Sullivan was the quiet one. He was usually the only one who really listened to the counselor.
Sullivan and 11 of his friends had grown up without parents in an old cabin on the outskirts of a big city. They all slept in the same big room and were all woken up each day by the counselor. They would have been about in middle school but the counselor said that none of the schools around were good enough. So he taught them each day.
The counselor was a very strange man. Most of the features on his face were very small and subtle. He barely had a nose, his eyes were large. His mouth was small. He had no hair and his skin was the color of vanilla pudding. He was shorter than any of the kids and walked strangely, turning his body to the side and bobbing his head with each step.
The counselor was always teaching them the same things. But many of the kids didn’t listen. Each morning the counselor would wake them up and would ask them to walk with him into the pastures and valleys around the cabin. But many of the kids disobeyed and went the other direction and spent their days in the city.
The counselor woke them up this day just like any other day. And as they were going out the door the counselor looked at the ones that never listened to him and said, “Please my young gentlemen, please come with me today. I have to teach you something very important. I have been waiting a long time for what is about to happen, and i’m afraid that you are not ready for it.”
One of the boys, Darwin was his name, turned and challenged the counselor. He said, “Counselor, you tell us every day that we will never be satisfied with the food, the girls, or the wealth that we find in the city. But what do you have to offer us that will satisfy?”
The counselor put his hand on Darwin’s shoulder and struggled to find the words he wanted to say.
Darwin looked down at the tiny, strange looking man and said, “If what you have for us makes us look like you, i don’t think any of us want it.” Darwin turned to his friends and they all laughed.
The counselor said, “My dear gentleman, Darwin. The day is almost here and if you depend on the things you hunger for in this dream, you will not be strong enough to survive when you wake up. The dream is almost over.”
One of Darwin’s friends spoke up and said, “You’re always talking about this as a dream. And you always say we’re almost at our destination. But none of us know what you’re talking about. All we know is that each day we get to go party in the city. What else is there? Wandering around in empty fields?” The boys began to turn away.
The counselor ran up to them in his awkward gait and he grabbed Darwin’s hand.
Darwin felt something strange in his hand and he jerked his hand away. A strange vanilla colored egg bounced onto the ground- like a shelled hard boiled egg, but smaller and yellower. They all looked at it. The counselor picked it up and held it back out to Darwin.
“Please gentleman Darwin, eat this when you are hungry instead of eating the food of this world. If you eat of this egg, you will survive. Anything else and you will die. Your body will not be strong enough when we wake up.”
They all looked at the egg that the counselor held out to them.
“I’m scared to ask you what that is, man,” Darwin said. “It’s the same weird color that you are. Where did that come from? Did you lay an egg?” Darwin laughed at how weird the counselor was and looked at his friends so they would laugh to.
Darwin and his friends shook their heads and walked away into the city. They began to bob their heads to the heavy dance music calling to them. Some of them reached into their pockets for money as they walked towards smoke shops and donut parlors and the bar where they usually got breakfast.
The counselor turned to the four that remained. He held the egg out where they could see it. He said, “Will you guys desert me too?”
They looked at each other and then Sullivan spoke up. “We want to believe you, Counselor. But sometimes we just don’t understand. Sometimes the things you say just don’t make sense.”
The counselor nodded his strange, bald head and blinked his large tired eyes. He began to walk in his strange way toward the fields. The remaining boys followed him. The counselor said, “I know it’s hard to understand me. But you have to trust me. There are things that are more real than this dream for which i am preparing you. I have traveled for years and years to come get you. And to prepare you to enter my world and survive in it. Like these eggs.” The counselor put his hand on his satchel. “We must no longer feed on the food of this world. The eggs are the only food that will sustain you now.”
They walked along a dirt path into a deep, quiet valley.
Sullivan spoke up again, “Why would we die if we only eat other food. Why would we need to eat this?” Sullivan pointed at the egg.
The counselor said to them, “We are on a long journey right now, and our bodies are not really moving. We cannot move them. So we must strengthen our minds. I am training you and keeping your minds strong so that your bodies will survive too, when we wake up. Darwin and his friends smoke and drink and eat what they want all the time. And when they get hungry, the only way they know to be happy, is to eat more food or to get another cigarette or to go find another girl that they can use to make themselves feel happy. But if you consume what i give you, you will not be hungry for those things all the time. Your mind and your spirit will be strong.”
“Our spirit will be strong?” One of the other boys asked.
“Yes,” the counselor replied. “The other boys are not feeding their spirit, but every day that you walk and talk with me, and learn about what it will be like in the new land, when we awake, the more your spirit will be fed, and will be able to carry your body to life.”
The boy said, “But i don’t know about eating a strange egg. That’s just too weird for me, Counselor.” The boy looked at his friends and tried to get a laugh out of them.
Sullivan definitely didn’t laugh. The counselor looked sad as he said, “The thing is, my young gentlemen, if you do not learn to eat of my eggs, you will not survive the journey."
Sullivan stopped as the others walked on. Eventually they noticed and turned to look back at him. Sullivan said, “Then counselor, as much as I don’t understand it, I want to trust you, I will eat try to eat an egg.”
The counselor smiled and looked at Sullivan proudly. He walked back to Sullivan and handed him an egg.
Sullivan turned it over in his hand. It had a flat part on the bottom. It was jellowy, and slightly translucent. It had a white-ish, yellow-ish tint. he took a little bite. It tasted very plain but was soft and easy to eat. “These aren’t so bad.” He smiled at his friends. “C’mon guys. We’ve already come this far.”
The others slowly took the eggs and ate them. They finished and began walking again. They walked through the fields and valleys. They sat and talked. The counselor asked each of them how they were doing and how he could help them. Then he reminded them, like he always did, of the three things above all that he needed them to remember. He said, “My young gentlemen, in order to survive the new land you will need to remember these three things. First. Always trust what i say. No matter how much it doesn’t seem true. There are enemies that are trying to deceive you. Second, you must only eat the food that i give you. If you strive for anything else, you will be unsatisfied and will eventually lose everything. And the last thing that you must remember to survive the new land is this, Help the ones in need. Even when they have nothing to give you. You will be surprised which ones are really the ones who matter.”
The next day their awakening was different than the rest. They all awoke to an earthquake. It shook their beds. And many of them toppled to the floor. As they woke up, they all noticed the strange elastic material stretched over their heads. It was some sort of metallic screen that perfectly shaped over each of their head and face. Small blue sparks traveled through the mesh, in front of their eyes and around their heads. A strange metallic cord came from each of the mesh helmets and arched over to a box on their bed frame, like thin, bending tree branches.
As they peeled the elastic mesh from their heads and looked around at each other trying to figure out what was going on, the counselor rushed into the room- but it didn’t look like he usually did He was old and hunched. His strange vanilla skin was droopy and wrinkled. His large eyes were tired. And his tiny nostrils were flaring in and out as he breathed hard. “Are you all ok, my young gentlemen? We have finally landed. It was sooner than i had thought. The ground came out of nowhere. We are not as close to safety as i had wanted so we will have to walk the rest of the way.”
Darwin was the first to his feet and he yelled at the counselor, “What’s going on? Why do you look like that? What were those things on our heads?!”
The counselor replied, still breathing hard, “You have all been in hibernation. We have been traveling for sixty years. Your ancestors sent me to earth to get you before the earth’s atmosphere got too poisonous. Your ancestors left long ago when they found out the world was in trouble. They found my planet and sent me back to find children that i could save. Your parents didn’t believe that the earth was in trouble. And most of them were too busy living and playing to be planning for your futures. You were the only one’s i was able to save. I found you as infants and it took us 60 years to get here. But because of the masks,” the counselor pointed at the mesh helmets attached to the bed, “You guys only aged 16 years or so. Even though i was in the hibernation dreams with you i had to stay awake to monitor it and drive the ship.
Sullivan realized something, “So you’ve been traveling for 120 years?”
The counselor nodded. Then he said, “Well, young gentlemen. It is time to move. We have ten or twenty miles to travel until we are safe. I need to warn you that everything i tried to teach you in the hibernation dreams are absolutely crucial to remember now. Remember those things that I told you will not satisfy? Well now those things are outright dangerous. Creatures from this world will use them as bait to lure you in. They want to enslave you.”
Darwin looked at his friends and shook his head mockingly. “This is weird, but he’s full of crap.”
One of his friends said, “and even if those things are just bait, we can resist it now because now we know that it’s bait.”
They went out the front door and though the area around the house was different, it looked strangely similar to where they had always been. there was a city in the distance. There were rolling hills and little paths.
“It looks exactly the same here.” one of the boys said.
The counselor replied, “We programmed the dream maker so that it would look really similar, so that you could be trained in what it would be like.”
One of the boys who had always gone into the city replied, afraid, “Uh oh, maybe i should have practiced doing the right thing.”
Darwin scoffed at him, “You’re scared? You believe this crazy old alien? I think THIS is the dream. I can do whatever i want in this dream and i’ll just wake up when i wake up.”
The counselor hurried them along. “Follow me quickly. We don’t want them to know we have landed. They always want to get the earthlings first so they can enslave them. We need to get you down to where we live with your ancestors. Ok, young gentlemen. We will be approaching a city soon. You have to remember what i have told you. first, you have to always believe what i say, no matter how strange it sounds. Second, you have to only eat the food i give you until we get to our new home, and third, help out the ones that seem lowest among you.”
The counselor walked briskly with his strange swaying gait. His strange yellowy skin flaking off on the back of his head as if he were shedding. The path took them between a steep mountain and the edge of a little town. they could see down the narrow streets of the town. People were walking in the streets laughing and dancing. they were smoking and drinking. They seemed so happy. A beautiful woman saw them and called to them! She eyed them mischievously and laughed as she walked into a building with music coming from inside. All the people were beautiful. the buildings were tall but close together. They were bright and active. They had enormous doors where five people could walk side by side and go in together. And they were taller than three men tall.
Darwin said to one of his friends, “Dude, this is just like we’ve done a million times. there’s nothing wrong with this. Let’s go in there and have some fun. I don’t want to go live with those weird alien dudes anyway.” Darwin and two of his friends broke off from the pack and started walking into the town, like they were used to.
The counselor glanced back and it was like he had feared. He was losing them. He leapt with a strength they had never seen in him before and he landed a few feet behind them. He called to them hysterically, “My young gentlemen. It’s a trap! They are waiting in the buildings to come out and get you! The people are like fishing lures drifting through a stream! Don’t go over there! You have to believe me! We’ve come too far to lose you now.”
Then one of the boys behind the counselor said, “Ooh, do you guys smell that? It smells like bar-b-que. that would be so good right now.”
The counselor turned around as soon as he heard that and said, “No! No! You have to be strong!” He pulled out one of his eggs from his satchel and held it out to the boy as he said, “You don’t need anything more than this. It’s not as tasty but it’s all you need. It will bring you life.” The boy hesitantly took it. He sniffed it and gave it back. He walked by the counselor and said. I just can’t do it. Those eggs just have no flavor. I need flavor.”
The counselor cried out and ran after them but could not turn any of the five young men around before they were into the city too deep. The counselor stopped, grieving his momentous loss and watched them wander down the street being charmed by the people.
He noticed the look on their faces suddenly change from being charmed to being frightened. As they came close to one of the women, they saw the fear in her eyes. She glanced back to the doorway of one of the buildings as if she was waiting for what she knew was inside. She turned back to Darwin and his friends and said, “I’m sorry. If i didn’t bring you to him, he would hurt ME.”
And the next moment a large shape emerged from the one of the gigantic doorways. It looked like a huge hunch-back man but was three times as tall and was as thick as a rhinoceros. He barreled across the street towards the boys. He flicked his knobby hand and a large net flew at them. The next moment the boys along with the woman had been knocked to the ground by the thick ropes in the net. The huge creature gathered up the net, took a look at his catch, and laughed into the air.
The counselor dashed for the remaining seven boys and they ran as fast as they could from the sight of the town.
Soon they were trekking silently along the ridge of a mountain in the dark of the night. The counselor was still thinking about the incident. He turned back to Sullivan and said, “I told them those things wouldn’t satisfy. They would always want more. They wanted more and look what it brought them. I told them they had to trust me, and what i would give them would give them life.” He shook his head and kept walking.
Later on in the night, only 3 miles until they reached their destination, they began to get hungry. the counselor handed out the eggs. He said, “They will help you get used to the climate too. they came from my species. It has the extra nutrition your body needs to survive here. It was so important for you to practice eating the eggs in the dream because you needed to learn to survive on only these eggs.”
Still, several of the boys complained about the eggs. They wanted something more. They said they were hungry and couldn’t go on.
“That is the air talking,” The counselor said. “It makes humans very hungry. But the eggs are enough. Trust me.”
Even so, one of the boys saw berries growing on the side of the mountain and tried to reach for them. The cliff was sharp, and the drop was far. But he felt deathly hungry, and he just could not believe that another one of those eggs would slake his hunger. He reached for a berry, slipped on the unfamiliar sand of the alien ground and did not utter a sound as he toppled down the mountain, knowing that he deserved his fate for not trusting. The others didn’t even notice he was gone until much later.
Finally, just before sunrise they came to a huge cliff face with a narrow passage cut like a tiny canyon in the rock. The counselor was breathing hard. He seemed slumped more and more at each step. His head was shedding even more and now large flakes of skin were dropping from underneath his shirt. He turned around to the remaining six boys and said, remember the rules, boys. this is the true test of your spirit. Be strong in your conviction.
They wove their way through the narrow ravine. Soon they started hearing voices. There were people ahead. They came to a circular landing in the rock and they filled the small room. There were several passageways leading out from the room. People that looked like the counselor started appearing from each one of the passageways as they realized they had guests. The counselor spoke to them in a language unfamiliar to the humans. The other alien creatures nodded as if they understood the situation. The counselor turned to the boys and said, “My young gentlemen, it has been a pleasure guiding you for all of these years. Now each of you will be guided individually by one of my people. I will hopefully meet you at the destination. I must rest here. I cannot make it any further. Remember everything I have told you. Be strong.”
And each of the alien people walked up to each one of the boys and took them by the hand and led them down separate corridors. They spoke english and talked to them about their trip and if they were tired. They asked what they were hoping was waiting for them at their destination. They said it was just a little bit further until they were there.
It was Sullivan who didn’t get very far. He stopped and apologized to his guide. Sullivan said, “I’m sorry, i just can’t leave The counselor behind. I need to go back.”
Sullivan was extremely tired by this point, but his conviction was strong. He wanted to help the one that had helped him, even though it seemed the counselor could not help him any more.
As he got back to the opened room, he saw the counselor slumped against the wall, unconscious in a very uncomfortable position as if he had simply fainted. A moment later, one of Sullivan’s friends appeared, apparently with the same idea. Together they picked up their counselor and carried him through the ravine where Sullivan’s guide was waiting for them.
Layers of the counselor’s skin was flaking off in large pieces now. The skin was droopy and he was still unconscious. They met up with the new guide who had a surprisingly pleased smile on his face. He asked, “Why did you go back for him?”
Sullivan said, “He gave us so much.”
The guide replied, “but he has no more to give you.”
Sullivan and his friend looked at each other. His friend replied, “That doesn’t matter.”
The guide nodded his approval of their answer and said. Well, you have passed the test. Turn around. There is another passageway we must take.
They backed up out of the narrow passageway back into a circular open area. The guide lifted up and brushed away the sand in the middle of the room, revealing a board. He slid the board aside and they found a hole. They looked down and saw water rushing just a few feet below the opening.
The guide looked at them and said, “This is a shortcut. The others may get there eventually but not until they decide to help their guide when he gets weak and needs help. Drop in here, and in just a few minutes you will find yourself in the valley where your people live with ours. Congratulations, you have proven yourselves worthy to live in our society. He motioned them to get in the water. Sullivan and his friend looked at the guide, looked at the counselor they were holding between them, and then looked at each other.
They maneuvered into the hole and let go. They rushed away through the small tunnel with just enough room to breathe and hold the counselor’s head above water.
When they came out of the tunnel the first slivers of sunlight were hitting the far edge of the canyon. They floated in a river that wound through grassy country that was hilly until it tucked against the wall of the ravine. Soon they floated by small buildings and then larger ones. They came to a spot where the water was slow and shallow and they got out.
Their counselor looked better than before. The water had washed the excess skin off of him. The wrinkles were gone. As they held the counselor there in the shallows of the water, they noticed his skin changing from the frosty gray to his more natural vanilla pudding look. They took him to the side and laid him on the grass. Sullivan sat down next to him and whispered to him, “Counselor. Can you hear me.”
The counselor’s mouth moved very slightly.
“What?” Sullivan asked. “What did you say?”
The counselor’s mouth moved again. He said ever so weakly, “Put your hand back on me.”
Both Sullivan and his friend quickly put their hands back on the counselor and he seemed to grow in strength every minute.
When the counselor finally opened his eyes he said. “Welcome to your new home. Do you know how i know that you will fit in just fine here?”
Sullivan looked at his friend and then back down at the counselor. they both shook their heads.
The counselor smiled his small mouth, he blinked his large eyes and he said, “We can only survive because of your hearts. When you touch us, our species thrives on your good hearts. Here on this planet, you thrive on our eggs as food. You would not be healthy otherwise. And that is why my people need you and why your people need us. You two will do very well here.”