The Finding – Part 1
Nancy M. Griffis, Writer
Everyone knows Earth is doomed. A hundred years, two at most, and the rising seas will engulf all the history and human life. Civilization that took many thousands of years to create, destroyed in less than half a millennia. Anyone who wants to see humanity’s glory has a scant fifty years or so before things begin submerging. Unless they pull it together, though no one’s holding out much hope for that. Certainly not me.
I’m not here to sightsee, though seeing the dazzling cities and fascinating cultures across the world is a distinct benefit to my current trip. After a hundred years of making my way to the top of my people’s society, there’s very little I haven’t seen or done and that includs touring Earth. My earlier trips were short vacations where I played human and flew from city to city, sampling the best food and the most beautiful women at will. Simple cosmetics to cover the gold tint to my skin and contacts to hide the equally gold eyes brings me close enough to human to fool even a lover.
No, this is a kind of… working tour, one could say. I’m on a Finding. Most of my people do their Findings on our home planet but, naturally, my destiny is not so simple. When the urge to Find came upon me, I was called to a tiny blue planet on a planet of barbarians.
No, not barbarians. That’s my upbringing talking. In the high echelons of our society, I was raised to see few as my equal even on my home planet. It’s a strategy that stood me very well in business. In my personal life, well, it’s rather let me down. Quite likely why it took so long to feel the urge to Find. I’m supposed to let go of all my old prejudices and open my mind and heart to everything during the Finding and I’m doing my best, but it’s difficult.
Earth’s scenery helps, believe it or not. There are so many hidden gems that most humans don’t know about, let alone visit. In orbit, I felt drawn to a place I’d been before: Italy. I’d visited this cradle of civilization many years ago, though not the waterlogged city of Venice. This would be one of the first cities to drown inch by inch as the temperatures rise. Of course, it’s been in such straits for a very long time by mankind’s reckoning, so people likely don’t think about the end result.
I set down in the mountains of the north and rented a car to drive to Venice, the pull inside growing stronger. The weather cooperated, remaining a steady twelve Celsius, though a bit cooler at night. Rain doesn’t even mar the November skies, which is a bit unusual. I hire a gondola to take me into the city itself but being there doesn’t soothe the need twisting in my gut. I hire a boat out to San Giorgio Maggiore, one of the lesser islands outside the city proper.
Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy
Photo by Moshe Levis
I say ‘lesser,’ but the island holds everything one needs for a life lived well, if simply. Not that many do so. It seems to be reserved mostly for tourists. From the docks, I suddenly knew this would be a stop on my quest, but not the finish line. I take the day to explore the island, taking in the beauty of the ancient theater and the arts exhibits.
The church that sits on the small island is a thing of beauty and faith. It’s not a faith I share, but I can appreciate its exultation. The inside of the cathedral rises to the heavens in arches, majestic paintings, and stained glass. I stay a while in front of the High Altar, staring at the metal angels and the massive golden globe between them and feel a brief peace. I kneel in front of a small altar of candles tucked away from the main area and soak in the sense spirits and history.
For Lost Souls
Photo by Moshe Levis
The day draws to a close too fast and I return to the boat as the sun sets behind the high tower, setting off the ocean in reds and pinks never seen on my world. I drive north once more, the wrong direction. I feel an aching pull due west. Impatience dogs me the long hours back to my ship but at last I climb inside and settle in the pilot’s chair.
I fly across the Atlantic and the entirety of the United States hidden from local radar with the push of a button. At just past dawn, I keep time over a train for a while just for fun. I go north to a lake region in California. It sounds like an oxymoron, but even one of the driest states in the land has some lakes left.
Landing carefully in the highest recesses of the Mammoth Mountains, I thankfully avoid setting off an avalanche. I don’t want to accidentally bury any skiers being impatient. It takes only a moment to don a waterproof, thermalized flight suit to keep me safe from the elements and then I step out of the ship into the deep snow. It comes to my thighs but I feel only a vague chill; not nearly enough to keep me from walking down the steep curve that led to the bottom.
I walk slowly to the frozen lake below, stopping now and again to breathe in the bitter cold air, relishing its burn through my lungs. The snow’s depth lessens as I come closer to my goal and, almost two hours after I leave the ship, I stand at the lake’s edge. The need inside abates while watching the vast stretch of ice before me.
I stay there for a long time, at the precipice of understanding but, ultimately, leave empty-handed. Whatever it is for which I search–wife, purpose, a decent whiskey–does not reside in the frozen depths of Convict Lake.
It’s time to continue the search.
Photo by Vishpala Kadam
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