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December 26, 2013 / 74

An Adult Short Story and Long Space Missions

I wrote this short story a long time ago… and once you start reading it, you’ll perhaps see why I haven’t tried to publish it. But with the planning being done for the Mars Mission, I thought that if they are not already thinking about what could go wrong with the people aboard, perhaps someone should give some thought to some possibilities.

I didn’t start out to write an “adult” story. My stories pretty much go where ever they want to go. My writing style is such that I start with a potential title, and let the story take me where it will. This one went…. ummm… off on its own.

OUTSIDE

He missed being able to go outside. He stuck his face up to a view port and stared at the stars, cold and distant. The ship spun slowly and the changing view brought Sol, his sun around to the automatically polarizing and tinting port. He was getting far enough away now that there wasn’t so much tinting, not so much polarizing required. The Sun was becoming cold and distant, too, like all the other stars.

He wanted to go outside. He wanted to push open the screen door and hear it slam behind him. He wanted to hear his mother’s voice, “Don’t slam the screen door!” He wanted to smile at the secret knowledge that he did it on purpose, just to irritate her.

He wanted to take the three steps to the edge of the porch and jump off of it – flying clear over the steps to land on the patterned brick sidewalk, then step off the bricks into the grass where he could lie down and get chiggers that would drive him insane with itching.

He wanted to smell the black locust blossoms in the spring, to cut off a twig laden with them and hang it over the ship’s control consol to freshen the already stale, machine-processed cabin air.

He wanted to go outside.

The holo-clown popped into existence just off his right shoulder. “Hey-ya Sport! What’s up?”

He ignored it. The morons at Central thought it would cheer him up if he got depressed, and it might have… if he were six or seven years old. He mused about that for a few seconds. The fact that someone thought that a holo-clown was appropriate for an adult meant that they thought of him as a child, mentally. He wondered who the infantile moron was who came up with the holo-clown idea.

“Feeling a little down, are we?” the clown chirped.

The hormone levels in his blood triggered the damned thing. Lately it had been appearing more and more often with its irritatingly cheery crap. “People need to be depressed sometimes,” he thought.

“Depression is an illness,” the clown intoned in the mock serious voice it always assumed when its program told it that he might not want to hear what it had to say. “My function is to keep you sane and happy. Happiness is the greatest good. Sanity is the right of all citizens.”

“Shit! I must have said it out loud. If my thoughts are going to be unconsciously verbalized, I’ll never be able to relax. I’ll have to quit thinking.”

For once the clown just hung there as if it couldn’t think of anything to say, or more properly, as if the subject was outside the scope of its programming. He laughed. It was a forced, insane kind of laugh. One that would get him locked up down on Earth. But he wasn’t down on Earth, which was the whole problem. The clown, detecting a change in hormonal levels and getting inputs that indicated laughter, popped out of existence. It would be gone now for at least an hour. It took that long for it to run a new baseline hormone level check to decide if he was going nuts again.

So… for an hour he could be as depressed as he liked. He could wallow in it. He could weep and sob and throw himself on the floor … if he could decide which surface was going to be the floor today. Looking around he made his first decision of the day. There. “Surface A will be the floor today,” he announced to the stale air. He pushed off from the ceiling and landed on the “floor” with the double click of his light ship “boots” – socks with little magnets in them, really – and looked out the port there.

There was a port in each of the craft’s outside surfaces. Any of them could be a skylight, or a window, or a view into the depths of Space. He looked out the port in the “floor” and saw stars. Unless he was looking at the sun he always saw stars. They were always the same stars but he looked anyway. There wasn’t a hell of a lot else to do. The experiments they told him to do were all done and sent back to Earth months ago. The only thing he had left to do was survive the trip to Neptune, loop around it, and then survive the trip back to Earth. Once there he would be poked and prodded to determine the long term effects of weightlessness on the human body. He was a speaking monkey.

There was absolutely nothing else to do. The ship itself was fully automated. The digitized books he’d brought that should have lasted him several years had lasted three months. He’d re-read them twice already. Apparently one read faster in weightlessness. The time they tried to transmit new books had not worked out very well. The interference in the signal just made a hash of the text. So he made up things to do.

“Well,” he looked at the checklist on the etch-a-sketch note pad by the main control console and dialed a little check-mark, “that’s done. I’ve been depressed, looked through the ceiling at the sun, decided that it was the ceiling and then looked out the floor at the stars. Done with my morning to-do list. What now?”

His mind began to drift into a daydream of home. He saw his girlfriend smiling at him and giving him “that” look as she made her way to the bedroom. He smiled and followed.

When he snapped out of the dream, he was gooey again. He masturbated at least six times a day. There was nothing else to do and it allowed him to medicate himself with a drug that the medbots apparently weren’t programmed for. “Ahhh… endorphins. Gotta love ‘em. God’s answer to morphine. Naturally occurring, self administered… and totally free.”

After cleaning himself off, he decided to do the laundry. He had the shorts he was wearing, the gooey ones, he had a rag he’d used earlier for the same purpose. That would be enough for a small load. He pushed over to a “wall.” (Today it was a wall. It had been the ceiling and the floor last week when it wasn’t a wall.) He stripped the shorts off and was floating in front of the “wash machine” naked but for his boots. Shoving the cloth into the ‘cycler, he punched the button and waited. It only took a few seconds and, after all, he had nothing better to do so he might as well wait.

Laundry done, he dressed again. He’d thought about not wearing anything at all, but the time he came out of a dream involving one of his Earth neighbor’s wives, he’d had to clean the goo off of a console. Not that that was a bad thing, necessarily… it was something to do… but he figured it was probably not good for the equipment so he wore shorts.

Fresh shorts on and smelling of Earth scents, of Earth chemicals, he started to dream of the receptionist at the Center. It was getting very interesting when…

“Galactic Rover, this is Commander Perry. Do you read, over?”

It took a few minutes for the sound to register on his brain as real. He got communications from the Earth all the time, but they never showed up in the comm log. He shoved over to the log console and punched for a replay to see if this one was real or not. It was. “Hummm…” Should he put on more clothes or not? Not. Hell, they were the ones interrupting him in his bedroom. And she was a hottie, too. Well, he’d bring her back later. He’d had sex with her twice this week and didn’t want to wear out his welcome.

“Galactic Rover, Commander Perry, over”

“Jesus! They’d just called! Ahhh…” They must be forgetting he was so far out now that it took several hours for their signals to reach him. He supposed he’d better get a return signal on its way before he ate lunch. Then he could eat while he waited for their reply. Maybe he could do Roxanne while he waited? Let’s see now… what was it he was supposed to say when someone called? Ah, the hell with it. He was too far out now for them to ever discipline him for anything.

He pushed the mic button. “Uhhh… Uhhhhh… I’m here. What do you want?” He let go of the button and turned to do other things. Let’s see… there was Roxanne, but she could wait. Out here women always waited for him.

He went over to the food cabinet and opened the door. He’d been eating a bit more than he was supposed to, but what could they do about it? If he starved before he got back, it would be their fault. He took his lunch tube out of the locker and snapped the top off, then licked the inside of the cap.

“Galactic Rover? Repeat your last.”

Huh? What were they, psychos? No, wait. That should be psychics. Or psychos. ‘Bout the same thing. How the hell had they anticipated his response? Oh, yeah. That’s what he said last time, and the time before that, and the time before that, and so on. He always said the same thing. Bastards. They were trying to screw with his head. Well screw them! He wouldn’t answer for, ummm… how many calls? Make it three. The next three calls…

“Galactic Rover, Commander Perry. Look out your starboard port.”

He started laughing. He thought about what the moron had just said and laughed harder. “Look out your starboard port!” he was really enjoying this conversation. Perhaps he’d reward them and answer the next time they asked instead of making them repeat it. He thought about it again, then said it out loud just for the novelty and began laughing again. He felt a wetness and looked down at his shorts. They were damp. He’d laughed so hard he’d pissed himself. Had to be pee. It wasn’t gooey.

“Galactic Rover, respond.”

“I did, you dumb-shits! I responded by laughing my ass off at you! I laughed so hard I peed myself!”

“Galactic Rover, respond.”

Oh. Forgot to push the mic button. “What the hell do you want?”

“Galactic Rover. Go to the port, the window, on your starboard side and look out.”

He blinked. The food tube was suspended halfway to his mouth. He let go of it and it just hung there in front of him. He must have given it inadvertent inertia because it was ever so slowly turning end over end. He watched it, then glanced at the clock. He looked at the tube again and tried to gage its angular velocity to determine how long it would take it to complete one rotation. “97 seconds.” He looked at the clock and counted seconds down from 97.

“Galactic Rover, Harley? Harley! Are you ok in there?”

“47, 46, … 46. What did they say?”

“Harley?”

“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out!” He grabbed the tube, pissed-off now because he would never, ever know if he was right or not. Sure, he could give it another spin, but he couldn’t ensure the precise energy and angular momentum as before because that was an accident. You can simulate accidents, but you can’t repeat them.

“Harley?”

Remembering this time he mashed the mic button down, “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT??”

There was silence on the radio. He liked silence on the radio. When it made noise it always messed up his day. They hadn’t anticipated that response. That was the first time he’d said that! He tilted his head about 30 degrees from perpendicular. It was apparently a very effective response. He might use that one more often.

He finished his lunch tube and put it in the disposal chute. This was the best part of the day and it only happened after he ate. He looked out the floor port and watched as the ship spun so slowly he couldn’t tell it was spinning unless he looked out. He took out his dedicated grease pen and carefully marked cross-hairs on the middle of the glass. Then he sighted through them and looked for a star that would cross the X. When he found one, he waited until the star was about to be occluded by the grease marks, then fired the waste tube. If everything worked right and he’d timed it right, the tube and the star would enter and exit the X at the same time, a hit. But if they didn’t, well… they didn’t and he’d have to tell his next dream date that he was married.

He watched the tube enter the edge of his field of view and move toward the X. He watched the star move toward the X. They were just about there when he heard the noise.

Noise? There shouldn’t be noise. He felt his adrenalin levels go up and knew what was coming next.

“Hi! Feeling a little tense?”

Freaking holo-clown. How, oh how he wished he had a gun that could shoot holograms!!! Or a rope that he could strangle one with. His adrenalin and blood pressure shot up with his anger.

In an oh-so-reasonable voice the clown said, “Calm down. I suggest you do relaxation exercise number sixteen.”

He picked up the hardest object in the cabin, a dogging wrench for the emergency escape hatch that looked like nothing more than a ten inch piece of pipe and started swinging it through the clown’s image, then pounding on the holo-projector’s protected lenses and screaming incoherently at it.

It was impossible to damage the projector or its lenses with the tools at hand. He knew that, but trying made him feel much better, and it was exercise. He thought of the effort as relaxation exercise number one.

When he’d exhausted himself, he calmly put the wrench back in its rack and felt better, until he heard the noise again, and the freaking clown reappeared suggesting exercise number twenty-three. After simulating a punch to the clown’s groin, he ignored it and tried to focus on the sound. What was it? What did it sound like?

There it was again. It seemed to be coming from over there. He moved toward the noise. The port? Ahhh… maybe the port on the starboard was on surface D? Well, hell. If they wanted him to look at the port in surface D, why didn’t they say so? He turned his head and pointed his mouth at wall G and puffed out some air. Slowly he floated toward the wall. He turned around as he neared the port and looked through it.

“What the hell?” There was something blocking his view. Something that appeared to be hanging on the outside of his ship. He looked at it. It was a curiosity to break the monotony. It was something new. It was a space suit helmet with a shiny reflective face plate.

“A what?” he asked himself.

“A space suit helmet, you freaking moron,” he answered himself.

“Yeah. That’s what I thought I said. So what’s a freaking space suit helmet doing outside the port, and how the hell did the pukes in Control know it was there?”

“Ya got me.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

End of conversation. If he didn’t know, and he didn’t, then there was really no sense in continuing talking to himself, was there? He turned away from the port and began to think about Jenifer. Ah, yes. Jenifer.

“Galactic Rover, this is Commander Perry. Respond.”

Them again? Screw ‘em. They’ve wasted enough of my time today. I’m behind schedule. He tried to think about Jenifer again as one hand began to make short trips in short arcs, the other hand picked up the rag.

The noise was back.

Screw it.

“Harley?”

Screw ‘em.

In his mind he began to slowly unbutton Jenifer’s blouse while his hand moved very slowly.

Then the floor, surface A, came up and smacked him.

“What the hell?” Gonna have to work on that vocabulary. It was shrinking lately.

“Harley? This is Commander Perry. Stand by to equalize pressures.”

What?

He heard the hiss of air escaping. A meteor. A goddamned meteor had poked a hole in the ship and his air, his life, was leaking out. Maybe he should tell Control? To Hell with them. He sighed. So much for this mission. Well, not a damned thing he could do about it. Might as well go out happy. His hand moved a bit faster.

The hiss stopped.

“Stopped?” Leaks do not repair themselves.

His hand stopped moving. He looked at the air pressure gage. Normal.

“What the hell?”

The hatch opened and the holo-clown, dressed now in a Space Officer’s uniform, a commander, in fact, stepped through the hatch just as Harley was about to achieve satisfaction with Jenifer.

“Damn you! Fucking clown!!!” Harley picked up the dogging wrench and hit the damned thing as hard as he could and blood splattered all over the cabin.

“What – the hell?”

The other holo-clown appeared on the other side of the cabin. “Calmness is a virtue.”

Harley sat down on the deck and cried. He was confused. Now there were two holo-clowns to torment him. He couldn’t take two. He just couldn’t. He picked up the little broken plastic food tube cap from the ledge on the control consol and began stabbing and sawing on his neck.

The space was tight, but two more holo-clowns came through the hatch and launched themselves at him. They were breeding. The God damned holo-clowns were breeding!!! With a sob of desperation he sawed faster and was rewarded with a spurt of bright red blood just as the first of the new clowns hit him. He wondered how holo-clowns could hit him. Then he saw pure space, blackness without stars. Somehow Space had got inside the ship and it would kill him. His last conscious thought was that even though he would be dead, the damned holo-clown would go on forever into deep space. “It’s not fair. It’s just not fair,” he said, and then the blackness claimed him, leaving the holo-clowns to torment each other – forever.

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3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Neeks / Dec 26 2013 20:53

    Wow! Love sci-fi and this was just…wow. Creative as hell.

    • Michael E Picray / Dec 26 2013 22:13

      If you want “creative” – check out my novella on Kindle – “Hamster Dan”. Dan is one of Death’s assistants. Yes… he’s a little hamster with a big job… but he works very hard to do it right.

      If you like to read… I have a lot of stories and poems that aren’t published… 🙂

      And some that are. (In the Canadian Aurora Award winning anthology, “Space Inc” my story is titled, “Riggers” and is about a couple of solar sail factory ship sail riggers… who have a problem. And in an Eastern US “literary” mag, I had a story called “Mr Tubby” published – it was what some tell me is a rare example of “humorous horror”. If you need reading material – I’m always happy to send a story. 🙂 (And don’t forget to look at the “writing” classification on my blog where there are other stories.)

      You wouldn’t happen to know a copy editor who works for free, would you? (Le joke du jour.)

      • Neeks / Dec 27 2013 10:17

        If I knew that one of those I would be using him/her Michael! 🙂 Sorry, don’t know a soul. Blogging is good for this though – search for copy editors and then read and comment and follow their blogs. You can learn so very much that way. Good luck with your writing!

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