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The Madagascar Tree

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“I just want to be left alone.” Will turned on his stomach and pulled the pillow over his head and squeezed it against his ears.

It didn’t work.

“You are misunderstood aren’t you?” The voice filled his cabin. A Deep, male voice, echoing as if the two of them were in a closet. “The others do not appreciate you, do they?”

“Go away!” Will yelled into his mattress.

“What do you want?” The voice boomed.

“I just want to be left alone!”

Now there was silence. Will loosened the grip on his pillow and listened quietly. He thought maybe it had gone away. But he also thought he could be dreaming. Usually he knew when he was dreaming these days, but this time he didn't.

“Very well,” the voice echoed. “Your wish is granted.” Then it grew silent.

Will waited. Waited. Nothing. He took the pillow from his head and rolled over. “What was that?” He said. He laid there in the dark, breathing hard. But whatever it was seemed to be gone. “It had to be a dream.” I better see if anyone else heard it, he thought. Just in case it wasn’t a dream.

He climbed out of bed and left his room. Penny’s cabin was a few meters away. He walked over, knocked quietly on the wall next to the folding door. “Penny,” he whispered. He didn’t want to wake everyone, though he wasn’t sure how late it was. He had been relegated to his room after dinner because he had failed his history test.

When Penny didn’t answer he opened her door a crack and peeked in, but the room was empty, and her bed had not been slept in. Guess it isn’t that late, he thought.

He walked to Dr. Smith’s room and called his name a few times and when there was no answer he pushed the door open and looked in. It was also empty.

None of the family were in their rooms. He walked down to the Galley. This is where he had seen everyone last, but it was empty too. Weird, he thought. He didn't think it had been that long since dinner and the adults normally hung out a while and drank coffee and talked after eating.

He walked over to the elevator and pressed the button. When it reached the flight deck he thought that was empty too, but then he saw the back of Judy’s head. She was sitting by herself in the co-pilot’s chair. 

“Judy! Where is everyone?” he said as he stepped off the elevator. He hurried toward her. “I checked everyone’s room and they aren’t in the Galley or anywhere.”

He had walked up behind her now and she still hadn’t answered or even acknowledged his presence.

“Judy?”

Then she spun her chair around and was looking up at him. “Aren’t you supposed to be in your room?” She asked.

“Yeah but...”

Suddenly she stood and grabbed him by his biceps and leaned into his face, “Then get back there!”

“Judy! You’re hurting me.” He said.

She let his arms go and he rubbed his biceps where her thumbs had been pushing into them.

“Go back to your room. Now!” This time she yelled it. Her eyes were flashing red and she seemed furious.

 

Will sat straight up in bed. His heart was pounding. He was sweating. He just sat there shaking. What was that? He couldn’t remember what he had been dreaming. But something had frightened him. Terribly.

He looked around the room. The only light was from the alarm clock. Three AM. He glanced at the small window in the door. He couldn’t see anyone, but he knew there was a guard out there. Maybe more than one.

They had moved him here almost three weeks ago. He had been in the Naval hospital in San Diego for several days after they pulled him from the ocean where the Pod had splashed down. When they moved him, they had taken him downstairs to a parking garage, put him in a black SUV with a driver and an armed guard in the front seat, and a guard on his left and right. When the SUV backed out of its parking space, he saw a dozen vehicles just like it pull out. Several of them drove ahead of the one Will was in, the rest followed it.

He wasn’t sure why all of the security until the SUV drove up the ramp into the daylight. There were police cars everywhere, news vans, reporters with camera teams aligning both sides of the street leading into the hospital. And hundreds of people. Maybe thousands. A lot of them held homemade signs. He read some of them as they drove past the crowds.

Most were nice:

“Welcome Back Will Robinson!”

“There’s No Place Like Home!”

Some weren’t:

“Will Robinson is an alien!”

“What did you do to your family???”

And at least one was clever, he thought:

“Free-Will!”

“How does it feel to be a celebrity?” The guard to his right asked. Will didn’t answer. He didn’t know how it felt. The woman had told him what had happened to him, but he couldn’t remember anything, so this was all just part of the same lucid dream he was stuck in as far as he could tell.

He was put on a private plane that was in the air for four hours, and when he landed, another black SUV was waiting for him with another convoy. This time there were no crowds. No one knew where they had taken him.

When he was first admitted to the hospital in San Diego they had spent days evaluating his physical and psychological condition. And in the new hospital they repeated the same tests at first. But now they mainly tried to get him to talk. He had spoken briefly when the woman first came to see him. Dr. Gaston. But then he stopped. He didn’t trust her. He didn’t trust any of them. So he just stopped talking.

He could remember how he got to Earth. The Space Pod and the containment device that had kept him alive. He could remember the people on the planet where he had come from. Not everything. He couldn’t remember their names. But he remembered there was a girl there. He liked her. She was pretty and she was nice to him. He remembered that. And something told him if he told Dr. Gaston about her, about the planet, she might harm the girl. He didn’t know why, but he believed that. So for three weeks he had just stopped talking.

He laid back down. He was no longer shaking. Part of him wanted to forget his dream. Something had frightened him. But when he was dreaming, he remembered his family. He could tell because when he awoke, he was so close to seeing their faces. Though within seconds it was a blank slate. But he thought if he could just dream and keep dreaming long enough it would all come back. So it was worth the occasional nightmare. Because right now he was alone. And that was the worst feeling in the world.

He closed his eyes. Maybe if he went back to sleep he would dream again, and it would be better.

He breathed slowly, trying to remember what it was that had scared him. Then he remembered. It was Judy. His big sister. She had grabbed him and yelled at him and actually hurt him where she gripped his arms so tightly.

She had never done that before. She was always bossy and usually not very nice to him. Laughing and teasing him and talking about him with Penny. But never anything like that. She had never hurt him. In his dream she seemed furious. Enraged. He couldn’t imagine what he had done to anger her so. And it wasn’t the first time he had had that dream. The voice speaking to him, then him running through the spaceship, trying to find his family, until he reached the flight deck with Judy there. And it always ended the same way.

He realized he was sleeping again. That was one of the weird things about his dreams now. He was present in them most of the time. Like he was observing them from a distance. He knew they were dreams as soon as he began remembering the names and faces of his family. And this one about Judy was so real. He wondered why she wasn’t very nice to him anymore. Why she made fun of him so much. Why she never seemed like she wanted to talk to him about anything important.

When he was young, she was always there. For both him and Penny. It seemed like she loved to hang out with them. But not anymore. At least with him.

But now as his dreams mingled with his memories, until he couldn’t tell which was which, he thought of something else. Something that happened to him. That happened to him and Judy both. And he wondered if he was remembering everything correctly about his oldest sister. If he was judging her too harshly. If he was forgetting who she really was and how she always watched out for him and Penny.

It was on a planet they had landed on for a few weeks to make some minor repairs. He felt as if it had happened the previous year. He was never sure if what he was dreaming was something that had happened, or could happen, but in this dream he was thirteen, and he knew now he was fourteen.

When they had first entered into the planet’s orbit, it seemed promising. It had one sun and the atmosphere was almost identical to Earth. Eighty percent nitrogen and twenty percent oxygen, similar gravity, at 9.2 m/s. The only issue was that its proximity to its sun made it colder. Readings indicated an average temperature of twenty eight degrees Fahrenheit. 

They had been approaching the planet when Robot gave his analysis that there was an abundance of life. The family gathered around the console looking at the planet as they grew closer.

“Must be Eskimos,” John said, sitting next to Don at the console. “Until we know what we’re dealing with, everyone needs to stay in the protective perimeter.”

But as they entered the planet’s atmosphere something was wrong. There were no discernible habitable zones. Much of it seemed to be covered in ice or permafrost. It looked like the surface of a barren planet. “Robot, you want to run your analysis again?” John said.

“I have Professor, and my readings are correct. There is an abundance of organic life on this planet.”

“Dad, he’s always right about these things,” Will said. “I think we need to believe him.”

“Alright. It’s not like we have a choice. We need to land anyway, though I don’t know where all this life is. Let’s look for a place in the temperate zone, Don. Temperatures are showing thirty eight degrees F. We can get set up and should be relatively safe.”

 

 

Once on the ground they established their perimeter, then John gathered the family. “Don and I are taking the Chariot out to scout around.”

“Dad, can I go?” Will asked.

“No,” Maureen said, before John could answer. “I want everyone to stay inside the perimeter until they get back, just in case.”

“But Mom…” Will started to argue.

“Listen to your mother, Will,” John said. “I need you and Doctor Smith to start unloading the weather station. We’ll find a place for it when we’re out. If we don’t think there’s any danger, you can help us get it set up.”

“Alright.” Will didn’t try to hide his disappointment. Maureen just smiled at John as the boy walked away.

“Be careful John.” She kissed him.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

 

 

John and Don drove toward the nearest rocky ridge a few kilometers from the Jupiter, got out and climbed to the top and scanned the area. It was almost all large rocks, some highlands, and frozen ground.

“Out there,” Don said. He was scanning the horizon.

John pointed his binoculars the direction Don was looking. “Ice?” He asked.

“I think so. We may be on the edge of a frozen sea. Want to check it out?”

“No, I would rather get back,” John answered.

“Look, John.” Don had kneeled down, and was examining several rocks that looked to be broken and split open. “There’s been some extreme weather event here. Rain water filled these cracks then it must have froze quickly, expanding and breaking them.”

“I think this planet suffers from severe climate variances,” John said. “There are dunes out there past the rocks. There can be some strong wind storms. But there are also signs of flooding. And it’s been recent.”

“The extreme changes would certainly explain the lack of organic life,” Don agreed. “Maybe the Robot’s still picking up readings of recent life that was destroyed in whatever this was.”

“I think the priority is to get the weather station installed,” John said. “And two relays.”

“You don’t think that’s overkill?” Don asked.

“Not on this planet. Too many things we don’t understand. But there is certainly evidence for extreme and sudden weather changes. We want to know when that’s happening.”