A Heavenly Price – Mike Murphy
John Lewis did not understand why he had been chosen to make this decision. It would affect everyone on Earth! He didn’t want to make it. He wasn’t a Washington politician or a member of one of those think tanks. He was a farmer who, with his wife and two sons pitching in, was just getting by. But he had been selected. . . by them.
The alien that walked down the ramp of the colorful spaceship – and right toward him – was about seven feet tall and glowing blue, seemingly from inside. Its legs were longer than human ones, its arms shorter. Its face was similar, though the mouth was but a tiny slit under a small orange nose. “John Lewis?” it asked in a high-pitched voice.
John felt like his feet were glued to the soil he tilled. “Y-Yes?” he answered nervously.
The corners of the alien’s tiny mouth curled up.
The visitor introduced itself as Kre. It showed him that it had no weapons and asked if John had time to talk about a matter of importance. Though dumbfounded, Lewis escorted Kre to the house. He heard the ramp withdraw and saw other aliens in the spaceship’s window. Finally, the craft powered down and settled gently beside the cornfield. I guess they’re staying, John thought.
The screen door creaked as Lewis and Kre walked into the kitchen. Vicki, John’s wife, was washing the dishes and whistling a tune. “Honey,” John said, thinking it best to alert his wife that a space alien was in their kitchen, “we have company.”
“Is it Mabel?” she asked hopefully, turning the faucet off. “She said she was –” At the sight of the glowing alien, Vicki screamed. The plate she was holding went airborne and then shattered on the linoleum. “W-Who. . . what. . . is. . .” she stammered.
“Sweetheart,” John said calmly, “this is Kre. He means us no harm. He’s from outer space.”
“So I see,” she said, cautiously walking forward.
“I am sorry I startled you, Mrs. Lewis,” it replied. “If I remember correctly what ‘Mrs.’ means, you are John’s wife.”
“We Kre have read about your courtship and marriage rituals in great length. They have been the topic of much discussion.”
“I thought you were named Kre,” a confused John said.
“I am,” the alien responded. “We are all named Kre. Our planet is Kre. We do not have individual names.”
“Doesn’t that get confusing?” Vicki asked.
“Not at all. The Kre are bound together telepathically. We usually transmit our thoughts. Before today, I hadn’t spoken aloud in more than a century.”
“Kre must be. . quiet.”
“Serene and beautiful.”
“Where are the boys?” John asked.
“John, Jr. is at a school dance. Eddie is out with some friends,” Vicki answered. “Why?”
“Kre has something to talk over with me.”
“Why didn’t he land his ship on the White House lawn?”
“We decided against that,” Kre told her. “This way is simpler. . . better.”
“We first observed him by chance. We saw his tenderness to you and your sons. We have observed the Lewis family in great detail. It was necessary to be certain that you, John, were the best choice. We trust you to make this decision.”
They all sat down around the kitchen table. Vicki poured John and herself a cup of coffee, and brought her husband a piece of angel food cake. “May I?” Kre asked.
“Certainly,” Vicki said, surprised. “If you like.” She got out another mug and slice of cake, and placed them and cutlery before the alien.
“Am I correct,” Kre asked, “that ‘thank you’ would be a proper response now?”
“It would be, and you’re welcome,” Vicki replied.
John pointed at the items before the alien. “The coffee is hot,” he said. “The cake isn’t.”
“Will you be joining us for cake, Mrs. Lewis?” Kre asked.
“I’ll know in a moment.” She removed her blood glucose monitor from an apron pocket and opened it on the table. She turned it on, inserted a strip, and, like a pro, pricked a finger with the lancet.
“Why do you injure yourself?” Kre asked.
“That device,” John explained as Vicki applied her blood to the test strip, “measures the sugar in her blood.”
“I have a disease called diabetes,” Vicki explained. “I need to monitor my blood sugar often.” The monitor beeped, and a good number appeared on the screen. “Hooray!” Vicki said, pushing the monitor aside. “I can have cake too.”
“We have no such disease on Kre.”
Vicki got herself some cake and sat back down. “I wish we didn’t here,” she said.
As the three of them ate and drank, Kre asked Vicki, “May I inquire about your diabetes?”
“There is no cure?”
“Not at the moment.”
“But doctors are searching for one every day,” John added.
“We Kre could cure you.”
Vicki dropped her fork to the table. “You could?” she asked.
“It sounds similar to something we faced many years ago. Our doctors cured it.”
“How?” John asked.
“As it is not my field,” Kre explained, “I would need to consult with the physician on my vessel, but many of our planet’s diseases have been cured with pills.”
Vicki was flabbergasted. “A pill, John. Did you hear that? A pill.”
“You’d be willing to do that for my wife?”
“And for all your people.”
John was looking for the catch. “What do you want from us?”
“That’s what I wanted to talk with you about. We Kre were going to simply ask for it and figure out something we could give you in return at a later date.” The alien took a sip of coffee into its tiny mouth. “Does your planet have other diseases without cures?”
“Too many,” Vicki answered.
“If my medical officer could be put in touch with your planet’s doctors, we may be able to eradicate them.”
“That would be marvelous!” Vicki exclaimed.
“What was it you were going to ask for?” John wondered.
“Our home world is very beautiful. There is only one thing you have that we don’t,” Kre went on. “Your moon. Many visiting Kre have been enthralled by its beauty.” The alien took a bite of cake. “As payment for curing your planet’s diseases,” it said, “we would like your moon.”
“Can you really just pull the moon out of orbit and take it away?” asked John.
“We can,” Kre answered him.
“With no damage to the Earth?”
“Little, if any. It will be as though the moon had never orbited your planet, and your people will have gained so much.”
“Think of it, John,” Vicki added. “Cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and so many other diseases –wiped out forever!”
“Is your moon too much to ask for?”
“How would you take it?” Lewis inquired.
“A tow vessel with a tractor beam would be dispatched from Kre. ”
“You make it sound easy.”
“It would be.” Kre told him. Then it dropped the bombshell. “When may we expect your decision?”
“Yes. That is why we are here.”
“I-I can’t do that!” John stammered. “I don’t have the authority to make such a deal.”
“Unless the decision is yours,” Kre told him, “we will not agree to the transaction.”
“We can’t let an opportunity like this slip away!” Vicki pleaded.
“I’ll need to consult other people,” John told the blue alien.
“Smart people – scientists and professors, for instance. There may be some reason we don’t know about why towing the moon out of orbit would harm the Earth.”
“The Kre would not allow that to happen.”
“Tides, Vicki,” John said suddenly.
“Doesn’t the moon control the tides?”
“I think so.”
“Working with your scientists,” the alien went on, “we can minimize or eliminate any problem removing the moon from orbit might cause.” It took its last bite of cake. “Will you consider the offer?”
“You bet I will. Can I have some time to talk to the people I mentioned?”
“Of course, John Lewis. Speak with anyone you like. Weigh all the facts, but the final decision must be yours.”
“How long do I have?”
“First, I will make certain the Kre can fulfill our part of the bargain. I want you to have your planet’s most learned medical people come here. Have them bring the details of every uncured disease on your world. Together, we will see how many of them we can, in fact, cure. Then you can decide if such cures are worth the asking price.”
The farm quickly became a media circus. The television networks were everywhere, their bright lights turning night into day. Vicki and John sent the boys away to John’s brother’s house until things calmed down. Kre – the one the Lewises had spoken with – gave many interviews explaining the deal it was proposing. Slews of scientists and doctors descended on the farm and spoke at length with it.
John met with all kinds of people in his quest to learn what might happen to the Earth if the moon were towed away. He and Vicki went through a lot of coffee and cake.
On the circus’s second day, some bigwig doctors from the Northeast announced that the Kre had cures for nearly every disease known to mankind. Most of them could be wiped out by a pill. A few – like cancer – could be cured by some time in a Kre medical chamber onboard the spaceship by the cornfield.
The talk shows went wild. Some guests argued that we should keep the moon. Spokespeople for the various now-curable diseases brought out the afflicted and explained how their lives could be made so much better if the Kre deal were agreed to. Parents pleaded on television for their sick children. Remarkably, not many people questioned why a simple farmer should be entrusted with making this great decision. . . except for the farmer himself.
Vicki found her husband sitting in his robe at the kitchen table. “I couldn’t sleep,” he said, running his hands through his graying hair.
Vicki looked outside. It was very bright, though the sun had yet to rise. “It’s like daytime out there with all the TV lights.” She sat across from her husband. “All the regular TV programming’s been pulled off the air for 24/7 coverage of the Kre proposal,” she said. “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been giving any interviews.”
“I’ve been busy.”
His wife reached across the table and gently touched his hand. “I know,” she told him. “Why me, Vicki? Why is this up to me?”
“Why not you?”
“That’s not a good answer.”
“It has to be somebody. Kre said its people trusted you over anyone else on the planet. That’s pretty flattering.”
“I suppose so,” he responded, tracing a finger along the pattern on the tablecloth.
“May I,” Vicki began shyly, “ask what decision you’re leaning towards?”
He stopped tracing and looked up slowly. “A yes,” he said.
“Good,” she opined, relieved.
“What if I’m wrong?”
“John,” she started, squeezing his hand tighter, “even if you don’t believe in yourself, I do. You’ve talked with every authority you can. We can’t afford to lose this opportunity.”
She smiled a bright smile. They always lit up John’s world. “The aliens knew what they were doing when they chose you,” she told him, a teardrop slowly moving down one cheek. John wiped it away with his thumb.
“Let’s hope they were right,” he said. With a heavy sigh, he rose from the table, opened the door, and stepped outside. A Kre approached him. “I’m ready,” he told the alien, who strode off to inform his superiors. John took a deep breath of the night air and then stepped back inside the house, closing the door behind him. “God help me,” he muttered.
The news conference began at 7:00 a.m. to coincide with the morning chat shows. Two lecterns were set up outside the Lewis home. John took his place behind one. Kre stood at the other. A wild round of applause broke out as John announced his positive decision.
Bulletins broke around the world. Newspapers put out special editions. “YES!” the headlines roared in type usually reserved to announce an armistice. News websites crashed from the traffic. The Kre home world beamed footage to Earth showing a massive Kre tow ship starting out on its mission to take the moon away. People began contacting their government officials in droves to ask how they could sign up to be on the cure list for their disease.
“I would like to thank my good friend, John Lewis, for his decision which will greatly benefit both of our worlds,” Kre announced to the throngs of reporters crowding the lecterns. “Kre and Earth doctors will need to set up a triage system so that people whose lives are in danger due to their disease are cured first.” All the reporters agreed that this was a sensible first step. “Now, I would like to make a proposal to John.”
“What would that be?” Lewis asked from behind his lectern.
“I propose that your lovely wife, Vicki, who suffers from diabetes, be the first person to benefit from a Kre cure.” The press was surprised to hear this and started muttering among themselves.
“What do you say, darling?” John asked.
“Sure!” she exclaimed, very surprised. “What do I have to do?”
“You will need a thirty-minute treatment in a medical chamber aboard my ship.”
“When can we do it?”
“In an hour or so. It is necessary to alter the chamber for the smaller human form.”
“Any chance we’ll be able to film that procedure, Mrs. Lewis?” a reporter called out.
“I don’t know about that,” John said.
“It’s living history,” the reporter went on, “the first alien cure for an Earthly disease.”
“I’m fine with it,” Vicki responded.
“John,” Kre went on, “you are, of course, also invited. You news people will need to limit yourselves to one reporter and one cameraperson. My vessel’s surgical bay is not very spacious.”
John looked at his watch. It was nearly 7:30. “Could we begin at 8:30?” he asked Kre.
“That will be fine,” it agreed.
The ramp Kre had descended only days earlier pulled the five of them into the spaceship. The floors were sparkling white. The ceiling, which rose more than fifty feet above them, was laced with some type of fabric in what looked like a spider web design. Dozens of Kre lined the walls, tending to inlaid control panels that flashed and beeped.
The medical bay was comparatively small. Vicki was introduced to her doctor, and the news people were advised where they could best set up to record this historic event. Vicki, the doctor explained, would lie down on a surgical bed. An airtight chamber will be lowered upon her. It would fill with an anesthetic gas, which would put her to sleep for a short time. Her vital signs would be monitored on a nearby screen.
After a kiss for luck from her husband, Vicki climbed on the bed. The chamber lowered upon her, clicking shut. Anesthetic gas was pumped in, and the procedure began.
The alarm bell frightened everyone. “What is it?” exclaimed John.
“I’m checking,” the doctor said, looking at the screen and punching a few buttons below it. “I can’t believe this!”
“She has no trewsa!” it said.
“A trewsa,” Kre explained, “an organ we all have. Every race we’ve come in contact with has it.”
“We had no idea you humans don’t have one,” the doctor went on, still working the controls. “We simply assumed –”
“Without a trewsa,” Kre told John, “our cure is worthless.”
“Then get her out of there!” John bellowed.
“Please remain calm,” the doctor said.
“Is she in danger?”
“I cannot say.”
“Stop the operation!” he screamed, clutching at the chamber. “Pull the plug! Break the glass!”
“That would certainly harm her. I need to try something else.”
“Then do it!”
Millions of people around the world, along with John Lewis, watched the fight to save Vicki. After approximately 35 minutes, the crisis was over. Vicki would be fine after some rest. However, because of her lack of a trewsa, she would still suffer from diabetes.
“Are you feeling well, Mrs. Lewis?” Kre asked.
“Just a little tired,” she said.
“That may last for a couple of days,” it said. “I apologize for all Kre. We have encountered dozens of alien races. All of them had trewsa. It never occurred to us that humans did not.”
“So,” John asked, “none of your cures will work for Earth people?”
“I’m afraid not,” Kre answered sadly. “They were all developed with the trewsa in mind. Without that organ, none of the medicines can be dispersed into the body properly.”
“Could Vicki get a trewsa?”
“Sadly, no. Trewsa are most delicate and not transplantable, and we have found no way to simulate their function. Each cure took hundreds of years to develop. They would take just as long, if not longer, to alter. We will try.”
“So the deal is off?”
“Yes. I’ve contacted the tow ship and informed its captain to turn around and head back to Kre.”
“Some other time, perhaps,” John said.
“Is there something else you might like in exchange for your moon?” Kre asked.
“I have everything I need right here,” John told him, hugging Vicki close.
After watching the Kre ship leave, the Lewises sat on their folding chairs and looked up at the full moon.
Maybe, in a few hundred years, the Kre will return to Earth with their revamped cures and a tow ship for the moon. Until that time, people can still admire its glow, wolves and dogs can still howl at it, and lovers like John and Vicki Lewis can still romance under it – all reasons the moon was put in orbit in the first place.