It wasn’t as if she needed to go out. It was that connection with the surface and letting the cold air on her skin wake up all of her senses.
As she put on her camouflage jacket she thought about how as a child she’d never been able to go out on her own. The adults had been so overprotective. There was nothing out there to be afraid of. One outside she walked along her usual route, taking in the sun and imagining what it was like to be somewhere else. Anywhere else would do right now.
Somewhere else. Jack had broken her heart, along with smashing her dreams to oblivion. Every secret of her heart was smashed by his cruel words. He’d called her unrealistic and unpractical. He told her she could never leave, but that she’d never have his heart. The more she thought about it the more she realized that this perfect man was nothing but imperfect. He was a fraud. He was an uncreative, selfish, and boorish prick. Good riddance.
After several hours of hiking she stopped for a snack, and a quick look at her map. Then out of the corner of her eyes she caught motion. WTF? Nothing should have been out here. Nothing.
About a hundred feet away was a machine. It had wheels on the ground. How odd. It was about ten feet long and almost the same across. Approaching it without caution she thought about Jack. That jerk-off was afraid of everything. Sure he pretended to be tough and a big man but underneath it all he was afraid of anything new. He lacked curiosity. Everyone she knew lacked curiosity. It made her sick to think that she was considered the weird one. Everyone else was weird to her. She was stifled by their attitudes and smug sense of complacency.
As she walked up to the machine she suddenly wondered if there was life on it. Where did it come from? More like who did it come from? She knew where it was from.
“Hello?” she said quietly as she approached it, the same as if she was approaching a wild animal.
It moved. Ahhhhhhh she thought. Cameras.
This strange new machine was adorable. She moved closer and looked straight into the lens. Pushing her hood back off of her head, and then smiling she said, “Come get me. I want to leave this place. I want color, and the warm sunshine on my bare skin, and everything you take for granted. I want the freedom to think my own thoughts without being told I’m crazy. I want to know who you are, sing your songs, eat your food, and listen to your stories.”
On the side she saw letters, then took her gloved hand and wiped off the reddish brown dust. In a blue circle was a name. NASA.
“Take me away,” she said. “I want to walk on your beaches. I want to feel sand in my toes. I want to look up in the night sky and see where a glowing red dot and know how wrong everyone was about me.”
136.73 million miles away in Pasadena, California, on the planet Earth, someone yelled out in excitement, and almost knocked over her coffee. “OH MY GOD. You have to see this. YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS.”
Back at the wheeled rover she smiled again. “I’m here. Take me away.”
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.
A figure in a brown dress, long white hair, and golden brown skin stood among the orange and oak trees in my back yard. Her eyes were large and dark on a round face. She was beautiful in a weird sort of etherial way. She looked more like a fantasy character than human. Then she vanished as ghosts do.
I was having coffee and trying to write at my breakfast nook table with the second story view that overlooks my back yard. I live on a hill so my back yard is lower than my front yard. Anyway… I was looking down into the yard.
As I got up to make more coffee I heard someone whisper my name. Juliette.
There in my kitchen was Nigel, the Ghost.
“You saw her,” he said.
“Of course I saw her. Who is she?”
“You SAW her. Regular people, homosapians can’t see them. She isn’t human, at least not a modern human. I mean she wasn’t.”
“What do you mean homosapians? She obviously wasn’t a Neanderthal.”
“Close to both.”
“Tell me about her Nigel.”
“Make me coffee Juliette.”
I made coffee for both of us. There was coffee for me to drink and coffee for Nigel the Ghost to smell.
“What was she? Why am I able to see her.”
“They called themselves the Chosen. Rather unscientific but it is what they called themselves. They were the people who they felt were chosen to advance civilization. We don’t have a name for them because they didn’t leave anything behind, well almost, and only the Ghosts know about them. They could interbreed with other species like Neanderthals and humans like us but it just wasn’t acceptable. They left us alone.”
“I don’t get it.”
“They developed for fifty thousand years ago away from the rest of us. They had their own technology and civilizations. Then they had their first apocalypse. Disease swept through their people. They came through. After that they had issues with fires and ice, and you name it. Plus they were afraid of us. They were afraid of what we were becoming. They considered us their second apocalypse.”
“Why don’t we know about them?”
“They left without a trace. They destroyed all evidence of their civilization.”
“Did they die?”
“They went into space in a huge caravan of ships. There aren’t any ancient aliens. It was them. It was the memory of them passed down among us. That memory is all that is left. They didn’t want us to have their technology so they destroyed everything before they left. They destroyed every shred of evidence, well almost every shred.”
“They were advanced enough to go into space?”
“Yes. Don’t be so surprised. Every single year archeologist and treasure hunters find traces of lost civilizations and ancient humans. They made and did fantastic things with technologies that are now lost to us. They did things with tools and means that we can’t even imagine.”
“What about the Ghost walking around my orange and lemon trees?”
“She is one of the few who stayed behind, refusing to leave. She and a few companions guarded the last bit of their civilization. They guarded what was left behind, lost in the frenzy of the destruction. When they too died, the one artifact was left behind.”
“What was that?”
“OK. What was in it?”
“Viruses and germs they’d made.”
“Do you know where it is?”
“I know what happened to it.”
“Ever hear the story of Pandora’s Box?”
“No, it can’t be.”
“Ever wonder where Vampires, Werewolves, Smallpox and other horrors came from? And hope. Remember hope was in the bottom. Yes, they left hope behind. Go figure.”
“No, it can’t be.”
“Her name wasn’t Pandora.”
I sat numb for a while. “It can’t be.”
Nigel leaned in closer. “You know her. The box is empty now and sitting on the dresser in her bedroom.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“You have pastels,” said Nigel. “I want to borrow them?”
“Why. You’re a ghost.”
“I’m an artist.”
I was still numb with the story Nigel had told me but knew I could only push him so much for information. I got out my box of pastels and placed them before him on the table. He put his hands over the sticks of color then began to draw in front of me in the air. The colors hung on an invisible canvas forming a portrait of a woman with curing brown hair and golden brown eyes. It was beyond beautiful.
Then Nigel snapped his ghostly fingers and it vanished in a swirl of powdery dust.
“My dear Vampire, as ancient as your kind is, always remember that to the core you are still human. Like with all of us we are just a blink in the eye of time. This planet has a long history that we can barely comprehend and barely even imagine in our wildest dreams.”
Then before I could say another thing Nigel smiled, ran his hand through his unruly black hair and vanished with a thin wisp of purple smoke that smelled like citrus blossoms and cigarette smoke.
Nigel was murdered in 1986 and would have turned sixty one this year if he’d still been alive. Why he comes to visit me I do not know. Maybe it is simply for the fact that I can see him. It is always a mystery with Nigel the Ghost.
I thought about that beautiful box I’d admired as a child. I’d collect trinkets and put my small dolls inside of it. Then I’d put it back on the dresser where it still remains over a hundred years later.
Looking back out to the orange trees I could see Nigel talking to the woman in the brown dress. She turned my way and lifted a hand, as if in greeting, then they both disappeared.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman
Stay safe everyone, at home, and with dignity and grace.
Wear your mask.
Wash your hands.
Stay in touch with loved ones.
Zoom with your friend.
Support your students.
Tell a first responder how much you appreciate them.
And check in on those who are elderly or might need extra help at this time.
Today I’m hosting a marathon featuring my brother Max. As you’ll see today, if you don’t already know, he has all kinds of interesting adventures with women, demons, and just about everything else.
I first published this post in 2013. My children are now older, but Uncle Max still has the same effect on, well, just read the post.
Musings on Gassy Planets, High School and Uncle Max
I was taking Clara to school this morning and traffic was backup up for about a mile and there was no place to go. All the side streets were backed up with people trying to get out of the backup.
We speculated on the cause of the backup. I assumed it was an accident. Clara looked over and saw one of her teachers in the traffic with us. And much to her shock he was smoking. She said three of her teachers smoked.
I guess I could have acted shocked but let’s be real. I bet he was having one of his two cigarettes of the day. The first is on the way to school to take the edge off and calm his nerves before he faces two hundred students over a course of six periods. The second is after school to take off the edge and face whatever is at home. My husband is convinced that all high school teachers must drink a lot too.
After a conversation about smoking various tobacco products and other things we saw the blinking red lights up ahead. The traffic light was out. Ugh. Kids and teachers were going to be late. A 10 minute drive to school took about 35 minutes. I found out later that the faulty light was no excuse and a lot of kids were marked down as tardy. That is just plain stupid in my opinion but I don’t make the school rules.
I dropped Clara off and made it to my morning conference call but a few hours, mid-morning, I was back at school. They’d call to tell me that Garrett had almost passed out due to his sunlight sensitivity issues. This happens two or three times a year. I can lecture him forever on this but he still doesn’t always use precautions. The school wanted to send him to the hospital due to his cold skin and low heartbeat, not to mention a nasty looking rash, but I always take him home.
Anyway, he was fine, poor baby. But, my brother Max is still hanging out at my house until Friday, so I brought him with me to pick up Garrett’s car.
As Max and I walked into the school office I could hear the hush of female voices. Vampire men have that effect. Max smiled (minus fangs) then put on a serious look. I wanted to roll my eyes but was worried about my own young Vampire man, my seventeen year old Garrett.
Knees were going weak…not mine or Garrett’s, but those of the women in the school office. I had to get my son, and my brother out of there.
About four hours later school was out so I sent Max back up to school to get Clara.
Did my brother wait at the curb in the car like everyone else there to pick up kids? Of course not. He had to get out of the car and wait. The mothers at the school would never be the same. A tall man dressed in jeans and a tight black tee-shirt and dark glasses, cold to the touch but so smoking hot that it would take weeks for them to cool down.
Fourteen year old Clara told me all about it when they got home. She found it both amusing and annoying.
Clara said school was stupid as usual but admitted that science was good. They learned about how many planets might be able to support life. This was something all the kids seemed interested in, which is good since according to my daughter most of the kids don’t seem interested in anything during school.
For about twenty minutes she told us about the planets and theories and speculations about life. She talked of telescopes and exploration and the makeup of planets. It is good to hear the passion that is passed from teacher to student and then on to others.
Then the subject of Pluto came up again. Most kids are still upset that it is not a planet anymore (it even has moons.)
One of the reasons Pluto isn’t a planet is because it has an irregular orbit. But so does Uranus. (Click here for more on thoughts about Pluto)
Clara said that nobody even mentioned Uranus today but the boys in the class still had to snort and laugh about it. Yes, Uranus is a large gassy planet. Uranus has an irregular orbit. Uranus is huge. Pretty soon Clara and I were both laughing. Even Max had to laugh. I mean, you have to laugh.
Garrett was still asleep but the rash was gone. His friends Randy and Ione stopped by to see how he was doing and sat on the edge of his bed in the dark quietly talking with him. They’ve gone through this too, the sun sickness. We all have.
So that’s it… just musings on my day and a little bit of fun to take the edge off.
I’m still thinking about Max waiting on the curb. Oh my goodness.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman
For more about Max and his friends do a search. You’ll find a lot about him, including the stories “Lighthouse” and “Perfection.”
Space, Crazy Circus Music and A Perfect Seventy-Eight Degrees
I was going to dive into to my Friday post but my brain is under attack by such noise, I can hardly explain…
I’m in the roller rink for Friday practice. All the skaters are doing beautiful thing with their dance and artistic routines. And yes, any comments about derby will be removed. Anyway, the music today is especially bad. It sounds like an old-fashioned circus. I expect Emmet Kelly and a band of clowns and elephants and dancing bears on skates to come flooding out of the back room any minute.
Dude, dancing bears. I have this poster in my house. The real one.
When we arrived the music (on a circus organ) was “Morning After, ” in some sort of polka or maybe fox trot or even an upbeat cha cha beat. Yes, that song, the one Debbie Boon sang to in the original Poseidon Adventure (1972 with Gene Hackman and Shelly Winters.) Imagine that song upbeat and in a crazy circus organ out of American Horror Story, or worse a Stephen King novel, or more like, well, an alternate or parallel universe. Holy crap this record is bad. No wonder young skaters aren’t joining the sport. Thank goodness the only thing with the old organ music is the American Dance. Yes, boys and girls, this is why your sport isn’t in the Olympics yet. It isn’t the skating – it is the music. Hell upside down. Now a version of “The Stripper” is playing that I have no words to describe. This is the Muzak they play in Hell.
OK, back to our previously programmed blog post…
My sixteen year old Clara was talking about the Universe and space earlier today. She can’t get her mind around the fact that the Universe is expanding. But where is it expanding to? Where it come from? What was before the big bang, and before then, and before then? Then she told me about someone who created a photo of the entire Milk Way using millions of images of the Milky Way. It is all mind-boggling.
Then consider the fact that we’re looking at flickering stars billions of miles away. Then consider that someone might be out there looking back at our flickering star (the Sun) and wondering if anyone is out there. Think about it.
It is almost too much to get your brain around. We know so little about our own solar neighborhood. Only in the past hundred years have we managed to fly, and communicate with wires, then wirelessly, then we got cat memes. Actually cat memes aren’t new. But back to space, please.
Pre 1920 Cat Meme. Cat memes aren’t new. People have been creating cute cat drawings and memes since ancient times.
Where was I? Oh right, physics, super colliders, and even some quantum physics. Stay with me. This isn’t leading anywhere, but stay with me.
I mentioned to my child that I’d read somewhere that some scientists thought they might be able to get to a parallel universe. The headline was, “Large Hadron Collider ‘Could Be About To Find A Parallel Universe.” Look it up. And if you ever get the chance to visit a Super Collider DO IT. I have and it is super interesting.
So the child asked me what exactly again was a parallel universe.
From Wikipedia: A parallel universe is a hypothetical self-contained separate reality co-existing with one’s own. A specific group of parallel universes is called a “multiverse”, although this term can also be used to describe the possible parallel universes that constitute reality.
Yes, you can be two places at once.
Or as they say in Firesign Theater How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All.
Or another bit I swiped off of the Internet, “But, according to quantum mechanics, microscopic systems can be in two or more places at the same time, a principle called superposition (also called quantum weirdness – no explanation needed). Atoms and electrons can be in two places at once.”
I explained it the best I could in the best mom terms I could. It made more sense than what I’m writing here, but then again, when I’m driving in my car I’m not listening to crazy insane circus organ skate music.
What I didn’t explain to my daughter or anyone else, was that I had been in that somewhere else parallel universe – recently.
Then our conversation changed a bit.
“Being a Vampire is like living in a parallel universe. Tell me again why we can’t let anyone know about us?” My daughter has asked me this a lot.
“Because darling child, we must let them think they are on the top of the food chain. You know what they do to their own kind who are different. You know about the Vampire Hunters. You know the history.”
She shrugged and told me about her English class. Then we listened to music.
My mind went back to the night before.
I was in bed, my arms and legs wrapped around my husband, or I thought it was my husband. I assumed it was my husband. I was hot. I don’t think I’d ever been so hot.
We both opened our eyes at the same time.
“Juliette?” I knew the voice but it wasn’t my husband.
“Pleasant?” It was indeed my old flame Pleasant Van Dusen and he was burning hot. Not burning hot as in that kind of burning hot, but temperature wise hot.
Remember we’re Vampires and run at a cool 78 degrees farenheit. He was burning up at 98.5 degrees give or take a few.
He gave me a weak smile. “Happy Birthday honey.” Then he wiped the sweat off of his forehead. “What is going on? I can’t cool down.”
I rolled away from him. We were naked. Oh my goodness. The room looked unfamiliar but it was in a style that we both would have picked out. Modern with a touch of 80’s – and I mean 1880’s.
“My heart feels like it is beating out of my chest. Feel it.” He said this as he grabbed my hand and put it on his chest.
“It feels like a regular person Pleasant. It feels like…oh my God. Sit up. Look in the mirror.”
We sat up and looked at the mirror on the wall across from the bed. Our images showed up sharp and clear. We both smiled, uncomfortable grins. No fangs. Hot skin. Hearts beating fast. No fangs.
“Dear God, Pleasant, we aren’t Vampires anymore.”
“No. Juliette no.” The panic in his voice was frightening. Pleasant never panicked.
We’d been transformed. Both of us had been Vampires from the day we were born as rare Vampire babies but now…now…now…we were not.
And we were together. The rings on our left fingers matched in design. A portrait of our wedding was on the night table. We gazed out the window. Two moons. That could only mean one thing – an alternate universe.
I got out of bed. Pulling on a pink silk robe (I would have never chosen pink), I opened the bedroom door. Then everything grew dark. Next I opened my eyes and I was back in bed, my arms wrapped around my husband Teddy. He was a cool 78, exactly like a healthy Vampire should be. I was exactly with the man I should have been with.
My phone vibrated. I answered. It was Pleasant. “Are you a Vampire Juliette?”
“Yes, are you with your husband?”
“Yes, are you with your wife?”
“Yes. What happened?”
“Alternate or parallel universe. We must have hit some sort of time warp or black hole, or I don’t know.”
“Are you cold.”
“Yes, thank goodness. You?”
“Yes, I’m cool.”
“Juliette, I gotta go. I’ll call you.”
“Sure, take care. Be careful.”
“You too. You too Juliette.”
And that was it. We were one of them if only for a moment. It was life as it would have been if we’d been regular “normal” people. But we aren’t.
I didn’t tell my child. I had no idea if our Regular Human versions ended up in our beds with our spouses. I didn’t ask. I don’t want to know.
I feel hot.
I’ll continue to talk science with my kids. We will continue to speculate. But sometimes, just sometimes, it is good not to mention those time warps that happen when we least expect it.
So I guess, the only thing to say is to stay curious, stay cautious, and stay cool. And that my friends is the only point to this story.
And like I always say, take with your kids. Talk with them. Explore with them. Discuss with them.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman
First posted in October 2015. My kids are now away in college and are not doing competitive skating anymore, but I still talk to them ALL THE TIME. Well that, and send them funny texts every single day.