed, looks like tool time
His Curley pliers had no effect on the
strand. It wouldn't bend or break and he notched the cutter blade easily. That was
At the current rate of change, he felt sure he shouldn't screw around. If he
was going to be the first human to greet an alien visitor from some other planet,
he'd better get ready. He didn't even consider calling anyone else to share the
discovery. This thing had landed in his apartment so, barring any evidence to the
contrary, it was his gig. He was going to assume that whoever had sent this to him knew
what they were doing. Anyway, there wasn't time.
Breakfast was perfunctory. He didn't
bother to reach outside his door for the Chronicle. His obligatory toilette was quicker
but more thorough than usual. He dressed a little nicer than he normally would on a day
off and even put on a tie. As soon as he was ready, he practically raced downstairs,
afraid to miss anything. The changes seemed to be accelerating.
Every hair on her head was now bright and
distinct, falling in a glorious riot of gold across her shoulders and halfway down her
back. There was a lot of it, cascading in soft curves in every direction with no bangs or
discernible cut. At first glance it had looked like a wire sculpture of a haystack in a
hurricane, but there was some subtle organization to it, as if a stylist had done a great
deal of work to avoid the appearance that a stylist had done a great deal of work. It
shone cleanly, nearly glowing in its intensity, full of body that would be the envy of any
shampoo ad model.
Her ensemble was now fully developed. The
motif was basically black and gold, but not so simple as that. The back of her cloak was a
shiny satin-like black with deep red highlights, like a brochure photo of a black Mercedes
lit with red floodlights. Perhaps the material's color was actually red, but a red
that reflected only the single red wavelength that exactly corresponded to the center
frequency sensitivity of a red cone in the human retina. A laserlike single hue of red so
red that there was no hint of anything but that exact shining red. The lens of a railroad
crossing light was like that, a red so deep in the glass that it was perilously close to
black; and when it was lit, only pure red escaped from the bulb behind it.
The inside of her cloak was what
might be described as a pale yellow-gold satin, not as shiny as the black/red of the
reverse side but rather almost a brushed-metal effect. The cloak was
attached in some fashion almost completely around the neck opening of her top so that it could either fall
over her shoulders behind her or close in front to completely drape the full length of her
body, which would give her an almost formal appearance.
Her top resembled
a kind of tee-shirt, with full-length puffy sleeves closed around her wrists
by a band of pale
brushed-gold to match the lining of her cloak and other accents. It was the exact analog
in black/blue to her cloak's black/red, with intense blue highlights so deep and pure
as to be visually confusing.
Held to her waist by a
brushed-gold belt was a mid-thigh skirt in
black/red that afforded complete freedom of movement, similar in design to an ice
skater's costume. Matching black/red almost moccasin-like slippers with pale
brushed-gold soles and practically no heels barely covered her feet.
There were five small patches of pale
brushed-gold in various shapes and sizes worked into the fabric of her top just below her
neck. Together, they formed the sort of optical illusion that, if you looked at it long
enough, suddenly resolved into some recognizable pattern. After a moment of frowning
concentration, it came to him — the
stylized outline of a letter surrounded by an implied hexagonal figure. It
resembled… It appeared to be… It was…
Good Lord, he
thought. An 'S'. Unmistakably.
He was astonished by the symbol. Its
familiarity was so unexpected as to be a shock, attached as it was to something about
which he already harbored some vague expectations. He was prepared to accept a lot in
terms of the origins of his strange visitor from another planet
(…universe? …dimension?). But that she in some way — at least in design and conception
— originated from some damned comic book was… Well, it was embarrassing.
Not something he'd be comfortable being associated with.
The more he thought about
it, the more he was appalled by the arrogance and effrontery the symbol implied. Did this
mean what it appeared to mean? Was she literally supposed to be what her costume declared
her to be?
He examined the symbol carefully. Though
there was a pronounced stylistic difference in its execution, it was undoubtedly meant to
be the equivalent of that famous 'S' from the comics and movies —
as was, he
realized, her entire outfit. Not an exact duplication, but rather an homage,
conceptualized and executed by a highly competent and subtly artistic designer. She was
obviously meant to be taken by anyone on this planet that encountered her as an alien. And
not just any alien, but one possessed of, well, 'powers and
It was just outrageous. He actually felt
something like anger toward whatever agency was responsible for the theme of her
appearance. Here was the earth-shatteringly momentous occasion of First Contact with other
intelligent beings in the Universe and their representative shows up dressed for a costume
party. It's like they must not take us very seriously.
And of all the fantasy superheroes they
could have picked, why this one? The silliest of the whole sorry lot, a blond
super-airhead with at best a tenuous place in the pantheon of adolescent wet dreams. An
atomic Barbie. A caped Valley girl. A flying bimbo. Bah.
What if she turned out to be what her
costume represented her to be? Did that mean there might be more of her kind turning up?
Just what we need, a gaggle of muscle-bound freaks tearing around the countryside,
presumably with a selection of archfiends thrown in to give them something to do. Heaven
help us. Was our planet on Candid Cosmic Camera? Double bah.
He tried to calm down. Why would an alien
visitor, regardless of physical attributes, adopt such a guise? Maybe, if she indeed were
an alien of such formidable abilities, appearing in such a familiar form would be a way
for the natives of this planet to more easily come to terms with her. Who knows to what
extent the technological sophistication of a highly advanced civilization could recreate
either by genetic manipulation or mechanical artifice any kind of being they desired.
He thought of sci-fi writer Arthur C.
Clarke's famous 'Law' — "Any sufficiently advanced technology is
indistinguishable from magic." Sighing, he decided to withhold judgment for now.
The AC unit coughed noisily to life and
air from the living room vent ruffled her hair and cloak. He felt the thin edge of her
cloak, which now resembled normal cloth, as far as he could tell
— smooth, cool and
lightweight. He cautiously extended a finger to touch a strand of hair. It, too, now
seemed normal. On a hunch, he reached out for a pair of scissors on his end table and
tried to snip the end of the hair. As he expected, it wasn't possible, not even with
wire cutters. Probably not with anything, he thought. He ran his fingers
through her hair in a sort of fatherly gesture. It felt normal.
He wondered if he should try sticking a
pin in her neck, to see if it could be done. He poked her with his finger, instead. Her
neck was skin-warm and dimpled beneath his fingertip in a completely natural way. As
he pressed a little harder, he thought he felt a pulse start up in response.
weird, he thought.
He reached for a wrist. He couldn't budge her arms even the slightest
amount, but could get his forefinger on the right place. At first there was no pulse in
either wrist, but after a moment, it started up in a normal, strong fashion. He looked at
his watch and counted. Perfectly ordinary resting pulse rate. Was it blood being pumped
from her heart, or a programmed simulation coming on line? She still wasn't
He sat down on the couch in front of her
and examined her intently. As the presumed emissary of a presumably advanced civilization,
she wasn't exactly what he might expect. There was nothing imposing, dignified, wise,
terrible, diplomatic, inspiring, holy, businesslike, great or fearsome about her demeanor.
As a work of art — which she was obviously meant to be — she was a masterful
portrait of exquisite magnificence.
She appeared to be in her late teens,
about five-six, maybe 125, fit, clear-skinned, healthy and — well
— the best word
would probably be adorable. A perfect little doll, in fact — nearly too perfect to be
anything but some kind of unworldly apparition somehow made tangible. She seemed to
personify the embodiment of the girl-next-door, cheerleader, Girl Scout, childhood
sweetheart, gymnast, Homecoming Queen, wonderful daughter out of a 30's
movie — yet with a
vaguely Anime-like quality of unreality about her. Her stunning shape was not blatantly
voluptuous, but instead marvelously precocious.
There was great beauty about her, but more than merely because of her form
and features. Her sleeping radiance exuded a forthright innocence and youthful joie de
vivre that would play upon the heartstrings of man and woman alike. He was impressed.
Even more, he was smitten.
She began breathing quite normally. Her
left arm suddenly relaxed and fell to her side. It twitched fitfully a few times, a
performance soon matched by her right arm. Then her legs twitched in sequence. One by one,
each body part went through a checklist of various operations before she again subsided
into a motionless state. She finally achieved the appearance of being asleep on her feet,
drooping her shoulders and head slightly so as to effect the illusion.
stretched — cat-like — shook
herself slightly, straightened up and opened her eyes. Blue, of course (he could have
guessed that), luminous and deep. But they gazed motionlessly at some far-away
nothingness. Though she showed every outward sign of being alive, she didn't seem to
He very slowly stood up in front of her, but she registered nothing. After
waiting what seemed to be interminably for any kind of response, he waved his hand, but
her eyes did not follow. He tried again to attract her attention, flapping
self-consciously like a big, goofy bird, but she continued to stare blankly ahead.
Finally, he reached out and touched her shoulder. There was no response. He tried to shake
her, but she was immovable. Baffled, he just stood there, as did she. While he looked at
her intently, searching for some sign of intelligence or awareness, she just stared on
unblinkingly. He tried to decide whether he should be disappointed or panic.
Well, he thought,
something out loud seemed to do the trick the last time.
Maybe she was programmed to
respond to a verbal cue. So what do you say to an alien lifeform for the very first
This could be the most historic moment in the history of
mankind — or not, of course. Where was Neil Armstrong when you really needed him?
"That's one small
syllable for [a] man, one giant bleep for mankind."
So he just said, "Hello."
The effect was startling, her eyes
suddenly snapping to the sound of his voice. A powerful sense of her focusing some vast
array of attention on him ripped through him like a physical wave. There was a flash of
unbelievable intensity in her eyes that weakened his knees. He had never been
exposed to such an intense examination. He wanted to run out of the room, but felt pinned by her
blue gaze. All he could do was endure until she was finished.
The pressure gradually diminished and
finally stopped as she turned her attention to herself, obviously struggling to frame a
response. Her mouth opened and closed several times, and it looked like she was trying to
figure out what to do with the air in her lungs. She pursed her lips and
stuck out her tongue, which she tried to look at, crossing her eyes. Then she gulped,
sighed and made a sound like a very bad parrot imitation that resembled,
Her delight was tremendous. A huge smile
lit up her face. Triumphantly, she declared again, "Hel…lo!" This time it
sounded closer to human speech.
What a trick! She did it again,
And once more, with feeling,
She was improving noticeably with each repetition.
"Hello, hell-o, heh-lo, he-llo, h-e-l-l-o, he-el-lo." Then, "HELLO!"
"Ouch," he winced, "That
hurt." Good lungs, he conceded.
Hellohellohellohellohellohello. Hel-LOW. HEL-lo. Hello!"
It took several minutes for her to run
through the full repertoire of variations on her rather limited theme. He could do nothing
but watch until she eventually ran down and noticed him again. "Hello," she said
"Are you alright?" he
She carefully pondered the question as if
performing a thorough internal diagnostic routine and finally pronounced gravely,
He waited to see how she would handle this
new phrase, but there was no repeat of the previous performance. She had found her voice
and was ready to go on.
He asked, "Can I get you
She looked puzzled, "Anything?"
"Would you like a glass of
water?" he offered.
She considered the offer carefully.
"Glass," she said doubtfully, "Of water?" She seemed to struggle over
He went to the kitchen while she was
trying to figure it out and returned with a big tea glass filled with refrigerator water.
He reached out to hand it to her, but she just looked at it. Obviously, she didn't
know what to do. Neither did he.
"Uh, here," he stammered
unsurely, "Do you want it?"
She looked up at him and back at the
glass, then declared, "Want it."
He reached out and took her right hand to
guide it to the glass, faintly surprised that he could move it. It seemed like a normal
It was new to her, though. She looked at her hand with amazement, then suddenly
flexed her fingers.
Oh, boy, he thought, here we go
sure enough, her discovery of her hand was an occasion of much joy and excitement, with
every imaginable flexure getting a thorough workout. Then she discovered her left hand and
was off to the races again.
This could take all day, he thought resignedly.
When it looked like she was ready, he
again offered the glass. She looked at it uncertainly, as if she had forgotten all about
He repeated, "Your glass of water."
With utmost dignity and appreciation, she
accepted it, grasping the glass with elaborate care. Bringing it close to her face, she
pronounced, "Glass. Of Water."
"Glass of water," he
She promptly turned it upside down and watched the water splash all over the
carpet with great interest. Then her face lit up again with the joy of discovery.
"Glass!" she looked at the glass, "Of water!" She looked down. She
seemed to be disappointed that the water had vanished.
He looked at the mess and sighed. "I
thought that after what must be such a long and arduous journey you might like a
She seemed to feel more confident now.
"Drink," she said positively.
He came back from the kitchen with a
refill. She took the glass graciously and didn't dump it. In fact, she just held it,
as if possession was sufficient. She seemed to be very proud of her glass. Of water.
"Drink," he pantomimed, putting
an imaginary glass to his lips. "You know, drink."
He could almost see the light bulb go on
over her head.
"Drink," she agreed.
She promptly raised the glass to her mouth
and took a bite. The glass fell apart like a fresh taco and rained water all over the poor
carpet again, though she managed to hold on to the biggest fragment, apparently with no
particular regard for the sharp edges. She happily chewed up the mouthful of glass with
great relish and swallowed it.
He tried not to appear stunned. He finally
decided it could be that her species was silicon-based and glass was snack material. That
might explain some of the other things he'd observed.
He looked down at the fragments of glass
glinting from a now thoroughly soaked patch of carpet and groaned. "I don't
think we're making a lot of progress."
"A lot of progress," she
He looked at her suspiciously. "Are
you actually getting any of this, or just repeating my last words?"
"Last words," she agreed, and
took another bite from the remains of the glass in her hand.
He opened his mouth as if to speak and
then closed it. If he had had any expectations about this first encounter, they certainly
wouldn't have been anything like this. As far as he could tell, she was either a
complete idiot, or suffering from some sort of weird amnesia. He wasn't sure she
understood what he was saying. It was as if she were seeing everything for the first time.
Maybe she was. He tried to be sympathetic.
"I guess you're,
uh, kind of new at this, aren't you," he offered.
She looked around her, nodded her head and
then grinned slyly, "Aren't you?"
She had him there. Wait a
"Look," he said impatiently, "We're not going to get anywhere if you
just say what I say."
He paused, then said, in very distinct syllables, as if talking
to a slightly deaf foreigner, "Do. You. Speak. English?"
Her eyes rolled up in her head in the
age-old manner of the young when confronting a stupid adult.
"Eng. Lish," she
mocked, as if to say, 'duh'.
"Well then say something original,
OK?" he said in exasperation.
"OK," she agreed.
He stared at her for a moment, then just
had to laugh out loud. She looked at him like she was considering whether or not he'd
lost his mind, then seemed to suddenly appreciate the comedy of the moment and laughed
along with him. Which, of course, made him laugh even more. Which, of course, proved to be
infectious. This went on for some time, but finally ran its course.
He had to start over somehow. Collecting
his dignity, he gravely pronounced, "On behalf of all mankind, welcome to our planet,
which we call Terra. My name is Alexander B. Luther." He held out his hand.
She looked suspiciously at his
outstretched hand, then followed suit. There they stood for an awkward moment, hands held
out in front of each other until he cautiously took her hand in his and they quite
"Luther," she repeated.
"You can call me Alex," he
prodded, hoping for an appropriate response.
"Lex," she said.
"No! Alex," he protested,
stressing the 'A'. He'd always hated the 'L' name. Once, when
he'd received some low-level recognition from his junior high science teacher for a
minor academic achievement, the teacher read aloud, "Mr. Alexander B. Luther."
Some obnoxious classmate had sarcastically inquired, "What's the
stand for — Brainiac?"
Howls of nasty laughter had ensued and the nickname
stuck. Since it was in its own way a kind of perverse recognition, he'd never minded
it. At least, not nearly as much as Lex. He didn't think he should volunteer
that information, though.
He pressed on, "And how shall I
address you?" he asked.
She looked like she was searching her memory.
He tried again. "Do you
have a name?"
She looked down at the floor, then shook her head, looking embarrassed.
Well, she'd just completed what was
probably an enormously difficult journey from God-knows-where, and undergone an
unimaginable metamorphosis. Maybe it would take a while before she recovered completely.
He should cut her some slack.
"Look, I'm sorry. You must be
worn out. I certainly am, and I haven't gone nearly as far you must have. Why
don't you sit down and relax", he said, gesturing to the overstuffed sofa chair
he reserved for company.
She eyed it dubiously, as if the journey
there were more difficult than the one she'd recently completed. Clearly, she
understood what he wanted her to do but wasn't sure about how to go about it. He
didn't know if he should try to help her or not, and didn't know how he could,
Slowly and deliberately, she lifted one
foot and turned it toward the chair. It was as if she had to read an instruction manual
translated from Chinese.
Please to the picking up first of foots having nearest the
distance at which are being object of destination in a direction. Observe balancing, do
opposing in a sequences. When completed desired rotation. Proceed with alacrity to the
stop. There will rotate until aligned for a sitting down.
At first teetering like a newbie skater,
she managed the feat without disaster and sank gingerly into the chair, unsure of what to
do with her cape. Assuming one teenage posture after another, she experimented until
finally settling into a leg-tucked position that she decided was comfortable.
Alex settled back on the couch. He
wondered where he should start. He decided to forget the
'You Tarzan, me Jane'
shtick for now.
"Can we talk?" he asked.
"Talk," she said.
In the manner of a knocked-out
boxer's manager, he asked, "Do you know where you are?"
She surveyed his tiny living room for a
moment, then said, "Here."
He felt relieved to break the pattern at
last. Now he was getting somewhere. Well, sort of. It could be her name for our planet was
different and maybe unpronounceable.
"Can you tell me where you came
from?" he went on, not really expecting an answer he could understand.
She looked at the wreck on the carpet
where she had been standing. "There."
Literally correct, of course. She
definitely had Vulcan blood. "No, I mean where do you come from?"
She looked baffled.
He tried again,
"Before," he emphasized, "you came here, where were you?"
"I am here", she said, "I
was there," she gestured at the wet spot.
See Spot run, he thought.
Definitely some kind of amnesia, hopefully temporary.
"Do you know why you are
here?" he went on.
"Why is why?" she
Well, there's a Zen answer. From the
mouths of babes comes wisdom…
"Can you tell me
yourself?" he tried.
"I was there,"
she said, "And
now I am here."
"You don't remember anything
"There is no anything else," she
said with certainty.
© Patrick Hill, 2000