I was exiting the carpark of the Panino Sistino restaurant when I first heard the voice. I’d been eating alone as usual. It was rare that anyone paid any attention to me – not when they weren’t slurring me with insults back in the U.K, anyway. The voice said, “Hey, you, halt.” It stopped me in my tracks. I spun around. There was no one close to me. It was a disembodied voice. “Over here,” I heard. It seemed to be coming from the lamppost. I edged closer, baffled and curious. “Hello?” I queried. “Hello!” the lamppost replied. I spun around again, this time looking for assistance, but I was on my own. So, a talking lamppost. How did one approach this situation? It didn’t cross my mind to ignore it, and carry on my way. The voice was soft and gentle, almost a plea. It wasn’t threatening at all. I felt inclined to attend to it. “Who’s there?” I asked, and the outline of a form appeared, flickering into focus like a mirage, inking itself into the shape of an alien woman, a holographic drawing developing before my very eyes. In a matter of seconds, a real and concrete figure had established itself out of nothingness into the sultry autumn air; tall, lean, blue, crouched – like something from that Avatar movie.
“My name is Tearlag,” the alien woman said, “don’t be afraid.” She motioned for me to inch closer. “I need your help.” I was shocked and fascinated, but not fearful. I had a long but hurried conversation with this entity named Tearlag. She said that she was from the planet Kronos, which our race knew as Kepler-186f. She said that her kind had interacted with our older civilisations throughout the ages: the Incas, the Mayans, the Persians, and the Aztecs. Apparently, for reasons she didn’t go into, she had become stranded between worlds, getting herself lost at interstellar roundabouts, all at sea in a quantum foam, and she now relied on me to get back home. I swore that I’d do everything in my power. There was a godly honesty about her that was angelic. My life, suddenly, had a second purpose.
Tearlag was very interested in my experience on Earth. I introduced myself as Raffy and spilled my soul out to her. She understood the depths of my pain as if she had already studied some prepared notes beforehand. As a man in his thirties, my whole existence had hinged on an eight-year-old girl called Chloe. I’d rescued her from abuse at the hands of Jimmy Saville at an institution for seriously-ill children, entitled Stoke Mandeville, in England. I’d confronted Saville personally, hired lawyers, gone through the stringent processes of adoption, and won her away from the hands of monsters. I’d clothed and fed her. I’d bought her a microscope, a dictionary, and a keyboard. These simple three objects gave us both much pleasure and many happy memories. I took to her as my own. She was a child of light. She was my first purpose.Then The Vatican had stepped in. They acquitted Saville and framed me, stealing my child back into the hands of even bigger monsters overseas and driving me out of my own country. I moved to Italy for two reasons: to follow Chloe and to flee the vigilante persecution brought about by the British press. When you get slandered and isolated as a molester, your life becomes unliveable. More importantly, I often have awful nightmares of Chloe in grave danger, and had become half-convinced that I would never see her little sweet soul ever again. I’ve recced The Vatican frequently since my arrival, and had grown to know its sole weakness regarding security – its keeper of keys. Gaining entry was not a problem, the issue was what to do once I was inside. No weapon would suffice against such stalwart corruption.
“I will help you, then you can help me,” Tearlag said. “A deal.” She formulated a plan, and listed her demands should I be successful. “In my lands, we have never tolerated evil. Whenever you come across it, bellow my name thrice to them, and they shall all be dropped by the music of Kronos.” “You will still be here?” I asked. “Take back what is rightfully yours,” she replied, “and then return here with the items I have requested.”I illegally infiltrated the great Vatican until I was confronted by a close-knit circle of black-robed priests in its very secretive heart. They were uttering a mantra by candlelight. Through a gap, I saw my Chloe lying unclad on a red satin-draped altar in the centre of a pentagram. She looked drugged. I barged my way through the huddle of priests and swept her up in my arms. The circle tightened around us both. No more gaps. No escape. All the priests reached into their pockets at the same time, each extracting something tiny which glinted silver in the orange luminosity. Razor blades. The circle tightened some more, a black wall, a net, around us.
I held Chloe like a broken doll, concealing her nakedness from them. She appeared to be waking up from her slumber, a hint of recognition in her sleepy eyes. “Raffy?” she asked, confused. “Yeah, it’s Raffy,” I said. “It’s Raffy. Raffy’s taking you home. I got you back, sweetheart. I told you I’d get you back.” Quickly, I dropped her to the floor and removed my jacket. This I draped over her and told her to fasten up. Then I clenched my fists and run at the bastards, shouting: “Tearlag! TEARLAG! TEARLAG!” All we heard was heavenly music, although heavenly is not strong enough a word. It was simply beautiful. Otherworldly.The priests didn’t engage with me, instead falling to the ground and clenching their temples. All their razors tinkled on marble. Chloe rushed up to me and held my hand. We walked out of there. I acquired the items Tearlag had requested: A mobile phone, a mirror, and a bowl of water. She materialised out of thin air as we approached the lamppost. “You must be Chloe.” She bowed at my child. Chloe bowed back. Then Tearlag got to work on her ‘generator’, putting the mirror into the water and tapping hundreds of digits superfast into the phone. It started ringing in dozens of different dial-tones at once. She spun her finger in the water, creating a vortex swirl. Chloe asked me what she was doing. “I’m creating a technological doorway,” Tearlag told her softly. “A magical gateway. A cosmic highway.”
A futuristic bobsleigh appeared above the water. “Thank you,” Tearlag said. “Can we come with you?” Chloe asked, eyes sparkling. I laughed incredulously, but then the idea took root in my mind. I still vividly recalled the music of Kronos and it spoke of societies with no suffering. There was nothing left for either of us here in the rotten house of ill-repute that Earth had evolved into. “Yes!” I agreed. “Can we?” We both stared expectantly at Tearlag the alien woman. Tearlag’s expressions were very human-like; she seemed humbled at our response, but sad as well. She indicated her tiny vessel. “I only have two seats,” she answered finally. “Can you come back for us?” Chloe asked, hardly able to hide her disappointment, but excited and hopeful at the same time. Tearlag thought about it, then nodded. “Three years,” she said. “I’ll come back for you in three years. I promise.” She got into her bobsleigh, her vessel. It took off into the sky. She waved at us from it as it got higher and higher. Then it accelerated out of the atmosphere, leaving a glowing whoosh in its trail.
Chloe held onto my arm, watching the trail slowly disappear. When it had evaporated, we skipped home together. I was sure the time would…well…fly.
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