Excerpt from working novel, “Radio”
Unfortunately, with each room and corner, I found not one shred of evidence of what I was looking for. I even checked the basement: in and around the washer and dryer, the air ducts, and the abandoned, cobwebbed metal shelves with a few rusty nails resting on top. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was beyond frustrated. Where are these scents coming from? And why did they appear to be stalking me causing a twisting knot in my chest? I could feel the rage building up inside of me because I felt more insane than I had before I had started my search for a particular sign of Grey-M operatives having been here that I was nearly tempted to scream out loud. But I didn’t want to cause any damage to the “new” house or my unit, so I tried to take some calming breaths, trying to find a more rational explanations. Like maybe, the wet dog and baby powder aromas were just really hard to get rid of. I mean I’ve never had a dog or lived with a baby, so how would I know if this theoretical conclusion was the case. Yet, based on my past experiences with the foul odors in some of the vans my unit and I had to endure, perhaps if all the windows were to be open, it would alleviate these three annoying and combining scents. Then there was the potential reason for the third odor. The landlord could have baked something, so that when my unit and I arrived, we would feel like we were at home and feel all gooey inside… no pun intended.
Yet all of this seemed far fetched. You and the rest of my unit would have every right to say that this was just my wild imagination running amuck and heightened due to the recent death of my mother.
But you see, as my breathing became slightly more even and the rage of frustration slowly diminished, though the beating of my heart still raced, I remembered, prior to my unit’s escape from the compound, overhearing Grey-M had been developing ways to give targets a false sense of ease by means of sound or smell long before they sent in a team to attack. They used, if memory serves correctly, a minuscule cylindrical device placed in high corners of a room or space. I overheard this, quite by accident— well not exactly, when the scientists were doing tests on me to ensure the formally dominant ability of my father hadn’t gone into remission. I hadn’t thought much about it at the time because my unit and I were sure any of our plans to escape would work. Nonetheless, any information, no matter how small or big, from the scientists had been stored deep in my memory incase it would be useful for our potential escape.
It didn’t, when my unit finally agreed on a course of action on how to escape, but the knowledge— as you’ve already noticed—stuck with me. And as I looked around the basement, my back to the staircase, I failed to hear, though not unexpectedly, Feather coming down until his hand rested on my shoulder. I jumped a little before turning my head to look at him.
“Are you okay?” he asked with concern.
I’m not sure, I telepathically replied before projecting the memory of the day in the lab, before unsteadily continuing, The smells of baby powder, wet dog, and the freshly baked goods… I-I don’t know.
I didn’t know what else to say, as I became aware of Vapor opening the front door with muffled speaking to a strange man and the heavy waft of pizza took the place of the three aromas that had bagged me for who knows how long. But in true Feather fashion, he wrapped his arms around me from behind. Though, he usually spun me around to hug me in a very platonic way, I strangely welcomed the intimacy of the gesture and leaned further into him until our bodies seemed to meld into one. I reached my hand up to intertwine my fingers to the back part of his hair by his neck. Similar to the moment we had shared after I had discovered my mother’s butchered body, I wondered why this closeness felt so right. He didn’t show any sign of pulling away, but I had the need to delve into his mind to see if he was feeling the same way I did.
Unfortunately and quite peculiarly, I wasn’t able to get a reading. It was as though he had found a way to shield his thoughts from my telepathy. I would have asked why, but I was too exhausted from all the searching throughout the entire house to ask. I allowed his natural earthy musk and his embrace wash over me until I no longer felt paranoid, frustrated, or crazy. It wasn’t until I heard the whining of the top step and heard Dialect speak, that Feather and I pulled away from one another and returning back to our brother and sister status.
“Pizzas here!” Dialect almost shout with glee.
“We’ll be up in a minute,” Feather said, as I turned my whole body to face him.
Do Not Go Gentle (The Gift)
I gasp hard, one quivering breath after the other. My chest clenches like it’s crushing inward because there is not enough air to fill the lungs. The spacesuit keeps me swaddled in like a cocoon, only two inches away from becoming one with nothingness. It is too tight. I can't feel my fingers.
“Oxygen level at 35%.” eUDORA's soothing voice inundates the limited room around me, but my ears are still buzzing.
I blink to clear up my vision and try to focus on the helmet’s HUD data when the whorl of contorted metal passes briefly in front of my eyes. "Tom", I whisper, and my heart comes undone in one million pieces. After a brief second, the muddled inkiness of the void seizes my vision once more.
It was supposed to be a routine check on the cooling conducts of the research bay. A gallivanting stroll while securely anchored with my mag-boots to the outer haul, and I am no stranger to spacewalking. But I am a stranger to being thrust out into space and becoming an insignificant speck of dust against such a majestic creation. I am a stranger to death. We all are.
How filled with life and light was the night’s sky as I looked upwards from my parent’s lawn. How full of wonders it seemed, when I embraced it with my gaze from another's loving embrace. How blood-chillingly gargantuan is the pitch darkness that surrounds me now.
I need to focus and keep my bearings on the remains of the spacecraft. I need to think.
“eUDORA," my voice is shaky, "are any distress calls coming from the Gauntlet?”
“Let’s – Let’s try hailing them, see if anyone answer.” Like moving through layer upon layer of snow, invisible needles make my muscles spasm as I bring my hands together to operate the control panel and adjust the signal for long-range.
The repeating sound of the call bleeps a couple of times and I instinctively turn my head searching for what’s left of the spaceship. For sure, I must be spinning away from it, and I better figure out soon the direction and the rotation speed.
The beeping sound stops.
“Dam it! Pick up!” My voice is hoarse, and I punch in the command to hail again. "Tom, pick up…" I whisper, ignoring the tears swelling behind my eyes. Despair creeps in from my subconscious. “God, I hope he’s not dead.”
“There has been no contact with the crew in the 20 minutes since the event.”
eUDORA’s calmness gets on my nerves with every passing minute. How I miss Tom murmuring my name in the swirls of passion. What I wouldn't give for a strained, hoarse voice like mine, dripping with despair and humanity, to take eUDORA’s place. But the only answer I get is silence. The only presence I have to cling to out of this mess is eUDORA.
“Alright – alright. eUDORA, set a trajectory for the Gauntlet.”
Dotting lines take shape on the visor, disappearing as soon as they form.
“Cannot establish a clear trajectory.”
“Compensate for Gantlet’s new orbit, damn it!” I yell, wasting more oxygen than I should.
Finally, there is a green, stable, lifeline pointing to the spacecraft. Mangled as it is, it remains all I have to call hope. A haze slowly takes over my thoughts, making me shake my head and blink a couple of times. The indicator shows oxygen level at 25%. One deep breath is all I need, as long as I can still take one. I must think.
A short, calculated burst could put me on a path towards the Gauntlet. Releasing the pressure from the oxygen tanks should do the trick, but I must time it precisely. It would be like catching a fly with a thread if the fly was more precious than air.
While inputting the overrides, eUDORA thinks it wise to share an opinion. “Warning. Releasing the pressure from the oxygen tanks will leave the oxygen levels dangerously low.”
“Why, thank you for the obvious, smart pants,” I snicker back, with a weird sense of satisfaction. I never thought sharing banter with someone, even an AI, could feel so heartening. Must be the reason why banter was first invented but no one realised it. Meanings get lost over time. People get lost.
My head gets flooded with gibberish like it often does, courtesy of my attention deficit. Not even the looming shadow of death could get my full attention. But I must concentrate.
I set the timer and steady my breath, anticipating the sudden change in acceleration. I am shooting for the stars, but I am clinging on to hope. As I am hurled across space, crackling sounds and the stench of burning plastic mixed in with overheated metal are not good signs. The HUD flashes intermittently and no indicators are clear. I can't see the spaceship anymore, neither on the HUD, nor out there as the beacon of home in the vastity of space.
Am I aimlessly drifting or dead? But the worst of all, why has eUDORA gone silent?
“eUDORA? eUDORA, are you still there?”
No answer. There is a void inside the void of helplessness, and I can taste its bitterness. A void eUDORA’s soothing voice filled. So what if I found it annoying at times? Bring it back.
My arm stings, probably where the short circuit fused the connectors, but I welcome the pain. It means I am still alive and for as long as I am alive, I will feel whatever I need to feel. But I am alone.
All alone. Is this it? I rest my head on the back support trying to come to terms with the inevitable when all I want to do is scream.
Out of the blue, a poem Tom recited while trailing star-charts on my back comes to me. “Do not go gentle– Do not go gentle into–” I search for the words out loud, but my mind fights me, and I can’t remember the rest.
eUDORA’s voice blasts through the speakers and tears are finally free to trail down my cheeks.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”
Oxygen level at 1%.
The Ups and Downs of Having Small Paws
One day I was helping a young girl with her piano practice and she complained that her hands were just too small. "It's okay," I reassured her. "Look, my hands are small, too." And I held out one little mitt. Her eyes went wide and she said, "wow." I mean, really - I just wanted her to understand that you can play piano with little hands, not gawk at them like I was part of some circus sideshow. But it's true, my hands are tiny. So tiny that my family likes to point them out to people who take one look at them and say, "aww ..."
Yes. Aww. At my hands. The hands that stopped growing three years ago. My sisters and mother take great joy in the fact that, although I'm taller than all of them, my hands are smaller and pudgier than theirs.
There is, however, something you should be aware of. These stubby fingers are where my invincibility lies. I have nearly broken my hand just trying to please my old violin teachers and reach as far as I could up the fingerboard, but at least my fingers can dance and make music even when they have trouble spanning one octave. Every word I type owes its thanks to their deftness and speed. I can draw pictures and write pretty letters that make people smile. I can drive a car!
I am also something of an expert when it comes to pulling weeds.
My ugly little hands can wipe away tears and smooth ruffled hair, guide even littler hands curled in fists around pencils, hold one end of a skipping rope, play slaps (that's an important one), create stories, and do lots of other useful things.
Let me just make myself clear.
Do not underestimate my small hands. Though I've had no occasion to try it as of yet, I'm sure they are also mighty useful when it comes to delivering a hefty slap.
Essay on Fast Food: Do You Like Hamburgers and Hotdogs?
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