The Second Chance




Slosh! Splash! Splosh!  With tattered sails, the ship danced,  In tandem with the treacherous waves That rose like specters, ravenous and ruthless, The crew aboard fought relentlessly, with might Till the ship got swallowed by the stygian tide, Screams echoed from the ocean’s graveyard Where lives and dreams rested, shattered  Amidst the darkened skies, They succumbed to the ocean's spite Alas! Darkness veiled the moonlit night.

“Hurra, wir leben!”  “We are alive and fine. Juhuu!” I felt ecstatic till my eyes fell on the surroundings. “Wo sind wir jetzt?”   “I have no idea,” Juricek peeked through a crack in the plank. “Nein...nichts! It’s like an empty place.” “Ähm! We survived the wreck, but now we're stuck near the cofferdam. I tried to stand, but my knees buckled, and I crumpled on the floor. “Autsch! My leg hurts. Hope it’s not broken.”  “My head is throbbing as if someone’s hitting it with a hammer. Aua!” Juricek rubbed his temples, hoping for some relief. “I can’t see a soul or hear a sound. Let me call for help. “Hallo! Anyone there? Hallo!” “Es ist frustrierend! We better batten down the hatches. Ich habe hunger.” Engrossed in our banter, we did not realize that our life had already taken an unimaginable turn.  Until, like spectral spirits, four figures materialized out of thin air and stood right in front of us. Fear gripped our minds and body. With an uncanny mix of wonder and trepidation, we sat gaping in awe as if we were witnessing an apparition. Once Juricek and I regained our senses, we tried to take a shufti of the surroundings, only to find ourselves in an unfamiliar territory. The mighty ocean we were sailing on was gone, and before our eyes lay a void space with no visible ground or sky. Confusion and disbelief clouded our minds, and our throbbing hearts made it difficult for the words to spill.   “Scheisse! Who are they? Where are we?” I, Herzog, managed to whisper a few words. “Keine ahnung.” Juricek muttered in a trembling voice. And then, our astonished gazes met the equally amazed ones of the strange-looking men and women in front of us. Silence hung heavy as we studied each other with bemused expressions.  “Welcome to Neoverse! My name is Siena. Meet Kime, Talos and Atlas; my confrères. We’re the guardians of this Vault.” The lady spoke as if she read their minds.   “Ok, but what place is this? How did we reach here? The last thing I remember was that we were struggling to survive the storm and wreck.” Juricek looked around. “Where’s our ship and the rest of the crew?”    “Your ship is destroyed and so is your Earth. It was a doomsday for the Earthlings. Our receptors detected your existence while we were searching for life. We found you lying unconscious, under a huge pile of rubbles. Our seismic sensors and thermal cameras captured your heat and breath. You lived when the entire Earth surrendered to the calamity. That is when we brought you here, to our Doomsday Vault.” We exchanged glances. “Echt? You’re kidding, right? Is this a prank? “Look, we are almost back from the dead and in no mood for jokes. We’re thankful that you rescued us, but we must leave now. Just show us the way out.” When Siena didn’t reply, I whispered to Juricek, “They look quite unEarthly. I’ve a bad feeling about this. Nothing is making sense. I can’t understand a word they’re saying. My head is jammed.” “Yes, something is not right. The place is unusual and the people...look at them. Their clothes seem to change colours ‘cause I’m sure the lady named Siena was wearing a green suit when we first saw her. All of them are wearing jumpsuits. Isn’t that odd? And those holographic accessories on their dresses are awkwardly glittery. They are wearing those strange glasses, god knows for what. How can humans have such luminescent skin? Their hair...wonder if they have stored fireflies in them. What kind of people are they? Either they aren’t humans or they must’ve dressed up oddly to trick people. This whole thing is giving me an eerie feeling.” Juricek muttered, “Let’s just convince them to let us go.” Before I could say anything, a man stepped in.“Hello! I’m Talos. I will be assisting you further. Now let me take you to your capsules so you can uncontaminate yourselves.” “Thanks, but we don’t need your capsules. We’ll see a doctor once we go out. Just show us the way, please.” Juricek urged, but it fell on deaf ears.    “We cannot delay any further,” Talos uttered sternly, and before we could utter word, we found ourselves at a different spot. And before we could blink, the vacant space got filled with amenities within and beyond our imagination.  “Whoa! This is magical.” I couldn’t help but express my excitement. “One moment the room is empty, and the other moment stuff appeared out of nowhere. Just like you guys did a while ago. Are we in some dream or are we dead, and this is heaven? And what are we standing on? There’s no ground, no walls; precisely it seems like we are floating in the air. What place is this again?”   “Neoverse. Here, everything takes place at warp speed. You will get used to it.” The more we heard Talos, the more confused we got. “Both of you, take your stand on those plates.”  We followed without a word. A strange bubble enveloped us and in a zap, we were clean and dressed in jumpsuits, quite similar to those strangers. “This is incredible and impressive. I can’t believe this is happening for real. How can we be clean without soap and water? And wear a dress without moving our hands? Implausible. From the claws of death to a place like this...we must be dreaming.” Juricek pinched himself. “Ouch! I felt that. But how’s this possible?” “I will leave you two here. As for the food, you can opt for the Conscious or Molecular Cuisine, Synthesized Superfoods, or our best, the Holographic one.”  Talos was about to depart but I stopped him. “Hey, wait. What’s all that? We have never heard of any before. Can you arrange for some squab, green peas, wine and caviars?” “In that case, you can teleport any dish your mind perceives. We have that option too. The dishes will traverse from far-flung corners at warp speed. Enjoy your gastronomical adventure.”  Talos was gone in a poof.  “Unglaublich! This has to be some kind of a hoax. How can foods travel on their own?” I went wide-eyed. “Cripes, I think aliens are for real and we are in their world. They must’ve abducted us during the hurricane. There can’t be any other explanation for the unusual things that’s happening around here. What do we do now?” “Eat ‘cause I can’t think with an empty stomach. Let’s see if their trick works.” We closed our eyes and let our thoughts go wild.  Rouladen...Kartoffelsalat...Sauerkraut...Knödel...Spargel with hollandaise sauce...Marlboro Reds...Talisker...  Sauerbraten...Labskaus...Schnitzel...Currywurst...Davidoff Winston Churchill The Late Hour...Imperial Stout... While the odour of each food penetrated our nostrils, we remained lost in thoughts. It was the borborygmus from our stomach that finally broke our reverie.  “Unmöglich! This can’t be happening! I’ve only seen such incidents in movies. We didn’t do any hocus-pocus, then how? Should we even consume these? Who knows if the aliens mixed some magic potion in them? What if we turn into a gnome or something? What will happen to our families? My kids...what will they do without me!” “Mist!” I sighed in distress. “I can’t resist the temptation, but I’m scared too. What do you say, maat?”  “Ähm! Let’s try a dish and see if we taste anything odd. If not, we can go for all. I really need to get my hands on that Davidoff  thing of yours. Never did I think of puffing one, but why lose the chance, eh.” Grinned Juricek. Temptation draws us in like a moth to a flame, gripping us with its allure, leaving us entangled with no way out. And that is exactly what the appealing drinks and dishes did to us. Lured, never to release us of its grip. So we gobbled, gulped and smoked our hearts out till we could take no more, but fall into a post-meal slump.  “Fair winds and following seas.”  Hails! Mast-und Schotbruch!   “Try to locate the illegal vessels. We have to put an end to marine poaching. All the best for your mission. The poachers shall soon be burdened with the curse of the Albatross.” I’m listening to the last minute instructions...   The harbour is brimming with well-wishers. The ship is slowly moving away from the harbour...  Seabirds soaring overhead...the warmth of the morning sun on my face...the faint scent of salt and sea...the sky flaunting its pastel hues...no swell in the sea...steady wind...a tranquil and promising dawn...we are preparing the albatrosses, fixing GPS trackers in their wings...some are checking the satellite transmission equipments...  It is mid-day...we are moving along the edges of the underwater plateaus...preparing to intercept the poaching vessels through the AIS network...moving slowly so as not to alert the poachers...we are all set... “Release the birds, now.” The radio reverberated...we did, one by one. Five albatrosses took to the air like fine aerial gliders...we are watching the effortless aerial manoeuvres of the majestic birds... The sun is preparing to descend...we are standing on the deck, enjoying the golden glow on the ripples... the ship is swaying in a rhythmic pattern...we are witnessing a faint glimmer over the horizon...spektakulär... A clear starry sky...the sea is calm and the breeze is gentle...we are eating and drinking merrily... “Look...” someone is pointing at the waterspout...we are feeling alarmed at the sudden change in weather. The wind is picking up speed...the captain is trying to radio the headquarters...it is gradually moving towards us... A sense of unease is gripping us...the sea is swelling... Splat! The waves are crashing against the stern...the wind is changing directions...the weather is turning atrocious...the rain is lashing against the vessel...the waves are towering like monsters ready to swallow our ship...we’re running hither-thither...screams are echoing and fading but the gale is persistent like a bolshie teenager... Burble! Gurgle! The water is gushing inside the vessel...it is getting into the interiors...Thud! A strong wave hit the rear side...the ship was bouncing... The waterspout is whirling...turning hostile...the deck is partly awashed...the vessel is creaking as if to counter the tempest’s roar...we’re trying to save the ship, and ourselves...the water is disabling the steering gear and jamming the rudders...the ship is tilting and swaying like a marionette...water gushed inside the engine room... “We can’t fight this hurricane! We are all going down.” Someone is blaring... The ghastly situation is wearing down our morale...Whoosh! Splat! Burble! Like indomitable soldiers, the water is rushing in through every crevasse... our ship is under siege...and so is our land...there is no escape from nature’s wrath...  The captain is trying his best, but the northwesterly gale is toughening things...visibility is deteriorating...chaos is taking over their ship...it is settling by the stern...“Hang on tight. Hold the rails. Keep your balance.” Someone is trying to help...each one is putting up a valiant fight...uttering silent prayers...muttering wishes to loved ones...the tornado is moving towards the shore...it is multiplying...we are staring at the four tornadoes spread over the vast sea, moving at a super fast speed in different directions towards the land... Midnight...the ship is engaged in a frenzied dance with the waves...the life jackets aren’t helping...we are tossed into the freezing cold water...we’re trying to stay afloat amidst debris and turbulent currents...we are bobbing up and down...flashes of lightening is illuminating our dreadful plight...our struggle is intensifying...some are grabbing pieces of wooden planks from the wreckage...some are clinging to their mates... My thoughts are oscillating between my family and the peril we are in...Captain is standing beside me...we are holding the broken mast...he’s saying something... “Looks like a tornado outbreak. I’ve heard of one that happened years ago, but these ones will cause havoc. I wonder if they’ll spare any corner of the Earth. I wish I was with my family.” I’m feeling a twinge in my heart...if only I could hold my kids for once...if only I could get a second chance in life...my fingers are numb...they are acting against my will...the water is seeping into my lungs..I can’t breathe...glurrg... A silly wish is floating inside my mind... If only I could survive this storm...if only I get a chance to live again... Oh...a violent wave tossed our ship like a toy...the ship is succumbing to the fury of the raging tempest...we are sinking into the depths...Oels is hanging onto a rope with his teeth...holding a doll...perhaps, his daughters...I’m holding a broken plank but my hands are slipping...I cannot hold any longer...my vision is fading... will I ever wake again...I’m inhaling water... Wheeze! Huff!  Pffff! Puff!  I woke up with a start, gasping for air, and so did Juricek. I think we were reliving the traumatic memories of the shipwreck during our postprandial somnolence. Hence, the sudden awakening made us feel disoriented and anxious. We sat motionless trying to grasp the reality while the room reverberated the thumping of our rapid heartbeats. As time passed, we began to normalize and regain our senses. “That horrifying incident...it is etched in my mind like the engravings on a seal. The visuals of each moment were crystal clear. I could feel the taste of saltwater on my tongue, the chilly wind on my skin and fear in my heart. I think those agonizing memories will follow us to our graves. There is no escape.” Juricek sighed deeply.  “I had the same dream. Well, can’t say it’s a dream ‘cause we lived it. And survived, miraculously. The only relief is that we are alive. We lost the entire crew to the wreck, but by heaven’s grace or these aliens, I know not, we are breathing.” I spoke after a brief thought. “They said our Earth is destroyed and now we are in some vault. That’s impossible. We have to go out of this place and find our families. Um jeden preis.” While we sat wondering, a strange looking object appeared infront of us out of thin air. We screamed our lungs out in fear, till the man named Atlas came out of it. “What is this now?” I asked him while gaping at the thing in awe. It was a sleek, transparent, tear-shaped seamless aerodynamic object with vibrant LED lights emphasizing its contours. In a word, it was a technological marvel. A futuristic vehicle, I guessed. “I brought you the AeroVolt. This will take you around Neoverse and will drop you back here.” He spoke as if he knew about our plan. “It is automated, so all you need to do is sit back and relax. Come, I’ll help you board.” To our utter surprise, the moment we stood infront of it, a portion opened up like a petal, making way for us to get inside. Atlas read our expressions. “Motion sensor. Less energy, more efficiency. That’s what we follow here. You can receive eatables while on the move. There is an inbuilt AquaCleanse for your convenience. A toilet, in your extinct language. The sensors within it will guide you at the time of use. Off you go then.”  There were no buildings or visible structures. Rather, the outside world was like a vibrant woodland, with lush green trees, and small water bodies surrounded by beautiful flower gardens. We could see several animals, birds and insects, some of which we were seeing for the first time. They were out in the open, living harmoniously. It was a world we could only wish for, but never thought existed, until that day. Strangely, we didn’t see a single human during our entire trip. We spotted a few vehicles similar to ours, and some looked like a blend of a futuristic sports car and an aircraft. The AeroVolt took us to the conservatory that housed a variety of plants and herbs. It took us to an open space that allowed us to gaze at the galaxies from close proximity. And then we landed inside a strange place that looked like a huge museum full of glass boxes containing eggs and embryos of every vertebrate and invertebrate that ever existed on Earth. Perplexed and transfixed, we were, completely.  “Time to de-board.” A voice spoke from nowhere. We noticed that it came from somewhere within the vehicle. Right then, it opened like a petal. When we stepped out, we found all four of those strange looking people standing in an attentive position, as if to welcome us back. But this time, a fifth figure took charge. “Hello! My name is Colossus. I’m the head of Neoverse.” He was straight out of a modern version of Star-Trek. “Nothing is left on Earth. It is destroyed completely, and so are its habitants. It is a miracle that you survived doomsday.” He spoke in a firm voice, quite similar to our dead Führer.  Colossus continued, “AeroVolt will take you to Earth. You will know the truth  once you witness the massacre. We have been working on this vault for ages ‘cause we could anticipate the future. We, the NeoHumans. Our bodies and the entire space functions with the help of a futuristic system but it is an equally safe space for humans.” “We wish to rebuild Earth.” I uttered my thoughts aloud. “With your help, it can happen easily.” All five of them, including Juricek, stared at me as if I was speaking gibberish. “I really mean it. Help us to rebuild Earth. You have all the components. We saw everything during our tour. You have the power to create a new Earth. Think once. No rush, but we’ll be glad if you agree. A new Earth sans the carbon footprint. We can build a second Neoverse on Earth. Please help us, Colossus ‘cause that would really make us happy.”  I winked at Juricek who was standing with his mouth open. And then a smile flashed on his face.  My words must’ve worked on Colossus ‘cause after a brief discussion with his troop, he said, “Alright! We agree to support you with our technology and anything you require to restore Earth. We just hope you don’t compel it to call upon another doomsday like the previous ones.” “Yeyhey!” Both Juricek and I jumped with joy. We thanked Colossus and the guardians and called it a day only to savour some fresh delicacies before retiring.  “Heil Colossus! Heil, the guardians of Neoverse!” We raised a toast to celebrate our joy, unaware that the NeoHumans were celebrating a different kind of victory in another corner. Their triumph over us, mere humans.   Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!