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Clement's Corner: The Blue Cloud

Owen Clement tells a sobering sci-fi tale.

Feeing unwell one afternoon Jake O’Reilly had carefully bookmarked his place in the science fiction novel he had been reading, turned up the overhead fan, pulled up the foot rest and pushing back his recliner settled back for a snooze, something he rarely did.

He had awoken in the early hours with tightness in his chest and was unable get back to sleep as his mind kept working on how the electorate could vote out the incumbent Government with whose policies he strongly disagreed.

The book he had been reading dealt with a similar world wide problem by the use of thought police and thought transference techniques. Forcing his mind away from such obscure matters, he concentrated on happier thoughts of going on a recent bush walk with his son whose ability to find native animals and interesting plants was exceptional. With these relaxing musings he drifted off.

In his dreamlike state he became aware of an icy tingling on his arms and legs. As hard as he tried, he could not rouse himself to discover its cause. A metallic voice that seemed to come from inside his head said, “You must come with us”. Its forceful tone convinced him and he felt himself drifting upwards. Opening his eyes he looked down and saw his body sprawled out awkwardly on his chair with his wife Sarah bending over him. He continued watching as he rose and saw the room, then the roof of the house, then the houses on the street, then the town and finally the whole countryside below. He’d had an out-of-body experience once before with only partial success. This time he was actually on his way.

His peaceful state came to an abrupt end when everything went dark and he heard a babble of robotic voices all around him. Once again he felt the icy touches only this time, they were all over his body; that’s when he realized that he was naked. He unsuccessfully tried to move away. However, it was as if he had been immobilized. After what had seemed like a considerable time a pulsating blue cloud came into view and he found himself swallowed up inside. Another long period elapsed before the haze eventually cleared and he found that he was surrounded by a colony of semi-transparent amoeba like creatures about the size of his hand. Realizing that they had become visible to him they joined together in what looked like an aggressive stance. The ridiculousness of the situation of a naked unarmed elderly man being threatened by a group of harmless looking organisms made him burst out laughing causing them to vanish.

“Come back, I meant no harm,'' he called out holding out his hands in a gesture of peace.

The metallic voice said, “Why do you laugh at us?”

“I did not laugh at you, I laughed at myself.”

“Why do you lie?’

He lowered his hands as he considered the well-thought-out question.

“I – I laughed at my situation, which is the only explanation I can offer. It must be hard for you to understand.”

“Yes, there is much we do not understand. We have been watching you on earth for centuries.”

“I see.'' Jake sighed. "I must agree with you. We constantly break the laws of decency don’t we? And, worst of all, we live in a society where many Western governments like ours foster wealth and power above all else.''

It seemed odd talking to something unseen and yet he continued, “The people are told what to think, what to value, and most of all to hate and ridicule those unlike ourselves. There is much I would like to change, but I am only one person among billions. What we need, I have come to realize, is a single cataclysmic event that would affect us all, maybe then will we realize that there is no them and us, there is only us”.

“Do you mean that?”

“Yes I certainly do.'' Jake added vehemently.

After a long pause the voice said, “Then maybe we could help you?”

“Oh! How?”

“It will depend on you. Once you are ready, call us and we will act.”

“But but how will I know when it’s time?”

“You will know. Now, we must get you back.”

The blue cloud enveloped him and he knew that he was once again being transported.

The next thing he remembered was shivering with the cold followed by a couple of powerful jolts to his chest. Opening his eyes he saw that he was in a hospital bed with anxious faces gaping down at him.

He heard someone call out, “Ï saw his eyes flicker. Thank God he is back with us.''

And then with tears streaming down her face his wife Sarah grabbed his hand and kissed it. He saw people standing all around him grinning.

Through the babble of excited voices he heard the metallic voice inside his head say, “Remember, call us when it is time.''

Sarah broke in, “You’ve had a heart attack, Darling but you can relax now”.

After he had recovered, an ambulance drove him home.

The next day, as he sat resting in his recliner, he turned on the television and there to his horror saw that his worst fears had been realized. The government had been returned to office.

Looking up he bellowed in anguish” Now’s the time.”

At the very same moment his wife cried out when a blinding flash followed by an earth-shaking boom shook the house.

“It has happened,'' Jake yelled, “God help us all.''

Sarah ran into the room looking at him in alarm and said, “It’s alright, dear, it’s alright, it’s only a clap of thunder .''

“Do you see a blue cloud?”

She saw him screw up his eyes, move his head slowly from side-to-side and begin to mutter “Blue cloud, voices, amoeba, was it all a dream?”

Then she saw him brighten as he said, “Thank goodness, I thought you’d never come.''

Turning to Sarah he smiled, closed his eyes and slipped away.


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