The Voice of Many Waters
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by John B. Rosenman
Category: Science Fiction
Description: A beautiful race, the Humana lack war, jealousy, and other human vices; however, they also have virtually no religious or aesthetic sense. Peter, a Neo-Catholic priest, wishes to change this so he calls upon Xanthu, a SoulSinger, in the hope that the insect-like creature can awaken the Humana's souls and help them to find not only their love for art, beauty, and deep emotion, but, above all, their love for God...yet as the silver-stringed instrument of the SoulSinger rises in a nest of claws and its first pure bell-like notes ring forth, what terrible, irreversible truth will be brought to light and will this alien Eden--or Father Peter--ever be the same?
eBook Publisher: Blue Leaf Publications/Indigo Blue,
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [69 KB]
Reading time: 34-48 min.
Call me Peter.
I'm a Neo-Catholic priest here on Duran, where the air's sweet as incense but the natives aren't ripe for conversion. Moral and upright though they be, they have about as much religious or aesthetic sense as a sand flea. They'll break their equivalent of bread with you and shelter you for the night, but mention salvation or Jesus on a cosmic cross, and they'll tilt their heads as if you'd spewed the purest form of nonsense.
Take my word for it, it gets frustrating.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not new to the missionary calling. Between interstellar trips at the speed of light, I've sought to bring alien souls to Christ for four decades and know that sometimes the Lord sees fit to try your faith and patience with a recalcitrant, backsliding race. I've been to a score of worlds and preached to beings of every description, some so vicious and unspiritual I trembled in their presence. I even converted a fierce Muran warlord with two heads and no heart. Bathing those horny heads with their reptilian mentalities in the blood of the Cosmic Lamb made me weep with love and gratitude to our Creator. If I'd ever had doubts about my calling, his hissed, duo recital of the 900th Psalm after I baptized him would have banished them. I felt blessed, supremely blessed, to be allowed to travel throughout the galaxy, spreading the Word.
But that was before I met the Humana.
Their name itself is ironic, for they are both more and less human than we. Physically, they're similar but taller and more beautiful. Most importantly, they lack our vices. War, violence, jealousy, betrayal are virtually unknown to them as they live peacefully in their efficient villages and cities. But on the other side, religion, deep love, art, and aspiration are virtually unknown too. Their emotions are as mild as the Duranian climate, which is that of a godless Eden where there is little sickness and the gravity is only eighty-eight percent that of Earth's.
"Father Peter," Kiri says, his double-pupilled eyes gazing calmly into my own, "do you really believe that one of your race was sent by a god to redeem you all and later rose from the dead?"
"I do," I answer. "But He was sent not by a god but by the one and only God."
Kiri moves off a few steps, his two meter frame slim and supple. Like all Humana, he wears a plain, functional robe yet always looks elegant, perhaps because of his graceful form.
I take a deep breath of the sweet air. In this valley called Li outside their city of Tebbe, exquisite red Peona blossoms drift and flavor the spring wind. Soon, they will return to the earth and die, to be reborn in flowering shrubs the following spring.
"Do you also believe," Kiri says, "that this Christ visits worlds throughout the galaxy and offers them redemption in return?"
"He comes in many forms," I tell him. "He goes wherever a sentient race exists with the spark of soul to receive Him. Sometimes he appears as human, sometimes as one of them, but always, the form itself is irrelevant. On Lanura, Christ appeared as a Lanuran, who, as you know, resembles your four-legged Tarzi. Elsewhere--"
"But surely," Kiri says, "these visitors could be pretenders. Your ancient writings, I believe, warn more than once of false prophets."
I hesitate, thinking of how our faith as evolved in the millennia since we reached the stars.
"Whatever His manifestation," I say, "whatever the form He chooses to adopt, He is still the Cosmic Christ. As stated in the Bible Galactica, Book of Jora, first chapter, seventh verse, 'He may come in many guises, but He is always the one true Evangel.' Or even better, consider the stirring promise of verse twelve, where His divine diversity is affirmed: 'We are the light of many worlds: those that followeth us shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'"
Kiri gazes at me, his placid, beautiful features courteous and respectful, but I know that if he were a human skeptic, he would laugh in my face. Humana, though, don't laugh or deride, and all their Doubting Thomases keep their own counsel.
"Interesting," he observes, politely continuing to speak in the English his people learned so quickly. "If you will excuse me now, I must preside at Council."
* * * *
It's because Kiri is the head of Tebbe's Council, that I later learn Oran Reiver has asked that a SoulSinger be permitted to come to Duran. Reiver worships the Golden Calf and always seeks to profit from his fellow man. I'm ashamed of him and of course readily agree to Kiri's request to attend the meeting.
Behind the long oaklike table, the seven Humana gaze at Reiver, who fidgets in his chair.
Kiri, in the center, smiles. "Please tell us why you want this Xanthu, the SoulSinger, to visit Tebbe."
Reiver, who is one of the leanest humans I've ever met, rubs his jaw and points at the table. "I've already explained that in the petition in front of you. Five hundred humans signed it."
"I know," Kiri answers. "You've fulfilled the requirement we established for new visitors, but we prefer you to state your reasons in your own words."
Another Humanan, a beautiful old woman of perhaps two hundred and fifty Earth years, places her hands on the table.
"We don't wish to insult you," she says, "but we've found that humans tend to misrepresent the truth when they use written language. Face to face, in an open, spontaneous forum, you are more likely to present your motives accurately."
Misrepresent the truth. I smile at the stilted, polite phrasing. Exposure to humans has introduced the Humana to the concept of lying although they still do not fully comprehend the concept.
"All right." Reiver straightens and rubs a large diamond ring on his bony finger that bears the emblem of the League of Worlds. "As you know, since coming here nine years ago, we humans on Duran have had difficulties. At most, we've only numbered about twelve thousand, and though the climate's pleasant, we've felt uh, lonely and homesick for our respective worlds."
"It was your decision to come here," another Humanan points out, his voice resonant in the vaulted hall. "For our part, we granted your request to establish a small colony here. If these are your sentiments, you are always free to leave."
"Yes, I realize that but it would take years to return, and we have homes here," Reiver says. "And most of all, as I indicate in our petition, a fortunate coincidence exists. Even as we speak, Xanthu is performing on Rea, which is just six light-days away. If we act quickly, he can receive our invitation before he leaves."
Reiver stops speaking and gazes at the seven council members who, with their beauty and tranquility, resemble each other as no humans could.
"Oran Reiver," Kiri says. "We've had difficulty understanding your species' need for diversion and entertainment which you cite in your petition. We've known about it, of course, for we've observed your art and stories, your penchant for the fanciful and unreal, and up to now, such an interest has not troubled us. However, to ask that an Alsavian SoulSinger be permitted to come here is disquieting. We've heard reports that their singing provokes audiences ... that it stirs up emotions that should remain dormant." He pauses and then turns to me. "Is that true, Father Peter?"
"Yes," I say promptly. "I've heard accounts of violence, rape, looting. Such acts are caused by the SoulSinger's nature."
"Can you clarify?"
"Certainly." I glance at Reiver. "Alsavians are empaths, capable not only of sharing but of bringing out the feelings both of themselves and other species. Only they can do it, and they do so not by singing but by playing a complex instrument which harmonizes, in a sense, with the listeners' deepest and most essential nature."
"But you've never seen a SoulSinger, have you?" Reiver says.
"No, but I've studied the literature. As entertainers, they're only interested in making money. When it comes to the welfare of their audience--"
"And you haven't told the whole story either, have you?" he interrupts. "Sure, there's been a little trouble, but isn't it true also, Father Peter, that the SoulSinger has brought joy, wonder ... beauty to his audiences? By understanding what they desire, he's been able to bring them inner peace, fulfillment--"
"Yes, but only if they want it," I say. "The SoulSinger brings out what's there, what's most basic, even if it's suppressed, unsuspected, or even the worst, so there's no guarantee that this Xanthu won't--"
"You just don't want any competition!" Reiver snarls, his eyes glittering as if he's found the perfect rebuttal. "You don't want us to have any fun, any diversion, and most of all, any salvation that you yourself don't supply."
"That's nonsense. There are other ministers, even a Buddhist priest here. I hardly have a monopoly."
"But you'd like one, wouldn't you?"
"No, but you would," I say, finally losing my temper. "You'd like to open up a new market for the League of Worlds to exploit, with you as their representative. Let's be honest, Reiver. You're not interested in entertaining or helping your fellow man forget their loneliness, but only in profit."
"Enough." Kiri tilts his head, a gesture I've noticed Humana make when they confront behavior they find irrational or emotional. "Father Peter, we have great respect for your judgment. I assume, based on your comments, that Xanthu should not be invited here?"
Ignoring Reiver's glare, I start to explain that Xanthu should stay where he is. Then I stop. The Council room rises about me, as functional and efficient as the Humana themselves, and just as soulless. There is no style, no individuality, no beauty in the room or in any of their architecture. It's as if it were all designed by a machine.
Whatever his motives, Reiver is right. Xanthu, the SoulSinger, can elicit beauty and bring fulfillment if his auditors want them above everything else. As I pause with the Council's double-pupilled gaze upon me, their sun suddenly glistens on their faces as it shines through the high-set windows. They look radiant, transfigured, and I tremble, for I know that I've just received the second sign in my life from God, a revelation of what to do. Yes! Is it not possible that this SoulSinger is the key that can unlock the door to the Humana soul, prepare them for Christ and salvation? I swallow. Before me, beyond all doubt, is the opportunity to save the Humana from the barrenness and damnation they do not even suspect.
I look at Kiri, look at all of them, and smile.