I awoke to find myself in a strange and mysterious land. Where was I? This place was certainly not Earth, I gathered from the first glance at this harsh landscape.
Although it was nighttime, I could see no stars in the sky. Nothing but pitch darkness greeted my eyes, with one exception. A large, yellow sun hung high above and in front of me. Judging by its luminosity, it should have been about the same age as our Sun; I could not guess upon its size because there was nothing to judge against it in the sky. I could not measure its distance away from this planet, either.
Fortunately for me, my surroundings proved to be somewhat hospitable to human life. I say “somewhat” because I have only observed some of the conditions necessary to provide life here. The large sun in the night sky must provide enough light energy for multiple cellular processes. I felt cool enough with my sweater and black wash jeans, so I concluded that this sun must offer sufficient heat energy as well. Obviously, I am still breathing which means that the atmosphere must be composed of a proportion of nitrogen and oxygen gas similar to that of Earth. As I continued to examine this world, I later affirmed the lack of harmful radiation that could be received from the sun; apparently, this world had an atmosphere highly similar to that of Earth.
Unfortunately, these were the only positives I could find. Many other troubling factors remained which left me doubtful of finding life here. First (and most importantly), there was no water. No sign of clouds, no running springs, streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, or oceans. To the best of my knowledge, I highly doubted the presence of groundwater, too. Secondly, there was no wind. A possible explanation could be that this planet had no moons, which meant no tides, which meant no currents of air or water.
Perhaps the most alien thing about this landscape was the ground itself. I shouldn’t even call it a landscape, really. The whole planet was as flat as Kansas, without the wheat fields and cattle. I saw not a single rock formation, canyon, crater, mountain range, valley, or hill in a 360-degree scan of the horizon. Strangely enough, one sweeping glance at the landscape revealed that the surface was perfectly flat. If you were to use one of those tools that check the levelness of a surface, you would find that the liquid bubbles match each other on both sides.
In short, I found myself marooned on a planet with air, an atmosphere, and a nearby sun, but without water, wind, rock formations, and any sign of life.
To make things worse, I had no food or water with me. I didn’t feel hungry or thirsty yet, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that you can’t survive without water for a few days. So, with nothing to lose, I began walking.
The ground was hard-packed as if it were made of stone. As a matter of fact, I tried scratching the surface only to find that the whole planet was made of solid rock.
The first thing I missed was the ability to record time. On Earth, you get lots of clues to figure out a general time of day, if not the actual time. In ancient history, explorers used sundials, sailors were guided by the North Star, and even the conquistadores found use out of a compass. If you weren’t privy to such luxuries, and you lived in the period where people accepted the heliocentric model of the solar system, then you could at least conclude that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. But none of these tricks could help me here. There were no stars in the sky, no shadows cast upon the ground except for my own, and the damned sun wouldn’t even move. That damned sun—somehow I could look directly into it and barely get an afterimage in my eyes.
I don’t know which tormented me more—my growing fatigue (and thirst) or the growing silence. I could hear nothing but the sound of my footsteps, tapping in rhythm across the infinite expanse of unending, solid rock.
After traveling for a very long time, I decided to rest. Sitting down, I gazed around me, dismayed by the observation that nothing had changed from when I first began walking. The horizon continued to stretch on forever. Dark night sky, dark brown ground. Dark night sky, dark brown ground. And the sun never changed position in the sky, either.
I was walking on top of an endless tomb—my tomb if I couldn’t find water before long. Building up my resolve, I had to continue walking. There must be something, somewhere!
I must have been walking for dozens of miles now, because my legs and feet screamed for rest. So I rested again. I became aware of the growing cramp in my stomach—I needed to find food or water soon! But nothing about the planet had changed since I first woke up—literally nothing.
Perhaps I was just dreaming? I pinched myself, looked down at my shoes, and tried rationalizing my way to consciousness. All efforts proved unsuccessful; this is real, I am really here. But how did I get here? My mind drew a blank. The last thing I remember was arriving at a friend’s house one evening. I had changed out of my work clothes, eaten a snack, and said goodbye to my wife. I remember telling her that I’d be home from John’s place later that evening—it was game night with the guys and it was Friday. My wife, my friends, my job, my possessions, all of it is now gone. And I’m here on some godforsaken planet for some unknown reason.
I fell into a troublesome, restless sleep. My mind raced, but my body ached.
Suddenly, I was jerked awake by a deafening rumble. I could not locate the source of the roar of sound, but it sounded like a thousand series of thunderbolts all struck the ground at the same time. I covered my ears and spun around. Nothing, I saw nothing that could have caused such a loud noise. It only lasted for about 10 to 15 seconds, and then everything was back to complete and utter silence.
I’ve heard of dry thunderstorms before. On Earth, they were very rare and localized to specific areas of the world. You can hear thunder and see lightning without getting any rain. Perhaps this planet is gigantic, like Jupiter, and has a set of roving thunderclouds that help form the basis of this planet’s atmosphere? I thought about that possibility. If this was true, I might yet find a source of liquid to drink, maybe even water! By this time, I was getting desperate. It felt like I had seen nothing but this barren surface for weeks. If I didn’t find something to drink, I was done for.
Feeling weaker, but still grasping onto life, I continued my walk for a third time.
Imagine how overjoyed I was to find something different in the landscape! I fell to my hands and knees, caressing my fingers over the rock surface. A perfectly straight line demarcated two different types of rock—the first change in topology I had witnessed since finding myself here. This line, like the horizon, stretched onward infinitely. But on one side of this line, the rock was the dark brown color I had trekked across previously. On the other side, the rock changed to a light gray color—probably the half-way point between gray and white.
I examined the new species of rock. In solidity, flatness, and barrenness, it was exactly the same as the dark brown variety. The only ostensible difference was the color.
Perhaps this change of color signified a different environment up ahead? Clearly, intelligent life must have created this line in the ground to tell something to travelers. I was no longer in doubt about life on this planet. It had to exist; no geomorphic actions could have made such a flat surface or fit together two different rocks so perfectly.
I started to wonder how intelligent this life could be. Certainly, nobody on Earth had yet succeeded in such a sophisticated degree of terraforming the lands as this planet. Perhaps this work was done by gods. Would this be a heaven or a hell, then? Does this line mark some sort of transition? If so, does it serve as a warning or a benediction?
All these questions and more circulated in frenzy in my mind. Do I continue in this direction, or do I follow the line parallel to something else? Does the line end anywhere? What is beyond this line? Have I gone the wrong way? Should I turn back? With nothing to lose, and time marching inexorably to my fate, I decided to press further, crossing the line into this new white-rocked land.
My mouth was the driest it had ever been in my life. My lips chapped, my tongue felt swollen inside my mouth. I had been walking across this grey-white stretch of land for a long time. The sky was still black as night, and the sun remained fixed in that one space, shining furiously in my face.
I was almost in total despair. I made the wrong decision; I should have turned back. I’ll never live to get food or water, much less get out of this place. This must be my punishment for something I had done on Earth. In a sick twist of fate, this will be my death, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I lied prostrate on the ground, conserving my energy for as long as possible. I looked around at the horizon, finding nothing.
Wait, what is that?
Out in the distance, you can barely see the very top of it! It looks like a gigantic pillar of some sort! But it must be at least 25 miles away!
I jumped to my feet, reinvigorated by some newfound energy and desire for life. There was something, as far as the eye can see, that looks different than the rest of the barren nothingness of this planet. I felt compelled to chase after it; for fear that it would disappear into oblivion if I lose sight for one instant.
A part of me wished it was just a mirage—some thirsty delusion of life where none exists. But the greater part of me wanted that figure in the distance to be true! So I walked without hesitation in the direction of that thing.
I walked, and I walked some more, crossing back over another line into an expanse of dark brown rock. Before long, I confirmed that it wasn’t just a mirage. As I came closer and closer to it, the thing grew larger and larger; the closer I got to it, the more details I could identify from it.
The giant stone pillar, as I had initially believed, turned out to be far more ornate than I could have imagined. Perhaps a better description of it might be “obelisk”. But instead of a pyramid shape at the top of the gigantic column, it looked like a tall oval. There were thousands of etchings on the sides of the obelisk. Some etchings revealed a calculated, geometric pattern and stood out from the distance more than the softer, shape-like etchings lower on the figure. As I got even closer to the obelisk, I could see the smallest trace of what I think was a mouth on the oval-like centerpiece at the top.
I felt fascination, awe, and terror all at the same time. Certainly this must be proof that intelligent life exists here!
This obelisk, I thought, must have been designed by the gods. No man (no human at least) could have built such a monument. When I got within 5 miles or so of the obelisk, it was so tall that I could no longer see the oval-mouth at the top. The obelisk must have stood over 3 miles high. Like the surface of the planet, its sides looked perfectly smooth and flat without the etchings.
I have never visited Egypt; I have never seen nor deciphered the hieroglyphics. But here I was with a gigantic obelisk, with etchings that would put Khufu to shame!
I pulled my flip camera out of my pocket. Thankfully, I bring it everywhere. Even though the battery was down to its last level, I recorded a few still photographs of the obelisk onto my camera. Let it not be said that I died for nothing on this damned planet!
I continued to get closer to the giant obelisk. Even though I had completely abandoned recorded time during my struggle here, I estimate that it took me about an hour to reach the column’s base. The base might have been hundreds of feet long. I rapped my knuckles against the stone. It was just as hard and immovable as the ground itself.
It’s not fair! It can’t end like this, I screamed in my mind. What could have created this marvel? Why is this here on this planet? Why am I here on this planet?
Sitting down, I leaned my back against the obelisk. Too tired to sleep, too hungry to eat, too thirsty to drink, I was out of ideas. I looked out at the expanse of nothingness, of blackness, of that sun which never seems to move or change in the night sky.
Suddenly, I saw something hovering in the air in the distance. My eyes burst out of their sockets, my heart started beating like a drum. Another gigantic obelisk flew into the air like a bird of prey. Actually, it looked like a statue of a monstrous, black beast beyond comprehension. Its head at the top had a thick, snarling snout. Its gleaming, lifeless eyes centered directly at me, at the obelisk right behind me.
What happened next went by very quickly.
The beast-statue hurtled toward the obelisk with frightening speed, at a speed of hundreds of miles per hour. The two giant pillars collided, resulting in a deafening, thunderous blow that nearly blew out my eardrums. Like a redwood tree to a lumberjack, the obelisk crashed to the ground behind me. I saw its slow demise with equal parts horror and amazement.
The black statue-beast remained hovering in the air for a few minutes afterward, as if it celebrated the destruction of the obelisk. Such beauty, I shuddered, and such destruction!
The sheer size of the statue blocked out the sun; I was placed wholly in its looming shade. It was then that I started to panic.
The statue-beast began lowering itself toward the ground, supplanting itself in the place of the destroyed obelisk. I leapt to my feet to try to outrun it. I was standing directly underneath it!
I turned away from the monumental statue and started to sprint. I saw its shadow increase in size the closer it got to the ground.
Then, my body gave way. My cramped belly and dehydrated limbs forced me to double over in pain, tripping over myself and hugging the ground in the process. I wouldn’t escape the statue-beast. My fate was sealed!
I looked at my last sight: the base of the giant statue about to press down upon me and crush me to death. I would never return to Earth, I would never see my wife again, I would never—
I screamed, clutching my stomach. I woke up, rubbing my eyes groggily. I was sitting in a chair overlooking a chess board.
“Knight to E-4, captures bishop.” John announced.
“What?” I asked, looking around the room. John had turned off all the lights in the room, except for a desk lamp that cast a dull yellow light over the chess board.
“I got your bishop, Phil!” He replied, smiling triumphantly. “Stay awake so you can lose faster! A few of the other guys want to play against me before they leave.” He chuckled.
I yawned and looked at the clock. I better get home to my wife.
“Hey guys, thanks for having me here tonight. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow.” I said, getting up to leave the house. The others said goodbye, and I got into my car and drove home.
About a week later, I sat down at my computer, still thinking of the weird dream I had playing chess with John. It seemed so real at the time. I went over the sequence of events that I could remember from my dream.
My eyes went wide with shock. The flip camera!
Plugging in the camera to the computer, I downloaded all videos and pictures that I had saved onto a file in the computer. Scanning over each picture, each video, I couldn’t remember if I had saved the pictures of the obelisk or not.
If I told my wife what I was doing right now, she’d think I was crazy. She would think that… until I showed her these pictures! I still had the pictures of the obelisk saved on my flip camera!
It wasn’t a dream! It couldn’t have been… I’ve got the pictures to prove it!!!