The Long Trip
He said there was no training necessary, and, that most of those who wanted to go were older, and not necessarily in good physical condition. I must tell you; I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and I could see I really needed to give this a lot more thought, so I thanked him and hung up.
Oh, as one will often do, I forgot about it for a few weeks, then I ran into my friend, Dan and it suddenly hit me. It was likely because I had thought of him when the guy told me no training was necessary. I mean, old Dan seemed too always be up for something like this. He would do most anything on a whim and this thing, well, it would fit him perfectly. No training, no concern about physical fitness. Just as I thought, it piqued his interest as much as it had mine. I was a little embarrassed when Dan asked if it cost anything? It was an important question, and I hadn't even thought to ask. It might cost a fortune, and if that were the case, neither he nor I could afford it.
When Dan and I were kids, we loved to go to the movies, downtown; a couple of ten-year-old's, riding the bus from Highland Park, all the way to the bus barn in downtown Louisville. Sure, it really was only about six or seven miles, but it seemed so much farther to us. After all, we were on an adventure. We would always see a few movies, and apparently one of them had put this idea in my head, and it never went away. I've been carrying it around all these years, in fact, from the first time we saw our first space movie, and Robbie the Robot. That movie sparked something in me, and I have dreamed about travelling into space ever since. I should have asked the price, but I just forgot. It sounded expensive, though, and I guess I was afraid to ask, for fear I couldn’t afford it. Anyway, Dan convinced me to call Mr. Van Meter again to ask what the charge would be, and even said he would be in, provided the price was reasonable.
I forgot about it for a few weeks, then I ran into my friend, Dan and for some reason I thought of it again. It could have been because I had thought of him when the guy told me no training was necessary. I mean, old Dan seemed to always be up for something like this. He would do most anything on a whim and this thing would fit him perfectly. No training, no concern about physical fitness. Just as I thought, it piqued his interest as much as it had mine.
Having a friend to go with me bolstered my confidence, and for the rest of the afternoon we talked about old times; when as kids, we had actually talked about travelling into space, visiting the stars. Even in our youth, we thought there were others like us out there somewhere, probably on planet beyond our solar system. We could even imagine meeting exact duplicates of ourselves. When we smiled, they smiled, when we raised our hand, they did the same. Every move we made; they were making that same move. I remember how we laughed about certain unspeakable things we would be doing at the same time. What a memory that was, and here we were, two grown men, laughing again, just as we did as kids, all those years ago.
I was surprised when Mr. Van Meter said he was expecting my call. He said he had wondered why I hadn't asked what he would charge, but he knew, if I was really interested, I would call back. When I told him there were now two of us interested, he was quite pleased and said, "the more, the merrier." He also said, there's more to tell, and he invited Dan and me to come to his seminar, which was scheduled for the first Saturday in June, at 2:00 pm, That was just next month, and he said he would reveal the cost at that time, to which I said, "if it's very significant amount, neither Dan, nor I, will be able to participate." But, he just said not to worry about that, and that he was sure I would be pleased once I had heard the entire story. Well, I felt pretty good about it, so I made reservations for two, then I called Dan and told him to put it on his calendar. We could be in space this time next month. Wow!
Dan and I decided to meet for lunch the day of the seminar, to prepare ourselves for what we were about to hear. We both had lots of questions, and we were excited to find out more. Dan wondered why Mr. Van Meter had said that no training was necessary (?). I had to admit, that would seem to be a major question. After all, we both knew the Astronauts had undergone rigorous training, both mental and physical, so why would we not be doing something similar? Would we merely be passengers in a ship manned by someone who had endured such training? We both would feel a lot better if this were the plan. On the other hand, I had questions about the number of people going (?). If the number was large, it would follow that the ship had to be large, and if the number was smaller, wouldn't it cause the charge per person to increase? That’s a pretty serious question, too.
We arrived about fifteen minutes early, and were surprised to find the room almost entirely full. It was a pretty big room and Dan and I estimated there were about 500 people, or so, in the auditorium. I noticed there was more gray hair in that bunch than I believe I've ever seen in my whole life. In fact, Dan and I were part of only a small number who had hair at all, and the place was abuzz with both male and female heads bobbing up and down, like typewriter keys. I've never heard such a loud, obviously excited bunch, in my life, and when Mr. Van Meter came to the stage, the crowd erupted. In fact, we all stood to welcome him. He had a standing ovation, and he hadn’t even said one word.
It was obvious Mr. Van Meter was pleased. He wore a big smile on his bearded face as he slowly took notice of the entire audience, again, gesturing several times as if he personally knew many of the participants. I wasn't sure, but I thought he looked directly at Dan and me, and even made eye contact with me, at least he waved in my direction. It was a little puzzling, because I knew he had no way of knowing me. After all, we had never really met. Here’s another thing that threw me; today, he had introduced himself as "Doctor" Van Meter, which did surprise me. He had never mentioned his Doctorate in either of our conversations.
Meanwhile, my friend Dan had a puzzled look on his face, to which I just shrugged my shoulders. He had no way of knowing I was thinking back to the ad in the paper; it was the reason I called him in the first place, and I know it said, "Ask for Mr. Van Meter!"
The first five minutes were devoted to a film depicting the universe, and it was spectacular. It showed an array of stars, planets and comets, and I tell you, it was beautiful and uplifting. Afterward, the Doctor answered one of the questions I had about training. He told us, despite what some may say, none of us needed training to travel too, or through the Universe. "In fact," he said, "we are all natural astronauts, every one of us. We will all, someday, return from whence we came, that being from somewhere in the beautiful universe." OK, I thought, he may very well be right about that, and I glanced toward Dan to see what he might be thinking. His rather incredulous look, told me he was beginning to get a bit uncomfortable. Nevertheless, we were here and here we would stay, until we had heard every detail.
The big surprise came next.
The Doctor picked up a bible and began to read;
“John 14:1-6 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "LORD, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me."
The Doctor, once again, looked slowly across the audience, allowing those words to sink in. They were beautiful words from Jesus, with the promise of eternal life. Did the Doctor want us to believe he was Jesus, returned to take all of us to heaven with him? His long silence became disturbing after a while, and low whispering begin to ripple through the crowd.
Dan, who was generally outspoken anyway, didn't find it necessary to whisper, and spoke out loud enough for several rows to hear, "What the Hell, Jim? This guy ain't Jesus, returned to take the saints to heaven! This guy’s a huckster, man!"
The Doctor must have heard him, because he immediately said, "I offer you the opportunity to go to the heavens early, and take the Christ up on his promise of eternal life. You will all go there some day, anyway, my friends. Why not now? I will see that you get the proper send off, my friends, and all for only the small amount of, $500. That will cover the cost of both the drug, and its administration, and I can promise you, you will feel absolutely no pain. Isn't that what you want, my friends? Do you not want to go home to your forever home and life in the beautiful heavens of Jesus?”
Dan and I were were on our feet quickly, headed for the door, but as I looked back, only a few in the crowd were following us. Dan and I just wanted to escape, but we could see the line at the table was long, and we could see cash exchanging hands. The Doctor was smiling again, a broad, toothy smile. I suppose my accounting background made me do it; I was calculating the amount of money he was about to pocket. I caught Mr., or rather, Dr. Van Meter’s eye for an instant, and his stare was like a magnate, a beacon, beckoning me to return, and I slowed and almost stopped. I was so glad Dan had me by the arm, steering me toward the door.
The curious are often sorry for their curiosity. Thankfully, neither Dan nor I would be among those making our way into space today, or, however, wherever the Doctor was about to send about three hundred souls.
Hmmm, at least $150,000...... Minimum............ ??