Honk, honk! went the cars and buses.
Vroom, vroom, vroom! went the motorcycles.
Lando dropped from Jupiter to Earth. He was reading the new book on space that his uncle gave him. Lando loves everything about space. He knows the name of all the planets, the constellations and their distances from earth. He tried to read the page again, but it was too noisy. The television was blaring from his neighbor’s house. One neighbor was watching a soap opera while another was watching cartoons. Someone was singing off-key in a karaoke session. Just outside their door, children were screaming and laughing, running after each other. Lando could hear a baby crying.
“Lando, Lando, come play with us!” shouts Pete from the doorway. Pete is Lando’s best friend and neighbor.
“I can’t! I’m reading.” Lando shouts back. He likes playing with Pete and the other boys, but he also wanted to finish reading his new book.
“Aww, you could read that later! Come on!” Pete urges, turning back to the game.
Not for the first time, Lando wished he lived in a quieter neighborhood, with no loud neighbors, no crying babies, no noisy cars and buses and no people going in and out of his house.
Lando closes his book and goes upstairs to his room. He closes the door, but it doesn’t help. Noise was coming in from the open window. Lando covers his ears with his hands and continues to read his new book.
At dinner, Lando has a million questions for his papa. “Is there life in space, papa?”
“What do they look like? Do you think there are beings in the dwarf planets? Yes, the planets in the Kubier Belt. The book says the dwarf planets are icy and rocky. But what IF? Can people space travel? No, I mean, like the ones we see in movies. When could people live in space?”
Then, the most important question of all “Can I be an astronaut when I grow up?”
Lando’s papa looks at him. “Yes, you could be an astronaut. You can be anything you want to be. But you have to study hard and work hard. You could be an astronaut or an engineer or a scientist or a teacher. You could be all these.”
“Really, papa?” asks Lando wide-eyed.
“Yes! But more importantly, you have to be a man with a kind and brave heart.” Papa says seriously.
“But I am a good boy and I’m brave! I’m not afraid of anything!” Lando says.
“Are you now? Are you kind and respectful? Are you brave?” Papa teases. “Yes, you are, son!” shaking Lando’s hair.
In bed, Lando takes a last look at his book before his mama closes the light. He is not scared of the dark. He likes the dark. Sometimes, when the streetlights are dark, he could look up at the sky and see a few stars. Papa said that city lights and pollution makes it hard to see the stars.
Alone in his room, Lando sits up to gaze at the sky. He could not see the stars, but he knows that they are out there. In the street below, he could hear a dog bark. His neighbors are still watching television. Cars and motorcycles are still zooming past and honking their horns. At the end of the street, a group of teenagers are playing basketball. He could hear the sharp, loud whistle of the referee and the cheering crowd.
Lando lies down and covers his head with his pillow to block-off the noise. In space, it would be quiet, he thought. In space, he would not hear dogs barking. In space, he would not hear noisy neighbors and their loud televisions. In space, he would not hear the honking of horns, the vroom, vroom of cars and motorcycles. In space, it would be dark but he would be able to see the stars and planets. In space, with a spaceship, he could travel from one planet to another. In space, he could make new discoveries.
In space, he could look below and see his house, his neighborhood, his city, big lands, mountains, oceans, grow smaller and smaller. Lando suddenly sits up. From his window, he could see the earth with its vast ocean and the clouds, getting smaller. But it isn’t his window he looking out from. It’s a spaceship’s window.
“A SPACESHIP!” Lando shouts. He looks around. There are buttons and small lights on the walls. He is not in his bed. He is sitting on a cushioned chair with a seat belt. Infront of him is a table with more buttons and lights.
“Welcome, Lando!” a voice says from somewhere.
Lando jumps from his seat, but his seatbelt stops him. “Who are you? Where are you?” asks Lando, remembering that he has to be brave.
“I am Control. But you could call me any name you want. I am here to help you go wherever you want to go in space.” Control explains.
“Am I dreaming?” Lando asks.
“Dreaming? Perhaps. But I do not dream. Don’t you want to explore space? Where do we go, Lando?” Control asks.
Lando looks out the window. He could see the earth, with different shades of blue and white. “It’s, it’s beautiful!”
“Yes, the earth is beautiful.” Control agrees.
Lando sees the moon. It looks bigger now that he is in space. In space! “WHOA! I AM IN SPACE!” Lando shouts for joy. He unbuckles his seat belt and starts to float. He bumps his head on the ceiling. He floats to the window and looks at the moon. “Can we go anywhere in space?”
“Wherever you want.” Control answers.
“Uhh, ok, can we go to the nearest planet that has people in it?” Lando asks.
“Of course! Setting course for the planet, Pitru 016.” Control says.
Lando could not sit down. He is so excited. He is not scared at all. He could see millions and millions of blinking stars. He was watching meteors zooming past when Control goes “Approaching Pitru 016. Prepare for landing.”
“Wow, that’s fast! We’re already here?” Lando asks surprised.
“Yes, I am fast.” Control says proudly. “5 – 4 -3 -2 -1. Touchdown.”
Outside, Pitru 016 is bright and cool. People were walking here and there. Well, they look like people, Lando thought. They were tall with very long legs and arms. Their head was narrow and long and bald. The women wore long, silver robes and the men wore long, silver trousers.
A man looks at Lando. He has small, very round eyes, holes for a nose and a small mouth. Lando thought the man looked sad.
“Hello” whispered Lando. The man blinked. “Hello, I’m Lando from the planet Earth!” Lando said loudly, trying to be brave.
The man’s eyes widened. He reached for Lando, covering Lando’s mouth with his thin, long hands. The man quickly looked to the left and right. “Shhh, there is no need to shout. My name is Turk” Turk says, bending down to speak to Lando in a soft voice.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout” said Lando in a softer voice.
Turk stares at Lando with his small, kind eyes. “Earthlings are very small!” he says.
Lando harldy heard Turk, but he smiles. “I’m just a child. Grown-ups are bigger, but not as tall as you. You are very tall!”
Turk smiles back and whispers “We don’t get many visitors in Pitru. What do you do when you meet people in Earth?”
Lando thought for a moment. What did he and his friends do? “We eat, drink, play and tell stories” Lando explained.
“We could eat and drink, Lando” Turk asks.
“Thank you very much, I’d like that.”
People looked at Turk and Lando, but nobody spoke or greeted them. In fact, nobody spoke at all. Strange, Lando thought. Lando looked around. All the houses looked alike, egg-shaped in different sizes and different shades of white. He wondered if the houses cracked when people knocked or if someone slammed the door.
Turk turned to a small egg-shaped house and entered. He offered Lando a drink in a long, tall glass. The drink looked like milk but wasn’t.
“What do you do when you meet new people?” Lando asked in turn.
“We don’t get too many visitors in Pitru. You may be our first visitor.” Turk said carefully.
“Whoa, you mean other people from other planets don’t visit?” Lando asked, surprised.
“You don’t have to shout, Lando.” Turk said, covering the side of his head with his hands.
“I’m not shouting. I’m just so excited. And surprised.” Lando said. Then, after a while asks “But why not?”
“Why not what?”
“Why don’t you get visitors?” Lando persisted.
Turk looked outside then at Lando. “A long time ago, people from other planets visited us. But they brought trouble. They were noisy with loud contraptions and equipments. We are a quiet people. We don’t like trouble. Or noise.”
“I’m not here to bring trouble. I come in peace” Lando assures Turk. But how do you talk with each other if everyone has to be so quiet?”
“We still speak to each other, but in soft voices. Also, we do not ask unimportant questions or talk nonsense.” Turk only looks at Lando. For the second time, Lando thought Turk looks sad.
Lando had a million and one questions to ask, but only said “Oh.”
They drank in silence. It seemed a long time. Finally Turk says in his soft voice “Thank you Lando. I had a wonderful time with you. That was fun. Now we sleep.”
“Huh? We only drank!” Lando answers, surprised. “I’m not sleepy yet!”
“Softly please or the others will hear us!” Turk goes.
“Oops, sorry. But we haven’t done anything yet. Maybe we could play?” Lando whispers.
“Play? That requires one to be noisy. And it is unimportant.” Turk explains softly, looking at Lando.
“But, what do you do for fun?” Lando leans near Turk to ask.
“Fun? This is fun, to sit with someone quietly. But now we sleep. You need to rest if you want to explore Pitru tomorrow” Turk says.
Turk showed Lando to a soft, comfortable cushion in a corner. But try as he might, Lando could not sleep. He looked out the window and watched as the people of Pitru walked here and there without making a noise. It was strange but good not to hear the honk and vroom-vroom of cars.
“Approaching planet Xerus in 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1. Touchdown” Control’s voice sounded in Lando’s ears.
Lando rubbed his eyes and looked around without rising. He was back in his spaceship. Where is Turk? Where is Pitru 016? I am having such a crazy dream, he thought.
“Control, I thought we were in Pitru 016?” Lando asked, uncertain.
“Yes, we were. But we are now in the planet Xerus. I thought you wanted to explore?” Control asks.
“Uh, um, yes, I do. Alright, let’s see how planet Xerus is like.” Lando says.
Outside, Xerus looks green. There were big trees with dark leaves. There were lots of bushes in light and bright green. The grass he was standing on was soft, slippery and neon green. Lando could not help but smile. Xerus looked like a happy planet.
“Heelooo!” chirped a voice from somewhere high.
Lando looked up and saw people sitting on the branches of a big, wide tree. “Hello there!”
“Heeloo, heeloo, heeloo!” chirped other voices as they slid down vines and ropes.
A boy smaller than Lando approached. The boy had colorful feathers instead of hair and wore a colorful outfit. His arms and legs were thin and smooth. He was smiling at Lando. Other children gathered around Lando.
“I’m Siti!” said the boy in a sing-song voice.
“And I’m Mota.”
Siti, Natu, Tepi and Mota were all smiling. They touched Lando as they greeted him.
Lando smiled. “I’m Lando from the planet Earth.”
“Come Lando, join us!” said Siti as he and the others started to climb the nearest tree.
Lando ran after them and started to climb. Siti, Natu, Tepi and Mota cheered Lando as he slowly tried to climb the tree. Once up, Lando’s eyes widened and “Whoa! We are so very high up!”
“Don’t worry, I won’t let you fall” says Mota, tying a vine around Lando’s waist and holding the other end.
“Would you like to play with us?” asks Natu. “Come on Lando Earthling, let’s fly!” Natu shouts as she runs and jumps to another branch. The others laugh and follow.
“I will hold you safe” Mota says and with a laugh and a wink, runs ahead of Lando.
Lando runs and jumps along with the others, from branch to branch, from tree to tree. There were other children running in nearby trees. The air was full of their laughing and chirping.
Soon, Lando was out of breath. “I need to rest” Lando explains between gulps of air. The others tweeted cheerfully and sat near the trunk of the tree. Tepi was cleaning Natu’s feathers and Siti was sharing a bowl of red nuts with Mota. They look so happy together, Lando thought. Lando sat just outside the circle of friends. He watched as Siti, Natu, Tepi and Mota cleaned each others’ feathers and shared food and drinks. Lando watched as the green sky darkened to red. The other children in the nearby trees sat in groups too.
“Come Lando,” Tepi calls. They walk round the other side of the big tree trunk. Tepi shows Lando a green nest of grass and leaves. “You could rest here,” Tepi smiles.
Tepi walks to the far side of the branch where her other friends are. They had a big nest, big enough for the four to snuggle and sleep in. Lando looked at the other trees and saw other big green nests with 3 to 4 children all tucked in.
Lando lay down. He could see the red sky peeping through the green roof of leaves. Xerus is a beautiful and happy planet, Lando thought. Everyone cared for each other. Surrounded by these happy Xerus children, Lando felt so alone. He missed Pete and the neighborhood children. They too ran around and played games. They called to each other and went in and out of each other’s homes.
Lando did not know how long he stayed awake, staring at the red sky. He did not know when he closed his eyes.
“Lando, Lando!” someone shouted. Lando turned to his side. “Lando, Lando!” came the shout again. It was a loud voice, not the chirping of the Xerus children. Lando slowly sat up. He looked around and saw the familiar walls of his bedroom. Honk-honk went the cars and buses. Vroom-vroom went the motorcycles. Lando rubbed his eyes. He was home! He never thought he could miss home so much.
Lando jumped out of bed and looked out the window. Pete was shouting from the street, calling to him. Lando waved back and laughed. That was a very, very weird dream, he thought. Today, he would play in the street with Pete and their friends. He could read his space book some other time. He reached for his new book on the bed to put in the bookshelf. As he grabbed his book, some red nuts rolled to the floor.