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, his delicate features, and paused on his turquoise eyes. Windows to a mind craving knowledge.
She reflected on the first time they’d 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, filling her with a sense of lightness. On impulse, she glanced at her hands and noticed she could clearly see gold veins beneath her skin and the blood running through them. The curious sight faded as swiftly as it had appeared.
When she looked up, a bank of clouds masked the sun. She stared into the weakening oranges and pomegranates, soothed. The quaint light returned, strong and pulsating, it blurred her sight. Mesmerized, by its brilliance, she wanted to turn away, but couldn’t until it gradually vanished. Leila blinked, waiting for her vision to return to normal.
The smell of the sea more potent than ever, the sand soft beneath her feet, she wondered what she could have seen before wandering to her 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 she made out the profile of a small boy in the shadows. The child didn’t attempt to hide when she stepped towards him. Leila noticed the white bodysuit he wore and the white boots that came up to his knees. He looked to be about eight years old, and no one seemed to be with him.
“Hello,” she said gently. “Are you lost?”
Though he observed her, his expression remained 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. She grew concerned. Dusk had begun to fall, and no one seemed to be searching for him. As she hadn’t seen anyone else during her hour-long walk, Leila 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. Tell you what, I’ll make some phone calls when we get to my place, and hopefully locating your mum and dad, let them know where you are. What do you think?”
The boy’s expression changed when she held out her hand. He cocked his head to one side, studying her with an inquisitive gaze. Leila noticed the unusual, almost turquoise colour of his eyes. They looked mysterious. 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 Gendarme’s number. An amber light, similar to the one she’d witnessed at the beach, flooded into the room. Overwhelmed by its force, she felt as if she was dissolving and the phone dropped from her fingers. She swayed, confused by the sensation.
As though in a trance, Leila 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.
A tuna fish sandwich seemed like a good idea. She prepared it, and setting the plate in front of him, she placed an apple beside it. He studied the plate and looked up at her. 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 meal. Feeling tired and dizzy, Leila put down her fork, her appetite gone.
Leila gave the boy a weak smile. “It seems neither of us is hungry.” She rose, and after washing the plates, wrapped up the boy’s sandwich in cling-film. “I’ll leave this on the table in case you want to eat something 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 onto the settee. She returned to the kitchen, and filling a glass with water, carried it into the living room. “This is for you, since you must be thirsty.”
The boy looked up at her, again, and turned his head towards the television. He began to watch the cartoon.
“I’ll be in my bedroom, it’s just over there.” She pointed to the door. “I’ll only be reading a book, so don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything, okay?” Leila felt certain he’d heard her, but his reluctance to speak puzzled her. Thoughts of calling the authorities hovered in her mind, yet an unfamiliar, emotional pull kept her from doing so. She sighed and left the room.
Entering her bedroom, she left the door slightly ajar. She picked up the newspaper and settled in her armchair. Unable to concentrate, she opted for a book, and read for a couple of hours, while checking on the boy, every now and then. When she looked at him again, his attention hadn’t wavered from the pictures on the screen, but he’d finally sat on the settee.
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 placed the pillow on the couch, and unfolding the blanket over the cushions, turned 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 though all of her energy had been drained from her. Falling asleep as soon as she climbed into bed, she slipped into a dream.
Leila stood in strange, colourless place that had no walls. A voice, with an unworldly accent, asked her questions which she answered. Who this person could be, she didn’t know, but she discerned that a male spoke to her. Whether he was young or old remained vague. The shadows shrouded a faint silhouette. Some of the things he asked her were very odd – some 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 a few hours later, the dream filled her mind like odd pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that revealed a long conversation between two people. A thought nagged at her. What is the meaning of all this?
The flickering lights coming from the lounge disconcerted her. As she staggered towards the room, she found the child sitting on the settee. The remote in his hand, he zapped through all the channels. BBC, TV5, Rai, The Russian Channel, Al Jazeera, and the local programmes, the sound turned down very low. He seemed deeply engrossed in the images flashing before his eyes, but he turned to acknowledge Leila, as she stood by the door. She watched him in bewilderment for a while. Back in the bedroom, she contemplated. I must do something about this tomorrow. His family must be frantic with worry by now. I have to find out where they are and take him back to them.
Leila drifted off to sleep again. She woke up a couple of hours later, feeling a strange presence in the room. She raised herself on an elbow and peered at the door. The boy stared at her. Shuddering, she sat up.
“Hi,” she muttered, “Do you need anything?”
The child’s brilliant turquoise eyes seemed lit from within, though his expression was serious as he spoke. “My name is Kai and I am from planet Leia in the constellation of Libra.”
Leila shivered. 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 game? Do I play along with him or believe him? An alien in my home! Is this true or another 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 continued to watch her. What do you want from me? The words refused to come out. She couldn’t react. The hesitant light of dawn slowly entered the bedroom windows. Leila sat frozen, unable to move, until an 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, perhaps you’d like to have some breakfast now.” She headed straight to the kitchen.
The child followed her.
Leila switched on the coffee machine and faced the boy.
“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?”
“It is in human terms. It’s twenty light-years away.”
“That’s 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 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’ve gained a lot of knowledge concerning your planet, but my Mentor tells me human emotions can only be learned among the people on Earth. Will you be my Mentor, my teacher on this subject?”
Leila clasped her hands. “What? This is absurd and impossible.” She stared at her coffee, wondering if someone had tampered with the water. Perhaps, somehow released an hallucinogenic drug into it. “I’m not an authority on these matters, just an average person. Besides, everyone knows I don’t have any children, and not even a relation who has any. How can I keep you here without someone noticing? This doesn’t sound very practical or sensible to me.”
“No one will know I’m here because I can make myself invisible.”
“Really? Show me.”
The child closed his eyes and disappeared. Leila gasped, jumped to her feet, and paced around the cottage. She opened the front door and searched through the garden, but couldn’t find him anywhere. She returned to the kitchen and, despite her suspicions, poured herself another cup of coffee. Hands shaking, she picked up the cup and sipped her drink. Leila tried to think how the boy could have vanished. No ideas coming to her, she gave in. “All right, Kai, you can come back now!”
Instantaneously, the boy materialized in front of her.
“I … I see what you mean.” Leila 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. Leila debated whether she should acquiesce. She had so many unanswered questions.
“I suppose it’s all right if you want to stay, but are there any others involved? You know, hostile beings that might harm me or my planet?”
“This world is in no danger from us, and no one else is with me. I am only here to learn, and I must learn very fast.”
“Should I believe you?”
“I cannot tell lies, but you’ll discover that for yourself, Leila. I wish you to teach me about emotions. What causes them, and why you humans feel them. If you will help me, I can make progress in my education before learning more subjects.”
“Why me? Did you choose me?”
“I did not, 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?”
“All Leians must complete this course to continue with the rest of our studies.”
Leila rubbed her hand across her forehead and stared at the boy. “It’s a deal,” she said, eventually, trusting her gut feeling which seemed more powerful than usual. “Let’s shake hands, and I’ll try to be your teacher, though I haven’t the faintest idea where to start. I guess …” She paused. “I guess we’ll find a way.”
She held his right hand lightly and gave it a warm shake. As she released it, she examined it carefully and noticed he had six fingers. Leila glanced at his left hand. It was the same. They looked much like hers, except his index fingers were slightly longer than any she’d seen before.
“You have six fingers on each hand. What’s that called? Polydactyl, I think. I must look it up. Are they all functional?”
“Show me, again.”
Leila scrutinized it closely. “Do you know why your index finger’s so long?”
“That’s our healing finger.”
“Hmm, do you have the power to do that?”
“Yes. 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 suppose. We have five senses, how many do you have?”
“I believe we have some extra ones, and ours are more potent. We can see like you, but our peripheral vision is greater than yours. Our sight is capable of covering 360 degrees and long distances.”
Kai pointed to his ear. “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.”
He touched the tip of his nose. “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?”
“It could be the reason for its presence. Although our features are based on human beings, our forefathers 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. I’m still in the childhood stage. Once I have finished the curriculum this term, I will go onto the apprenticeship level.”
“You must have a longer life span than human beings.”
“We do. We are immortal.”
“Wow.” Leila sat back in her chair. “That’s … mind-blowing. I expect you’re aware that we’re mortal, we’re born, live, age and die.”
“I know and to us this is equally remarkable. ”
“I’m not sure I’d like to live forever. I’ve always felt it would be boring to exist eternally. Our lives are 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 for that long.” Leila tucked her hair behind her ear. “When we die, no one knows what happens after that. I believe we go somewhere in the universe, perhaps to your planet, who knows?”
“Perhaps you do, Leila.”
Realizing she hadn’t smoked since getting up, and she usually had her first cigarette of the day with her coffee, she reached for her pack. She turned to the boy before lighting it. “I hope this doesn’t disturb you. We shouldn’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 that 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, an indulgence. This can be your first lesson, Kai. We’re self-destructive creatures who surrender to what weakness we have, generally as a kind of escapism.”
“What is escapism?”
“Most of us want to forget our disappointments, sad memories or bad experiences. Some chemical substances help us to do that by providing brief pleasure. When the effect wears off, they repeat the action. It becomes a habit and creates a chemical dependency that’s difficult to break.”
“Have you had 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.” Leila flicked ash into an ashtray. “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. Others are weaker, maybe more sensitive, and often resort to bad habits.”
She inhaled and held the smoke deep in her lungs. When she exhaled, a plume of white smoke curled through the air. “I’m afraid I’m one of those. I don’t harm other people, but I definitely harm myself. It’s complicated, isn’t it?”
”It’s difficult to understand why you do that to your body when it is so vulnerable to many external 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 boy about feelings. How can I explain this dilemma to him, how can I begin to unfold the layers of the subconscious mind that rules our lives? He’s 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’s attention remained on her.
“Kai, I may not be the right person to teach 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 person to help you.” She ran a hand through her tousled hair. “I seriously doubt whether I’m capable of giving you an exemplary portrait of what you must study. I have shortcomings, limitations, and imperfections. I might mislead you …”
Kai 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 know perfection is not to be found 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 emotions. 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 you. We do not have glands and do not perspire. The sea provides all we need. 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 …