The Alienation of Clark Monohan
by James Rumpel
Part 1 appears in this issue.
The outrageous statement made sense. After all, he always knew he didn’t fit in. However, as he thought about what the robot’s voice was saying, he came to a realization that made him belch out of terror. He jumped from his seat and started to run for the door. Unfortunately for him, the panel had silently slid shut and the door was indistinguishable from the rest of the walls.
“Let me out!” Clark shouted. “I know what’s happening. I’ve seen that episode. I wasn’t put here to be protected; I was put here to be ripened. I bet you’re going to show me a book about how to serve mankind that is actually a cookbook. Open the door!” Clark circled the room pounding on the walls as he continued to scream.
The robot tried to outshout him and get his attention. “Clark! CLARK! Look at me!”
The panic-stricken man glanced at, and then beyond, the robot. The television screen behind it had turned itself on. Occupying the screen was the face and upper torso of a young woman. As she continued to try to get his attention, he realized this was the true source of the voice that was emanating from the robot. She was rather plain-looking. Most people would describe her as “mousey.” Clark thought she was beautiful. He stopped looking for the way out and turned to face the screen.
“Calm down, Clark. You were not raised to be eaten. Where would you ever get an idea like that?” she asked rhetorically. “I am Captain Jourdane. My ship is currently orbiting your planet, and this shuttle was sent to retrieve you. We do not have much time; the cloaking on the shuttle does not last indefinitely. Please sit down and let me explain to you what is happening and what has happened.”
Her kind voice and gentle manner settled Clark’s nerves, and he returned to his seat. He was still pretty gassy, but he was willing to listen.
“We will not force you to return,” she continued, “but please hear me out. You are the only child of the ruler of our planet. You are royalty. At the time of your birth, we were entwined in a very difficult war against an unscrupulous opponent. Your father feared the enemy would try to kidnap you in an attempt to get the upper hand in the confrontation.
“Our people are very similar to the people of Earth, so you were brought here as an infant, and you were discreetly adopted by a family that had just lost a child at birth. We have had operatives on this planet for decades. Since then we have been watching you and protecting you without interfering. We needed the fewest possible individuals knowing your true identity so you would be safe.”
While everything she said seemed far-fetched, he believed it could be true. He had figured out that he was adopted many years earlier; he just never thought his true parents were from another planet. As he listened to the captain speak, he couldn’t help believing her; she seemed so trustworthy. Anyone with a heavenly face and melodious voice like hers had to be telling the truth.
“You will be happy to know that the war is now over,” Captain Jourdane continued, “and that it ended in a glorious and undeniable victory for our planet. The enemy is no longer a threat to you or anyone else. You will now be able to return to your family and become the prince that you are. Your family is very excited at finally being able to see you.”
“I don’t know,” Clark responded. “You are asking me to give up my life, such as it is, on your word alone. I want to believe you, but you must admit it is a very bizarre story.”
“I understand. Maybe this will help.” The captain explained: “Your father could not make this journey. He has very important duties of state to perform. He did, however, make a video for you. Please watch.”
The young woman’s face disappeared from the screen and was replaced by that of a slightly overweight man. This man had dark, curly hair, though it seemed to be receding slightly, and Clark could see a touch of orange about his temples. His eyes were deep and dark. When he began to speak, it was with a voice that carried authority, but Clark could sense warmth and compassion within its tones.
“Hello Clark,” the man said. “I am Gerrest, your father. I have learned your language in order to send you this message, I hope I don’t, how you say, skew it up.” At that, the left side of the man’s mouth curled up in a smile. Most people would not have known it was a smile, but Clark not only recognized it as a smile, he knew that smile. It was the same smile he saw every time he looked in a mirror while thinking about helium-filled balloons.
The man, his father, went on: “Your mother and I can’t begin to express how sorry we are that we had to leave you on that planet. We have grieved for you and missed you every single day. But those sad emotions have been replaced by great joy. We so look forward to having you return to us and become a part of our world.”
The video went on for a few more minutes and Clark listened, but the phrase, “part of our world,” continued to dominate his mind. He never really was a part of his current world. The prospect of being part of a world was very enticing. Sure, it could still turn out to be a ruse and he might end up being some alien’s expensive dinner, but the reward was so great it could be worth the risk.
When the video had ended and the captain’s pretty face again owned the screen, Clark declared, “I accept that what you are telling me is the truth.”
Captain Jourdane nodded her head and said, “That is great news. Everyone on our planet will be excited about the return of their prince.”
Doubt and apprehension again crept into Clark’s thoughts. He was willing to consider returning home; he was not ready to take a position of power. “I can’t be a prince. How can I rule a planet that I know nothing about? I don’t know anything about being a leader.”
Jourdane smiled, her mouth at an odd angle. “That’s the best thing, Clark. You don’t need to lead. Your father is deeply entrenched in his position of power. He will be the ruler for many years. It’s very likely that by the time your father is ready to give up his position, the power will fall to his grandchild.” At that, she flashed her sneer-like grin again. “You get to be royalty. You have no responsibility, but get to enjoy all the privileges of your position. Let me put it this way, you get to be the rich, powerful playboy. And let me add, that someone as good-looking as you will have many opportunities to play that role.” This time she went so far as to wheeze out a flirtatious giggle.
Clark took a deep breath. His heart and soul told him that everything he had been told was true. It had to be. This explained so much about his life. He deserved to have it be true. “I believe you,” he said nodding his head slowly. “But what about my family. I can’t just disappear. I may have always been different and never really belonged, but they still cared for me. They deserve to know the truth.”
“We have considered that,” replied Jourdane. “When we reach the main ship, you will be allowed to contact them. We can, very easily, make it appear that you are calling from somewhere on this planet. You can tell them that your birth parents have found you and you are going with them to their home in Australia. Just don’t tell the true nature of your family. Earth is currently not ready to know of our existence.”
“I would like that,” said Clark. “Can I tell them that I will come and visit them sometime?”
“Of course,” replied Jourdane, “you will have many chances to do so. After all, you are a prince.”
“I just wish there was more I could do to thank them.”
“If you wish, we can have one of our agents on the planet pretend to be a representative from Australia and give your Earth family a monetary stipend for their services. We could give them a rather sizeable reward.”
“I like that idea,” said Clark. “I want to go with you. I want to live the life I was meant to have, but I want them to be happy.”
“Does that mean you agree to come with us?” the captain asked. “I need your official answer.”
“Yes, I will come with you.” Clark knew he was making the right choice.
“That is great news,” replied the captain. “The shuttle is automated, so all you need to do is buckle yourself into one of the transport seats and we will bring you up to the main ship. Once there we will begin the journey to our home planet. It will take a couple of days, but you will have much to do during that time. Your father and mother will want to talk to you as soon as we are in audio and video range. You also can use the time to watch documentaries and read materials that we have produced to help introduce you to your new home.” She gasped out one more giggle. “I look forward to meeting you when you reach the ship.”
As the shuttle floated up into the atmosphere and beyond, Clark couldn’t help but laugh. The shuttle’s machinery made a loud sound, not unlike the sound of fingernails being slid across a chalkboard. Clark Monahan would soon be somewhere he belonged.
Copyright © 2020 by James Rumpel