By Alan Green
The gate shimmered like heat haze. It was easy to see how we’d managed to miss it before. That shimmer was almost the only thing that gave it away. If you looked carefully you could see that things behind it looked a bit distorted, a bit wavy. If you stared long enough you noticed gentle ripples in the air. The trees behind it started to look like reflections on the surface of a lake.
My guides shuffled nervously from foot to foot. I glanced back and smiled at them but they just tightened their grips on their spears. They gestured that we should head back to the village. They were right; we had been searching all day and the sunlight was starting to fade. The jungle wasn’t safe at night. I picked up a stone and gently tossed it into the gate. It was swallowed up by the shimmering void.
Back at the village a party was in full swing. I had forgotten that it was “Saturday” night. Jake was probably already pretty tipsy. I thought about leaving things till the morning. I wasn’t looking forward to telling him that I had finally found the ruby slippers.
There was muffled grunting noise coming from his hut. I almost left but the grunting gave way to whispers and giggles. Two young girls walked out smiling. Seeing me they bowed politely. I nodded at them, admiring Jake’s taste. He always seems to find the prettiest ones.
Jake was lying in bed smoking a cigar and wearing only his cowboy hat. I forced a smile.
“So you really do always wear that dumb hat. I’m not sure I wanted to know that.”
He grinned back and passed me a beer.
“I take it you found something interesting on your little trip?”
I took a deep breath and said it.
“I’ve found the way home.” His face betrayed no sign of emotion so I started to gabble.
“We were right, there is some kind of gate or portal or wormhole or whatever you want to call it. We just have to walk through it. We could be back on Earth this time tomorrow. You can see your family again, get your old life back.”
The words died on my lips. I didn’t know much about Jake’s old life but he’d made it pretty clear that he didn’t miss it all that much.
He thoughtfully took his cigar from his mouth and said, “John, you’re an idiot. Why would we want to go home? We’re gods to these people. They saw us appear out of nowhere in a roar of thunder. They’ll do anything we want. Listen to that dancing outside. That’s happening purely because I missed partying on a Saturday night. We don’t work. We get the best food and drink. The women throw themselves at us. Why would we want to go back to Earth?”
To be honest I didn’t have much of an answer. It would have been easier if I’d had a wife and kids. Then even Jake would have understood that I had to get back whatever the cost. The truth was that I was just homesick. I missed talking to people; I missed flirting with Cassie in the chippy; I missed chips; I missed going to the pub on a Saturday night; walks in the park; going to the cinema with my mates; feeding the ducks with my nephew; teasing my brother; eating my mum’s Sunday roast; laughing at my dad’s dumb impressions.
I missed the softer sunlight of home. I’d had enough of the tropical glare of that alien star. I’d had enough of endless jungle, spiders as big as kittens and strange noises in the night. I’d had enough of being a god to people who can’t understand a word I say. I wanted to go home.
Jake understandably saw my hesitation as a sign that my mind wasn’t made up. He tried to make the most of it.
“John, you don’t even know that thing’s safe. You might be throwing all this away just to be burnt to a crisp.”
I walked out of the hut without saying a word.
I went over to the bonfire and watched the aliens dancing. They looked so human and yet so other. I felt horribly alone.
The next day I headed into the jungle alone. I soon found myself standing in front of that shimmering promise. I took one last look up at the blazing star above me and ran into the gate. There was a ringing in my ears; I saw a distant light shining on the surface of an ocean far above me. Reality shattered, the pieces span like a kaleidoscope. I heard whale song and the heartbeat of the universe; then there was silence.
I found myself standing on an empty road. I sank to me knees and kissed the tarmac. Who would have thought that it was possible to miss tarmac? Laughing at myself I got up and ran off the road. It would be ironic to safely travel across the vastness of space and then get hit by a truck because you were kneeling in the middle of the road like a madman.
Actually it didn’t look like I had anything to worry about. The road seemed to be completely empty. Where was everybody? Where on Earth was I?
I looked around and tried to get a sense of my surroundings. At first it didn’t click. My mind refused to accept what I saw. I was alone on a vast empty plain. The road went on into the distance. On the horizon I could clearly make out the shapes of two pyramids, and an enormous statue towering above them. It was a statue of a naked man wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a cigar.
**Editor’s note. ‘The God Kings’ was previously published on ‘Alien Skin Magazine’.**