A Rudderless Child

Jonathan quickly excused himself from his new psychic friend, promising that he would return as soon as he insured that the boat was secure, and made his way across the deck in the direction of the wheelhouse. Along the way, he studied faces, trying to fathom what was going on inside the passengers who all appeared to have been stuck blind. He didn’t encounter a single person who returned his inquiring glance. Stepping carefully around everyone he passed, some people looked as if they were shadow-boxing an invisible enemy. Some sat there with their eyes closed but their tense expressions announced that they were wide awake, as if hoping that the reason they couldn’t see was that they hadn’t yet opened their eyes. One man ran full tilt until he hit a bulkhead, another ran into the ship’s railing and Jonathan had to catch him before he toppled overboard into the water.

By the time he climbed the steep metal stairs to the wheelhouse, he felt certain that he was the only person on board who still had the faculty of sight.

He knew that two others of his own kind were frantically searching for him across the reaches of time and space. The evidence that they had interfered in the life of this planet was profoundly present all around him. However, he couldn’t imagine what had been their motivation for inflicting universal blindness on the human species. As he gradually returned to a perspective and sense of self that had, for reasons still unknown to him, disappeared in ages past, he knew that he needed to protect the intelligent life indigenous to this world, so unique in all the galaxy.

Before he could decide how he would participate again, he needed to ground himself in this new awareness of who he was, recovered after thousands of years of amnesia, thanks to his new mind-reading psychic friend. If he was to reassume his role as Adjudicator—which might not be possible after his spectacular failure to monitor humanity’s technological development—he knew he needed to connect with the two beings who were so desperately trying to reach him. He also knew that he alone was uniquely in a position to speak for the species at whose side he had wandered, a pilgrim lost in the desert.

Other memories surged forth—such as why he had mingled with human beings so extensively that they had begun to treat him as a god and why he had abandoned his role as official representative of the Council for Planetary Evolution, with the consequences that now stared him in the face. He could only hope that a time would arrive when he could work through those painful memories. But first, more urgent matters awaited.

At the top of the steel staircase, he slid open the door and stepped inside. A man in a white uniform with matching insignia on his chest and hat, barked out, “Only authorized personnel are allowed in here.”

Jonathan had to smile to himself at how the ship’s captain, who had been struck blind along with his first mate, was determined to remain in control of his ship, even under these circumstances. Aware that he would only be spending a few minutes in the wheelhouse–on his way to resuming his own recovered sense of responsibility—he realized that if the human species could not be saved, then like this ship captain standing steadfast at the wheel of his ship, he would go down with the human species, with whom he had journeyed across an ocean of time. With this certainty in his mind, he addressed the captain.

I would have thought that a blind captain would be glad to have a little help from a sighted layman. I’m assuming that you and your first mate here have already established that this blindness has affected dock personnel at Brindisi and Patras. And I can affirm that it has affected everyone on board your ship.

As he spoke, Jonathan moved around the room, confirming that the depth finder and radar screens showed clear sailing ahead for the next 10 hours if someone who could see could kept them sailing in the right direction. A quick perusal of the map spread out on a table confirmed that no submerged mountain chains would be encountered along the way, provided the ship didn’t veer from its current course.

How is it that you can still see?” the captain asked, turning toward the direction of Jonathan’s voice.

That’s a long story . . . How about if I spend the next few minutes helping you orient yourself to this situation?

Agreed. Tell me what you see on the dials and screens.”

After Jonathan read out all the readings he saw, the captain asked him to reduce the speed. Following the captain’s lead, he gradually pulled back on the throttle until the captain decided—presumably based on the sound of the engines—that they had reached a desirable cruising speed.

Then, abruptly, several things happened at once. A voice from what Jonathan assumed was their destination, the Patras port authority, came over the speaker announcing that until further notice, no dockings or departures would be occurring.

Understood,” the captain responded. “Keep me apprised of any changes in your status.

And Jonathan received his own call.

It had been more than 2000 years since he had received such a call. At that time, he had been the sole monitor on this planet and, in a busy century, he would communicate with the Council for Planetary Evolution a few times a year to give his routine reports on technological capacities and military deployments. Since then, he had no idea what attempts had been made to contact him. However, it was now painfully clear that there must have been many.

On this ferry, now drifting blind over the Mediterranean Sea, he was receiving calls from two beings of his own species who were doing their best to cram 20 centuries of conversation into the first minute of their reestablished contact.

He didn’t know why after all that time he was suddenly able to receive their communications. Had something opened in him as a result of the psychic’s recognition of his unique status? Or had the change occurred in the beings who were reaching out to him from their orbit above the planet. He knew that neither of them would have stepped foot on Earth, and he could sense that both the Adjudicator of the Council for Planetary Exploration who had replaced him and his brother were fully aware just how out of their depth they were.

2 comments to “A Rudderless Child”
  1. Another ‘snow globe’, or better, a transparent sphere, enclosing a brief storied-scene, a self-illuminated vignette surrounded by a darkness of the unknown. The sphere derives the intensity of its glow from the spark of the telling of its story. As a series of candescent spheres unfold in time, an epoch tale reveals its importance to humanity. There is an underlying hint its very survival, and life itself, is at stake…

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