Author: Rick Tobin

“Would you finish the ceremonies, please?” The Prime, the sanctuary’s leader in white robes with gold armbands, stood over the clear casing where the body of an honored captain lay in state, waiting for family and friends to attend.

“Yes, thank you for this tribute opportunity,” the assistant responded, proceeding to read standard litany, as his master licked his tongues across the corpse’s imperceptible containment:

Sky onward, dark or light, though
I cast the shadow of my way
Let all who touch this hallowed space
Renew all memories of my place
That I spared not my regard
To travel far
To open pathways for my race

“Have any arrived yet to touch his crystal?” asked the Prime. His assistant searched a monitor behind the preservation casings for news.

“None, sir,” he replied. Full red robes draped over the attention prelate, slightly drifting over dark stone floors. Endless rows of embalmed pilots stretched beyond the cave’s light, miles beyond to other caverns.

“I have savored in his travels, by licking his casing. How wonderful to have genetic memories transmitted simply through taste. What marvel to know his life and its burdens, successes, and wonders. May the tongue always know the tale.”

“May the tongue always know the tale,” repeated the prelate.

A shudder struck the cave walls for a moment.

“We were safe here, once,” the Prime stated, coldly. “And yet they come again, drilling down into this deep sanctuary. For millions of years, we promised those who traveled and explored space’s farthest regions this blue oasis for eternal memory and blessed rest. We have hidden away in such inaccessible corners, beneath this world’s most inhospitable lands of desert, snow, jungle…and far underneath the deepest surfaces of sea and rock. Still, these intruders come, to defile sanctified places for our dead.”

“Can we preserve our beloved wanderers?”

“Yes,” the Prime replied. “We have interfered far too long by stabilizing this planet’s atmosphere while diverting enormous numbers of rocky intruders from this solar system as these hairy beings evolved. No more. We have tried to sit with their leaders…tried to warn them away by establishing our mausoleums in dreadful locations, too dangerous for their travel, so our resting places became feared as evil and haunted. These two-legged ones have no respect for consecrated ground…not even their own.”

“Then we must move from this promised place?”

“No, the changes will come soon. The Council has withdrawn its protective fields. After the planet’s surface renews we will continue our work without interruption.”

“And the furry ones’ space voyagers? No use for a place here to honor their brave travelers when their species is gone?”

“That opportunity has long passed. The Russians considered our offer once but withdrew, but the others…they are not ready for such admiration. They deny we exist. They deny we visit or have worked diligently to prevent harmful impacts on their genetic growth, withholding our advanced influence. In due course, we must return that favor of apartheid by ignoring their existence. Now, let us go to our latest arrival and lick to her memory of glory.”

The two ancient Earth beings slid slowly to a newly opened section of the cavern beneath Mount Shasta as the previous pilot’s family circled through California airspace, waiting to penetrate the primordial volcano’s landing-bay entrance.