Home

I
I looked up into the sky last night and saw Venus. It was so brilliant, so beautiful—its yellow light beamed out, drowning even the stars. I can’t wait to go home.
    I haven’t always known, you know. I spent a long time in ignorance. It makes me smile sometimes to think back on it. I can remember seeing Venus in the sky at night as a child and thinking nothing of it. “Pretty star,” I can hear myself saying, “and there’s the Big Dipper, and Orion, and the North Star . . . .”
    But I came to know. I know now.

My name is Paul, by the way. My earliest years on this Earth were spent in Worland, Wyoming. When I was ten I was moved to Chicago. I spent my time much as you people spend yours. I went to school, dated your girls, and you know what else. That is not how youths spend their time where I am from, and when I think back on it I am ashamed of my actions. It amazes me, really, that I even felt those desires—for sex, drink, lewd behavior with my human friends. I was engrossed in it all, but why?
    I can’t act that way, though, you must understand. When my own people come, I must be prepared. I must constantly be preparing. Soon my King will gather His strongest and most loyal subjects and He will visit this Earth. How would it be for Him to arrive and find me acting as if I belonged here? As if I wanted to be here? It would not do at all. I must emulate the activities of those back home, as nearly as I can.
    My human acquaintances find my actions odd, and inevitably I must tell them why it is that I act as I do. They laugh, and then they question. “How do you know?” they ask, or “Where did you get such an idea?” How ridiculous! How could I not know? How could I be of another world, here only temporarily, and not be aware of it? Do they suppose that it would not be obvious to me? It only surprises me that it was not obvious sooner. I don’t suppose I ever really felt at home with the idea that I was of this Earth, however. I don’t remember my youth perfectly, but I do remember a vague uneasiness before I came to realization. I never did belong.
    So they say, “Prove it.” This one really annoys me. “Prove it.” As if such a thing could be confined within the realms of “proof.” I remember numerous conversations with my closest companion, a man named Gus, about this.
    Gus came over for tea, as he does sometimes. And of course he can never be around long without bringing it up. Or maybe I brought it up, I don’t know. Anyway it came up. “It doesn’t make any sense,” Gus said to me.
    “It makes perfect sense.”
    “Perfect sense,” Gus repeated. “Then why can’t you prove it?”
    “Can you prove me wrong? Can you prove to me that I belong to this Earth?” I asked.
    “You’re here.” Gus shot back.
    I thought for just a second. “I went swimming this afternoon,” I said.
    “What does that have to do with anything?”
    “I was in the water all afternoon,” I said. “Does that mean that I am supposed to live in the water?”
    “Of course not.”
    “But I was there.”
    “Only for a short time. Then you got out.”
    “Exactly.”
    Gus just took a drink of his tea and smiled. I think for him it is more of a game than anything else, trying to get me to crack and admit that I am human. How can I admit what is not true? To be honest, sometimes I think Gus doesn’t belong here either. I wonder if I can get him to come back with me. If I didn’t think so, I probably wouldn’t bother with him. I don’t usually bother with others. I find it best to take their questions with a smile and go about my business. I must simply bide my time in this world, and soon I will return to my own and that of my King. I have been here thirty years, and my return must certainly come soon.




II

I’m aging. I have known now for more than twenty years, and still I am here. I wonder what has happened; what could be keeping them? Where is my King? He should have come by now.
    I wonder sometimes if they are still even watching me. They used to give me clues as to how to live. But I can’t find those clues anymore. What am I doing here? I am not of this world; why must I stay?
    I find myself questioning why I was ever put here. Did I do something to deserve this? Are we all put here, at one time or another? How many of you are truly of my kind? I am ready to go home. I don’t like this place; I tire of fighting the ways of this world.
    I am sick, and my human acquaintances busy themselves taking care of me. Gus is with me at all times. Gus speaks constantly of “our return.” I don’t know if he is one of my kind, but I convinced him to come with me. What can I tell him now? Where are the rest? Am I alone on this Earth? Have I been forsaken here? Days pass slowly in this white room. This hospital reeks of bedsheets and disinfectant. They can call it “sterile,” but it is pure filth. My King has left me here for years, my body to weak to leave. How many years more?
    These humans keep asking their same old questions, with their little smirks as though I were insane. Insane! I grow tired of giving them answers. Turn my head and hold my tongue. Logic breaks under the weight of truth, and I can no longer bear the weight myself. They, naturally, take my silence as a sign of concession. I concede nothing. I simply don’t want to argue about it anymore. I don’t know all the details. I can tell myself that I don’t know. But they will not take that. To them, it means I am wrong. How simple they can be.
    My body is diseased, and I must depend on these humans for the rest of my time here. I am back in Wyoming now—”back home,” they insist. Gus brought me here. But where I spend my time on this Earth means very little to me.
    I spend that time with these invalids—humans who can no longer take care of themselves. It sickens me. Humanity sickens me, but this is the worst of humanity. I must hold on, though, even if it means being in here. My King will come soon, and how would it be for Him to come and find me dead? To find me unable to return home? It certainly would not do.




III

They are not coming. Somehow, something has happened, and I am left here on this Earth. Sometimes I find myself getting angry about that. But how ridiculous. How much worse must their situation be, if they are unable to return for me? They might be overrun, or even dead. Is my King dead? It makes me cry, and so I shift my thoughts to other things.
    I am afraid that I will never return home. When I think this, of course, everything begins to remind me of that home. It is amazing how my senses have tuned themselves. Out the window today was the most beautiful blue sky—light at the edges, a deep blue at the top. I had Gus take me outside for as long as he visited. The smell of that air, the shine of the wet grass—I know that these things are nothing like my home, and yet they remind me of it. It must be these, and so much more—so much that I can’t even imagine. But these limited things are enough to fill my eyes with water, and make me smile in spite of everything.
    Gus will come for me tomorrow, and we will go up to the house I once lived in. It isn’t far—an hour or so. I don’t know why he bothers, but he thinks it is important so I will humor him. I look forward to time outside anyway.

Gus showed up bright and early this morning. As we drove up to Worland, I could not sleep. I was engrossed with the things around us—it is amazing how much I had forgotten. The ridiculously large herds of antelope, running completely free; the spaces of land stretching out to show the curve of the earth; the wind making dust devils simply for lack of something better to do. I watched a hawk, a couple of miles away, circling above a barren bluff. I must have watched him for ten solid minutes, just circling and circling. Then suddenly he spotted what he wanted and in an instant he dropped to the bluff. Before I fully realized what had happened he was back in the air, flying away.
    We visited the house, but I think Gus was disappointed. As I said, it is amazing how much I had forgotten. I didn’t even recognize the house when we pulled up to it, nor did it mean anything to me to visit it. We spent the entire day in Worland, Gus getting his fill of disappointment. I really didn’t remember any of it. So now it is growing dark, and we are leaving to go back.
    The night sky is wonderful in Wyoming. If you haven’t seen it, you should. From a city like Chicago, you would never even guess how many stars can really be seen. But you must do it this way—out of town, out among the sagebrush—to really enjoy it.
    “Gus, pull over a minute, will you?” I ask. I want to see this.
    “Do you have to go to the bathroom?” Gus asks. He seems a little concerned at the prospect.
    “No,” I laugh. “I just want to look around for a minute.”
    “I don’t know if—”
    “Gus.”
    The humming of the wheels turns to crackling as he pulls onto the gravel. I reach for the door handle, but something makes me pause. I am so tired; I wish I could just sit here and let the view come to me. Knowing better, I open the door and step out into the chill, slowly. Gus is already around to my side of the car, trying to help me.
    “Look at that,” I say, pointing up with my chin. Gus stops and looks up at the sky as though he has never seen it before. I point out the North Star, Orion, the Big Dipper, and then my eyes fall on a familiar sight. I hear Gus’ name escape my lips as my legs give way. I fall into the dust, eyes fixed on my home. Gus falls to his knees, and leans over me. Pushing him aside, I watch the yellow light of Venus spread through the entire sky. Soon it is all there is. I hear Gus’ voice faintly, saying my name. But in front of me is a vision, and it calls me more clearly. I reach up, and take the hand of my King. He has come for me.

I am going home.