Hua found himself following The Man. They walked deeper into the pine forest. Clumps of ferns, toadstools of various shapes and colors, and pinecones, nestled amongst dried-out pine needles, carpeted the forest floor. The smell of pine wafted up Hua’s nostrils.
When The Man stopped, Hua stopped.
The Man sat on a big boulder; Hua squatted on the ground.
“You followed,” said The Man.
“I…I was kinda curious,” replied Hua.
“What, if anything, would you like to be doing right now?” asked The Man.
Many things, thought Hua, like…he could only focus on one thing. “Flying…I wish I had wings and could fly anywhere I please,” answered Hua. Now he wished he had said “listening to sounds and things.”
A smile played at the corners of The Man’s mouth.
“I fly in my dreams, you know,” explained Hua, “especially if someone bad is chasing after me. I just spring into the air and flap my arms…no, it’s more like swimming, and I’m doing the breaststroke.” Hua’s ear buzzed. He jiggled it with his index finger.
“I see,” said The Man, his smile widening.
Hua suddenly realized he could hear The Man. He inclined his head. He could hear water dancing over layers of pebbles from a nearby stream. Branches swayed gently and leaves rustled as if following the lead of a giant conductor. Maybe he was just imagining the sounds.
The beauty and serenity of the forest captivated Hua for a while. He had never ventured this deep into the forest before. He knew he should have been home by now. He had to write his short story (and one for Peafish) for English class the following morning, plus his grandmother would be wondering where he was and why he had not come directly home from school. But The Man seemed to draw Hua to him, and Hua could not resist. For some unexplainable reason, Hua liked The Man. He wished The Man were his father and that they could fly all over the forest together.
“Then we must,” The Man’s voice broke into Hua’s thoughts.
“Must what?” asked Hua reeling back to the present.
Hua laughed. “How?”
“In that.” The Man pointed with his chin.
Hua gasped! He was staring at a shiny silver spacecraft parked not far from where he sat.
“WOW?” Hua’s mouth fell open, his gaze fixed on the craft. He had never seen anything like it, except in movies. The craft was perfectly round and appeared to have a zillion tiny windows, but no obvious way of climbing onboard. “That’s yours? You’re an alien?”
"A magician, then?"
"Nope. I know flying interests you. You do want to fly, don’t you?"
“Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! But people tramp through the forest everyday,” said Hua. “How come no one’s seen it?”
“I make it appear on special occasions.”
“Shall we then?” asked The Man, standing up.
“Wait a minute!” Hua furrowed his brow. “What do you want from me?”
“Nothing. I just care, that’s all.”
“But why me? I’m deaf, short, and skinny."
“Ah, deaf, no! But you have an incredible brain and imagination.”
“Look where it’s got me, though. Peafish bullies me; demands I do his homework; threatens me with a baseball bat; dumps my hands in the toilet bowl and—”
“Ever thought of reporting him to your teachers?”
“No can do. Peafish would deny it and make me suffer even more for blabbing.”
“Then it’s up to you. You must help the boy come to his senses.” The Man looked serious.
“Have you seen the size of that guy? He’s my age, yes, but he’s big, bigger than a…” Hua searched for the right comparison.
“Yeah! That would be right, and that’s too much for little old me to handle.”
“But I’ve given you the tools, use them,” said The Man.
“Except I don’t know what those tools are, do I?” Hua paused reflectively.
“Kind words are piercing to the soul, you know,” said The Man.
“Peafish doesn’t understand kind, especially if it comes from me.”
The man smiled gently. “He will. There’s more to you than you know.”
“More than my grandmother knows?”
The Man nodded.
“But she tells me she doesn’t know where my parents found me. She said I was dropped from heaven.” He made that last bit up.
“And she’s right.”
“She is?” Hua’s eyes widened; he pulled his shoulder back.
Again The Man nodded. ‘Every child is a gift from heaven.”
Hua let that sink in. He had enough to think about as it was. He stood up.
“That’s a neat craft,” said Hua, drawing closer to examine it.
“Ready to fly in it yet? Probably help with your writing assignment.”
Hua’s eyes widened and his heart raced, but he also had doubts. “You’re not gonna take me some place and dissect me, are you? That’s what I hear aliens do to humans, except you don’t look alien to me, you look quite normal – like a real human being.”
The Man laughed. “Tell you what, lad; you can fly the craft yourself. Go wherever you like. I’ll just sit strapped to my seat. In fact, you can strap my wrists to the armrests if that would make you feel save.”
The very idea of writing a short story about flying a flying saucer appealed to Hua. Without further consideration, he found himself saying: “You’re on, The Man, show me how to beam into this baby. Then you can show me how to use the controls.”
“Believe me, lad, you don’t need me to show you how to operate the craft. You already know. It’s all in your gray matter.”
Hua saw The Man blink his eyes, and instantly shiny metal stairs protruded noiselessly from the side of the craft. At the top of stairs, two metal panels slid open allowing Hua to see partly into the craft’s interior.
“That is what I call amazing,” said Hua, trying to contain his excitement.
“Let’s go, Captain. Your craft beckons.”
Hua and The Man seemed to float up the steps and into the spacecraft. Once inside, Hua was gob-smacked. The entire ceiling was saturated with miniature light bulbs recessed into tiny cavities. Two plush swivel armchairs with high backs graced the center of the craft. Hua’s feet almost sank ankle deep in the plush navy-blue carpet. There were no visible control panels. Except for the row of tiny windows circling the walls of the craft, there was nothing else.
“How d’you fly this baby?” asked Hua when he found his voice.
Before The Man replied, Hua saw him blink his left eyelid slowly and to his surprise, the stairs retracted into a cavity in the floor just inside the doorway. When The Man blinked his right eyelid, the doors slid shut. So, thought Hua, it’s the blinking eye trick that makes that happen. Unaware that The Man was watching him with amusement, Hua blinked one eye then the other. When nothing happened, Hua blinked both eyes. Still nothing happened.
The Man cleared his throat. “Well, Captain, we’re ready for take off. Don’t forget to strap up.”
“So we are,” said Hua climbing into one of the plush chairs and pulling the restrainer across his shoulder. He felt a surge of energy when he placed his palms on the armrests. Perhaps that’s how Captain Kirk felt whenever he took the Captain’s chair onboard the Enterprise, thought Hua. “Which eye do I blink to activate the controls? Left or right?”
The Man laughed softly. “Neither. Give in to your feelings, lad. Let them be your guide. Trust yourself.”
“But . . .!” Feelings of apprehension erased Hua’s excitement. A picture of traffic lights popped into his mind, the red light more intense than green and amber. Danger, thought Hua, and suddenly the interior of the craft glowed red. “What happened?” he asked.
The Man pointed his index fingers upwards and Hua looked up. All the white lights had turned red. “You must have done that,” said The Man.
“What were you thinking just before that happened?”
“Traffic lights . . . danger . . .”
The Man smiled. “And earthlings associate danger with what?”
“Bad things, I suppose.”
“Think color, lad.”
“Red?” Hua’s eyes lit up as his analytical mind kicked into gear. “You mean this baby operates on the traffic light principle?”
The Man nodded again.
Hua eased back in the huge comfortable chair, a smile of achievement plastered across his face. “GREEN!” he instructed aloud. Suddenly the lights in the cabin changed to green and the engines purred to life.
“What do I do now?” Hua turned to his companion.
Hua inhaled deeply. When he exhaled, it was as if he were a real captain or admiral, who knew the workings of spaceships. “Warp drive, Green Lights. Plot a course around the world.”
TO BE CONTINUED!