The Child of Heaven
A Journey Within
Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Fantasy
Complete at 80,000 words
Cover by my artist friend, Mehtab Kardas
From the shores of the Southern Aegean Sea to a planet in the constellation of Libra, Leila’s celestial journey is only the beginning of her adventure.
In her self-imposed isolation at a seaside village, Leila tries to deal with the disappointment and regrets that have plagued her for years. Her life changes when she encounters a young boy who is clearly not of this earth and even more emotionally remote than she.
As she attempts to educate the alien, Kai, about human nature, Leila is forced to re-examine her life, her conditioned learning, and the path that led to her seclusion.
When Kai must leave, he offers Leila a choice: remain behind in her lonely but familiar world or risk everything to experience life on a new planet.
Gliese 581 c, a planet that orbits around a red dwarf star in the constellation of Libra, was my inspiration for Planet Leia, long before the recent discovery of the Pink Planet by NASA.
Life On Earth
Leila lay on the warm spring grass, looking at the child. Her gaze followed his perfectly shaped head, the delicate features of his face, and paused on his turquoise eyes. Windows to a mind perpetually craving knowledge.
She reflected on the time they met. Returning home from an early evening walk on the beach, she had stopped for a moment to watch the setting sun. To her amazement, a strange light had engulfed the sky with an amber hue, emptying her mind of thoughts and filling her with a sense of lightness. On impulse, she glanced at her hands and noticed she could clearly see the veins running beneath her skin. The light, then faded away, as swiftly as it had appeared.
When she looked up, the sun had all but disappeared, having sunk below the scattered clouds. She stared into the weakening colours, soothed. Yet, the pulsating light flooded back, this time stronger, blurring her vision and commanding her thoughts. Mesmerized, she watched until it vanished for the final time. She blinked, waiting for her sight to return to normal.
Still pondering the strange light, she resumed her walk home. Halfway up the path to her cottage, Leila sensed something moving among the pine trees by the side of the trail. She stopped to look, and smiled when her eyes made out the profile of a small boy hiding in the shadows. She moved closer, spotting his shiny white bodysuit with matching white boots that came up to his knees. He looked to be about eight years old, but when she peered into the woods she saw no one with him.
“Hello,” she said gently. “Are you lost? What are you doing here all alone?”
His big eyes observed her, but his expression was indifferent, as if he weren’t truly there. He did not answer.
Leila wondered if he had come from the nearby hotel and perhaps lost his way. “What’s your name?” she asked. “Where are your parents?”
Again, he did not reply, and she grew concerned. Even though dusk was beginning to settle, no one seemed to be looking for him. She had not seen anyone else during her hour-long walk. She decided to take the boy home with her and call the local Gendarme.
“Come along, child. We’ll go to my house. I don’t want to leave you out here in the dark by yourself. I’m sure your parents will come looking for you soon. We’ll ask around for them when we get home. Until then, let me take you to my place and make you comfortable.”
The boy’s expression changed slightly when she extended her hand towards him. He cocked his head to one side, studying her with an inquisitive gaze, and for the first time she noticed the unusual, almost turquoise colour of his eyes. After a moment’s hesitation, he took her hand and they walked up to her cottage.
Once inside, Leila rushed to the kitchen and picked up the phone. She began to dial the number, then stopped, stunned by the amber light that flooded into the room, similar to the one she had seen at the beach. Its force was overwhelming this time. Her body felt as if it were dissolving into air, and she swayed, her mind hazy and confused.
As though in a trance, Leila put down the phone, and turned to the boy. “It’s late. You must be hungry. I’ll prepare you a sandwich.”
The boy did not respond, yet his alert gaze followed her every movement.
Leila did not have the kind of food preferred by children. A tuna fish sandwich seemed like a good idea. She prepared it, and with an apple on the side, placed the plate in front of him. He studied the plate and looked up at her. He neither touched the sandwich or the apple. He still hadn’t uttered a single world. Sensing he might be frightened, Leila decided to let it be. She took her salad from the fridge and sat at the table. The boy continued to observe her, as he, too, positioned himself on a chair while she toyed with her food. Feeling tired and dizzy, Leila put down her fork, her appetite gone. The salad did not taste good.
After giving up on eating, she washed the plates and wrapped up the boy’s sandwich. “I’m leaving this here on the table in case you’re hungry later. Let me make a bed for you on the settee. You can watch some television, perhaps, and make yourself comfortable.” I wonder if he understands what I’m saying …
The boy followed Leila to her bedroom, where she took out some bedding, before returning to the lounge. After putting a sheet on the settee, a pillow and a blanket on the side, she turned the television on and tried to find a children’s channel. When the Disney channel appeared on the screen, she turned up the volume. “Here you go. Please take off your boots before you climb on the settee. I’ll be reading my book in the bedroom. Tell me if you need anything. Here’s a glass of water for you.”
The boy looked up at her, again, and turned his head towards the television. He began to watch the cartoon, as she left the room feeling puzzled.
Thoughts about calling the authorities kept hovering in her mind, yet some unfamiliar emotional pull kept her from acting accordingly. Back in her bedroom, she picked up the newspaper and settled in her armchair. Not being able to concentrate on the news, she opted for a book, instead, and read for a couple of hours, checking up on the boy, every now and then. He was now sitting on the settee, looking at the screen with full attention.
Leila put down her book and approached him. “Child, it’s getting late. You must be tired. It’s time to go to bed now. Would you like to use the toilet before you go to sleep?”
The child stared at her, as though he were deaf and mute. Leila sighed. This is testing, very testing. She reached for the remote control and turned off the television. She put the pillow on the settee and unfolded the blanket, turning up its side for the boy to snuggle in. “I’ll leave the small lamp on, so you won’t be frightened. My bedroom door is open if you need anything. I’m going to bed now, good night.”
The boy did not move, but his eyes followed her to the bedroom. Leila felt exhausted as if her body was drained of all energy. Falling asleep as soon as she climbed into bed, she slipped into a dream.
She was answering questions, some very strange ones. Who was the person asking these? The voice, with an unworldly hint, was not at all familiar. Whether it belonged to someone young or old, she could not discern, only that it was male. Shrouded in the shadows, a faint silhouette lingered, posing questions innocent, quaint, and curious … yet, perplexing.
“Tell me about the meaning of life, my learned friend.”
“What a difficult question you ask. I’m not an expert on matters regarding life.”
“What exactly is the purpose of life?”
“I guess the real purpose of life revolves around achieving happiness.”
“Are you happy, Leila?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Why do you ask? Maybe, so-so … Maybe, not. I try to be, but …”
Waking from an oddly comatose sleep, a few hours later, the dream filled her mind like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, revealing a long conversation between two people. This was strange, very strange, indeed, and she was left with a nagging thought … What is the meaning of all this?
The flickering lights coming from the lounge disconcerted her. As she staggered towards the source, she found him sitting on the settee, with the remote control in his hand, zapping through all the channels. BBC, TV5, Rai, The Russian Channel, Al Jazeera, and the local channels, the sound turned down very low. He seemed deeply engrossed in the images flashing before his eyes, yet, at the same time, he also turned his head to acknowledge Leila, standing by the door. She watched him in bewilderment for a while and decided not to say anything. Back in the bedroom, she contemplated. I must do something about this tomorrow. Someone ought to be looking for him. I must ask around and return him where he belongs.
Leila drifted off to sleep again. She woke up a couple of hours later, feeling a strange presence in the room. Looking toward the door, she saw him staring at her. She shuddered and sat up, without diverting her gaze.
“Hi,” she muttered, “Do you need anything?”
The child’s brilliant turquoise eyes seemed lit from within. He had a serious look on his face, as he spoke for the first time. “My name is Kai and I am from planet Leia in the constellation of Libra.”
Leila shivered and her heart began to race. A cold sweat swept over her body, making her queasy.
What! What do I do now? Is this for real or a child’s game? Do I play along with him or believe him? An alien in my home! What an ordeal! Is this true or simply a dream? Am I losing my mind? This must be a nightmare! I need to wake up!
She pinched herself, but nothing changed. The boy was still watching her. What do you want from me? But the words didn’t come out. She was speechless, incapable of any reaction. The sun was just coming up and daylight slowly entered the bedroom through the windows. Leila sat frozen, unable to move, until the same powerful amber light filled the entire room for a moment, illuminating her surroundings in a peculiar way.
Trying to regain her composure, she took a deep breath, and managed to utter the words, “H…hi, my name is Leila, nice to meet you. What did you say your name was again?”
“Kai,” he said, “My name is Kai.”
Leila stumbled out of the bed, reaching for her dressing gown. “All right, Kai,” emphasizing his name, “perhaps you would like to have some breakfast now.” And she headed straight to the kitchen.
The child followed her.
Leila put the coffee on and faced the boy. She was not used to talking to anyone before having her coffee in the early hours of the morning.
“Kai, I don’t know what you have for breakfast wherever you said you’re from, but how about some muesli … perhaps eggs and toast, or jam on toast?”
“We do not eat, we do not drink, we do not make waste.”
“What, are you a robot? Of course, you aren’t. How do you sustain yourselves then?”
“We take our nourishment from the sea.”
“Oh,” she sighed, perplexed. The boy’s voice seemed strangely familiar.
She pulled out a chair and sat at the kitchen table, hoping the caffeine from the fresh brew would bring her back to her senses. “Where did you say you come from?”
“I am from planet Leia in the constellation of Libra.”
“I’ve never heard of this planet. Is it very far away?”
“Yes, it is far away in human terms. In your terms, it’s twenty light-years away.”
“That’s very far, indeed. How did you get here?”
“I cannot reveal the means of my transport.”
“Is that so? It must be a secret mission. Why did you come all the way here?”
What a funny child. I’ll play along with this game until I figure out how to find his parents.
“I am here to learn and continue my education.”
“I came to learn about human feelings. We have all other information about Earth, but my Mentor tells me human feelings can only be learned amongst humans, here on Earth itself. Will you be my Mentor, my teacher on this subject?”
“What? This is absurd and impossible. I’m not an authority on these matters, just an average human being. Besides, how can I keep you here without you being noticed by everyone? This doesn’t sound very practical or sensible to me.”
“They won’t notice me because I can make myself invisible.”
“Can you, really? Show me how.”
The child closed his eyes and disappeared instantly. Leila gasped, jumped to her feet, and paced around the cottage. She opened the front door and searched through the garden. He was nowhere to be seen. She returned to the kitchen and poured herself another cup of coffee. Sipping her drink with unsteady hands, she tried to think. Soon, Leila gave in. “All right, Kai, you can come back now!”
Instantaneously, the boy re-materialized in front of her.
“I … I see what you mean.” She examined the boy closely once again. He seemed innocent and harmless. If it weren’t for the colour of those eyes, he almost looked like a human boy of similar age. She debated whether she should acquiesce. She had so many unanswered questions.
“I guess it’s all right if you want to stay, but are there any others involved, any hostile beings that might harm me or my planet?”
“We do not mean any harm. There are no others with me. I came on my own. I am only here to learn, and I must learn very fast.”
“Should I believe you?”
“Please believe me, Leila, I cannot tell lies. I need you to teach me these feelings, so I can make progress on my education and learn other important subjects.”
“Why me? How did you choose me?”
“I did not choose you, my Mentor did. He said you had something special, and I would only understand this when I finish my studies here.”
“I see. How do they know about me?”
“They know everything there is to know about planet Earth. They know everyone who can teach us these human feelings.”
“So, there are others besides me?”
“Yes, each one of us from Leia must complete this course to continue with the rest of our studies.”
“Fine, it’s a deal,” Leila said, eventually, trusting her gut feeling, which seemed more powerful than usual. “Let’s shake hands and get on with your education. I haven’t the faintest idea about where to start, but I guess we’ll find a way.” .
Leila held his right hand lightly and gave it a warm shake. As she released it, she studied it carefully and noticed he had six fingers, six perfect ones, and an index finger slightly longer than a human’s. She looked at his left hand. It was exactly the same.
“You have six fingers on each hand. What’s that called? Polydactyl, I think. I must look it up. Are they all functional?”
“Yes, they are.”
“Show me, again.”
Leila held his right hand, and examined it closely. She put it on the kitchen table and placed hers next to it. “Look, your index finger is slightly longer than mine, in proportion.”
“That’s our healing finger.”
“Hmm, you have healing powers, then?”
“Yes, we do. We can heal everything.”
“How wonderful, I wish we could too.” Leila sat facing him. “What about your parents? Won’t they miss you? Aren’t you too young to be away on such a long trip? Won’t you be lonely? Won’t you miss them?”
“We do not have parents. We are genetically engineered. I am not too young. I am at the right age to make this trip.”
“Genetically engineered, like test tube babies, I guess. We have five senses, how many do you have?”
“I believe we have some extra ones, more potent than the human senses. We can see like you, but we have peripheral vision. Our sight is capable of covering 360 degrees and a very long distance. We hear like you do, but our ears are much more sensitive. When we touch things, we can feel their chemistry, ingredients, inner form and layers. Our sense of smell is equally strong and refined. We do not have the sense of taste, but we are told it’s not that important. Our other senses are much more powerful in comparison. We understand and speak in all languages, see with our minds, and we can communicate without talking.”
“So, maybe the sixth finger is for what we call the sixth sense?”
“I guess this must have been the reason for its presence. Although our features are based on human beings, our peers must have thought we should have something additional to indicate our uniqueness as a species.”
“How old are you Kai? You sound so knowledgeable, yet you look like a human boy of seven or eight.”
“I’m much older than that, but we go through several phases throughout our education. I’m still in the childhood stage, and I will go into the apprenticeship stage when I finish my studies in this term.”
“You must have a longer life span than human beings.”
“We do. We are immortal …”
“Wow, that’s mind-blowing … whereas, we humans are mortal, that is we are born, we live, we age, and we die.”
“I know and to us this is equally remarkable, as well. You have not mastered immortality, yet. ”
“I’m not sure I’d like to live forever. I’ve always felt it would be boring to exist eternally. Human life is longer nowadays. Many reach the age of one hundred, but that sounds far too much for me. I probably wouldn’t have any friends left if I survive that long. I’d rather die at a more conventional age than prolong my stay here for one hundred years. We come and we go, and wherever we go from here, no one really knows. I believe we go somewhere in the universe, perhaps to your planet, who knows?”
“Perhaps you do, Leila.”
Realizing she had not smoked since she arose nearly an hour before, she reached for her pack. This was a first for her, not to have a cigarette with her first cup of coffee in the morning. She turned to the boy before lighting it. “I hope this doesn’t disturb you. We don’t smoke when children are around. If it does disturb you, please go out into the fresh air.”
She lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply, before exhaling slowly.
The boy looked at her curiously. “Why do you make smoke?”
“Oh, it’s just a bad habit I haven’t given up, yet. It’s an addiction to nicotine which is a chemical found in the tobacco plant. It creates a relaxing feeling by increasing the endorphin levels in the brain. It’s bad for our lungs and it has other side-effects.”
“If it’s bad for you, why do you do it?”
“There you go, this is a human weakness, a human indulgence, and an addiction to substances that artificially generate euphoria. Everyone who smokes knows of its dangers to the human body, but they still do it to satisfy their addiction to nicotine and indulge in their weakness. This can be your first lesson, Kai. Humans are self-destructive creatures, and they surrender to their weaknesses for the sake of escapism. They succumb to the synthetic pleasure derived from their addictions to make up for the frustrations or feelings that are not satisfied. It becomes a habit for escapism, a false substitute for creating happiness.”
“What is escapism?”
“Most humans feel they can escape their disappointments, sad memories, and bad experiences when they resort to chemical substances that give them brief pleasure, but as the pleasure part is transitory, they want to repeat the action to seek more pleasure or short-lived comfort. Then, it becomes a habit and a chemical dependency, and eventually, it turns out to be a self-destructive exercise that’s very difficult to give up.”
“Did you have bad experiences and disappointments, too?”
“We all do. That’s called living. We have good experiences and bad ones. Life is not all roses and pink clouds. Some of us are stronger and can manage to deal with the frustrations in a positive manner. They learn from their mistakes and move on. Those of us who are weaker and more sensitive often revert to bad habits in order to carry on living. I’m afraid I’m one of those who need chemical substitutes to cope with life’s disappointments. I don’t harm other people, but I definitely harm myself. It’s complicated, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s difficult to understand how you can harm your mortal body that already seems vulnerable to many other external factors and threats.”
Leila finished her cigarette, the addiction that ate away at her, while talking to the boy.
Weaknesses, dependencies, substitutes for recovery, self-destruction combined with a subconscious death wish. I’m probably the wrong person to teach this charming boy about human feelings. How can I explain this dilemma to him, how can I begin to unfold the layers of the subconscious mind that rule our lives? He is probably at the wrong place to complete his mission. Why didn’t they send him to someone who doesn’t drink or smoke, one who doesn’t have chemical dependencies or reverts to suicidal feelings, occasionally. Someone who is positive, complete, self-accomplished, serene and one who has mastered self-love and self-acceptance?
Leila cast an uneasy glance at the boy. She did not know where to start or how to handle this situation. The boy was watching her with complete attention.
“Kai, I may not be the right person to teach you what you have come here to learn. In fact, the more I think about it, the harder this seems. Perhaps you should check with your elders, your peers, whether I’m the right one for dealing with your requirements. I seriously doubt whether I’m capable of giving you an exemplary portrait of what you must study. I have my own shortcomings, limitations, and imperfections. I might mislead you …”
Kai paused a while before answering. He did not avert his eyes from Leila, and when he spoke, his alien eyes glowed with resolute radiance and looked bigger. “Do not doubt yourself, Leila. We do know it is not all perfect here. I just want to learn how it is, not how it should be.”
Leila sighed. “Very well, you’ll find out, warts and all. I hope your little heart will be able to bear the weight of human feelings. Sometimes they can be so complex, overpowering, and difficult to understand. Yet, I need a shower first. We’ll continue later. Do you need anything, any laundry or a wash perhaps?”
“No, Leila. Our clothes are dirt-repellent and durable, self-clean and biodegradable. We do not wash ourselves like humans, because we do not have glands, and we do not perspire. We only go into the sea. I do not need anything. I will wait for you.”
“Fine, Kai. I’ll see you later.”
On a planet many light-years away, a tall, slim man, clad in a black bodysuit, observed the scene and concluded:
Mission accomplished …