The Book Mark
My ex-wife’s father had once had a printing business which she had kept bits and pieces of, through the years, as remembrances. After our parting, in 1946, she left small remnants of his stuff behind and one item was a small box of unprinted business cards.
There was nothing fancy about them. The cards surface felt rough to the touch and seemed somewhat faded from a pure white. They were now creamy in color and probably fifty or so years old.
Needing a book marker, one night, as I’m an avid reader, having been on disability for twenty years since a semi rig hit my pickup truck, broadside, one day; I took a card from the box of five-hundred, rather than tearing the corner off of a newspaper page, as was usual for me. It was made of moderately thick card stock which would help me find my place quickly, in the book, but thin enough to slip tightly in between pages and not fall out.
I learned something after that fateful evening. Everything I’d ever wanted, anything I actually needed, or desired to know, or attain, whatever it was I wished to have in my wildest dreams, was in that one thing; My very special book mark.
I discovered this only after reading a few books, though, for it seemed to absorbed whatever was useful in my detective and science-fiction novels that I consumed at a daily rate of two or three. Sometimes four. The only difference I seemed to notice, at first, was the card became less and less aged, the more I used it. It bent like any business card did, but it appeared to get more and more indestructible and lighter in color.
I was fifty-one years old, at the time, overweight, sedentary, bald, and an unrecognizable image of the handsome guy I used to be as a young twenty year old man. But after touching the book marker, one night, the idea of a machine, combined with some concoction of a drink I could mix together -- I somehow knew I could regain my youth, again, and possibly, dare I say it, live forever.
I went to stores. Lots of them. Drug stores, antique stores, junk yards, electrical stores, chemical stores, medical and other places for things I would need. Within a month, I had built my machine and concocted the liquid. The first measured amount of the formula was horrible to the taste and I hoped I hadn’t just poisoned myself. But I took two measured amounts of it each day, forcing it down for six weeks straight.
After six weeks, somehow knowing that was the time period and moment I was suppose to complete the task, from touching the card, I stripped every piece of leather and cloth off of my fat body and stood naked, in front of the machine I’d built. It would activate the serum that had permeated every cell in my body, by then, and it would start the reversal of aging in an amazingly short period of time, ideas, no doubt gained from all those wild and fantastic stories I’d read.
The machine wasn’t that big. Just a stubby little oval item about the size of a small table top fan, with a nozzle on one end that looked like a Buck Rogers ray gun. It spewed forth a particular kind of unnatural ray of carbonaceous light, I’d read about in a science fiction novel. The magic of the card, apparently, was it could take whatever was in the books, I read, and create them, with my help, into a genuine reality.
I don’t know where the technical prowess and know-how to make the machine, or concoct the formula for the serum came from, other than the mad geniuses I read about in all those crazy books of fiction. So I can only guess it flowed from the card, gathering the ideas and presenting them to me, and somehow embedding that knowledge and know-how into my mind and body. It must be some kind of super computer, I think I had read about in Popular Mechanics, but where and by whom it came to be in that little business card, was an enormous mystery. Perhaps it had magical properties about it, instead of science, or some alien kind of actual intelligence to it, I just seemed to know what to do, if and when I had a need, after touching it. It was a symbiotic relationship, I think, for it seemed to have the science or magic to pass on to me, but not the ideas. But that’s only a guess.
So I set the little delay, on the machine, and walked over in front of it, completely naked, and heard a click, and then a short buzz. That was it. Big deal, huh? But it was all that was needed. I didn’t feel a thing and almost questioned if the machine had worked. But something inside me said it had.
Within days my gray hair around my ears was gone and the top of my head had new-hair growth. It was coming in black. My skin felt tighter while wrinkles began to disappear around my eyes and mouth. I was loosing weight and gaining muscle, too, and -- I stunk. I had to bathe four times a day, my metabolism was changing so quickly. My clothes were all loose on me. I needed to buy new ones and didn’t have the money on my disability pension.
Sitting reading, fingering the card, one day, the thought occurred to me and I devised a plan on how to make some money. I put the book, with the book marker in it, inside my outside coat pocket and went downtown to a large bank. I stood in line, waiting for a teller and when it was my turn, I walked up to the portal and pointed my index finger at a small cardboard box on her counter top, just as I had read about in a sci-fi book. And it worked.
“Yes sir, right away,” the female teller said, and went to the vault. I didn’t say a word. She came back a few moments later with four wrapped piles of 100 dollar bills, all neatly placed in the cardboard box.
“Will there be anything else, sir?” she asked, with a pleasant smile. I shook my head, dropping my eyes, and took the envelope from her. “Thank you for coming,” she said.
I couldn’t believe it and heard her say, “Next!” as I left.
Each stack, was five thousand dollars, I discovered back home. That was 20,000 bucks for just pointing my finger at the teller’s empty box. Sheeze!
Within the space of two months, I was a new man. I looked like I did when I was twenty and in college. Muscular, a girl magnet, tall and energetic, even though I had no inclinations towards women, anymore. My ex-wife had taken all of that out of me and even though I was bitter, I was more disillusioned than anything else.
I moved out of that rats nest of my apartment and left the sewer of the big city, moving up to Vermont. I stayed in a rented home, up there, in an old farm house that was still in great shape, near to a small town, but a town that had everything a person could want. For the time being, it would suffice, I having amassed a small fortune of two million dollars and change, from numerous banks. I wanted and needed a bigger place, though, a place I could call my own.
After having finished a book, I was holding the book marker looking for my next piece of sci-fi fiction, from the stacks that were always laying around, and the idea popped into my head; Go to the newspaper, the thought from the card suggested. I was beginning to know when it suggested something or if it were my own thoughts.
I did as it told me to do and checked out some stocks, in the business listings. One in particular stood out and I took seven-hundred and fifty thousand with me to a small brokerage firm in Montpelier, down the road. I threw it all on the table of the old guy behind the desk and told him to buy all of that particular stock the money would buy.
To make a boring stock market speculation into story short, I became wealthier than I’d ever thought possible. And after it, I quietly reinvested and made even more money. It was obscene how much I was suddenly worth.
I looked at properties all over and finally found one the book mark and I agreed on.
‘Amara, of the Light Country, was having one of her dreams and strangely, it was not about the ship. She was a Wedge, from the planet Folmara, forced into service of her current masters under threat of her families death, as well as her own. She could foresee the future and these Telarian bullies had forced so many of her people under duress into service against their will, as she had been, and Amara foresaw their complete domination over her people. It would last indefinitely, the vision revealed.’
Those were the words I had written down in my study. I had no idea what they meant, I just sat down and began to write them one morning after breakfast with a big cup of strong coffee. I wrote some more, enjoying the bit of imaginative writing I was doing, sitting there with the card on the keyboard of my old Presario computer. I had progressed the story to a point of adventure and the heroin was determined.
‘It wasn’t until her fourth season of servitude that she finally got up the courage to flee from her masters. Her family was now hidden on a far distant world and Amara was hoping to join them soon enough. If her plan worked tonight, she would be with them in twenty days.
‘The hour had arrived and she fled only to be discovered by the Telarian patrols. She didn’t have the proper clearance codes and they tried stopping her, but Amara was far and away much faster in her interceptor than their small patrol ships. She was a pilot and skilled in evasion and counter measures of stealth.
‘Leaving that particular solar system and the Telarian conquered worlds, she was away and free. Nothing could prevent her from joining her family now, she thought. And afterwards, destroying the ship and disappearing into obscurity of this large population on this distant world would be easy, but it wasn’t to be.
‘Amara was struck by a meteor half way through her voyage to her family. It was a small bit of space debris but at the speed it was traveling, it locked her into maximum velocity and threw her off course into deep space.
‘After several days of trying, Amara realized she would not be able to rescue herself and resigned herself to the deep stasis program. It would be fifty years before she reached another system, by her calculations, and realized she would never see her family again, nor remember them. That long a stasis brought on a kind of amnesia that one never recovered from, if, she was able to survive the stasis at all, ‘ I wrote, somewhat reluctantly. ‘That long a hibernation is always dangerous.’
I don’t know where the ideas came from but they simply seemed to come as easily as anything I did. It was like deciding what I wanted for breakfast that morning and then, made it happen. And so was this story unfolding before me. Simple little ideas that began to flow out of me and flutter down on to the computer screen as easily as turning on the stove and frying some eggs.
By this time, I was quite sure the book mark was trying to make a writer out of me, even with this first feeble attempt, for whatever reason, but I quickly discovered that wasn’t the case at all. Next came the description of Amara herself and I let myself go with her embellishments.
‘She was beautiful beyond description. Long flowing bronze hair that reached to her waist, which part of was tied in a bun behind her head. As she undressed before the mirror-like reflection off the polished metal of one of her craft’s inner bulkheads, she glance at and then studied, one last time, her body. It had been perfected in cellular form when its genetics were chosen and idealized shortly after the egg had been introduced to the fertilization process. The Folmara had developed this process long ago and with her Wedge heritage, she had been privileged enough in a wealth of benefits from her families investments in their reputation for the pursuit of perfection. She was the envy of women, on her world, and other worlds of the old empire, and would be to the world she was headed for as she would be to the man she would someday meet, though even he did not realize or dream of the beauty that was headed towards him.’
That made me wonder. Was that me? I got the distinct impression, it was, and continued writing. I didn’t know what the book mark had in mind, if it indeed was behind all this but I was curious to find out.
‘The ship came into the inner solar system hot, looking for a suitable world on which to auto-land. The craft had been drifting at velocity for long years, and in that time repairing itself, and finally had entered an area of space where solar systems abounded, being only a few light years apart. The blue water world would do nicely, its ships programs decided for her, and began the landing sequence, even though it had been damaged, once, it was sufficiently healed and the craft had worked out a scenario that would assure the survivability of its carbon life form, still in stasis.
‘It was a small concussion, a distant sounding ‘whoomph’ of a noise out back of the huge barn, along with some crackling of small trees beneath the surface of the bottom of her ships craft that aroused the man from his writing. And with that, went out to find out what it was, and find her inside.’
I had written that last bit in kind of a fog. Alright! I figured. This wasn’t me. There was no crash out behind my huge barn, in back of the house. It was just a fun story I’d been writing, that was all. And then...
“Whoomph!” Something had hit the ground, or at least settled, and the whole house shook. The cracking of wood could be heard, too, as something very big and very heavy had moved near the house -- or, landed.
I stared at the card. What was it doing? And put the card in my shirt pocket.
I ran outside, out back of the barn, but saw it immediately upon leaving the house. The craft was enormous. Easily twice as large as my barn if not three times as large, and as I stood beside it, like an ant, it’s Zeppelin size was beyond imagining and dwarfed the house and out buildings, all of them combined. One person controlled this ship? I couldn’t believe that was the case and yet, I knew it was true. Nor could I fully comprehend that it was there, in my back yard, much less the volume of it.
I approached a bit closer and a ramp lowered out of the black hull. I waited but no one descended the flat colored ship. So I went up the ramp and began exploring.
The craft was amazing. The technology was mysterious but even though most of it was unknown to me, I thought I knew what some of the things I gazed upon were used for and their function, to a point. It was guess work but I thought it all so unbelievably advanced for my little twenty-first century world. I don’t know if the card created the craft or whether it had made it happen. I even doubted if I was there, for a while. Had I had an embolism some time ago, or something, and this was all a dream? All I knew was everything I touched seemed as real and hard as anything I had ever known. It had to be a reality. It had to be.
After maybe an hour of looking through the various decks and compartments, I found her. She was in a glass tube, laying their in a diaper, of sorts, and besides that, completely naked. The glass of the tube was frosted along the bottom and she must have been frozen to some degree. Things were happening, automatic things that the ship was obviously controlling and I thought only that it was bringing her out of her long sleep. Her stasis she had endured for those long lonely years traveling to my world hadn’t hurt her appearance from my initial imaginings about this creature, when I’d written about her looks. She indeed looked angelic, a goddess.
She was had ascended above any beauty ever conceived, as I’ve mentioned, something that is so beyond the comprehension of a mere mortal like myself to describe that I almost couldn’t believe she was actually there, and real, when I saw her. But the glass was real, and the cold feel of it was real. She had to be, too.
I couldn’t believe all of this was happening, to some extent, but I had accepted it as much as I had accepted my youthful turn around, my own kind of perfection I had achieved through that inspirational book mark, of all things. But I had quit racking my brains about what it was? How did it work? Was it of alien origin? Or was it some kind of real magic? I had no idea and there was no way for me to find out, that I knew of, so I had merely agreed to believe in it. Everything that had happened to me, concerning the book mark was a positive, and looking at the woman in the glass tube, I felt this too would be to my benefit and make me happier, some how. I hoped it would. And that was that.
I waited impatiently, for several hours, pacing back and forth, doing minnie explorations but always coming back to watch over her, and various thing that had happened. The ice on the inside of the tube, for instance, began to disappear and her color improved. Her breathing increased in frequency and depth and I almost felt embarrassed at watching her, seeing that magnificent chest rise and fall, feeling a bit voyeur-ish in the face of it. She was beyond any beauty I can convey in these words and it bothered me a great deal. I wanted to open the case and embrace, kiss her mouth, and or awaken the sleeping beauty that she was, but didn’t dare. I had no idea how to bring her out of her state of preservation and rest, and felt it would be dangerous to attempt to try anything. No. I had to be patient and let the ship do its thing.
But with things moving so slowly, I was getting hungry, after seven long hours, and went back to the house to make something to eat. Something fast and threw together a sandwich and washed it down with some milk, grabbing some cookies on the way out the door to return to the alien ship.
The tube was open when I returned and Amara was standing up and dressed now, in a long robe-like gown of purest white. The ship must have cleaned her up when I was gone and dressed her. She looked pure, and uniquely untouched, with a life-like glow about her I almost thought I was imagining, but when she looked up and noticed me, I could tell she wasn’t one hundred percent, still groggy from her fifty plus years, or so, of stasis hibernation.
Her eyes were the deepest, most beautiful blue I’d ever seen. The recognition of myself in her eyes, seemed to cause no alarm in her, but she took a seat on the edge of the now separated stasis chamber that formed kind of a bench for her.
I felt stupid, standing there holding my chocolate chip cookies and finally offered her one. She took it but seemed not to know what it was. I demonstrated and took a bite of another one. She followed my example and began chewing. They were home made and a great recipe. She smiled at the taste and I kept feeding her hand one after the other until they were all gone from my fist. She liked them and that was good, I figured.
I finally got up the courage to say something.
“Hello Amara,” I managed. When she looked at me, her eyes seemed heavy lidded but she seemed to recognize her name, or did she. Was I merely imagining it? What she was thinking, I couldn’t say but when I smiled, she tried to return it and her fatigue showed. She tried standing and I gave her my hand, putting my other arm around her. She certainly was unsteady and her whole frame trembled.
I walked her out of the ship and in to my house. I put her in the guest room, downstairs and sat her on the edge of the bed. I figured she needed to rest but I thought she might want something to eat, too, as demonstrated by her willingness to eat those cookies. I said I would be right back and went and threw together a variety of things from the refrigerator and brought the plateful back to her room, along with some milk. I didn’t worry about germs. I figured she was a more perfect genetic example of life and could easily handle any earth born minor bacteria’s that came her way. Planet hopping had to have an advanced form of genetically and anti bacterial, anti viral protection with it, and even as long ago as she had gone into stasis, she still had to be well protected.
And then Amara slept. She slept for many hours at a time but slowly she came out of her doldrums and was bright eyed and curious. We explored my world and hers, taking walks, buying her clothes, and I began to learn her language and she mine.
It’s probably worth saying now that this simple earth creature fell in love, almost immediately, with this advanced being from so many other worlds. How could I not be impressed with her? She was an ideal in every aspect of life and love. I did not show my affection or attentions, of course, I certainly wasn’t worthy of her, but my feelings were still there and simmering on the back burner, if I can use such a crude metaphor. Still, my emotions were very deep.
At first, things were strained, but she came to understand my world and our limited development. She also learned who she had been and who and where her family were, but not their direction.
“I am from a very distinguished line, it seems, Paul. Almost royalty, but not from the King’s line. We’re relatives though, look,” she said, showing me her family and genealogy. “I only wish I could remember them or those worlds I used to know. Its such a frustration, not knowing. I can still see some things in my mind, but most of it is gone.”
I listened to intense exclamations like this from time to time, but mostly, we learned from each other, I about her ship and the far away worlds recorded in her memory bank, of her tools that could be described as computers, but weren’t, exactly, and she about this very different earth of ours. All aspects of it, our simple sciences, our politics, the geography, and other things of almost every social and economic activity. I also taught her about the book mark, told her really. I didn’t know a great deal myself. She thought it a very curious thing, too, having never encountered something of its nature, either. Neither of us believed in magic, she less than I, but we both wondered and wondered who would have made such an item in the first place? It was a dilemma and both of us simply accepted it, to a point. We were still very curious, but could not crack the benevolence of its looking after us, in its way.
It seems writing was its medium of communication. With the book mark nearby us, we would write things down by hand or using the computer and it would guide us to places where we could do or learn from, things we should do. I didn’t know it, but one day Amara revealed something to me that shook me to the bones.
“We’re suppose to get married, Paul. According to it, anyway,” she said, pointing to my shirt pocket.
I explained my feelings towards her and hers to me. It seems she too had fallen in love long ago, herself. Not as quickly as I did, but there was that emotion between us and to make a long story short, we did get married. We were very happy for a number of years and our love only increased in depth as time passed. Life filled us with joys and happiness I had never suspected existed, but they flowered into us both with such depth, I was completely swept up in this new world, this new life with Amara, our love, the constant learning, the occasional travels we took, and the slow and final repair of her ship loomed on into our futures.
When this story gets more text, you will need to Log In to read it
Science Fiction /