Short Story: Our Benevolent Friend Part 1

1.

Discovery

An arid sun baked a desolate patch of sand somewhere between Libya and Lake Nasser in the seemingly endless Sahara. Around it, for a moment, people were scattered like ants tending to the entrance of their colony. Even smaller specks from their equipment and instruments outnumbered them twenty to one in the vast dune of the place. There was but a single anomaly in the uniform flatness and waves of windswept dunes to break the otherwise immaculate, golden sea; a blackness, no larger than a common automobile, in the center of the people and their instruments.

At a near enough proximity, the blackness became a hole– an opening to an underground cavern, where the refraction of light from dust occasionally swirled or spilled inside. The archaeological dig here hoped one day to prove what few scientists and archaeologists believed. These conspiracists, as they were sometimes called, believed they had stumbled upon the oldest, most comprehensive cache of ancient knowledge in existence.

Only time would tell what the diggers might uncover as they shoveled, pick-axed, and brushed their way deeper into ancient catacombs. Speculation and theory ran rampant; perhaps it was the lost library of Alexandria, or perhaps somewhere inside, was the chamber to the lost city of Atlantis. The academic ponderers kept themselves grounded, speculated it might be the tomb of the oldest, first pharaoh. One that predated Narmer, and even still the first Egyptian dynasty, thereby solidifying that the Narmer was not, in fact, he who unified the lands of Egypt in ancient times.

If such were the case, who then might have? The King Scorpion, speculated to have passed unified Egypt to Narmer? Or was it perchance, one yet unknown to the historical community? If so, was the loss of his name due to time’s ravages? Or was it from the tyranny of his rule? Had he decried the population were heretics, struck them down? Was that the reason for this tomb to be so far out of the way, buried where no-one could ever dream to look?

This last speculation had merit, if only for the nature of the catacombs’ discovery– seemingly the most fortunate mishap of man to date. Its serendipitous nature may have rivaled even the great, but wholly misconstrued tale of Newton’s apple and gravitational theories.

While it is common knowledge that both sandstorms and earthquakes are known to occur, their frequency within the deserts and lands surrounding Egypt are less known. Earthquakes are prevalent on the coasts, rare within the confines of the desert. Sandstorms inversely so. But on one particular day, the two seemed to coincide.

An earthquake beneath the Mediterranean sea, felt as far as the Sudan, caused a tidal wave to wash over much of Cairo. It was a terrible thing to happen. Terrible, but revealing. Most of all, it was fascinating. As the ocean swelled, the shock-wave of the most catastrophic earthquake ever recorded occurred. The latter forced the former deep into the desert, threw sand into the air that caused a storm almost equal to that of the Earth’s shakes. The inhabitants hunkered down in their coastal cities, held on until the end might come. For many, it did. Others were more fortunate. The desert though, was soaked by the massive tidal wave that moved inward for hundreds of miles.

This waves destruction walled up sand in its path, collided with the sandstorm to strengthen its reserve. The latter raged forward in destruction where the water could not. After days-long floods, and still more, smaller storms the climactic series of events finally ended.

Clean up and rescues efforts were enacted immediately. Humanitarian aid was sent from all over the world in the forms of food, water, clothing, even helicopters. It was one such ‘copter, diverted from Libya, that was ordered to fly low over the desert and survey the damage. The hole in the Earth was first spotted then. The helicopter’s crew made note of it, continued forward until their fuel forced them back toward the cities.

It is a curious coincidence that a Doctor, who shall go nameless, was searching for a hidden set of catacombs when the seas rose and the dust blew. It was curious, but not altogether uncommon. When he received word of Earth’s peculiar opening, and travel in the regions had been restored, he bee-lined to the site. It took ten, harrowing days before his group uncovered the stones that marked the catacombs’ start, a further two days before the blocks were removed, and the passage was opened.

Gathering their instruments, wits, and their skepticism, the Doctor and his team climbed down into the shaft. They lit their way along with twenty-four hour flares that burned illuminated the passage, threw shadows of a the dozen bodies along its cramped, narrow walls.

At a brick wall deep within the passage, the Doctor and his team were forced to remove more bricks. One-by-one, they gingerly placed bracing devices to stabilize the tunnel, carved out, then heaved out the blocks. With the passage open again, they ventured forth, their shoulders scraping the side walls despite their single-file trudge. They followed the twists and turns for hours, dropped flares every few feet, and headed deeper into the Earth at a gradual slope.

Unlike most tombs and catacombs, these passage ways were unmarked, composed solely of granite blocks arranged in a usual manner. Their fervor was restored when someone speculated this lack of symbology might connect the Great Pyramid to whomever lay buried ahead. The easy air of speculation and banter returned. It was only another half an hour after this that a second brick wall, larger and wider than the last, appeared before them. Again, they placed their braces, carefully removed the bricks, and stepped through.

Nothing less than a spectacular, massive chamber, greeted them on the other side. Flares and headlamps reflected light off golden walls, supplemented a strange irradiation from an even stranger bio-luminescent rock scattered about the room. Again there was no writing, but the presence of stacks of gold coins, gold-plated pottery, and other artifacts bore the unmistakable glyphs of ancient Egypt. Though this dialect was new, or rather so old it was unknown, there could be no doubt of its lineage.

The room’s center was occupied by a most unremarkable slab of stone– at least, it would have been unremarkable were it not for its ornate surroundings. At its head, over-arcing others, was a statue of Nut, the night-time Sky Goddess. Beneath her to the left, Ra, the Sun-God, while at the right, a massive Ankh of life. Someone posited that this pharaoh must have been looked upon as the creator of life, bringing the sun from the darkness.

Something struck the Doctor; the pharaohs were all identified by the headdresses upon which their grave slabs were inscribed. But here there was none. It was not unheard of, but strange given the obvious reverence placed upon this particular ruler. Why had they not included this? Surely, he commanded their respect and loyalty. It was suspicious to say the least.

The Doctor gave the word that they must open the slab at once, an instinct that he would later recollect upon as his greatest compulsion in life. The others would agree.

Together the dozen men and women fought the top of the slab, pried it apart carefully. It slid sideways, was set to rest upon the ground. Shock once more flickered through the faces of those present; they found no discernible identity to whom lie inside the ancient sarcophagus within the slab. Again, not unheard of, but suspicious given the sarcophagus was cast in that same, pure-gold that lined the walls.

What happened next was nothing less than truly mesmerizing.

Slowly but surely, electricity began to arc from the walls of the chamber. Some fled in fear of electrocution, but the Doctor was frozen in place beside the slab. The electrical discharges grew in speed, strength, quantity, but only zapped from the walls to the sarcophagus. The room filled with the buzz and cracks, and blue light of electricity. In the center of it all, was the Doctor.

The ancient coffin began to stir, and with a light click and a hiss, it parted in twain. Its top rose slowly, as if on silent, mechanical hinges. After a moment of unfathomable uncertainty, the electricity stopped. The room was darkened, silent again.

A fine layer of dust and smoke had rose from the innards of the open sarcophagus, while the rest of the team inched their way back toward the Doctor. He led them the pair of steps forward, to look down in bewilderment at the coffins’ contents. It was a man, or rather, something man-like. Nonetheless it was there, perfectly preserved. The bio-luminescent rock shined off of a gray-blue skin, its brilliance metallic, yet leathery.

With a joyous cry, the Doctor exclaimed, “It’s breathing! Look, the chest!”

Indeed, the creature’s chest with a hypnotic, rhythmic motion. Silence fell once more, not a man nor woman dared to breath, fearing they might steal the creature’s last breaths. The eyelids began to flutter on the oblong head, and in an instant, snapped open. Two, bulbous eyes looked out upon the team and the Doctor, as it eased upright.

It spoke a garbled, indiscernible dialect of ancient Egyptian, seemed frustrated at multiple attempts of the same pattern of words. The team engaged each-other in debate of how best to explain their speech. It silenced itself at once.

After a moment, the Being closed its eyes, tilted its head downward. A moment later, its head rose again, and with a fickle gesture its hand, the rocks grew brighter, the room enveloped in a day-time light. It stood promptly. The slab hissed, clicked, sank lower into the ground. The group had frozen in curiosity, terror. The Being stepped across the chamber to a wall, waved its hand. A doorway appeared. It disappeared inside, returned momentarily, clothed in garments of an ancient, ornate fashion.

The group had watched in utter perplexity. Their minds alight with possibility, but their bodies and tongues too stunned and tied to move. The Being stepped for the doctor, its robes trailing behind it, and bowed its head.

It spoke flawless English, “What year is this?”

The Doctor fought his frozen muscles to explain the shift from Egyptian time to that of the Roman system. “It is possible you’ve been here ten thousand years.”

The Being pondered this for a moment. No doubt his species was aware of his presence here, why then, had they not come to check on him, the Doctor wondered.

“I will explain to you in a moment, the fallacy of this expectation,” he said to the Doctor, knowing his thoughts. “For now, I must inform you that I require sustenance.”

Hands went to pockets and backpacks, offered the Being masses of energy bars, sandwiches and other, easily accessed consumables. Someone collected them, handed them over. The Doctor passed forward a large jug of water. The Being sat, gestured for them to join, and promptly devoured each morsel. With the fury of a man denied sustenance for ten thousand years, it shoveled the food in with table manners at home only within the tomb.

It finished, wiped away bits from its leathery skin, and thanked them, “I have not eaten in millennia, I was beginning to feel it.”

Chuckles emitted from the group as an air of elderly storytelling descended upon them from their guest.

“I must confess,” the Being began. “I expected to be roused much longer ago than this. But I am satisfied to be here now. I will relay to you my own history, before I ask that you relay your own.”

The Doctor was satisfied with this, as were the others. Each of them sat in their various ways, looked on the Being with undivided attention.

It continued, “I came to this planet thousands of years ago, from a place even further away than that in light’s time. There was a war on, and many whom wished not to fight were allowed safe passage and sustenance enough to last them their million-year life-span. I, being a social adept, wished not to live alone, but left as such in any case. My ship’s automated scans located a world– this one–, which read that possibility of intelligent life had begun to evolve. As a curious mind, I wished to observe this evolution. I landed here, rather unsuccessfully, and took a detachable pod to look-over the planet.”

It seemed to bear a happiness in its chest that seemed familiar, yet uncanny in its alien features; “I traveled every passing step of it time and again, making observations. Then, one day, appeared an intellect of rather knowledgeable species. I began to teach them, much as you would an animal. As time carried on and their intellects grew, I further advanced their knowledge in all walks of life. In gratitude, they asked for help in construction of a shrine. I wished for no shrine, but granted them the means to build one. In this, they built a massive pyramidal structure, resembling my ship. The technology I had given them however, was not cohesive with the primitive tools they used to construct it. And so, we broke them down, used their parts.”

A note of sorrow seeped into its voice beneath the warmth of recollection, “More time passed and it came upon me that, perhaps one day, I would no longer be with the people I had found here. Either in death, or for some other reason, I might no longer be capable of imparting things to them. So, I had them print the entirety of my ship’s databases onto their scrolls. Perhaps you can answer later, what became of them.”

The note of sorrow became a chord, as if a symphony were harmonizing it together beneath its voice, “Then, one day their came a plague that spread across the planet. Resources in certain areas grew scarce, and other civilizations I had not seen to became envious. In-fighting began, but I wished not to witness it. I also however, wished not to leave. So, I set upon building my freezing chamber. Those who worshiped me, as it soon became evident that some did, aided in the construction of this place. The assumed luxury served a purpose I chose not to regale to them– the electricity might baffle them, but I couldn’t allow that it might one day be used for their warring. And so, after my chamber’s completion, I buried my ship and laid myself to rest, waiting to be awakened by a war-less civilization.”

There was a moment of quiet introspection before its gaze shifted outward with a warm smile and its uncanny face, “And here you are.”

The team exchanged some manner of shame. The Doctor, as with the others, contemplated how best to explain. He did his best to retell the expanse time, Humanity growth, and its ills and deeds. In short order, the Doctor had built a rapport with his ancient acquaintance.

Finally, tired but elated, the Doctor raised a singular question, “What will you do now?”

The Being thought intensely, replied with a succinctness, “I must un-bury my ship–” It hesitated at a slight air of disappointment that rippled over them. Someone asked if it would return. “In due course, of course. It shall only be a year. Our technology is well off enough that even ten thousands of years ago, I was able to make this destination in a few months time. I will update my data-banks, see what has become of my civilization. Then, I shall return to you and your cultures, in the galactic name of peace.”

The Being stood, stretched, its movements curiously human. The others mimicked the motion as the Doctor spoke in earnest, “My friend, you’re a most benevolent being, but may I ask; upon your return, will you reveal yourself to the masses, tell your story?”

It smiled its best smile, “In due course, of course.”

And so, the great ship lifted from beneath that tomb, rocketed skyward and disappeared into the heavens. The Doctor and his colleagues watched, eager for the day it would return and bestow upon them more curiosities than man could quite conceivably imagine. No doubt with a life-span such as theirs, eons of progress had commenced during its hibernation that now required a renewal of knowledge. With each passing night and day, the rumors of its existence spread and humanity slowly glances skyward– searching for our benevolent friend on return from the stars.

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