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Manos' Encounter With The Gods


Marko Lampas

Volume I

Chapter 1


On a tranquil August afternoon, in the undisclosed future, Manos and his wife Penelope arrived from New York City for their annual weeklong vacation at the Panoramic View Hotel, high in the Green Mountains near Dorset, Vermont. They received the same comfortable suite as the previous year; it boasted a terrace for late afternoon reading, as well as a view of the lush forest on the adjacent mountain that rose steeply about a hundred yards away.

After checking in, they unpacked most of their things, but in sheer delight at being alone together, they made ardent love on top of the embroidered, blue satin comforter, as the soft breeze wafted over their bodies, and the distant songbirds echoed their love whisperings. After their lovemaking, Penelope drifted into a peaceful sleep, like a baby in her mother’s embrace.

She sighed and breathed ever so softly, with her head resting on her husband’s chest. His right arm cradled her lean, naked body, and caressed her lower back. Her long, shining black hair lay loosely on her side, covering part of her breast. Amused by the reflection of the dancing shadows on the ceiling, Manos remained awake. His thoughts traveled back to the time they first met. Those memories brought a contented smile to his face. So many wonderful years what an amazing life, full of beautiful memories. He turned and glanced down at the Grecian beauty curled up on his chest. Perfectly groomed eyebrows framed her large almond-shaped eyes, complementing her high cheekbones. Her straight Grecian nose and full lips made this Aphrodite desirable to every man who saw her. Manos never took for granted this gift that nature bestowed upon him. He leaned over and whispered in her ear, “I love you, darling. I love you as much as Ulysses loved his Penelope.”

Suddenly drops of sweat appeared on his brow as a strange sound entered his being: a breathtaking melody of female voices. The heavenly choir resounded inside his head. His eyes widened, first in wonder and then in shock. His mouth fell open and he held his breath, in order to focus on the incredible melody. He trembled as his body resonated with the extraordinary harmonies and his mind tried to recognize and pinpoint the source.

What an unearthly sound! I have never heard anything like it before; yet it seems so perfect, beautiful and melodious.

He scanned the room to make sure that he wasn’t dreaming or that the haunting sounds weren’t emanating from an adjacent room. Penelope and he were music lovers, especially classical music, and patrons of the symphony and the opera; but this melody was spine tingling, beyond anything he had ever heard.

He closed his eyes to enjoy it further, when an incredible panoramic vision appeared to him.

Oh, my God! Can this be real? He saw a huge lake surrounded by giant trees, and majestic, multi-colored mountains. He opened his eyes and looked around the room. No! I'm not dreaming! I'm awake. He saw his reflection and that of Penelope in the large mirror hanging across the room. He shook his head sideways and froze for a second or two, his mouth agape. Penelope was still peacefully sleeping. He closed his eyes once more and there were the mountains, soaring higher than Mount Everest, but with no snow on their summits. How odd! He thought.

Astounded, he opened his eyes trying to regain his senses. How can I possibly see this while I'm awake? What is happening to me? Anxiously, he looked outside the porch window and saw the waving branches, blown by the summer breeze. He tried to catch his breath. It was as if he had seen a ghost. There, before him, lay a magnificent vista, a Utopia. He leaned over and whispered to his sleeping wife, “Penelope? Penelope, are you awake?” She stirred gently but didn’t answer.

Manos tried to sort it out. He knew instinctively that the vision would vanish the moment he opened his eyes. The female chorus would probably fade away as well.

Strange and wonderful! His heart raced, as he experienced the unknown. Curiosity overtook him. He had to see the vision and hear the melody again.

There! There it is! Is this a hallucination? What is this place? His head sank backward onto the pillow. Manos saw the lake turn to a turquoise-green, and colors of autumn foliage adorned the mountains, just like in Vermont. He was awestruck. How beautiful! He could now see behind the mist mammoth waterfalls, larger than Victoria Falls, tumbling from the distant mountains painted with the colorful mist reaching high into the sky to form a breathtaking rainbow. He murmured to himself, “Look at those rays from the giant red star! No, this cannot be Earth! That star is huge, many times the size of our sun.” The way it reflected on the lake, its huge radiating arms of energy reached millions of miles out into space. This was not Earth, of that he was sure. But being so close to such a huge star, why was this place not an inferno? The planet had two stars. Above the horizon, was a smaller star. Manos remembered seeing the flames of solar energy from his own sun through a powerful telescope years earlier. They were impressive, but minuscule in comparison to these tongues of fire.

The trees, taller than the redwoods in California, stood around the lake, their lengthy branches reaching down to stroke the crystal waters, with the gracefulness of ballerinas. They then soared back to their full height, shaking off the water to form a soft rain with scattered raindrops sparkling like brilliant jewels. The branches swayed in rhythm to the melody. A melody that might have been created by our greatest composers. They’re alive! Manos shook his head in disbelief, his eyes still closed.

God in Heaven, what am I looking at? What are you showing me? The branches began to release their ripe fruits high in the air and at the same time, huge flying creatures descended from the golden sky. They looked like green-eyed eagles and storks, except they wore red, yellow, and blue-green feathers with wings more than thirty feet across. They seized the ripe fruits in the air and soared back up into the rainbow-painted sky. There were more than forty of them, circling high above, like African vultures. How beautiful! The tall trees are moving as if they were choreographed to the melody. He thought he was viewing a prehistoric planet, wondering to himself if any of the creatures of that Age like dinosaurs or Tyrannosaurus Rex would soon appear.

Then, to his amazement, he saw a human male form on the hill, who turned and gave him a serene look. “Oh God! That looks like me! — It is I! What’s happening? How is this possible? This is not just a vision, I am there!” His frantic whispers should’ve awakened Penelope, but apparently, she was meant to stay asleep. Manos wondered how he could be there and in his room at the same time.

He was standing on a small hill blanketed with purple grass and surrounded by orchid-colored trees. Had he been abducted, was he hallucinating or just having a crazy daydream?

When he opened his eyes, he was still in his hotel room. He was ecstatic with what was happening, but at the same time, he did not want to lose that vision for an instant. He wanted to prolong its adventure, just so he could see the outcome. He closed his eyes and once more saw himself among the fruit trees that covered the hills. Some resembled earth’s fruit-bearing trees and others were alien. Large, conical shrubs with bright red leaves surrounded him. He felt the need to touch them and smell the fragrance of their lovely flowers, like giant roses with exotic, beautiful buds. The whole place exuded a haunting fragrance of roses and gardenias. As Manos strolled through his vision, he slowly turned to share a glance with Manos in the hotel room. It was as if his double, was smiling at him.

Suddenly, a few of the flying creatures began to glide ever so gracefully near to where he was standing. He expressed no fear in spite their size. On the contrary, he eagerly reached upward trying to greet them.

“How beautiful you are with your emerald-green eyes and your serene expressions. I can feel the breeze of your graceful wings on my face,” he whispered all the while, forgetting that Penelope was still sleeping with her head on his chest. If there had been a witness to this scene, they would have been convinced that Manos was having a drug-induced hallucination.

He smiled at the feeling of joy that overwhelmed him. With his head bent over the flowers, he wondered if there might be other creatures much larger than these lurking about, since everything else in this place was of super proportions. But in his conscious mind, he knew that this was just a vision; he was not really there. Then suddenly, instead of large dinosaur-like creatures thundering toward the tropical garden, he heard the humming of a large chorus. It came from beyond the surrounding hills, and it harmonized with the melody of the trees while the female voices faded away, yet another surprise for him to Coming toward him by the hundreds were handsome male and female creatures, from every direction, congregating by the fruit trees and the flowers. They were all similar to humans, with extraordinary figures crowned with long, golden and brown tresses. Tall males and females, extremely handsome, and all of middle age.

How strange, I don’t see any infants or young among them. Lord! Who are these creatures? What are you doing to me? Do they see me? They must. They look friendly like the birds. Look at their incredible faces. Manos continued musing to himself. He wouldn’t dare open his eyes. He feared that he might not see them again. They were approaching him. Oh! Yes, perhaps I might talk to them. But what would I say? Would they understand me? I know this is not earth. I'm sure of it.

His curiosity, at its peak, now mixed with anxiety. He shook his head in amazement. He saw them slowly congregate all around him. They were all wearing the same golden-red and white garments as his, similar to the togas of the ancient Greeks. He saw the branches, leaning down for them to reach the fruits. God! The trees are alive! They’re feeding them. He turned to see a group leaning over to smell the perfume of the flowers, and the leaves, the large leaves, were embracing them. The serenade, it took his whole being. It was far greater than Borodin's Polovetskian Dances. The melody and chorus haunted him, filling his entire being with joy!

Manos sensed another thing. I feel it, they’re communicating among themselves and the trees in silence, I see it. Oh God, nobody would believe this. Manos was blissful, enthralled; only in someone’s fantastic dream would an image like this appear. And yet he was awake in the midst of his dreaming; at the same time, both reality and fantasy coexisted on the same earthly plane, inside and outside his mind.

The female creatures tossed him a friendly glance to put him at ease. A party of six moved directly toward him from the right side. “Oh, what beauty you behold, you’re incredible, stunning, I must touch you.” He turned and extended his arms with palms facing outward in the position of someone wanting to make contact. They all stopped in front of him and placed their palms on his.

Each one reached and touched his hand to feel its warmth; they were of a different dimension, a transparent one. Manos, with a content expression, felt the tingle all over his body. They’re different, they are not solid flesh. After they toasted him with warm smiles, they walked down the hill to congregate by the lake, clear from the tall trees. Manos stood there watching them, his face painted with incredible sensation.

He murmured, “Oh, If only Penelope could see this.” For whatever reason, Penelope remained in a deep sleep, completely oblivious to Manos’ whispers. He stood there looking up at the flying creatures, gliding in and out of the falling crystal raindrops, formed by the tall branches. They seized the fruits in the air as before and ever so gracefully landed near the humanlike creatures that cuddled them. Manos was now certain that he was placed in another world.

This is surely Heaven, a paradise, a place of such serenity and beauty; it has to be. God? What is this all about? What does it mean? Why are you showing me this?

As if this were not enough, all the creatures turned in his direction and lifted their hands in front of them as if in a greeting or farewell. At the same time, the haunting melody swelled into a crescendo of magnificent sound.

He slowly lifted his hands in the same manner they did, and then brought them under his chin, nodding. From a party of five near the bottom of the hill, a female took a couple of steps forward. She first placed her hands on her forehead and then stretched them out, looking at him with the most loving of expressions.

Who is she? She’s so beautiful! Manos mimicked her greeting and stared at her for a fleeting moment.

The melody from the trees began to fade away, and another one, just as melodious, started to emerge from the distance, near the mega falls. All the creatures, including the female, slowly turned toward the new melody and began to ascend over the lake and the trees, floating toward the horizon. The flying creatures descended from high above to join the procession. It was as if new pastures were calling them.

“They’re flying! My God! They’re flying over the lake, and the trees like the birds!” He was talking aloud. The last one to ascend was the stunning female.

The serenade of the chorus echoed in the distance. All the creatures, some lovingly entwined, began to fade slowly into the golden horizon along with the melody. It was a breathtaking scene, all of them flying in a slow motion.

A light grayish haze began to emerge from the crystal waters to conceal the brilliant glow of the two stars as well as the majestic waterfalls, mountains, and all the flying creatures. Finally, the view vanished into the mist, leaving Manos too stunned to move.

“They’re gone; the vision has come to an end. It’s time for me to open my eyes. Yes, here I am, back in my room, next to my wife, who’s still asleep.” Staring around the room and breathing deeply, he could actually hear his own heartbeat. He slid slowly off the bed, careful not to awaken Penelope, and quickly gulped a glass of water to quench his thirst before he collapsed onto a nearby chaise lounge. He placed his head in his hands and closed his eyes. He knew he wouldn’t see the vision again, but he must try to collect his thoughts. Astonishing would be the least one could say of what really took place. He was surely frightened and naturally curious to make any sense out of this and the reason why he was shown this strange dimension, this illusion that was so vividly real.

This was definitely not a dream! It was an alien place; Manos had no doubt about it. What else could it have been? We have only one star, our sun. He saw two stars. Great mountains without any clouds or snow. The purple grass, those amazing trees, feeding and caressing all those handsome creatures. The huge waterfalls.

He stared at Penelope, still in bed, and began to talk softly to her. “Oh, my darling, if you could’ve seen this place. If you could’ve seen those so handsome human-like creatures. Those flying birds, the singing giant trees, and them, flying, flying over the lake and the tall trees, like some kind of science fiction movie! Yes, my love, I saw Paradise. And I ... I was there.”

He hoped Penelope would awaken so he could tell her. Tears filled his eyes. Manos became emotional, wanting to see that vista again, those creatures, that female who so tenderly greeted him and made his heart pound, his passion awaken. “Who is she? Why is she filling my soul with this strange awareness? Awareness, which is so deep inside my soul’s universe. A universe of countless space, of huge and minuscule matter, both so far beyond our galaxy, and then so near I can see her incredible face. Something happened to me, something extraordinary, but why? Why me?”

In the midst of all this, the voices he first heard resumed. With his head still in his hands, he peeked through his fingers with eyes wide open out of fear and curiosity. He scanned the room and then the terrace, looking for someone, an alien, perhaps. The voices were coming from outside, much closer now and he could hear them while his eyes were open. A chorus of female voices was singing outside his window.

Slowly, he lifted his head and whispered, “They’re here! They’re outside!” He closed his eyes for a second to see if the vision would reappear. “No, I can’t see it, can’t see anything; the vision is not there.” He looked at Penelope to see if she had awakened to witness any of this, but she was still asleep. Determined to get answers, Manos tugged on his robe and went outside onto the terrace. There he leaned on the rail and looked in the direction of the voices.

“They’re coming from inside the mountain,” he murmured to himself, as he looked around to find someone. But the grounds below his terrace were deserted.

He wondered if all this was simply some crazy flight of his imagination. Perhaps it was, but he didn’t think so. He looked carefully, trying to memorize everything. This was not an ordinary phenomenon. Something strange was happening.

For several intense moments, he looked for any possible form or movement inside the woods, where the sound was coming from.

“Nothing. I can’t see anyone. I can only hear the female chorus singing. I will listen. I love the melody, I’ll listen and wait.” Manos was content listening to the beautiful serenade; he decided to wait and hope to find something to satisfy his curiosity about the entire incident. He needed to know what was happening and who was doing all this. After several minutes, a female voice rising above the others called out, “Manos, Manos, I am here. I am here in the mountain; come to me!”

His body tensed and his back straightened as if someone had pressed a wooden plank against his spine. He felt a slight shiver. Inquisitiveness and panic overtook him. He turned to look eagerly at the woods to find the source of the voice. It was coming from straight-ahead, but still invisible.

“That voice! So beautiful and vivacious, who is she? She speaks to me. She’s there, straight-ahead in the woods. I must find her, I must find them!” He searched the grounds to see if anyone else was around. He wanted proof, proof that someone else could hear the voices and that he was not going crazy.

“I must awaken Penelope; no, no, I mustn’t. I must do this alone. Do what alone? What am I saying? I should go into the mountain? Is this what I must do?” He was confused. “They are out there. They’re calling me! She’s calling my name! Is this some kind of prank? But who would dare? Who would be so stupid as to try something like this?” He was anxious and a bit annoyed with himself, when just at that moment he noticed a young man carrying a water hose on his shoulder, approaching from around the corner.

“Ah! There, there is someone.” As the young man approached the terrace, Manos called out to him.

“Excuse me, young man. Do you hear female voices singing from over there, from inside the woods?” He pointed to the mountain.

The boy stopped and turned his head to listen for a couple of seconds and then shook his head. “No, sir. I don’t hear anyone singing.”

Manos raised his voice. “No human voices? Are you sure? Listen carefully.”

“Yes, sir! I’m sure. I hear birds and crickets, that’s all, but no singing, sir.”

Manos looked disappointed. “All right, thank you.”

“No problem, sir.” The young man nodded politely and walked away. He might have thought Manos was some kind of a nut, but Manos’ extremely serious expression made him think otherwise.

The sound of the voices grew louder. He alone could hear the sound, like the one the legendary Greek hero Odysseus must have heard from the Sirens on his return from the Trojan War. To avoid the Sirens’ temptation, Odysseus ordered his men to tie him to the mast, and then to put wax in their ears so that he alone could hear the Sirens’ serenade. No matter how many times he told them to stop, they were to ignore his orders and continue.

The haunting melody was taking hold of Manos.

The single voice called again, “Manos, Manos, come, come into the mountain.”

He nodded his head and spoke softly just in case someone might’ve been around to hear him talking to no one. He saw the young man’s questioning expression.

“I will, I will come.” Nodding, he quietly went back into the room, dressed and kissed Penelope softly on the head, careful not to awaken her. He thought, if that young man couldn’t hear the voices, then this most likely has something to do with the vision. “They want me, and I must find out what it is,” Manos murmured before he walked down the back stairs to the hotel’s rear exit. With a strange feeling going to the unknown, he made sure he noticed the smell of freshly cut grass and heard the distant sound of a lawn mower coming from the front of the hotel.

Two small boys were playing on the basketball court while most of the guests were taking their afternoon siesta.

He tried to stay alert and aware of the surroundings, looking around nervously and walking toward the direction of the voices. They were leading him away from the hotel, past the deserted shuffleboard and tennis courts where a class of teenagers played under the eye of their instructor. Finally, he came upon a narrow path leading into the mountain. Here he paused and looked around again, trying to decide what to do. Fear of the unknown was evident on his face.

The solo voice called out once more, now from inside the mountain, close by, but still invisible.

“Come! Come to me, Manos. Come, Mánava.”

“Má...nava? Who is Mánava? Is this some kind of a mist…?”

The voice interrupted, “No mistake! You are Mánava, as you are Manos. Enter the mountain.”

“She reads my mind! Who is she?” he called softly, again careful in case someone might hear him talking to the woods. “Tell me, please, tell me who you are. And what do you want from me? I would like to know. Please, show yourself. I need to see you!”

“Come up the path, Manos, and in due time, you will know all that you need to know.”

He walked on as if someone were controlling his footsteps. A few yards inside the path, he noticed the colorful leaves dancing in the mild wind, glittering with reflections from the afternoon sun. Eager and in good spirits, he knew he might now see who these mysterious people or creatures were, and perhaps find out what they wanted from him. Manos was sure this was some type of alien event and knew there was nothing he could do but pursue its cause. He paused frequently to listen for footsteps or for any evidence of them, but there were none, nor was there any more singing or calling; however, he could sense they were all around him. Every once in a while he’d call for the voice to speak to him and he’d listen for any response, but nothing was forthcoming. Other than the sounds of the crickets, the birds, and the little crawling creatures scurrying above and under the dry leaves to hide as he approached, nothing else was there.

After a short distance, he paused once more to rest and looked up to see the blinding rays of the sun coming through the canopy of the trees. He heard the sounds of nature played by the wind on the swaying, leafy branches, but it didn’t compare to the melody he’d heard coming from the giant trees in his vision. In spite the silence of the mystery voice, he continued. He was convinced something supernatural was about to happen.

He climbed along the path for a long while without knowing why or where he was going. The steep climb produced a slight fatigue in his legs and perspiration broke out on his forehead, inviting the tiny annoying insects around his face.

Just when he was about to question the phantom voice for the last time about where he was going, he came upon a small clearing on the south side of the mountain. The path took him little more than a quarter of a mile above the hotel. There he saw a grassy circle measuring around fifty yards in diameter, with a large dark gray rock on the upper end of the circle and a small oval pond at the lower end. Manos walked up the hill, leaned against the rock to rest, and caught his breath. Since the path ended here, he assumed this was where he was supposed to be.

The soft wind blowing from the west refreshed his face and blew away some of the nagging insects. In the distance, he saw a group of dark green mountains and farther out on the horizon, another string of hazy blue ones. The view was wonderful, but it did not compare to the vision.

A reflection from a sunray directed his attention toward the pond several feet from where he was standing. He walked over to it and sat on a small rock in order to reach the water.

“It is so clear, I guess I can have a drink,” he said to himself. “I'm so thirsty.” After he washed the perspiration off his face and took a drink, he returned to the large rock. The loveliness of this little circle, surrounded by trees ready to change into their glorious autumn colors, delighted him. His instinct told him he might wait, and then maybe not. But he had gotten a little tired from the steep climb and thought he should rest for a few minutes. He bent his knees slowly and sat on the grass with his back resting against the rock. Straight ahead in the sky, birds and insects were flying in every direction.

He spoke softly, knowing they were all around him, behind the circle. “Why am I here? What do you want from me? Please! Please come out! Let me see you! Tell me, what is it you want me to do? I did all you’ve asked, why don’t you reveal yourselves and tell me what this is all about?” Nothing. He stood up ready to leave when suddenly the humming of the voices echoed from every direction. He strained his eyes once more to find them, and again they remained invisible, as was any evidence of other people being there.

“Nothing. I don’t see any footprints or garbage from uncaring people who leave trash behind. No one has come here. Except those who are all around this circle, and I'm positive whatever is going to happen, it will happen here.” He was talking to himself.

He walked toward the edge of the circle looking in every bush and tree trunk, hoping to see someone, but he could hear only voices. The fragrance of the wildflowers and the songs of the birds brought a contented expression to his face, precluding any fear of the unknown. With his wandering thoughts wrestling inside him, Manos returned to the rock as if in a trance. In the distance, toward the mountains, he noticed a single white cloud slowly approaching with a slight change of shape taking place, but there was nothing odd about it.

Two large screeching black birds drew his attention upward where two smaller ones, with greater flight agility, were attacking them.

The cloud had come much closer and paused in front of the sun to block the disk with its shadow. Manos welcomed the shade and asked himself how it had come here so fast. “The last few moments I saw it, it was all the way out there on the horizon. And why is it the only one in the sky? Look at it, it’s descending and changing to dark gray, ready to pour on me. If, in fact, it is a real cloud. By looking at it, I have my doubts, and I think it’s time for me to leave.”

The voice called out, “Manos! Remain by the rock.” It had an authoritative sound this time. Enough to convince Manos that something weird was about to happen.

He raised his head upward in time to see the cloud, now almost black with a slight visible movement as if someone or something was inside. He stared at it for a while but couldn’t discern any more changes. His inner voice was calling. “What are you doing? You’re in danger! Leave, leave!” The cloud had grown in size, and now covered the whole area with its darkness. A thundering low-pitched sound began to shake the area. The powerful tremor was another reason for him to run, but his legs wouldn’t support him. He felt some kind of numbness. Trapped and holding on to the rock, he was unable to move while the ground was shaking.

Then, suddenly, a complete silence. The low-pitched sound and the tremor stopped, along with all the usual sounds of the forest ― birds, chattering leaves and the wind. They all ceased. A complete silence fell about the circle.

Manos sat down, leaning on the rock and apprehensively waiting for the unknown. A blinding zigzag light hurled out of the cloud and toward him, forcing him to put his arms up instantly to protect his eyes from the impact. With his head bent inside his arms, he felt a slight thump on the back of his head. It was painless, just a mild burning sensation and a bit of dizziness. He rubbed his eyes to clear his blurred vision and to see if anyone was there before he made one last attempt to flee, when the rest of his body collapsed, and he fell unconscious to the ground.

Soft raindrops began to fall on his face from the motionless cloud that now hovered not more than thirty feet above him. The rain stopped the moment he opened his eyes. Manos looked through the blades of grass and listened for something or someone. He noticed the area was extremely bright, but not from the sunlight.

He wiped the water from his face and pushed himself off the ground to rest with his back on the rock, and he continued searching for some explanation, some clarification of what was happening. He remembered the bright light coming at him from the cloud. He also thought he might have been abducted. This is an alien happening, of that he was sure.

“Yes, it was a bolt of lightning, but how is it that I'm not injured? If that was a real lightning, I should have some evidence of having been struck, other than the numbness in my feet to prevent me from leaving. Well, I was enticed to come here for some reason; it was instinct telling me to run. So whoever made my feet numb held me here. From the lightning, I should perhaps have serious burns, but there is nothing, no evidence. No one is here. It’s like the mysterious voices; no doubt, aliens did this. They paralyzed my legs to prevent me from leaving. But where are they? Why can’t I see them? If these are the same creatures I saw in the vision, why don’t they reveal themselves? The only thing I see is this strange cloud.” He was talking to himself and trying to analyze all that was happening to him this summer afternoon.

He raised his head and looked at the cloud, concerned it might strike him again, when he noticed it had changed from a threatening dark gray to cotton white.

He felt a slight warm feeling, a tingling, in the back of his head. First he thought he might have hit his head when he fell unconscious, then he reached back to feel what it was.

“My God! What is that? What happened to my hair?” he whispered as he brought his hand forward to see if there was any blood.

“Nothing. No cuts, no blood; it’s just as if someone has shaved me. Shaved me? What’s happening to me?” He placed his hand back again carefully to feel the bald spot. A spot of his hair, three inches in diameter, had been removed, the only sign that he’d been, for lack of a better word, hit by lightning or something. He peered up at the cloud trying to remember what really happened before he fell unconscious. He remembered the dead silence all around and the slight tremor under him, along with the bolt of lightning, which hurried toward him as he instantly covered his face.

“I see the sun is gone behind the trees. That tells me that I have been out for more than an hour. And I'm certain something or someone is inside this cloud, watching me. I feel it! My God! That must be an alien ship, but where’s the evidence? I don’t see anything to indicate it was a spaceship! What do they want?” He attempted to stand. “I can’t move. My legs are still numb.” He lifted his face up and saw the cloud glowing with bright lights.

“There, what’s that? I see something, something solid inside.” He started to call, “Tell me, please! Tell me, who are you? What do you want from me? Please speak to me!” There was no response.

The cloud now began to spin around him, slowly at first, and then faster and faster before it ascended high into the sky.

Manos quickly reached for the rock to pull himself up and cried out in despair, “Wait! Wait! Don’t go! Who are you? Tell me, please. What do you want? What did you do to me? Tell me! Please! Wait! Wait! Wai... Oh! What is it? What is that? It’s so beautiful!”

The cloud paused for a second or two in front of a science fiction wormhole, which appeared out of nowhere to reveal a huge golden galaxy at its other end, similar to our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda. Manos watched in awe and then — in the blink of an eye ― the cloud was siphoned inside the wormhole, and both vanished from the sky.

“Oh, my God! I knew that was not a cloud. They were aliens. I had an encounter with aliens!” Manos said aloud. The slight dizziness he had felt when the cloud began to spin was now gone. He was up, leaning against the rock, looking around for proof of this unearthly visitation, perhaps a burned spot on the ground in the shape of the spaceship. But the reality was that there had been no spaceship.

“Nothing. Not a single thing. No one is going to believe me. This was a dream, a dream which I hope won’t become a nightmare.”

All the usual sounds of the forest resumed and the afternoon sky gradually changed into golden colors as the sun began to set behind the distant mountains. Manos touched the back of his head once more, trying to feel any cuts. There was nothing, just a smooth spot on his head as evidence that something incredible had happened to him. He thought of the voices he had heard in his room and of the amazing vision. His thoughts turned to Penelope.

“God! Penelope? How worried she would be if she awakes and finds me gone.”

He took one last look around and made one last call. “You! You! Who called my name? Are you still here? Please. Come out, tell me, tell me what you did to me! Is there something I must do? Is there a quest I should go after?” He waited for a moment looking around the circle, hoping for an answer, but once again, there was no answer, nothing.

He took the narrow path back to the hotel, pausing every once in a while to touch the back of his head and wonder. He felt a strange sense as if someone or something was around him, like the voices.

“What am I going to tell Penelope? What did they do to my head? They must’ve put something in me. Or, maybe, maybe they took something out. But what if it’s something inside me that will begin to grow? What then? And why me? Why?”

Only the Gods of the Cosmos knew. In due time Manos will also know. He’ll know his mission is to end the devastating virus and punish human wickedness.

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