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Sun of Zartha/4

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Beignets in the break roomEdit

Suddenly, as if to answer his call, Jay saw what looked like several fireflies appear in the darkened foliage. They darted and danced before him with their greenish-white glow. They moved forward a bit, and then they stopped. Then they moved forward again.

Jay was mesmerized by the fireflies’ light, the same way he was by his mother’s eyes.

“Jay, follow the fireflies. Follow the light, baby,” he heard Laura say in his head.

Forestwaterfall2

Picture courtesy www.freenaturepictures.com

Jay proceeded forward and followed the fireflies. They led him to a clearing. He was now on the banks of a river, languid and shimmering. Jay followed this bank for about 20 minutes.

“Laura, where are you, girl?”

“Keep going, baby. Just keep going.”

After a while Jay came to a bend in the river. Around this bend was a lagoon with a waterfall. A female figure was bathing in this lagoon.

“Laura!” Jay yelled, and he took off on a dead run down the bank.

“Over here, baby! Come on!” Laura yelled back.

Damn, I hope this ain’t a mirage, Jay thought. He stopped at the bank. Laura was in an NYU t-shirt and she was waist deep in the water.

“I like this dream, baby,” Jay said.

“I was kinda hoping you would,” Laura replied with a smile. “Get your butt in this water.”

Jay took off his shoes and waded into the river.

“Damn, I’m glad to see you again,” he said with a huge grin.

“It wasn’t THAT long ago, Jay.” A giggle erupted from Laura’s lips.

They embraced and shared a long, deep kiss in the cold water.

After that, Jay said, “Where are we?”

Laura giggled. “In your dreams.

“Technically, we’re on Zartha. This is the river Wu’suu’bo. The Zarthan natives bathe in this river to purify themselves.”

“That’s kind of cool,” Jay replied, and his stare off into the mist became a little vacant.

“Are you pissed?” Laura asked, a pang of concern rising within her.

“Pissed about what?”

“I felt some angry energy from you before you went back to sleep just now.”

“Oh, that...well, the power in my crib went out on me, just as I was hacking into Zed’s secret files on Zartha,” Jay said with a slightly embarrased grin.

“Why were you trying to do that for?”

Jay looked away for a second, then back into Laura’s eyes. He sighed and said, “Laura, I need to know for sure about all this. These dreams are beautiful, but I want confirmation. If I AM an alien, there most definitely will be a file on me. And on you as well. I need to see it with my own eyes.”

“Well, trust me, Jay, you will.”

Jay gave a slight smirking frown. “Are you psychic?”

“Yeah,” Laura said matter-of-factly, as if Jay had asked her if she liked Mountain Dew.

Jay was intrigued by this and this made him desire Laura more. Laura sensed this and smiled a sly smirkly smile. “You like psychic girls?” She caressed the back of his head.

“Yeah,” said Jay, who was in a daze. “You are the most beautiful thing I have EVER seen, Laura.”

“And you’re not too damn ugly yourself.” Laura’s smile was deep and sincere.

Jay embraced Laura and the pair moved in for another kiss. It was like their faces were slowly drawn together like a magnet to iron. This kiss was deeper, more forceful and longer. Then they looked into each other's eyes.

“Where in the hell were you all my life, Laura?” Jay asked with a deep, warm smile. He caressed her head in his hands.

“Wondering where the hell you were.” Laura reached up and took his wrist and kissed it softly.

Jay spoke again after several seconds of blissful silence. “What do I do now, baby? I gather you have instructions from my mom.”

“Now you’re using YOUR psychic ability. Good job!” Laura giggled again. “And the answer would be yes. Angie says you need to start packing all your stuff in your apartment in Brooklyn when you wake up. It will take you all day but you need to pack everything.

“The royal court will send a team to come get them and move them up here.”

Jay’s eyes filled with wonder. “Angie...Yeah, Angie. That’s what everybody called Momma...I remember that now, Laura.”

Suddenly, Laura’s eyes flashed bright white. “Uh-oh, this ballgame is over, baby. The sun is coming up in New York. The sunlight is hitting your eyes in your bed. I can feel it.”

A pang of disappointment shot through Jay like a blast from a cricket gun.

“I don’t want to wake up, Laura. I don’t want this dream to end.”

“This is only the beginning, Jason. And it’s never going to end. Kiss me and have a wonderful day, baby.”

They moved in to kiss. In the middle of the kiss Jay awoke. Massive sunlight was indeed pouring through the bedroom window.

Jay heard another voice ring again in his head. “Start packing, Jason.”

“Momma, are you really the Queen of Zartha? Am I really a prince? Are you really still alive?”

No response.

“Well, I guess I’ll find out soon enough.” The power in the apartment was still out.

He went downstairs.

What he saw when he got to the bottom of the stairs made his heart jump about three feet out of his chest, with a massive flash of shock.

There were now, for no apparent reason, about 10 or 12 cardboard boxes right smack dab in the middle of his living room.

The floor was largely empty just four hours before.

The boxes were marked in thick black marker ink: “Jay’s Stuff: NYC.” Underneath were written some strange pictorial symbols - actually the exact same thing, “Jay’s Stuff: NYC,” in Zarthan.

Jay immediately bolted upstairs and grabbed his cricket gun. He then did a police-style sweep of his whole apartment, softly kicking in a couple of his closet doors and whirling, whipping his pointed weapon inside. He was surprised and thought someone broke into the apartment, but no one did.

Jay sighed. “Momma, you sure do know how to freak your son out.”

Jay began to pack his stuff to go to Zartha.

Jay spent the rest of Saturday and part of Sunday packing his things. He packed his clothing, his kitchen stuff, his video games, his computer, his sheets, his towels.

He still wasn't quite sure that what he was doing would have any real effect. This whole affair was surreal, like a dream - well, it was a dream. A couple of beautiful dreams...and Laura, damn what a fyyyne ass woman she is...but was everything in those dreams real, or were they just hs imagination, just wishful thinking?

Jay sat down on the floor and wrung his head in his hands. What if Momma really is still alive?

What if I am an alien?

I don't feel like an alien.

Jay went back upstairs to finish packing his bedroom and bathroom things. In the darkened bathroom, Jay looked at himself in the mirror as he was gathering his shaving cream and his mirror and his combs and brushes and putting them into his Dopp kit that he got back in Basic.

His eyes looked normal. They didn't glow.

I'm a human. I've gotta be. I eat, sleep, pee...the whole nine yards...but what is Laura...and what is Momma??? And if Momma really is from this Zartha then that means I'm...nah...I CAN'T be an alien. If I were an alien Zed would have told me. I hope he would have told me.

Jay went downstairs and went into his small kitchen. He had little food in his refrigerator: there was a jar of mayo which was almost all gone, a Subway bag with nothing in it but a crumpled napkin, and a shriveled-up orange. It was a good thing, because since the power was still out in the neighborhood as of 3pm Sunday afternoon, any food would have started going bad by now.

Jay threw all these into his garbage can and took it out the back door to the dumpster at the bottom of the stairs.

Jay frowned at the orange, which he could see through the white plastic of the bag. He watched as he tossed the bag into the dumpster. Do aliens eat this stuff? I never really thought about what those bastards eat.

Jay walked through the alley onto his street. The rustle of traffic on the BQE could be faintly heard in the distance. The tree-lined block of brownstones was quiet except for a couple of the neighbors commenting on how slow the ConEd crews were in coming out to turn the power back on (there was a reason for the slow response, and Zed was behind it).

There were massive puddles still in the street, making the already hot air even more unbearable.

Jay then thought to himself: The A/C hasn't been on all weekend. Usually it gets too hot in the crib...but it's not hot in there.

Jay went back inside and looked at the thermostat on the living room wall.

It read 89 degrees.

Jay frowned, as he felt perfectly dry and comfortable. But the apartment was quiet.

Jay put his hand over an air register. No air was coming out.

Jay tried to come up with a rational explanation in his mind about this, but nothing came into his mind.

...on Monday he would surely go back to headquarters and everything would be somewhat normal...but then there was that folder. That damn folder. What the hell was in that folder? And why would Zed keep it a secret? What the hell did he have to hide? Jay was trustworthy. Jay was competent and capable. Zed had no reason to withhold anything from him.

Jay packed all of his stuff in the cardboard boxes and by about 10pm Sunday night he was finished.

"I still don't know what all this is about..." Jay thought to himself as he taped up the last of the boxes in the middle of his living room floor. Then he began to remember, slowly, the way things were in the old house in New Orleans when he was a kid.

"I guess I had it pretty good there, Momma." Jay smiled and shook his head.

After Jay went to sleep, both Laura and Angie appeared in separate dreams, and in one of these dreams Jay remembered more bits and pieces of his childhood in New Orleans - he remembered being placed in a car seat in his mother's car, a white 1966 Volkswagen Bug and a strange looking brunette with almond eyes, who was Momma's friend Lauranna, a girl she knew from college, riding shotgun. Lauranna liked to play peekaboo with Jason and she was always tickling him - she always made him laugh. Her eyes had grayish-white flashes and sparkles all the time that mesmerized Jason.

Then Jay dreamed of the day he was taken.

Jason walked home alone from school, as he did every day this year. He was in the second grade. The school was only four blocks from his house, and no one in the neighborhood would even think of doing something bad to the crown prince of Zartha - or allowing anything to happen to him.

That is, unless a secret deal was made with a secret organization that monitors and polices alien activity on planet Earth. Which was exactly what happened.

There were several black Ford LTD sedans parked on Gayoso Street. Momma didn't mention anyone passing away, so Jason thought this was weird. When he came to the door, it was open. He walked inside.

The house was completely empty. Not a single piece of furniture was there. Two men in clean suits were taking readings in the barren hallway, with equipment Jay would learn how to use many, many years afterward.

Other tall men with black suits and black ties were in the kitchen talking. More of these men were walking up the steps to enter the house.

Jason began to panic. The panic woke him up from his dream. And Jay was pissed.

"Those goddamn sons of bitches," Jay muttered. "That better not be how the f*** it happened."

Jay looked at the clock on his dresser. It was 4:27 am, Monday. Jay always got up at 4:30am.

After his shower and shave, Jay dressed in a clean, dry and pressed black suit. He left his apartment and locked the door behind him.

This would be the last time Jay would see his apartment for the next eighteen months. The next time he would see this brownstone building, Laura would be with him and he would be on a different kind of mission for a different kind of "employer".

Jay walked up the dark, still, quiet street, under the BQE and towards his usual bus stop (on the days he didn't feel like driving) on Flushing Avenue alongside the old Navy Yard. His bus came on time at 4:51am. It was packed with commuters of all shapes and sizes.

As Jay stood, he could see that many of the streets still had a lot of standing water. Some of them were barricaded.

The bus went westbound through the neighborhood and in about 10 minutes was across the East River over the legendary Manhattan Bridge into Manhattan. His commute using the bus was 20 minutes shorter than his drive - but he loved that Mercedes.

This would be the last time Jay would ride an MTA bus for the next eighteen months. Zed already had the motor pool guys put the Mercedes in storage.

Jay, his mind running a million miles an hour in deep thought at this point, arrived at headquarters after walking almost another two blocks out of his way to avoid getting splashed by trucks and taxis going through the massive puddles.

He walked through the austere thick steel doors, past the guard reading his Weekly World News and onto the elevator. He then went into the break room for his usual morning cup of coffee - the bland stuff that always woke him up at 5:30 am after suffering through the stupidity that was always rush hour in Manhattan. But Jay was already wide awake this morning.

This was no ordinary Monday morning.

Today was going to be THE day. Yes, sir. Today he would hack into the database, and depending upon what was in that folder he found, he would march right into Zed’s office and DEMAND an explanation - for everything.

450px-Beignet

Beignets and Iced Cafe Au Lait at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo courtesy of Jason Perlow (jason@egullet.org)

What greeted him was strange - but familiar. Right at Jay’s usual seat, at the folding table in the middle of the tiny, stark, fluorescently cold room, Jay saw a small ceramic plate. On this plate were three steaming warm, large, bulging fresh beignets, heavily dusted in the telltale powdered sugar, and a large stainless steel travel mug filled with steaming black French-style coffee.

The bag sitting next to this spread told Jay that both of these items were sent via FedEx earlier that morning from the Cafe Du Monde location right on Decatur Street in the French Market, the one with all the green and white awnings and the ceiling fans that went whirr-whirr-whirr - Jay remembered it like it was yesterday - the one that stays open 24 hours. The one he remembered going to at 3am with his momma and Momma's friend Lauranna, riding shotgun in the VW, when he was three years old. Angie ALWAYS took her coffee black.

Next to the ceramic plate, Jay saw a note. When Jay read this note, another pang of fright shot through him like a laser. Then tears began to trickle down his face.

The note read:

“I couldn’t make you beignets from prison, but I had some sent to you. I really enjoyed seeing you again, even if it was only a dream - or was it, baby?

Je me souviens. I love you. Blood of my blood.

Your momma, Angelique Tolan.

P.S. Tell Kay I said hey!”

Attached to the note was a recent mug shot of Angie. The only thing different about her was that she wore dreadlocks instead of the large Afro he remembered from the '70's. But she seemed just as young and radiant as she was when he was a kid.

So Momma IS alive, Jay thought. He could not stop his tears. He was crying so hard - or trying so hard not to cry in the break room - that he found it impossible to eat the beignets. At least for about 45 seconds. Then, with his cheeks stained with hot tears, he chomped on one. He had forgotten just how damn good these things tasted.

Just then, Kay walked in the break room. Kay saw the beignets. Kay’s face turned white with fear and shock. He knew that Cafe Du Monde beignets - sent here, to MIB headquarters could have only come from one person.

A person he was madly in love with...and also a person he feared. Kay feared very few creatures in the universe, but Angie was different. Angie almost destroyed the Earth over Jay.

“Those - those are Cafe Du Monde beignets, from New Orleans!” Kay looked like he had seen a ghost.

Jay looked up at Kay, coldly. His eyes were red with tears but also glowed red with the emotional energy that was his true genetic nature. “I’ve NEVER seen your face turn THAT white, Kay.”

There were only two people in the building Angie would dare send beignets to. Both of them were in the break room right now.

Kay also knew that this, this tender moment he was seeing unfold before him, was a moment he always knew would happen.

Jay looked up at Kay slowly, with tears in his eyes and powdered sugar on the edges of his lips. He softly said, “Kay, we need to talk. There are some things about me I think you know. And I DON'T think I need to deneuralyze you about this.” He held up the note. Kay took it and looked at it, and looked at Jay. Kay's stare was surprisingly tense, as if he was mortally frightened of Jay at this moment.

Kay replied, “You're right, sport, not about these. This is...well, this is pretty damn critical. Meet me in Zed’s office in 15 minutes.” Kay walked quickly out of the break room.

Jay hung his head down. What was going to happen now?

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Sun of Zartha

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