“For all the difficulty of philosophy seems to consist in this—from the phenomenas of motions to investigate the forces of Nature, and then from these forces to demonstrate the other phenomena…” ~Issac Newton
Robert sat hunched over a wooden table shoved against the wall of a dimly lit pub. He stared a cream-colored pamphlet and tugged his fingers through his hair, pulling a couple strands from his head.
Flames from a stone hearth sent a flickering glow across the smoky, half-filled room as voices murmured in a multitude of evening conversations.
A woman in a stained, serviceable dress strolled over and perched her hand on her hip, a damp rag gripped tight in her fist. “You’ll go blind, staring like that.” She tapped the page with one dismissive finger. “Not worth it, I say.” She hitched a thumb behind her. “Look at Henry. He’s got the right idea. Barkeepers make money hand over fist and sleep in comfortable beds.”
Henry, a thin, wiry man, polished a heavy mug and set it on the counter beside a stack of empty plates.
Robert lifted his blanched face and stared through red-rimmed eyes. “You don’t understand, Isabel. This is the greatest revelation to humanity since…I don’t know. Maybe since God created the world.”
A chuckle from across the room turned heads. A tall, hefty man rose from a barstool and sauntered near. “There’s them that can meddle in such things, and those who’d best keep their eyes on their work.”
Isabel nodded. “You tell ‘em, William. He won’t listen to me.”
William laid a meaty hand on Robert’s shoulder. “You pa’s looking for you, surely.”
Robert glanced from Isabel to William, the line of his mouth hardening. “Pa sent me to school to learn—he don’t want me to stop, just because times are tough.”
Grunting, William hitched his thumbs in his belt and straightened, throwing his head back like a man about to tell a tall tale. “Times are more than tough. Plague, fire, wars, and famine are constant companions. A man’s life is bitter and short.” He bent down and stared earnestly into Robert’s eyes. “Your pa is a dreamer but getting older by the day.” William whistled through a gap of a missing tooth. “I did my time aboard a ship, nearly died more often than I cared to count. But grace, hard work, and sticking to my business saved me.” He glanced aside, a wince of pain shooting across his face. “And those I cared about.”
Robert scowled. “And how were you treated for your service, William? Never honestly paid, were you? Was it right that so many good men died needlessly?”
Like a clap of thunder, William smacked the table, turning every head in the pub, his gaze hard and his eyes glowing. He spat his words. “That little book going to make the world more just? Going to give a man his rightful due?”
Her grip tightening, water dripped from Isabel’s rag, her gaze darted from William to Robert.
Robert shoved back his chair and rose. “If you mean, will knowledge pay a decent wage, no, probably not. But will it allow a man to feel like a man—to think like a man?” Robert closed the pamphlet and tucked it in his coat pocket. “Then, yes. Knowledge will give a man his due.”
William scratched his neck and shook his head, wrinkles crinkling at the corners of his eyes. “Never thought to say that the son of Giles Churchwarden was a fool, but if you spend all your days trying to understand the likes of that book, you’ve earned the title, make no mistake.”
From the back of the room, Henry lifted a mug and laughed. “We’ll come to the same end, Willie boy. Don’t begrudge the man his grand ideas. Twas a foolish God who thought of us, remember.” He beckoned Robert to the bar. “If you ever understand even a bit of it, share the likes with those of us who enjoy a fresh thought.”
Robert met the barkeeper’s gaze. “I’ll tend my pa’s farm during the day, but we’ll exchange a thought or two in the evening, Henry.” Darting a glance from William to Isabel, Robert crossed the threshold and stepped into the starry night. He sighed. “Life’s less bitter that way.”
A gigantic hall lit with hundreds of candles shone in reflected glory. Each piece of polished furniture gleamed and colorful tapestries hung from high ceilings, covering the stone walls. Two large trestle tables dominated the central space while a dais occupied the far end. Huge logs from full-grown trees blazed in the fireplaces at opposite ends of the room.
Shopkeepers, smiths, farmers, cow herders, carpenters, cobblers, fishermen, husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, serving women and serving men, bustled about, some eating, some chatting, some working, some resting from a long day’s work.
Dressed like a fine lord in a short white tunic and a flowing burgundy robe, a young, handsome-looking man sauntered beside his father and gazed around the room. “You must admit, it was a pleasant experience. There’s nothing like seeing them in their native environment to help us understand how to best care for them.”
His grey-haired father climbed the three steps to the jewel-encrusted throne and plunked down in apparent exhaustion. “I think you missed the man’s point, Omega.”
Omega chuckled and threw himself down on the smaller throne to the right of his father. “Which man?” He lifted his hand. “You mean Robert?” He tapped his fingers together steeple-style. “It’s true, I should give these beings more to think about. But—” He grinned. “They seem so content.”
“You save them from certain death, and they’re grateful. They play your game and live like this because they need you.” The old man stared at his son. “But remember what the barkeep said.”
Omega frowned. “He wanted a fresh thought now and again. That shouldn’t be too hard.” He laid his hand over his father’s. “You’re always coming up with fresh ideas, Abbas.”
The old man pursed his lips. “Robert remembered who created them.” Abbas beckoned to the serving man. “A stout ale for me and milk for my son.”
Omega scowled and opened his mouth, but Abbas interrupted.
“They may think that God is a fool for creating them free.” Abbas rubbed his temple. “But by far, more’s the fool who tries to keep them captive.”
Omega lifted his arms as if embracing the entire hall full of people. “They would’ve died on Earth. This may be a mirage—but it’s a good mirage. At least they’re alive.”
“Lies—even good lies—never satisfy for long. Remember Newton? There was a man who could not be satisfied with mere appearance.”
The serving man placed a golden tankard into Omega’s waiting hand.
Abbas drank deep and wiped his foamy lips with the back of his hand. “Best be careful, son. The turning of the human mind is no less startling than the turning of a planet. And a whole lot less predictable.”
Novels by A. K. Frailey
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN
Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r
Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend
OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)
OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)
OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)
The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5
The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00