A Bridge to Earth
by Richard Merlin Smith
Chapter 5 : Back Again
Only after it had finished the song-that-brings-the-morning did the Guardian stir reluctantly from its contemplation of the face of the great god. As the first rays of the rising sun fell upon the face, the Guardian knew that it had once again succeeded in ending the darkness. Knowing that the world was again safe for another day, it turned its attention to the unexpected movement on the plain below.
Sunlight glinted sharply on the shiny surface of its tough, flexible outer covering. It slithered a few feet down the rock-strewn slope of the Hill of Contemplation above the plain where the face of the great god lay staring into the sky.
Only a few moments ago, its radiation sensors had detected a powerful disturbance in the radio spectrum.
The term “eyes” would have been inaccurate and incomplete, because it could “see” from the far ultraviolet through the far infrared into the range of high-frequency radio waves. And now the bright sunlight was illuminating a strange creature on the surface of the plain below the great face on the hill.
The Guardian began adjusting its optical sensors to resolve the details of the intruder.
Only once since the great calamity had any living creature other than its own kind stirred on the surface of the planet, and for a very long time it had not even encountered the other creatures like itself. Of course, there was the communion — the constant, partly conscious mental link shared by all the remaining Guardians. It was the triggering medium for each Guardian to begin the song-that-brings-the-morning.
In the old days, the gods had inhabited the land, and in those days the Guardians had shared the land with the gods. But the Guardians were different then. Just how different it could not remember. The trauma of the change had created an impenetrable barrier to those memories.
It did not remember the great catastrophe that had stripped away the atmosphere the planet, nor the flood of intense radiation that destroyed every living thing left on the surface, except for the Guardians.
Instead of perishing immediately, the original Guardians survived for a while, and in a single generation the race experienced radical mutations that produced a form that could survive in the harsh environment.
Then at a slower pace, over a few generations, more mutations produced refinements in their internal systems and resulted in the wonderful electromagnetic sensor system.
And then a final mutation occurred. No more Guardians were born, and none died except for a few accidental deaths. They had become immortal.
Gradually, the remaining Guardians dispersed over the planet to take up lives of solitary contemplation in the sacred places once inhabited by the vanished gods. But little of this was in the conscious memory of the Guardians.
Because of the distance that separated them, it was difficult to discern the new creature’s precise shape but the pattern and distribution of frequencies in the infrared were familiar.
It completed the adjustment of its optical sensors and examined the intruder in the red-to-violet spectrum. There was no clue in the pale, off-white color of the creature’s exterior but the shape, even at this distance, was vaguely familiar.
This intruder bears a slight resemblance to the gods. Perhaps it is a visitation like the one many years ago, it thought.
For a moment the Guardian was motionless while it calculated the years since the last visitation. Most intriguing, it mused. It is the time prophesied for the return. Can it be?
The Guardian adjusted the tension in its body cells to allow its great bulk to flow over the jagged rocks on the slope of the hill. It had no trouble moving over the rough terrain, but it was important that its mass be distributed properly to avoid damage and to keep its protective surface oriented toward the sky, shielding it from the intense ultraviolet radiation of the sun.
On Earth it would have weighed on the order of six hundred pounds. In its rest state, it was a foot-thick, flattened lozenge about eight feet long and three feet wide. Its color depended upon the color of its surroundings.
Water was essential to its metabolism and it absorbed the small amounts of moisture that outgassed periodically from the soil. Nutrients were obtained in the form of minerals chemically leached from soil materials.
The Guardian possessed no discrete large organs. Its bodily functions were distributed more or less evenly through the great body. The Guardian’s brain and electromagnetic sensors were the only centralized organs.
The Guardian reached a point near the base of the Hill of Contemplation close enough to the strange creature to discern details.
The creature moves about on only two legs and has two other appendages attached near the top of its body, the Guardian noted. The protrusion at the very top of the body must contain the creature’s sensors. Indeed, there is a large shiny area that must be the receptor for radiation. It is much like the gods but certainly not one of them.
The Guardian moved the few remaining feet to the relatively smooth surface of the plain and flattened itself until it was a few inches thick and nearly ten feet in diameter. Its color altered subtly to match the red soil beneath it.
The intruder had climbed up the side of the hill and was standing at the entrance to the holy place — the place where the gods had entered at the time of the great catastrophe.
* * *
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by Richard Merlin Smith