Planet of Tranquility
Solace from Below
Robinson!” Max’s voice impinged upon John’s nightmare laden sleep.
Jerking up, the professor looked into two sets of golden eyes, a
robot’s and a flutter-dragon’s.
He felt next to him and knew that Maureen had gone back to the
though she had been gone only a few hours, he still felt the emptiness
of her absence.
‘John, you remembered again,’ Silverado commented.
the sweat from his forehead, John just nodded.
This personal hell that had begun three weeks before had finally
begun lessening, but there were still enough reminders such as this to
remind him that he was not well yet.
If they had only been regular nightmares, he might have felt more
able to cope with them, but these ‘flashbacks’ were like being there
once again, as though he was back in the cell on Krimlon, or on Creon
freezing to death. The bio-electric shocks were real, his fingers still cold and
‘John…’ a soft voice whispered in his mind.
‘Yes, come and swim with me.’ In
his loneliness, the invitation became so enticing that he couldn’t
resist, which surprised him. In
the first two weeks after the flashbacks began, the only person he could
tolerate was Maureen, and sometimes he didn’t even want her around.
His feelings confused him almost as much as his visions of the
had not left his side during those first days, staying with him even
when he preferred solitude, consoling him during his worst moments.
In the past week, though, as he began to feel a slight respite
from these images of horror, he had felt her restlessness. John knew that she missed the children, missed having them
all together. Knowing that
he could not, at this time, wear one of the bio-adaptation devices, he
finally coaxed Maureen into having one implanted.
John, you’ll be alone,” she had protested.
getting better,” he told her, knowing it to be only a partial truth. Getting well seemed so distant to him at this time.
“And you’ll be able to come up and see me whenever you want.
Just as Murreena can stay out of the water for short periods of
time, so will you. Don and
the children have visited. You
remained unconvinced for another two days.
Only by blocking out his residual fears did he manage to persuade
her that he would be fine for extended periods of time without her.
It helped that the ‘flashbacks’ did seem to be coming less
joy in her reunion with the rest of the family gave him a great measure
he welcomed this time in the ocean.
Sliding on the rebreather, he walked down the Jupiter’s ramp
and into the soft velvet darkness of the ssMrillorrin night.
The moon had already set and he could clearly see the gaseous
nebulae shining above him, a centerpiece for the bright field of stars
slowly wheeling across the sky. Taking
a deep breath, John walked into the ocean, pausing only long enough to
adjust the mask and put on the fins.
the darkness was lit up by the myriad inhabitants of this ocean world. A school of long undulating fish, glowing spots all along
their bodies, slowly swam across his field of vision. Silverado's golden eyes suddenly shone in front of his face,
and the zanling’s thoughts danced merrily in his mind.
‘John,’ Klik said soothingly, rubbing up alongside him.
‘There is one who can
help you deal with your problem.’
long manta-like creature, with orange phosphorescent patches located on
the tips of its ‘wings,’ glided slowly beneath his feet.
‘I thought you were assigned to be my nurse-maid, Klik,’ John commented
wryly to the cetacean-like creature that swam alongside him.
‘Nurse-maid?’ the cetacean asked, confused.
“Is that like the aunt of a newborn pod member?’
Klik,’ John answered, trying to explain what he meant in pictures.
‘Oh, I understand. No,
I am not a nurse-maid to you.’
‘Klik, I was more or less teasing,’ John added quickly, not wishing to insult the
sea creature’s feelings.
laughter whispered through his mind.
‘John, if I was that easily insulted, I would have given up on you three
weeks ago,’ Klik said brightly.
felt his face grow hot with embarrassment, but knew that the sensation
was all in his mind, since he was submerged in fifty feet of dark water.
friend, you have not been very pleasant these past twenty-one
day-cycles. But you are improving, and you are at a point where I think
Grilong can help you.’
‘Yes, John, Grilong is a ssReesa, and as such, a healer,’ Klik
‘A healer?’ John
pondered. ‘Yes, I believe I would
like to meet this healer. These
flashbacks haven’t come quite as often lately, but they are still very
intense. If Grilong has
something to offer, I’m willing to listen.’
‘Come then,’ Klik said. John felt his
friend’s dorsal fin under his hand and he grabbed on to it.
‘Going above, John,’ Silverado said and quickly disappeared into the
opacity of the nighttime ocean.
swam deeper, coming close to the limit of the rebreather’s capacity. Even with the bioluminescent life around him, the darkness
increased and thickened, but John didn’t feel any fear at what might
be out there. Under his
hand, John felt the sure presence of his cetacean friend, felt Klik’s
heartbeat, even the slight movement of the muscles propelling them
steadily into the depths. Even
this far from the surface, the water still possessed a warmth that
relaxed him, and as Klik’s tail steadily beat its rhythm, the currents
caressed and soothed him.
‘Welcome, John Robinson. Come
into my home,’ a comforting voice drifted through his mind,
accompanied by soft whistles and clicks.
The whole effect was relaxing, and John felt his muscles
loosening, which surprised him, considering that he thought he was
‘You are anything but relaxed, John.’ Laughter echoed in his mind.
‘I am Grilong.’
Klik pulled him into a cave-like grotto, John blinked, his eyes having
to adjust to sudden bright light. There
were bioluminescent growths everywhere in various shades of yellow,
orange, blue and green. The
variety of undersea flora was incredible and John floated motionless in
the middle of the large room, entranced.
‘I like brightness and light,’ Grilong explained, anticipating John’s question.
‘It’s beautiful, Grilong. Thank
you for inviting me.’ Grilong
was huge, probably as large as a sperm whale on earth, but this creature
was more amorphous in shape. He
was grayish black in color, with a small line of phosphorescent dots all
along the top of his body, which was slightly slug-like in shape. Appendages, somewhat like lace, fringed the bottom of his
body, waving with the currents and keeping him motionless in the water.
‘I am glad you could come, John.’ There
was a short pause. ‘You are
having visions of past events….’
‘I am reliving them, Grilong,’ John
corrected the large creature, frustration evident in his thoughts. He wanted to tell Grilong how very tired he was, how
these visions from his past kept him from a full night’s sleep, how
mentally exhausted he was trying to excise them from his consciousness,
but he hesitated.
‘Yes, I know you are. This
problem needs to be resolved.’
‘No argument from me.’
‘I sense something…’ Grilong began and then paused, as though not wanting
to divulge too much.
‘What?’ John asked, curious, despite his reticence.
‘I cannot tell. It is not
clear. But you must be
prepared. You are going to
a planet to live. You will
need your mind clear, free. You
have led your group for over four years.
You have done well.’
remembered briefly some of their close calls of the past four plus
subject to debate, Grilong, but thank you.’
chose to ignore John’s statement.
‘John, let us begin. Are
you willing to open your mind to me?’
what do you plan on doing?’ Open
the inmost corners of his mind to an alien he had only met?
I will not hurt you. First
I want to see the total nature of these visions, then I want to help you
learn to control them, excise them.
We can go as slowly or as quickly as you wish to go in your
journey toward wellness.’
John let the slight, soothing currents carry him closer to
Grilong as he pondered. To
be free, to be able to think his own thoughts and not be subject to that
which was unbidden and unwelcome. ‘I
want to be free of this, but…’ He was unable to finish, not wishing to cause insult
over his reluctance.
if I sense that you are uncomfortable with my presence, I will pull away
and we will discontinue. You
will eventually overcome this on your own, but it will take a long
time,’ Grilong explained
gently, understanding John’s anxiety.
long?’ John asked, afraid of the answer he was sure he would hear.
your planet, those who are suffering as you are sometimes take years to
get over this disorder.’
thought in anguish, knowing deep down inside that what Grilong said was
true. He had checked the
computer medical database. To
have to deal with this for years? No! How could he lead his family with this albatross around his
‘No, I don’t think I can….
Do you think you can help me, Grilong?’
‘I believe I can, John. Open
your mind to me with the willingness that you open your mind to
at Grilong’s reference to his wife, John nevertheless did as he was
told, or at least tried to. It
was hard. Maureen was the
only individual that he comfortably shared intimate thoughts with.
Not even with Silverado did he open up fully.
‘Relax…relax,’ Grilong soothed.
began feeling lethargic, and visions of the ocean began flowing through
his mind, further relaxing him. Then
the nightmare came and he cringed, writhing with the torment that it
caused him. He cried out,
almost losing his mouthpiece. Remotely,
John felt Klik rubbing against him, holding him up, comforting him. He felt the touch of another sea creature.
presence of the aliens soothed him, helped him gain some measure of
the vision progressed, John felt a difference from previous occurrences. He noticed himself becoming a spectator rather than a
participant, and he watched the events in his mind’s eye
uncomfortably, but with a certain amount of detachment.
It became more like the dreams and nightmares with which he was
familiar. He felt
intimately involved, but at the same time understood that it was just a
remembrance of a past event.
He didn’t physically feel the bio-electric shocks of the
Krimlon device, the freezing cold of Creon, or the blinding pain of the
‘I’d really rather not see this again,’ John finally said as he
viewed the details of his physical and telepathic imprisonment.
‘Then stop it,’ Grilong told him simply.
‘I can do that?’
‘Yes, you certainly can. You
can learn to control these ‘visions,’ John.
With time they will only be memories.
Unpleasant memories, but memories of something else you overcame
with success. And, might I
also add, with great courage,’ Grilong explained.
‘I have had a great deal of help in my successes,’ John said, as
the nightmare faded and finally disappeared from the view of his mind.
Relief washed over him, making him feel almost limp.
‘Of course you did. Most
of what we accomplish in life is only achieved with the help of
said. Pondering briefly,
John had to agree.
‘Why was I only remembering and not in
that last vision/dream?’ he asked.
‘I helped to focus it,’ Grilong said. ‘John, your recently
acquired telepathic skills allow you to be a more vivid part of these
flashbacks. It has allowed
you to feel the physical stimuli even more intensely than if you had not
been telepathic. But it is
that very talent which will permit you to recover more quickly.
It will allow you to exercise more control.
‘Thank you,’ John said fervently, grateful for the ssReesa’s
help. ‘How do I learn to do this?’
listened. He listened to
the soothing sounds of the ocean; he listened to Grilong’s mental
voice, an ancient voice of song, a voice of incredible telepathic power,
permeating his consciousness, giving him what he needed to shut off the
hell-spawned flashbacks. He listened to the voice of the inhabitants of ssMrillorrin,
all singing joyful symphonies of peace.
He listened to the voice of Maureen’s love, even though she
wasn’t physically present, a voice of over twenty years of
felt. He felt renewed
peace, he felt encouragement, he felt hope.
He felt the embrace of thousands of life forms, all singing their
own songs of life. Wryly, John thought this must be the galaxy’s
largest group hug. Then he
heard and felt his own song of life, a song of joy tinged with sadness,
a song of triumph despite adversity, a song of hope, and he understood
and was satisfied.
voice was reassuring and John continued listening and feeling….
sun woke him with its bright fingers of light and he opened his eyes to
see Maureen’s face looking into his.
“How?” John mumbled, sleep still firmly entrenched in his
brought you as far as he could, and I pulled you on shore.
That must have been some session down below,” she told him.
Her wet hair was still dripping, telling him that he had finished
his session with Grilong only a short time before.
He was surprised to see that the sun was nearing the far horizon.
was very peaceful, and yet very powerful,” John said, sitting up and
watching the waves lapping at his feet.
He realized, with satisfaction, that he had not awakened in the
cold sweat to which he had become accustomed.
“Grilong, the healer, is teaching me how to control the
flashbacks. It seems to be
helping already. I feel
more rested than I have in several weeks.”
over, Maureen kissed him tenderly, overjoyed at his progress.
“Oh, John, that’s wonderful.”
They sat side by side on the sand, watching the bird-fish leaping
from the waves, catching tiny water insects and diving back into the
ocean, their squeaks not too unlike those of their own flutter-dragons.
Above their heads, Maggie and Silverado performed their own
aerial ballet. The other
zanlings zipped out of the ship after their afternoon repast in the
arboretum and joined in the joyful dance.
The two humans watched silently, reveling in the happiness of
their friends as well as their own happiness.
Without looking, John reached over and took her hand in his,
pulling her closer to him.
thoughts returned to a time when he was a young, awkward college
student. He had been quickly smitten by the lovely California girl in
his physics class, but had waited until almost halfway into the semester
before he had dared to say more than hello to her.
slightly worried about her husband’s sudden quiet, turned and gazed at
him. His eyes were
elsewhere, but, to her relief, his face reflected a happiness that she
had not seen for several weeks.
“Dear, what are you thinking about?”
was remembering the first time I saw you.
It was the first day of physics class at CIT.”
John had received full academic scholarships to California
Institute of Technology, but even though it covered the necessities, he
was still broke most of the time. “I
had just arrived the day before, hitchhiking after my dad’s old Dodge
died in Arizona. I was
lucky to finish registration before classes started.”
I remember. And you
didn’t make a very good impression either.
Your clothes were wrinkled and your Reeboks were falling
laughed. He had to use the
last of his money to ship most of his belongings to his dorm.
All he had to wear that first day was what he had stuffed in his
backpack. “I saw you
sitting there with all your friends.
You were one among many, but I couldn’t see them.
I only saw you. I
remember you had on that yellow sweater and the designer jeans.”
dear, you were kind of obvious.”
She, too, let her mind wander to the past, visualizing the tall,
almost too-slender young man who had caught her eye the first day he
walked into class. To
her exasperation, he never seemed quite able to gather up the courage to
talk to her. Her
disapproving friends didn’t help either.
They all thought he had more altruistic thoughts on his mind. In her heart, Maureen knew they were wrong, but she chose not
to make the first move. “I
still can’t believe that it took you most of the semester before you
asked me out.”
you cannot imagine how much I wanted to talk to you those first
remember, John. And I
remember how thrilled I was when you finally asked me out a few weeks
date that was! Pizza on the
beach at sunset.” He knew
that Maureen Tomlinson was from a rich family and he had never really
expected her to demonstrate any interest in him, but to his surprise,
when he had finally found the courage to ask her for a date, she readily
accepted. He was still
struggling monetarily, but extra income was earned by a part-time job at
a fast food restaurant and a little tutoring on the side.
So the only thing he could afford was a pizza, which was eaten on
the beach at sunset. The
warm sand, the hot sun, the breaking waves; it felt the same as it did
now, the only difference being that his love had grown so much deeper
felt the tendrils of his love and saw glimpses of his memories. “John,
it was the most wonderful date I had ever been on.”
Her attraction to him was totally different than that of any
other man she had dated. She
had not regretted a moment of the almost twenty-five years of their
sat there, remembering, watching the sun continue its journey toward the
far horizon. As her head
lay gently on his shoulder, she began feeling a soft murmuring of
laughter. Suddenly, he
jumped up, and reaching down, pulled Maureen to her feet.
His eyes had a mischievous glint in them.
“Our latest hydroponics crop is ready to
harvest,” he announced. “And
what we can’t get from the garden we can make in the replicator.”
at his outburst, Maureen quested for telepathic clues, but was unable to
pick up anything. “What
are you talking about?”
bent over, kissed her soundly and said, “I feel like having pizza.”
They both laughed as they ran up the ramp into the Jupiter II.