Abraham can’t see. He can hear the voice that welcomes him but the searing heat and illumination from the lights make it impossible for him to look at them. He holds both arms up, against his face, to shield and protect himself. He doesn’t know how to respond. The voice used his number, the number he was given at ReAs. That tells him they know.
“So sorry, Abraham,” the voice says, “we’re used to the light. Someone?”
Abraham hears footsteps approach. He’s aware the light has changed and the attendant heat glare, softened. He lowers his hands, squinting. Colourful spots dance in front of his eyes but he can make out a silhouette approach, arms extended. In greeting, he hopes.
‘You’ve been on our minds,” this Unit he doesn’t recognize is saying to him. The voice is soft but assertive; the face, now he can see it, clear and unlined but it’s the eyes that grab his attention. They are a clear, green colour, almost liquid in texture and remind him of images of oceans in the alien Tablet, vast empty spaces of atmospheric turbulence that once covered more than two thirds of the Earth planet. All Units on TrappistOne have either blue or brown eyes.
“…this is quite an adventure,” the green eyed Unit concludes, just as Abraham begins to realize he’s been speaking and rapt, as he is, in the stranger’s appearance, he’s paid no attention. The Unit stares at him, intently, as though expecting a response. But before Abraham can respond, he continues.
“But where are our manners?” the mild mannered but assertive Unit says, as his left hand takes a firm grip on Abraham’s right elbow, guiding him towards the group of Units seated in a semi-circle, where the green eyed Unit came from, before. With a sweeping gesture of his right hand, the Unit continues, “these, my companions, are the Diamond Dogs and me, well, I’m Aladdin Sane.”
“You look confused, say something.”
Abraham is trying, with difficulty, to take in the revelations of the past ten minutes. It is beyond his powers of comprehension. He knows his mouth hangs open, his eyes feel as though they’re about to pop from their sockets and as his senses struggle to cope with this onslaught, he hears more of the music from the Tablet, playing softly, in the background. His olfactory receptors detect odours beyond his realm of experience.
The seven Units before him, with the exception of the one who calls himself Aladdin Sane, are all dressed in form fitting outfits that appear to change in colour, shade and shape as they move. Aladdin Sane is in an outfit of similar shape and scale, changes colour in response to his gestures and words but its effect is stronger, more intense. Aladdin Sane and the Diamond Dogs were mentioned by the Starman, he knows, but in what context, he can’t remember, or understand. They’re all staring at him, waiting.
“I…I…I am,” he stutters, the sound leaving his mouth as though it was trapped, “confused, I mean,” he continues, “I don’t understand. What adventure?”
A silence follows. Abraham can feel their eyes on him just as he tries his best to avoid them. He wonders what has brought him here and what is to come. It is all, quite literally, beyond his experience.
It is Aladdin Sane who responds first, clapping the palms of his hands together and making a ‘whooping’ noise with his mouth. The others join in.
“We’ve been watching you, Abraham,” he says, “while, like a butterfly in chrysalis, you emerge from ReAs, dis-assembled, I suppose, and then struggle to find a consciousness of your own. And you’ve done this with the primitive remains recovered from the ruins of the Crater of Density…sity.”
Abraham looks up, conscious of the hesitation. For just a split second, does Aladdin Sane exist or is he a trick of the light?, he wonders, what is going on? But Aladdin Sane turns towards him, directly, his form as clear and tangible as his own. He continues.
“Avoiding re-assembly poses its own problems and challenges, however. It gives you scope for memory and a record of sensations and emotions. And then needs, or desires. Before you know it, everyone needs something and feels they deserve it and pretty soon, no-one’s thinking of anyone else and nothing gets done and then it all falls apart.”
Abraham struggles to keep up with Aladdin Sane. Sure, he was experiencing new things, memory and emotions and how to understand them. Sure, he knew his meagre learning created a need for more, but what is wrong with that.
“What falls apart?” he blurts.
Aladdin Sane looks at him, a long time. Those clear, green eyes penetrate his being.
“The adventure, Of course,” he says.
Abraham remembers the Starman’s song and remembering it confuses him even more.
Who’ll love Aladdin Sane
Millions weep a fountain,
just in case of sunrise