It wasn’t just one of those days. It was THE day. At least it seemed that way, for a few minutes, then Tara realized that it was a rare week that went by without a disaster.
Take this morning for example. She’d been driving home and heard the sound of an explosion, then sirens, and then saw a huge black cloud coming from the sky. She assumed that it was a fire in a field or an old warehouse occupied by homeless tweekers. She stopped to get gas, then by the grocery store to pick up cat food.
She turned into her street and saw that it was her garage.
“Dingus,” she whispered. Her dog raised his head from the back seat of her car. “Amber,” she said out loud. “Oh no. Amber.”
The detached garage was gone. Firefighters were working on keeping the rest of the house from burning down. Tara parked and ran down the street towards her house. Dingus ran after her.
Her neighbor Sue was standing outside with a beer in her hand. She approached Tara and stopped her from getting too close to the fire. “I have Amber. Your kitty is safe sweetie.”
“What about the guys in the garage?” Tara looked at the fire with tears coming down her cheek.
“I’m going to assume they’re gone. Holy shit, to come all this way and blow themselves up in a garage fire,” said Sue. “I told them just the other day to lay low and not fool with stuff. They never listened. That is on of the great faults of history. Nobody listens to the natives. They have to think they know better. They have to think their technology is always better.”
The women watched as the fire was put out, then Tara approached one of the fire fighters. She held her big Lab mix Dingus close and told him not to jump.
“Hey, Dingus,” he said as he pulled off a glove and put his and on the dog’s head. “I’m so sorry Tara. This is so weird. We thought there was someone in your garage. Maybe… I don’t know. It was weird, like someone running around in the flames. Then we didn’t see them. Was there anyone who might have been in your garage?”
“No, Joe. The only thing I had in there was Dale’s old Mustang, a few tools, and gardening stuff. My Costco stash was in there too, you know toilet paper, paper towels, charcoal. But I kept the lighter fluid in the house. I had a couple of gas cans for the power tools but they were empty.”
They talked some more about the weird explosion and fire. The a handsome officer from the Sheriff Department asked some general questions. He said someone would be out to investigate. Tara called her insurance company, then called her mom and her boss.
After all of the emergency crews had gone, and the yellow tape was around my garage, Sue and Tara poked around a bit.
The women couldn’t find any trace of anything. That included Tara’s deceased brother Dale’s 1965 Mustang convertible. It was a sweet ride – white with a red interior. Dale had loved that car. So had Tara.
Sue looked down at the burnt out garage then at Tara. “Do you think they took the car?”
“Looks that way,” said Tara.
Later that night Sue’s husband and kids came home from a school field trip. They speculated on what might have happened. They decided not to tell the fire department or Sheriff about their own theories.
Despite the smoke smell Tara decided to stay in her house that night. Joe came over later and spent the night. They shared a bottle of wine, made love, and Tara didn’t tell him anything about her garage.
Far away on the moon Titan, circling the planet Saturn, Dolf and Wheeze drove into the underground city in Dale’s 1965 Mustang. They thought their parents were going to kill them for crashing their ship in Tess’s back yard. They’d even get more shit for blowing up her garage. They’d put a chip in Amber’s neck to make sure they’d know what was happening on Earth. Amber seemed to know everything. She was their best long-term connection. But for now they just wanted to settle in from the long trip and cruise with their friends. Life was good, especially for Titan teens.
Oscar the Tuxedo Cat and Gloria the Calico Cat. It is too hot to go out and play today so they’re going to stay in and read.
I’ve always been slightly suspicious about people who say they don’t like cats. Three of my closest friends are allergic to cats but they still don’t hate them. My weirder than weird cat Angus used to visit a neighbor who was allergic to cats. When we weren’t home he’d scratch at her front door then go sleep on a corner of her couch for a few hours. Angus hated everyone except my husband and his friend across the street. Cats rock. I have two. They’re assholes and they’re completely devoted to me. I love them. I think I love almost every cat in the world. Today for your reading pleasure I’m suggesting THREE options for those who love cats, or just love a GREAT stories from master story tellers.
As a bonus I’ve included a short cat story at the end of this post.
Spence and Nameless
I recently had the pleasure of meeting author Dave Henderson (online but hey, we’re still social distancing).
His stories about Spence are such a delight and so original. If you want to smile and like something a little different, a little odd, and exceptionally entertaining and well written check out his work.
The official description: Nameless is just a fella who values his solitude. His only companion is a big ol’ orange and white tabby cat named Spence. They are just livin’ the life, out in their shack outside town, ‘Close enough so it ain’t so bad to get supplies, and far enough out soz no one bothers much, and the sky is open at night.’ Until one day, when Spence disappears … and things get really fecked up.
Whatever you do, never get between a man and his cat.
One of my favorite books of 2019. It is still one of my favorite new books. I can’t wait for the next one. It is a wild, crazy, and unexpected ride, AND there is a CAT.
by L.A. Guttler
“Red Darkling”, is a runaway Science Fiction, Fantasy, Smart Thriller, Comedy, HIT. If you haven’t read it already you need to NOW.
I loved this book and can’t wait for the next one to come out.
I’m a BIG FAN of Red and her cat and of course her Granny. For several years now I’ve been following Red’s adventures through L.A. Guettler’s short stories about Red. OMG you’ll fall in love with her.
Here is the official description:
Red Darkling’s ship is a weevil-infested piece of junk. Her smuggling business barely brings in enough credits to buy cheap beer. Alien creeps think a blaster can get them favors when their charm fails. Her only company is a glitchy cat and the occasional hook-up. Her life is dirty, dangerous, and lonely: just how she likes it.It all takes a turn for the worse when things start going well. A little too well. Partying with movie stars, weekends in paradise, troublesome people turning up dead-it’s maddening. Who is this anonymous benefactor, and why does he think she needs protecting?
Also check out the great cover by artist Jason Kemp. Nice.
Gloria give this book 5 out of 5 stars
Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe
WPaD Science Fiction Anthology
Looking for some Science Fiction AND cats? This is the book for you. I also have to add that this is another great cover from Jason Kemp.
I recommend all of the stories but especially these cat stories:
Rocket Cats are Go by David Hunter
Bonk by Lea Anne Guettler
Now do you need a quick cat story fix? Well, here you go.
The Offer (a fairy tale with a wizard, a kitten and a mysterious stranger)
A Short Story by Juliette Kings
Miles was the official Royal Wizard to the Kingdom of the Moonbeam Mountains. What the fuck kind of name was that for a Kingdom?
“I will NEVER be as good as my dad.” he thought brooding in the dark under the night sky on the roof with a bottle of 80 proof Dragon Blood.
Sitting alone in his castle by the sea he thought of her, the princess who’d more or less left him for another man. Hell, he never had her. She’d always been in love with someone else. They’d been together for ten years. In ten years she’d told him a thousand times that she loved him but at the same time she was running a fantasy in her head about another guy.
For the past 6 years they’d lived with each other almost full-time. Their father’s were best friends. Hers was the King of the Northwestern Kingdom, his father was the Royal Wizard there and their mother’s were girlfriends. Everything was perfect, just like it was supposed to be. Every single year he’d proposed to her. Every single year she’d told him that she wanted to wait. Wait for what? Now he knew. She was waiting for another guy.
He called to have his horse ready and took off to the local pub. At least there he could keep his mind off of things.
Half way to the pub he stopped to pull his gloves out of his saddle bag. He heard a noise on the side of the road. A teeny tiny gray and white kitten ran towards him. It couldn’t have been more than six weeks old.
“Oh sweetie,” he whispered to the kitten, “I can’t leave you out here alone.” He tucked the tiny cat under his coat and continued on.
As he entered the village gate he could hear the band playing at the pub and already see friends lingering around the front door. “Deep breath Miles,” he thought to himself knowing everyone would ask about his princess. They knew he’d left her. They didn’t know why or for how long. He didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe he’d just put a spell on the place to make them all shut up about it, but ethics and his own code of decency stopped him from it. There is no crime in being curious.
After dropping his horse off in safe hands he greeted the people outside then went in. He could feel the small body purring inside of his coat. There was something about a cat that could make one forget everything. Cats were so pure and so decadent and so useless and so calming and so everything that made the universe worth living in. Cats represented all that was. Not good or bad just everything.
He caught his reflection in a window. Blonde hair, board shoulders, blue eyes, dimples on his boy-next-door cheeks and a scar across his neck that would tingle every time she kissed him, no matter what violent memories it brought him.
Everyone greeted him. Big points were scored with the ladies when he cradled the purring kitten in the crook of his arm. Damn that kitty was cute. She looked up at him and mewed a purr dripped sound that was absolutely toxic cute. He could never get enough of that feeling of pure joy and love.
After ordering a brew Miles did a few tricks for the patrons. They always asked and he was glad to give them some shows of blue sparks, wispy smoke dragons and fairies flying over their heads and levitating beer steins. It was all good fun. Fun was always good especially with the way he was feeling.
The fact that he’d been alone for a few months hadn’t gone unnoticed. He could hear the gossip behind his back. He could feel the single women watching him and wanting him. There was no reason for him to be alone at night but he wasn’t ready yet for company in his cold bed.
He heard a voice at his shoulder. “Missing your homeland Wizard?”
Miles turned around to see a tall exceptionally thin man standing at his shoulder. He wore a good suit and a sarcastic smile on his face.
The man continued to speak. “Do you miss a warm princess next to you in your cold bed? Do you wish your magic was more powerful? Do you wish you’d get the same respect and power as your father has? I can give you all of that.”
“It isn’t wise to attempt to provoke a wizard, even a piss poor attempt like yours. I don’t know you sir, but I’m here to enjoy an evening with friends. Now if you’ll excuse me and my cat we’ve got others to talk to,” Miles said to the tall thin man.
“Give me that kitten and I’ll grant you three wishes,” the stranger said in a voice so smooth it made Miles cringe.
“I don’t want your wishes and I’m sure as Hell not giving you my cat.”
At a large table he sat with friends, joking and listening to their stories, but his senses were wide open to any evil that lurked in the building. The tall thin stranger occupied himself with another group, but Miles could feel his presence.
The kitten purred and played with everyone at the table. There was nothing special or magic about her except that she was a cat. “Just a cat,” thought Miles, “nothing more.”
Hours later, after he’d had a successful evening with friends who’d done more than a good job of cheering him up and getting him out of his gloomy mood, Miles arrived home. His staff would be in bed so he put the horse to bed for the night, gathered the kitten back under his coat and headed for the front door. The moonlight made the dark pathway easy. He took a deep breath of the salt air and listened to the waves crashing on the beach below.
“Welcome to my castle by the sea dear kitten,” he told his small purring friend. “You look like a Lizzie to me. How about it? Do you like that name my dear?” The kitten meowed and purred.
Looking up he saw a figure on the cliff. It was the annoying thin stranger from the pub.
“Wizard, give me the cat and I will give you everything you desire. I can make your princess love you. I can make you famous. I can bring you riches.”
“Get off my property or I’ll…” he thought a moment for the bad things he could do then spoke. “What’s so special about the cat?”
“Your princess for the cat Miles. Say the word and you’ll have what your heart desires.”
“I don’t know who you are but I don’t want a woman who loves me because of a spell. I want her to love me for the right reason. I want her to fall for me in a nice long romantic way of her own accord. Love spells are bull shit. Every wizard with any talent knows that. And any man who knows what his heart desires and knows what true love feels like knows that.”
“Give me the cat.”
“Is she yours? Don’t lie to me man. I’ll know if you’re telling me a lie.”
The stranger halted a bit. “Well, no.”
“Then what is it? I don’t want any wishes and I don’t trust you with a helpless kitten. What do you really want? Is this some sort of test? Or are you just a creepy stalker? What is it? Tell me.”
“Do you love your princess?” The man asked him as if he was accusing Miles of cheating.
“Sure I do but, it’s none of your business.” None of anyone’s business that she was in love with someone else. “Get the Hell off of my property.” Miles blasted the ground in front of the man with a bolt of orange lightning. The man jumped back. “Go or the next one will hit you.”
The man was gone. Miles was alone in the kitchen with the kitten. “What was that about? Do you know?”
The kitten just purred.
Three wishes. He laughed out loud a bitter laugh. What would he need with three wishes. He’d worked hard for everything he had. He was proud of what he’d accomplished. Being a wizard, much less one in a foreign country, wasn’t always easy. People depended on him.
He thought of calling her, his princess, but he decided to let it go, at least for tonight. She had left him letters and messages but he couldn’t get past the pain of betrayal.
He wondered who the skinny guy was and why he wanted the cat. Three wishes. It wasn’t worth it. He’d never trade his soul or the tiny stray he’d found on the side of the road. After all, wasn’t it the same thing? He had shown compassion to a small beast. He’d shown his soul.
The kitten didn’t start to talk. He kissed the top of her tiny head but she didn’t turn into a princess.
Taking out a piece of paper and a pen he started to write.
Tonight a strange skinny man offered me three wishes in exchange for a small kitten I found on the side of the road. The man said he could make you love me. I wasn’t tempted by the offer. If you love me I want it to be honest and true for me. No magic. No games. No more lies.
He wadded up the letter and made it vanish with a flash of blue smoke. It was no use. Heading up the stairs with the kitten in his arms he stopped at the sound of someone knocking on the door. “Damn you, I do not want your wishes.”
Jerking open the door Miles yelled, “I’m not giving you my kitten.”
But standing at the door wasn’t the tall skinny man, it was his princess. He brought her in and told her the story of the strange skinny man and the kitten. She listened in wonder and then they both went upstairs.
And did they live happily ever after? Maybe. Only time, or maybe the cat will tell.
How could the world end? The possibilities are endless:
A global pandemic (obviously), aliens, evil politicians, zombies in one form or another, or even … rogue sex robots? (wait-what?) are just a few of the ideas we came up with.
WPaD’s second volume of apocalyptic tales will shock, entertain, and tug at your heart strings. A must-have for any fan of dystopian fiction.
When we began work on our second apocalyptic anthology in early 2019, long before the world had ever heard of COVID-19, we never would have dreamed that toilet paper and hand sanitizer would become symbols of the apocalypse.
The pandemic pushed our release to a later date than anticipated. We assumed readers had more important things on their minds and might not be in the mood for apocalyptic fiction at that time. The lockdown allowed our writers more time to write, resulting in a larger collection of stories than originally anticipated. The backdrop of the pandemic colored the mood of some of the pieces, as you will see. We think of this book as the Extra-Big Bonus Pandemic Edition, written in a reality stranger than fiction.
Stay safe, wash your hands, and may your quarantine dreams be sweet ones.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman, and the Authors of WPaD
Available now in digital format. Paperback version will be available July 2020.
A THANK YOU in advance for reading my blog and Goin’ Extinct Too. If you enjoyed this book (or even if you didn’t), please take a moment to leave a review on Amazon to let other readers know what you thought of it.
WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants.
We are a diverse group of writers from around the world who share a love of writing and a taste for the unusual.
Other Books by WPaD:
Weirder Tales: An Omnibus of Odd Ditties
Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe: WPaD Science Fiction
Creepies: Twisted Tales From Beneath the Bed
Creepies 2: Things That go Bump in the Closet
Creepies 3: Nightmares on Deviant Street
Goin’ Extinct: Tales From the Edge of Oblivion
Dragons and Dreams: A Fantasy Anthology
Passion’s Prisms: Tales of Love and Romance
Tinsel Tales 2: Holiday Hootenanny
Tinsel Tales: A Holiday Treasury
Nocturnal Desires: Erotic Tales for the Sensual Soul
WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook. For more information, please visit our website: http://wpad.weebly.com/ Find WPaD Publications on Facebook for updates on our upcoming projects Or follow @wpadpublication on Twitter.
Martha put a lawn chair in front of the motor home and looked into the night sky. Sometimes the desert would get freezing at night, but tonight it was almost warm. A million stars showed in the sky above her. She’d heard stories of alien sightings in the desert. It was always the desert where they were sighted in the sky, or crashed. When they crashed nobody ever saw them again.
She wondered about the odd pale skinned creatures with long fingers, tiny mouths, and huge eyes. Maybe the huge eyes came from living on a dark planet, or living underground for eons.
It was weird how they never wore clothes. It was weird how they were shown as naked when in every science fiction movie and series, from Star Trek, to X-files, to Firefly, to Star Wars, to Gardians of the Galaxy, everyone always wore clothes.
The only time she remembered seeing a naked man in a movie in the desert was in The Hangover. It was in the desert, in Las Vegas. A naked guy jumped out of the trunk of a car. He wasn’t an alien.
Sam and Ian came out of the motor home with chairs and a small cooler. Sam handed Martha a beer. The thanked him, then they all sat and looked at the stars.
“Do you think there is anyone else out there? There has to be. We can’t be here all alone,” said Martha.
“I think we’re alone here. But I don’t think we’re alone in the universe or even this galaxy,” said Sam.
Martha glanced at her companions. Sam was tall, blonde and handsome as a man could be. Sam fit into any group with his tan skin, dark hair, and dazzling smile. Martha was typical of women in her hometown. She was pretty but not too pretty with plain brown hair that hung to her shoulders in a slight flip.
“I’m kind of homesick, but the people around here are nice. I think we should move back to the house in San Francisco in a few days, or maybe by that place we were looking at in Santa Cruze, you know by the beach. I could hang out there for a while.”
“We could start a family,” said Sam. Ian looked at Martha with a hopeful, and sort of sad smile.
“There is an Air Force base near Las Vegas. Maybe we should go over there and just give ourselves up.”
“Or maybe we should move to Santa Cruz,” said Ian.
“We’re never going home,” said Martha wiping a tear from her eyes.
“No love, we’re stuck on this planet. It’s not a bad place. We fit in. Let’s just make the best of it.”
Martha looked into the faces of her companions. I guess with their combined love they could pull through on this strange planet called Earth. She got another beer out of the cooler, popped the top, and too a long drink out of it.
“Sure guys, Santa Cruz sounds great,” she said. The she looked back to the sky and watched for something, anything familiar.
Sure we all volunteered with a capitol V but we didn’t know we’d be stuck a billion miles from home with a bunch of assholes.
Our plan was to stop at Planet 2387 before we made communication with our target planet. 2387 is an uninhabited wasteland. There might have been the rudiments of life there at one time but that ship had come and gone.
So we land at what was left of the Emile Hanson Memorial Outpost, otherwise known as Hanson’s Hole. I looked up Hanson’s name before we left home. He’d been the captain of the third Mars mission. You know, the one whose head exploded when he ran into a couple of guys from Europa, but that was a long time ago. That was almost three hundred years ago, long before I was born.
On the wall of the main building of Hanson’s Hole the words, “Welcome to Hell” were scrawled in what looked like blood.
Junior Potemkin, the communications officer, if you could call him that, started to hyperventilate. I slapped him in the back and told him to stop it. Captain John Finch our leader, rolled his eyes, and told us start testing for signs of life. I called my lead science officer and went exploring.
We’d only heard of this place. Nobody was sure even who’d been here in the past, or exactly what their mission was. We were looking at a ghost. And while the rest of the crew stood shaking in their gravity boots I started to explore. I didn’t travel twenty light years away from home to pee my pants over some extraterrestrial graffiti.
I’ll tell you, when I signed up for this gig, last minute of course, I found myself with the lamest group of space travelers ever assembled. Sure they were all smart and looked good on paper. Everyone had advanced degrees and shit loads of experience. But the experience was in the lab and on paper. Nobody had field experience or people experience aside from the Captain or me.
Potemkin was an expert in written communications but couldn’t carry on a conversation if his life depended on it. Our lead engineer Thomas K. Morgan was one of those insidious geeks who corrected everyone on every single word they said. Morgan’s favorite line in any conversation was, “actually” fill in the blank with his expert opinion, which was usually bullshit or worthless trivia. After we were out of the solar system Captain Finch told Morgan that he’d throw him out into space without a suit if he didn’t cut it out.
The rest of the group included a guy called Boof who thought he was channeling Flash Gordon, an antisocial hermit of a physicist who asked to be called X, and a pair of identical twins I called Satan’s Daughters. The twins, Vera and Meera, were sneaky little shits who talked at the same time and were never seen away from each other. They were brought on as some sort of geology experts, you know, dirt and rocks as they liked to remind everyone as they cackled like witches as if that was funny. They were dirt and rocks as far as I was concerned. The rest of the crew was bland, mean spirited, and aside from the Captain had no imagination what so ever.
So I’m looking at the writing on the wall and wondering what in the world, and who in the world had written it. I felt someone rub my shoulder and looked over to see Boof standing there expecting me to be Dale Arden to his Flash Gordon. Give me a break. He looks good but no. Absolutely no.
“Boof,” I said looking up at the leafy blue green canopy of plants (I assume they were maybe once plants) around the building. “Let’s take a look inside.”
He gave me a great big blinding white smile and knocked the door open with his foot. Boof wasn’t carrying a ray gun, but it wasn’t because we’re a couple of scientists with seven degrees between the two of us. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like scientists or people with degrees can’t be badass. We just didn’t have any weapons with us.
The interior was dark. Not like no lights, because there was a skylight, but because obviously the interior decorator of this forgotten outpost either had a stack of 1980’s Architectural Digest Magazines handy for inspiration, or he was into all things Gothic.
“Looks like vampires live here,” said Boof.
I gave an uncomfortable laugh and tried to be serious, that is until the music started to play. I couldn’t figure out where the music was coming from. The sound was sort of like it was coming out of a metal tunnel. A man was singing in sort of a strange high voice, but it sounded kind of nice.
You’re just a little bit of sunshine when it’s raining,
You’re just a little bit of gladness when I’m blue,
You’re just a little bit of love light that keeps shining,
And when it’s cloudy, you’re a silver lining.
“Radio Franks.You’re Just A Little Bit of Everything I Love,” said Boof.
I looked straight ahead at a slowly moving shadow. “How do you know that Boof?”
“I like early 20thCentury music,” he answered, his eyes also on the shadow.
“Sing me something from the late 21stCentury. You know the one, about the alien romance, ruby skin.”
Boof started to sing quietly in a surprisingly beautiful tenor.
Your DNA plays around,
Like a silken ghost,
Worlds apart are we.
Reach the stars
Ruby skin, emerald eyes,
Hot alien thighs.
Reach the stars
“I hate that song,” I said taking a slow step forward. “You changed the lyrics.”
“Yes, I did change the lyrics, and yes I hate it too. Do you sing?”
“Only in the shower.”
“Can I join you?”
“Only in your dreams.”
“Let’s sleep then, shall we,” Boof said in almost a whisper as we slowly walked towards the shadow.
The shadow moved, in what looked like the shape of a human hand, then stupidity happened. A tremendous scraping sound, sent us turning backwards to see Garland Holbright, one the Earth’s most famous journalists, come along to document our journey for the ages. Every living Earthling knew who the man was, and Garland never let us forget.
Garland had opened the door in the wrong direction, throwing it off of it’s tracks.
“Find anything yet?” Garland called out loudly as he propped the door up against a wall.
The shadow vanished.
“God Damn you Holbright. You’re such an asshole,” said Boof, as I grabbed him by his jacket and held him back.
Garland Holbright was what we (not me, everyone else) called a Frank, short for Frankenstein. He was one of those kids who’s parents had custom ordered him from a cocktail of perfect DNA so he’d be brilliant and exceptionally good looking. Sure his IQ was off the charts and he was good at taking tests. Sure on a scale of one to ten in looks Garland was a seventeen, but where he excelled in trivia and Prince Charming handsomeness he lacked in creativity and personality. The guy was an insufferable bore with an ego the size of Jupiter.
Sure we’d all had genetic modifications for long term space travel. Our respiratory systems, muscular growth, and bone density had all been tweaked. A few of us, including me, had a few personal tweaks as well. My eyes are now a little brighter shade of hazel, and my hair is finally grows model perfect. That said, I’d like to think that you always get better babies with natural random DNA selection.
Boof and Garland had gotten into it the night before. Garland had convinced a friend to hack into the personnel logs and found out that Boof was created by a couple of teenagers one hot summer night in the back seat of a self driving solar convertible.
“Silence,” I said in one of those loud mom-like whispers. “Both of you. Garland, we are not alone.”
Garland formed an O with his mouth in surprise. I knew the guy was deathly afraid of aliens. Go figure. He goes on a space mission but he is afraid of anything that isn’t human, or maybe a dog.
While I was getting ready to rip Garland a new one Boof grabbed my arm.
“Timothy Leary is not dead,” he said right in my ear, so close I could feel his hot breath. I shook my head to get him away from me.
I wondered why Boof was making a reference to the 20thCentury Philosopher. Thank goodness he didn’t start singing that song. What was that group? Moody Crew? No, I think it was Moody Blues. I’d been spending way too much time with Boof. I swore between Boof and Garland I felt like my head was going to explode.
Then I turned around and there before us stood Pilot Tim Leary from the Space Explorer 23 Dog Star Mission. According to records, and Wikipedia, he’d died years ago, before I was even born. When I was a kid he was one of my idols.
Leary held out his arms in a welcoming gesture and with a wide grin said, “Welcome to Hanson’s Hole!”
“Captain Leary?” I asked, stepping forward to introduce my team and myself. “Chief Officer Gwendolyn Ward of the Research Ship the DeGrasse Tyson. These gentlemen are Science Specialist First Class Boof Errikson, and Garland Holbright, a journalist for International Geographic.
“An award winning journalist,” said Garland holding out his hand to Leary.
I kicked Boof in the ankle to prevent him from doing anything stupid. I let Garland have his bit of ego masturbation before I found out what was going on with Leary.
Leary took me by the arm as he walked and talked me into a much larger room that resembled an intergalactic art museum with comfortable seating. “I see your ship was named after the 48thPresident of the United States. A good omen there. My ship was called “The Dog Star.” I like dogs and all, I have a couple around here somewhere, but, I’ll tell you, it was a dog of a ship. Holy space shit, that thing was as bad as 2213 GM Sasquatch. Remember those? Do you like to be called Gwendolyn or Gwen?”
“Gwendolyn please. You’re alive.”
“Yes, very much so,” he said with a dashing smile as he patted my arm.
“But your body was found. DNA matched yours. There was no mistake. There is a huge memorial in Washington D.C.”
“And I’m honored at the thought, but obviously I’m still alive. I am indeed Commander Timothy Leary of the Dog Star.”
“But…” I started
“Do you know much about clones Gwen, Gentlemen?”
“Holbrook is a clone,” said Boof.
“I am not a clone,” said Garland.
“Gentlemen…” I hissed at them.
“You’re a freak Holbrook,” said Boof.
Garland threw his shoulders back. “You’re nothing but degenerate pod shelter trash.”
I’d had enough. “Boof, Garland, NOW.” I turned back to our host, “Captain Leary, the time line wouldn’t make sense. All of your bodies were found and brought back to earth. How do you explain that?”
Leary smiled again. “None of us wanted to go back so we cloned ourselves.”
“If you cloned yourselves, wait, your bodies were found a month after you landed here. It would have taken at least twelve years to have a fully grown human body.”
Leary motioned to the plush red chairs in the room. “Sit and make yourselves comfortable. I’ll tell you all about it.” We sat, and Leary told us an extraordinary story. “Once we had the Time Machine it seemed like we could steal anything we needed. Where do you think all of this art came from? Anyway, we stole an advanced cloning lab from the Dingus V Planet Chain. Nobody there has had fertile sex in centuries. They can’t, so they clone. Sad story, but shit happens.
Listen, none of us wanted to go back to our mission or Earth. We also didn’t want anyone looking for us. With the technology from Dingus V we were able to clone fully formed human bodies in thirty-six Earth hours. Thirty-six fucking hours. Unheard of. We programmed our clones to be without working brains. We called them the hollow heads. Once our clones were grown we smashed their empty heads in and called it a day. No brains, no souls, just lab grown flesh.”
“Wait,” said Garland. “You had a time machine?”
Leary smiled and shook his head in a definite yes. “I knew you’d ask. It is an amazing machine that jumps both time and space.”
“Space portal travel I can believe, but Time Travel is illegal universally, said Garland.
“That doesn’t mean it I can’t do it. I went forward because I don’t like the people I was with. I’m only here at Hanson’s Hole because I needed an additional respite from, well, everything. What are you doing here? Space Jumping I assume, but what is your mission. Nobody stops at Hanson’s Hole.”
I explained our mission as Leary listened intently.
Holbrook held up a finger and gave an artificially inquisitive look. “Why does it say Welcome to Hell in blood on the door of the compound?”
Leary shrugged. “I have no idea. It was there when I got here a few weeks ago. I just haven’t had the time or the paint to fix it.”
After more discussions about Leary’s adventures we returned to our own ship. I knew exactly what Leary was talking about when he said he was tired of annoying people.
Vera and Meera, the evil twins, came giggling and snorting into my office.
I motioned for them to sit. They both sat down and crossed their bony legs in unison. “Do you have the updated geology reports?”
Vera was the first to respond. “The soil acidity has doubled from the last time measurements were taken fifty years ago.”
“Fifty years ago,” said Meera.
Vera continued. “We also detected new volcanic activity. Are you having sex with Boof?”
Meera then spoke again, right on the tail of her sister. “Are you having sex with Boof? Was it good? Positively volcanic?”
“Volcanic. We know you are,” said Vera.
Meera started to laugh, a high pitched crow like cackle, then she started to snort. Then Vera joined in.
“Insubordination is not to be tolerated on this ship. If you ladies continue your immature behavior I will make sure you’re dropped off at the next supply station. You will receive no letters of recommendation, and I guarantee you will have to find your own way home, at your own expense. Capiche?”
“Yes, of course,” they said in unison. It almost sounded like they had an echo to their words.
“Thank you for the report. I’ll review it thoroughly.” I said motioning with my hand for them to leave.
After they’d Holbrook put his head in the door. “Do you want to have dinner later? This isn’t romantic, of course…”
I cut him off. “No.”
“Is there something going on between you and Boof?”
“No. Jesus, Garland, I’m having dinner with Caption Finch. A working dinner.”
As soon as he left a message came on the screen from Boof.
Hey Baby, do you want to see stars tonight?
I deleted the message.
The entire trip had been like the set-up from a bad bodice ripper romance, but without any sex or bodice ripping. You know the story. The heroine is caught between two potential lovers. One is dark haired, gorgeous, with impeccable breeding, and insanely rich. The other is blond, gorgeous, insanely smart, and grew up more or less a street urchin in a block of government run shelter pods. Who should our heroine choose? One will eventually betray her as the other one rescues her, but she won’t know until it happens. Screw that. I didn’t have time for it.
I took the clip out of my hair and shook out letting it fall to my shoulders. Thank goodness for planets with normal gravity. I remember reading about the days when the idea of women being in space seemed ridiculous. The excuse was always something about hair, periods, sex, temptations, strength and peeing. Seriously, one does not need a penis, or a hairy chest to travel in space. Thank goodness for Nichelle Nichols. I was so glad to see her on the one-dollar coin last year. I remember reading the emails of my great-great-grandmother telling my father about when she met Sally Ride. I can’t even imagine.
Over the next few days Captain Finch and I tasked our crew with collecting data, and ship maintenance. Our engineer Morgan questioned everything we asked him to do. He claimed inspections were not necessary. He went on about how his qualifications were better than anyone on the ship, and bragged about his superior intelligence whenever I requested a progress report.
Our physics team, headed up by a guy named Dex Harland, who insisted on being called just “X” decided that we were all going to be eaten by mutant aliens and refused to leave the ship. They spread the word through the crew that Timothy Leary was going to drug them and feed them to giant spiders or some sort of shit along those lines. It was as if the entire crew had gone insane.
I asked one of our two our medical officers about it and he told me that he was writing a screenplay about a murder on a space barge couldn’t give a rat’s ass about our mission. His name was Dr. Charles Young. He only took the job to get out of paying child support for four different women and six kids on three planets. Our sane medical crew member, Dr. Sashie Vern, took my arm and asked if I wanted to get coffee. In the empty crew lounge she begged me to keep Dr. Jay away from her due to his incompetence and creepiness.
On our last supply stop, Hawk Donaldson, a popular member of our Engineering group had a one night stand with a Trasidain female. Trasidian’s are beautiful human like creatures with iridescent pink skin, and several more pleasure seeking orifices than Earthlings. Unfortunately Trasidains also have horrible parasites, which there is no cure for except the death of the host.
Hawk contracted a large number of the parasites and was in excruciating pain as the bugs ate him from the inside out. On his request Dr. Sashie put him into a medically induced coma until his death thirty four hours later. His body, along with the bugs, was cremated and blasted into space.
After Hawk’s death Dr. Sashie wondered why most of the crew members refused to see her for regular check ups or even acknowledge her existence. I should have guessed what Dr. Sashie told me. Dr. Jay had told everyone that Dr. Sashie was incompetent and had caused Hawk’s death.
I went back to confront Dr. Jay and he just smirked.
“I’m entitled to my opinion,” he said with a shit eating grin. I wrote him up for spreading false information and confined him to his room when he was not on duty. The following day rumors spread that I was sleeping with Captain Finch, which was odd considering Finch is gay. I knew it was Dr. Jay.
As I made my rounds that day I realized that our crew, due to the nasty mix of passive aggressive cockroaches and over inflated egos was completely shutting down as a functional team.
The Engineering Group all shaved their heads and wore goggles because they decided that they did not want Garland Holbrook writing about them. Their reasoning was that if they all looked alike then Holbrook would get confused and leave them alone.
Poor Junior Potemkin, our painfully shy communications officer was being bullied by a Data Wrangler named Bambi Von Grob. She would sit next to Potemkin and make snorting noises, suck up snot in her nose, cough, loudly chew crunchy food hours on end, pound on her work station. In retaliation to his complaints she innocently told everyone on board that she was a victim of Junior Potemkin’s bullying.
I could go on for hours about the adolescent behavior of the crew. It seemed that most of my day was spent listening to complaints, breaking up fights, and telling crew members to act like adults.
With six months into our mission, and five years to go, I didn’t know how Captain Finch and I were going to handle this. I loved my job. I loved exploration. I loved the science, but I hated almost everyone on board of our ship.
Boof and I continued to visit Tim Leary. He told us a lot of tall tales but was stingy with any technical information. He said he’d always been more of a manager rather than a scientist. He’d joke that he should have been a stand-up-comic, even thought he didn’t really say anything funny.
One night at dinner, with a nice view of the three aligned moons of the planet, the Captain vented for about an hour about the crew. Boof, Garland, and Dr. Sashie Vern had joined us as the highest ranking crewmembers.
Captain Finch had an announcement for us. “I’ve done some research and come to a realization that we were given a crew of rejects of the highest order.”
“You think?” Boof said with a disgusted look.
“Our mission is longer than usual with extensive isolated periods and difficult Space Jumps. I asked for an experienced crew of individuals with solid science experience, and technical expertise. What I ended up with was a crew of people that nobody else wanted,” said Finch.
I added to his thoughts, “I asked around and was given memos stating that the reason was have the crew we have is because somebody wanted to get rid of them. We asked for the best of the best, and in turn, present company aside, we got the worst of the worst.”
“Exactly,” said Finch.
“Now what? Behavior modification or bull shit team building at the next supply spot isn’t going to fix anything,” said Sashie.
Garland Holbrook poured another glass of wine and smiled. “Clone the crew and leave them there. Then we can have a perfect crew. They have the facilities right here for high speed clone creation.”
“How would that work?” Asked Dr. Sashie.
“Leary and his crew stole the technology from the Glanidians who use semi-brainless clones for off planet mining and prostitution. It’s cheaper than robots, and biological clones are more reliable,” said Garland.
“But you have to feed them,” said Boof. “How can that be more reliable?”
Garland smiled. “No, they eat themselves. They don’t even know it. You know, Clone Nuggets.”
“That is horrible,” said Sashie.
“Yes it is but it isn’t what Leary and his crew did,” said Garland.
“Eventually we’d have to land somewhere and we’d be found out,” said Captain Finch.
“You don’t get it. We will clone the crew, but tweak the genetic codes so that they’ll have more pleasant personalities. We’ll make them brilliant but downright sweet, and completely bland. I know Gwendolyn and Boof could do it,” said Garland. “You both have studied genetics and personality modifications for violent and anti social prisoners on off planet penal colonies.”
I had to speak up. “It will take an extra week depending on how many clones we’re going to make. I spoke with the Evil Twins today and they estimated a major volcanic explosion within the next month. If it blows it will take out all life within five hundred miles of Leary’s clubhouse.”
Then we all sat, nobody asking the questions we all wanted the answer for.
There was a knock on the door. Tim Leary stood there in a black tuxedo, holding three bottles of wine in his arms. “Your mission reminds me of a story my Great Great Grammy used to tell me. A long time ago when she was a little girl there used to be a huge store called Ickyah. People would flock to it to be unassembled furniture because it felt good if you built stuff yourself. The buyer would get home with instructions that said it would take two hours to build your bed frame and nightstand. Fifty hours later maybe the bed would be done and the nightstand drawer assembled. Another twenty hours everything would be complete with the help of additional duck tape and a lot of swearing.”
“Leary,” I said. “What does that have to do with your mission?”
“That’s what it is like living here. Everything was supposed to be easy. Self contained they said. But it wasn’t. Fortunately I have a lot of duck tape. I still have that fast acting cloning machine. I’ll let you use it.”
“That is out of the question. We all took ethics oaths to protect our crew,” said Captain Finch.
“I didn’t,” said Holbrook.
We spend the rest of the night bitching about the rest of the crew. After everyone realized that we had more shit-for-brains stories than we could tell in one night. My brain was so agitated that there was no way I could get any sleep so I took a stroll under the three moons of Planet 2387.
“You need a real name,” I said aloud as I scanned the horizon.
“It has a name. Atropos.” I turned to see Garland Holbrook standing next to me. I didn’t even hear him coming. “She was one of the three Fates. Atropos was the one who would decide how long one’s life line was. She’d also choose how one died,”
“Why’d you come on this mission? You could have any job you wanted,” I said.
“Captain Finch is the best. None of us could have predicted the bait and switch with the crew. Think about it. If we had the original crew this would be a perfect science mission.”
This was new to me. “Original crew? Garland, what are you talking about?”
“You don’t know do you? They were finishing up in Florida on their last mission. You and Boof were later additions.”
I was almost in shock. My entire body went numb. Over a thousand souls were lost in a terrorist attack at the National Space Science Research compound. Religious fundamentalists fire bombed the place. No wonder Captain Finch took what crew was assigned him. The man must have been in deep mourning. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t I figure it out?”
“Garland, could we get Tim Leary to go back in time and…”
“You know it doesn’t work that way. When you go back in time you can change whatever you want but it won’t change the future. Your changes spin off into an alternate thread of time that eventually fades away.”
“Sure, I forgot. I knew some of the people who died. I had no idea they were signed up with Finch’s next mission. No idea.”
I turned and headed off towards the Welcome to Hell door. I wanted to talk to Leary.
As I took my first step Garland grabbed my hand, twirled me around and kissed me. If I thought my head was spinning before, it was spinning even more now.
“I know you’re attracted to me. I know you’re attracted to Boof. May the best man win, and you know I’m the best man,” said Garland as he kissed me again.
“Let’s go talk to Leary,” I said as I tried to catch my breath.
Three weeks later we left Planet 2387. Leary took off in his time machine a week before we blasted off. From our ship we watched (at a great distance) the massive volcano blow up a good portion of the planet’s crust.
Junior Potemkin came into my office and thanked me for helping him out. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.
“Everyone is so nice now,” he said slowly choosing the words. “It is as if they were all replaced with clones, or something.” Then he laughed uncomfortably. “That would have been weird.”
I smiled and told him that I was glad he was happy now. I truly was.
This story is featured in Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe, W.P.A.D. Science Fiction Anthology. Available with most fine online book dealers (including Amazon and B&N) in electronic and paperback versions. Part of proceeds from all WPaD books go to support or fellow authors who have MS.
“For research purposes. It was a point of reference.”
“Then why didn’t they just eradicate them again? They had the knowledge. They had the vaccines.”
“No they’d didn’t have the vaccines. The box had been sealed for over a thousand years. They had no need for vaccines. The contamination and speculation on the outcome was too overwhelming for them. Maybe for them but wewould have survived. We would have beaten it.”
“Wait, Nessie, that can’t be right. You’re saying there were no new germs, bacteria, or virus strains in a thousand years.”
“That is what the records say.”
“That can’t be right.”
“Stop questioning everything.”
“Why? Your ideas are based on something that happened almost 20,000 years ago. We’re here now and we’re happy. We’re safe. You’ve seen what happens to other species when they get sick.”
“Considering suicide is our main cause of death living in the risk of an occasional physical illness doesn’t sound that bad.“
He ran his hand up my thigh and leaned closer. “Suicide isn’t that bad.”
I pushed his hand away. “Bird shit. No other society does that. No other society spends an eternity fleeing Armageddon because they’re too pretty and too delicate to deal with it. Screw that. I’m ready to deal with it. I’m ready to have a real home. I’m ready to fight.”
He rolled his eyes at me. “You’re getting emotional over something that’s never going to happen. Stop acting like a crazy woman.”
I broke up with my green-eyed boyfriend that night and started working on my escape.
I went home and pulled out the charts and old pictures I’d been collecting since I was a teenager.
There was a man. Damn he was handsome with turquoise eyes, white hair pulled back in a long braid. There was a female. I guess I could say a woman of her species. Her head reached his shoulder. She was different without what others call magic.
I thought about that again. Other intelligent species around the universe admit we’re the best at almost any technology but we’re also magic. Seriously I feel sorry for them. They can’t read each other’s thoughts on their own. They have to rely on communication devices for any long distance conversations. When I think of all of the time and energy they waste on construction it boggles my mind. We can move things, and when there are a lot of us we can move extremely heavy objects. Nobody can build a city as fast as we can, no matter what building materials we use. Those are beautiful cities too, not some slapped together ugly abominations.
I looked at the woman with the plain brown eyes, and odd waving brown hair. I couldn’t imagine being so drab, but there she was, radiant despite her coloring. They were all drab, the species we called Talkers. They ranged from the color of a fish belly to solid black with every shade of brown in-between. The hair color was all the color of dirt and rocks; brown, black, gray, yellow, and orange. Some had blue eyes they’d inherited from the Hummers. As far as I know all of the Hummers and Dancers had died off.
I was so into my thoughts I didn’t hear my friend Arie come through the door.
“What are you doing Nessie?”
I didn’t hide my materials away like I usually do. “I’m looking into the reason why we left our original planet. I’d discovered some old documents. The story wasn’t as simple as some girl spreading diseases and genetic abnormalities across the land.”
Aries looked at the papers. Damn he was cute with his lavender eyes and dimples. “Tell me what you found out.”
First I poured us some wine, and then I told him the real story.
His skin was golden, his hair white with silver streaks, and his eyes lavender with specks of a darker purple. She was pale like a cloud with a blush of pink, her brown hair fell in ripples down her back, and her eyes were brown. Her kind were the colors of the earth in which they toiled.
Arie smiled in an amused curious way. “Toiled? They had agriculture?”
“Of course they did. Just listen to the story will you.”
“I already know the story.”
“Not this version.”
“The Talkers were so primitive. Wouldn’t it be like falling in love with an animal?”
“No. They weren’t animals. We interbred with them all the time. Any children were left with them.”
“That was pretty rare, you know, us doing the deed with them.”
“We did it enough that I’m sure some of our genetic shit is still with them.”
I continued my story.
She kept a wolf as a companion the way we kept birds, as a pet. The animal was going to give birth soon and she promised him one of the pups. That sounds like a bad romance but it’s the truth.
“A wolf? Really? She kept a large carnivorous animal as a companion? It would have eaten her.”
“They were friends. The wolf considered the woman part of her pack.”
“Wolves are too smart and too deadly and too organized to ever be domesticated.”
“The wolf doesn’t matter. Arie let me finish.”
The man’s name was Snow, like my last name. Nobody knew why he wanted to be alone in that research station at first. Snow was popular with everyone. He was never in need of company. He chose to work at a research station outside of the city. It was because of her. It was because of Eleora.
She was one of the Talkers, the only subspecies of people who survived the cut, along with us. Sure we could breed with them but we didn’t. Our DNA isn’t the same, obviously.
At first he thought Eleora came around out of curiosity. Snow thought she was pretty. Sure her eyes were small in comparison to his and her color was drab, but she got his attention. Let’s say she was simple but elegant. Actually she was beautiful. Just look at her picture here.
So he dressed her up, then undressed her. He did a lot of that. She became his little sex toy.
One night while he was asleep she became curious about his work. He didn’t think she would understand what he we doing because of his closed mind towards other peoples.
He’d believe all of the bigots and thought she was stupid. There was nothing stupid about her kind. She figured out the code and opened his research vault. Then she found the inner box containing five thousand years of viruses, bacteria, genetic nightmares, and other diseases. So what did she do? She opened it and let everything out.
“She had no idea what was in the box,” said Arie.
“Obviously not. For some dumb ass reason the box was a thing of beauty, covered in images of flowers. She probably thought it was full of seeds or jewelry.”
Snow’s little love puppet poisoned the planet. Thousands of years full of work gone to waste.
Thousands of our people died in the first three weeks. She vanished back into the woods with her wolf. Snow took the easy way out and killed himself.
We had the technology to leave so we did. Our planet was too poisoned to live on. It beyond repair.
Some said to bring a few of the Talkers with us but we left them all behind to deal with their mess. From all accounts they’re extinct and the planet is a place that all intelligent beings avoid.
I poured another glass of wine and topped off Arie’s glass. “We’ve been wandering around the universe for 20,000 years. It is time to stop.”
“I’ll go wherever you go.”
“We’ve been friends forever. I share your dream.”
“You might be exposed to sickness.”
“I might stay and kill myself. Think about it. But seriously I’ve been seriously thinking about the same thing for years. I’m tired of always being the guest. We’ve lived on three different planets since we were kids. I’m done with it. Lets do this. Let’s go home.”
“Yes, really. I’ll take my chances with you.”
My ship was in a hanger owned by Mac Devine a long tailed blue skinned guy from a planet with a name I couldn’t even pronounce. The day before we left I talked to my Mac who’d taught me everything I knew about flying and the unsafe universe.
“You know you’ll be close when you start getting the radio signals. Remember, they’ve been isolated. They don’t even know about YOU, much less everyone else out here. They’d have the technology but they’re too busy having wars, jacking with religion, and fighting off pandemics. I didn’t even mention the natural disasters they deal with on a daily basis.”
“They’re still alive?”
“Is it safe?”
“Hell no. Nobody goes near that poison planet.”
“Then how do you know they’re thriving?”
“We’re keeping tabs on them. At least we were. Nobody has been in that part of the galaxy for ages. Listen, they get going strong, then something wipes most of them out, and then they just repeat the pattern. They’re not advanced enough to stop it. Add to that the fact they’re incredibly violent. It’s a lost cause. Totally hopeless.”
“My people came from there too. We’re practically genetic twins with them.”
Honey, it ain’t your planet anymore. The folks who are there aren’t your people.”
“I’m tired of not having a home.”
“Your home is where you find love. Hey, sweetie, you have to prepare yourself for the possibility of some nasty and deadly diseases. Listen, I was on Torex-87 a few years back and got a cold. “
“What was it like to be sick?”
“It was horrible. I couldn’t’ get off my couch for a week. I couldn’t breath. I had a headache that wouldn’t stop. My throat felt like I’d swallowed fire. My wife suddenly turned into a monster and told me to stop being such a baby.”
“Barely. My wife should be feeling sorry for me but she is still pissed off. She said I had something called a man flu.Can you fucking believe it? Man flu.“
I had to laugh. I’d miss Mac.
I couldn’t’ promise anything because I was going to go. Nothing could stop me.
With my crew of eighty, including fifteen children, we left in secret bound for that blue planet on an outer spiral of the galaxy. It was so isolated but I’d take my chances. The ship was in good working order and ready to go.
Our technology was more advanced than just about any in the entire universe. Yes, we’re that smart. We can jump through space without the usual lifetimes between planets. It is awesome what we can do.
We’d been gone about a week (our time) when the nightmares began.
I had dreams of disease invading my body. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. My toes turned into liquid leaving me with only bones sticking out of my feet. I went blind. Everything in my body hurt. My bowels let loose as I vomited up the entire contents of my stomach for hours on end. My heart started to beat unevenly. Worms crawled into my ears. My lover spread sickness through my body with his touch. Sores covered my body.
I woke up catching my breath and checking my arms for scabs. Nothing. I was fine. Arie was sleeping peacefully next to me no doubt dreaming his usual sweet dreams of better things to come.
We were traveling at a semi leisurely but lightning fast speed for a while, and coming sort of close to our home planet when it happened.
Izzy, my communications lead came running into my office.
“Captain we’ve picked up signals.”
I ran down the hall with him to see and hear the first messages from our home planet.
“Look. 23 73,” said Izzy, hardly able to contain his excitement.
“Blips.” I said. “These aren’t random.”
“Look at the pattern.”
“It looks like a child’s puzzle. “
Izzy squinted. “Some guy named Carl made it.”
Then the flood of signals came.
There was sound. Not just blips and pings. It was real sound.
It was music.
We’d never heard anything like it.
“But how? How could such beautiful sounds come from such a poisoned planet?” said Arie.
“Magic. I mean, a different kind of magic. They have their own magic,” I said savoring the wonder. “Izzy does it have a name?”
“I think so,” said Izzy. “I don’t know what it means but I made out Brandenburg Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach, Number 3, G major.”
“How old are these signals?”
“Maybe a hundred years, but you never know once signals get into space.”
I looked at Izzy and sent him a suggestion. “Turn on the translation. We need to know what they’re saying.”
Izzy smiled and flipped the switch.
We listened to fuzzy sounding music for a few hours then before we knew it clear voices started to come through.
“Those are our people,” I said.
“Sort of our people,” said Arie.
The music came in all varieties. Some was fast and frantic. Others were slow. Voices sang about love, heartbreak, loss, and addiction.
They spoke of airplanes and breaking flight records. Yes, they could fly. Finally they could fly. How many years did it take them? Over twenty thousand. They’d been slow with technology but all of the sudden they were catching up with the rest of the universe.
There was more music. Always more music.
An air machine called a Zeppelin exploded. It was called the Hindenburg. A male voice called out in anguish about the humanity. Humanity. They called themselves humans. Humans. The Talkers had their own name. Humans or Homo sapiens. The Hummers, now extinct, were known as Neanderthals. The Dancers, also now extinct, were known as Denisovans.
A man’s voice screamed about the motherland. Next reports of a horrible and violent war came through the radio waves. Thousands were dead. Then it was over. The music changed again, but they continued to play music by Bach.
The real game changer was for us when the news of a polio vaccine came out. They had vaccines, apparently for quite a while. Polio was a disease that took away the ability to walk or even breath. News of other vaccines came through the radio waves.
“Honestly I thought they’d all be dead by now,” said Izzy. “They’re thriving.”
“They’re incredibly creative,” said Arie.
“Listen to this,” said Izzy. He turned on a song that made us all want to just leap up and dance.
“What is it?” I asked in wonder.
Izzy smiled. “Buddy Holly.”
A few hours later Izzy wasn’t looking so good. “What happened?” I asked.
“Buddy Holly died.”
We didn’t have much time to mourn the death of Buddy Holly. Pictures started coming in.
We watched silly grotesque puppets called Howdy Doodies. There were news programs where people were told of event from all over the world. The variety was astonishing.
Arie squinted his eyes at the images. “Where is the color?” The color would come soon enough.
Some of the most interesting news was about medical advances.
“They have a pill that prevents pregnancy,” I said in astonishment.
“Can’t they control it?” Izzy asked.
“No, that is one of the differences between us and them. It’s the difference between us and most intelligent life forms.”
“They just get pregnant by accident?”
“Apparently, but now they have pills to control their own fertility.”
“Wow. I can’t even imagine.”
Over the days we heard more of medical advancements including a heart transplant.
Arie and I were having a glass of wine and looking out a window to the stars. I expressed some apprehension about our visit. “We will be exposed to every disease on that planet. Sure they have vaccines. Even their animals have vaccines. Will those vaccines work on us?”
“We’re genetically 99.8% the same as them,” Arie said taking my hand.
“Point two zero percent different.”
“This is your dream Nessie.”
“I thought I had it all figured out,” I said.
“What if we expose them to something that we’re carrying?”
“We’re the squeakiest clean beings in the universe.”
“Clean slates ready for every vile thing in the universe to attach to.”
“Now you’re describing my first marriage,” said Arie.
I should have laughed at his joke, even just to be polite.
“Come on love,” I said. “Let’s see what is going on downstairs.”
In the communications room about thirty people were all dancing; even the children were there.
“What is this?” I asked Izzy.
Izzy grinned. “Soul Train.”
About an hour later there were Zeppelins again. This time is wasn’t an explosion. It was Led Zeppelin. That was the name of a group of musicians. The music was called Kashmir. I’d never even in my wildest dreams imagined music could touch me so.
The music continued. Stairway to Heaven. Time Passages. Enter the Sandman. Love Bites. Leaving on a Jet Plane. Fight for Your Right. I Will Survive. Ring of Fire. Beat It. The list of songs went on and on and on. It was insane. It was seriously insane. I had to get some sleep before my head exploded.
The next day after breakfast I couldn’t find anyone.
“Arie, where is my crew?”
“Watching Golden Girls.”
As I watched the images come through, in obviously random order, I wondered at the people called humans we’d left behind.
The images were now color. A woman named Jane spent a lifetime with a primate species called chimpanzees. The chimpanzees were so much like us yet so different. Why didn’t we know about chimpanzees?
The wolves had become dogs. I thought dogs were the most amazing adorable creatures I’d ever seen until I saw the obsession with cats. The humans had domesticated cats. CATS. When we started to get access to what the humans called The Internet fifty percent of it was about cats. Another quarter was pornography. Humans liked sex even more than we did.
One of the most astonishing things was that they knew other intelligent life was out side of their planet even thought they’d never had contact and only gone as far as their own moon. But the most surprising thing is that they remembered us through their myths, legends, and artwork. The girl who opened the vault was known as Pandora. I thought we’d erased all traces of our culture when we left, but there were enough foundations and things we’d helped with that they thought we must have been aliens come from another planet. I have to admit that made Arie and I laugh out loud. Aliens. Our technology was anything but alien. Our power and brainpower was from Earth.
The next message of importance that came through was about a new pandemic called Covid-19. Izzy and I decided to not tell anyone about it until we got closer. We could beat this. We would wash our hands and wear our masks and wait until we got out into the general population.
I thought about it all for a while and continued to steer my ship towards our home planet the humans called Earth.
Finally we saw the beautiful blue ball with the single gray moon. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. None of us could stay away from the windows.
We had our safety gear. We had masks. We had safety suits. We had communication devices.
As I pulled the ship into the Earth’s orbit I tried not to feel overwhelmed with emotion.
A message came through, as I expected. A voice asked that we identify ourselves.
“This is Captain Nessie Snow of the Starship Endurance. We left Earth, our home planet twenty thousand years ago. We’re coming home. We’re here.”
Suddenly we were flanked by sleek black flying ships. A human man in a helmet looked at me right through the window. I could tell his eyes were blue. He put his thumb up.
I put my thumb up and flashed him a dazzling smile and winked my turquoise eyes at him.
He smiled. “Do you wish to land?” He said that through his radio device.
“Yes. We come in peace,” I said.
“Do you need anything?”
I didn’t expect that. “Sure, dogs, cats, and when the pandemic is over concert tickets to EVERYTHING.”
I heard him laughing and knew it would be all right.
We’ve been hanging out at an Air Force Base in a place called California. The wine is amazing. The people are accepting and interesting. The general public hasn’t been told about us yet. We have dogs and cats. Best of all none of us have become ill. None of us.
I think it’s going to work out here. It’s good to be home.