The Learner by Alan Nayes (Excerpt

Posted on Sunday, May 26, 2013


I gaze down at my crumpled body and know I’m in seriously bad shape. I’m helpless. I’ve experienced minor injuries in the past but nothing of this magnitude.

I’ve called Earth my home for over four Earth centuries. I’m always in control. Šumayins are bred and raised that way—masters of all those we study. Our goal is to learn and catalogue every living entity in the visible universe. Why? I don’t ask my rulers, the ZYX, such things—I just do it. We’ve conquered and controlled the dark matter universe, which is ninety percent of all existence. As a learner, my current project is to study and learn as much as I can about this third planet from the Sun. My hosts call it Earth. We call it Yu. I’ve been here nine Šumayin years. And I’ve never been truly frightened…until now.

This is terrible. A disaster. Mainly because it could seriously affect my sojourn here.

Oh, Usýs, I bemoan. What the hell happened? One moment I was seated comfortably in the bus and the next—I’m lying unable to move on the steep slope of a wooded ravine. My legs are twisted at unnatural angles, telling me the bones are fractured. If I were full-blooded homo sapien—or I’WE, as we call our human hosts—it would be many months before I would walk again. If ever.

I groan aloud as the nerve fibers resurface from my shock. Rapidly, the pain escalates. Quickly, microseconds actually, I shut down the impulses shooting up my spinal column. I have extensive internal injuries as well—bleeding from a lacerated liver and spleen and a cardiac contusion.

Soon, I’ll lose consciousness.

I must act, if I’m to preserve the last nine Šumayin years I’ve dwelled here on Earth.

My junýe. With one good arm, I reach into my purse, which miraculously is still strapped over one shoulder. I reach inside—momentary panic. It’s not there. I must find it.

I attempt to move my head. First rid my eyes of the blood. Setting the purse aside, I flex my fingers of my right hand. Movement, but slowly. And weak. My left, dominant, hand is stronger.

“Ugh,” I murmur. My left elbow is dislocated.

Back to my weaker right. I wipe the blood away, and as well as I can, examine the ground around me. Leaves and rocks. And a large lodgepole pine tree growing nearby. I strain to see a little farther in the dark and detect the twisted wreckage of the bus below me. The air carries the scents of diesel and smoke. And more blood. From the bottom of the ravine, I hear weeping, moaning, groaning, and a few cries for assistance. In the distance I detect sirens. Help is on the way.

I have to act quickly!

He is coming!

Find my junýe. In rapid static bursts of arm movements, I search the area immediately around me. There! I grasp the intricate instrument—which to a host would appear to be nothing more than a flat cell phone minus any keypad or viewing screen. A blank smooth tapering metal tablet. But that assumption would be so wrong!

As soon as it activates, the messages from the ZYX fly at me like words shot from a machine gun. Only infinitely faster in Šumayin.

ZYX: Abandon. Abandon!

I say, “No” using my native vernacular. Šumayin is a super-compressed language by human standards and communication is extremely rapid. A series of clicks to alien ears.

ZYX: You must, NayéLi.

“I won’t leave my body.”

Tûc: Abandon. It’s Tûc talking now, my retriever.

Screw you Tûc. He would want me back. He’s always desired me.

“I can fix it,” I say.

Tûc: Abandon! Return to Šumaura.

“I’m not abandoning.”

I picture them on their dark side of the universe beyond the Great Divide looking aghast at how I minimize my situation. Just like NayéLi, they’ll complain. Too much a rebel. Well, I’ll show my Šumayin leaders. They know, and I know, if I abandon my human body, I will be forced to leave the planet with only one Šumayin year remaining on my assignment. I realize in their stoic way, they are concerned. It’s been many, many Šumayin years since a learner has been lost on a host planet. Still, I can’t leave. Not now, not so close to fulfilling my contract.

Tûc: NayéLi, you will die.

“I’ll survive.”

Tûc: Leave your host body.

Me: “I refuse.”

The ZYX again: You can’t defy the HADJX.

I’m tempted to say something crude in my adopted host’s language—to hell with the HADJX comes to mind—but I resist. The HADJX is our Šumayin covenant that my species is bound to honor and deep inside me I do respect the universal rules, but right at this moment, survival is foremost to me. And remaining on Earth.

The HADJX states—among many things—no Šumayin shall disobey the ZYX.

I sign off with a single “Bye.”

I’m going into shut-down mode. This will give me time to heal myself. I heal very quickly, but there is a great risk. If I shut down, thus making myself unconscious, and my physical injuries prove insurmountable, and my host body dies while I’m in shut-down mode, then I will die. However, I, as an energy entity, can survive my host body’s death, but I must be conscious in order to abandon my physical Earth body before it dies.

I’ve made my choice. I’m not leaving my host home, nor my host body.

Ignoring all other bullets of communication, I slide the junýe in my purse and concentrate on the monumental task at hand. It will require tremendous energy, energy I may no longer possess. But I’ve learned many things from my hosts and one is to have faith, even against long odds.

“Try,” I convince myself.

Suddenly, I cringe. That fear is back, an unsettling disquiet, totally separate from my body’s physical mayhem. And my instincts never betray me.

He is coming. And he will find me.

But he won’t find me like this, I vow.

You can do it, girl. Shut down!

NayéLi signing off!

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Genre – Sci Fi / Paranormal Romance

Rating – PG13

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