Happy Tuesday everyone! And now, it’s time for more Earthian!
Sorry for the late update! Family took me out to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier (very slick super-hero techno-thriller, btw) as an early birthday celebration, so I got a late start editing tonight. But here we are.
If you’re just catching up, previous chapters can be found in the weekly Earthian Digest, released every Saturday.
Let’s do this thing.
Storm clouds are gathering like one of grandma’s shawls. Rain has come and gone and come again, but at least it’s warm out. Some kind of tropical storm, I guess, so I don’t mind too much.
June isn’t as happy about it. Water is dripping down her glasses, and she keeps wiping drops from the tip of her nose, all the while nervous about her camera, tablet, and science kit.
All I’ve got is a (thoroughly soaked) backpack with a change of clothes inside, and the phone in my pocket. What do I really need to bring on a trip to the Moon? Got a feeling my swim trunks and bug spray won’t be needed.
Of course, it occurs to me that I never really planned for something like this. I’ve been busy worrying about my (upcoming) senior year, the new soccer season, and where to send college applications. Leaving the planet never really came up.
That’s clearly not the case for June. Why else would she own a giant science kit like that? Her rolling luggage has a bumper sticker that says Moon or bust!, and it’s not remotely new. Heck, it’s probably seen more sunlight than June has these past couple years.
And that explains why I’m stuck with her. She was the one who noticed that the Seelio’s invitation included a guest. And it quickly became clear that peace and quiet would never again return to our home if she didn’t get to go.
The silver lining is that she won’t say a word, no matter how dark the clouds may get. Thunder barks in the distance, I hear rain churning down nearby, and June is growling quietly. Her fingers are curled into little fists, but she will not make a peep.
I could stand in this rain for hours.
But it’s not to be. A blue light brightens the clouds from behind, and a curious ships slips down out of them. Mist swirls and clings to it like whipped-cream as the ship cuts silently through the air.
In another few seconds, it passes over our heads and sets down in the parking lot. It’s shaped like the front half of a throwing disc, but forty yards wide, and made of a smooth material that shimmers like an oil slick. The whole machine is as seamless as pearl.
Then, one of those nonexistent seams cracks open and a ramp lowers. There’s a warm, golden light inside, like a cabin with a rollicking fireplace. No one comes out to greet us, but neither June nor I need much convincing… yeah, I’m finally sick of the rain too, so we both hurry aboard.
Once inside, I’m ecstatic to find that it’s not only lit like a fireplace; it actually feels like there’s one crackling nearby. June and I walk deliberately down a rounded tunnel with walls made of that same shimmering material, and to be perfectly honest, I’m afraid to touch it.
June’s braver. She runs a finger along it as we walk, and she giggles. She just touched something made by alien hands; I’m totally surprised she didn’t fall over.
We get to the tunnel’s end and exit into a room shaped like a hamburger. I mean… it isn’t painted to look like one or have sesame seeds, but the shape’s there.
There’s a tunnel on the opposite side just like the one we came out of, and there are two chairs in front of us, toward the back of the room. They look comfy.
June and I both plop ourselves down while the top half of the room slides down, sealing the two tunnels closed. Then I feel my weight shift, I’m gently pressed back in my seat, and we must be flying.
“We can’t see anything,” June says dejectedly.
The walls oblige. The view outside sprinkles into existence on the surface, like thousands of tiny, round TVs lighting up and melting together.
And what do we see?
Clouds. Thick ones, and sheets of rain rushing at us, then running over the ship’s skin. The effect is like sitting in a glass jar under a waterfall.
I find it unsettling, while June sounds as if she might need to change her pants. I hope that’s not the case. This is her dream, and for it to turn that embarrassing… she’d never forget. I may be hard on the little goof, but I wouldn’t wish something like that on her.
The last of the rain batters the hull like flailing garden hoses, then the clouds part and we’re free. Into the sunshine. The blue skies. With all the clouds beneath us, a landscape of curling foam.
I glance over at June and she’s smiling from ear to ear. She’s never flown before, so this is something really special. It’s her very first flight… and man, it’s a doozy.
We’re pushed into our seats again and the view outside distorts. It’s like the air in front of us has turned to plastic, and it’s fluttering ever so softly, while the field of blue beyond fades to speckled black.
Silence and space. Holy crap, I’m in space. I was never quite on the career track for NASA, nor did I imagine I’d be able to afford a ticket on one of those vanity tours. Yet here I am.
For the first time in a long time, I’m as giddy as June. I feel like I’m about to explode with joy, leaving floppy little chunks of Jason Yun all over the cabin.
I manage to gasp. Meanwhile, June is laughing so much, you might think she’s being mauled by a wild tickle monster. Then the next thing I know, I’m laughing too. This is another perfect moment, something I’ll always have just as surely as if I’d etched it in titanium. It’s laughter, and surprise, and a journey into the unknown. This is sunshine on a warm summer day.
As our laughter tapers off, I look over my shoulder and see the whole Earth spread out like a giant canvas, rimmed by blue atmosphere gently caressing the darkness.
“Is this real?” I ask quietly.
June says, “Don’t even say that, Jason. Just… don’t.”
I don’t say another word. Instead, we sit there in silence for the next forty minutes while the Moon swells up in front of us. It gets bigger and bigger until I’m not looking at a pale white disc anymore, but a rocky sheet stretching away in every direction. It’s like flying over Utah, but in one ghostly shade of white.
There are other shimmering ships around us. Five of them. The other winners, I assume.
“Know anything about the others?” I ask.
“A little,” June says, pulling her bright-green tablet out of her pack. She flicks her fingers around the screen for a few seconds, the tablet croaks happily, then she says, “There are six. One other American, and the others are Peruvian, German, Kenyan, and Vietnamese.”
“Sounds like a full house,” I say.
“Wouldn’t that be two of one kind, and three of another?”
I groan. “Alright, it’s a royal flush.”
“No, I think…”
I hate that she’s smart.
While June puzzles out exactly which poker hand I’m part of, all six of our ships zoom low over the Moon’s surface in formation. Another few seconds later, I finally see the Seelio facility peeking above the horizon, a shiny white dome like a bubble of milk frozen in place.
All six of our ships come to the bubble together, and I can tell how gigantic it is now. I think you could fit a city inside of it… and I imagine they probably have.
Our ships begin to circle the facility together, strafing sideways like a fleet of helicopters, until we come to a large yellow circle drawn on the bubble’s surface. There’s a smaller circle inside the bigger one, and it looks sort of like the inside of a camera.
Then I look to the side and see something incredible and terrifying: the other ships around us begin to break apart. The shimmering materials of their half-disc hulls flake off, fluttering away and disintegrating like burning leaves. They fall away faster and faster.
I realize that my own ship is doing it, too. It’s coming apart. What the hell?
Before I can really panic, I see the truth. The outer shells break away like husks to reveal orbs as white and flawless as new cueballs. All six are just merrily flying along without a care in the world.
Why the heck isn’t anything ever what it seems to be?
While my pulse races, our orbs form a line and float toward the yellow circle on the bubble’s surface… and I’m fourth in line. I was fourth on the scoreboard. I was the fourth one announced. That’s not a number I care for an awful lot, but I doubt I’ve heard the end of it yet.
I can’t see what’s going on ahead of the next ship, other than a strange bit of flapping on the yellow circle. Then ship number three gets to the wall, presses against it, and pops inside.
The yellow circle is a leathery material of some kind, and it wobbles after the ship is gone.
Now it’s our turn. We glide forward until our glass-sphere collides with the yellow leather, then the small inner circle quickly expands and swallows us whole. There’s a pop like a giant sucker’s just been pulled from someone’s mouth… only we’re the sucker, and now we’re inside.
We’re in a a cavernous landing bay with a sunken floor. Dozens of white orbs are spread across the space, clustered around white cranes with a number of pointy tools on their tips.
Our six orbs surround an unattended crane, then set down in metal holders shaped like margarita glasses. In another second, our cabin splits open, the margarita glasses tilt, and we’re all gently set down on ground.
Seelio workers wander everywhere around us, moving boxes and crates and white plastic bubbles on hovering pallets. And everything–every nook and cranny, every tile, every weird metal structure–all of it’s shiny and clean. Have I stepped into one of my mom’s home magazines?
June is at my side, and there’s a group of other people flanking us who all look completely amazed. I don’t want to stop and count them, but it’s around ten.
I turn to the girl on my left and say, “What now?”
She shrugs and says, “Cái gì?”
“Right,” I say. “Should have seen that coming.”
June just shakes her head.
But I don’t have to wait long for an answer to my question. No, it arrives a few seconds later. There at the end of the isle, accompanied by six small flying robots, stands Owijer.
And he waves.
Coming up Thursday, we’ll be seeing more of that squiddy little guy in Chapter 07: Gloss. I’ll see you then!
PS – If you’re having fun, please share with a friend! 😀