Can I Be Him Again?
I keep telling myself there has to be some kind of rational explanation. I can no longer say that I must be dreaming these things. That worked for a while but not after the events of this week. So, I'm hoping that someone who reads this can help me out and suggest to me another sane way to characterize it that will put my mind at ease although I'm not entirely sure I want to be dissuaded. I have my natural curiosity to blame for that. I will describe events as best I can from what I observed.
He, John Ackerman, was a post-grad student starting work toward his PhD in environmental sciences. Until I have "better" answers pronouns are the best way I can think of to refer to him. "John" may not be who he is. This was the last stint of his field work, which required three undergrad lab assistants who received course credit during the Summer months. The field work would last three Summers to catalog changes in plant growth and distribution due to climate change in Oregon's last remaining area of open prairieland in the Willamette Valley. He and his assistants would camp there all summer taking samples and measurements and monitoring air quality and climate variability across dozens of parameters.
At night we mostly slept in the open but everyone had their own tent for rainy nights. There was also a large main tent in which all our equipment was housed and where we met at the end of each day to record data. It was sun-up to sun-down out under the sun on the prairie then to the big tent for dinner and data entry. By early evening, quite exhausted, everyone was bedded down for the night. I won't go into all the work done during the day except to say that it wasn't the kind of summer-camping-trip-for-credit expected by each year's crew of assistants. As for him, having always been of somewhat poor constitution, the daily drain always brought him first to bed. He had thought that being out in the open, on the prairie, would be a boost for his overall health but, if he had to be honest, it was having a slightly opposite effect. He would tire more easily and have a harder time waking up each day. The days were nice and summery and filled with routine but it's what began happening at night that has me in an utterly confused state of shock.
With three weeks left of summer, rain became more frequent. Since it had clouded up late on this Monday he was sleeping in his tent when, in a half sleepy state, he dimly became aware of a hushed voice seemingly nearby that just said, "Data retrieval 11a commenced. You will be well soon." This didn't fully register at the time but when he woke in the predawn he remembered it. It felt like it had been part of a dream and had no meaning in context with him being on his back, alone, asleep in a tent so, logically of course, it had to have been a dream just doing what dreams do...referencing daytime activity and exhibiting it just above the subconscious level in a semi-random way with varying degrees of surrealism depending on where in the brain that activity had been filed and cross-referencing whatever other memories it happened to be near. But still, the perception that the voice left seemed more solid than the usual dream. he also wondered if maybe he had overheard one of the other three speaking and hadn't quite woken up when he did and misheard part or all of what was said. He knew it had to be one or the other and either way, it wasn't that important and he soon forgot about it as that week passed.
The following Monday night it was raining. Again, in his tent, he awoke to a voice, "Data retrieval 11b complete. The data holds all promise. Metabolic markers of delphinium pavonaceum indicate final environmental suitability to be achieved within one revolution."
His state of wakefulness was not drowsed semi-consciousness like that first time but he couldn't say he was wide-eyed, mid-morning awake either. He was awake enough to speak. "Who's there?, he said quickly at a volume just above normal conversation level. he began to move toward the tent flap to peer out when the voice said, "Not yet", which was immediately followed by a very sharp CRACK sound like a whip being very crisply snapped. The next thing he knew he was waking up in the morning.
He immediately remembered the entire event when he opened his eyes and it's impossible to truly describe what came with that memory. As he sat up it rushed to his awareness that the words spoken outside his tent were more than just words. As he had "heard" each one spoken they carried such a fine granularity of concept that it wasn't language as he knew it. It was more like each word was a conveyence of pure, complete knowledge at the time he was hearing it. If human communication ever became anything near what this was like, it would be a huge understatement to say the world would be a different place. By the time he was fully awake, the entirity of that completeness had faded for nearly all that was said but the sense of it remained. Every word carried that completeness instantaneously although his mind can presently only process what was contained sequentially. There was however, deep in his brain, the remembrance of part of the range in that granularity that was carried by the words, "delphinium pavonaceum". When those words were spoken the plant for which they are a mere label in ordinary language was not being conveyed as just a plant. It was the life cycle of it, the history of it, the ecological niche it occupied accompanied by how it functioned within that niche and how that niche functioned in relation to other ecological niches. Its significance to every culture that came into contact with it was also embedded in the words. Indeed, its very place and meaning in time and space was spoken as those words had been spoken.
And within all this multi-layered, multi-dimensional, instantaneous conveyence was a complete parallel of its existence in a place other than on Earth. He was, and is still, completely boggled by the realization of what was entailed in that communication even though his brain had no way to record any details except that it had experienced this mode of knowledge transfer.
After a quick breakfast, during which he was understandably excitedy preoccupied, he pulled aside one of the assistants and told her what happened making sure to begin by saying, "I had the strangest dream last night." He was hoping she would tell him that she heard it too and that it wasn't a dream but she just told him that it certainly was a strange one. She talked about the limitations of language and how every culture had words that couldn't be directly translated into other languages. He vaguely listened as the whole crew went back out onto the prairie for another day's field work. He didn't want to appear crazy so he decided to not bring it up with anybody else. The rest of the Summer couldn't come soon enough for him.
After our daily ritual of dinner and data entry that evening he stayed behind in the big tent when everyone else had left for the sleeping area. It was a clear night and not too cool so they all looked forward to a sleep under the stars. But first he had to bring up the data they had collected and break out the reference materials they brought to find out more about delphinium pavonaceum.
It's a tall perennial buttercup commonly known as the peacock larkspur. Its flowers are white with centers of dark blue. He knew these from early summer but they had since stopped flowering for the year. There were quite detailed records on them for all three years of the study. It was listed as endangered in 2008 under the Oregon Endangered Species Act and is also listed as a "Federal Species of Concern". It occurs only in the Willamette Valley with an unknown lifespan. It is unusual in that it is recorded that its seeds only germinate during winter, individual plants do not necessarily flower every year and it may take up to five years for newly germinated plants to begin flowering. He thought to himself that this was a very strange cycle and an atypical plant. An interesting point he found in their data was that all delphinium pavonaceum they catalogued had flowered during year one, none flowered year two and all had flowered again this year. He did not know if this was unusual or not but it did appear that way upon reflection. After a couple hours searching for anything he could find on it he felt satisfied that he had made the effort but not satisfied that he had no answers to what may or not have been those two "dreams". The rest of the night he had an uneventful and very peaceful sleep under the wide expanse of stars. It was wonderful to get a rest from the swirling squall in his head after a long day of effort to not become overwhelmed by the jaw-dropping amazement he started the day with.
There was one week to go and he had calmed down quite a bit, thankful for the routine and knowing that each night came and went with no disturbance, bringing him closer to departure. In six more days we would pack everything up, scout the area to try and eliminate as much of our lengthy presence as was possible and have one week of real vacation before the Fall semester began. He now felt that if a recurrance of the previous events arose, he would be ready for it and be able to analyze what was going on with some objectivity. He was wrong. On a clear night during the remaining week everyone was sleeping in the open as usual. Long after all were asleep, it must have been around 3 AM, he rose from his bedroll retrieved his laptop from the big tent and walked out into the prairie. After about a quarter mile he stopped, sat and gazed upward. A pinpoint of white light began to descend from among the vast field of stars and grow larger by the second until it was about fifty feet directly above him that was ten feet in diameter. He knew he was wide awake and that he was in the presence of a UFO. His mind went blank. No objective analysis began in his mind. What was happening just...was.
He felt a presence beside him but before he could turn his head it began to speak. The first word was, "You..."
At that moment I was no longer John Ackerman for that was not what the word "You" conveyed as it was said. John Ackerman was the past from which I had operated up to this point. Whoever John Ackerman was, he was now "him"...some other guy. I, on the other hand am the being that had just been referred to by that presence as "You". And I am not from this planet as John Ackerman had believed during his time here. I feel no different physically but knowing otherwise makes all the difference for who I am. As I turned my head to see who was communicating with me I saw that it was a being much like myself. Apparently mid-twenties, clean shaven, sandy colored hair, nothing truly remarkable or particularly distinguishing. Nothing except for his communication...and the fact that he had apparently come from the white light of a disc overhead. He continued, "...will need this." He handed me what looked like a small USB flashdrive. When he said "will" the exact time I was going to "need" it was also contained in the meaning of the word as well as what the word "will" had ever possibly meant throughout time and across all civilizations. The word "need" came across the same way and when he said "this" the meaning was so exact that there was only one "this" in all the universe along with the exactitude of what "this" was. Then he said, "We will go home and we will return here." The first word, "We..." was himself and myself...not at all to be confused with whatever "we" he may have referenced. It wasn't him and whoever he may have accompanied in their craft...it was me and him. Again, "will" was an exact time. It included clocks and calendars as used on Earth as well as planetary and stellar positions throughout space. There is no mistaking when. I can't begin to describe "home" but it was certain that it was not Earth. By the depth and breadth of its granular meaning, it was my home and his home. When he said, "We will return here", this time the word "We" meant a multitude, the race of beings from "home". And again, "will" was an unmistakeable point in the movement of the cosmos along with the full meaning of what that movement represents along with the entire history of the peacock larkspur up to the present and nearly one year into the future. Then, without warning, the sound of a very sharply cracked whip permeated the air and I woke up back at camp.
I have to be certain that what happened was not a dream because I have this flash drive. When I plug it in it shows a countdown. Apparently I will be leaving in 3 weeks so, unless I can come across an explanation that makes some very good sense to me, I'll be using that time to wrap up personal matters and trying to think of what I may want to bring with me.
As I said in the beginning, anyone who thinks they can convince me that something else is going on, please leave me a reply.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Doug Rummel.
Published on e-Stories.org on 03/15/2012.