So long and thanks for the Fruit
Written by Nathanielle Crawford
Inspired by Gene Brewer's K-PAX trilogy
Also Inspired by Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
With a few twists added by Nathanielle Crawford
These twists are added with love for both the late great Adams and the early great Brewer
On with the story
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has over four million, sixty-three thousand, five-hundred and twenty-one entries about K-PAX and dremers including entries from the dremers themselves. The following is an entry from a very earlier edition of The Guide, from back when human's earliest ancestors were still gasping for oxygen after crawling out of their primordial ooze.
Deep in the constellation Lyra, swinging in a pendulum like fashion around the twin stars K-MON and K-RILL is a lively little purple planet known to its inhabitants as K-PAX. Given their lack of government and their instinctive need to balance with the rest of the environment, the arguably more advanced species of this world, the dremers, do not claim dominance in spite of being the current evolutionary incarnation of their race.
A race of hitch hiker's themselves one can only imagine how anyone would trust a dremer given that they never bring a towel with them wherever they go. This does, however, seem consistent with their universal arrogance in assuming that they are in fact superior to all life forms they come across. For billions of years dremers have been contributing editors to the previous editions of the Guide. (however we have no names to go with their entries since the dremers do not believe in fame and recognition) Their character based classification system has been embraced by many species for determining the safety of a planet before attempting to travel there.
Another noteworthy accomplishment of the dremers is their use of single humanoid light-based travel. While most species continue to use spaceships to ferry themselves and others across the galaxy dremers harness a single beam of light, which allows them to beam from one planet to another almost instantly. (Backward time travel is also needed to insure the rules of relativity, however this in and of itself has been the cause of many angry misunderstandings between dremers and other races including the Vogons. Imagine how angry you'd be if you just got a massive pay of for a thousand galactic dollar a day job destroying a system of planets where a freeway was supposed to go, only to have some meddling backward time traveler visit the system in the past, petition for its protection and prevent you from doing the job before you even started it)
Perhaps this is another reason for the lack of overwhelming universal love for the hairless apes. Dremers have no government themselves and have never needed one. For this reason they mirror beam from planet to planet with little or no regards as to the government policy or territorial agreements of other races. And true to their natures they won't skip a beat while they tell a species what it's doing wrong and how long they have until they destroy themselves. Perhaps this is also the reason why many worlds, (including the ordinarily tolerant Alpha Centaurians) refuse to invite any dremers to interplanetary mixers which are often held on Tau-Ceti 6 when the air is breathable every seven hundred years.
So help me I couldn't stay away for long. Karen understood as always, so we made a day of it. After all, who can resist a day in Manhattan for twenty-four hours? We had lunch at the Asti, our usual place. I sang off key, caught a ball of dough in my mouth, and even got Karen to overcome her stage fright and participate in the chorus.
Then we went down to the wharf and took the tour of the Intrepid. Prot would have complained the whole way of course. The Intrepid was one of our country's most famous airline carriers, and its top deck was full of recon jets, fighters, and other planes I had no name for.
"What do you think it's like up there?" Karen asked, conversationally.
"K-PAX, silly," Karen laughed as we walked along deck.
I stopped at the stern and leaned against the rails. The waterfront was very pretty here, even if it was mostly concrete, pavement and glass.
"Well it has to be pretty dark," I supposed. "Their suns only rise once every two hundred years. I wouldn't be surprised if it was like the Alaska of the galaxy."
"Do you ever regret not taking prot up on his offer?"
"Of course not," I said with a shrug. "Where on K-PAX can you find a decent stake dinner?"
It was so strange to be talking about this with my wife. It had been at least five years since we all saw prot, Robert, Giselle, Junior (Their baby, and my namesake) two patients and a few of the cats from MPI all disappear in a beam of light, taking with them the hundred beings that prot promised could go with them. The following weeks were a buzz of media activity and government investigations, but thankfully I was no longer in the works. Sure a secret service agent asked me a few questions, and why wouldn't they? I was the author of three books about my beloved problem patient, (and thanks to some dedicated fanfiction authors I was still collecting royalties from newly initiated fans of the books) and there was also a movie based on K-PAX. But I had retired that very week and now my son William and his wife owned the home where Karen and I spent many wonderful years in marriage.
Did I believe they went to K-PAX, many people often asked me wherever I went. "Is he really an alien?" "Did he tell you how to mirror beam?" "Did he take you in his space ship?" That last question has been asked of me by many people who did not read my books, but watched the many CNN debates and garnered from the discussions that prot must have at least had some kind of space ship.
It was also strange to be considered a celebrity wherever I went. I did, after all, have the pleasure of knowing prot and his host Robert Porter for seven years before they finally went home. And I always went with the classic psychiatric standby every time they popped one of the questions: "What do you think?"
"Do you think he'll ever show up again?" Karen asked. "Prot I mean."
I gave her a side long glance and grinned impishly, "What do you think?"
She playfully punched me in the shoulder. We left the Intrepid and made an obligatory stop at Ground Zero memorial park. I was certainly glad prot hadn't been here on this day. Somehow I doubt his "I told you so" attitude in regards to the lack of human conscience and regard for life would have pleased too many people. Not that I wouldn't have agreed with him, at least this once. After that we went shopping in some of Karen's favorite stores, including the Disney store and a few kiosks along the streets.
"When do you want to visit MPI?" Karen asked when we stopped at the van to drop off some bags.
"I called Will and he said he'd be off at four-thirty today. I told him we'd give him a ride back to Connecticut so we could catch up on times. But if you don't mind I'd sort of like to stop there a little early. Some of my colleagues wouldn't mind seeing me again and it'd be nice to catch up with some of them if they aren't too busy."
"Not at all, Gene, honey." Karen gave me a peck on the cheek. "There are still a few stores I'd like to check out that I doubt you'd be comfortable in."
Karen gave me a wink that assured me that I would be happy letting her off on her own. She was no stranger to Manhattan after all, and I didn't worry as much as some husbands might about leaving my wife to fend for her out here.
"Have fun," I said when we split up at the corner. "Meet you at the garage."
The walk to MPI from where we were parked was definitely a workout. Whenever Manhattan or any other city shows up in the movies people seem to think all of our major landmarks and attractions are within spitting distance of one another. (And yes, by now MPI was definitely one of the two) Everyone drives across Brooklyn Bridge, you can see the Empire state building from every apartment, and superheroes can jump from building top to building top without anyone so much as blinking an eye. But in real life when you want to get from place to place you rely on public transportation or the leather express. I chose the latter.
I hadn't been down these streets since my retirement from MPI. Will told me about the occasional new developments that went on. How the Chinese restaurant me and Karen used to go for lunch burned down, and about the Ground Zero Memorial Park the city decided on in lieu of a new Trade Center to be built in the place of the old ones. Some of Fred's performances were in New York, but they would through Connecticut on tour so we always waited till then to see him.
It felt good to be among the crowds of people, the sometimes daunting skyscrapers, the smells of hot dog stands and carbon monoxide and the lights of the neon signs flashing were all familiar to me again. The sun had long since passed over head, and now streets were as dark and cold as if it were evening during the winter, but it didn't bother me because I knew this place so well. I bought a pretzel in spite of myself and gave the change to a homeless man who stood nearby. Then, after taking a few detours to do some window shopping, I arrived at the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute.
The Villers Wing was up and functioning. I ran into Doctor Goldfarb in the vestibule. She was still the director of the facility and still as beautiful as she was dedicated. She was overjoyed with finally having the chance to beg me, in person, to do what she'd been trying to get me to do for the last five years over the phone.
"No," I said, smiling as I did it. "Those times were great and I'll never forget them. I did my best with each and every patient, especially prot, and I hope I've done some good during my time here. But my days of being a psychiatrist are over."
"You mean you never thought of starting your own practice?" Dr. Goldfarb asked. "You could do it out of your own home and prevent so many people from having to come here."
"And what about the twenty dozen other people that come here after I'm gone?"
"Your son will take care of them." She said, changing gears. "He's a chip off the old block, you know. Even pulled a few miracles out of his hat, the likes of which our star patient hasn't even pulled off."
"Really?" I asked, baffled. "First I've heard of it."
"Well, he's got your modesty too."
Goldfarb rarely gushes over people, at least to the level of sincerity that she was doing now. If I hadn't known her as well as I do I'd almost have said she was buttering me up by complimenting my son. As if on cue William came from the Villers ward whistling to the tune of "The Rain in Spain" from My Fair Lady. I didn't even know he'd watched that movie. He seemed so much like the boy who spent his summers as an orderly here, our baby as Karen still called him. He wore the standard required out fit. Black khakis, a blazer, white shirt and tie, but dammit he looked great in it all. And he carried himself with an air of confidence and good humor that you just didn't expect see in our field.
"Dad!" He said, shamelessly tackling me with a hug. A few visitors reared back in terror, thinking William to be some escaped lunatic. I couldn't help but laugh. "It's great to see you out here."
"It's good to see you too son."
William pulled back. "Goldfarb, how are you?"
"I'm fine Will. I take it your session with Audrey went well?"
"Better than ever."
"Great, I'll see you at tomorrow's staff meeting." Goldfarb turned to me and smiled. "I'll leave you too alone. It's great to see you again Gene."
I walked with Will up to his office. I was surprised to see he didn't have mine.
"Oh, they've squared that off now," Will explained once I pointed it out. "Goldfarb got the idea to bring a few tourists up there once in a while to take pictures of it."
I rolled my eyes. "You have to be kidding me."
"'Fraid not Dad. The door has a new name panel and everything. They've got a little museum of all of prot's stuff, and pictures of Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges signed by the actors all over the place."
"How come you never told me about all this?" I asked, incredulous.
"Well, because it was my idea…" Will responded to my look of surprise. "Goldfarb asked for ideas for fundraising at a meeting. I didn't think you'd mind. And anyway the tourist money alone has paid for the Villers Wing a hundred times over at least. We can afford more orderlies, better equipment and we were even able to upgrade our computers and security systems a few times."
I shook my head and snickered.
"What can I say kid?" I said affectionately. "I'm proud of you…Doctor Brewer."
"Thanks Doctor Brewer," Will replied, grinning as he pulled his trench coat on. "Hey, you want to see it?"
"Your old office." Will pointed up. "I'm right below it. It's great to take students up there and brag to them about my dad and his beloved alien symbiote."
What can I say? I took Will up on his offer. What I had no way of knowing of course was that my alien symbiote would be waiting for me in his usual spot. As Will showed me the familiar elevator and the painted red arrows leading to the "tourist" room, I was unaware that prot had spent the last ten minutes mirror beaming across the planet, picking up Karen, Fred, Abbey, my son in law Steven, my grandkids, their grandchild, my dog, and Gunnar Jenson and Roman Kowalski. Joyce Trexler's office was the same as always, with photos from the movie and copies of the books on sale in a little bookshelf near the window. Shirts, shorts, sweaters and other memorabilia with Kevin Spacey's face on it also hung from racks. (Hey, in Transylvania they have entire shops dedicated to Dracula related items. What makes here any different right?) As Will opened the door, there he was. Sunglasses and everything, sitting in the chair with the plaque situated beneath it.
"How's it going doctor…er doctors?" prot asked, standing up and turning to face us. "What, no fruit?"
As I said, I couldn't have expected to see my favorite problem patient here in the place where I had seen him on and off for an three hours a week. I couldn't have expected any of it, but here he was in the flesh. Prot still looked just like Robert. Same build, same hair and eyes, and he wore pretty much the same outfit. Corduroys,
"Robert sends his best wishes," prot said, right on cue. "As do Giselle and the rest. But I'm afraid we have no time for pleasantries."
"Why am I so calm right now?" I asked, sending a glance in Will's direction.
"Got me," Will said, equally as undisturbed by prot's presence. "How's it going man?"
"It's going," prot responded. "And it's going to keep going if we don't get off this PLANET."
"Off the planet?" This time I was a tad unnerved. "Prot what's going on-"
"All right, I guess I have to give you the rundown don't I," prot looked up. "We've got about ten minutes for me to explain this, so sit down geno. We're about to have the quickest session in your career. You can sit too willy, after all, you're the king of the roost now."
I don't know what was going through our minds right now, but like a puppet on command I sat in my usual chair across from prot. There was a plaque beneath mine too. It read: This is the seat where the famous Gene Brewer interviewed many of his patience and delivered top of the line psychiatric care. But he was never more famous for his work before meeting prot, the alien symbiote from the planet K-PAX.
"All right prot," Will said. "What brings you back to Earth?"
"It's destruction," prot answered as calmly as if we had just asked him if Gene Jr was doing well.
"Destruction?" I said, confused. "I know we're on the verge of extinction like you think we are, but seriously-"
"Oh no geno. Not from you guys this time. Earth is about to be obliterated by another race that wants to build an Interstellar freeway."
Our mouths hung open. Will and I exchanged looks of confusion.
"Prot, I thought you said no other race would ever destroy another one," I pointed out. "And yes, I remember our sessions very well. You said, and I'm quoting you, 'any race that would destroy another race inevitably destroys themselves.'"
"You would be quite correct my dear sir," prot said, leaning forward. "Most races that willingly destroy anyone or anything else do destroy themselves. But that doesn't stop them from getting into space now does it?"
"So you're saying this race that wants to destroy us…they're mirror beamers too?" Will asked. He had the same professional calm of a psychiatrist, as if he were in fact interviewing a patient to gage his mental state.
"No," prot answered. "They're not sane enough to develop mirror beaming yet. They're a lot like you homosapians in many ways. These guys are a part of a pretty big galactic government that has existed since the beginning of life on K-PAX."
Now I was really confused.
"Look, there's not much time to explain it all now," prot said, becoming antsy. "I've actually been here for a while keeping an eye on these people and trying to see if they were serious or not."
"Serious about what exactly?" I asked. "Just lay it all out for is, bluntly if you have to. Why do these...beings, want to destroy us so badly?"
"They don't want to destroy you exactly," prot said. "They're contractors, you see. The galactic government hires them to destroy PLANETS, clear out ASTEROID FIELDS, and collapse STARS in order to make room for urban construction projects. Trouble is EARTH is in the way of a major interstellar bypass that they want to put into place here. The vogons were the lowest bidders so they got contract and now they're parked in orbit.
"And yes, geno, I know what you'll say. No I can't read your mind, but you're just as predictable now as you were seven of your years ago. It is true that space travel by way of space ship is utterly futile and useless. But some beings have found a way to travel through space in the same way that we dremers mirror beam, and at the same time use their variously designed space ships. It's pointless and utterly stupid to us dremers, since we can go straight from breathable planet to breathable planet, and not even worry about the unnecessary danger of asphyxiation when the oxygen/boron/methane levels on a ship fall below the safety level. I'd love to stay and chat about this more. But we now have nine minutes and thirty-three seconds to reach minimal safe distance."
Again, I exchanged looks with Will. Neither of us could have expected this but it wasn't like we were completely surprised. Here we were about to be hijacked by the "star patient" of MPI and we had no way of knowing whether or not we should believe him. Prot seemed to sense our hesitation and he added, "I've got your family safely away. Giselle is explaining things to them right now, so they won't be too disturbed by the occurrence."
"They're on K-PAX?" Will asked, wide eyed.
"Nope, wasn't enough time," prot answered. "I sent them to FLORA. It's a tad wet there and no human has ever been to their WORLD before, but the florins are willing to take care of you for a little while. We have to hurry though."
"Well, what do we do about the Vogons?"
I looked up at will. He was dead serious. I could see the look of dread in his face that replaced his jovial attitude.
"What about our planet, our people…all the furry beings and great produce you love so much?"
Prot let out a sigh. It seemed very uncharacteristic of him. He looked at me.
"That's why I came to you geno," he said. "We have two shots at keeping the earth a safe and happy place for your beings to destroy yourselves later on."
"Well gee, thanks prot." I replied, crossing my arms.
"I mean it. But in order to accomplish this we'll need to hurry. Will you come with me now, before it's too late?"
It was my turn to sigh. But I turned to Will before making my decision.
"You're the doctor," I told him. "What do you want to do?"
Will looked to me, then to prot, then to the windows outside. "Uh…Dad, I think you should check this out."
I got up and went to the window. Manhattan is no stranger to UFO sightings. One in particular appeared a few times as segments on several TV shows. But what we saw now wasn't some isolated event getting caught on tape by some tourist and handed over to the Lords of Syndicated Television land. Four or five disk shaped "ships" were lowering themselves slowly out of the atmosphere. If I had to guess at their size I'd say maybe one third the size of the disc shaped vessels in Independence Day. My heart pounded and adrenaline was pumping faster than I could possibly control.
"Dad?" Will placed a hand on my shoulder. "Dad, are you okay."
"I don't know son," I said, honestly. Something happened in my lower extremities that I didn't expect. To be blunt, I was wetting my pants. "Oh no."
"Debate time's over." Prot pulled something out of his pants pocket. It was a flat wide device, like a remote control, with a cylindrical dish and a bulb. It was black with hundreds of little buttons in some kind of sequence I couldn't understand. A puddle was forming at my feet, ruining my shoes and the fine carpet of my office…and I didn't care. I was terrified.
"Will, you're going to FLORA with your wife and family."
"Is she okay?" Will asked, as concerned for his own budding family as he was for me.
"They're all fine as far as I know," prot said, remembering the importance humans placed in their family members. "In any case giselle, robert and a few friends are there to help them."
Without another word prot pointed the device at will and will just disappeared. I was glad because my office was starting to smell like a men's room, and I was red with shame.
"Don't worry," prot said, placing a hand on my shoulder and speaking in his most soothing voice. "It's a normal biological reaction to fear and terror."
Before I could respond prot pressed another sequence of buttons and pointed it at me.
"What are we doing?" I asked, frightened.
Prot grinned that Cheshire cat grin of his. "Stick your thumb out geno. We're hitching a ride."