Periodic East, Chapter 29 – A New Daniel In Our New Home
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Daniel was no longer 84, he looked 24. His piercing green eyes and his voice, though much more youthful sounding obviously, was still the same. The people that remained in our camp marveled and looked towards Oscar who was standing about fifty feet back observing and made their way towards it. They were chanting, praying, declaring Oscar as God. Some even fell to their knees and tried to kiss its odd-looking feet.
But Oscar was completely confused by this reaction and continued taking steps backwards trying to avoid any contact with any of us.
“Wait!” I called out as I looked at Daniel who was still marveling at his new self. “Let’s have Daniel ask it why it did this,” I said.
“He do it so we can talk longer, Tiberius,” Daniel said walking as if he literally had springs attached to each step.
“Is that what it told you?” I asked. “He did this to you to keep you alive longer?”
“Yes, I suppose,” Daniel began. “He must be lonely; no one here to talk to him for long time.”
“How long? Ask him how long he’s been here,” I said.
Daniel approached Oscar, pleading with the rest of the people to stay back and give them some room.
“Zenbat denbora daramazu hemen?”
Oscar looked directly at a now youthful Daniel with an expression as if it really had to think about it, or maybe try to understand the question, I don’t know. Eventually Oscar did answer.
“Beti egon naiz hemen.”
“He say, ‘always,’ Tiberius. He say he here always.”
I’m not sure the alien, or Oscar as Sara named it, truly understood what Daniel was asking it. I suddenly remembered as it looked directly into my eyes that I needed to ask again about their leader and why it killed Joshua. I turned to Daniel who was continuing to marvel at his younger self with a wide smile on his face. I approached Daniel with a slight smile myself.
“Daniel,” I began, “it’s great to see you like this.”
“Yes, Tiberius,” he said. “Now I younger than you.”
“That’s true. You certainly look younger than me now,” I said. He looked not only 60 years younger, but in prime physical shape as well.
“I feel brand new,” he said. “I feel alive. I feel-“
Suddenly a thought entered my head and I was almost mad at myself for not thinking this sooner. I looked around at what other people from our group were still with us and confirmed my theory.
“I know why the alien did what he did for you and no one else,” I said quietly. “You’re the only person who speaks his language,” I continued, “the alien wants you to have more time to teach others your language so more can communicate with it and probably even procreate. I was right; you are the most important person on the planet.”
I’m not sure if Daniel fully understood everything I said. I know he didn’t understand the word “procreate.” I didn’t want to dumb it down for him just yet. I still needed to know who Oscar’s leader was and why it killed Joshua.
“Come with me, Daniel,” I said. Daniel followed closely behind as he marveled at his surroundings as if he were seeing them for the first time. I guess it’s understandable to assume that his eyesight wasn’t so great either. Daniel would whisper, “Wow” to himself as we made our way to Oscar who was standing at a distance from the rest of the people who immediately decided to construct a makeshift shrine to it from their own personal items.
I approached Oscar slowly with Daniel next to me. “I need to ask you something important,” I began. I looked at Daniel to translate for me and he did. Oscar looked at Daniel for translation after I spoke and then to me again after Daniel translated awaiting my questions. “Why would your leader kill? Your leader killed my friend. Why?”
Oscar looked at Daniel again for translation and as Daniel translated I saw the expression on Oscar’s face change ever so slightly. After a few agonizing seconds waiting for his answer, Oscar’s voice reverberated through the cavern walls again.
“Norbait hiltzen saiatzen ari garenean bakarrik hilzten dugu.”
I looked at Daniel to translate. “He say they kill only when someone try to kill them first. Only leader decide when to kill.”
If that were true, I certainly wouldn’t have put it past Joshua to not be entirely truthful about his initial encounter when he found the other alien. Who knows how Joshua tried to thaw out the alien or even if it had been frozen in the first place. For all he knew… well, it didn’t matter anymore.
“Are we safe here?” I asked Oscar and then repeated the question again to Daniel to translate, which he did. Oscar then responded again immediately and Daniel said that we were safe here.
After about another hour of questioning, Daniel, myself, the rest of us learned a few more important things about this place. There were a few geysers in the cavern that provided all the water we would ever need for drinking, and it also explained why the cavern was so much warmer than any other place we’ve experienced since “The Blast.” It was also a great spot for cooking and bathing. A large shed that had been built to store food already had enough to maintain a group our size for weeks, but we were of course free to go out of the cave to find more food when we needed it or we could even leave if we wanted to. We were not by any means being held captive. One of the buildings even had a room that was filled with hand-written journals, which I was immediately drawn to.
As I flipped through the pages of the journals, I saw that they were written in various languages including English, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Vietnamese just to name a few. Miles poured through the Dutch journal and I went through the English. Daniel would look through the Spanish and French ones later. He was too busy enjoying his newfound youth.
The journals I read dated back to just weeks after “The Blast.” The author documented how he found the cave with his own group of survivors and the “giant saints” inside. “Saint,” as in more than one. It didn’t specify if and this particular survivor left or why. He could’ve died from going out looking for supplies one day. It was certainly possible.
I tried really hard not to jump to conclusions of betrayal or double-cross. Miles told me similar things were written from the Dutch journal he read. The entries also suddenly stopped without explanation or even warning of something bad happening within days of each other. Again, possible that they could’ve suddenly died while out looking for food. The last entry from each journal were two days apart just under four years ago. Back then, there were a lot more starving and desperate survivors and a lot more starving and desperate animals that could’ve easily killed them.
Two days went by. Oscar, for the most part, ignored us as we adjusted to this new, better way of life. No one ever saw Oscar sleep, but he would sit just outside one particular building like and old man form the Bayou and watch us like a nosy neighbor who saw new people moving in the neighborhood.
The following morning, Miles came by to schedule a time for us to go out to gather more food and supplies. As we were putting together a schedule, the new Daniel walked in. His new appearance was something that we all were still getting used to.
“I go with you,” Daniel began, “I young and strong now. I help.”
Miles and I looked at each other silently and weighed our options with our facial expressions. We could certainly use the extra set of hands and energy, but we didn’t want to run the risk of Daniel getting hurt or worse out there. Yes he was young, but he wasn’t immortal, we didn’t think. We still needed someone to be able to communicate with Oscar for when we had more questions or needed more information.
“Tell you what,” Miles began, “I’ll go with you to gather more plantain leaves and fruit, but we can’t go more than half a kilometer out,” Miles concluded looking at me for approval as he said it and I nodded slightly. When Miles saw my signal, he continued, “But I don’t want you climbing any trees. Just pick up the stuff you can reach or is already on the ground, deal?”
Daniel smiled his amazing new smile. “Okay, Miles. I help out.” As the three of us were finalizing a schedule, Ada walked by. She made eye contact with Daniel and winked at him. Daniel winked back and looked at Miles and I. “We don’t leave right now, yes?” Daniel asked as Miles and I tried to hold back our laughter.
“No, Daniel,” Miles said.
“Not just yet,” I confirmed.
“Okay,” Daniel said, “you come find me when you ready, okay?”
“Okay, Daniel,” Miles and I both said in unison and in an instant Daniel had run off to join Ada on her walk.