Authors: M. G. Harris
M. G. HARRIS
Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire
Jorge Luis Borges
The sound of humming gives it away. I'm wide awake within seconds, listening to a sound that I haven't heard for months: the unforgettable sound of a UFO. This time it's hovering above my house. By the time I pull on a sweater and some jeans, the humming is gone. I'm left waiting.
Minutes later, there's the roar of a motorcycle riding up my street on a chilly December morning. I lean out of my window to see the outline of a guy in a leather jacket zoom up to my front door riding a Harley Davidson. I peer at him through the early-morning gloom.
“What's up, Benicio?” I mutter as casually as I can. But inside I'm bubbling with anticipation.
Benicio here, in Oxford!
The sound of my voice is swallowed by the damp air. My second cousin Benicio pulls off his helmet, shakes his hair free of his eyes. He peers back at me.
“Not much, Josh.”
We stare at each other for a second.
“You gonna come down?”
“You're not coming in?”
“I thought we agreed. Safer to go somewhere away from your house. So get a jacket, 'cause it's
I can hardly remember what I'd agreed. I mean, when you get a call at two in the morning on a strange-looking cell phone that you've never heard ring beforeâa phone you thought you'd turned offâwell, you're not in the most focused state of mind.
Mainly, you're excited.
A call like that comes in and it shakes everything upâin a good way. In a great way. I needed to be woken up like that. I feel like I've been asleep for months.
Josh, there's something I need to tell you, to show you. Some important news from Ek Naab. And â¦ I'm gonna come in person
Good old BenicioâI can always count on him.
Only a few minutes later, I'm squeezing my head into Benicio's spare helmet, wrapping a scarf around my neck (it really is freezing), closing the front door softly, and joining Benicio on the back of that Harley.
We zip down our little suburban Oxford street and head out toward the main eventâSunnymead Meadowâwhere Benicio's hidden the Muwan aircraft that he flew from Ek Naab in Mexico to Oxford.
“I've always wanted to see Oxford,” Benicio tells me, his words muffled against the visor.
Well, me too. I've always wanted to see Oxfordâfrom the air
The bike speeds across the short bridge near the meadow; then we're riding over slippery grass. I stop for a second, admiring the “UFO.” Because deep within the wisps of low clouds, that's exactly what it looks like: a humming object covered in blue and orange flashing lights. Nothing like any airplane I've ever seen.
“How did you land here without anyone noticing?” I ask Benicio as we slide off the motorcycle. With a remote control, he opens a panel in the belly of the Muwan. It's parked behind some low, scrappy trees. “We're right next to the highway!”
Grinning, Benicio pushes the bike into the Muwan and closes the panel. The highway is less than twenty yards away, on the other side of a row of trees and hedges. Even at this early hour, it's so noisy that I need to raise my voice to be heard.
“Maybe someone saw me. But UFO sightings are so boring now; most people won't bother to report them.” He opens the main body of the plane. “Anyway, Josh, I'm not gonna make a habit of this.”
“So why are you here?”
Benicio shrugs. For a second or two, he tries to look serious. “Get in. We need to have a talk.”
He takes the Muwan up almost vertically. In just over two seconds we're above the low clouds. I'm in a seat behind Benicio in the Mark II Muwan; in Mayan it means
I can't think of it as “Mayan” technology. The people of Ek Naab may be descendents of a hidden tribe of the ancient Maya, but their technology comes from somewhere and someone else. When I was in Ek Naab they didn't tell me from
. Could it be they don't even know?
The Muwan has room for one pilot and two passengers in the rear. The cockpit window covers the pilot's seat and extends just over the back seats, so I can see up as well as ahead. The glassâif it is glassâis tinted a sort of pinkish gold color. Or maybe that's a reflection of the dawn sky; as I watch the cloud layer through the window, it's as though the tint actually changes color, cycling through pinkish gold to silver gray.
“Where do I go for a good view of these âdreaming spires'?” Benicio says.
I remember my dad once driving me up a hill near a golf course, where he showed me the famous view of the spires of Oxford. “Hinksey Hill,” I say.
A few seconds later we drop below the clouds, swoop over the golf course, and land in a quiet spot. Benicio gazes at the view before us. The lowlands near the city are waterlogged from recent rain, settled over by thick white mist. The spires seem to rise from the center of a magical island surrounded by clouds. I can't remember seeing Oxford look so beautiful.
“Wow,” Benicio murmurs. “That's something.”
I unbuckle and lean forward, touching the edge of his seat. “Yeah â¦ Oxford's pretty cool.”
He takes a folded piece of paper from his jacket pocket. “It's from Carlos. For you.”
I start to unfurl it. “A letter?”
It's not a letter but a newspaper clipping. Still crisp and new, from a recent edition of a newspaper called
The Lebanon Reporter
. I scan it. At first I don't get why Benicio's given it to me. Until I read the end.
“Simon Madison â¦ ?”
“Carlos is watching every news source in the world. Waiting for any mention of Simon Madison. He made us buy some incredibly expensive software to analyze newsâthe kind the intelligence bureaus use.”
Well, that sounds like the Carlos Montoyo I remember. Totally single-mindedâI bet he'd do anything to protect Ek Naab from being found. And if there's one guy who ever got close to discovering the secret entrance to Ek Naab, it's Simon Madison. The newspaper report says that Madison is a suspected terrorist. But until some American secret agents from the National Reconnaissance Officeâthe NROâtold me the same thing, well â¦ I honestly thought Madison worked for
“So Madison's back,” I say to Benicio. “And what's this artifact he's taken?”
“No clue,” Benicio says. “Montoyo wanted you to know that he's on the move. Madison was in Beirutâbut he could easily return to Oxford. He broke into your house once â¦ so take care.”
“We've changed all the locks since then,” I say. “And we have a really high-tech alarm.”
“Just keep your eyes open,” Benicio says. “Okay?”
I nod, glancing at the newspaper article again. “Gotcha.”
“And, Josh â¦” Benicio sounds a little embarrassed. “There's something else.”
“Your blog â¦ it's gonna have to stop.”
“Montoyo found your so-called secret blog. The one you've been keeping since you supposedly closed it down.”
My mind goes immediately to my last blog post, just a few days ago. Probably the most personal post I've ever written. I begin to turn red. Luckily Benicio isn't looking at me.
“Montoyo found it with this amazing new Web-searching program he bought. If
found it, Josh â¦”
“I get it. If Montoyo found it, then so might the NRO. So might Madison.”
And whoever Madison really works for
I sigh, resigned.
“So I can tell Carlos that you'll delete it?”
I sigh again. “All right.”
Benicio becomes brisk. “
Okay, good. Nowâis there someplace I can take you?”
“In the Muwan. Do you need to go to school or something?”
I check my watch. “It's a bit early â¦” How can I pass up the chance to fly over Oxford in a Muwan and be dropped off near school? “But all right. Yeah! I'll go wake up my friend Emmy.”
Benicio starts up the antigravity engine, locks his piloting visor in place.
“That dream about your father,” he says. “Your latest blog post, âBlue in Green' â¦”
Okay, here it comes
. That's a post I really didn't mean to be read.
He pauses. “Quite a revealing dream, Josh. You should maybe talk to a psychotherapist. I think you're having some trouble handling your father's death.”
“Well, yeah!” I'm indignant. “I don't even know how he died. Chased by the NRO in their own Muwans, I know, but â¦ after they captured him, who killed himâand why?”
Benicio sounds sympathetic. “I'm sorry, buddy. That's gotta be tough.”
The Muwan rises with barely a whisper and floats out over the city. The golden stone of the college towers seems
tantalizingly close as we drift across the city center. As we approach the east end of the city, I see the high, doughnut-shaped main building of my school. Benicio dips into the clouds for cover. Then the Muwan drops like a stone to land in the shady park next door.
“You're crazy!” I tell him. “We're right in the middle of a built-up area! Lots of people could have seen us!”
Benicio opens up the cockpit and watches me climb out.
“Trust me, nothing's gonna happen. In about three minutes, I'll be hundreds of miles away. There'll be a story in your local paper. Maybe a fuzzy video or photo taken with a cell phone. Probably not even that. And no one will believe it.”