Thursday, April 20, 2017


So Far From Home
By Paul Smith

“I can see Andromeda,” the first visitor said.
“I can see Polaris,” said the second, “But I can’t see home.”
The third visitor shivered. She had a blanket wrapped around her, the last thing she was able to grab before their landing craft exploded. They got a campfire going from its smoking debris and watched it slowly dissolve into a twisted heap of exotic alloys and smoke. The campfire gave off a little heat. She inched closer to it. The night was cold. It sadly reminded her of her own home planet where the nights were long and bitter. And this new place had some of the things she remembered from home – barren mountains, desert scrub and dwarf trees that looked like mesquite. The chilliness made her long for something that would remind her of the comfort and security of Rigil Kentaurus, her home planet. All her companions talked about were technical things – the hydronic extrapolator, the hyper-cooled propulsion system, the ratasnatafratch that went blooey. She was the Communications Officer. She wanted something human to grasp. She stared at her companions.
“Why did the ship crash again?” she asked.
Her companions were quiet.
“Was the landing gear down, was that the problem?”
More silence.
“Zandar, did you say Imfop forgot to lower the landing gear?”
“No,” Zandar said. “I never said that.”
“What did you say, then?”
“I didn’t say anything,” Zandar said.
“Did you say I forgot to lower the landing gear?” Imfop said.
The female alien named Wan-Su started to feel comfortable. The wool blanket held in her body warmth, plus she could see Imfop getting hot under the collar. The body heat from his Kevlar-coated extravehicular mobility unit drifted her way in the chilly night air. She wanted some more of this warmth.
“What else did Imfop forget, Zandar? How about the hydronic heating system? Did he forget to bleed off the air before turning it on?”
“Did he overlook recharging the cathode current collector in the lithium-thionyl chloride cell? I mean, everyone knows that in extremely low-current applications, the electrons need a little boost to get through the porous carbon.”
“How about the ratasnatafratch? Did Imfop forget to vent the ratasnatafratch before checking the valence of the titanium shield?”
“Stop!” shouted Imfop.
“Ha!” Zandar shouted back.
Wan-Su was definitely feeling more comfortable. “Zandar,” she said, “Would you rub my back? It’s sore from that crash.”
Zandar moved to her side of the fire. He got behind her and started rubbing. His hands felt good to Wan-Su. This place was beginning to feel like home, ratasnatafratch or no ratasnatafratch.
“Oh, that’s more like it,” she cooed. “You guys can take turns, if you like, Imfop.”
“That’s OK, I’ve got this,” said Zandar.
“Enjoy yourself, asteroid breath,” Imfop said.
“I will, crater-face, I will.” After a brief pause Zandar pointed, saying, “And that star over there is Antares, Imfop’s home planet, a real dump. “I can smell it from here- stinks like a landfill.”
The landing craft continued to smolder. There was no way home now, Wan-Su thought. It was just the three of them in this forlorn wasteland with no ratasnatafratch, no lithium, no hydronic whirligigs or radios or anything. Wan-Su could see her home planet Rigil Kentaurus, twinkling far away, but Zandar’s hands felt really good right now. Warmth surrounded her now, from Zandar, from Imfop, from the campfire. Whatever the name of this dump planet was, it was beginning to feel like home.

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Paul Smith writes fiction and poetry with a clear recollection of hundreds of ruptured relationships he has been through in his short life, and relies extensively on them to produce moods of laughter, despair and futility. He is on the constant lookout for new material.

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