Twenty minutes later the tropical floral scent had been replaced my the distinct odor of burnt flesh. He upholstered his weapon, checked that the safety was off, and proceeded with caution.
A faint honking noise tickled at his ear drums. “Geese?” he thought, “perhaps some cousin of the endangered Hawaiian Nene.” The sound grew with every footstep and his hand involuntarily increased its grip on the gun in his right hand.
As he stepped out of the forest he was nearly knocked back into the trees by a vehicle whizzing by close to the shoulder of a paved road. The stench of cooking fires assaulted his nostrils.
He saw large signs extending off into the distance along the left-hand side of the road: “Best Buy”, “Costco”, Office Depot”, “Starbucks.” In the other directions these read “McDonald’s”, “Bed Bath & Beyond”, “ Container Store”, and “Chevron.”
He made sure that “Location Services” were activated on his e-reader and checked the guidebook. “Maybe there is a magnetic anomaly that is skewing the e-compass” he thought. Then he checked the guidebook’s publication date: Star Date 21-0135-255. He punched another button and the device translated it into Earth C.E. (Christian Era) chronology: 1769. He hit “Calendar” and asked for “Current Earth Date”; the readout said April 22, 2010. A small asterisk led him to this notation: “40th anniversary of Earth Day.”
As he retraced his steps through the jungle back to his spaceship he muttered under his breath “Serves me right for being too cheap to buy a current guidebook before leaving home. Paradise was lost here long, long ago.”
(“Travel fiction” is just that: Stories that involve travel, but are made up of whole cloth, and not necessarily based, even in part, on real people, real places, or real events. I was prompted to write this story by these items from the week’s news: The 40th celebration of “Earth Day”; “Is Paradise always an island?” a travel story by Georgia Hesse that appeared in the Sunday, April 26, 2010 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle; and finally, a report that renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has warned Earthlings to avoid contract with extraterrestrial beings of whose existence and unfriendly attitude towards our planet he is convinced).