J1. Uncle Featherway

Uncle Featherway sat beside Dan’s unconscious form slumped across the bar. “Is your friend okay?”

“He could use some time unconscious.” Jay pat Dan on the back. “Mister Featherway, are you ready for our interview?”

“Sure, sure. I’ve got time until my train comes in.” Uncle Featherway ordered a beer and straightened his tinfoil fedora. “You wanted to hear about Virgil Blue?”

“Yes, please. I recently met the Virgils on the Islands of Sheridan but Virgil Blue never spoke to me.” Jay prepared his pen and notepad. “I wondered if you had anything to add to the stoic silence.”

“Only more silence,” said Uncle Featherway. “The monks came to Wyoming the same weekend my niece Faith visited and I took her to Sheridan Cliff-Side College. The monks carried the Virgil onto a lectern like a little throne, and Virgil Blue sat there for half an hour.”

“Were all the monks silent?”

“Well, one in sky-blue robes said a few words at first.” Uncle Featherway sipped his beer. “But Virgil Blue didn’t say anything. It was their inflection that made the silence seem important.”

“Important?”

“Like…” Uncle Featherway put down his beer and waved a hand. “Like they were revealing secrets of the universe.”

“Really? Did you learn anything?”

“Nothing I didn’t already know.” Uncle Feather puffed his chest and sipped more beer. “Hearing it from Virgil Blue just confirmed it.”

“Hearing nothing from Virgil Blue confirmed…” Jay spun his pen. “What, exactly?”

“Do you know about cargo cults? When we dropped aid on island tribes in World War Two some tribes built fake airplanes out of scraps. They hoped statues would bring the sky-gods back.

“I’ve heard of them, yes.”

“All religions are cargo cults. When aliens created us, we didn’t understand what we were seeing. We tried to explain it to one-another and to our kids. Over generations the explanations became religions.”

Jay sensed the conversation had drifted off topic. “What was Virgil Blue wearing?”

“A navy robe with a hood, and a silver face-mask which looked like an alien.”

“Could you draw the mask you saw?” Jay passed the notepad and pen over Dan’s unconscious body. Uncle Featherway put the notepad on Dan’s back so Jay could see him draw.

“See, it had big bug-eyes with criss-cross marks. It had a bulbous snout with a straight mouth. And it had two long antennae to receive cosmic waves.”

“Huh.” Jay took the pen and drew his own rendition of the Blue Virgil’s mask. “I think I saw the same mask, but I thought it was a bird. I thought what you called antennae were long feathers.”

J1 pictb

“Could be. Feathers are sensitive to cosmic waves.”

“And I thought the bulbous snout was a round beak.”

“Aliens can have beaks. Like an octopus or a squid.” Uncle Featherway finished his beer. “What about the criss-cross bug-eyes?”

“I dunno,” said Jay. “I saw a statue of a bird with the same eyes. I figured it was a stylistic choice.”

“Well, sometimes we see what we want to see.” Uncle Featherway returned the notepad to Jay. “Anyway, the Sheridanians seemed closer to the original aliens than any other religion.”

“Earlier you said there were different kinds of aliens,” said Jay. “What kinds are there?”

“Oh, all kinds. You’ve got your gold-miners, your mind-readers…” Uncle Featherway ate some complementary mixed nuts. “But really they’re all the same. There’s variety but they’re all aliens. They all come from the same place.” He pointed up.

“Hm.”

“When they made humans, they used their own DNA,” he continued. “So we’re all space-aliens in the end.”

“How insightful.”

“Yeah, it’s too bad Faith didn’t enjoy the lecture.” Uncle Featherway almost removed his fedora out of respect for the dead, but instead only tipped it to keep the protective tinfoil on his head. “She left halfway through.”

“How many people were there?”

“The monks had a whole lecture hall, but it was mostly empty. The monks made most of the audience.”

“Did you know anyone else in the audience? Any friends I could talk to?”

“Nope.”

Jay rest his head on his hand and spun his pen in contemplation. “Someone at the college must have coordinated the event. Maybe I could contact them.”

“Sorry I wasn’t more helpful.”

“You were extremely helpful. Thanks for taking the time to talk.” Jay pocketed his notepad and pen and pulled out his phone. He looked up Sheridan Cliff-Side College’s contact page. “I should give their event coordinator a call.”

“Why not come to Wyoming? Then you could interview them in person and check out the lecture hall yourself.”

“Not a bad idea, but I’ll still call her to let her know my plans.”

“Wanna come with me to Wyoming? You can sleep on my couch.”

Jay bit his lower lip. “Would I be a bother?”

“Any friend of Faith is a friend of mine.” Uncle Featherway shook Jay’s hand. “Call me Bob. Bob Featherway.”

“Jay Diaz-Jackson. When does your train leave?”

“Four hours from now.”

Jay bought himself a ticket on his phone. “Four hours is short notice to travel cross-country, but I’m used to picking up my life and moving. Hey, Bob, does your couch have room for two?”

“Oh, sure. It’s a fold-out.” Bob looked from Jay to Dan. “What, you mean him? Don’t you think you should wake him up and ask if he wants to come?”

“He told me to take him to Sheridan just before you walked in. The mountain air will be good for him.”

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