Back from Paradise

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: June 04, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 04, 2017



(cover image by Olga Ahmetzyanova)

“There is meaning in every journey

 that is unknown to the traveler.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Darkness, silence and nothing else. One might wonder which one is stronger, but not for long. Next moment, some invisible mechanism began its work, and silence was broken with a sound of tremendous mass of stone moving, sending muffled echoes in all directions. The silence is defeated, but the darkness wavers not, so the source of the sound remains undiscovered. The silence never returned however, even when the stones stopped moving – for there’s a faint sound left in the invisible room, as if someone pressed a key on a piano and its echo never died. On the contrary, that same echo seemed to grow stronger and stronger as time passed.

And finally, the darkness is challenged as well, as on some still unseen surface a single symbol appeared. It remotely reminded of an upside down “Y”, but as if it was drawn by some child’s unsteady hand. And the reason, why it can be seen, is because it was glowing, albeit faintly, with white light. Its glow along with the humming sound, only seemed to get stronger, and in a few moments, more symbols began to appear on both sides of the first one. They were not forming a straight line though, but descended downward in an arc shape on what was now revealed as a smooth stone wall. As soon as all of the unknown symbols were lit all the way to the floor, the humming and light intensified, the darkness was gone, and surroundings could be seen now.

 In what appeared to look like a natural cave, with rock floor and hard dirt-like ceiling, there was one big smooth stone wall, at the center of which glowing white symbols formed a sort of eerie archway. And the sound just kept building up, and at the moment it reached its highest point – a tiny blue spark appeared on the stone inside the archway. It was so small, that it looked like nothing but a tiny cut on the fabric of reality itself. As if forced by that intense humming, the spark began slowly moving counterclockwise, leaving a thin, ghost-like blue trace where it passed. While it accelerated slowly, more and more sparks appeared, and one by one starting their spin as well. There seemed to be no limit to them, a thousand points of various hues of blue, some of them deepest navy, while others of greenish, teal color. And they moved faster and faster, their traces blending in a most beautiful vortex of color. Then, as if slowly attracted to the sides of archway, particles drifted away from the middle, leaving inky, almost tangible blackness there.

With a faint echo, a figure rose inside the archway. For a second, it was nothing but a shade of grey spoiling the otherwise smooth black surface in the middle of the vortex; but then the shadow stretched its ‘arm’, and a gloved, five-fingered hand appeared out of the blackness, grabbing the side of the archway; it was soon followed by a humanoid shape, which almost fell out of the darkness, leaning heavily on the outstretched hand for support. The cave was now illuminated by the newcomer’s headlamp, the light of which became more and more noticeable as the glow from the symbols along with humming slowly died out.

The newcomer was wearing quite a peculiar outfit, consisting of: a thin bronze helmet on the head, goggles on the eyes, akin to those worn by aircraft pilots, a strange device, attached to the nose and mouth; over the neck and the upper part of the chest he wore a rough wide scarf, tied behind the head, its rough cloth bearing many stains and even a few burn marks; from under the scarf just a tiny bit of knitted sweater could be seen with a black leather jacket over it. What made the jacket strange however, were a number of thin copper plates grafted into it in seemingly random places. The strange appearance was only magnified by denim jeans, with patches of black glistening hide reminiscent of crocodile skin, again, in seemingly random places; and the footwear this person wore could only be described as ‘armored sneakers’, with pieces of spiky steel attached to the sides, soles looking, for lack of a better word, charred. On his back the stranger carried a sturdy black backpack, bearing almost no signs of wear and tear other things had, except for being exceptionally dusty.

The stranger then got up on his feet, pulled the jacket’s sleeve from left hand to take a look at a  number of strange copper devices above a brown chamois leather glove, all worn in same manner one would wear a wristwatch. After looking at them closely, the newcomer removed the device covering the lower part of his face and let out a relieved sigh. The helmet soon followed the mask, letting loose a mass of long auburn hair; however, removing the goggles revealed a pair of beautiful blue eyes on what was definitely a girl’s face.

Depositing the goggles and breathing device into the helmet, she held it up by the chin strap, using its lamp as a makeshift lantern. She then made a habitual gesture with her hand at the nearest rock face, while pressing a button on one of the numerous devices on her left hand, trying at the same time to hold the light steady. In the next instance a ray of orange energy bursts from her wrist and hit the wall, leaving a burn in the distinct shape of letters ‘KL’ on the stone.

Just as she was about to try and find the exit from that cave, she noticed the archway symbols lighting up again. She watched with curiosity, as the portal opened again to let an even weirder humanoid figure in.

It looked weird; all of it seemed to be made from same material, brownish-beige in color, with the exception of backpack largely similar to the one she had and black plastic goggles which appeared to be the integral part of the headpiece. Overall, the figure resembled a strange, humanoid-like insect, with huge, oversized shoulder pads, headpiece, forearms, thighs and chest, leaving the neck, arms, legs and waist surprisingly thin; the material reminded her of an upholstered cardboard. The stranger didn’t waste any time however, and after briefly searching through one of the numerous pockets of his backpack, came up with a small, mirror like device, which he then held up to the nearest rock surface. After a few seconds yellow, faintly glowing letters “JP” appeared on it, as if by themselves, no ray of light or laser beam could be observed.

“Fancy, eh?” the figure spoke to her, putting the device back into one of the pockets on its backpack. The voice was muffled and filled with strange static, as if it spoke to her through radio. “There’s air here then? Just give me a moment…” it never waited for her reply, and proceeded to remove its helmet, revealing quite normal human head under it. It was a man, by the looks of him - in early twenties, but with uncommonly dark look in his eyes, and even a few grey hairs in his otherwise ordinary brown hair.

“It is good to see you, Kate!” he smiled at her, waving a gloved hand.

“I wish I could say the same, Joseph,” she greeted him blankly, and added “Don’t call me that.”

Her name was Kaitlynn, but she preferred to be called ‘Lynn’ instead of ‘Kait’, or at least by her full name. She would sooner die, than let anyone call her ‘Kate’ though.

“But that’s your name, isn’t it? I swear I’ve seen you before on Eeladi,” he raised his hands protectively.

“Just call me ‘Lynn’ if you have to,” she replied. She was already tired of him.

He had a rather sinister reputation; on one hand he was one of the first Travelers and definitely one of the most experienced ones; on the other hand there were rumors circling around, that all of his original peers disappeared mysteriously. His arrogant manners didn’t contribute favorably to his reputation, as people generally didn’t respond well to his condescending remarks.

“Well, it’s good to see a fellow Traveler anyhow,” Joseph smiled again, trying to get on her good side.

“Oh, don’t bother,” she waved a hand at him, but then shot him a curious look, and pointed at his suit “Where did you get that?”

“That’s from my latest venture,” he explained, trying to sound nonchalant “Locals were some bugs, very friendly; the material is some sort of hardened wax. They swore to me, that if I keep helmet on, it may even allow me to survive in vacuum. These things,” he pointed at his giant shoulder pads, “Hold emergency oxygen supply.”

“Useful,” she admitted. The worlds with no breathable atmosphere were still vivid in her memory, and appeared more than once in her nightmares.

“You bet,” Joseph nodded, and inquired “Do you know the way out yet?”

Instead of answering, she went rummaging through her backpack, until she found her map device. It looked like a flat stone of perfect square shape, and currently, white pictograms were arranged in two rows – the top one contained previous exits along with the one she entered through, these were: a star, meaning a spellcaster or wizard she never met in the previous world; a book – she just never had the patience to search for the right one; and a portal, shaped vaguely like the one she used. The book and the star were grey and bleak, clearly indicating that map knew exactly how she arrived here.

The ways out of this world were marked on the map by the bottom row of pictograms, and included: a picture of a hole in the ground, also known as ‘the abyss’, the easy way out; a circle meant you could leave by finding and activating the correct item, the difficult part was finding the right one; and a picture of gears implied the existence of technological teleporter in this dimension.

“Oh! The abyss, I love that. It’s just a simple matter of finding the bottomless hole and jumping in,” Joseph exclaimed, peering at the map over her shoulder.

“Where is your map?” Lynn suspiciously narrowed her eyes at him, quickly hiding the map away from his eyes.

“If I remember correctly, it is somewhere in magma lake three worlds ago, if you pardon the expression,” Joseph gave her his most condescending smile.

“Then how did you?..” Lynn bit her tongue too late.

“Oh, traveling is easy, if you know the general rules,” he made it sound unimportant, perfectly aware, that navigating worlds without the map was generally regarded as suicide. “That signature out there looks odd, don’t you think?”

 Not wanting to admit, that she didn’t know which one he was referring to, Lynn vigorously looked around, the light from her helmet dancing on the cave walls, until she saw (Another one!) condescending smile from Joseph and his raised finger, pointing at the ceiling. A single stone was embedded in the hard, cracking dirt, with two small green letters ‘LT’, most likely drawn with a simple crayon.

“Do you know who that is?” Joseph queried.

“Lee Tanner?” she guessed.

“Or Lieutenant,” he countered stoically, and went out of the cave, beckoning her to follow him, “Let’s go.”

Walking through the cave, Lynn checked her compass she was carrying since her departure from the Earth; the arrow was still crazy, one second pointing in one direction and next moment in a different one. ‘Perhaps one day, in another world, the arrow will finally decide, and maybe, just maybe, it will be the Earth again…’ she thought.

In the meantime, the cave has given up stone completely, the same dry dirt everywhere, shattering underfoot, as they proceeded through the only path available. It didn’t take long for the tunnel to narrow down, forcing Joseph to walk with his torso turned sideways, his giant shoulder pads completely unfit for cavern exploration.

But luckily, they saw non-artificial light soon enough, as the tunnel abruptly ended with a thin crack, through which they could see the sky of magnificent indigo hue.

“Ladies first,” Joseph sighed, letting her go ahead, while he tried to take his backpack off. Lynn, unencumbered, carefully exited through the crack and looked around.

It turned out to be midday and morning at the same time. Most of the sky was illuminated by a giant red sun above, giving the sky its unique hue; while another, much smaller, but a lot brighter blue sun was rising on the horizon. The clouds looked pretty normal, and she thought ‘Thank God, less chance of an acid rain’. The grass and vegetation were mostly of maroon and dark purple color, reminding Lynn of the purple basil her parents used to grow in their garden. The world looked strange to her, but was somehow attractive – much better than numerous dungeon and dark worlds.

“What do you think?” Joseph asked, as he finally got out of the crack and looked at the landscape.

“Well, it certainly looks pretty,” Lynn was looking around, transfixed.

“That’s not what I meant,” Joseph sounded irritated, “How do you propose we get out of here?”

She gave him a stare.

“But we only just got here, we could go see stuff, you know,” Lynn stammered as she saw Joseph’s expression change. She instantly regretted talking to him.

“It will take more than a pretty landscape to impress me,” Joseph stated, “I am going to find that hole and jump inside. You are welcome to join me, but if you want something else – I’m not keeping you.”

“I am not leaving this place so soon, period,” Lynn declared confidently.

“Fine by me. Can you handle yourself alone?” he pushed some invisible button and a piece of the suit on his thigh slid sideways to reveal a holster of same material as the suit, with white plastic pistol-like weapon inside, “Got anything like that?”

She removed her backpack, and after rummaging inside a little bit, came up with a rough leather holster, in which there was some weird mechanism, with a lot of copper pipes and brass gears.

“This is an eeladi steam pistol, is it not?” Joseph examined the weapon, “It’s not very powerful, is it?”

“But I can recharge it with water, and I bet your gun is already low on ammo,” Lynn countered. Originally, the pistol was charged with waters from eeladi rivers and oceans, which contained deadly organic heat-resistant toxin, so pistol shots did not only cause burns, but also poisoned the victim. After traveling through different worlds however, the pistol’s ammo – water – had to be replenished, and since most of the time there was only normal water available, the pistol became much less deadly.`

“True, I got only about six rounds left, but at least it is deadly efficient,” Joseph said, as he pressed the button again, and holster disappeared under the smooth material of his suit, “I’m off then, with any luck, we will see each other again…”

“Don’t count on it too much,” Lynn replied. She was eager to explore this magic and mysterious world, preferably alone.

And Joseph, putting his helmet back on, marches away in the general direction of huge brown mountain, opposite the blue rising sun. Lynn tied the holster with the steam pistol to her hip, and checked if she can grab it fast enough. The picturesque landscape is one thing, but even roses have their thorns, and so she was sure that there were some nameless horrors to be found in the area.

Landscape around her included a mountain in the distance, grassy hills gradually descending into plains, the dark purple color of the vegetation making them look as if they were covered in blackberry jam, and a forest of maroon trees, slightly reminiscent of staghorn sumac.

Despite the fact that forest looked interesting enough, she decided that traveling the hilly area was safer, if only because trees and bushes could conceal whatever things, which thought it was a good idea to hide there. Looking at the sky again, she noticed, that giant red sun approached its sunset a lot slower than the rising blue one. ‘Why Earth couldn’t have such beautiful suns?’ Lynn mused. Yet if their motion speed remained constant, both suns will set approximately at the same time. She wondered what the night here would be like.

And yet something was different about the sky just now. Trying to put her finger on it, she realized that part of the sky was somehow… Vibrating? Yes, it slowly flickered… She realized it was the effect of convection, as there appeared to be the source of heat right over the nearest hill.

Lynn quickly paced there to discover its source. At first she saw nothing; then taking a few more steps forward, her eye caught a glint of metal somewhere in the grass. At closer inspection, it turned out to be a pipe sticking out of the ground, steam coming out of it.

‘If there’s steam coming from the underground, it means there is something down there, and the pipe looks clearly made by sentient beings,’ Lynn thought, excited at the discovery. Searching for clues around, she quickly uncovered a heavy metal bunker trapdoor nearby. The purple bushes did a poor job at concealing at, besides, it was open. Inside she could see a rusty ladder lit with dim fluorescent lights, their power wires hitched crudely and unevenly to the wall nearby. It reminded her of Christmas lights, except these were much larger and all of the same boring dim white color.

It is dangerous to go down into any such structure for a Traveler, but the curiosity got better of Lynn, and she rapidly descended into a corridor of rusted metal. The corridor abruptly ended with iron bars, behind which some suspicious machinery was humming monotonously. ‘That’s where the steam comes out of,’ Lynn thought. There was, however, a sort-of curtain at the end of the corridor to the right, which on further examination turned out to be a huge trench coat, hanging from the ceiling. She swept it aside, and at the same moment something came out and bumped into her from behind it, dropping her flat on her back.

“Oh, I am sorry, I didn’t know you were there,” a coarse voice said above her, and then gulped. It took her a few seconds to recover from surprise, but her reflexes triggered subconsciously and lightning-fast at that – the steam pistol was instantly in her hands, aimed at the possible threat.

“Hey-hey-hey, easy, easy!” the voice sounded a little scared, “You want to boil me alive?”

Lynn took her time to study the man in front of her, as soon as her eyes adjusted to the dim light. It was clearly a man, the trench coat, judging by proportions, was his as well, as he was huge. Not fat, on the contrary, he looked quite fit, but he was simply huge, easily six feet tall or even more. He would’ve looked like a classic caveman, if not for a clean blue bathrobe he wore and a steaming cup of something, which was at least half-empty, since he didn’t spill any of it after bumping into Lynn. His long brown hair and beard were both hanging downwards in a tangled mess, only adding to the overall effect.

“Who… What are you?” Lynn stammered.

“Well, we speak English, so I think I’m either a hallucination or a human,” the man answered smugly, “Put that thing away.”

“Smartmouth,” Lynn sighed, as she put the gun back to the holster.

“I’d offer you a cup of coffee, but I ran out of it years ago, and I’m not sure if you will like the beverage I make out of local beans…” he said swinging the cup back and forth demonstratively.

Lynn got up on her feet.

“But how did you?..” Lynn started.

“Get here?” the man smiled, “Did you hit your head when you fell down?”

Lynn stopped for a second. These were alien worlds, other dimensions; so humans, speaking English meant only one thing.

“You are a Traveler!” she exclaimed.

“Why yes, I am. At least, I was,” he looked a little sheepish.

“Was that your signature in the cave? ‘LT’ – what does it stand for?” Lynn inquired impatiently.

“Leonard Thompson, yours truly,” he made a dramatic gesture, “And you are?”

“Kaitlynn - just Lynn please,” she replied quickly.

“Please, do come in,” he held up the trench coat hanging in front of the opening for her. Inside she could see a dwelling that could only be classified as a ‘den’, mostly because of the lack of furniture. The bed was made of multiple various patches of fabric, and appeared to be stuffed with dried purple grass; there was an electrical coffee pot on the floor nearby, its power cable seemed to be everywhere she looked. An assortment of books was scattered around; she could see W. Shakespeare anthology and a quantum physics primer. The room was lit by a single, powerful electrical lamp, and had the same rusted metal walls and ceiling as the corridor, but the floor was made of concrete. The air smelled quite nice of dried grass and flowers, yet Lynn picked up an unpleasant whiff coming from that coffee pot.

“I’ve never seen a Traveler living like this in one of the worlds,” Lynn commented, as Leonard entered the small room after her.

“Well, you could say I’m special,” the smug smile came back to his face, and he pointed at a tall stack of magazines and books, “You can try to sit there, make yourself comfortable. I know it’s not a chair, but it will have to do. I failed to bring any furniture with me, you see. Big mistake…”

“How so?” Lynn asked, curious.

He doesn’t answer, and looks at her carefully instead, as if studying her.

“You didn’t go to the abyss, why?” he finally spoke after a long pause.

“I thought - why leave so soon? It looks like a nice place, besides Joseph went there, and he’s such a bore,” she waved a hand.

Leonard nodded. They sat silent for a few minutes, and Lynn decided to have a snack, coming up with a pack of something, remotely looking like cookies.

“Crunchies?” Leonard raised his head hastily at the sight of them, “These are from Retlok, four portals away from Eeladi?”

“Yep, I prefer to use portals when possible,” Lynn picked one up, “Want one?”

“Yes, please,” Leonard said firmly, and snatched it out of mid-air, “Oh, how I missed this taste, thank you!” He looked at the coffee pot, and offered “Listen, I know local beans are far from coffee or tea, but it’s the best brew I can offer. At least they are sweet, so no need for sugar.”

“Fine, I’ll have a cup then,” she surrendered. The brew turned out to be not so bad; it tasted like cheap coffee with a slight lingering aftertaste of beer, but smelled horribly of boiled dirty socks.

“So what is this place? What’s so special about it?” Lynn questioned her host, after going through most of their modest dinner.

“Well, I call it Paradise,” he made a face, “I know, it isn’t the best of names, but think about it – there’s abundant wildlife in forests here, plenty of fruit and mushrooms, the daytime is four times as long as average night, and the time of year never changes – it’s always this pleasant early summer weather,” he bent his fingers one by one, “The environment is not toxic, no hazardous weather conditions, no parasites, bacteria or viruses. And, the most important thing - there’s no humans, apart from an occasional Traveler like yourself. Which means,” he ran out of fingers, so he decided to start over, “You don’t have to go to work (or wherever you have to go) every day, no taxes, the chance of car accidents is zero, no pollution of any kind, and, to top the list off,” he bent his thumb on the right hand, unconsciously bringing it closer to Lynn’s face, “A gorgeous view from the top of the hill.”

“Good point,” Lynn sipped the beverage, trying not to breathe through her nose while doing so.

“You could say, I got the VIP traveling experience,” Leonard chuckled.

“But don’t you ever… You know, get bored seeing and doing same things every day?” she asked musingly, and added “I know I would’ve.”

“I was a security guard on Earth, and I must say, in every possible scenario,” he replied dreamily, “Were someone to ask me to give up my life there, and come here, I would’ve agreed a thousand times.”

“I understand,” Lynn inclined her head.

Leonard went silent, and when he spoke again, his dreamy expression became a little sad, thoughtful one.

“Do you miss home?” he asked quietly.

It was a hard question for any Traveler. People left Earth for a reason. They knew the value of freedom, and what a devious trap relatives, responsibility and relationships were. Some cherished their memories, but looked ahead fiercely; others treasured and hoarded anything linking them to their former lives, dreaming of going back; while the rest simply didn’t care enough to think or speak of it, believing their place was here, traveling between the worlds.

Question caught Lynn by surprise. Why sure, she missed home; the faces of her mom, dad and brother appearing inside her mind, as if they were just waiting for her to remember them. Each of them was a wonderful person, and sure she would be happy to see them again. Her favorite part of the garden, where she used to plant all sorts of flowers. Her hometown and… Michael.

“Yeah, I would love to go back, if I could,” she answered absent-mindedly.

Leonard nodded. He bent over, picked up the quantum physics primer and started reading it.

“Well, I’ll be off then, I still need to find the way out of here,” Lynn said, as she got up.

“Be careful, the abyss is the intra-dimensional exit,” Leonard warned, his eyes still fixed on the book.

“What?” Lynn didn’t quite understand him.

“It is linked to the pocket dimension, where the only exit is the stone portal linked to the same stone portal you arrived through,” he explained plainly.

“Well,” Lynn conceded, “I could still try my luck with the teleporter.”

“Oh, you mean the one behind secret wall here?” Leonard pointed with his thumb at the wall opposite the entrance.

“Don’t tell me you’ve got the item which activates the exit as well, have you?” Lynn guessed, her arms akimbo.

“This one?” Leonard produced the weirdest diamond she has ever seen. It looked like classic cut diamond and very expensive because of its size, except there were perfect, ball-shaped spots of inky black everywhere inside, arranged symmetrically.

“To activate, simply hold it in your hand and press your thumb on the central black spot as hard as you can ,” Leonard threw her the diamond.

Lynn marveled at its beauty after catching it, and remained thoughtful for a moment.

“What does it all mean?” she narrowed her eyes at Leonard, “What do you want?”

“I already explained my motivation for living here,” he finally closed the book, put it aside and gave Lynn a smile, “Yet you are right, there is a reason for all of this.”

He held her stare for a split second, then sat back and steepled his fingers, looking more serious now.

“What if I told you that I know where you will be taken if you activate the diamond?” he tried.

“You can only know that if…” she stopped herself, “You traveled there before, haven’t you?”

Leonard nodded, but Lynn’s train of thought was not so easily interrupted.

“What could be so important, that you came back to watch over all the exits out of this world? And the coffee pot…” Lynn was afraid to voice her next guess, “Why… Why did you ask me if I miss home?”

“I am sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” Leonard’s expression changed to sad one, “I am here not to watch over something or guard anything, I am here to let people know about the choice presented to them.”

“It’s the diamond, then,” Lynn said quietly.

Leonard nodded and tried to give her a cheering smile.

“I’m not going to judge your choice. We’re all runaways here. Unimportant past, creepy present, undecided future,” he said soothingly and waved a hand, “No one is going to blame you, if you chicken out.”

“Chicken out? I always thought that the great unknown was the scary thing,” she mused, trying not to think, “Hence the expression – ‘to brave the unknown’.”

“Yeah? I sometimes wonder if all the brave explorers in our history had the courage to stand up to their friends and family,” Leonard speculated, “Why bother when you can simply walk away? Before you say anything – I want you to think, what would your life be like, if you’d never become a Traveler?”

 She always wanted to enroll as a student in an economical university, but where would that leave her? At worst, she’d be staring at the rows of numbers all day at some crappy business establishment; at best she would end up staring at the same rows of numbers, but in some skyscraper penthouse office. Of course, there will be meetings with people, presentations, maybe even a date or two. A love story worth of a ten-minute video.

Even if she decided not to study, what then? A housewife? A cook? Or what, selling flowers? Hard work, like the one where you go back home in the evening only to slack on the couch watching a game and going to bed early, so you get enough sleep before another day of pointless work? But what of her loved ones? Were they worried about her when she went missing?

And then she remembered all that has happened in the past. How Michael was, despite his protests, sent to some elite school in Europe; how her brother stopped speaking to the father for two years now, after their dispute went all the way from arguing to a fistfight; how mom had a heart attack because of all the stress; how one summer all the flowers in the garden wilted after the chemical explosion in a nearby factory. And there was no telling what else came to pass, when she disappeared after finding her map device.

But then again, there was something compelling about that green and blue orb floating in the infinite Universe. She didn’t lie when she first told Leonard she would love to go back, but…  It was like a dream - it looked so magic and desirable from distance, yet so disgusting and disappointing up close. And despite everything that has happened and all those bad things that could and would happen, she somehow still had hope in her heart.

The mottled diamond fell to the ground, the sound of its fall muffled by the dust near the entrance to Leonard’s living room.



“She’s gone?” Joseph’s voice queried behind Leonard’s back.

“Yes,” he replied, not surprised at all by Joseph’s sudden appearance.

“Never thought I’d hear your voice again,” Joseph said, “You picked quite a nice place to call home.”

“Yes,” Leonard replied again, his stare still fixed on the book.

“You know, I’m not judging what you are doing here, and I’m not going to ask where did she go,” Joseph came closer, “But answer one question please – just how many of us decided to go back to the Earth?”

Leonard closed shut the quantum physics primer, turned to Joseph and gave him his broadest grin.

“Not even a single one so far.”

© Copyright 2019 Robert Grey. All rights reserved.

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