Periodic East, Chapter 26 – New Pecking Order
“Leader? So their leader is nearby? How many more are there around here?” I asked. But Daniel was already asleep in a makeshift recliner. He needed the rest but no one else could communicate with the alien. He seemed docile enough; more curious than threatened. Like how an old dog would react when a kitten is brought home.
The people that were with me were already starting to explore this subterranean civilization, though I wasn’t sure exactly how it got here. From the looks of it, it would’ve taken hundreds of people working around the clock to get something like this up and running. Or for all I knew it was done by the alien in an instant; I just didn’t know.
The alien walked around quietly just watching everyone. After about an hour, everyone seemed to have come to the conclusion that the alien wasn’t going to hurt anybody, he just seemed to want to study us.
I looked at the thermometer and it was 47 degrees Fahrenheit in here and everyone was just elated at peeling off layers of wet, stinky clothes and being comfortable again in what felt like years; and it had been. It seemed like whoever built this place weren’t here anymore and hadn’t been for a long time. I settled into a room a little bigger than my bedroom on the ship. It even had some salvaged wood as a makeshift desk and a large pile of straw and banana leaves on the ground; a mattress. It was the epitome of luxury by anyone’s standards these days.
I laid my pack on the table and started settling in when Sara walked in. She had a wide smile on her face as if she had been walking through Disney Land. “Isn’t this place amazing, Tiberius?” Sara asked.
“It is pretty amazing,” I admitted.
“Can we stay here?” Sara asked, the largest smiling beaming across her face.
“I think we can stay here for now,” I said, “but I don’t know for how long. We will still need to go out and gather food again in the next day or so.”
“But there’s plenty of food in here. Oscar has a building that’s just filled with bananas, figs, and even frozen meats on the other side of the cave,” she said.
“Oscar?” I repeated confused.
“The alien; he looks like one of those old movie statues I saw in a book once,” she said.
“Oscar…” I repeated.
“Wanna see it?”
“I’ll go see it soon, Sara. Right now, I want to rest a little. I think that’s what everyone is doing. Why don’t you find Miles and take a nap? I think we all could use some comfortable sleep,” I said meaning every syllable of it.
Sara’s face deflated in enthusiasm as she slowly walked away. I heard a faint “Okay” from her as she walked out of sight. A few seconds later, I see “Oscar” follow closely behind. Oscar seems to be absolutely baffled by Sara. I hope it doesn’t try to eat her, or worse.
I lay down on the mattress and before I know it, I’m in a deep sleep. I had completely forgotten that sleep could feel this good. When you don’t have to worry about freezing to death every minute of every day, you immediately let your guard down no matter how long you’ve had it up. It’s so exhausting to ensure that you don’t die of exhaustion.
I wake up to an unfamiliar sound. I have no idea how much time passed but I immediately enter a stage of panic. I get up from the mattress and look out the window. I see Ada approaching me and I learn that the unfamiliar sound is her laughter. She approaches my building and knocks on the wall even though there is a large open space, like a window, in the middle of the front of the building.
“Ada,” I began, “are you alright? Did anything happen?”
“Tiberius, you have to come see,” she started, “it’s a miracle.”
“What is?” I ask.
“It’s Daniel,” she began. I immediately cut her off.
“Is he okay? What happened?”
“Okay?” She began, “Didn’t you hear what I said? It’s a miracle. Come see.”
I follow Ada back to the center of the cave. A crowd of all the survivors that followed me were huddled around something cheering. Some were even on their knees praying to something or someone that I couldn’t see just yet.
“What’s going on? Let me see,” I said as I slithered my way to the front of the crowd.
When I was able to see what everyone was celebrating and praying over, I didn’t know what to make of it. It wasn’t Oscar, but another young man that was probably in his 20s that I didn’t recognize. Maybe another person made his way in here or he was the one who helped build this place.
The young man made eye contact with me and smiled wide. “Tiberius,” he gleefully shouted in a familiar voice.
“Do I know you?” I ask.
The young man smiled even wider before saying, “It’s good, comandante; it’s good.”