by Martin Maenza
“Aaahhh… aaahhh… chooo!”
The man dressed all in white from head to toe rubbed his soaked gloved hand across his face. It did little to clean his angular face, which was covered with a wisp of a black beard. He continued to trudge among the lush jungle full of vegetation, all the while fidgeting with the controls on his belt.
“Come on, come on,” he muttered to himself. Despite which way he toggled the settings, every time he hit the main button, nothing happened.
“Arrrghhh!” Doctor Light grumbled. “Stupid equipment!” He stomped his foot down hard.
Water splashed up all over his already dripping pants leg. The ground made a sucking sound as his foot was quickly embedded in soft mud.
“Arrgggh!” he yelled again. “Stupid rain!” He struggled to pull his foot out and stumbled backward, then fell butt-first onto the ground.
“Damn it!” He slapped both hands on the ground, splashing himself again. “Stupid planet!” The rain continued to shower down in the night sky, now going on its twelfth continuous hour.
“This is all Batman’s fault!” Light said to himself. “If he hadn’t interrupted my plans back in Manhattan, I would have been able to perfect my interstellar transportation device. Then I would have been able to travel back and forth across the light-years easy as pie, pilfering unsuspecting planets of their treasures.”
The Caped Crusader, however, had stumbled upon the super-villain’s hidden lair and engaged him in battle. A chain reaction of events had led to Light’s own weapon causing damage to a special teleportation platform, but not before the criminal jumped through a shimmering portal in order to elude capture. Instead, he wound up here on an alien planet that was who knows how far away from Earth.
It didn’t take Light long to conclude that the portal device must have somehow become damaged or shut down, stranding him on this backward world with nothing but the costume on his back and a few useful weapons.
Within a half-hour the rain had set in, followed quickly by the darkness and the winds. Doctor Light was really learning to hate this world, wherever it was.
“I can’t stay here,” he said to himself. “Got to find some shelter or something.” He was about to rise when he notice a rustling in some nearby bushes.
Eh? Light thought. Was it the rain, or was something watching him?
Just as Doctor Light reached for the weapon holster on his belt, three small figures slowly raised their heads from above the large, wet leaves. They had dark skin and oval-shaped heads with scruffs of dark hair near the top. They looked humanoid in appearance, save for flat nasal cavities. The man watched them carefully. Their eyes were wide and cautious. They looked at one another curiously and then back at the man. There were some nods, and they began to move forward.
“Ahh!” Light said, jumping to his feet. “Back!” His weapon fumbled in his wet gloves, falling to the ground.
The three figures paused, looked at the fallen item, and then back at the man in white. Then they stepped forward again as a group.
“Uh, er–!” Light muttered, stepping back cautiously. He didn’t mind the deep puddles as his mind raced for what to do. Then a light bulb went off in his head.
“Hah!” he shouted, throwing his arms out wide. At the same instance, he activated a device in his costume, causing his whole body to be illuminated in a brightly shining aura. “Back!” Doctor Light hoped that this would give them pause as well as provide him a protective shield in case they attacked.
Doctor Light was caught totally off-guard with what happened next.
The three alien figures dropped to the muddy, soaked ground, falling to their knees. “Callub da! Callub da! X’Hal rellabub, callub da!” the three chanted over and over.
Light watched them for over two minutes. They did not move nor speak anything more than the same words over and over. He watched their faces and saw that their expressions had changed to one of a mixture of awe and fear.
Doctor Light raised an eyebrow. Well, now, he thought to himself. What do we have here?
Later, Doctor Light followed the trio through the jungle brush. They seemed to know their way around things, locating a path through the bushes and shrubs and avoiding any pitfalls. They continued to chatter among themselves. Some of the words they continued to repeat were X’Hal and callub. Obviously they were relating those words to him, but he didn’t understand why.
The villain had lowered the intensity of the aura-shield from his costume to a fraction of what he had used earlier. At this lower setting, it allowed for some protection and illumination as well as minimized the drain on his power cells. Got to make it last, he thought to himself. Don’t know how long the nights are here. Come morning, I’ll be able to charge the solar cells again. He figured that, if the whole aura had impressed the trio, a continued display of it couldn’t hurt at this juncture.
Eventually, the trio stopped and pushed back a last set of branches. One of them gestured for Doctor Light to go first.
Light was cautious, but the expressions on the natives’ faces were clearly that of sincerity. It didn’t appear to be some kind of trap. Still, he was ready to defend himself if need be. He nodded, said, “OK, I’ll go,” and walked through the leaves.
There was a small clearing here. Light’s eyes took in a small village spread before him, consisting of a number of huts arranged in a semicircular pattern. The buildings seemed to be woven from large leaves and weeds. A few were crooked, some with small holes in the sides or in the roofs. “My, how primitive.”
One of the men called out. “Drana! Drana! X’Hal rellabub!”
The shouts led to figures emerging from the huts. Men, women, and children came, some sleepy-eyed and a bit disoriented. Still, when they heard the words of their fellow villagers, they perked up and began to gather around to see the new arrival.
Doctor Light tensed. “OK, now, don’t crowd,” he said, raising his hands.
A hand reached out from the group suddenly to grab for him.
Light kicked up the aura again.
There was a collective gasp, followed by the entire village falling to their knees. “X’Hall rellabub!” they repeated over and over as the others had done earlier.
Light watched and started to smile a wicked smile. “Well, now…”
Soon the devotees’ bowing and genuflecting stopped as one of the trio started to call out to a number of folks. He was giving them what appeared to be instructions, which they quickly ran off to perform.
Moments later, they returned with large wooden bowls of items that appeared to be some kind of exotic, multicolored fruit.
Another pair emerged with the largest of chairs, setting it before the glowing man. They bowed and backed away, waiting for their offering to be accepted.
Doctor Light looked at the chair and then moved toward it. He tested it with his hand, pushing down at the seat and such. It appeared to be rather sturdy. “This’ll beat sitting on the wet ground,” he said as he sat down. The wood was surprisingly comfortable. “Aaah. It feels good to have a rest.”
The bowls were brought forward to him, with eyes of the people holding them averted downward.
Light reached forward, took one of the pieces of food, and sniffed it. It smelled fragrant and sweet, like an exotic citrus fruit from home. His stomach growled. “I am hungry,” he admitted. He sniffed it again. “Well, here goes…” He bit into it.
“Mmm,” he said. “Good.” He looked up and saw the villagers all watching intently. He raised his gloved hand and made some kind of gesture. “Yes, good. Thank you. Thank you.”
There was a pleasant murmuring among the assembled. They seemed pleased that he was pleased.
From all this, it was starting to become clear that these people didn’t bear him any ill will. In fact, they seemed to be practically falling all over themselves to please him for some reason. Well, he thought to himself. Who am I to say no to them? He laughed.
One of the original trio approached, half-bowed. “Trieb la drio,” the man said. He pointed to one of the huts as if offering it up. “X’Hal crea la veran dri.”
Light looked at the hut. While it did appear to be in better shape than all the rest, it still was rather small in size and plain in structure.
The Earth man looked about and pointed to a stick. “You, there,” he called to one of the natives. “Hand me that.” He snapped his fingers toward the stick.
The dull man looked at him oddly. Light repeated himself again, this time with more authority, and then the man picked up on it. He bent over and grabbed the stick, offering it up to the costumed man with a bow, his hands on each end carefully.
Doctor Light took the stick with one hand, nodded, and then made a shooing motion with the other hand. “Yes, yes, now go away!” He turned to the man who had offered him the hut. “Here is what I was thinking…”
Using the stick, he began to make a picture in the mud. He first made a bunch of stick figures. “This is you all…” He gestured to the people assembled and pointed back to the drawings. “See! This is you! You. The people.”
He then used the stick and began to draw something next to the stick figures. It was like one of the huts, small like the people. Then he drew next to it something else. It was a structure, large in size. “You will make me this — a castle. Understand? A castle!”
The native alien wore a curious look on his face. After a while, they started to understand.
Night turned into day, and the days turned into a week.
Soon the word had spread among the natives from this village to others nearby. And the word rippled out like the waves made by a pebble in a pond, with each group passing along the news to their other neighbors who may not have yet heard.
In no time, more and more members of the alien race were coming to the village, towing behind them carts full of family and belongings. All had made the pilgrimage to see the newcomer from the stars.
Each morning, Doctor Light was greeted by those who wanted to see him, to bask in his presence. And they also bore gifts to him: metals and stones, prized livestock and harvests. Anything that they had of extreme value they offered up to the newcomer in the form of tribute.
The new arrivals to the village also learned of the construction going on for the man, and those that were of able body and fit began to gladly assist in the efforts.
Doctor Light continued to revise the construction plans, which he worked out on parchment-like material with berry-based inks. He advised the natives, despite the often-difficult hurdle of the language barrier, how they could make molds from wood to make bricks from mud. The natives eagerly absorbed the techniques from him and put them to work making a tremendous dwelling for him.
As the sun was starting to set, the workers continued to toil away by the dozens.
One of the native women approached the Earth man, ready to escort him to his evening feast. She was fetching and wore very little to cover her curvaceous body. She smiled at him.
Doctor Light had grown accustomed to the people, overlooking their slight physical differences. Many of the similarities to humans were enough for his needs. He smiled back, took her hand, and followed her to the meal. “It is good to be king,” Light said to himself.
Many hours later, after the evening’s meal and entertainment were complete, Arthur Light stirred to see the young native woman leaving his temporary dwellings. He reached for his pants, pulled them on, and grabbed his cape to wrap around his upper torso.
He walked to the doorway of the dwelling that was on the edge of the village, feeling the chill of the night air. The skies were clear, with not a rain cloud in sight, and the moon shone full down upon the area. From this spot, Light could easily view the rest of the smaller huts as well as the makeshift camp for the many visitors. Most were asleep, replenishing their strength for the next day’s backbreaking labor.
Light looked to his left and could see the makeshift wood scaffolding and such around the larger dwelling the natives were building for him. Not bad, he thought to himself. Not the most ideal of situations, but I guess I’ll have to make do until something else presents itse…
Something caught Doctor Light’s attention high up in the star-filled evening sky. He turned and focused his attention fully in that direction.
It was a green speck of light that seemed to be getting larger as it approached.
Light frowned. He quickly ducked back inside his hut to finish dressing. He knew that now was not the time be caught with his pants down.