“Aloha,” Balena Gardner murmurs as she looks at herself in the mirror. Her husband tells her every day that she looks beautiful.
Today is her last day on the job. She had worked overtime for months to get a beautiful Chevrolet Vega, and by now she has scraped up enough for the exclusive Yenko model. Fire engine red.
“Balena, Balena,” she remembers telling herself in the summer of 1972, as she sat in her driveway on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, “what are you going to do? Move back to the mainland? I hate California!”
She was a young telephone operator at the time, and spoke to herself as if she were two separate people—the one asking rhetorical questions and the one simply listening without responding.
Balena had a few jobs, but with this one she made friends, good friends, friends she could count on and trust. No gossiping was their rule. Ramona became both her colleague and her best friend, and they believed this job would last forever. They were always a little nervous whenever they heard diesel trucks idle near the building in which they worked, because they were well aware that new technology, perhaps being hauled by those trucks, would one day replace them. The building itself was fairly new; how long would it be before they wanted new people, as well? The soldering iron process helped replace many of those jobs. One consolation, however, was that Balena’s headphones became lighter with every passing year, which helped alleviate her neck pain in the evenings.
That day, as she drove downtown to work, an unusual feeling took hold in Balena’s mind and lingered there. Living most of her childhood near San Louis Obispo, she used to venture into the hills during the summer months, to see just a sliver of wildlife, to see the butterflies, to help her escape her daily routine. Now, each time she gazed at her employer’s building she understood why the Hawaiian natives never greeted telephone employees with the same welcoming “Mahalo” with which they greeted all others. The building’s very presence was in odds with nature. In no way did it reflect the beauty of the island. Even the brown and copper skin tones of the natives complemented the beauty of the island. But not the building in which Balena worked. Not in any way whatsoever.
She parked between a brick wall and a speed bump, hoping that would protect her Vega. She rolled down the window to get a better glance at the Pacific blue. How she longed to be able to sit there for a few peaceful hours.
“Balena! Hurry in.”
That was Ramona, calling out to her in a loud voice from across the parking lot.
“It’s my last day,” Balena called back. “What’s the hurry?”
“The switchboard is lighting up something awful!”
Balena exited her car and walked into the building with Ramona. They went to the elevator and Ramona pressed the button for the sixth floor.
“It’s lighting up this early?” Balena asked. “What’s going on?”
“We’re getting calls from London, India, Ohio…”
As she listened to the harrowing description of calls, Balena raced across the main room to her personal locker, only to be distracted in her pursuit by her boss’s call:
“Where’s Balena?” she yelled.
“I’m here, I’m here,” she announced before taking her regular seat.
Balena sat at her station while most of the other women continued to respond to problems being called into the switchboard at what seemed to be lightning speed. She took a deep breath, blocked out all the confusion, and zeroed in on the first blinking light on her console. Her hands were trained for combat, highly skilled, like a gymnast who lathered up with chalk before each set on the uneven bars. Her hands were just one asset; her soothing voice was another.
“Mrs. Lin, I have a call from Hyderabad,” she said to her supervisor. “How do I switch them when this equipment is incapable of relaying the request?”
“Where is Hyderabad?” retorted Mrs. Lin.
“It’s in India.”
“Do they speak English there?”
Balena was unable to answer, and with a worried look on her face she asked what she should do. The supervisor told her to take the call and started to provide some additional guidance, but before she was able to offer more advice, Balena began her end of the conversation.
“Hello,” she said, “I’m Balena Gardner, an operator on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. How may I help you?”
“Hello?” came the response from Hyderabad.
“What is your name, sir?” Balena persisted. Then she whispered to Mrs. Lin, “The connection is perfectly clear!”
“My name is Kevin Simha,” said the voice on the other end, as steady as a surgeon’s. “I think my father is having a heart attack.”
“How do you know that, sir?”
“I briefly majored in biology and his color does not look good.”
“Is your father responding to your voice?” asked Balena.
“Yes. I gave him an aspirin,” Mr. Simha responded
“Good, but I’m afraid I don’t have the emergency code for Hyderabad. Do you know CPR?”
“My father just can’t die now.”
“Stay with me, Mr. Simha. Your father is not going to die. Do you happen to have the emergency number for Hyderabad?”
Balena dialed 102, hoping that this bizarre long-distance call would be relayed to the proper regional office in India, and to someone who also spoke English.
Someone picked up. “Aapaka aapaatakaal kya hai!” they said, followed by, “What is your emergency?”
“I am speaking to a Mr. Kevin Simha in Hyderabad, and his father needs immediate medical attention for a heart condition.”
Balena listened in as the Indian operator spoke first with Kevin Simha and then with his father, and assured them both that help was on the way. When the call with the Simha men ended, the operator in India asked Balena where she was from.
“America,” she said. “Hawaii. I know it sounds ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous? Not really,” the Indian operator responded. “I’ll tell you what’s ridiculous. Today started with unusual amount of car accidents and strange illnesses, and by this afternoon, dozens of hospitals began reporting more than a normal amount of mortalities. Well, I have to go now. Thank you for your help.”
“What’s your name?” Balena asked.
Meanwhile, on this early morning of August 4th, 1972, naval ships were trolling from O’ahu and across the entire South Pacific Sea. Because of the dust and vibrations, every mortar shell that had shaken the countless small villages in Vietnam, beginning in 1955, inadvertently hid the existence of a great solar storm. While American citizens took to the streets to protest an unjust war, nature was warning of its unpredictable and unfathomable power. The random events of which Balena had been warned united people from around the world into a sort of humbling dance between the Earth and the sun. Simultaneously, American and Soviet satellites were being launched; the Soviet Union launched satellites Prognoz 1and Prognoz 2 with the sole purpose of studying the sun. At home, technology made the world somewhat more hostile; in the cosmos, a serene civilization loomed, and a nine-year-old Vietnam boy named Due dreamed of the peace it could bring to one and all. Every night Due looked to the stars for the tranquility he knew was up there somewhere, and which, he was certain, would never hurt him. Throughout his childhood, Due sat at the feet of many temples in Hai Phong, a city historically occupied by many kingdoms, and realized that temples and museums made for ideal shelters during times of artillery attacks.
Due knew the difference between landmines and sea mines. He knew the difference between friendly aircraft and enemy aircraft. He knew how to gather trash not for food, but to learn how to identify the labels. He was well aware that learning to read was a skill of the utmost importance.
But this morning, the sky felt different. Due knew it, and so did his friends.
As Due thought about all this, there was another Chevy Vega rolling out of an assembly line in Lordstown, Ohio. The automobile was made by men who put their sweat, blood and anger into every model. Vietnam vets knew that General Motors was on the fast track to use automation to replace them. For their very survival they knew there was an immediate need to compete with Japan’s auto market.
In the wake of this war, Balena Gardner, Kevin Simha, Due, and all the troubled auto workers pressed onward both with courage and fear. Almost all of them felt that the sea had placed some wisdom in their souls.
The nurturing behavior of the male seahorse inspired a marine biologist named Cecilia Pérez Martínez to claim this creature as her guardian. So attached to the seahorse was Cecilia that her husband agreed to paint one in their baby’s nursery back in their apartment. Cecilia clutched tightly to her seahorse bracelet when the pain was unbearable, while lying in the maternity ward at Bellevue Hospital, in New York City. She was exceedingly happy to welcome her firstborn, and was counting the minutes until the blessed event. During the first hours of Cecilia’s stay, a nurse brought in coloring books to help the mother-to-be relax, and she also rolled in an electrocardiogram machine—which Cecilia felt was a bit unusual. She looked at her husband, standing tall between the sunlight reflecting from the iconic Chrysler Building and the plate-glass windows of maternity room. The room was tucked away on the sixth floor of the hospital complex’s east wing, with a perfect northwest view of the city. A nurse checked in on her every hour, reading number displays and gauges on machines and then scribbling into medical charts.
“How are you feeling today, Mrs. Martinez?” a nurse asked.
“Just fine,” Cecelia murmured.
“Are you from out of state?”
“No, my husband and I are from Brooklyn.”
“The doctor will be here soon,” the nurse informed her. “I just need to warn you, dear, that Dr. Pyle does not want husbands in the operating room when your water brakes.”
This startled Balena, who turned to her husband and pleaded with him to find out what was going on. “Why isn’t Dr. Lawless Park here?” she asked desperately.
“I’ll try to find out,” her husband assured her.
As Cecilia’s baby tumbled in her belly, and as cars rolled off the assembly line in Lordstown, the sun altered the course of history, with a powerful solar flare—a virtual hurricane in the stars—with Earth as its meteorological target. On August 2, 1972, mechanical satellites fixed in orbit were moved by solar forces to create a clear path for the events to come two days later, on the fourth of August. Interplanetary disturbances were of no concern to Due. But those little creatures that hide in the mysterious jungles of the sea, like seahorses and the occasional sea turtle, always sense the geomagnetic storms that affect all hemispheres of the planet. On this particular day, there were no more rules about what can occur or who can feel what.
On Friday morning there was a frightful shout from the lead operator at the General Motors Ohio plant warning of high amperage that regulates a twenty-ton press. “Excessive overheating,” he yelled several times in succession.
He called up to the manager’s office as an alarm began to ring out, which distracted everyone on the assembly line. There were disgruntled moans from all the workers who were concerned that their six dollars an hour would now be in serious jeopardy. A man named Mr. Patterson, who claimed to have been a great great-grandson of one of the founders of the automobile industry, pulled the handle that instantly shut down operations throughout the facility. There was a scuffle. Men pushed into one another, uncertain why two of the plant’s generators were suddenly speeding up. Nor were they certain if the heavy-duty copper cables would be able to cope with the backup batteries. There was mass confusion.
One of the workers in the shop called the men up to the roof. They all ran feverishly.
“No clouds!” one of the men shouted. “But heavy shadows!” another echoed. “Ghosts?” called a third. “No—too big to be ghosts. Must be heaven,” argued a fourth man.
The shadows moved slowly, like a corpulent snake casting silhouettes as far as the eye could see.
“Come down, guys,” the shop foreman demanded. “The show is over. Back to work.”
It was a hot August afternoon. The upcoming presidential election made it even hotter. Vietnam War protests heated it up further still. American Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, a veteran of World War II, believed that by mining the northern Vietnam ports, American troops could gain control of the situation. After seven years of war, in the spring of 1972, Washington decided to put on the table either a nuclear attack or sea mines in the ports that supply goods from the USSR and China. The size of a grapefruit, magnetic sea mines were planted using Grumman A-6 Intruders, and the mines were set to explode at eighteen feet, or three fathoms, at the channels in Haiphong, a northern port city. This action placed the United States in conflict with the Hague Convention of 1907; if one of the mines detonated and damaged or destroyed commercial cargo, the conflict would escalate and perhaps even unite the USSR and China.
This, of course, was of no concern to Due, residing in Vietnam. To him, planes fly high and low, and bombs turn the nighttime sky into daylight. But as far as Admiral Moorer was concerned, with his experience and training he would never consider breaking all the rules set by the Hague and Geneva Convention. Still, because it was out of his hands, the solar storm penetrated Earth’s magnetic field, and stretched it, on August the Fourth, thereby beginning a chain of events that has never been seen or felt—at least not since 1859.
One bang, then two, then four thousand sea mines exploded. Whoever ventured outside could never imagine such a fortress of armaments, particularly with no vessel from which they came and no target in its sights. Due, burying himself in his mother’s bosom for comfort, put his hands over his ears to ward against the deafening roar of the exploding mines, which echoed mercilessly off tin roofs and bamboo roofs across the countryside. Warehouses near the port of Hai Phong came tumbling down as if a tsunami had rolled in and swallowed the town.
The 1859 solar event, scientifically known as a CME for Coronal Mass Ejection, set the bar. That one took 17.6 hours to reach Earth; the one on August the Fourth took 14.6 hours. By contrast, most solar events take two or three days to reach Earth, giving Earth-bound professionals enough time to put some defenses in place.
The lights flickered with Cecilia’s groans, with each and every push. The nurses were startled when the room went complete dark. The EKG machine stopped beeping. Cecilia glimpsed out the window, where black smoke started to billow. Then the power came back on. The doctor took a deep breath. “The generators,” he acknowledged. One nurse called for Cecilia’s husband and said that something felt amiss when Cecilia had grabbed onto her finger. While the power was keeping only crucial parts of Bellevue Hospital energized, the nurse who had requested the return of Cecilia’s husband looked over the daily manifest. She was a Filipino woman named Susan, and she had sensed danger from the slight touch of Cecilia’s hand. In her commanding voice she told the doctor that she had much experience handling births back in the Philippines, “under candlelight and in the remote areas,” she added.
Cecilia’s husband was ordered to put on scrubs and remain close to his wife.
“Don’t worry,” he said to her. “I’m here. There’s no rush.”
Cecilia turned her head toward the window. A striking shadow caught her eye—the silhouette of a seahorse passing between the Chrysler Building and two large construction cranes in the distance. When Cecelia turned back to look at her husband, their baby boy entered the world.
Back in Hawaii, Balena removed her headset and was escorted to the cafeteria on the main floor, where her colleagues arranged a banquet of gratitude. She took a deep breath and blew out the candles. Several friends shed tears, and everyone forgot the events of the day. Later, as she left the building, she turned around and gave one last look at her place of employment. Hawaii said farewell to her in a most splendid way: a ribbon of green and red stretched across the sky. The sun threw out a brilliant cloud of light—in the form of a seahorse.
Captain Edmund Gardner was the first whaleship to visit Hawaii she was graced with the name Balena or Balaena.
Every idea in the sciences are tested, tried, and measured but Earth stands alone.
The absence of love on distant planets question our abilities to conquer and pioneer our known galaxy. Back here on earth some fight love as an uncontrollable weed, trying to harness it onto a Petri dish and wait for a miracle. We know the answer, we just cannot bottle it up and send it to our moon colonies. It is always the same dilemma can we find a planet like Earth and reboot the spark of love. I travel the galaxy not searching for love but searching for steady work. Home is Queens a part of New York City overpopulated, swelling to its breaking point, it could be worst its where baseball and millionaires flourish, I fly tycoons who once lived at the end of Long Island before the ocean claimed their paradise. The Alluvial is tough, beautiful and was built for single man exploration but now she is used to carry three including myself, she has a hefty price tag and with each journey I get a little closer to ending financial burden.
Below writer and director (Robertson Tirado) of Andreas Grey The Alluvial shares his vision, and first steps creating the Alluvial in Blender 3D.
The Alluvial is one of a kind, a combination of mining matter from Pluto, Mars, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter moons Yes, Pluto is a planet again most of the hull on the Alluvial is from Pluto’s icy nitrogen rich frost. The physical properties of this frost shield it from extreme weather in space. Many years ago, Earth mining companies settled on all eight planets and mined the heck out of them. Sending its minerals to Earth, to make peace, clean energy, and life easier we all hoped then. Some of the stuff was too dangerous and what was left helped make buildings taller, communication faster and wars shorter. Over the years more discoveries sparked the SOTULP race. I’ll get into that later. Consequently, this mineral when combined with earths iron ore becomes extraordinarily indestructible. My name is Andreas Grey a career traversing through space from mining stations to moon colonies I’ve have learned that life has more to do with what makes us than what we want to be.
Images of the making of the physical and digital Alluvial.
This short novel, coming soon.
OUTLINE FOR THE EXPERIMENTAL FILM ‘PHOTOTAXIS’
Twilight is constant I play with its warmth and dangerous chill. Nothing changes only distance I wonder in my thoughts about her. About our time before our culture rushed to change reality we could not escape it. Consequently, we had to chose a home only by lottery, fate decides our families destiny.
But I squint my eyes and look into the darkness for hope just a flicker so far away it cuts the arc of darkness like a knife. Yes, I’m holding onto a sliver of light that gives me hope.
I’m granted one more trip to see her every time I do its like love at first sight. That feeling is addictive its the motivation that drives me to scheme and cheat my way against destiny. I plan my escape as an ancient criminal on Alcatraz Island, those stories of men traversing thick walls, hiding in shadows from armed guards and paddling shark infested waters is the foundation of our escape.
But our DNA is tracked through the stars, no black hole can hide our signal a beacon affixed to our consciousness since birth. Our fate was already scribble before our births, big brother has aimed its lasers into our mothers womb.
The bee makes honey and the mother is in labor our machines have clocks but nature tells time. Nature is honest, pure in its rotation giving Earth a sliver of more each year as a gift. A gift that only a wise person can receive.
I look again to that distant star and know its warmth grants our invitation.
Page 15: A Letter to Jonah’s Mother
“First, I miss you very much,” I wrote to my mother. “Today I am resting near the Orontes River, after a long three days of preparing for war with King Shalmaneser III. I know that you warned me of great peril in this endeavor, this conflict—but I write with complete confidence that I will reunite with you before too long. An unfortunate wave of convoys steered me to the armies of Que Cilicia. As you already must know, our King is part of an eleven king front preparing for battle with Shalmaneser III, a bully of a King, to be sure—what I’d call the Bully King of the Assyrians.
“I speak from the heart, mother, when I talk about my desire to have a wife and children one day. This journey brought along with it much loneliness and has hindered my happiness, even though I spoke to the God of Elijah during my travels. I am glad that I did, but I must tell you that it still was not enough to fill the void. Being part of this campaign to defend our home, rather than being pushed into the sea, will ensure a better life for you and for your other son, my brother.
“I am surrounded by good men, some of the bravest, some who remember the drought when I was a boy. Many question how we were able to survive it. I keep silent about our special house guest who brought about the salvation. Our rugged life here is filled with salty breezes and quiet nights. I find myself thinking of roasted vegetables and our garden filled with blue flax.
“When I return, I will make time to discover my father’s shipbuilding talents for myself. Some of it was passed on to me, and of that I am pleased and proud. Our hearts are aligned, mother, and my faith is aligned with your example. This is the reason I have no fear in this strange land. There are things that I have never seen. There is an abundance of manpower that accomplishes so much in so little time. Relying upon your examples keeps me focused. This letter is not meant to cause you more anxiety. I urge you to read between the lines. This letter is intended to strengthen you spirit while your older son presses forth and your younger one remains safe and happy.”
Copyright © 2019
Thank you for reading, published book coming soon. Visit Robertson Tirado on YouTube.
Book available: The Boy From Zarephath https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578513803/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_wUDnDbVYKX53Q
EXT. MIDWEST – NOON
On a corner of a small town that just over 850 mostly elderly people call home sits a middle-aged man named CARLO inside his ice cream truck. It is a sunny afternoon. He is bored and alone. Six-year-old SOPHIA stands nearby, silently for a while. but then she stirs CARLO out of his daydream with a soft voice that can almost be mistaken for a gentle breeze.
Hi. Do you have vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles?
CARLO lifts his head and hastily turns on the switch that plays traditional American ice cream truck music.
What?… Who’s there?… Oh—how can I help you?
I said can I have a vanilla ice cream cone with sprinkles?
CARLO grunts, nods, and begins to make the cone.
Have we met before?
I don’t know. Maybe.
CARLO finishes making the cone and hands it to SOPHIA.
Where are your parents?
They went away.
Where did they go?
With everyone else.
With everyone else? I don’t know what that means. How far away
do you live?
I live just over those hills, on the other side of the valley.
And you walked here? All by yourself?
When I was really little my mother and father used to walk everywhere. We
didn’t have a car. But in the summer we could hear the music from the ice
cream trucks. From all the way down here.
You haven’t touched your ice cream yet. It’s melting.
Oh no! I need another one.
Before I give you another one, I’ll need two dollars. One for this one and
one for the next one.
My mommy only gave me one dollar.
Fine. I’ll live with it. But where is your mother?
I told you. She went with the others.
CARLO begins to make a new cone.
Did you know that you’re the last ice cream truck in
the whole world.
CARLO stops making the cone and turns toward SOPHIA.
What? What did you say?
It’s just you and me now.
CARLO pokes his head out of the window of the ice cream truck.
Where are your parents?
Heaven. Yeah, right. Are you lost?
Maybe. Maybe not.
CARLO steps out of his truck and gently—though nervously—takes SOPHIA’s hand.
Which way did you come here?
I told you. I came down the hill, then walked between those two buildings,
then came up this hill.
Between those two building down there?
Yes. But I don’t want to go back.
CARLO stands on a big rock that’s just about the same size as a milk crate. He still holds onto SOPHIA’s hand and gently helps her up onto the rock. He calls out loudly:
Does anyone know who this little girl belongs to?… Hello?… Listen
up… Does anyone know who this little girl belongs to?
After a moment, without having heard a response, CARLO lets go of SOPHIA’s hand and returns to his ice cream truck to make a phone call. He starts to dial.
All the phones are dead.
CARLO realizes there is no dial tone.
How did you know that?
CARLO hangs up. SOPHIA runs around the ice cream truck singing:
You are the only ice cream truck in the world.
You are the only ice cream truck in the world.
You are the only ice cream truck in the world.
Why are you laughing? Why? Is it because that according to you
I’m the only ice cream truck left in the world? Is that it? Well, that’s stupid.
It’s stupid and silly.
You’re no fun.
I’m no fun? Well, sorry about that. But I don’t have time to be fun. All I have
time for is to prove to you that there are more people around than just me and
you. There are others. Plenty of others. We’re gonna go down the hill so I can
prove it to you.
Are you sure you want to do that?
Why wouldn’t I?
CARLO rolls up the window, powers down the generator, removes his apron, and exits the truck. SOPHIA grabs CARLO’s hand and leads him down the hill. After a bit of strolling, they reach the bottom, where they go to a building with a steel door that looks very menacing.
Is this where your parents live? Maybe I know them.
No. But they used to work here.
Maybe if we knock on the door, someone will come out to talk to us.
Maybe. But I think we should go back up the hill instead.
CARLO ignores her, then notices light peeping out from all around the perimeter of the steel door. He pushes the door open, then falls to the ground in dismay.
What is this place? It looks like Times Square in New York City. How can
that be? I was there once. There are thousands of people in Times Square.
Where are all the people? Where are they?
(turns to Sophia, trembling).
Why did you bring me here?
You wanted to come. You wanted to open this door.
Don’t you remember?
CARLO looks at SOPHIA. There is a look of recognition in his eyes.
I know you. Twenty years ago, maybe. When I was a boy. But how
could you still be a little girl? How could you be here?
CARLO seems lost in his memory. From the ice cream truck comes a voice:
You already died, when you lied
Slippers on your feet
Robe on your back
Trying to catch up to what you lack
Music was tears
Cold nights in the black hole
The only hope was the twinkling specks on those white clouds.
She stood on the corner waiting for you
But you never listened
Even unconscious the music still plays.
CARLO comes out of his memory trance and addresses SOPHIA.
What’s your name?
Sophia! I loved a girl name Sofia when I was seven year old… Are you…
You can’t… It’s impossible… Are you Sophia?
©Robertson Tirado copyright 2018
This short screenplay is exclusively written for independent directors, a $250 licensing fee grants up to 10 filmmakers the rights to visualize this story. Contact Robertson Tirado for payment and certificate.
EXT. SHORELINE, PACIFIC OCEAN – MORNING
BRUCE is hiding between large rocks as he uses a knife to cut away his ankle bracelet. In February the weather is mild in California and the sea breeze feels good on his thirty-five-year-old face. Just up the hill, Bruce’s Ford Mustang is parked. First he removes a thin metal plate in his boot that shielded the signal of the ankle bracelet that is made of circuitry that blinds the indicator to law enforcement. After removing the ankle bracelet, Bruce smashes it on the rocks and buries it in the sand.
EXT. MUSTANG – MORNING
Bruce walks to his car, opens the door and sits inside. Inside the car is a picture of his son Noah. He touches the photo and looks into the rearview mirror.
INT. DRIVING – MORNING
Bruce turns on the radio. There is an announcement warning people not to travel to the desert.
ANNOUNCEMENT (voice over)
The following is a message from homeland security: it is advised that anyone within a five-mile radius of San Francisco refrain from traveling to the desert. There is an electrical storm that can potentially cause blindness or even death. Stay tuned for updates on your local media outlet, or on the web. Thank you for your attention.
I’ve lost everything; I was educated to make things better for humanity, but have made things dangerous instead.
Bruce is driving up the west coast of California, heading north, with the Pacific Ocean in view. He spends most of the time talking to himself, with a bad conscience looming over him. He rubs his head and picks up his cellular phone.
Page 1 of 33
Noah script copyright 2017
Tagline: Just three years after the plight, 478,300 men, women and children govern the planet for six months.
An incredible story coming soon.
When I sleep it is dark. Sometimes I dream, sometimes I don’t. But when I glide on my skateboard I dream in the daylight each and every time. It’s easy to do. The thoughts that swirl through my head while I’m skating are countless. ‘How far can I go without money?’ Is one of the most common ones.
My name is Sid Menaham, and I like to say that I live on the board. On the board life is grand, life is good. I tell my little sister about my adventures. Now she wants to ride with me but she’s too young. From time to time she sits on the classic ‘Penny’ and push her while she navigates the board like a sled. The wheels are getting uneven and need repair, so I sell Hacky Sacks and lithium batteries. Dad helps, but mom gets worried. Mom says I ride too much.
I have a few skater friends. We meet on Sundays at the Four Wheel dealership, where my mother used to work. Four Wheel closed two years ago but still has the smoothest asphalt and the grandest staircase. Even though I have known Willie, Kevin, and Steven since we were kids, I still don’t really know anything about them. Most of the time we talk about movies. Now I want to share my story with you. It must be told because it’s true that all good men ride skateboards. I’m going to tell you why.
I was sixteen when I began to see shadows moving. The first time it happened was when I was climbing in the Catskills with a few friends. We were city kids wearing the wrong foot gear for a mountain hike. Kevin and Willie’s parents took the lead while the four of us lingered behind. It was early October, the time of year when the weather is unpredictable, the sun still strong, the leaves slippery. But friends help each other, regardless of the weather and the conditions outside. We spotted a challenging rock formation, and one the adults yelled, “I’m familiar with this climb!” So we ventured up. I followed Kevin because wherever he put his foot, I would be able to put mine. It was safer that way. Wearing skate sneakers with their flat soles made climbing difficult. As active as I am, that rock formation tested my patience. Maybe I was just too much of a city boy; the nature thing wore me out. I saw the rest of the group make it to the top, and Willie’s dad leaned over the rocky cornice and shouted, “You are slightly off the path. Don’t slip.” Of course, at that age I still had a problem listening to grownups, so under my breath I said, “Whatever.” I looked up and it got quiet, as if the group had moved on without me. I shouldn’t have stood close to Kevin. I was at the point where an opening in the gray, jaggered rock split in half, with enough room to take a break. I wedge myself into it. Looking down, I realized we must have been at least three stories up.
Having my back against the split opening, the view opened up, and I suddenly understood why people travel here to enjoy nature. As I turned around, I grasped the flat horizontal ledge over my head, which is more or less a ‘victory stone’ to the top. I heard a sound coming from the darkness within the split in the rock. The shadowy crevices opened up. I turned to look, lowering my body to take a peek. I saw stars as a watery reflection from the star-lit sky. I pushed my body closer in an attempt to understand the surreal sight. Willie’s dad startled me, despite the softness of his tone. “Are you all right Sid?” he asked. I looked up to him, and all I could say was, “Yes, I had to pee.”
“It’s okay, Sid. Are you done? Do you need any help?”
“I’m done. I’ll be right up.”
That was the first time of many that the shadows came alive.
As I rode alone, glancing at the roads for peril, I was cognizant of the fact that even a pebble could be a disaster on the board. But at the same time I was thinking about pretty girls and ways to get some money for snacks. Money was always on my mind. Even my newspaper route was a tough way to earn cash because the company almost always insisted that they hadn’t been paid by all the subscribers to whom I delivered the papers.
On one of those early delivery mornings, it was still dark but my skateboard gripped the morning dew. With half a bag left to deliver, one of my wheels went over a cigarette lighter on the ground. I thought I could handle the shaky wheels, but I couldn’t. I landed on both hands, my face inches from a manhole cover. Before I could stand up, I noticed tiny beams of light poking up through the small holes on the manhole cover. I crouched a little closer. There were men down there walking with what I assumed were flashlights in the darkness. All layers of New York City, from the subterranean tunnels to the topmost skyscraper floors, are bustling with people. Even homeless people, which is something I don’t like to see.
I leaped back on my board and followed each light poking from each manhole cover. I counted twelve, then thirteen, as I continued to push along. The lights became harder to see as the sun started rising.
Eighteen manhole covers! I could barely keep up, but the last one found me in a parking lot, in a place I had never been before. It was an industrial area, and trucks were loading goods on the other side of a dead-end street. I must have been out of my mind because school started in an half an hour. I jumped for one last glance, and even before I landed on my feet a vehicle—obviously an expensive one—stopped in front of me. A man got out and yelled at me. What I didn’t realize was that I was in a strip club parking lot. Frightened, I jumped on my skateboard and made my way out of there quickly. Just then, I caught sight of one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen in my young life. It was just a two-second glance, but the vision was unforgettable. I didn’t know much about strip clubs, but I knew it was no place for a girl her age. It was clear that I had to share this with Kevin or Willie. Or maybe not. Should I keep this one to myself? That’s the decision I struggled with.
What a morning.
When everyone but you gets to go to the movies because you’re fired from delivering newspapers, you feel like a loser. What’s a kid to do when everyone is out on a Friday night skating? I packed my pockets with Little Debbie’s for energy, and an iPod loaded with classic Depeche Mode tunes. But I just wasn’t able to stop thinking about the other day, the lights, the strip club. I had a lamp on my board to avoid cigarette lighters and pebbles, and my parents didn’t know that I had lost my job and that I wasn’t at the movies. Still, my grades were good. That’s what was important to them.
What a day yesterday had been. It was the day that changed my life.
Following those manhole covers, I counted eighteen of them. The area was bustling with even more fancy cars, security people, and valet parking… I decided to go back another night.
“Hey kid, come over here,” said a man delivering heavy metal canisters.
“Who me?” I asked.
“Yes, you. What are doing around here?”
As he was talking, I took a glance inside the building. It was dark. The walls vibrated with music I didn’t like. Sitting on a stool was that girl—the girl of my dreams. She looked at me and said hello.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Do you work here?”
Suddenly someone else spoke.
“Hey kid, don’t talk to her. You’ll be in big trouble.”
In a whisper I asked her if she needed any help. “I’ll be outside,” I said, and she nodded. Slowly, I backed away and hid across the street in the shadows, sitting on my board. I fell asleep and didn’t awake until morning. I knew my parents would be livid. What, I wondered, should I tell them? “Shit, I’m grounded,” I mumbled to myself.
I texted my mom to tell her I was okay. Then I looked at the parking lot. It had been swept clean as if nothing happened the night before. I counted nineteen manhole covers. There was nothing to see but silent industry. I jumped down and sat on a manhole cover pondering life. Then I heard men chatting below, so I put my eye near the round hole on the cold metal disc. A man looked straight at me. It startled me. I climbed back up the wall in a hurry.
“Vicky, come back,” I heard a man shout.
He was talking to her—to that girl, to the most beautiful girl in the world.
“Help!” she yelled.
“Grab my hand,” I said desperately.
I pulled her up as the man who was yelling came closer.
“Don’t get involved, kid,” he said menacingly.
“You better listen to him, or he’ll kill you,” Vicky urged.
“How old are you?”
I started to swing my skateboard at the man as he attempted to climb the container. I told Vicky to jump. The man grabbed the end of my skateboard and clawed his way over to us. More men were coming behind us over the wall, out of the manhole. They looked not of this world. There were three of them, two of whom launched the third into the air. Vicky and I were transfixed by the sight. The man attacking Vicky put his fat ring-studded hands around her neck. I started to stumble off the ledge and fell backward into the arms of other men who suddenly surfaced below. This startled the attacker, but it also made his hands get tighter around Vicky’s neck
“Do something, someone,” I yelled to the men below. A weapon of some sort was discharged. The attacker was down. We all thought he was dead. Vicky was the first to check, and after she did she turned to the rest of us and said,
“My uncle deserves it. Thank you. Whoever you are, thank you.”
“Hey kids, are you ready?” said the tallest of the men who had came to our rescue.
“Ready for what?” Vicky asked.
“To save the Milky Way”
One of the men was taller than the other two, and he was the one the others looked to. His name, as I heard one of the shorter ones say, was Stallion.
“The shadow is closing,” Stallion said.
“I know the shadows,” I replied.
“Is it far from here?” Vicki asked Stallion.
“Yes,” he replied, “very far from here, but with good people who will never harm you or Sid.”
“I’m ready to go,” she grinned confidently.
“What about my mom, dad and sister?” I asked.
“Once you say you will go, your mom will give birth to another Sid Menaham.”
I collapsed, trying to maintain my dignity, and looked up to Vicky as the towering soldiers cast their shadows on me with tenderness.
“Yes, I’ll go.”
“I like this kid,” Stallion smiled.
We entered the sewer. Vicky gently put her hands into mine, while I also held onto my board. At that moment I thought about my mother, and as if they read my mind, one of the men touched his head lamp and out of it came a hologram showing my mom giving birth to a son. My dad was there, too. He was young. I knew then that if these guys had the technology and inner powers to do something like that, then everything would be all right. Stallion opened a hatch a few meters from where we had entered. Stallion told us they were in a battle for control over the sun, a battle to protect dark matter from reaching all the planets that sustained life.
We went through the hatch. On the other side was a beautiful park-like expanse where young children waved at us from a hill. They all had skateboards in their raised hands, and behind them was a skate park where other children were soaring into the sky. Indeed, it was more than a skate park; it was a mountain where people of all different ages coasted down slopes, each one with a backpack on which were affixed what appeared to be solar panels. It seemed to me that the panels were powering the boards. What genius! What ingenuity!
Suddenly I noticed that one of my rescuers had what looked like little skateboards attached to each of his feet, although the wheels never touched the ground. While I observed this exciting and amazing new environment, I felt like I, too, was floating on air. Only later on did I discover that the entire place was covered in unusual, oversized grains of sand that acted as airborne lubricants between the hard ground below and the floating souls above.
We passed the mountain and then entered another great doorway that delivered us into an arena where hundreds of people sat in seats that had upward-facing mirrors attached to them.
“Why all the mirrors?” I asked Stallion.
“They block the view of our enemy,” he explained.
We stood still while waiting for instructions, and were then handed uniforms made of a denim-like material (though it wasn’t the denim I was used to). Finally, we were escorted to another section where we were asked our names.
The man who was taking down the names started to laugh. I asked him why he was laughing.
“Because we had three Sydneys today,” he chuckled. “Three!”
“Well,” I said, keeping a serious look on my face, “when you inscribe my name on my uniform, just put Sid, not Sydney.”
Vicky and I went into separate dorms, one labeled boys and the other girls. It was separated by a round courtyard with a monument fountain in the middle of a man named Ivan Rad, who I later learned had created The School of Rad. When I walked into the courtyard I met a guy named Matthew, who gave me an orientation. First we went up to what was called the Communications Needle, where he told me they searched for threats to life throughout the galaxy. Matthew said that the effective range of defense was the solar system in which Earth and the Earth’s Sun were located.
“What are we fighting, Matthew?” I asked.
“Your average rogue meteor,” he said. “Sometimes civilizations crash and burn, and earth’s light brings then here.”
“What happens when they come?”
“Ever heard of Gandhi, Sir Isaac Newton, Einstein?”
“I’ve met them personally,” he said plainly.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, equally without emotion of any kind.
“How old am I?”
“Slow down, Sid. You don’t want to unravel the galaxy with talk like this.”
“Will I be able to see Vicky again?”
“Yes,” he replied, looking directly at me with a interesting smirk. “Tomorrow you guys are getting married.”
Please let me know if you want Part II of this story. – Author Robertson Tirado
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END OF PART I
Robertson Tirado Copyright 2018