Penna: The Alien Earthling

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759641167
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 7/1/2001
  • Pages: 412
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.92 (d)

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The Alien Earthling
By Mark Caldwell Walker


Copyright © 2005 Mark Caldwell Walker
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7596-4116-7

Chapter One

"Sennef and Penna," Jenna called, "it's time for our walk."

"I have one more pellar to curry, my sister," Sennef said. "I don't think I can finish before Mom wants to go."

"I'll help you, my brother," Penna replied. "Suppose I work one side of her and you work the other. We'll be done in no time. I've finished filling their feeding troughs."

"That just might work," Sennef agreed. "There's another brush over by the fence."

"I see it." Penna went over to the fence and returned with the brush.

Sennef and Penna each curried one side of the pellar, saving the lush fur for their mother to use in her fabric work. Sennef then told the pellar to lie on her back. When the animal obeyed his command, he and Penna brushed her underside.

"I'm still amazed at how Kaggla could make these wonderful creatures with parts from those horrible pellims in the woods," Penna mused.

"I don't think that much about how she did it," Sennef replied. "I'm just glad she did. I love these animals."

"If Barmeth hadn't found Dad, we'd still be in Renlar City," Penna said. "And we wouldn't have these pellars." Penna looked at Sennef as they stood up and released the pellar. "It's amazing. Just a few small events have changed our lives so much."

"I know," Sennef replied. "We would still be with Lissel. She loves the pellars, too. But then, if we hadn't left Renlar, we wouldn't have this pellar farm. I wish Lissel could be here."

Penna smiled. "I would not be surprised if Lissel finds a way. I think she's more resourceful than she realizes. Stranger things have happened. Take Dad, for instance. He found himself here on Nenmar, and that from his native Earth across the galaxy. Lissel has only the walk from Renlar to Fenmon Village, just down the hill from here."

"Life is too fragile for my comfort," Sennef said. "If Dad had not been carried here by that cosmic storm thing, neither you nor I would even exist, my sister."

"That's my point, my dear brother," Penna replied. "I think it's so neat to be us!"

"Come on, kids," Jenna called. "We need to get started so we can get your father home before dark."

"We're coming, Mom," Penna called back.

"'Get Dad home before dark,'" Sennef mused. "We're both lucky to have our mother's Nenmaran eyes."

"I count our good fortune in many ways," Penna said. "Come on. Mom and Dad are waiting for us."

Sennef and Penna walked over to the house to join their parents.

"Ready to go, kids?" Nennef asked.

"We've just finished currying the pellars, Dad," Sennef said. "Sister helped me, so they're all done and happy. They told me so. Now we can really enjoy our walk."

"That's what walks are for, my son," Nennef replied, as they left the house.

"I've always been glad you showed us these Earth practices, Dad," Penna said. "Like walking and eating together as a family."

Penna reached into her pocket and pulled out the small, stiff strip of material she always carried with her. "Ever since you let me keep this, I've felt somehow close to my human relatives I've never seen." Penna peered at the words on the strip. "I love to look at and say your old Earth name, Dad. Hmmm. It says, in English, 'Perry Marshall Thompson.' If you look at this strip closely, and the picture of a strange man with no beard on it, you can see it's really Dad when he was on Earth. The English words, and other markings on it, in no way are Nenmaran. I just love to look at it. I'll cherish this for my whole life."

"You've done remarkably well with the English language, my daughter," Nennef said. "It's so different from Nenmaran. And working with you has helped keep me fluent in it as well. Other than the pleasure of speaking it with you, though, I don't know what good it will ever do any of us."

"You did wonderfully well with Nenmaran, my love," Jenna said. "And you had no one who knew your native language to help you through."

"I had it better," Nennef replied. "I had you, and the others who would never give up on me. Now that I'm older, I can't tell you how grateful I am." He walked over and kissed his wife as they continued walking. "Thank you for loving me, from my very beginning here."

Jenna snuggled her head into Nennef's shoulder, her bright brown hair intermingling with his beard. "You make it so easy," she said.

"I've always thought that one of the reasons we're so close," Sennef whispered to Penna, "is that Mom and Dad are so close."

"My thoughts exactly," Penna whispered back, as she squeezed her brother's hand. "Just look at them. It's no wonder to me that we are identical."

Sennef smiled and nodded. "Being close to each other is so near to the meaning of life that I shudder at the thought of being banished. I can see why it's the most severe punishment on Nenmar."

"You have no reason to worry about being banished, my brother," Penna replied. "You've done nothing wrong, and you never will. I know you."

"You're right," Sennef agreed. "And neither will you. I know you."

They both chuckled at his wit.

"Look, my love," Jenna said. "The afternoon rains are gathering."

"They look beautiful," Nennef replied. "I can't wait to be drenched by them."

"I remember the time when you would run inside every time it rained," Jenna teased. "When Fronna and I would drag you out into the rain, you were not very happy."

"That was then, and this is now," Nennef said, as the torrents began to drench them. "The morning and afternoon rains are as much a part of me now as you are, my love."

A wall of water approached them. A moment later they were soaked to the bone. The semitropical rains of the equatorial region of Nenmar in which all Nenmarans lived was warm and pleasant. Penna held her face toward the sky and reveled in the torrents cascading down her body. The weight of the water in their clothes slowed their walk. It did not matter. The rains would move on by the time they reached Lemfen Hill. The sliffut fiber fabric of which their clothes were made drained within a few paces after it stopped raining.

They said nothing further as they walked, enjoying each other's presence in the silence. Scarcely had their clothes and hair dried from the afternoon rains than they all stopped and looked at the sky.

"Wow! It's so neat!" Penna exclaimed, as she ran farther out into the field. "Look at that."

"I've never seen anything like it," Sennef said. "Mom and Dad, look up there."

"What is it?" Jenna asked.

"I know what it looks like, but I don't believe my eyes," Nennef answered in a raspy voice.

"What?" Jenna persisted.

"The cosmic storm," Nennef replied. "I could never forget that, no matter how long ago it was."

Penna looked back to see her father shake his head in disbelief.

"Run for the trees, NOW!" Nennef shouted. "Do as I say and none of us will be caught."

At the sound of such an urgent command, they all ran. They followed Nennef to the edge of the woods, all except little sister. Penna stopped and watched the billowing finger come toward her as if it were seeking her out. She looked over at the others, who had already sought cover within the nearby trees.

"Come look at the beautiful patterns in the sky!" Penna exclaimed. She sensed the others were not listening, and turned again to watch the amazing sight. So this is the cosmic storm Dad told us about, Penna thought. This is how Dad got to Nenmar. Oh, to experience what Dad experienced so long ago!

"Oh no!" Jenna cried. "Where's Penna?"

"Out there!" Sennef shouted. "She's running toward that funny sky. Come back, my sister! Dad says you'll be lost."

Penna stopped, looked around and smiled at them. She then stood still and turned away again to look up into the sky. She never had felt such a carefree feeling as this. Penna's hair began to float in the air, like sliffut chaff blown by the wind.

"Oh, my dear Penna," Jenna cried, "you must run! Run to us, my daughter. Run now!"

Something pulled Penna's feet out from under her, but she did not fall to the ground. She reached to grab the short mallof grass, but it only tore loose from the ground. Uh oh, Penna thought, in mockery of her predicament. In the middle of the field there was nothing to hold on to. Penna's feet touched the ground briefly, but her efforts to regain her foothold only launched her farther into the air.

Penna watched her mother, father, and brother grow smaller, along with the trees, until the specks that were her family had disappeared. It all happened so fast.

As Penna rose higher, she realized the grave error she had committed. It was too late to say good-bye, too late to be sorry. She remembered what her father had said his attitude was when he was caught by the storm that carried him from Earth to Nenmar, and she began to look around her as she traveled with it.

The storm seemed to be shaped just as her father had described. Nearby in the center she saw several spaceships. The spaceship closest to her had a red Lazy L-shaped marking, and it looked like Barmeth and Kaggla's spaceship. Could it be? Penna wondered.

Below, Penna could see her home, her former home, the planet Nenmar visibly rotating on its near vertical axis to its sun. The north and south polar ice caps each took up better than a quarter of the planet's surface. Penna had not realized what a small proportion of Nenmar was inhabited by people. No one ever traveled very far north or south, only east and west. No one on Nenmar ever thought anything of it. Two bands of white ran vertically just inside the daylight side of Nenmar. The morning and afternoon rains came from these, Penna thought. Penna watched her home become smaller in the distance, until it was too small to see anymore.

Penna thought of how her father had experienced the power of a cosmic storm long ago, before she was born. She heard his voice in her mind, shouting to her to run for the forest and hang on to a strong tree. She had heard the words but ignored the message and its warning. She had been disobedient to her own peril. Having heard her father tell of his cosmic ride, but lacking the actual experience of it, Penna had thought she could just feel the pull of the storm, and then escape to tell her tale. She now knew she was wrong.

On her human side, Penna was struck with the terror of seeing this great wave about to engulf her, but also she was in awe of something so powerful as to be mesmerized. The Nenmaran side of her was more benign, not threatened, unused to ominous phenomena and things or machines greater than herself.

A parade of things Nenmaran rushed through Penna's mind. She thought of the traveling merchant groups, in which about twenty people went on foot from village to village until they had circled the world. Penna always had enjoyed the merchant groups that stopped by their pellar farm. Ah, the pellars, she thought. Those creatures with beautiful fur, which had been created by Kaggla of the planet Gatton. Kaggla and her husband Barmeth were wonderful friends. Their spaceship with what Dad called the "Lazy L" marking on it was a wonderful machine to be around. Penna still was amazed at how Kaggla could take samples from those horrible carnivorous pellims and make wonderful domestic pellars from them. Dad said the pellims were like animals on Earth he called "wild boars." It was a good thing pellims stayed deep in the woods and would not attack a group of three or more people.

There now was nothing but a sea of stars where Nenmar once was. Penna strained her eyes to see her home planet. She was no longer sure which star was Nenmar's sun. The Nenmaran culture in which Penna was raised now was separated from her by distance. But not from my heart, Penna mused. She determined to remember the wise and stabilizing influence of the village sages. She would never let her ground marking skill fade away. No matter where she found herself, Penna resolved, she would hold on to who she was: a child of two worlds. It seemed even more important as she was carried through the middle of nowhere.

Penna thought about her lifetime interest in the Earth culture from which her father had come. She ran some English expressions through her mind. Penna recalled that her interest in Earth had started as an academic fascination. Now she knew that the knowledge had affected her perspective on life.

The stars blazed around her, glistening off of the spaceships. Penna tried to remember all of the things her father had said about the cosmic storm, even in passing. Could the storm be reclaiming what it had left behind? she mused. Underneath her fascination was the fear that she never would see Nenmar again. She experienced everything as her father had recounted those critical years before. There were some things she did not understand at the time, but now what he had said made perfect sense.

Penna felt strange being physically comfortable. The air around her was the same temperature, humidity, and scent as the air she had last breathed on Nenmar. She was sitting on an invisible bed that felt like it was made of air. The storm pulsed from end to end. At first, Penna was annoyed slightly by the pulsing. But she soon found the rhythmic waves to be relaxing. She laid back on her invisible bed to enjoy the ride.

Looking around, Penna saw the different fingers of the storm, as well as its center, with the spaceships riding it. One thing she knew that her father had not known so long ago was the storm was one of several naturally occurring events, each with its own predictable orbit through the galaxy. The spaceships were taking advantage of this natural highway, which allowed them to preserve their travel energy for those parts of the galaxy that did not have the benefit of these cosmic trade winds.

Penna did not know around what the storm she was in was orbiting, but she did know that eventually it would return to Nenmar. Maybe there was a chance. Or maybe she would get a chance to visit Earth! The thought of trying intrigued her. Penna knew that her mother was grieving over her loss, and the thought of not trying to go back home made her feel a little guilty. She had a good idea of what Earth would look like from near space, since her father had drawn for her many times the global geography of his native planet. The more she reviewed the information in her mind, the more confident she was that she could accurately identify Earth should she arrive there.

Penna sat up on her invisible bed and concentrated. Two things would have to happen for her to successfully land alive on Earth: First, the finger in which she was encapsulated must actually arrive at Earth and reach down to the planet's surface. Second, there must be something on the ground for her to hold onto and thus escape the finger when it pulled back into space.


Excerpted from Penna by Mark Caldwell Walker Copyright © 2005 by Mark Caldwell Walker. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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