I hate it, I just hate it when they argue. Dad shouts and then Mom answers back, he goes out slams the door behind him, she cries and asks him to come back. And it all just drives me crazy.
When they start up, I just close my eyes and try to think about something else. I pretend I'm somewhere else, like in the playground shooting hoops with Andy Porter, or just hanging around with Jenny Norton, you know, just wandering around ... Sometimes I can even see us holding hands. Me and Jenny, not me and Andy, that is.
Anyway, it really helps a lot when I do this; I can almost forget all about Mom and Dad arguing. Sometime it is just like going into a special room where I can't hear them shouting. It's funny, though; it's not completely silent in that room. From time to time I hear other sounds and voices I don't know from somewhere out of sight.
I guess right now you are asking yourself: "Wait a minute, what's so special about this kid's story? My parents argue all the time, too, but you don't see me crying about it to the whole world." But I had to tell you about how things were at my house so you could understand how I met him Ö Ladi. The story is not about me at all, but I have to tell you all the parts or you just wonít understand. I just hope that you will believe it Ö not all people do.
One day Mom and Dad were shouting so loud I was sure the neighbors would call the cops. I sat on my bed, closed my eyes, and put my hands over my ears. I focused real hard Ö just trying to "vanish" into my special room, not to hear them shouting. Slowly the sounds started to fade away and there was just a silence and -- and a soft quiet humming that sounded like a mosquito or a small engine. Suddenly the humming stopped and my bedroom walls started to glow in a red soft light and one wall was stretching and stretching until a little spaceship came through it and landed on the floor.
It was real scary. Usually I'm not a chicken -- you can ask anyone -- but I tell you it was pretty creepy. I bet that it would have scared the hell out of you too if you had been in my room at that time -- if you were able to see what I saw. You see, I think I'm the only one that could see him.
I was afraid, but it was awesome at the same time. The spaceship landed on the floor and I just couldn't say one word, it was like I was frozen or something. I just pulled the blanket over my head and kept an open slit so I would be able to watch through. Through the slit I saw the top of the spaceship start to open very slowly, squeaking and rotating until it was fully open. First a gray head came out -- a gray, wrinkled, swollen head with huge red eyes. It was Ladi.
I didn't know his name at the time, of course, but I understood he was an alien -- I'd seen E.T. and Close Encounters and all that stuff. Whether he was a good alien or a bad alien was another question. I was terrified and tried not to breathe or to move, hoping that he wouldn't see me. I pulled the blanket over my head and was quiet as a mouse. Suddenly the blanket was pulled away and there he was looking into my eyes.
My heart was pounding so hard -- I tried to scream but no voice came out of my mouth.
All that time he was just standing and looking at me. He was just so ugly. But then he saw that I was afraid and that I was disgusted by the way he looked, so he changed -- melted and flowed like candle-wax, from what he was into a little man, a dwarf.
When he stopped changing, he spread his hands and bowed, like a magician after a good trick. I started to laugh, not scared any more, and he smiled a little smile and asked me for my name.
I said, "I'm Jack Onger."
And he replied, "I'm Ladi. It is nice to meet you, Jack Onger"
"What, just Ladi? No last name?" I knew I was being rude -- although it was my bedroom he'd barged into -- but he just smiled. It didnít seem to bother him at all
"Yes Jack, just Ladi," he said. "No last name." We both laughed.
We talked and talked and I guess we made a lot of noise because suddenly the door opened and Dad came in. He asked me who I was talking to, and I pointed in Ladi's direction.
But Dad -- you got to hear this -- he didnít see anything, he couldn't see Ladi or his spaceship. He couldnít see anything at all. So he just smiled and told me to go back to sleep.
"You probably had a bad dream, champ."
But it wasn't a dream.
After Dad left the room, Ladi said "Your father can't see me. Only you can see me for now. But one day a lot of people will see me "
"Yes, I do, Jack, I promise," he said, and I went to sleep with a huge smile all over my face.
After that day, Ladi came to visit me almost every time I went into my special room. We just talked and talked for hours. I told him all about school and what happened in the playground, I also told him a lot of stories I know. I told him about "The Cat in the Hat" and about "Snow White" and about super heroes and stuff like that ... of course he didn't know any of these stories but he liked them a lot. I can tell if someone likes my stories, and he did because he smiled a lot and he listened very carefully. But I could see that he wasn't truly happy, you can see in people eyes if they are really happy or not.
One day, I asked him why he was not truly happy, and he told me all about his home planet, how all the crops were dried out and people were starving and dying there. He said that for now they can manage but if they don't find new sources of food and water real soon they will all perish ... which is a fancy way to say they'll all die. To tell the truth, I didn't understand everything he said, but he was so sad and it made me sad too. I tried to cheer him up but I couldn't, at least not this time. I tried to be polite as Mom always tells me to be, so I invited all the children from Ladi's planet to our home, but he just smiled sadly, so I didn't speak for a while ... sometime it is just better this way (this is what Dad always says).
About two months ago I told Mom and Dad about Ladi, they just started to laugh. But they stopped after they saw that I didnít think it was funny, and Mom, she hugged me and said she was so proud to have such a bright son. She said that Iím very imagative -- no, imaginative -- and she knew that I would be a famous writer one day.
She was trying to be nice in a Mom way, but I said, "I don't want to be a writer! I want to be a policeman when I grow up! And besides, Ladi's not 'maginary, he's real!"
"Sure, sure," Dad said. "Of course Paddy is real." He reached over and patted my head like I was a puppy or something.
"His name's not Paddy! It's Ladi!" I screamed and ran to my room.
Anyway I think that they were happy that I had a friend, even if he lived very far and I can't call him on the telephone.
One day Dad came into my room and started to check the walls. I donít know why, but he especially checked the wall Ladi comes through. That wall wasnít so clean anymore and I was sure that Dad would blame me for banging a ball on the wall or something like that, so I told him right away, "Dad, that's the wall Ladi comes through."
Dad smiled and said "Sure, Jacko, whatever you say. Anyway, itís time this room got a fresh paint job." Then he left.
I didn't think he or Mom really believed all my stories about Ladi, but at least they changed the way they behaved, and I was sure Ladi was somehow connected to this change, so it's fine by me. I donít care Ö I really donít.
When I told Ladi that Mom and Dad knew all about him, he wasn't pleased. He wasn't angry or anything like that, he just said that it would be better for the scout not to attract so much attention and he asked me not to tell anyone else about him. From that day on I didn't say anything else to Mom and Dad. Once, when we were talking I asked Ladi why he came only to me, he said that I'm special -- not special the gooey way Mom says it, but different, with something extra.
He said, "You're a beacon."
"I'm not a bacon," I said straight away. "Bacon tastes real good but it's greasy and from a pig and pigs are all dirty and fat."
Ladi laughed so hard, I think he almost peed his pants. I wasn't pleased with that, not one bit and I told him so.
He stopped right there and got real serious. "I'm sorry," he said. "I shouldnít mock you."
He looked real sad, and maybe a little scared, like he needed me and was afraid I'd tell him to go away.
"Oh, it's okay," I told him.
"You are a truly special boy, Jack," he said. "You will be a beacon -- not a bacon -- to my people."
"What's a beacon? And why am I one?"
"You have a unique ability," he said. "When you focus, when you go into your special room -- I can feel you."
"I know that too, you already told me -- but ..."
"That's how I found my way to you," Ladi said. "That's what a beacon does -- it lets people find a place from far away. If you practice real hard, a lot of us will be able to feel you, many will be able to set their direction according to the ..."
"This is grownup stuff, I don't want to hear about this," I said. All I cared about was that Ladi could find me and visit me. I didn't really care if anybody else could.
After that Ladi started to teach me how to concentrate real hard so he would feel me calling from a very long distance. He showed me other stuff, too, neat stuff, and I wanted to show off.
"Ladi, would my friends will be able to see you now?"
"Not now, Jack, but they will see me -- eventually." We trained so hard, almost every week, with Ladi moving further away every time he was sure he could feel me from where he was. After couple of months he told me that he sensed me from out past Pluto (the planet, not the cartoon dog), way far away Ö Anyway it was great. Ladi could feel me and I felt him too. It was like he could speak from inside my head. I canít explain it, but it was very special like we had radios nobody else could hear. Do you understand? Oh, I knew you wouldnít. But it was very important to train, this is what Ladi said, and I believed him.
After some time I couldnít keep the secret to myself, I just couldnít. I told John Krigger and Nat Lawrence but just them Ö well, I also told Jimmy Dalton but he promised not tell Ö darn it. I guess I told a lot of kids about Ladi. I also made sure Jenny Norton heard about him, but Iím sure that this has got nothing to do to what happened later. Well Öyou see, I was sure that Ladi would show up because we trained so hard and now he appeared the second I thought of him.
You see I was so confident because Ladi had taught me how to "harness my anger and sadness to aid my concentration." He called that channeling. He said that channeling was most powerful.
When I was really angry, I would think of him and he would show up just like that. He was very pleased and said that we had come a long way since we started.
I was very happy for him, of course, but I was happy for me too, because I wanted everyone to see Ladi. All the children from the schoolyard Ö then all of them would see that I'd wasn't fibbing about him.
One day Jenny came to me and simply asked about Ladi.
I was really glad she was interested. The only problem was she wasn't alone -- Dean Baldwin came with her.
"I heard you have an alien friend", she said.
I think I blushed. "Yes, Jenny I do"
"Well, where is he?"
I tell you, I felt so stupid. "Um -- the thing is, you can't see him. Not yet, anyway."
"And I guess you're the only one that can see him?" Dean said, sneering. "He's prob'ly just a 'maginary friend, like little babies have."
"Oh, leave him alone, Dean," Jenny said.
"But he's right Jenny, I'm the only one that can see Ladi," I had to say. "I know it sounds -- dumb -- but I swear --"
She was sure I was lying. I could see it in her eyes. But she didn't say a thing.
Dean did, you can bet your life on it, the big jerk. He started to call me names.
"What a liar!" he grunted. "Got a 'maginary friend from outer space! Only kind of friend a geek can find!"
I asked Jenny if she believed me, but she just turned around and went back into the school without saying a word. Dean on the other hand, didnít leave, and he didnít stop mocking and calling me names Ö and he wasnít alone, now almost all the kids that were playing around joined him, mocking me.
"Wait, Jenny," I yelled. "Here he is, he'll show up any minute now, I promise!"
She turned around but Ladi wasn't there. It wasn't just that they couldn't see him, he really wasn't there.
I wanted to die. "Jenny, wait, wait -- don't leave!" I tried to call Ladi but he still didn't show up. I got mad, I concentrated -- all the kids were laughing at me, and they kept on and on, and I got madder, and concentrated until I felt hot and sick and there was a great noise and the whole schoolyard got dark. I looked up, and the sky was full of spaceships, like Ladi's but a hundred times bigger, blocking the sun.
Then we all ran for our lives.
Ladi hasn't come to visit me since then -- I guess he has his own people to talk to now.
© 2005 by Michael Goldberger
Bio: Mr. Goldberger says, "I'm Michael. I work as an engineer in a high-tech company in Israel. I'm married with two children. I love to read, write ... and sleep! My favorite sport: riding a comfortable armchair with "12 Monkeys" in the DVD player."
E-mail: Michael Goldberger
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