The console glowed under her fingers, illuminating her brow in the light. She dragged her fingertips over glass panels racing with information that Low could never understand.
“Just let me do my job,” Maggie said to him, her eyes never meeting his face.
“Take care, Robbins.”
“I’ll ‘be safe,’” she shot back. Firecracker of a woman, but Boston was glad to have her. An expert in languages is sure to wield a silvery, if sharp tongue. Maggie had it all, but Low couldn’t get distracted, not now.
The alien planet seemed so calm around them, so few dangers to be found that it was easy to be lulled into a sense of comfort. All Boston Low wanted was to keep his crew safe, but apart from falling off of downturned ledges, there wasn’t much peril they seemed to be in, nor anything to assuage the loneliness of exploring this alien place alone.
Commander Low was a strong-hearted team worker. With no special skills to his name, the last few hours had been just him and his shovel in an endless expanse of alien technology that, really, just looked like clumps of rocks and trees. He was sure it was fascinating to Robbins and Brink, being a linguist and an archaeologist in turn, but all Low had was grit and bravery. Though maybe there are worse things than being brave on an alien planet.
The distance got to him though. He was talking to himself, thinking through everything aloud. Damn, it’d sure be good to talk to a real person again. Robbins had already dismissed him and she seemed serious about her work, but… well, it wouldn’t hurt to hang around and see if he could glean anything from being around her.
“Why are you watching me like that?” she asked over her shoulder. Seems his attentions had alerted hers. Say something profound, he thought to himself.
Low stepped forward, green crystals glowing in his hand, “It seems impossible, and humbling that these tiny objects can return something to life.”
“There are already other systems for creating life,” Maggie said, “ones that humans are more comfortable with.”
“I admit, I prefer that method much more.”
“I think that’s inappropriate, Commander.”
“Sorry Robbins,” Low shrugged, “it feels like so long since I talked to another person. It gets lonely out there with just a flashlight and a shovel to keep me company.”
The room was quiet except for the shrill sound of the console.
“I understand loneliness too,” she whispered.
So maybe she really was human, Low thought. After a pause, he asked “What are you working on?Looks fascinating.”
“If my instincts are correct, this…” her eyes flicking across the glowing runes, “I believe this is a love poem.”
“Instincts tell you that?”
“It’s part of language. It’s something you… feel. I’m not sure what it says, but it evokes strong emotion and… warmth.” Her face was flushed.
“Linguist like yourself and you’re reading alien romance novels,” Low stepped away, expecting a catty reply as ever. Maggie— no, he corrected himself, —Robbins never let a comment like that slide.
She didn’t react. “It’s why I work alone. I don’t like my work being tainted by outside emotion.”
Maggie faced him, her dark hair illuminated by green glow and Low had to turn his eyes away. This couldn’t be the time nor the place. After what happened with Brink, it’s hard to say whether any of them were in their right minds. But as Maggie stepped forward, those thoughts melted away like a deactivated light bridge. She was so strong, so intelligent. It was a shame he could never think of anything to say—
Her arms were around his chest, the top of her head tucked beneath his chin. “It does get lonely,” she said but he dared not move.
“Maggie, are you okay?”
She recoiled, looking at the floor, “Yes, I’m sorry, forgive me Commander. That was inappropriate.”
“No,” he started, but there was silence again. “I just worry that you’re alright.”
They were frozen in place, steps apart. It felt like the right thing to do, even when his professional mind screamed at him to stop. He moved close to Maggie and placed his lips on her forehead, “I think we’re all going to be alright.”
Robbins did not stay in his embrace, she turned back to her console, “There’s still work to be done until we can go home.”
“And you like to work alone, Robbins.”
“I’ll call you if I find anything interesting,” Low said, his eyes lingering on her as she flipped through complicated glyphs and designs on the screen, her face just as unreadable to him as the language on that glass.
Super fast challenge fanfic. I was gonna make this snarky about alien spider web bondage and crystal-play but somehow it ended up kinda cute ugh so gross
Congrats to Sean, Sean and Bill for completing The Dig and asking for romantic fanfic haha suckers didn’t think you’d get it didja
Sure thing, here’s my Easy 10-Step-Process!
Step 1: Be conscious. (This step is important)
Step 2. Take black eyeliner, line your eyes. Keep lining them. Did you line them inside your waterline? Do that. Why have you stopped? Go over that line again, you don’t know what’s going to happen today!
Step 3: With an eye brush, apply eye shadow. Black, usually. Brown will work in a pinch and dark burgundy will give you that “I’m done with life” look.
Step 4: Keep applying eye shadow, blending up and out towards your brow like it’s the last boat leaving Pompeii. (Too soon?)
Step 5: You should still be applying eye shadow. Did you apply eye shadow under your bottom lashes yet? No? Don’t you want to look like a slightly haunted raccoon?
Step 6: Apply mascara.
Step 7: Apply a different mascara, because two work better than one in some weird, archaic Universal truth.
Step 8: Ha! You weren’t done with the eyeliner. Smear on some more, you beautiful panda, you. Don’t be afraid if you fuck up, just make the liner bigger. (Hardly anyone will notice… …probably.)
Step 9: You have eye shadow all over your face, don’t you? I could have told you to tape coffee filters under your eyes, but I’m a jerk. Clean yourself up!
Step 10: Complete your look with a generous sprinkling of What-Have-I-Done, courtesy of your face! Don’t worry, it will make that expression once you realize that this whole tutorial was a grievous mistake.
I cried tears of frustration that have been built up for years, as I realize I have gone my life battling a force and not people. Sometimes I’ve been on the ugly hateful side, but only when I felt ugliest too. It’s easy to live a life under the rocks and trees which are rearranged and placed by people who care, just because you feel yourself inadequate to move a boulder yourself.
I’ve changed the message I have spoken to empowering and helping people believe they can be better, because the world tells us we’re so little and we live in the shadows of those who mean more. But we need to grow into the shadows we are about to make.
I am not a pesticide, I am a fertilizer and sometimes that means I am full of shit but I’d rather be full of something than empty of purpose. I know the way to win, because the stories are written about people like us and the petty cruelties only win a chapter or two to their name. You don’t have to be a hero to be a main character, you know. You just have to try something interesting and hopeful.
It’s just that I really feel broken.
And the clanging of the engine, the gales of smoke behind, they all scream with me.
I don’t even know where I’m going, but the hands on the wheel lock into place and drive. Surely they go somewhere. This can’t be rocketing into endless nothingness, but I’m not the one with the directions.
I watch the gas gauge drop like a seesaw of the sun. Light is barely peeking over the edges now, illuminating vast space as stale as the breath in the car. Whose car is this? Is it mine? Why haven’t we been speaking?
It feels like a treadmill of desert. The endless paint stripes wearing thinner and sadder under our tires, surely that will give it away. The world stopped around us, it must have, we’re on a loop again. Someone skipped the record player. Just the same patch of asphalt shooting back as fast as we drive ahead. Keeping us there until something else catches up. Until the car stops and the iron fingers release their grip on the steering wheel and maybe we start walking, if I know how to anymore, if I can move my legs or think further than a few seconds of foresight.
Because the memory banks are running dry with what exactly it is we’re escaping from.
I feel cold and hollow, I’m insulating my structure from the ripening air beyond the windows. The steel grew in slow, I felt the aches in the night.
She said it was nothing.
I wanted to show her but my arms stopped doing what I wanted them to, and it was over so soon. She didn’t have the metal growing inside. I was thorough.
Whether deliverance approaches from behind or ahead, I still do not know. Passing cars all look the same. Decoration. Plastic bits and dials to convince me that we’re going somewhere after all.
Now I’m a metal nest and it’s driving me elsewhere. To a scrapyard at the edge of the world, or where the world might have been if I bothered to map it. I never knew there was an edge until the machine drove directly there. It wasn’t worth storing before. The data is being overwritten. The memories of how she felt when she cried on my shoulder, and the muscles involved in how to smile, erasing and formatted into something so different.
Watching the fuel gauge, waiting for it to move.
Counting the stripes in the road. If there was a number I didn’t know it yet. But there is time. So I start the count again. It’s only one. A single worm weaving and guiding the way. Away.
The horizon isn’t changing, the pedal is all the way down, and the stripes pass by so fast it’s like we’re not moving at all. I smell the exhaust. It’s burnt.
Wherever away is, we’ll find it.
Well, something will.
They’re knocking at the window but they must be running so fast. Who can make pace with us now? The pedal is digging into the floor and I hear the car crying out. We’re screaming ahead with such speed, nothing can see us.
Then why is there someone
Tapping at the window
And asking for me by name.
Inspired by the topics of “insurmountable anticipation,” “trapped in yourself,” “roadtrip to a desolate place” and “the day the robot stole my car.”
I worked at a convenience store for a short while, I went to school during the day and wanted to pick up an overnight job. The training process for this place was rigorous, they really took the job seriously. There were about four of us behind this enormous counter in the middle of the store at an extremely busy part of the day, for some hands-on cashier training.
I don’t remember the rules, there were rules though. You had to get people out of there crazy fast, especially if there was a line, so we were chugging along quick as you please. A frazzled hurricane of a woman approached the counter, her not-quite-teenaged daughter eating a popsicle beside her. Put a couple dollars onto a gas pump outside. Pay for the popsicle. I smiled and rang her up, the daughter disappeared into the rest of the store.
It clearly wasn’t a good day for her, she never removed her sunglasses and as she brought some change out of her purse, it spilled all over the counter. This was the cusp of a breaking point. She stared at the coins like they had wronged her, like “of all the days” and “how can this be happening” and “if it wasn’t for this…”
I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. I got it. I leaned forward and together we counted out the right change, even though she looked on the verge of tears.
“YOU KNOW WHAT,” she said, smashed her purse down and charged behind the counter to envelop me in a huge hug. I hardly knew what to do but instinct kicked in and I caught her, hugging tight.
“Oh sweetie,” I said, my head over her shoulder. She was definitely crying then. I caught eyes of the other employees who looked alarmed. After barely a moment, she returned to the counter, saying thank you over and over again.
“Thank you, you’ve really helped,” she said, wiping tears away, and looked at my trainer, “You better give her a raise!”
The employees asked if I knew her. I had little way of explaining it.
She was a hurricane from the moment she walked into the store until she was gone. The only thing I did was smile, understand, and try to help. Let something else be the end of the world. This is just loose change. We’ll count it out together.