"WHO ARE YOU....WHAT ARE YOU?"
The next day I inquired of Ivan how I might learn what had been happening
in Russia since my death.
"Why, we can go to the library," he said, "and I have a friend at the theater in the nearby city. Between shows he'll be more than glad to show you the newsreels."
"If you could arrange that it would be nice!" I told him. "Presently I think I will go to the library and read."
I began with the Russian papers and many days I spent wearily reading.
Here the papers were not just copies of those that were printed in the material world, but in the back of each paper was a description of what was really occurring. These were not pleasing things for me to read, and I soon learned that Truth was one thing that was sadly lost in Russia, worse than any other place.
I was not very good company for Ivan and his associates for many weeks, spending my days at the library and going home only to rest and return again. But I was left alone. One evening, however, I joined Ivan for supper.
"Ivan," I asked, "I do not question The Truth of what I read in the papers, or I see in the newsreels. But I cannot see into the other world. How is this information gathered?"
Ivan puffed his long, clay pipe and looked thoughtful. "I really don't know my friend!" he said, "I have never considered the thought. Not of much importance to me, I suppose. But I'll find someone that can answer your question. The Children Of The Lords have an information bureau for new Souls. I'm sure they can help. I'll send a telegram tomorrow."
I thanked Ivan and returned to my work, returning to my newspapers the next day. I was deeply engrossed in reading when someone walked up "Mr. Lenin?" he asked.
I looked up and nearly fell out of my seat! Beside me stood a six foot lizard, with surprisingly human features!
"Yes, I am Lenin," I answered.
"Thundering Turtle," the other explained, extending his hand. "I've been sent from the information bureau. You have a question on how we gather information?"
I took his extended hand. "Yes," I said, "is it permitted to ask....what are you?"
My visitor laughed. "I wish they'd warn people," he replied. "I'm a Hashon. I have only lived a couple of human lifetimes so I still have most of the characteristics of my native race. I assure you, you will get used to us. We usually stay out of the sectors where there are new arrivals until they have a chance to adjust. I was told you were quite stable. I thought you had been briefed on aliens."
"Oh, I've seen you at a distance," I told him, "but this is the first time up close. You are handsome creatures."
Thundering Turtle laughed. "I've been ordered to take you on a tour of the information center. It's the quickest way to answer your question. If you will follow me...."
We stepped through a library exit and I found myself not in the village, but on a beautiful parkway leading to an impressive building.
"You see," Thundering Turtle began, "different Spirits have different talents. Some of us can see into the material world through the eyes of others there, and vice versa. Some of them can see and hear what goes on over here." We entered the building and he continued to explain. "Each day an operative in the material world reads the local newspapers. Our workers here simultaneously type what they receive, and it is sent out by wireless telegraph to the appropriate papers here, simultaneously. The rest of the staff gathers information on what is really going on, types the articles, and they, also, are transmitted."
He led me into a large room. "This is our Russian bureau. Some of the machines will be strange to you. We have far advanced communications and information storage over anything mankind has yet developed. We need so few people because we use machines called computers. They are just beginning to develop them on Earth. We are concerned about Earth's rapid technological development. They may soon have weapons they are far from ready to deal with."
I marveled at all I saw. "I understand this," I said, "but how do you get film...pictures?"
My guide motioned me to follow. "This is our Russian cinema duplication center," he said, "these people sitting in front of these machines are viewing a movie through the eyes of one of our living agents. As they do so, their thoughts are projected onto the film just as an ordinary camera works. When they are done we can take these masters and make as many copies as we wish."
"Amazing," I told Thundering Turtle. "But why do you do all this?"
"People like to know what's going on back home," my guide answered. "It's part of dealing with existence here. People would go mad without some knowledge of what is happening to their loved ones. The news service here is very important to the stability of our inhabitants. It is one of our three greatest industries, only third to entertainment and those who work Guiding the living and saving those who have taken the wrong path. Eternity can be awful boring with only your own thoughts to keep you company. I think that kills more people in The Darkness than anything else....the loneliness produced by their fear is devastating!"
"I appreciate you taking all this time," I told him, "to show me your work. I suppose radio broadcasts are monitored in a similar manner?"
My Guide nodded. "They are received directly by a listener," he said, "and transmitted out unedited. A different frequency is used for the true news."
"It's too bad," I told my guide, "that two frequencies must be used."
My Guide nodded. "We have to deal with reality," he replied, "man's nature to deceive himself is his worst attribute. Is there anything else I can show you?"
"No! No!" I told him, "I have imposed too much on you as it is, but I am most appreciative of your efforts, and what you do for people here. I give you my thanks."
My Host nodded. "Then I will leave you," he said, "if you leave as you entered you will find yourself again in the midst of Ivan's village. The Lords be with you."
I looked at him strangely.
"Oh," he said, "the traditional parting of my people."
I made the same gesture he had made with his hands, bowed politely, and repeated the parting, then returned to Ivan's village.
At supper that night I asked Ivan if I could meet more aliens, and have them tell me of their worlds. His other companions encouraged him on the idea, and a series of interesting evenings began.
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