Jacob stood silent, marveling at the sight of another human; his first, other than his brother and father. But this man was young. Much younger than Papa. But only slightly older than Roger.
“Listen kid! I know this is crazy, but a rope could really help me out! I don’t really feel like a swim today.” The man repeated.
Jacob retreated to grab a rope, running to the barn and debating to himself if he was making a mistake. He just fell out of the sky! He could be an alien, or some evil spirit sent here to drag us to the underworld. Then again, maybe he knows how to get the fish to multiply again.
The stranger was still sticking out of the top of the sphere when Jacob returned with the rope.
“Great!” The man yelled. “Just tie a rock to the end and toss it over! Like a baseball.”
“What’s a baseball?” Jacob responded, reluctantly breaking his silence. The man mimed an overthrown pitch back.
Jacob quickly tied a rock and tossed it, missing the first three tries. On the fourth, the rock barely missed the man’s head but he managed to grab the rope. As they both pulled on opposite ends, the large sphere easily floated towards Jacob. Just before it reached the edge Jacob stopped pulling.
“Wait!” He said to the man, now close enough to hear without yelling, but not close enough to jump off without getting wet. “Where did you come from?”
“I understand this is probably a little strange.” the man responded, “And I promise that I probably have as many questions for you. Perhaps we can get acquainted once I get off this ball.”
Jacob would have preferred the stranger just answer his question. But, there was something he trusted about him so he pulled the sphere the final few feet to shore. As the man jumped down, Jacob examined his new visitor. He wore the whitest shirt and pants Jacob had ever seen. Most of Jacob’s clothes were handmade from cotton his father had grown in a field beyond the pond. They were crude compared to this man’s attire. He’d seen outfits similar to this in some of the picture books in his small library. Books of which were two-hundred plus years old and falling apart.
“How old are you?” the man asked, “About 14? Are your parents around?”
“Papa died in the water.” Jacob pointed at the pond but didn’t elaborate any further and the man didn’t ask. “I didn’t know my mom.”
“Well, can you take me to the closest adult? I have an agenda I’d really like to stick with, so the sooner I can talk to someone the better.”
“There’s no one else. My brother left months ago. It’s just me.”
The man put his hands on his hips and turned to look around, seeming more out of place now than he had when he first popped out of the sphere.
“Where’d you come from?” Jacob asked again. “Do you know how to multiply the fish?” Jacob realized this was a silly question but conversation with a stranger was something new for him. He wondered how he was doing.
The man laughed and smiled. “To be honest, I don’t know much about fish. Do you know how many years it’s been since people occupied those buildings over there?”
The man pointed to a set of three ancient skyscrapers that could be seen off in the distance, silhouetted by the moon. Seemed like a silly question. Didn’t this man know where he was?
“Papa said it’s been hundreds. They’re not safe. They fall sometimes. A couple collapsed last year. So we don’t go near them.”
“That’s fascinating. Absolutely fascinating” the man responded, still staring off at the towers and obviously entertained by the simple fact of their age. “So there’s really no one else around?”
“Nope. Never even met another person besides my brother and Papa. Until you.”
After a silent moment of what Jacob interpreted as concern, the man replied with a smirk, “That sounds unfortunate on the surface kid. But you aren’t missing out. People can be a drag. For some reason the shortest leap in that thing gives me the urge to take a leak. You got a bathroom?” Jacob pointed to a small outhouse near his cabin.
As man retreated to the bathroom, Jacob wondered what he’d meant by “leap”. He’d always wanted to know if there were other people around. His father had said no. But it seemed unlikely that they were all alone. Shouldn’t this man know where the other people are? How had he just appeared? And how long was he going to be here?
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