Hail and lightning weren’t the only clandestine storm elements to worry about. Fragments of long ago collided planets and man-made satellites showered down upon a myopic world, proving even intelligent design could crumble. The night skies had turned to searing tracers of flame and red light while the days were chaotic with the sounds and movement of heavy war machinery. The only things on people’s minds were worried questions with unknown answers.
“Martians? Preposterous, if we believed in Martians, there’d be no God; absurd, now get in that laser turret battery and burn hell out of those heretics soldier!” another general shouted, still clinging to crumbling political rhetoric. After the aliens showed, that’s all that seemed to be left on the surface of the planet: generals, soldiers and rhetoric. Political rhetoric, religious rhetoric, so much so you couldn’t tell them apart. War and more war rained metallic wreckage onto the planet, crashing into the homes and lives of people still struggling to believe in the promises of immaculate global order. The hastily formed one world government having failed an open dialogue with the aliens, immediately went into action pressing every citizen on the planet into military service of one kind or another. Fear was the motivation, war was the answer. Anything else was considered anarchy.
The monastery's St. Bernard pulled the frozen pilot out of the wreckage and back from war’s cold clutches of death to the doors of sanctuary and his new life. The high mountain monastery was of a cloistered order, they had separated from the rapidly changing world decades ago and were fortunate not to have been disbanded like other orders in other countries. The multi-lingual monks raised their own food, were completely self-sufficient in skills and resources. They could boast an extensive library of historic, scientific and philosophical tomes. The hermitage even kept the ancient traditional practice of breeding St. Bernard’s. A hearty, chest vibrating bark announced the Bernard’s return with a rescue, a fallen pilot, from an aircraft shot down in the global war of worlds. His flight suit torn and singed, his mirror-polished crash helmet dented. Here the pilot was invited by man’s best friend to the quiet mountain sanctuary of the monastery and a new life of peace and brotherhood.
“It doesn’t matter where you came from or what brought you here brother,” brother Argos assured the airman, “we take no sides here. We are all part of the same grand universe.” The monk’s strong hands helped the pilot to a wooden chair, the St. Bernard stayed close to the pilot, still protecting him. “You have survived for a special reason my brother, let those thoughts give you the strength to heal.” The pilot tried to pull himself up but slumped onto the table beside the chair, too weak from the crash to maintain his consciousness. “Brother Carron!” shouted Argos, “Bring some broth and some bread, our guest is weak, he needs food and rest.”
The monk patted the Bernard’s broad head. “Good boy, Thomas, good dog. That’s another life you’ve saved this year, making quite a habit of it are we?”
The large dog nuzzled the weakened pilot. Slowly the refugee regained his faculties and with a feeble effort, removed his helmet. This one act openly revealed his alien origins. The monks eyes showed no astonishment, only warm acceptance as he reached out his hand and helped the alien survivor to his feet. The alien pilot was slender, slight of build but rather tall, touching six feet. His head was narrow, eyes large, small ears were set back behind smooth cheekbones. He didn’t have any hair but did have fine scales that took the place of where hair would be on a human. The hue of his skin was a creamy yellow that off set the warm green shade of his limpid eyes. The alien blinked and looked around him, too weak to do anything but stand. The monk placed his arm around the pilot and helped him sit back down. Brother Carron brought a wooden bowl of steaming broth for the visitor and a torn off hunk of stone ground wheat bread. The Alien looked down at the food and stared.
“Eat.” Urged Brother Argos. “It’s simple fare, but it’s good and will help you regain your strength.” He smiled encouragement toward the strange visitor Thomas had brought to them.
“Can he understand us?” Brother Carron whispered to Argos.
“I’m sure he understands enough, he doesn’t act scared.” Argos replied.
“Do you think the military will be looking for him, for his crashed aircraft I mean.” Carron asked.
“With these winds, Thomas’ tracks will be wiped out in less than an hour more and this pilot’s craft will be buried in a twenty foot ridge drift by tomorrow, I think all is well for the moment.”
“As you say brother.” Carron nodded and left the room.
Thomas sat at the alien’s feet and laid his massive head on his knee. The alien stared at the bowl in front of him. He slowly removed his aviator gloves to reveal slender hands with no finger nails and longer thumbs. The look of kind anticipation in Brother Argos’ eyes told the stranger it was ok to try the broth. The alien reached out and picked up the spoon, slowly scooping up the hot liquid and after tasting it, tried a bite of bread. Brother Argos nodded his head in approval. He let the alien continue eating without interruptions. Behind Brother Argos the other monks peeked from behind arches and columns and hurried a look when passing the rectory doorways. Speculative whispers could be heard.
“I... am... Fros.” Came a soft and low voice when the bowl was empty.
“Fros? Is that your name?” Argos asked.
“Fros.” The alien answered with a long nod of his head.
“Fros, that’s a very interesting name.” Argos said with a smile and extended his hand. The alien just looked at Argos’ hand and blinked.
“This is awkward.” Argos thought, but he made the effort and slowly reached out taking the alien’s hand, moving it gently up and down. He noticed the Fros skin was very smooth and warm, warmer than a human’s body temperature.
“I, am... my Raptus... is... ” Fros wrinkled his face, struggling to find appropriate words. Argos anticipated his thoughts and ventured a guess.
“You crashed about two miles away and our dog, Thomas found you and brought you here.” Both men nodded and Thomas gave a short woof.
“I am … not dangerous, please?” Fros attempted to assure Argos.
“Of course you are not, we aren’t dangerous either. The war doesn’t exist here at our monastery.”
At those words Fros face again wrinkled, his eyes held an expression of confusion.
“Need, rest. Can stay?” Fros asked.
“Certainly, certainly, this is sanctuary, we are here to help those lost and in need. Come, I will show you to a room, Brother Carron will fetch you some blankets and we’ll see if brother Finneus can tend to your wounds.”
“Ashunpa” Fros said with a bow of his head and Brother Argos took it to mean thank you.
The monks had administered to the alien’s wounds as best they could and let him rest in the simple stone walled room. The large St. Bernard laid outside Fros door all night. Brother Argos and brother Carron took their evening walk outside the refectory grounds along the north wall of the ancient monastery.
“What are we to do with him?” Asked Carron, “He’s not going to join the order.”
“And why not?” Challenged Argos. “He’s a living being like all beings in the universe.”
“But we, our planet is at war with his people–”
“At war?” Snapped Argos. “At war over what?”
“At the village of Lancord they say–”
“Say?” Argos winced in frustration. “Are we now gossip mongers, unable to communicate the simplest of observations?”
“It is said the World Union tried to communicate with–”
“Enough!” Argos cut Carron off. “We do not recognize this abominable war. This thing born of fear and ignorance. We are not like the other faiths. We do not mix in politics or agendas. I need not remind you of this brother Carron.”
“You are right brother Argos. I am truly sorry. It’s just that he’s so different, unusual. His skin is so... yellow.”
“Ah, skin.” Argos replied wearily, “Did you not notice the intelligence in his eyes brother? Did you not sense and feel his need? He is as alive and sentient as the rest of us, no matter where he comes from or for that matter what color his skin is.”
“I need to reflect on my errant thoughts brother, thank you for reminding me.”
“Good night brother Carron.” Argos turned and headed to his room, a faint gnawing notion in his mind.
Isolation comes at a price. It is both a blessing and a curse. The monastery had no outside communication. No telephone, radio, television or computer. Nothing to keep them appraised of world changes going on at blinding speed. It wasn’t the celestial war that scorched the planet like hell fire, it was the collateral effects of global fear and loathing. Few like the monks practiced or could practice a self sufficient lifestyle. Few people stayed in the rural areas, convinced by propaganda of alien attacks, so most moved into the cities out of fear and indentured themselves as payment for military protection. Propaganda, not compassion was the message spread by the governments and religions of the world.
In the morning at the dormitory, brother Argos went to see Fros and was surprised that outside Fros door laid not only Thomas but now Martin, another St. Bernard. Both dogs rested easily and wagged their tails at his approach. Argos knocked on the heavy, hand hewed wooden door and Fros opened it.
“Good morning Fros,” greeted Argos.
“Amonna,” Fros answered bowing his head.
“Would you like to take a walk with me before breakfast?”
“Yees?” Fros said, unsure of the foreign words.
“But first let’s get you a robe, your flight suit is too damaged and thin to be of any good in the cold mountain air this time of year.”
Brother Argos brought Fros a long woolen, hand loomed robe. It hung loosely on Fros slender frame but covered him adequately.
Upon meeting the morning air, Fros raised the robe’s hood and the two walked in silence for a time, enjoying the bright sunrise trying to melt through the cloud cover. Fros stopped momentarily in front of the library next to the gardens to gaze skyward.
“Are you looking for something?” Argos asked
“Yees,” Fros answered.
“Are you worried about the soldiers finding you?” Argos guessed.
Fros shook his head and continued to scan the sky. As they stood together, brother Argos noticed that Thomas and Martin had closely followed them. Not only that, but several of the other monastery Bernards were gathering around them as well. Fros took no notice and brother Argos smiled and petted the animals thick furry coats.
“We are not all the same on this planet Fros, I know it’s hard to believe or understand. We here at the monastery don’t support this war, the killing, the hate filled intentions. There are others like us, it’s hard to see for all our posturing and violent acts. I hope you understand that.” Argos appealed to Fros. Fros wrinkled up his face, a sad look entered into his eyes. Argos suddenly felt the whole world paradigm changing stellar war was a mistake, a huge misunderstanding, but he couldn’t place in his mind why.
On the walk back to the warmth of the refectory, Fros said. “I … Leave..soon.” He looked earnestly into Argos’ eyes.
“There’s no hurry Fros, you are safe here and all is well.” Argos assured his alien guest.
“My ….Peelum here for I.” Fros sincerely tried to explain.
“Oh, I see.” Argos answered quietly.
“Brother Argos, brother Argos!” Shouted brother Carron from down the arched arcade.
“Brother Argos, trouble.” Carron informed him breathlessly.
“What is it brother, what excites you?”
“A column of sovereign global soldiers is coming up the ridge.… They have tracking dogs and they are ARMED!” Carron sat down on a heavy wooden bench to catch his breath.
Argos looked worried and sought Fros’ reaction to the news. Fros stood calmly, not moving or reacting. He stood blinking his large eyes. Thomas and Martin stood at the outer door looking out over the other gathered Bernards before suddenly all the dogs ran down the monastery’s center court and through the outer wall gatehouse.
“HOLD!” brother Finneus cried after the animals to no avail.
Fros walked back outside and stood in the middle of the court. Brother Argos and Carron followed the dogs to see if they could avert the military contingent from entering the monastery.
As the concerned monks reached the snow covered pass ledge, further down the path they could make out their eight Bernard's barring the path of a dozen soldiers with six military trained K-9 units frothing at their corded leashes.
The troopers were coated in white and grey camouflaged anoraks, they were equipped with heavy belts laden with ammunition and side arms. The group was about three hundred yards from the monastery walls. They kept advancing, the Bernard's backing up reluctantly until they were directly in front of the monks. The line of soldiers came to within a dozen yards of the monks and stopped. Two soldiers continued to approach. The St. Bernards stood their ground, hackles up.
“Brothers, we are tracking an enemy combatant and have been led to your monastery.” The soldiers stated in greeting.
“There are no enemies here.” Brother Argos spoke calmly. Brother Carron shivered, silent behind his robe’s hood.
“Our K-9 units say otherwise brother, we’ll have to search your grounds.” The soldier in charge said flatly.
“I’m afraid that can’t be allowed, our order does not allow any weapons or violence on monastery property. It is our mandate.”
“We don’t recognize those mandates brother, now please step aside.” The soldier waved his special search team forward and they obediently advanced behind him. The two front soldiers pushed roughly passed the monks then stopped abruptly.
As the monks were talking to the soldiers no one noticed that Fros had followed at a distance behind. He now stood a few yards up the pass from the group of men and dogs and disrobed, exposing his bare yellow skin to the frigid mountain air. Behind Fros were more monastery dogs. Then a very strange thing happened. For a moment, no living being moved. The St. Bernards calmed down and sat in a protective semi-circle around the monks. The K-9 units of the soldiers perked to attention, cocking their heads and whimpering at Fros appearance. The lead soldier dropped to the ground and yelled a command. “OPEN FIRE!”
His soldiers dropped their K-9 leads and unslung their assault rifles. At that same moment, the combat bred attack dogs turned and began snapping and slashing at their handlers. Surprise and shock dictated the moment. Men went down screaming, their uniforms being ripped off of their bodies along with flesh and muscle. The dogs fought fiercely, attacked rabidly, killing and injuring the entire patrol before any of them could react to protect themselves. The monks stood in paralyzed disbelief at what they witnessed. It was all over in less than a few minutes. The snow covered pass was now saturated in blood and scattered with pulpy masses. The monks turned and stared at Fros who hadn’t moved the entire time. His yellow face held a solemn expression.
Argos and Carron slowly made their way back up toward the monastery, but before they reached Fros, something dark and immense began to rise behind the walls of their stone built refuge. The grey overcast sky first turned a darker shade of grey and an expansive shape began to take form above the spires of their cathedral. A growing low pitched hum permeated the air around them and the dogs began to pant and whine. Fros turned to watch as a gigantic triangular mother ship took focus above them, pin strobes racing around it’s angled contours. Fros walked forward to where Argos and Carron stood motionless, anxious and trembling. Fros smiled a gentle smile, he conveyed a look of gratitude in his warm green eyes. He placed something in Argos’ hand and turned, walking back up the hill to a terrace, all the surrounding dogs, dozens including the K-9 units, followed him to the same spot.
A smaller cylinder shaped craft descended from the underside of the mother ship and landed near Fros. The monks moved closer to see better. Fros and the dogs all boarded the silvery cylinder and disappeared. The craft ascended and rejoined with the dark triangle, then the larger space craft slowly disappeared the same way it had appeared and the humming died away with it. Argos and Carron hurried inside the walls and helped the other monks close the heavy wooden doors.
The brother monks tried to regain their composure, Finneus looked about him and exclaimed, “Where are the dogs? Thomas, Martin, all of them?” The other monks began looking around and calling the animals. None of the monastery St. Bernards were to be found. As the other monks kept looking and calling out, brother Carron turned to Argos and asked, “What did Fros give to you just before he left?”
Brother Argos looked in his hand, and unfolded the paper he was given.
There in his hand was a note from Fros in his own language. It took the learned, multi-lingual monks a month to decipher the note but Fros message was clear.
We have come to reclaim our symbiotic brethren. We left them here many ages ago as a gift to your race, hoping their companionship and unconditional love and acceptance would affect the early development of your species. Sadly we have determined our efforts have been unsuccessful and so we only returned to take back our gift. We now leave your world, dog-less.
With gratitude Fros
Argos stood in the middle of the library amongst his fellow monks.
“All the war, this carnage, this lack of responsible communication between species and all Fros people came here for was to retrieve THEIR DOGS.…”