The Story I Told Him, Part 2

David of Nebula
Part 1 (of four parts) is here. An audio CD of the story is free with a tax-deductible donation to the film Heart of Africa.

Part 2
Again, David faced the door and knocked—three times this time, as hard as he could. He glanced behind him to see one last trace of the arc. It was gone.

He could hear steps. They stopped just inches away, right behind the door. The knob moved, and the door opened—just an inch at first, and then fully.

The old man stood before him, bent and wrinkled. He was, after all, more than one hundred years old. His blue eyes were his most distinctive feature. They were just slivers between creased, saggy lids, but they were luminous, even joyful.

Only a fraction of the population had blue eyes. David’s eyes were slate-gray, like the clouds on gloomy days. David liked blue eyes, especially the ones he was staring at, though he sensed he was staring too much and lowered his gaze. Then he noticed that the hems of the old man’s trousers were frayed, and there were rips under his knees. David did a quick glance around him. All of the furniture was tattered. Why would a rich man live like this? Surely he could afford better!

David lifted his eyes to the slivers of happy blue and swallowed. “Hello,” he managed. (It took him two tries before he said the word loudly enough for anyone to hear.)

“Hello, David,” the old man said.

David’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t speak. Finally he whispered an amazed, “You know my name?”

“Oh yes. I know most people’s names. I’ve had a lot of time to work on them. I remember when you were born. The clouds were slate that day. I’ve always liked slate days. It was beautiful. And you were a beautiful baby. I visited you. Did you know that I visit all the babies? I don’t think anyone knows that. I do it during early morning hours, or sometimes late at night. I’ve been doing it for ten years now.” When the old man smiled, he looked far younger than he was.

“Why?” David asked.

“You like that question, don’t you. Why do I visit the babies? Because I know that you will see what I saw. I want to see the eyes which will behold great things. And I learned your names.”

“Did you–.” He swallowed. He knew his next words might sound like an insult.

“Go on, David.”

“Did you make any of it up—what you saw on the Day of No Clouds?”

“No. None of it.”

“Not any?”

“Not any.”

“Well, you didn’t mention the lights in the clouds.”

“Oh my. Did I leave those out? Pity. They’re quite spectacular, aren’t they. Why don’t you come in, David. You’re soaking wet, and I have a fire burning. Come sit with me.”

“And the colors in the sky—coming from both sides and making—. ”

“Oh, a rainbow! Yes, I recall reading about that. I didn’t see it myself. You can’t see everything in one day.”

“I’ve never read about a rainbow.”

“No, probably not,” said the professor. “The account of the rainbow is in one of the buried books. Long ago, you see, people thought the whole idea of a Day with No Clouds was a hoax. Most had lived their entire lives without seeing it. Naturally, they assumed it was all made up. Typical, isn’t it. If we haven’t seen it with our own eyes… Well, you know. They buried the best books. And they shunned some who claimed they had seen the sights. My wife saw the Day with no Clouds when I did. We were children, but as she got older, she tried to tell everyone in Nebula what she had seen. Some called her crazy. Well, of course she quit talking about it.” The professor winked. “I knew she wasn’t crazy, because I was her age, and I had seen it, too.” He gave a small laugh. “We fell in love talking about the Day with No Clouds. It was our secret. And we learned where the old books were buried. We dug them up, one at a time, every week. We would sit together and read others’ accounts. Oh, those were joyful times for us! Holy times! We didn’t realize it at the time, though. And when she died giving birth to our son—he died, too—I knew that I had to be courageous. I had to vindicate her. I had to let the secret out. So I wrote my book. It took me months, trying to remember, revising as I remembered better, or when I wasn’t sure I was remembering right. And when I published it, no one called me crazy—much to my delight. For some reason, by this time, the people wanted to believe. They even pretended that I was a rich scholar. People do that, you know, when they want to believe in someone. They treat them like royalty, like someone special. Actually, David, I’m a miner like most everyone else. I’m not even a professor. I’m a common man who happens to be very old.”

“Not so common,” said David.

“Please,” said the old man, “won’t you come in?”

David entered the house.

“So, you saw the rainbow.”

“Yes,” answered David. “But it didn’t last long.”

“Alas, so it is with many things. We get glimpses of glory, and then we’re back to where we started. The peak moments pass quickly, don’t they. What were the colors like?”

David raked his mind for words to describe them, and finally shrugged. “I can’t explain. Amazing. Incredible.”

“Sit down, won’t you?”

(End of Part 2)

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