Short Stories by Rick Jankowski

Speculative and Sensitive Fiction


The Edifice is about a star-roving anthropologist who makes a startling discovery.

At 700 words, it's my shortest story by far. 

It was nominated for a 2003 Pushcart Prize by Storyteller Magazine and was reprinted a year later in Andromeda Spaceways, an Australian science fiction magazine. 

 

 




The Edifice 


      The anthropologist, Collivere, tapped the final data into his handheld computer.  He waited as the microprocessor returned line after liquid-crystal line of analysis.  He smiled, pressed the Save button and slipped the portable into the right pocket of his uniform.  He clasped his hands behind his back and stepped toward the view port. 

     “Alien, but beautiful,” Collivere said to the others on the deck.  “Yellow sun and green plants - a striking combination.”

     The Captain placed a hand on Collivere’s shoulder.  “Too bad we arrived a thousand years too late.”

     Collivere nodded.  “The civilizations that must have flourished here…” He tapped his index and middle fingers against his right pocket.  

     “Thank goodness we have the technology to paint an accurate picture of who they were, how they lived, what they worshipped.”

     “You better have something big in that little box of yours. The Council spent billions on this expedition.”

     “Don’t worry, the team has enough practical information to justify this trip a hundred times over.” 

     Collivere swaggered closer to the view port.  “And,” he continued, “do you think bringing God back will be big enough to satisfy the Council?” 

#

     Months later, the silver door of a robotic air-car shimmered and turned transparent.  There was a popping sound and the door vanished.  Two gleaming black shoes stepped out, followed by perfectly creased black pants and a matching high-collared shirt.  Two of the Council’s honor guard hurried to greet Collivere, then whisked him into the auditorium.  Behind him, there was another “pop” and the door to the air-car solidified.  The car floated to the parking lot across the street, tilted vertically onto its back bumper, and like a book returning to a shelf, slid into its designated parking slot.  

#

     Deep inside the auditorium, Collivere stepped upon a small platform.  He adjusted the cuffs of his shirt, then nodded toward one of the honor guards.  The guard pressed a button and the platform rose into the main hall.  As the platform rose, an excited hum filled the air.  Ten thousand scientists, religious leaders, politicians, and philosophers - The Council - leaned forward in their seats to get a better glimpse of the star-roving anthropologist.  His mouth curving slightly upward, Collivere stepped to the glass podium.  The crowd hushed.

     Collivere removed the hand-held computer from his shirt pocket and placed it into a niche, laser-carved in the podium.  His presentation uploaded instantly.  Simultaneously, the lights dimmed and a hundred-foot holographic representation of the third planet appeared.

     The hush ceased, sound cascaded into the double-mooned night.

Collivere waited.  When the excitement subsided, he spoke.  His voice was deep, resonant and sure:

     “We have explored the third planet of the yellow sun, searched her overgrown jungles, ruined cities, and crumbling roads…”

     The floating image changed.  Views from the far-flung planet appeared.  Each member of the Council slipped an arm into a specially designed cuff.  A plate installed in the armrest of each seat connected to wrist-implanted computer chips, transmitting sensations recorded on the alien planet:

     A hundred-foot holographic Collivere pushed through jungle overgrowth - and the branches scratched the arms of the audience.  A velvety orange and black winged creature brushed Collivere’s cheek - and the audience smiled.  Collivere stepped through the undergrowth to discover an ancient arched edifice, and the audience’s heart rate quickened.

     “We discovered these arched buildings in ruined towns and villages on every continent. We discovered that millions visited these buildings.  We used our technology.  We studied, analyzed, discussed, conjectured, dismissed and finally agreed.  In each arched edifice, we found…”

     The crowd tilted closer

     “…the same God!”

     Ten thousand voices murmured.

     “Imagine,” Collivere continued, “a world so in harmony, a people so connected that the entire planet worshiped the same being.”

Twenty thousand antennae quivered.  Collivere paused for effect.

     “Here is the face of the God that served billions!”

     Collivere clicked a button and a radiant, white-faced, auburn-haired countenance filled the auditorium.

     No sound, no movement, no breathing.

     “And, here are the words that united a world:”

     A pause. 

    Then, an ancient earth melody flowed into the room:

 

     “McDonald’s is your kind of place…”


 



If you liked this story, you can find more of them in my short story collection, The Sound of Midnight Fire, available on Amazon.com.