Colored blue and gold, Graham sat on the throne. He held a scepter. His forehead itched, a couple stray thorns drooping off his curling black hair. His boxer shorts were bunched uncomfortably beneath the full regalia.
He wasn’t positive what was happening. His mother, his principal, his grandfather and his trumpet teacher were walking slowly around him. Assessing. Murmuring wind-chime syllables. Graham wasn’t afraid of them. He straightened his back, the heavy cloth and body paint shushing one another as they rubbed. He didn’t dare look down to see if he’d smudged the paint that someone, no doubt a servant – he couldn’t quite remember – had worked so hard over.
“Is he fit?”
“He is fit enough. But he is still a boy.”
“He could lose control.”
Graham fell. His tunic ruffled up with the wind and he could finally fix his boxer shorts. The waterfall behind him spattered him clean and washed off the paint. He felt at his hair but the thorns had become disentangled. He had dropped his scepter. A smug voice called from within the waterfall. “See? No control.”
Graham lifted his hand up. Where a tattoo of a fox had always been on his wrist, a buffalo head rested, dull eyes staring at him, reluctantly giving up their secret. Graham felt the gurgle of hysteria rising up in him. Before his body decided whether it was going to cry or laugh, still freefalling beside the neverending Niagara, he spread his arms wide and spun himself round. It wasn’t a graceful pirouette, but it did the job.
Graham stood in front of the panel. Four people, faces obscured and blurry, not replaced by familiar ones this time. He stood in the clothes he’d put on that morning. Jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, boots. His version of a uniform, easy to remember and get back into. He looked down at his tattoo. The fox was back. It winked at him.
“That was a very close shave, young man.”
“I know,” Graham dared to speak.
“Were you even lucid in the first stage?”
“Of course,” he lied.
“You must admit, some part of his subconscious kept that waterfall going and going. He could have hit bottom at any point.”
“I think we should give him a probation period.”
“Agreed. Are we agreed on this? Acceptance with probation period?”
Graham opened his eyes onto reality. He stood in the same room, but this time the panel’s faces were clear. He didn’t let them see his reaction. He bowed his head in thanks, acknowledgement, respect, whatever, and left the room. Probation or not, he was certified Lucid. Now the party could really start.
Attention, all Galactica Air Customers. We’d like to welcome you on board this Twelve-K Shuttle to the L4 Asteroid Belt. Before our Certified-Sleep-Process is induced, we would like to ask that you pay attention to our few rules and regulations.
First, for those of your traveling with us for the first time, the Certified-Sleep-Process is induced by a minuscule spinal shot administered through the back of your seat. It is guaranteed not to damage clothing. Please contact our customer service if you believe any damage has been done.
In the highly unlikely event of your Sleep wearing off, you may press the blue button on your seat arm to introduce a second shot. Please do so immediately upon waking up. Our cabin crew will be patrolling throughout the flight and will ensure your health and safety during the flight. However, since passengers on this Shuttle are not zero-G certified, you are required to maintain Sleep and Seating conditions at all times.
In the case of an emergency, our crew will attempt to fix the problem and may attempt a quick landing if extreme measures are called for. If this happens, the Certified-Sleep-Process will be automatically induced a second and third time in quick succession in order to create a stable and safe, panic-free environment upon the Shuttle.
Finally, our in-flight Dream-system is up and running now, and for the next thirty minutes you are free to decide on your entertainment for the remainder of this flight. For our customers in Titanium-Star, there are several more channels to choose from, which our Chromium passengers may purchase for a fee as well.
Please sit back, enjoy the Real-Water! bottles provided free of charge in your armrests, and enjoy the flight ahead.
Earth will be closed for repairs on Monday, according to the Office of Planetary Access and Inter-galactic Travel (OPAIT) . A crew of four-hundred and twenty-two million will be conducting major infrastructural overhauls beginning on Monday (Earthweek-Standard) and continuing throughout the week. This news was announced rather suddenly, many claim, during a press conference regarding the new safety features of Jupiter’s forty-third experimental moon colony.
“We don’t really get it,” Sa’ifa 45/12 Eshkenazi remarked. “I mean, I’m waiting for a place in the next colony if forty-three works out and the O2-levels work out this time around, but now it sounds like they might be trying to screw us over and send us back to that [expletive removed] of a rock or something.” 45/12 Eshkenazi declined to say whether her suspicions were based on any wider rumors, but the murmurs of the crowd made clear that she was not the only one to feel discomfited by the back-to-back announcements.
A spokesperson for OPAIT stated that “there are no plans to re-route any of the colonizers away from their current destinations. That’s preposterous. Earth is still populated by many unfortunate souls and there has simply been an influx of donations towards a project that has long been in the works.” When asked where these donations have come from, the spokesperson declined to comment, and later OPAIT officials also required our editors to remove said person’s name from our article since “the comment was not officially approved by the Office’s Press Agency.”
Holopics will be screened regularly of Earth’s progress. Earthman Jacob 9763/0 Salastrius was cautiously enthusiastic to hear about Earth’s closure. “I’m glad that something’s finally going to get done to fix things up a bit,” his accentinterpreter translated. “But this has been promised before and nothing’s really happened so I guess I’ll believe it when I see it. Besides, not that we usually get to leave, but those who can will have to postpone their trips now for a while and that’s rough. Every day here is rough and we want to get out as soon as we can.”
More details will be updated as the work crews begin Monday.
PHOTO / NASA
Once upon a time, there were train tracks. Along the tracks, somewhere midway between their beginning and end, was a town. It was small and rustic and old, the kind of town where you married the boy you played with when you were four and grew up to be just like your grandparents, grumpily proclaiming that things were different in your day, even though they really weren’t. It was the kind of town that few people left, and if they did leave, you knew they weren’t going to come back. It was the kind of town that could fulfill your dreams; your dreams were small and simple because you didn’t really believe there was a whole world outside of the town, a world where you could do something different than what your parents did before you. It was the kind of town that killed any aspirations you had above your station and strangled your imagination because it interfered with what you were supposed to do to make your family proud.
Nobody in the town knew what the train tracks were. The train that had once run along the edge of town had been diverted to a different route so long ago that nobody in living memory even knew what exactly a train looked like. The children in the town knew that if they ever worked up the courage to leave, they would follow the tracks. On long summer days, they dared each other to go farther and farther down the tracks, always turning away with frightened giggles when they reached Old Gabby’s farm a little outside town. Everyone knew that Old Gabby was crazy and that his dogs were vicious, and whenever the children heard the barks, they would lose their nerve.
They never went the other way down the tracks. That way, North, lay something more frightening than dogs and crazy old men, something that parents didn’t even need to warn their children about; the kids learned quickly enough that when they tried to go North, their skin began to prickle, their hair stood up on their arms, and the world seemed to darken. Nobody every talked about it. It was the kind of town that didn’t like to voice certain things.
That became a problem when one day in late autumn, a woman ran into town from the North and fell, panting and red-faced, onto the mayor’s porch. She managed to scratch a word in the snow before she passed out: “Help.”
I missed reading fantasy.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading Jane Austen more than I can say. I adored the snide remarks and hidden humor and the endless subtle sarcasm that permeates her language and her characters. I adored the descriptions of situations and the way she mocked them so thoroughly without ever once denouncing them obviously. I love reading books about the real world, with characters that were believable and made sense and in whose shoes I could put myself.
But the rapture, the utter ecstasy of losing oneself in a world so extremely foreign from one’s own – that is something I will never be able to give up. Letting my mind run rampant in forests, encircle itself with magic, leap up on horses and grapple with an enemy – all those things I let myself get immersed in as I delve into the latest installment of whichever fantasy novel I’m reading; those things bring magic into my life.
I really, truly, missed reading fantasy.
Following is the beginning of a conversation I had with my brother this evening.
-Oh, hey, what’s up?
-Not much. You?
-Not much either, you know, just applying to jobs.
-Oh yeah, how’s that going?
-Well, the job I applied for last week – you know, with the hotel interview and everything – I didn’t get that one. But I’ve got an interview later this year I’m really excited about.
-Cool! Where is it?
-Just this place in Washington, a research center.
-Wow, that sounds pretty awesome. I hope you get it!
-Thanks. How’re your applications going?
-Ok, I mean, I’m almost done with the essays – I still have to go over them obviously, but I’m mostly done. Now there’s just the bureaucratic stuff to finish. Oh, by the way, have you heard about the book “The End of Mr. Y”?
-No, don’t think so, what is it?
-It’s right next to me now, that’s why I mentioned it… it’s this cool book I’m reading, it’s got a lot of really awesome references to all these psychological and philosophical theories in it.
-Cool, I should check it out. You know a new Terry Pratchett book came out?
-Yeah, a non-Disc-World novel.
-He writes about something that’s not Disc World? Wow, I didn’t know he ever did that.
-Oh yeah, he’s got a bunch of books that aren’t to do with it.
….My brother and I have fun phone conversations. The conversation continued on to talk about many fantasy writers, the reasons why so many of them are Mormon and some music. I now have homework from him. I need to check out this British show called “Ultra-Violet” and another show by Aarin Sorkin. I need to read this short story called “A Logic Called Joe” and look up “The Hipster Olympics” on Youtube. There will be a test.