Cronus

Cronus

The professor’s old station wagon was spraying up a cloud of dust as it creaked and groaned its way through the dark desert.  He couldn’t even remember how he knew this unmarked road existed.  But he was racing on it, recklessly, out to some point that he knew he would recognize when he saw it.  His only conscious thought was Richard Dreyfuss being uncontrollably compelled to build a Devil’s Tower in his mashed potatoes.

He felt a tingling on the back of his neck which slowly spread down his arms until his arm hairs stood on end.  A head rush followed and it felt like he might pass out.  He worried for a moment about losing control of the car and swerving off the road.  Just as he started to gather himself with a deep breath, he slammed on the brakes, almost involuntarily.  The car lurched to a stop and the trailing dust cloud rolled over the car, blocking sight in every direction.

He was here.  He stepped out of the car, coughing and waving his arms in the dust cloud.  After just a few steps, he was in the clear and could see the landscape.  It was the exact scene he had seen in the dream that terrified him just an hour ago.  The sun was just rising.  This is where the dream had ended.  He was no longer being unconsciously driven to do anything — he was just standing in the middle of the brush and dirt, waiting for something to happen.  Nothing happened.  He felt ridiculous.

He made a sun visor with his hand and scanned the horizon, looking for anything out of the ordinary.  Nothing.  How long should he wait here?  It was going to get uncomfortably hot soon and there was no guarantee that his fifteen-year-old car would even get him back to civilization.  He sighed and rubbed his eyes.  “I am losing my mind,” he muttered, and brushed his clenched fist over his mouth and beard.  He realized he hadn’t even washed his face or brushed his teeth this morning.  He had just bolted out of bed and ran to the garage and started driving.  He was still in his pajamas!

All the confusion settled into a simple feeling of humiliation.  This is not how tenured professors behave!  He turned to get back in the car and drive home.  It was 6:20 in the morning, so no one would know that he had been on this silly adventure.  He opened the door and bent down to sit, but was instantly frozen when his eyes caught the mysterious, dark figure about a hundred meters away.  He couldn’t move, one foot in the car, one foot out, half standing, half sitting.  The figure wasn’t moving, either.

He eased back out of the car to stand and look at this…  man?  It seemed to be a rather tall man in a dark robe.  Even though this sight should have validated his being here, it only made him feel more ridiculous.  Who is this?  Does he expect me to just stroll over to him and strike up a conversation?  Apparently, yes, that was the only course of action that made any sense.  After a few more seconds of hesitation and a glance in all directions to ensure no one was watching this secret encounter, he walked around the car and off the dirt road, into the brush.

The walk didn’t take as long as he wanted it to.  He was half way there before he expected to be and he stopped to stare at the figure.  This person was seven feet tall.  Not only was he wearing a long blue-black robe, but his face was covered with some kind of matching mask.  He, or it, was looking directly at the professor and standing absolutely still.  It was the most terrifying thing the professor had ever seen.  He wasn’t sure he could force himself to take another step.  Unexplainably, the fear quietly left his brain.  He knew that this strange figure meant him no harm.  Was it communicating with him?  Reading his mind?

He walked, confidently, right up to this incredible figure.  The mask was no mask; the robe was not like any robe he had ever seen.  This was not a human being.

A barrage of images and sounds poured into the professor’s mind.  They were coming too quickly to make any sense.  Then they stopped.  He covered his face with his hands as his brain worked to sort them all out into a meaningful order.  This being had just told him a story in only a few seconds.  An incredible story.  A story about the end of the world.  The professor’s eyes widened as this story began to sink in.  He looked up at the face of this giant standing in front of him.  For a moment, he thought that the story must be the whole reason he had been summoned out here.  No, that didn’t make sense because this creature had already demonstrated the ability to communicate directly into his brain.  He could have told this story in another dream.

The robed figure brought his arms out to his side.  The robe fluttered a little and, as if the situation could be any more unreal, the professor noticed that the robe was only brushing the ground.  There were no feet extending below it.  This being wasn’t seven feet tall, it was hovering a foot above the ground.  “Are you here to bring the end of the world?” the professor asked.  Of course, there was no verbal answer, but he knew that the answer was “No” before he even finished the question.

The true purpose of the meeting was now clear.  The dirt swirled around the being’s feet, or lack thereof.  He rose slightly higher from the ground.  In the circling debris, something was beginning to glow.  Brighter and brighter, until there was a ball of light hanging in the air between the two of them.  This was it — the device.