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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The adventures of Meli, an orphan who lives in a space city.

Submitted: August 05, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 05, 2016




For a second it almost looked like a planet. With fingers around her right eye Meli imagined it as Earth … then pinched it into oblivion. That was where humans were said to hail from, she mused. The perfect circle of the magnet only remained a second longer, until burgeoning into a mile wide globe of scrap metal. Even so, the Pioneer S73 still looked fashionable with its dorsal hull being callously skinned. “That planet needs to go on a diet”, Meli thought. The jagged teeth of Gate H3 opened. Meli closed her eyes and tasted it as the planet slowly vanished behind black receding maws. Mechanicals swooped like flies scouring any escaping jumble. Occasionally one of these satellites too fell from orbit, drowning in an ocean of electromagnetism. But she missed it this time, as the glass of her helmet became foggy from exhalation. Meli craned her head backwards, clicking it back into place. The universe was like an enormous diamond mine she said to herself, one that had been mined out. It was a stupid thought, but she didn’t come here so that she could think smart. Here her mind could wallow in the blackness of the cosmos. Here she could point to nirvana, heaven, valhalla like they were all on a map. Meanwhile the staid, tedious faces of the yard workers flickered with a covert grin whenever she chanced by. Inoe looked closer as she charged towards him, his face frozen behind the viewing glass of the control hub, as if he was trying to find a horizon but could find none. “What am I, your love child?” She wasn’t. Meli was just the local orphan. And since they couldn’t chuck her into a fireplace and use her for fuel, she spent every day wandering through the city, trying to find someplace to wreak havoc, “I don’t know how he keeps his sanity in there”. She threw a stray meteorite at the window, straight at the bastard’s face. A dull “I’m over at seven” echoed through her mind link. So what? She was acquainted with sophisticates of far greater breeding, she mused with a bit lip. Five past seven, Inoe listlessly trod down the corridor. Meli had disappeared into her study earlier. Maybe cruel fate would reveal that they were somehow related, and he would then become her father and her mother, hell her whole ancestry. The door swung inward. Meli was there conducting a banquet with droids seated around a round table, “More tea, X82VT11?” He put his hand on her skull and let her black frayed threads slip through his fingers, “Hungry?” She was covered head to toe in art, animated tattoos that changed shape and color. Looking at Meli for too long could give you motion-sickness, which is probably why the heads of the Orphanage treated her with such a contempt, not to mention the robberies, the vandalism, the mock executions, the tea parties. Their solution wasn’t as much laissez-faire as it was exile. “Check this out” she chirped, pointing to her now naked left shoulder. Earth floated in a deranged patchwork of stars and galaxies. It sometimes turned black or orange by mistake. “Impressive”, Inoe declared sarcastically. “Traitor, I thought you said you liked my art”. “C’mon, were going to eat rich tonight” he said cordially while smashing her face together with his palms. Inoe himself was a tall muscular redhead with a copper beard. He had a slob attitude towards life. He enjoyed just getting by. The rush of the deadline to him was like a drug, and of course the lazier you are the better the rush, “If you keep hitting me I’m going to lock you in here, and they’ll never find your body”. Meli glanced at him skeptically, “I don’t get how food made by real people is supposed to be better than droids. It’s just a fucking scam”. “No, it’s great. You get to boss people around”, he replied as he watched her face visibly contort. He knew that ten years after everyone in her age set had been assimilated into families, both human and alien, and had their brains scrambled with chips encoding a foreign personality, Meli was still her old self. He just didn’t want her to end up dead inside.

There was no grand mystery behind the city Baldr. It was just another trading port, one of many nexus connecting a quartet of planets one of which happened to be predominantly human in population. The city itself looked like a balled up porcupine drifting in space. Out of the city an atom of light occasionally escaped. Secluded beneath an invisible dome was the ship yard, a cage of arched towers. Ruins filled the hollow. The shadows within them are darker than the night, and only Meli knew the shadows could only be captured for so long until freed back into the sky. To the south, the star Melliope casts its aura on the city, a warm tangerine light. Warm, like the light swimming in the restaurant. Nonchalant eyes looked them over as the rising steam mingled with the glow. Inoe reclined back into his seat, watching her scrape food off of her plate. She knew how to scrape food off a plate. “It’s ok” she muttered, trying to rein in the orgasm welling up inside. He scooped up the last morsel of arroz con leche, then shot a solemn look her way, “Do you know why there are no more tin men?” the term signifying the extinct race of men who hid their spirit in the shells of machine. “No, why?” she queried with a less than inquisitive glance, “They drugged up, injected human blood, thought it would make themselves more alive, take it from me kiddo, blood and circuits don’t mix”. “Oh yeah”, she hissed back, hammering the table like a judge, “this mind link works like a charm, even if yours short-circuited years ago”. Inoe knew his credibility was taking a steep dive down an increasingly rocky gorge. He veered the conversation over to the underground blood feud raging amongst the governing council, and then the artificial view of birds that flew across his northern window, followed by a few sly jabs about kidnapped orphans he had “read about” who were used for dark torturous experiments. Meli retaliated with her insight of the latest conspiracy, though up her own assassin’s name, and then recounted a VR experience she had as a falcon. Nine months had passed since he discovered her as the ghostly figure behind the theft of two droids when they found her rummaging through a storage closet. She kept coming back, and soon in some irrational mystical way a bond had formed. The Director Enamul Hoque condoned it after he heard her story firsthand from Mr. Iggers, the Master of the South Baldr Orphanage. As for their meals, they were always like this, and he generally tallied up how many stories she believed at the end of the night. He knew she was the type that didn’t even trust her own shadow. But somewhere inside there was an untamed mind, the uncharted waters of imagination. She was a two sided coin all right, and he just had to flip her.

Inoe: “Do you remember when I used to work the night shift at the graveyard?”

Meli: “Yeah, when we first met. I thought it was always night out there”

Inoe: “Still is, unless it suddenly became day while we were eating”

Meli: “Far as I know it’s always been black as hell”

Inoe: “That reminds me … well”

Meli: “Well what”

Inoe masked his eyes and smirked grandiosely.

Inoe: “There’s a legend about the graveyard”

Meli: “I bet the scrap-yard is real legendary man”

Inoe: “Shut up and listen”

Meli: “It’s me right?”

Inoe: “It could be if you don’t shut your trap”

Meli: “Try it”

Inoe: “Just listen … This is not just something I heard from the Gatekeepers, this is an ancient legend.  It’s something you can only really know if you’ve been there at night”

He needed a legend … no, an ancient fear.

Inoe: “Right, I’ll tell you a secret if you swear on your life never to …”

Meli: “I swear on my grandmother’s wrinkled toothless moldy old soul … just tell me”

Inoe leaned across the table, his towering height reeling like a bookcase about to fall and crush her.

Inoe: “Ghosts”

Meli awoke blistered and bleeding underneath a foul, fossilized stratum of empty beer-cans. The rumor she had stalked was easy prey. It was the Pioneer, caught in the dream-web of an immanent star-scape, pierced by its bright vanity. At least, that is how she had meant to picture it. Cold, implacable fear whirled through her spacesuit, coercing her into strange erratic movements as she forcefully pressed forward. She had a bloodthirst for the unknown. Around her the wilderness gathered. Manifold wrinkles like space itself shifted and reconfigured endlessly. Meli switched on her propulsion and burrowed through. To her left was a free floating cabin, engorged with tangled wire and hardware like a stuffed turkey. Alighting onto it she could hide within and scrutinize her surroundings. In all directions the metal remnants lumbered past, frail sign-posts inscribed with the faint reminiscence of humanity. They were scored with old wounds, countless portals of every size and description, so that after a moment lost in thought she could not discern her own dimensions. Meli swam through a schism dividing two vast panels, the outlines of which she could barely interpret. Up ahead was the ship, shedding its leprous decaying skin. “Finally” she thought. The passage was clear. All she had to do was kick off this one revolving panel, and surrender herself to the mystery, drifting effortlessly across the long expanse toward whatever wonder lay ahead. Lurking mechanicals drooled flowing streams of sparks as they nibbled at the ends of rusty bones. Likewise the corridors, bent into strange diagonals managed to coax garlands of sparkling light from the shadow. Her heart revolted, but she crushed it quickly and dived deeper into the maze. “What a crazy place” she thought as mosaics of shattered glass encompassed her. A wide gateway stood dead ahead. Inside was a dark theater cloaked under curtains of mist.  The stray items that hovered clumsily by seemed more salient than the rest, overgrown as they were with luminous ice. “If this is the control room” thought Meli, “where the heck is the captain’s chair?” She swung her flashlight from side to side until she found it. It was tall, red and ceremonial. Meli tossed herself across it like a used towel. “I guess there are no ghosts” she sighed, letting her head sway aimlessly. The walls were streaked with lacerations that exposed the night. She could feel it all bleed through.  And as she did, her thoughts felt more like souvenirs. Then, suddenly the light-soaked effervescence of dream entered her mind. From outside, a foreign breath veiled her visor. Weary eyed, it was the last thing she saw.

“Where am I?” thought Meli, “Who am I?” An overpowering awareness of cruel certainty broke through into her chest, flooding it with ashes of grief. She clasped her heart as its valiant battle-cry was silenced by pangs of deafening sorrow. Peering down, there was another woman’s hand over another woman’s heart. It was tarnished with a deep crimson that was not blood but something even more alive, a living red that equalized all form and substance. There were others as well, dispersed at strange intervals, all attentive to the light’s origin. A vast velvet disk swelled with fire. It’s eddies danced across the surface of the view screen, from one side to the other, interweaving itself into her consciousness. At the center was a pale, smooth stone. Light enclosed the world, and like a Venus snapped shut in an instant. Empty air caught her and raised her upwards. Over her eyes, two pools formed and from them rushed rosaries. The sky was seeded with tears, the reverse of rain. In its image, each contained the totality of a world stolen by fire.

“How did this all come about” Mr. Iggers asked politely after an hour-long lecture. Her master was a dust bunny. To be more accurate he was a Duster. They came from a world sheltered in dust. Each individual lived in a spherical ball, protruding its insect-like limbs and head outwards. The one thing to remember about them is to keep cool. Never get them too happy or sad. Always speak with civility and respect. And never, under any circumstances, get one mad. Meli sat in the chair and raised her hand to speak. The answer came out amidst a snarled sneeze. Her arms, struggling to communicate the story waved in panicked futility. Meli dissolved into a primordial soup as she inhaled plumes of powdery air. It was thick and unrelenting and it masked the voice of her master. He must have seen her as a victim of fantasy. That thing those humans succumb to. Living amongst them, his mind was always laboring against it. The willful runaway shot a glance back at the absurd alien. “I was just bored I guess” Meli admitted. As she did a sudden recurrence of her dream made her nerves squirm like filthy corpse worms. The heavy ball exploded, congealing the air with funky fluff and jolting her backwards onto the floor.

Inoe: I want you to have him

Meli: X82VT11?

She looked the vacant-eyed droid over. What had been doddering and decrepit was now flawless and refined.

Inoe: You’ll need at least one friend where you’re going

It was true. Abandoned on another world with outsiders that had only secured her for status; it made her sick to her stomach.

Meli: He’s handsome. I’ll raise him right.

Inoe: So … I guess it’s all over

Meli: Yeah

She paced through the disheveled room, looking for anything that could be bartered

Inoe: Have you even met them … the new ones?

Meli: Couldn’t care less … some sort of blue slug.

Inoe: Ah … Mildorans

Meli: You were right, you know

Inoe: Right?

Meli: The ghosts … they’re real

He listened while she laid down the story like an edict. It was equally enthralling and irrelevant. More importantly he had spent a lifetime watching what had been glory fall to pieces. He knew the seasons and their true designs.

Inoe: Melliope, when I see you again, I want you to be the same, the very same you are right now. Don’t let them make you different.

She clenched her fists but there was not enough strength in her now. Grappling with his heavy coat she drew him near. Laying her head down on his shoulder, she could see the red flame in his eye. And as she tilted her head away from the glare, her tears fell down onto his rusty beard.

Meli felt not a yawning care for the days that passed away so soon. Nor was she enamored by the perishable light that impregnated the walls during the day. For some uncertain reason her life had become like a story written in invisible ink. At first it had seemed like something else entirely. “This isn’t so bad” thought Meli. The room wasn’t strewn with trash that she could rake up like a pile of leaves and jump into. It was clear, translucent and expressionless. The one defining feature was the virtual interface hanging seductively from the wall. Sometimes she would look into that lens, peering from afar at a world of living poetry. There were matadors that fought huge crystal beasts, restaurants that served equations and reflections giving lectures on reality. And as she lay motionless on her bed, seeped in that other world, she could feel the moss grow. It enfolded her, bringing ferns that flourished and life that tickled intensely. “Are you dreaming?” Meli sat up and looked around her. There was nothing. In an instant the girl bolted and found herself with her back against the door. “Why am I holding hands with a ghost?” she cried incredulously.

Ghost: Don’t run again … let me see you

Meli: What are you!

Ghost: You are me … you were me in my dream

The dream injected itself back into her memory.

Meli: It’s gone, it’s all gone

Her back slid down the door until she sat motionless on the ground.

Ghost: It wasn’t a dream. It’s true. My world is gone, just like me

Meli bit her lip, “I shouldn’t believe everything I hear” she thought

Meli: Why are you telling me?

Bisected by a stray ray of light, the apparition reformed and floated over to her.

Ghost: I’m like you, I want to run away. There’s another place, but I cannot get there

Meli considered it. Legends were told of a dimension after death.

Ghost: … so I may ascend

Meli dragged it closer with her heavy breaths.

Meli: I’m here to help

Ghost: For one to cross to the other side. It is like throwing a stone and skipping it across the surface of a lake. One must have strength. If I can have one day of life, I could reach the end

Meli: Me? … Me!

Ghost: One moment. For one moment

Meli: How the hell could that even happen?

The garbled apparition tilted its head towards the interface.

This time she put the headset on slowly. The light that entered her eyes felt like needles injecting alien chemicals. Fissures danced across her face until she could sense it all breaking like a pane of glass. Then suddenly, she was thrust forward. Fragments of her being descended one at a time, whirling in the electric wind like daffodil seeds. They came to rest at a public square, where a family of reflections looked at the curiosity, their eyebrows raised. Meli collected herself and stood up. She was inside.

Thalia at first mistook her new form for an optical illusion. Its stealthy currents of color raced up her arm and across her cheek, recycling her aura into art. Studying her abdomen, she could see its glyphs fold like origami until a terrible pit unearthed itself. Her hands gripped the edges. The hypnotic void beckoned to her, and for a moment she feared she would descend into it. But then, as balloons flew upwards from the gulf, she began to catch her breath. Thalia threw on a leather jacket and strut towards the door. Passing down the hallway and into the main chamber she could see the way out. “Where do you think you’re going?” She punched the ugly slug square in the face and walked out. A minute later, the droid rushed out towards them. “Where do you think you’re going?” It kissed one of them on the cheek and rushed out.

During the first month in captivity, Meli had discovered her sole enjoyment was to be the soft inaudible chuckles that escaped her whenever the serenity of the pristine surroundings was interrupted by long, black slime-ridden trails. To her misfortune, robots followed in their wake to lap up the gelatinous grease. Now, as she frantically chased after the thief the trails became a baffling maze for her mechanical toes. Even so, she pressed forward as fast as she could, accelerating around corners and breaking through the crowd. “That ***** stole my body!” she roared, catapulting her deadly words towards her hapless target. To the left was a bar where the Mass, gestalt bundles of sentient sewer worms sipped green martins. To the right was a computing cube that dispensed probability to wealthy patrons. Meli commandeered an Insectamander’s travel tile and climbed up into the air. The bandit sprung down an infamous avenue. Pursuing swiftly, she aimed herself like a compass at her own shadow. Cold, metal hands drew nearer and nearer. Meli jumped. An invincible frame locked the traitor to the pavement. “Take everything!” she shouted. Thalia faced the soulless eyes of her captor, “I lost everything, my world, myself, my identity, and so now all I can do is to take everything from you. You know that!” Meli could feel rage reshape her existence, its savage compulsion direct her every thought and idea. “You’re dead!” Cold, metal hands hovered over her throat. As she reached forward to close the gap false images flashed before her eyes; the junkyard … Inoe … the bright orange beauty of Baldr’s patron star. And then she saw it … the Earth, draped in orange, sitting silently on her shoulder. “You are home … Don’t worry, you are home”.

Days later Inoe contacted the new overseers with a transfer document. He had filled out all the paperwork and was willing to take Meli under his wing. The following evening Meli, Inoe and the droid sat around the table and sipped tea. The two girls directed their eyes toward each other and snickered. Inoe pushed back into his chair, scratched his wild beard and wondered what had gone awry.



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