“Have I ever lied to you, Mr. Lincoln?”
The president tugged at his beard. “No, Harkin, to my knowledge you never have. You are one of my most trusted confidants.”
“Then why won’t you believe me?”
President Lincoln pushed his chair back from his desk and rose to his full height. He towered over Harkin. “Because it’s... well, it’s completely unbelievable. There is no such thing as immortality. Whoever these people are that are telling you this, are no doubt insane, charlatans, or pranksters.”
“If I could offer you proof, would you believe me then?”
With furrowed brow, President Lincoln stared at his aide. “There is proof?”
Harkin nodded. “I’ll bring it tonight. In the Circular Office. Just before midnight. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” the president said as he sat back down, wondering what sort of tomfoolery his once very reliable aide was about to embark upon.
A little before midnight, Abe Lincoln rose quietly so as not to disturb his wife, and left the bedchamber, dressed in his nightshirt and robe. He was going only because he feared for Harkin’s sanity, and hoped he might persuade the man to see a doctor of the mind.
As he approached the Circular Office, he heard voices, some sounding foreign. When he opened the door, he saw three vaguely familiar figures seated on chairs about the room. Harkin came forward. “Thank you for coming, Mr. President. First, let me present Cleopatra.”
The beautiful woman with short black hair was clothed in a long white toga. She smiled up at Lincoln, her eyelashes sweeping over her exquisite cheekbones. “Delighted to meet you, Abe.” Her voice was sensual and had a tinge of foreign accent.
“My pleasure,” Lincoln mumbled. Poor Harkin. He must have gone completely over the edge, to resort to hiring an actress to play the part of Cleopatra. True, she was a wonderful replica, but everyone knew Cleopatra was long dead. Why did Harkin persist in this charade?
Lincoln turned his attention to the next person being introduced. “Mr. President, may I present Napoleon Bonaparte.”
The short man with one hand tucked into his military waistcoat scowled. “Mesoor Le Lincone, you ‘ave le victoree on your side. Le Sheneral Lee is surrendaire. But you do not wear the uniform. You do not fight. You do not lead the armee. How do you make le victoree like zat, so eezee, eh?”
Harkin interrupted. “Excuse me, Mr. Bonaparte...”
“Non le Meester! Sheneral! Sheneral!” Napoleon beat his chest with his free hand.
“I’m sorry, sir. But now I’d like to introduce the president to his countryman, Benjamin Franklin.”
The rotund man wearing spectacles stood up and smiled at Lincoln. “Good to meet you, Abe. Nice work on the war.”
Lincoln didn’t reply. He was completely flabbergasted that Harkin had found actors who looked so much like Napoleon and Franklin. He shook his head. “Amazing,” was all he managed to say.
“Thank you all very much.” A smiling Harkin led the three to the door and ushered them out, then turned back to the president. “Now do you believe me, sir?”
“Wherever did you find them, Harkin? They are incredibly realistic.”
“They are real, sir.”
“But they are all dead,” Lincoln insisted, his beard trembling with annoyance.
Harkin smiled. “No, sir. It is their clones who are dead.”
The president sank down into the nearest chair. “Harkin, we have just been through a terrible war. The country needs sane, sensible leadership now, to knit our halves together as one. You speak of clones, which I do not understand, and immortality, which is impossible. Either you are insane, or you are making a joke. Either one is intolerable in an aide to the president of the United States. Regretfully, I must ask for your resignation.”
Harkin sat down opposite Lincoln. “Mr. President, I’m not crazy nor am I joking. I have been contacted by certain... forces... in the universe, with an offer to you of eternal life. It is accomplished through a method known as cloning.”
Lincoln put up his large hand. “Please, Harkin, I am not in the mood for this madness. I must insist that you resign.”
Harkin sighed. “Well, I guess I’ll have to ask them to show themselves.” He stood, went to the window and drew aside the draperies. Taking a lit candle from the table, he moved it slowly back and forth. It sent small circles of light outside on the White House lawn.
Lincoln concluded that the man was completely demented, and wondered if he himself might be in danger. But suddenly, through the window, Lincoln saw a blaze of light that lit the entire midnight sky. The glare brought water to his eyes and he squinted, but between his clenched lids he saw the trees bend beneath a lusty wind as a strange craft hovered just over the grass.
He was glad Mrs. Lincoln was asleep at the far end of the house. She would be petrified with fear, as he was. His knees trembled. “Harkin, is it the Confederates, come to avenge Lee and blow us all to kingdom come?”
“No, Mr. President, don’t be afraid. It isn’t the Confederates. It’s the aliens.”
While Harkin spoke, an opening appeared at the bottom of the craft and three small figures slid down a beam of light. They didn’t seem to have any clothes on, yet they were covered by silvery tight skins. They were short, but had very long arms and huge purple eyes. Within seconds, they were in the Circular Office, getting comfortable on the chairs and helping themselves to cigars from the humidor on the desk. President Lincoln was dumbfounded when they lit their cigars with the tips of their fingers.
Through the smoke, one pointed at Lincoln. “This him?” he asked in a raspy voice.
Harkin nodded. “Yes, Broxo. I can’t convince him that he has been chosen to become immortal, and that you can clone him so no one will be the wiser.”
“Now listen, Abe,” Broxo said, waving his cigar around. “From where we sit out in the cosmos on our planet Celesius, we can see backwards and forward and sideways. We can see down the tunnels of all the dimensions, and you are scheduled to be knocked off in a couple of days.”
The other two nodded, flicking ashes on the floor.
“Knocked off?” Lincoln repeated, hoping it didn’t mean what it sounded like it meant.
“Yes. You are going to be shot, but if you allow us to handle the procedure, it will be your clone gets the bullet, and you will be home free, off to your immortal future with Cleo, Nappie and Ben.”
Lincoln had no idea what the man was talking about. It was gibberish.
Harkin intervened. “Mr. President, what they are trying to tell you is that you can be transported to the twenty-first century, where you will live forever in luxury and immortal adoration.”
Lincoln shook his head. “Harkin, I’m completely baffled. Who is going to shoot me? The Confederates?”
Broxo blew a few smoke rings into the air and replied, “Some actor named Booth. But we’ll have you long gone by then. Agreed?”
Lincoln leaned forward in his chair. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I must be suffering from post-war syndrome.”
Broxo jumped up and clapped the president on the back. “That’s it, Abe, you’re already talking the talk of the next couple of centuries. You see, we’re known as the watchers of the universe. We go back and forth in time, and when we see somebody who deserves a place in history, we clone you, and give you real immortality. Why not enjoy it? You’ll meet up with a lot of folks from the past and the future. There’s a fellow named Ghandi, a gal named Joan of Arc, a singer known as Elvis, and a whole bunch of others, too.”
“But why do you do this?” Lincoln asked.
Broxo sighed. “It’s our job. All aliens have jobs, just like you earthlings. But we’ve made a few errors in the past. We almost cloned Jack the Ripper, and a guy named Adolph the Painter. So we have to be very selective, or the Boss will banish us to Jupiter.” Broxo shuddered at the word. “It’s the Devil’s Island of aliens.”
Lincoln stared helplessly at Harkin. “Am I dreaming?” he asked, and saw Harkin shake his head.
Broxo stubbed out his cigar and went to the window. The craft still hovered over the lawn, but a small cylinder at the bottom was revolving slowly with irregular flickers. Broxo frowned. “The code says we must be going soon. Destiny calls. We must make contact with a baseball player from the future, named Jackie Robinson. So you better make up your mind, Abe. What’s it going to be? Immortality, or just dumped into a grave along with the worms and the tree roots? We only make this offer once in a lifetime, you know.”
The room grew quiet as Lincoln thought it over. He had always prided himself on being a decisive man, and the shilly-shally of indecision annoyed him. He decided: if he were dreaming, he would wake up soon and the whole thing would be a humorous episode to recount to Mrs. Lincoln in the morning. If he weren’t dreaming, and all this somehow was true, he’d be shot soon anyway, so what did he have to lose? “I agree,” he said at last.
“Fine,” was all Broxo said, and then touched one long thin finger to Lincoln’s chin. In that half-moment, Harkin smiled and waved goodbye. For a nanosecond, Lincoln felt a soft breeze lifting him first skyward, then down, into a sitting position.
The place on the president’s chin itched, and he realized his beard was gone. He looked down and saw that he was dressed in jeans and a tee shirt and a pair of shoes that said Nike. His body seemed strange because of the odd clothing, but otherwise he felt fine.
He was sitting on a wooden bench inside a huge enclosure where people were dressed like he was. Some hurried past, while others stopped to stare at him for a moment. Somewhere music was playing, and Lincoln smelled the aroma of popcorn and something he instinctively knew was called pizza. Next to him on the bench was a young man dressed in a white suit with silver studs along the arms and legs. The stranger was humming and tapping his feet, which were clad in shiny white boots. Lincoln cleared his throat. “Excuse me, young man?”
The stranger turned toward him with a smile. “Yo?” Then he squinted, looking puzzled. “Hey, you know what? If you had a beard, you’d look just like Lincoln.”
“Could you tell me where we are?”
“Sure, dude. We’re in Galaxy Mall. My name’s Elvis, but everybody calls me the King.”
They slapped fingers and Lincoln grinned. He was starting to feel at home in this new century. “What do we do next?”
“We cruise,” said the King. “Don’t worry if people stare, we’re immortal. You’ll get used to it.”
“Cool,” said Lincoln.
“Now let’s go pick up some chicks. Marie Antoinette hangs out at the Gap, and maybe she’s got a friend.”
Copyright © 2003 by Vera Searles