Having no desire to interrupt such a strange and curious tale, nobody said a word. Kitamura-san put down the coffee cup and resumed his account.
At that time, bathed in the silver light, I was able to get a good look at the lizard man. Oddly enough, its overall form resembled that of a human being. It had arms and legs and could stand on its own two feet. I was struck by the realization that, even out there in the universe, the most convenient physical shape was that of a human being here on Earth.
But this creature possessed a weapon that no human could equal—its wings. We can only fly through the air in an airplane. It can do so under its own power. And the webbing between its fingers and toes would enhance its swimming skills in the water as well. Surely it could submerge itself and swim like an alligator.
In the air, on the land, in the sea—this creature could move at will through any environment. This was no mere creature but an advanced life form with far-ranging abilities.
It had a striped body like a lizard, a rainbow of green and purple and yellow. Only its face was less than beautiful. Of all the animals on Earth, the face most closely resembled that of a bird. There was no protruding nose beneath the eyes but a large and pointed mouth. No teeth or fangs. All I observed were its purple gums.
Just as the lumberjack described, it had the eyes of a snake. When caught in their gaze, like being shocked by electricity, the muscles freeze up and the body refuses to move. Eyes like nothing I can imagine encountering elsewhere on this planet. I am hardly surprised that a look with those eyes alone would make that burly lumberjack swoon.
When I was first taken inside the flying saucer, the creature’s appearance was so overwhelming as to leave me in something of a daze. I couldn’t look at it without turning away or shutting my eyes. I had to accustom myself for a good two, three days before I could take a good long look at it.
I lived with the creature for the following month and gradually grew accustomed to its presence. As I came to understand that it wasn’t going to eat me and that it possessed an intellect far more powerful than any human being, the fear and loathing diminished. In time, the multicolored lizard even began to look beautiful.
At this point, Detective Akechi interjected, “But why kidnap you in the first place? Especially if it intended you no harm?”
“I am getting to that exact point,” Kitamura-san said.
Its purpose for abducting me was to learn how to communicate with human beings. Of course, I only speak Japanese. And yet in no more than a month, it had largely mastered the language. As I said, a formidable intelligence, only needing a single hearing to remember a word or phrase permanently, like a tape recorder was turning inside its head.
Once it had mastered a rudimentary ability to converse, I explained that there are dozens of countries on Earth whose inhabitants speak different languages. This came as a great surprise. On its home planet, they all share the same language.
You might naturally ask which of the creature’s words I remember. I’m afraid I have nothing to report in that regard. When it chattered on in its own language, I understood not a thing. It was interested only in learning Japanese and made no attempt to teach me its native tongue. Nor did it have anything to say about what star it came from, no matter how often I asked about that and other matters, such as the secret mechanics of the flying saucer.
When I dwelt on subjects like this too long, it flashed me a severe look, a look that could not be mistaken as anything other than anger. Discretion being the better part of valor, I learned to leave well enough alone.
So I remained in the dark as to the form and substance of its language. As to the means by which I was able to teach it Japanese, well, it comes to the advanced technology of that creature’s world. It has an extraordinarily useful device. I call it the “magic mirror,” because that is exactly what it is. At first glance, it looked like a round silver metal tray. When I brought my face closer to it, I did not see my reflection as in a typical mirror, but a reflection of my mind. The thoughts of the person holding the mirror are displayed like a photograph on the surface of the silver plate. In short, a movie of the mind.
I have no idea how this is accomplished, only that it represents the incomprehensible technology of a civilization somewhere out there in the universe—so far beyond the science on this planet that magic may be the most accurate way to describe it.
For example, when the creature indicated my clothing and wanted to know what it was, I only had to picture “clothing” in my mind. Upon doing so, the image of my clothing was projected onto the mirror. All I had to do was point at it and explain that it was “clothing.” Of course, I could have drawn pictures and accomplished the same thing, but using the magic mirror was so much faster and more efficient.
After five days of such instructions, we were able to carry on a rudimentary conversation. The lizard man’s first words to me were truly alarming.
“If you escape, turn into the ash, you will.”
Though I understood this to be a grave threat, I was unsure what “ash” referred to. A type of tree was one possibility. Using the magic of that alien civilization, it intended to turn me into a tree. When I raised this interpretation in alarm, the creature left the saucer and flew away. It returned a short time later with a small monkey. Given its wings, the creature was easily able to pluck the animal from the branch of a tree.
After restraining the animal with the aforementioned soft metal to keep it from running away, the alien took hold of a small silver round object that tapered to a point at one end. The object resembled a rubber bulb syringe.
The lizard man aimed the pointed end at the monkey and squeezed the bulb. The elastic metal behaved just like a bulb syringe. A stream of gas rushed out in a smoky white jet and struck the monkey.
Recalling that moment and the terrifying properties of the gas still sends a cold chill down my spine. No sooner did the jet reach the animal but the monkey vanished in a flash, leaving behind a pile of ash. A living animal transformed into dead ash in a split second.
That was the meaning of “ash.” Not a tree but what is left when a tree is devoured by fire. The space alien told me that I would be turned to ash if I tried to run away. And then went out of its way to illustrate the point.