Hello everyone; WB Johnson here.
I’ve decided to pick up our number count from the first two Wednesday Storytimes. I actually found the opening script of the original third one, in which I had retitled the feature as “Weekly Story Time”, citing how old Golden and Silver age comics would change their titles abruptly when the forgot to publish a book or merger with another.
Which I’m still going to do.
Taking nods from the golden age sci-fi magazines, silver age naming conventions, and the current DC Comics trend of reviving old features at the issue count they left off at, our Storytime will now be called Spectacular GONG Stories. And the first one is an interesting story set in a far future.
“A Van Winkle in Space-Time”
by WB Johnson
In the age of humanity, before the age of the Great Zyber Wars, before the First and Second Great Silences and an innumerable amount of events that weren’t even that great, there was a man named Triv Tylor. Tylor was member of Earth’s Interstellar Investigative Force, an organization founded back when the dates were back in the quadruple digits. As such, it was one of the more prestigious space faring organizations, so one would think that when he ended up stuck inside of an unaccounted cluster of asteroids, the rescue would be swift and professional. The type of rescues that are sung about and have major blockbusting movies of.
That never happened.
Tylor realized after approximately 300 years of bidding his time in and out of cyro-stasis that his organization had forgotten to come get him. Discouraged, he decided to enter into indefinite cyro-sleep. Hopefully, SOMEONE would find him. And, as luck would have it, not only was he found, but he was currently on his way home; back to the dusty blue marble of Earth.
Within the barracks of a medium sized starship, there was the sense of dank darkness and warm fuzzy nostalgia. That’s what Tylor felt as he awoke from his capsule pod. He had just awoken from sleep; regular, circadian rhythm following, God given sleep. He never realized until just now how much he had missed the slobbery, sweaty awkwardness of regular sleep.
How many years had he gone through the cycle of waking and sleeping between cyro-cycles; living an almost disjointed time
line of work-weeks that where actually decades? How many years had he longed to return to a state of permanent waking; one
without the periods of dark stillness that meant another year’s, another decade’s passing? Yes, he had wished for these
things and more… but he had wished that the circumstances were a bit less annoying.
Tylor stepped out of his pod, only to be greeted by the panicked scurrying of bare feet on slick tile floors. Two little humanoids nearly catapulted through a hatch door next to his pod and knelt gravely in front of him. He immediately remembered the oddness of his return to the waking world; needless to say it annoyed him greatly.
He had awoken surrounded by a congregation of near-human aliens on a completely alien planet; having them hail him as if he were a god. He was told that he was their great Helix Lord. Subsequently, he was told that could have anything that he wanted. Being more than uncomfortable about having a race of aliens worshiping him, he said that he had only one wish. But once what he asked for turned out to be taken back to Earth, the congregation hushed into a nervous silence. They suddenly realized that the object of their worship wished to leave them. There was at least two weeks of sorrowful mourning. At first, seeing a whole people lose their god was quite said, but after awhile, Tylor became increasingly annoyed with every single one of them looking at him with sad, puppy dog eyes begging him not to go.
Why was he being worshiped? He never got any sort of answer. Too many of them were to afraid to even look at him directly after he announced his intent to leave, let alone speak up to him. Those who did only said weirdly cryptic things; Tylor supposed that these were the same kinds of questions a cult would ask their most holy relic if it ever suddenly woke up and started talking. Upon finally embarking secretly on a starship in the middle of the night, he had been given these two before him as retainers or servants by his “most holy and humble priests”, but they did nothing but bow before him and apologize for any and everything that they did. Tylor was not amused.
“Oh Great Helix Lord, why have you awoken? What can we, your most humble servants, do for you?” Tylor grimaced at them and tried to walk past, being in no mood for any of this god-king crap. The pair stood up and blocked the hatch door, causing Tylor to growl at them. The pair fell on their knees at this and quickly prostrated themselves before him, groveling for forgiveness.
A simple ‘I just woke up, leave me alone’ growl sent them into a fit of repentance. Tylor gritted his teeth.
“Hey!” Tylor snapped in irritation, “Stop all this groveling crap and let me through!”
“We… We are sorry, Oh Great Helix Lo…”
“Stop calling me that! Why am I such a big deal to you… people… anyway?! You told me that we were on our way back to Earth, so I feel a bit obligated to see how close we are… unless you lied to me.” The pair shrieked and prostrated themselves even more on the ground, until they looked like mats. Part of Tylor felt bad, but the rest was too angry to care. If they were going to prostrate, they could at least move out of the doorway to do so.
“We are dreadfully sorry, sir; if others on board this vassal were to know that you were here, why, the whole ship would be in an uproar!” one nearly wailed.
“Yes, Yes!” cried the other “The only Gyorkins that even know that you’re on board are the bridge crew, the ambassador, and we two!”
“…Gyorkins? What’s a Gyorkin?” Tylor asked, more annoyed now than generally angry.
“That’s what we are, sir… Our planet has two hominid races: we Gyorkin and our genetic cousins, Myorkins.” Tylor had to stifle a laugh. Gyorkin? Myorkin? Dear Lord, either humanity had just completely run out of imagination or everyone in the future was just incredibly stupid. The two servants looked up at him, confused as to why he had laughed.
The “Gyorkins”, as they called themselves, didn’t look too much different from humans. From what Tylor could tell, they were all no higher than 5’2”, had very sharp, pointy canine teeth, and three foot long, fur covered tails. Perhaps they were highly evolved monkeys, but that seemed to be very rude to say. As annoying as they were, they had been very nice to him (though, that could be attributed to the fact that he was their god; which he still didn’t understand) and had to be quite technologically advanced. Not because they had an FTL starship (those were quite common in his time), but because they had working “universal translators”. They fitted him with one as soon as they realized that he couldn’t understand anything that they were saying to him.
That had been the only terrifying part of this whole journey; awakening to hear an alien race crowded around him, speaking in what sounded like a very angry Asian language being spoken backwards, warbling, and being oscillated into various random tones. The nightmares would surely stay with him for a few months. It was at around this time that he saw another alien come down the hall, making a bee-line to his door. Unlike the Gyorkins, who just looked like small, tailed humans, this thing was more unsettling.
“What are you two doing? Stop bothering him!” it shouted from a few yards away. The two hopped up and blocked the door with outstretched hands. They huffed and puffed out their chests, making as angry of faces as they could muster. The two tiny servants stood like guardians, and had they not annoyed the hell out of Tylor for the last few weeks, he would have found their dedication impressive. The alien simply grabbed the two by the shoulders and threw them into the hallway. Toppling over, they scrambled to grab at the alien’s legs, but it just swatted at them like an angry parent does their bad children. The whole scene was quite pathetic.
“Stop this nonsense right now!” it said, almost as irritated as Tylor, “We’ve entered Sol Territory, so you two have to leave our guest alone. You Gyorkin agreed to allow us of the Sol System complete protection of your… ‘Helix Lord’… once in our Territory.” The two servants stopped clinging on to the alien’s ankles and looked quite defeated. They slowly rose to their feet and shuffled off down the hall. They glanced at Tylor for some glimmer of hope, but he shooed them away. Tylor was by no stretch of the word a “bad” man, he was just VERY annoyed. However, with the departure of his two begrudgingly accepted servants, he was face to face with another alien that he had never seen before; this one being quite more alien.
‘She’ (as Tylor was just now realizing) was as tall as he, but looked quite… squid-like. Her skin was slick looking, with a dull grey colour. Her eyes were gigantic; quite literally three times the size of a regular human eye. Her eyes looked solid black in colour, but if you looked well enough, you could tell that there was an iris and pupil for each. Her nose was so tiny that they looked like two tiny slits right above her equally thin mouth. Instead of hair, she had thick fat tendrils sprouting from the top of her head. The rest of her body, however, was quite human looking. She noticed that he was starting, but it didn’t seem to bother her that much. In fact, she even smiled a little, showing two rows of small, but numerous sharp teeth. Tylor shuddered.
“I’m sorry for an inconvenience that you may have suffered under the Gyorkins, sir.” She said, quite politely. “We will be on Earth within a few hours. If there is anything that you would like for me to explain, I will be happy to answer.”
“Really?” Tylor said, studying her face quite intently, “Okay… um… What planet was I on?”
“Tentoppa? What star is that around?”
“Proxima Centari.” Tylor’s mouth stood agape.
“There… there isn’t a planet around Proxima Centari…”
“Perhaps not in your day, sir, but the last time you were fully awake was more than 322777 years ago. A generation ship carrying the ancestors of the Gyorkin and Myorkin must have used the asteroids that your ship was lodged in as a starting point to create their planet. Planetoid, rather; it’s a bit larger than Luna.”
This was the first time that Tylor had heard how long he was in cryo-sleep. He knew that he had been under for a while, but for over 300000 years? Unsurprisingly, his mouth was now completely open. The casualness of her response was equally unsettling. She had delivered this line as if this sort of thing happened all the time; like a flight attendant goes through re-entry procedures.
“…O…Okay… Well… Do you know why the Gyorkin were worshiping me?” The alien looked a bit perplexed and tilted her head to the side.
“Worshiping? We had assumed that they were just doting on you like we would have had you been discovered in our… your native system.”
“What do you mean? Do you have a crazy cyro-sleep cult, too?”
“No, no.” she said, her tendrils contracting like the belly of a moving snake, “You are… INCREDIBLY rare. Perhaps that’s how your ‘religion; had started off, and over years, the meaning of why you were important just faded away or simply became corrupted. Who knows, maybe you and your ship were considered a make-shift Creation Deity.”
“Rare? How so?”
“You seem to be the only human in existence”
* * * * * * *
As the starship started to approach Earth, Tylor’s mind was abuzz with many observations and questions. The Kuiper Belt was all but gone, a few of the moons of the Outer Planets were completely missing, very few Space Stations were past Jupiter and Saturn; both of which were completely off-limits to the starship he was in. And that was just the outer Solar System.
There wasn’t really an Asteroid belt anymore, just a single, rag-tag planet going in the belt’s former orbit. His new guide (who had described herself as a “Spacenoid”) told him that what was left of the Asteroid Belt had been combined into the single ‘planet’ of Ceres; it showed, quite obviously. He could think of a few crude things that he could compare it to, but he held his tongue; who knows what other types of weird aliens could be living on this new Ceres.
Mars looked like a kind of rustier version of the Earth he remembered. There were only large lakes instead of oceans, but it looked like a large grasslands/savanna world with huge cities spotted here and there. The terraforming process that had been going on since his great grandfather’s time seemed to have worked somehow. Earth, however, was a completely different story.
“WHERE THE HELL IS ALL THE LAND?!” he shrieked as they finally came into Earth’s orbit. His Guide seemed incredibly perplexed by his outburst.
“There are plenty of islands and reefs. Surely they existed in your day…”
“THERE WHERE CONTINENTS OF LAND IN MY DAY!” The Guide paused for a moment, head tendrils squeezing and contracting in a flustered manner.
“Then it must have been the Mass Galactic Exodus then.”
“The Mass Galactic Exodus was a… well,” she trailed off slightly “That’s… that’s something that the Council will have to explain to you.” Tylor had been told that once he had been located by…whomever it was who populated the Solar System at this point had a grand Council that needed to see him. Aside from that, the only information that he had managed to get out of his Guide was along the lines of Astronomy trivia. Her general vagueness was a bit irritating, but at least he could have a half-way decent conversation with her; a far cry from his two ‘servants’ and their constant groveling.
However, even with all of the annoyance, irritation, and bewilderment; he was back home. He was back on Earth; a completely
different looking Earth, but Earth all the same. It had been so long; too long. Had he cared at all about the arts, he would have written a song or poem. Having one of his ‘servants’ write down his reaction was a thought that his mind entertained for a few seconds, it would have ruined everything. It wasn’t their fault that they were insufferable annoying. Had Tylor had a God Complex, he would have gladly have accepted their servitude. But this; this was something only as a mortal that he could take in with awe and wonder. It was his planet as it was (in a why) that his ancestors saw.
Earth’s surface was a vast ocean now; freckled with innumerable chains of islands. The murky brown oceans and thick smogged skies of Tylor’s memory were now soft, clear blue. He had remembered hearing in history pods as a child about the Earth’s environment before humans had almost completely wrecked it, but it was ‘scientific fact’ before his long sleep that the Earth might never recover. That was obviously bunk. There wasn’t even a swarm of space junk and derelict satellites making the Earth look like it was surrounded by a swarm of silvery flies. It was simply amazing; even when the starship when into and out of reentry, the horizon was amazing. For the first time since he had woken up, Tylor felt alive.
The starship came to a stop in a rather large and busy city on an island seemingly isolated from the rest on the planet. The docking station was filled with what seemed to be dignitaries, scientists, and politicians. They all seemed to be doing nothing else but stare at the starship; as if all of them at stopped mid-action to gaze upon it. Tylor had come from a modest family, so the impact of being worshiped as some sort of god, coupled with being “the last human in existence” was a bit overwhelming. Having a whole slew of new aliens gaze upon him in wonder wasn’t helping. He just stood on the bridge with his mouth agape.
His Guide took him by the hand and drug him outside. Even though he was going through a bit of understandable culture shock, he felt like a small child. As he was lead through the crowd outside of the ship, he actually recognized a few of the aliens; mainly because they weren’t aliens at all, but robots. They looked leagues more human-like than they had back in his time; it was only because of their headphone/antennae like ears that he even noticed a difference. Every other alien, however, was humanoid, but still strange looking. Some were different colours, other’s seemed to have non mammalian animal traits spliced in here and there.
The crowd was abuzz and lively, but not doing much other than talking amongst themselves and looking at Tylor. The docking station was linked to a huge multi floored building, filled with statues and relics of things he could barely begin to wrap his head around. Flags of Interplanetary Battle Cruisers, tattered clothing from important historical figures from a 10,000 odd years ago, a mural depicting a humanoid figure as big as a moon, marble replicas of heroes, villains, and revolutionaries; it was a spectacular site to behold. Tylor’s Guide, however, kept dragging him along like a child. These fantastic sights were simply mundane to the people of this time period; just old historical pieces to remind them of wars won and lost. Even in the 1/3 of a million years that he was asleep, museums still bored people. After briskly leaving behind a variable Super Museum, the two took an elevator downward into an ovular chamber whose only exit was said elevator.
“Is this where the “Council” that you were talking about is?” Tylor said, talking for the first time since his outburst before reentry. His Guide nodded heavily; this council was, apparently, very important. The Guide suddenly popped a few bones in her back and began to increase slowly in size. Tylor immediately backed up quickly into the closed elevator doors. He had had nightmares like this as a child; the most important human in all history comes in contact with alien life, only to be eaten or filled to his eyeballs with eggs that would hatch and use him as a mobile diner. Somehow, he knew this day would come. Everyone in the Interstellar Investigative Force had joked about this, but the back of his mind had been just waiting this entire time to end up in some cave, covered in alien slime webs, and wondering which part of him would be eaten next. He gritted his teeth; at least he would try to make his body ready for the coming doom.
However, his Guide did not viciously molest him. She had merely changed gender. “Merely” is the only word that can come to mind, as the Guide had done this in the same ‘this-happens-all-the-time’ manner as he (now) had done with everything else. The Guide turned to Tylor and smiled that same sharp toothed grin as before. Tylor tried to nervously return the smile, but his face could only force itself into looking like a very accurate impersonation of a braying donkey. Perplexed by this, the Guide just turned around again and pressed his hand against the far side of the chamber.
“Sorry to startle you; I am employed by the Council as a male, but I tend to adjust my gender to female in situations where I feel it appropriate.” He called back to Tylor (who was still firmly pressed against the elevator door), “We Spacenoids are a completely hermaphroditic species that can change gender at will. As far as we can tell, your… people’s descendants engineered us to be perfectly self sufficient space travelers. I won’t bore you with the details; you have quite enough in store from the Council.”
The wall that the Guide had touched dissolved away, revealing 12 figures seated a long, raised rectangular table. They were seated in pairs of two behind the astronomical symbol for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Luna, Mars, and Ceres. Each was dressed in very fancy, but highly different clothing from the rest. The Council Members looked down at Tylor, who had slowly crept forward towards his Guide. There were aliens outside that looked like each one of them, but now he realized that these aliens lived on the various planets of the Solar System, and weren’t from other extrasolar planets.
The Mercurians were Robots and the Lunarians were Spacenoids. The Venusians were featureless orange humanoids, save for huge goggles and respirators firmly attached to their mouths that came from what looked like back packs. The Earthlings looked like humans, except for the horns coming out of their foreheads and arms that resembled bat wings. The Martians covered in fine rusty fur, save for their faces, where were pitch-black. The Cererians looked like big humanoid beetles. Tylor, for the first time since he had woken up, really really wanted to be sitting on a throne back on Tentoppa being worshipped by the Gyorkins.
“This is the human man Triv Tylor” the Guide proclaimed, “discovered on the planet Tentoppa and brought back to be examined by the Council of the United Sol System.” Tylor said nothing; he was still staring blankly at the Council Members, trying to take in the graveness (or at least, assumed graveness) of the situation. One of the Venusian Councilmen stretched out an unsettlingly long arm and pointed towards Tylor.
“What say you, Progenitor?” he asked, voice bubbling from behind the respirator, “Do you not wonder why we are not human and why you may be the last human left alive?” Tylor began to unclench his body (as it seemed like he wasn’t going to have his innards slurped out) and stood next to the Guide and spoke with a slightly shaken voice.
“You’re all alien settlers or highly evolved humans?”
“Close.” Said the Earthling Councilwoman, “We are all technically highly advanced replicants; descendants of the original synthetically made, genetically engineered clone slugs of our Progenitors, the humans.”
“Each race was engineered to inhabit each terrestrial planet perfectly, allowing us to adapt to them naturally has they were cleaned and terraformed.” the Earth Councilman chirped. Tylor pondered this for a bit; clones where expensive, but not too uncommon in his day. Somehow, they survived the entire human race. Well… save for him, of course; which led to his next question.
“Is it true that I’m the last human alive?”
“Perhaps,” The Venusian Councilman bubbled, “Humans simply vanished a few 100000 years ago, only leaving us.”
“But… why were you left behind? Couldn’t the robots… (no offense) have terraformed and cleaned the planets?”
“To put it bluntly,” the Earthling Councilman said, “We’re genetically engineered janitors. We were made to clean up the Sol System when your people, our Progenitors, left for the stars. In addition to that, we were suppose to be experiments to see how the Progenitors should genetically modify themselves to live on the new terraformed worlds.”
“They had to carve up Earth pretty heavily,” the Martian Councilwoman snorted, “All that’s left are a few thousand islands and one hundred thousand rocks that barely count as islands. All to make their starships to leave the mess that they made of the Sol System; it’s so despicable. At least the Martian Society is one of perfection; the only good thing the Progenitors ever did, in my planet’s opinion.” The other Councilmen rolled their eyes.
“We’ve turned this system into a respectable and tightly running interplanetary society” one of the Cereian Councilmen buzzed, “But due to the complete disappearance of our Progenitors, the humans, we have no true knowledge of what they’re world was like before we came into existence; no reason as to why they had to completely live the Sol System. We need a human to help us piece together our pre-history.”
“So…” Tylor paused. Just what was it that they needed him to do? He realized for a moment that a lot of things in his time were so trivial and mundane that no one would want to hear about it. Some things had such an air of pointlessness that no one would ever give them much thought after being seen only once. It was only a matter of seconds to were tylor realized that he might be locked in some gold-lined tower for the rest of his days, being forced to remember every single scrap of memory that he could come up with.
“So,” one of the Martian Councilpersons said, “We will scan your brain and DNA; giving us a wealth of data and keeping you from having to spend all of your time in a Sci-Cell, regaling us with very bit of information that you have.” Tylor breathed a sigh of relief. Or, at least he would have if he could move his body. His body was being held fast to the spot his was standing on. He could hear and feel a soft electronic humming under his feet. Monitors appeared in front of all of the Council Members and they studied them intensively.
After about 30 minutes or so of being scanned, Tylor was able to move again. The Council Members stood up and proceeded to leave the room through a doorway that was behind them. Only one of the Earthling Council Members and one of the Lunarian Council Members stayed behind. Both the Guide and Tylor were a bit confused.
“What did you discover about Mr. Tylor?” The Lunarian Councilman nervously twiddled his fingers nervously for a moment and answered slowly.
“Well, you see… We were able to get quite a bit of data from Tylor; this information will be studied for decades to come and will be a seminal resource for us to study human history. However, this is all we’ll ever really need for you. We thank you for your services rendered and you are now free to do as you please. That being said, we two will set you on your way; providing quite a bit of monetary compensation.”
“Wait!” the Guide blurted out, starling Tylor and the Councilmen “I thought that he would be staying here and be treated with the _utmost_ respect, not just ‘sent on his way’; why would you treat him as such? He is the last of the Progenitors!”
“We would…” the Earthling Councilman sighed, “But he is not a Progenitor.” Tylor was completely taken aback. The Guide became immediately silent, but Tylor spoke up in his stead.
“Triv Tylor, I know that this make come as a shock to you, but you are a copy of the original Triv Tylor. You’re a clone. A near-perfect clone with all of the original’s traits and memories, but a clone none the less.”
“Judging from your cell and muscle memory, something traumatic happened to your original and your cryo-pod made a copy. This isn’t the first time this has happened. There are other clones of original humans that we have found close to the Sol System, each adding to our ever expanding knowledge of our Progenitors. Some have chosen to stay within the system, so with the funds that we are giving you, you make seek them out or forge your own future.”
The guide had to hold down the now fuming Tylor has he kicked, cursed, and screamed at the Councilmen, who were quite shocked at the display. The Guide eventually dragged him back to the elevator and back to the starship, into his quarters, allowing him to calm down. He would have reversed gender, but Tylor was too angry; he needed to make sure that he wouldn’t hurt himself. Other clones had done the same when they had found out the truth. The Guide left after Tylor knocked himself out by falling off of his bed. Looking into the room, he wondered what the future would bring.
* * * * * * * * *
A few days past and the Guide decided to check on Tylor. Shifting to the female form that he had first seen her in, she opened the door to his quarters on the still docked starship. Tylor was sitting in a nice chair, staring out of a window. To his sides were the Myorkin “servants” that he begrudgingly had before coming back to Earth. They were know wearing a variation of the clothing that he was wearing.
“Um. Are they bothering you, Tylor” the guide asked softly. “I had already told them that they haven’t the right to try and steal you away. Do want me to tell them again?” They turned to him and gave him sad, pitiful looks. Tylor gave them back annoyed looks and shook his head.
“They’re coming with me.” he said, giving out of the chair. “I’ve decided to do some exploring. Since these two seem like they’d do anything for my, I’ve enlisted their help in operating the new starship that I purchased with a tiny bit of the money the Council gave me.” He extended his hand to the guide, “Thanks for keeping track of me this whole time. I really appreciate it.” The guide blushed softly.
“You should learn the various customs of the current inhabitants of the Sol System.” she laughed, “That’s a very lewd gesture that you’re making.”
“Hand-shakes are lewd?” Tylor said, quickly withdrawing his hand. “What else do I need to know about your society” The Guide sat down on the side of the chair that he had been sitting in earlier. She smiled that unsettling toothy grin again.
“Perhaps I should accompany you?”
“Don’t you have a job here?”
“My job has and still somewhat is to look after you. There are only a few know human clones existing right now. The Council doesn’t want you getting hurt or used as a bargaining chip by someone.” She looked into his eyes suddenly. For the first time, he saw her look as if something new was happening to her. It was sort of cute; like, in the same way that someone finds a spider cleaning it’s mouth parts cute. A cute that’s cute only because it’s also a bit unsettling. She seemed to notice that her change in emotion had being noticed and she returned to her placid state. Almost in an excited manner (her tendrils were throbbing like a heartbeat), she asked:
“Why are you wanting to explore anyway?”
“I’m still on duty. Never got fired by my bosses in the Interstellar Investigative Force, so I may as well keep in mission statement alive.”
“Oh? What would that be?”
“Find out as much about outer space first hand as I can. We humans can’t leave well enough alone, ya know?”
Triv Tylor (or rather his clone) was a simple man. In his first life, all he ever wanted was to see the stars and find things that no one else had found. Now, in his second life, not much has changed. He still wants to see the stars and find things that no one else has found. After becoming a god of a new planet, seeing the rebuilt Solar System, and re-founding the (now) oldest and last of humanity’s space programs though, he’s off to a good start