After finishing "Space Girls", I thought I had broken the glass ceiling and would be able to finish future novels more easily. This turned out to be a delusion. After my creative energy/work ethic fizzled out on an attempted sequel, I decided to turn my attention instead to an anthology of prequel short stories, each focusing on one of the main characters. And I wrote like twenty sentences, tops, before that too was more or less abandoned. But now I have to write two stories for Advanced Fiction Writing and the pressure of not flunking has enabled me to finish one. In three days I will be turning this story in for my professor and classmates to helpfully tear apart. So of course it's an early draft and I hope you will cut me a little slack. Having said that, reading the other submissions so far has given my confidence in my own future since no one else is even attempting to fill the same niche as me. Everyone else's stories are way more serious and uptight. So we can all coexist and not have to kill each other.
Since I used characters I'd already created, I thought the brainstorming session in class would be redundant, but I was mistaken. As I wrote about Jane Padgett I had the epiphany that she's an Aspie. How had I not realized that before? She has weird interests and nobody at school liked her. I never consciously wrote myself into her but it turns out to have happened anyway. On another interesting (to me) note, in the original novel (other than in some flashbacks), she is 25, her companion Lillis Hawker is 26, and their military supervisor guy Mike Peterson is 32. When I came up with them I figured Jane and Lillis were respectable "adult" ages and Mike was super old. Now that I'm approaching 25 myself, I realize the truth - Jane and Lillis are just kids, and Mike is super old. But in this story, Jane is still in high school. It was meant to be sort of patterned after a story that I can't remember the name of where two feuding guys get stuck under a fallen tree together and decide to call a truce and then (SPOILER ALERT) it becomes moot when they hear wolves, but it evolved in a kind of different direction.
The one downside (or should I say dark side) of all the new and upcoming Star Wars movies is that they'll make it increasingly harder for me to come up with my own original sci-fi ideas. Maybe I'll have to end up working for them. I could live with that.
Jane Padgett thought for a moment that the slow motion of the rover flipping upside down through – well, not through the air, actually, but through where the air would have been if there had been air – was merely a trick of her traumatized perception. Beside her Chantelle Anderson, the last person in her class or the galaxy she had wanted to partner with, stopped trying to wrestle the steering wheel away from her and just screamed something Jane couldn’t hear. She liked to imagine it was “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”
She quickly remembered the gravity circumstances, however, and relaxed as the ground came up to meet them. It probably wouldn’t hurt a bit. Indeed, the rover hit, bounced, and repeated the motion five more times before coming to a rest upside down with her Chantelle sprawled on opposite sides.
Jane struggled to her feet first and tried not to topple over. She hated this suit, hated how it reminded her that her awkward teenage body wasn’t all growing at the same rate. Chantelle had taken great delight in pointing out, as if she hadn’t noticed, that it was loose in all the wrong places and tight in all the wrong places. Its arms in particular stopped at least six centimeters before hers. She had hoped the helmet, at least, would be opaque enough to obscure her acne, but no luck there. At least if the visor wrapped all the way around it would have shown her blonde hair, the only feature that didn’t make her self-conscious, but what could you do?
The landscape was as dry and dead as a human skull Jane had seen once – a darker shade though, and far bumpier, as if the skull had been dipped in soot and dropped on the ground. Looking at it sent a chill down her spine, even though the temperature outside her suit was at least 100 degrees Celsius.
Chantelle got up a moment later, swaying like a disabled ship in a meteor storm. Her red bangs swished above her green and currently enraged eyes. From the way she moved her lips and gestured with her arms and fingers, Jane inferred that she was still yelling about something. She pointed to her wrist radio to indicate the frequency she had set.
Chantelle paused, moved over to look at it, set her own radio to the same frequency, and resumed yelling. Jane picked out the relevant nouns and verbs from among the superfluous curse words and got the message.
“Not my fault,” she said, putting up her hands. “There’s a problem with the steering. Look, I’ll show you.” It was true, but she couldn’t help feeling guilty anyway, and she knew that Chantelle knew it.
“Of course there is now, you stragging idiot,” Chantelle said. “The whole thing’s busted up. Stupid Mrs. Havelock making me let you drive! You couldn’t follow fifty other people and you somehow managed to hit the only sizable rock for kilometers around! I’m actually impressed. But I’m still going to kill you.”
Jane was almost too exasperated to be scared of her threats. Chantelle was being her usual self, but at least now had an understandable reason for being upset. She could live with that. “Look, it’s fine. We’ll just flip it over, keep an eye on the steering and catch up to the class before they even notice we’re gone.”
“Oh yes? And which way should we go, Copernicus?” Chantelle gestured at the landscape around them.
Jane looked at it and felt a lump in her throat. Their rover had left unmistakable bounce craters, and beyond that must have also left tracks for them to follow back, but so had every other vehicle that had come through this area in the last twenty years or so, including several of the exact same model. No rain, no wind, no animals had come through to erase them. They created a mismatched grid pattern that would have taken days to unravel.
“I suppose,” Chantelle continued, “you happened to track the positions of the stars as we were moving? Well, at least radio to let them know we’re lost.”
“I’m not on the same frequency anymore. See, I started sampling the lunar radio stations, but they were all just playing the same crap as on Earth. So then I just found a silent frequency so I could experience the landscape the way it was meant to be experienced. If it was meant to be experienced at all, I mean, which is debatable since humans didn’t evolve here, but…”
“And you made me switch to your frequency?” Chantelle sputtered.
It would have taken a few minutes of trial and error to find the correct frequency again, but Jane wasn’t concerned enough to worry about it, and saw no compelling reason to explain it. “You weren’t on the right one either, were you? Mrs. Havelock would have heard you screaming at me as we veered off course. Then again, she’s so used to it she probably tuned it out.”
“I was listening to music,” Chantelle said with a sniff. “I’ve got no interest in rocks. So now they can’t hear either of us, and we’re screwed, thanks to you, you stupid –”
“They’ll notice we’re gone. I’m sure someone will find us. I’m going to savor this moment!” Jane started skipping, bounding even higher than the rover had bounced, and sang: “Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon! I sure hope my legs don’t break, walking on the moon!”
“Jane Padgett,” Chantelle said, with the air of one struggling and failing to control her temper, “you sound like a bull moose having an aneurysm in the middle of his mating call.”
Jane stopped bouncing and made a face at her. “Last time it was an elephant,” she said, “so I guess I’ve improved.”
“Don’t keep practicing.” Chantelle reached into a pocket of her suit and removed the lighter she had smuggled onto the rocket. She couldn’t actually use it on the moon, as it turned out; if she tried to smoke in Luna City she would face a two thousand galactar fine, and if she tried to smoke out here she would quickly die. She flicked the lighter anyway and stared at the flame, a small blue globe clinging to its precious fuel source in the vacuum and low gravity. She snorted, rolled her eyes and put it away again.
“Where’s your sense of wonder?” Jane said, throwing up her hands. “You and the rest of the Philistines who didn’t want to come on this trip! Boring, they said! We’re on the stragging moon! Luna, if you’re pretentious. How can you not be excited?”
“I guess these rocks remind you of the ones in your head.”
“I’ve never been offworld before. I mean, technically I have, since I was born on Mars, but I don’t remember it at all. And it never really registered in my brain that I am now, that I’m here, until this moment now when I saw this sight… but why am I talking to a Philistine who can’t appreciate it?”
“I’d appreciate it more if you’d shut up.”
Jane sighed and walked back over to the overturned rover, propped herself up against it, and sat down, smirking because her bottom would leave an imprint in the dust for millennia to come. She smirked again, because the computer system in Luna City would notice when their rover failed to arrive, and the tracking beacon would lead a search team in a beeline right to them. Chantelle obviously hadn’t been paying attention when Mr. Briggs, the tour guide, had explained that, and Jane saw no compelling reason to tell her.
As long as they were stuck together for a while longer, though, it would be worthwhile to see if she found the bully any more amiable without her cronies nearby. “Tell me, Chantelle,” she said, “why are you so unkind to me?”
Chantelle cocked her head in disbelief. “Have I really failed to explain that in terms your feeble little brain can understand? You’re weird, you’re annoying, you talk on and on about stupid things that nobody else cares about.”
“Yes, so I’ve heard,” Jane said, “but what’s the real reason? Why do you act like all that is a personal attack on your honor? Let me guess, you have self-esteem problems?”
“Shut up,” Chantelle said, and turned away from her.
“I have self-esteem problems too, but you don’t see me becoming a monster. Trouble at home? My parents don’t love me either, but you don’t see me becoming a monster.”
“I’m warning you, Jane,” Chantelle said, still facing away.
“Right, we’ll start with less personal questions. Is it true you dye your hair every morning with fresh hamster blood?”
Chantelle turned around and took a step toward her. “What?”
“Just curious,” Jane said, deciding that this avenue of discussion was an unhealthy one to pursue. “Never mind.”
“I will kill you if you keep pissing me off,” Chantelle said, taking another step forward. “You think I’m speaking figuratively, but I’m not. I’ll kill you and take your oxygen tank to improve my own miserable odds on this stupid dust ball.”
“Relax. We can last out here for hours as long as no lunar wolves show up.”
Chantelle frowned. “Lunar wolves?”
“Like arctic wolves, but lunar.”
“There’s no native life on the moon, you freak. I know that much.”
“Who said they were native?” Jane leaned back and folded her arms behind her head. “It all started, as these things often do, when a government-funded scientist had a stupid question. If wolves were on the moon, would they howl at the Earth? So they built a laboratory on the outskirts of Luna City and started breeding wolves there. And then some even bigger idiot thought hey, why not modify them to survive in a frozen vacuum and eat rocks with teeth as hard as diamonds? Without taking away their taste for meat? None of that research group survived.”
“I’m not as stupid as you seem to think I am,” Chantelle said.
“No?” Jane said. “Ah, well, you can’t blame a girl for aaaah look out!”
“What?” Chantelle spun around so fast that she lifted a meter off the ground.
“Ahahahahahahahahaha!” Jane forced herself to stop laughing so as not to waste all of her oxygen supply, and also because a less than amused Chantelle now loomed right over her. She had known this was unwise, and yet the seductive siren song of revenge had been too strong. Still worth it, she decided.
“Get up, you fool,” Chantelle said. “Face me like a real woman.”
“Fine, fine, whatever, I was just kidding, sheesh,” Jane said, hopping to her feet. She gestured at the spot where she had sat. “Would you look at that? Maybe I haven’t made a good impression on you, but –”
“Aargh!” Chantelle lunged at her, flew past her and face-planted into the ground.
“Ahahahahaha!” Jane said. “Now do you understand the gravity of the situation? Did you forget that it’s only seventeen percent of Earth’s? You’ll need a little more finesse than –”
Chantelle grabbed her ankle, pulled her to the ground, and climbed on top of her, pummeling the entirety of her suit and helmet with fists. She yelled, “You – think – you’re – funny – but – you’re – not!”
Had the girl gone mad, or was she just mad, Jane wondered? In any case, she found herself flailing to defend herself, although none of the blows had hurt yet. Chantelle showed no sign of letting up and would probably keep her pinned here until they both died. Jane craned her head, picked up a rock lying nearby, and started hitting Chantelle with it as hard and as many times as she could, startling the latter enough for Jane to push her off and get to her knees.
“Let’s try to behave like civilized people,” Jane said, but Chantelle lunged at her again. “Hey, wait, your oxygen tube’s got a leak!”
“Nice try,” Chantelle said, but her eyes flitted to the spot where Jane was staring anyway, and she screamed.
“This is bad,” Jane said. “This is really bad.” She knew that one of the pockets in each of their suits contained tubes of polymer to make repairs in exactly this sort of emergency, but – she looked at the dial indicating Chantelle’s oxygen supply and noted that it wasn’t moving too quickly – she saw no compelling reason to tell her. Someone would find them any minute and Chantelle could just worry until then for all she cared.
“What do I do? What do I do?” Chantelle screamed, flapping her arms like a canary.
“Calm down,” Jane said, her mouth twitching a little. “Don’t breathe too hard, don’t exert yourself too much… and don’t speak unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Chantelle stared at her. Jane stared back, her face a mask of sobriety. Chantelle sat down next to the rover, hugged her knees to her chest and stared off into space.
“Right, where was I? Ah yes.” Jane leaped as if she could touch the stars. “We could walk forever, walking on the moon! We could live together, walking on, walking on the moon!”
Chantelle’s eyes pleaded with her to stop, but she didn’t until she had finished the song and made seven circuits around their general vicinity. At that point she was ready for a break before launching into the next one. “Fly Me to the Moon”, made famous by Sinatra, or Ernie’s “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon”, or Roxette’s “The First Girl on the Moon”? Decisions, decisions. She stopped on the other side of the rover from Chantelle and looked up.
She had looked up plenty of times since the landing, of course, but only for a moment at a time. She had been so focused on being here, which was incredible enough, that she hadn’t taken in the rest of the neighborhood. Now it held her transfixed. The stars, for one thing, no longer twinkled as their light was filtered through an atmosphere. They looked as dead as this satellite, creating a sense of timelessness, conveying something of the age of the universe. But something else had her attention.
Earth. Terra, if you were pretentious. A solitary infected teardrop in a sterile, airless laboratory. It emerged as if from a sea of ink, its bottom third or so obscured by darkness, the rest a glowing swirl of white, blue, brown and green, like four flavors of melting ice cream coming together. These and a half dozen other metaphors raced through Jane’s mind in an instant. She felt compelled to share this with somebody, even if that somebody was the last person in the world she wanted to have anywhere near her. “Chantelle,” she said. “Look!”
Chantelle turned her head to look for a second, rolled her eyes, and looked away again.
“Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Tell me it’s not the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. Imagine, from this distance you can almost forget that it’s full of lying and wars and rape and murder and poverty and disease and famine and pollution and natural disasters and mindless TV shows and… space spit, now I’m depressed. Well, it’s beautiful, is all I’m saying.”
“If only it could say the same for you,” Chantelle said.
Why did she even try? Jane fell silent and continued gazing.
It was beautiful but, she realized, it wasn’t home. She lowered her gaze to the empty lunar desert once again and this time realized that she could never be any lonelier here than on that blue planet. And what if she did die here after all? Maybe the authorities would have enough respect to leave her body right where they found it, perfectly mummified, never decaying, finally at peace. And maybe her soul would go somewhere that it fit in at last.
She pushed those thoughts back down where they belonged. The lack of sunlight was getting to her already. Why hadn’t anyone come to get them yet? How could no one have noticed their absence? Even if she really was that invisible, a thought that saddened but didn’t surprise her… She started flipping through the radio frequencies. “Mrs. Havelock? Mr. Briggs? This is Jane Padgett. Do you read me?” Nothing. “Mrs. Havelock? Mr. Briggs? This is Jane Padgett. Do you read me?” Another crap music station; she skipped past it.
Chantelle saw her lips moving with increasing speed and gave her a questioning look. Jane ignored it until she came back to the frequency she had been on and Chantelle said, “What are you talking about? They’re coming, aren’t they?”
“I can’t reach them,” Jane said. “I don’t understand. We can’t be out of range already, can we? Unless… they’re back in Luna City, and they’ve all turned their radios off, and there won’t be another tour until tomorrow… because of spoiled, jaded Philistines like you, I might add, who think this place is boring and make tourism less profitable than it was five years ago.”
“But they’ll notice we’re gone,” Chantelle said. “They have to.”
“They probably want you gone,” Jane said. “I would. It’s me they’re not noticing… but if they’ve reached the city, the computer should have told them they’re a rover short, unless…” A terrible thought struck her. “I’m, ah, going to check the beacon.”
“The what?” Chantelle said.
“Get up,” Jane said, ignoring the question, and without waiting for her to comply she grabbed the rover’s frame and pulled it upright with ease. On the floor between the seats she found the access panel Mr. Briggs had told them about, with the little tab enabling her to pop it open. And inside – “Oh, space spit.”
“What?” Chantelle demanded.
“The distress beacon isn’t lit up,” Jane said. “It must be broken. No, wait.” She would have snapped her fingers if the suit’s gloves had allowed it. “I told you it had a steering problem. It must have been in for repairs. They took it out of the system, because it wasn’t supposed to be used…”
“Distress beacon? System? What? If it wasn’t supposed to be used, then why did they give it to us, genius?”
“Because someone, somewhere, made a stupid mistake,” Jane said. “And thanks to them, no one was notified that we’re missing, and even if they notice, they won’t be able to trace us. Why can’t I turn it on manually? There should be a way to turn it on manually. This is stupid.” She looked at Chantelle, who was paler than she’d ever seen her before, and had another horrible thought. “Hang on,” she said, and retrieved the polymer from her suit. She flicked off the lid and moved toward Chantelle with it.
“Get away from me!” Chantelle jumped to her feet and scrambled backward. “What do you think –”
“I’m trying to fix the leak, you moron! Hold still!”
“If you can fix it, why didn’t you –” But Chantelle, perhaps feeling desperate at this point, fell silent and obeyed. Jane squeezed on a liberal helping of the polymer. Hideous stuff, like fossilized macaroni and cheese, but it got the job done.
“There,” she said. “How much do you have left?” Even as she asked, she looked at the dial and noted that it was in the red. Half an hour left, at most.
Chantelle saw it too. Her mouth fell open a little.
Jane didn’t dare look at her own. It had to be much fuller, of course, but wouldn’t do her any better if they were stuck out here for as long as it was beginning to look like they would be. Chantelle would go much faster – her own fault, of course, since she had chosen not to pay attention to the safety instructions and then she had chosen to attack – and yet – Jane couldn’t help feeling a twinge of guilt. She had some culpability in this, to be sure.
Chantelle’s green eyes seemed as wide as the planet above them. “Jane,” she said in a whimper so pathetic that Jane felt her heart shatter. “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.”
Jane would have expected a thrill at seeing her worst enemy humbled like this, but it never came. If either of them died, future field trips would be out of the question. Future generations of schoolchildren would never have this opportunity. They would become even less excited about space travel. Jane couldn’t let that happen.
She muttered, too low for Chantelle to hear, “My life would be a lot better if you did.” Louder, she said, “You’re not going to die. Nobody is going to die. Not today, I mean. Look, I told you the rover’s still working, we just have to find our way back somehow. Let’s see.” She looked around; every direction still looked the same. She looked up. “Earth. That’s it. I didn’t notice it while we were driving, so it must have been behind us. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. But it’s worth a shot.” She jumped into the driver’s seat. “Come on.”
Chantelle didn’t look reassured, but slid into the passenger seat next to her. Jane noticed that a little red light had started blinking on the dashboard. “Low Battery” said the label underneath. Great. Chantelle saw it too, and closed her eyes.
Jane started driving as fast as it would go and noticed right away that the steering problem had gotten worse since the crash. It forced her to hold the steering wheel all the way to the right to prevent them from veering off in the opposite direction, letting off just a bit here and there to avoid craters, and even so she noticed the vehicle drifting off course by degrees over the next few minutes. Eventually she had to stop, get out, and push it to face the correct, or at least what she hoped was the correct direction before starting off again.
“We’re making good time,” Jane said, hoping she sounded convincing. “Don’t worry.”
Chantelle stuck out her bottom lip.
The second time they had to stop and recalibrate, the rover went only a few meters before stopping on its own and refusing to start. The little red light went out.
Jane stared at the sky for a precious moment and bit her lip. “I… probably shouldn’t have left it running the whole time we were waiting.”
She expected, and knew she deserved, for Chantelle to go ballistic on her. Instead, Chantelle just started crying.
“Stop it, you’re making carbon dioxide!” Jane said. She hesitated, but she only saw one thing for it. “Get on my back.”
Chantelle gave her an understandable look of disbelief.
“Do it!” Jane snapped, and Chantelle complied. “Funny,” Jane muttered as she looped her arms around Chantelle’s legs, “I usually want you to get off my back.”
She jumped. She jumped farther than she had while singing, farther than she ever had bothered to try. Now her jumps were devoid of joy, fueled by urgency, like a grasshopper fleeing a frog. At the apex of each one she could see for kilometers around, the same landscape, the same rocks, the same craters, the same tracks, the same stars. She stopped paying attention and tried not to think about it, focusing only on the planet in the sky. Of course it never got any larger.
She jumped for several minutes until she thought her legs would explode. Then she screeched to a halt, leaving twin furrows and churning up a cloud of dust that obscured her vision for a moment, and looked 360 degrees around herself.
No sign of civilization or humans. None. They should have been able to see the lights of Luna City by now, or at least a bit of traffic. How could they have gotten so far away from it in such a short time earlier? Or were they going the wrong way now after all? It no longer mattered why. The time to rectify the situation had nearly run out. She had failed, like always.
“Lunar wolves!” Chantelle said. “Look, Jane, lunar wolves!”
“What are you –” Jane turned her head and looked where Chantelle was pointing. Of course she saw nothing but dead landscape, and somehow that alarmed her even more.
“Look, on the ridge!” Chantelle said, pointing. “Lunar wolves, like you said!” She had started breathing harder than a pervert on the phone, and not out of fear, not anymore.
“Shush!” Jane said. “I’ll take care of them. Save your breath, literally!”
“They’re going to mince us with their teeth, Jane,” Chantelle said. “Isn’t that… what’s the word… ironic?” She started to giggle like a cartoon chipmunk.
“For crap’s sake, stop talking, Chantelle!” Jane said, and realized the futility of it all as she spoke. The rest of her reluctant companion’s life could be measured in single digit minutes. She saw no point in hurrying any more, but neither did she see any other – ah yes, the radio! She had forgotten all about it! She decided to go through its frequencies again. “Mrs. Havelock? Mr. Briggs? Mrs. Havelock? Mr. Briggs?”
Music, music, silence, silence, silence, music – wait, what was that? She moved back to it. “–k are you? Jane? Chantelle? Where –”
“Hey, it’s Jane! We’re right here, Mr. Briggs!” Jane shouted. She had never heard a more beautiful sound than his voice, at least not since listening to Sarah Brightman the other day. “How are –”
“Jane! Jane Padgett!” He sounded flustered. How long had he been calling them? “Where’s ‘here’? We’ve sent out two dozen drones and rovers looking for you! Where are you? Why isn’t your beacon working?”
“I should ask you the same thing,” she said. “We’re facing Earth. That’s all I know. It’s beautiful, by the way.”
“You’re uninjured? Enough oxygen? You’re both all right?”
Before Jane could answer, Chantelle released her grip and slumped to the ground, her eyes shut and limbs akimbo. The rise and fall of her chest was barely discernible to the naked eye. In this condition she looked like a sleeping angel, almost impossible to hate, giving no indication of her behavior while conscious. Why was she so unkind while conscious? Her secret seemed as likely to come out now as ever.
Jane swallowed. “Do you have extra air supplies?”
“Of course, but –”
Jane switched her radio off. She needed to think through her options, and fast, without distractions. She didn’t have any particular desire to live – did she? Yet she certainly wasn’t willing to sacrifice herself for one of the people who made her life not worth living – was she? A compromise, she decided. They would both survive or both not. Maybe a drone had already spotted them, and if it hadn’t, maybe this wouldn’t work, but… she decided not to think about that.
She rummaged in the pocket where Chantelle had put the lighter and took it back out. With her other hand she grabbed the connection point of her oxygen hose. Unable to believe herself, she pushed the sliding mechanisms in opposite directions with her fingers, took and held a deep breath, and yanked it out. With that disconnected it was only a matter of seconds to slip the tank off her back and begin swinging it in a circle, her hand clamped around the free end of the hose to keep it from emptying too quickly.
Faster and faster she swung it, like a yo-yo, except that it didn’t get tangled around her fingers. When it had reached a steady momentum and her lungs felt like they were full of hot coals, she activated the lighter and touched it to the end of the hose as she let go.
Starved flame shot up its length like a bolt of lightning into the tank, which exploded, sending a streak of fire at least twenty meters across the sky. With no air resistance it spread outward and dissipated in the blink of an eye. Jane flopped backward with a gasp as it swept overhead, and decided this was as good a time as any to take a nap of her own.
The rescue passed in a blur, as did the two hours in the Luna City Medical Center, but by the end of it Jane had fully returned both to her senses, such as they were, and to her class with all her internal damage repaired by fastidious nanobots. Mrs. Havelock was too busy yelling at Mr. Briggs to notice her and Chantelle coming in to the mess hall where the students had gathered, an environment as sterile and drab as the one they had just left. The other kids looked at them and murmured, but didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned or even curious about what had happened.
Jane looked at Chantelle, and knew she would never get a chance like this again. Noticing for the first time that the nurses hadn’t bothered to take off her suit below the helmet, she stuck out a gloved hand. “Friends?”
For a long moment Chantelle looked at the hand as if it might shoot her. Then her face softened and her mouth opened to speak.
“Chantelle!” came the voice of McKenzie Hicken, one of her the cronies who usually followed her around. The other, Darcy Stewart, trailed behind her as they approached. They had partnered up before Chantelle got a chance to grab one of them.
“We’re so sorry we left you alone with the Loser Queen,” Darcy said, giving Jane a contemptuous glance and then ignoring her. “Poor dear, you’re lucky you didn’t die of boredom.”
“Was she as annoying as ever?” McKenzie asked.
Chantelle stood frozen. Then her mouth closed, and then it opened again. “Of course,” she said. “I wish I’d left her out there to die. The only thing she’s good for is to fertilize dead soil like this miserable rock.” She turned on her heel and walked into the crowd, raising her middle finger behind her. The other two laughed and followed.
Jane’s stomach churned. Maybe it would have been better if she had died. Her life, in any case, had not improved.
But, she realized as she contemplated the events that had brought them back here, she was still a hero, and nobody could take that away. A space hero. Like a normal hero, but in space. She liked the sound of that.
“Jane!” Mr. Briggs said, rushing up to her. “Jane, that was a very brave thing you did, I’m so terribly sorry, we wouldn’t have had this happen for the world, heads will roll when we find out who let that rover back into circulation, please don’t sue us, we’ll give you a lifetime pass to all the tours and facilities including a casino when you’re older… er… do you think you ever will be coming back?”
Jane only had to think about that question for a moment. She knew it had to be her imagination, but she fancied she had grown more into the suit already. She hardly noticed her earlier discomfort.
“You can count on it,” Jane Padgett said. “And that’s just the start.”
Trigger warnings: gun violence, suicide references
First, once again, I express my useless condolences for the latest mass shooting in the only country of the world where mass shootings are a regular occurrence. I want to stress that it had nothing to do with guns or gun laws. It was all because of mental illness, which only exists in the United States for some reason. Let's not do anything about it and then act surprised when it happens again in a month or two. There's no possible solution to this problem just because every other country in the world appears to have found one. I'm willing to accept mass shootings as a normal part of life for Americans and nobody else. Aren't you?
Sunday evening I was in hell, or hell was in me, or both. It had turned into one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that makes you feel like Palpatine shortly after "A New Hope".
"How are you?" Alice asked as I slid into linger longer the table across from her. Perhaps she had forgotten that she already asked me that two hours earlier. Perhaps she thought something had drastically changed in that time. If she did, she was right.
I mumbled something about it under my breath.
"What?" she said.
"What?" I shot back, having immediately realized that this was perhaps not the time to discuss it.
She let that slide and moved on. She used to speak to me like I was a child, but she stopped after I showed her my writing and she apparently realized I have a brain, so that's been great. Then she said she had to go to some family thing in another city that she didn't seem too excited about.
I mumbled something about it under my breath.
"What?" she said.
"What?" I shot back, having immediately realized that maybe we aren't close enough for me to be affectionately rude.
She smirked in what I suppose was meant to be an intimidating way. "Are you being snippy with me?" she demanded.
Ew, who let him in here? Get out of here, Hayden, and go slaughter some indigenous people or children or something. Anyway, what I actually said was, "Oh no, I'm the most polite person you'll ever meet." I was being facetious.
"I can believe that," she said.
You can? I mean of course you can.
That really had nothing to do with anything. I just wanted to put it in. My account, pieced together from already scattered and fragmented memories, really begins later at night when I called Morris, on my third attempt to reach a human with my phone that luckily was undamaged after I threw it across the street. Morris is one of those guys that I should have taken under my wing because he was younger and new to the ward I'd been in for five years, but of course with me being an introvert it was the other way around. I told him how I was feeling and he wanted to rush over. I said he didn't need to do that, as I just needed to talk to someone and he had already been at my home a few days earlier and I didn't want to keep inconveniencing him, but he wanted to come over so I said all right. He came over and this time he only brought one other guy, JC, instead of three, but that was only the beginning.
"Some girls brought us here," he said. "Is it all right if they come in?"
I hesitated for just a moment. What were we going to talk about? Was I going to describe what was wrong, and if so, was I okay with having a female audience? Flashback to group therapy in middle school. It started out exclusively male. And most of the other males were there for anger issues and getting into fights at school every day, so I didn't quite fit in there either, but on the plus side they were real nice to me and offered to "pay a little visit" to anyone who was giving me a rough time. One day the leaders solicited our feedback on the prospect of including females. I was very much against it because I didn't want to share personal things in front of them, but I was outvoted and they joined and it turned out to not be so bad. So I got over that hurdle long ago.
"Sure," I said, then hesitated again as another horrifying thought occurred to me. "Wait, which ones?"
He listed off five names. I only had one matched up to a face, but none of them were the one who is no longer welcome in my home, so I said that was okay and he texted them. I mean, they were right outside and I didn't understand why he didn't just go get them, but whatever.
There haven't been many women inside my apartment. My first roommate never had any over, which might be explained by the shot glasses I found in a cupboard after he left.
Then my next two roommates had one over sometimes to play Dungeons & Dragons, which seemed like kind of an oxymoron. I saw her in public later and she waved and I didn't remember her at all but I waved back and she gave me a donut. Ka-ching. During my time with them I had Cece over to clean my room and watch "A Goofy Movie". Then I lived alone for a year :) and never had any visitors :( Then one of my current roommates had his girlfriend over sometimes, but usually she would be in his room and I just saw her shoes downstairs. So one day when a pair of feminine shoes appeared I thought nothing of it - until they were still there the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and the next week, and the next month. I began to wonder if I should call the police but figured it was too late by then anyhow. Then one day he was cleaning and he asked, "Are these yours?"
So there were more women coming into my home at one time than I think had ever been in it the whole time I've lived there. They came in and all looked so different yet so beautiful that it made me think of God's garden with lots of different kinds of metaphorical flowers. Everyone sat down without asking and I ended up at the end of the couch in the corner of the room, in the worst possible location to make a quick escape if they turned hostile. The first thing they wanted to do was gush over the Darth Vader puzzle my roommate gave me for Christmas, like putting it together was some kind of impressive accomplishment. If I had known they would be that impressed by it I would have put out my thousand-piece R2-D2 photomosaic puzzle instead.
The next thing they wanted to do was gush over my letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, like getting it published was some kind of impressive accomplishment. They asked what it was about. It was a moment of truth. Would they be upset that it was about evolution? Would they give me my first negative Mormon reactions? I kind of hoped somebody would argue with me. I would educate her, and Morris would back me up. But nobody did. They just kept gushing. So I guess that was cool. One of them read it right then and there and promised to share it with the others.
Morris tried to start a game of "Would You Rather" that no one else wanted to play. "Would you rather poop through your mouth or taste everything you touched?" he asked. A tricky question, except that I feel like the answer doesn't really matter because it never specifies that you have to stay alive for any particular length of time.
Therapist: Suicide is never the answer.
Patient: I poop through my mouth.
Therapist: I stand corrected.
I tried to contribute my own question to this game. Only JC heard me. He said I needed to talk louder. I said I couldn't because the estrogen level in the room was paralyzing me. The room divided into two conversations for most of the time, four and four, but mostly three because one of the women in my group didn't talk much. I hope she was just introverted and not bored. She did say something she learned from a documentary about how eggs are worse for your health than cigarettes. I made a mental note to switch to cigarettes.
At one point I felt a sudden compulsion to play stupid. I asked the only female in the room I was a little bit acquainted with, "Do you ask girls out?"
"No," she said.
"You're not fulfilling your priesthood duty," I said.
"Chris, I'm not a boy," she said. I loved how she played along and acted like I was serious. Because she knew
"Has it been over a month since you asked one?" I pressed.
"You should be asking out at least one girl a week." Even though she was laughing, I felt like I needed to apologize for being stupid instead of legitimately funny.
JC got to talking about falling out of a plane for some reason and I said it was my biggest fear.
"Just out of a plane?"
"Well, out of the sky. Falling is the worst feeling ever." It really is. It's not the death part that scares me but the falling sensation itself, with or without a parachute, and also the tiny little chance without that I might be "lucky" enough to survive and just break all my bones. I wouldn't jump out of a plane to save my entire family from cannibals. My sister did it for fun.
"That's a good fear," he said.
"And women, I don't like - I mean I do, but -"
Before I could come to terms with what this Freudian slip means for me, he said, "I think we all feel that, Chris."
"Chris," Morris said, "before we go, we've got five girls here. Do you wanna..."
Kiss them? Uh, sure. Look, how was I supposed to have any idea what he was asking? I've never heard a question prefaced with those words before. It was weird.
"...ask them any questions about dating? They know a lot about dating."
Of course they would, more so than males at any rate, because they aren't the ones that dating is primarily designed to screw over. It seemed like a waste of time to garner information about something that I had no intention of trying ever again, especially when some of the knowledge I do have is useless in practice. I know the importance of communication, for example, but that does me no good when everyone else refuses to communicate and it's socially unacceptable if I do. But I didn't want them to leave yet, so I asked a joke question to make them feel awkward. "What things do I need to change about myself to be attractive?" I asked. Oh, this is golden, look at them squirm... wait, they're actually thinking about it.
"You're fine, you don't need to change anything about yourself," one said. "Especially physically." I'm not sure whether she actually said those last two words or I just became more delusional than usual for a second, but I heard them one way or another.
"Just be yourself," another said. "Don't be something you're not. And being confident is really important."
"But not cocky," one said. "That's really unattractive."
"Unless you're Harrison Ford," I said. She laughed even though it wasn't a joke. Indiana Jones is obviously a womanizer, having dated approximately five thousand women in the course of his adventures as a teacher (most of whom survived), but I recently read a controversial opinion that Han Solo was intended to be a loser who was always alone (or, I guess you could say, solo) with another guy (of sorts) until Leia took pity on him. But if this person were a true fan she would be aware of the deleted footage that refutes her interpretation.
I'm excited for "Solo: A Star Wars Story" because it looks exciting. I'm not completely sold on Alden Ehrenreich, but Donald Glover looks phenomenal. It also looks to be somewhat faithful to the original canon of Han joining the Empire and getting kicked out, yet it looks as though the Empire aren't the main villains this time, which would be a nice change of scenery and also an homage to "The Han Solo Adventures" where he fought CorSec because Brian Daley wasn't allowed to use the Empire. We see him working with a team, which seems a bit out of character for him prior to joining the Rebellion. Will he learn that group projects are literally the worst and vow never to be part of one again, eschewing all attachments except for Chewbacca, who insists on following him because of the life debt? What if he starts with a different last name and changes it to "Solo" to get that point across? Intriguing. But the main questions this movie needs to answer are, in reverse order of importance:
1. Why does Lando, Han's second best friend, pronounce his name differently than almost everyone else?
2. Why doesn't Han believe in the Force even though he was ~10 years old when the Jedi Order was destroyed?
3. What shampoo does Chewbacca use to get that healthy glow, and how can he afford it?
Returning to my story: "We can tell the difference between confident guys and cocky guys," one said.
"Those are the ones you want to punch in the face," I said. She laughed even though it wasn't a joke.
"I feel like if you could tell the difference, women wouldn't keep dating jerks," Morris said. Ohhh snap.
They hemmed and hawed about that for a second before I came to their defense to assuage my guilt about trolling them. "Maybe they're more perceptive than most women," I said, and realized that I had just insulted over 3.687 people. But they were okay with that and nobody else needs to know about it until now that I'm admitting it.
"It's just about finding someone with the right personality," one said. "Like I went on a date today, it was a disaster, but just because we're not right for each other doesn't mean he isn't right for anyone..."
"There's this really great metaphor about bagels that I heard once," one said. "Everyone likes different kinds of bagels so they just go and pick out the kind of bagels that they like."
"What if there's a moldy bagel that nobody wants?" I asked. Yeah, what about that, huh? Didn't think of that, did you? Thought you were so clever, didn't you?
"Somebody will want it," somebody said.
"You have one of the coolest personalities of anyone I've met," Morris said.
"The date I was on was awful; he was so cocky, so you see, we're all in the same boat," the one who had been on a date said. Of course. Just because they're all younger and prettier than me means nothing. But none of them had rings? Really? My eyes flitted around the room checking all their hands for an absence of rings to corroborate this statement. Of course, that's not even a foolproof metric.
Coworker: I don't wear my ring to work because I don't want it to get lost.
Me: Yeah, well, that seems really unfair to some guy who might feel horrifically guilty when he realizes he's been crushing on a married woman for months. Hypothetically.
"Our roommate," Morris said, "just got rejected by this girl that he dated before his mission, and she said he was cocky and that he hadn't changed at all. He went out running and we didn't see him for hours."
I had heard something vague about this before and I had told him that someday she'll be kicking herself harder than the guys who rejected the Beatles and everyone had said "Ohhhhhhh!" But I hope she actually doesn't feel that bad because they probably did more than kick themselves.
Therapist: Suicide is never the answer.
Patient: I rejected the Beatles for a recording contract.
Therapist: I stand corrected.
Everyone got up to leave and some of the women were still talking and I missed the context, but one of them said "If you date one of us, you date all of us!"
"Fine with me," I mumbled accidentally. Two of them heard me. One laughed while the other stared. Hoping I hadn't committed a faux pas, I added, "I'm sorry. Sometimes I think without talking." Wait...
Then everyone except Morris was gone. He stuck around to praise me some more. "I don't even ask girls out; I'm too scared," he said. "But you do. You try. That's amazing." If you've ever been praised for doing something that you thoroughly regret, you know how awkward I felt. But I didn't want to ruin the moment.
"Thanks," I said. I don't want to try again. But you... you should. I bet my life you would have more success, Mr. Movie Star Hair.
Then he left too. The end.
This random and completely irrelevant thing came up in the search for "that's it she's going down gif". Why does it have Chinese symbols in it?
Valentine's Day started out average, not terrible like it was last year. Last Valentine's Day, both my printers at work malfunctioned and the freshly trained quality control guy was overzealous and too strict (which usually wears off after a few weeks), so I felt like I was being eaten alive all day. And then this happened, and I don't know who did it but they made my day and I hope that either through here or through Facebook or through me speaking in church next week they'll be made aware of my gratitude. I was so shocked and so happy. You're lucky I was gone at the library for the right amount of time.
Myself, I considered leaving flowers on someone's doorstep, but then I looked at the prices and decided maybe next year.
Return to this blog next week for "Lunatics: A Space Girls Story"
First off, I owe the Salt Lake Tribune an apology. I said they hadn't published my letter to the editor a couple months ago, because I couldn't find it, but the other day I Googled my own name and saw that in fact they did. They even went so far as to add a cool somewhat relevant picture. I am grateful to them for publishing this important letter which unfortunately will continue to be relevant for the foreseeable future, and I know Dieter F. Uchtdorf reads the Tribune so maybe he read it and if so I'm 99% sure he agreed with it and that's awesome. I already posted its contents on my blog but if you missed that, go read it here. I'll wait.
Done? Great. Okay, so, I went to a couple of LDS devotionals in January and this is as good a time as any to write about them. The first was with Dieter F. Uchtdorf and he invited every young adult in Utah, it seems, to the Conference Center to watch in person. I'm not sure that waiting outside in line having to pee for an hour and a half was worth it, but it happened so that was that. I went with a bunch of people I didn't know at all and that made it an adventure.
"During my teenage years," Elder Uchtdorf said, "I had a crush on a most amazing girl with beautiful large brown eyes. Unfortunately, Harriet didn’t seem the slightest bit interested in me. Whatever I tried, it didn’t seem like I could catch a break." That reminded me of literally all my crushes ever. By the way, did you know that brown eyes are the default for humans and that all blue eyes are descended from a mutation in one individual 6-10,000 years ago? This is one of mine. It's beautiful, if I do say so myself.
"That's how it's done," one of the females I went with said to one of the males and me afterward. "You've got to prove yourself." I already knew that from a textbook called "Animal Behavior". Of course, because of sexual selection, this turns out to be impossible for some individuals whose genes consequently don't get passed on even if they were perfectly capable of surviving per se. Jussayin. Continuing:
"You might as well accept the likelihood," Elder Uchtdorf said, "that once you make the commitment to follow the Savior, the residents of the great and spacious building will disapprove - quite vocally, at times. They may even attempt to bully and shame you. But remember that you do not answer to them. You answer to God. One day you will stand before Him to account for your life. He will ask what you did to overcome the temptations of the world and follow the path of righteousness. He will ask if you followed the Savior, if you loved your neighbor, if you earnestly tried to stay on the path of discipleship." Here I have a unique advantage because I became acclimated to bullying for other reasons nearly two decades ago. If you were ever curious why I'm so jaded about the human race, there you go.
There was also the annual Joseph Smith Memorial Devotional by Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife Ruth here at USU. There is no transcript or recording of that as far as I'm aware so I don't have any direct quotes to share. They spoke alongside each other, back and forth, and the chemistry between them was amazing. They picked on each other quite a bit, her teasing him for being a doctor, him teasing her for being a lawyer, him teasing her for framing his stethoscope for his birthday and failing to realize that rendered it useless to him. To me it spoke volumes about their comfort level with each other and was far romantic than "My wife is my better half and I am unworthy to grovel on the ground at her feet" or whatever men are expected to say. If I ever get married I definitely want teasing to be an aspect of it. I already tease my close female friends and this has actually become problematic, as I'm writing a story for school and one of the characters is supposed to be a bully but nothing she says feels mean enough.
Character: Jane Padgett, you sound like a bull moose having an aneurysm in the middle of his mating call.
Me: Yep, that's totally something I would say to my favorite coworker.
Their messages was about listening to the Spirit in the right places and the right ways using the metaphor of the stethoscope and I honestly can't remember enough detail to give an adequate paraphrase so instead I'll share this irrelevant story about Elder/Dr. Renlund that I saw a couple years ago from an ex-Mormon forum.
Years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to get a glass of milk when I heard a gasp coming from the bathroom. Thinking that my lovely wife of 37 years was on the couch watching television (a habit she has frequently had throughout her marriage), it didn't mean anything to me when she hadn't been in bed. When I opened the bathroom door, it was the worst case scenario. My wife was on the floor, clinching her chest from an apparent heart attack. I called 911 with a feeling of shock, and the next 10 minutes or so are completely out of my memory. She was life flighted to the hospital, while I sat in agony hoping for the best and expecting the worst.
After I got dressed and went to the hospital, I found out that Meredith had indeed suffered from a heart attack. It was something neither of us expected, as she was in excellent health with no family history of heart problems. When she had her stents put in, the main doctor we dealt with was Dr. Renlund, a pleasant middle aged man with a light voice and sweet demeanor. At the time, I was a TBM and yet had no clue that Dr. Renlund was a respected member of the Church. He was truly one of the most pleasant doctors I had ever dealt with, and made an extremely difficult time in my wife's life a little less painful. After my wife had stopped going on monthly visits to Dr. Renlund's office, he encouraged us both to keep in touch and let her know how she was doing. A few months after the fact, I got a text from a random number asking if Meredith had gone back to playing tennis. After I asked who it was, I got a one line response: "This is Dr. Dale Renlund."
Fast forward to last weekend. At this point in my life, I hadn't thought of Dr. Renlund since Meredith's ordeal. I'm happy to say that her health is better than ever, and we've never been happier. While neither of us are practicing Mormons, we still often watch General Conference just to keep up with the norm (both of our families are devout). Both of us gasped in unisons when we heard Dale G. Renlund called as a member of the 12 Apostles. Even though Renlund had given talks before at General Conference as a member of the 70, it was something we had never seen.
So what's my (and my wife's) predicament you ask? That one of the smartest, most caring individuals we have ever met is now believed to be a literal Apostle of Jesus Christ to the Church that took many precious years away from us both. While Renlund's professionalism and kindness will never be forgotten, I'm trying to wrap my head around his new calling. Does he genuinely believe that he is now a prophet, seer, and revelator to the sole true church on this Earth? Prior to this session, I always assumed that the apostles were in on the lie and were in it for fame and fortune. Now that Dr. Renlund is apart of that group, I don't know what to do.
My wife told me yesterday that apart of her wants to write Renlund and remind him of all the good that he has done. I told her that while that may be admirable, apostles these days probably aren't in the business of reading and responding to letters. I really wish that the first apostle I've personally known would have been a dick like Bednar is in real life. It's a shame that a great person with a high intellect is wrapped into it all from the top. It makes it conflicting for myself and my beautiful wife.
Strange indeed. Very, very strange.
I am sorry if my posts are declining in quality. With school and a job and an obscene amount of homework I can barely find any time to devote to them. Also, between the stress of that and a few other craptastic things constantly going wrong my enthusiasm for pretty much everything is kind of reduced. But I will keep posting every week, even if it's short, even if it's crap. Thank you for understanding.
I am very tired. I am very busy. I do not feel like writing this. I do not feel like I can write it well. Last night I went on a date for the first time in nearly two years and it didn't suck at all but I don't feel like I can do justice at this time to the oh-so-fascinating story. Maybe next week. So for the time being here's a different story, told mostly in pictures.
So... despite what the judge has said... it's not actually three prison terms of up to five years each.
It's one prison term of up to five years.
Holy ever-loving crap, people are stupid.
But I guess the actual minutiae of the sentence is irrelevant since he'll be out in three months for good behavior, right?
Porky Pig's Feat
Here's another of my favorite cartoons. In my opinion it has possibly the greatest ending of any cartoon ever.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.