The Gift of Harlander Q


Author’s Note: This was originally an untitled short story. I chose to add a title for the sake of convenience. Based on the paper and type font, I did this on a typewriter, which means I wasn’t even legally an adult when it was written. I have seen some glaring errors in logic that I will fix as I go.

I think I loved science fiction and didn’t see much of a cross-over genre of Christian science fiction. I experimented, and I must not have liked the piece because I never tried anything like it that survived. Hmm…

Anyway, please enjoy this collaboration between me as an adult and my teenage self. There is one dialogue I might change as an adult with a stronger faith, but I think I’m going to let what I’ve written stand as a reminder of where I’ve been.

Once, on an early fall day, I came home after a six o’clock executive dinner to relax. As I walked in at eight, I heard a whirring sound. I looked around but saw nothing. I showered, laid out my outfit for the following day, and curled up with Victory, my Siamese cat; Bianca, my Saint Bernard; and Homer’s Iliad. The book must have been boring because I dozed.

I never awoke until nearly ten. At that time, Bianca and Victory made a noise that could have awoken the dead in the graveyard across the street. I walked to the kitchen window to see what had caused my pets to make such a racket. I saw nothing.

Suddenly, the landscape was as bright as day. I heard a loud crash. Seeing nothing through my kitchen window into the backyard, I ran to the front door. I threw my front door open and beheld an astonishing sight. In my front yard was a tremendous banana-shaped ship. Lying by it was a little, green, wrinkled man who was shaking convulsively as though he were cold.

I ran outside, threw my housecoat over him, and carried him inside the house. I gently place his body on my living room couch, and then I began to pace the floor. After many minutes, he coughed and began to speak, “Forgive me for reading your mind, but you have so many questions that I feel need to be answered. Please feel free to question me now.”

After a moment of stunned silence due to feeling awestruck, I began to ask the simplest questions. “Who are you and where are you from?”

“I am Harlander Q from the planet Oraphus K. You won’t find it on any of your star maps and constellation charts. Seeing it requires technology too advanced for your civilization. This is off the subject, but when you carried me in, you felt fear. Not of me, but of what your people would do to me. Why?”

I didn’t like the question. I felt that the answer might be just a little too dangerous coming from a less advanced civilization. Yet, I knew somehow I could not lie. “This world is so out of whack and getting worse. Everyone is against everyone else. If our government had you, 150 others would want you. Our government wouldn’t give you up, the others would declare war on us, and we would have World War Three. Not that we don’t have oil or religion to cause that… In addition, we don’t have anything like you on our planet. The scientists would run so many tests on you and they would probably treat you worse than a chimp. That’s not your problem though. Hey, where did you learn English?”

“Genetically, our minds have an ability to pick up vibrations and turn them into thoughts we can understand. It would not matter what language you spoke; somehow our advanced neural networks would take those vibrations to give us the true meaning of what you speak. Sometimes we can even pick up thoughts regardless of the language. Our scientists are still studying this.”

“So, why are you interested in our world?”

“We have always had an interest in the development of less technologically advanced races. Since I haven’t seen too many starships in your skies, your world still qualifies. But we also like to study how the race develops and what it believes to try to understand its decisions better. And I hate to admit it, but there are some resources on our world that are limited but oh so important; your world has them to spare in the quantities we need.”

More questions filled my mind. I was excited and scared and intrigued.

“Is this your first visit?”

“As a Technical Resource Acquisition Specialist, yes. But I was here as a young Oraphusion. It was about 2,000 years ago. I was assigned to be a Cultural Research Associate on one of our first expeditions to this planet. My team leader was so ecstatic. We followed this man. He walked everywhere and healed people. He tried to teach others to live a good life by loving, sharing, and caring. But for some reason because some people–particularly the leaders of his own belief system–didn’t agree with him, he was publicly murdered in a way that looked like he had stolen something or killed someone or done something really wrong. We were so sad that we left shortly after that because this world proved too babyish to understand us.”

“I’m not sure you’re going to be any happier. They still kill the followers of this man, and the followers who live are often harassed and persecuted. You will have to give a bad report to your people. We’ve only changed to get worse, not better.”

“You’re right. At this time, we are only going to continue resource expeditions. But there is hope. You may not feel like you’ve done anything, but you’ve covered me because I was cold and took me in because I had no place to hide. I bet you will even get me some water.”

Despite Harlander Q’s insistence that there was hope, I felt dejected as I walked to the kitchen, pulled a glass from the shelf, and got some water from the water purifying carafe. I walked back into the living room. Harlander Q had sat up and there was a look of confusion on his face. “Hmmmm. I think you misunderstand. On Oraphus K, we don’t drink water. We use it to fuel our vehicles. I need a gallon to get home. If you could give me any more than that, it would help my neighbors in my community living space fuel their transport vehicles for several months.”

I had several gallon containers in my basement from various drinks and cat litter concoctions. I gathered all I could, rinsed the containers, and filled them from the faucet in the bathtub. In the end, I had about 14 gallons of water. As I started to line them up in the hallway, I noticed that Harlander Q had left my living room and the front door was open.

I moved the very full and very heavy containers to the front porch. Harlander Q stepped out of his space vessel and pushed a button on the doorway. As he walked toward me, container after container floated like magic from my porch to the inside of his ship.

When Harlander Q reached my porch, he sighed and began to speak. “I know you feel sad and maybe even like your hope is lost. This feeling will pass. I have a small gift I’d like to give you to thank you for what you’ve done. It is the symbol of my planet on a chain for your neck. You can use it to remember me.”

I bent my head to my chest to hide my eyes, knowing he could feel my heart. He fastened the chain around my neck. As I lifted my head, I saw him disappear into his spaceship. The door whirred shut. The ship took off majestically and disappeared into the blackness of the night.

As I watched the empty sky, I felt the extra weight tugging at my neck. I immediately remembered Harlander Q’s gift. As I reached to my neck to see what the gift was like, I felt the symbol’s weight in my hand. I wondered about what the symbol was. A bittersweet smile came over my face as I traced the symbol in my fingers.

The next morning, I awoke to a warm, clear autumn day. The birds were singing. The first of the leaves were falling. A little, green snake slithered slowly across my doorstep, sluggish from the early chills of autumn. He reminded me of Harlander Q, my visitor from the previous evening. It was all so dreamy. Was it real? Or did too many food combinations combine to cause a frightfully pleasant dream?

I reached slowly to my neck. The cross, Harlander Q’s gift of love and friendship, was still there.


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