Spacemen Picking Flowers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Edgemont Publishing


On a cataloging mission on a distant world, astronauts Vince Carson and Jerry Tristan prepare lunch.

Submitted: August 01, 2018

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Submitted: August 01, 2018

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Spacemen Picking Flowers

 

by Jeff Macharyas


 

The Dry Time was nearing its end. Sa’saan and La’laan regarded the Dark above.

 

“How long will it be?” Sa’saan asked.

 

“Not long. The Light will return and we will soon be in the Wet Time. It won’t last long, but it will be enough. As it always is,” La’laan replied to the younger companion to the left.

 

Sa’saan thought about Za’zaan. The Dry Time was too long for Za’zaan and the elderly companion just withered away. Oh, how Za’zaan was missed.

 

Sa’saan noticed something moving through The Dark, above. Not seeing, exactly, but knowing nevertheless.

 

“It moves above! Is it a lumaqqa?” Sa’saan asked, referring to the luminescent creatures that roamed the plains.

 

“No. A lumaqqa could not move that fast or through The Dark that way. Perhaps it is a Dark Light that has lost its moorings and was seeking new grounds,” La’laan explained, not really believing the explanation.

 

“It moves toward us! What will happen?” Sa’saan asked, terrified.

 

“We will just stay here and wait. Do not fear. Whatever it is will not harm us. After all, it cannot be a lumaqqa and what else but a lumaqqa could ever harm us?” La’laan tried to be reassuring but was not very convincing.

 

La’laan could feel the heat rise as the spacecraft dropped from The Dark and and appeared on The Brown just over the small hill with the three rocks. La’laan could not believe this possible. Other than a few lumaqqa visits, there has never been anything quite like this, other than the small buzzers that did move about in The Dark, The Light, The Wet, all the time, back and forth.

 

La’laan and Sa’saan waited for something to happen. The spacecraft just sat on The Brown, with white smoke oozing out of some openings and some Wet falling on The Brown below. Maybe this is a piece of The Dark, that brings its own Wet, Sa’saan thought.

 

An part of the craft began to move. La’laan and Sa’saan were shocked to see movement in the opening. Two creatures waved their appendages about, moved inside and outside and began to approach The Brown. Soon, they would be connected with it!

 

The Landing

 

“One small step,” Vince Carson joked as he and Jerry Tristan descended the ladder to the ground below.

 

“You gotta say that on every planet we go to?” Jerry chided him.

 

“It’s a classic. Maybe we’ll be as famous as Armstrong some day.

 

“Don’t bet on it. We are just here to catalog rock after rock after rock.”

 

Carson and Tristan were finishing the last planet in this system and would return home when their samples were collected, the readings taken and the marker left behind.

 

“Just once, I would like to leave a “Kilroy Was Here” sign behind like they did in the 20th century.

 

“Sure, and you’re cataloging days would be over,” Jerry warned.

 

Carson and Tristan turned on the lights attached to the sides of their helmets. They looked around in the darkness but couldn’t see anything of any significance.

 

“A pile of rocks over there,” Jerry said.

 

“Yup. That might be the most exciting thing we see here. Advance sensors didn’t show anything but a few insects, plants and some small animals. The planet consists of one giant island with little elevation and nothing exciting underground.”

 

“Not even a moon to gaze up at,” Vince said wistfully.

 

“Not an ideal place for your retirement home, eh?” Jerry joked.

 

“The sun will be up soon,” Vince noted.

 

“Good, we’ll be able to get a better look around, then,” Jerry replied.

 

“It’s still gonna be a bit dark with that thick cloud cover,” Vince warned.

 

“Any chance of precipitation?”

 

The Rain Begins

 

“Yeah. Looks like we might get a bit of rain. I’ll take some readings to make sure it’s safe.”

 

La’laan and Sa’saan regarded the creatures with amazement as they moved about on The Brown, looking up at The Dark. They knew the time of The Wet was approaching!

 

“What will these creatures do with The Wet?” Sa’saan asked.

 

“Don’t worry, there will be plenty. We will gather just as we have in the time before,” La’laan assured Sa’saan, not really believing what was said.

 

“Gonna be a super-soaker in a few hours, Jerry,” Vince said, looking up from his analyzer.

 

“OK. Let’s get the canopy out. We’ll catalog under it until it passes and then we can go out into the suburbs and meet the folks,” Jerry joked.

 

“I’ll pick up a pie at Rockford’s!” Vince bantered back.

 

La’Laan and Sa’Saan felt a bit of relief as the two creatures re-entered their craft. They moved about making loud sounds. Much to their dismay, the two creatures re-emerged carry a large tube with what looked like roots dangling from it.

 

“OK, Vince, let it rip,” Jerry commanded.

 

“Aye, aye, mon capitan,” Vince replied with a half-hearted salute.

 

Vince placed the canopy tube on the ground, pressed a few buttons, and it began to unfurl and inflate, like a giant raised air mattress. As it rose, it covered their craft and stretched about five meters past the hill with the three rocks, rising to a height of seven meters. The gel filled the cavities in the roof of the canopy forming a solid covering that was impervious to rain, sleet, even small meteorites.

 

“Geez, this thing is huge. Glad we don’t have to unroll it manually,” Vince remarked.

 

After a few minutes the canopy was deployed. Vince and Jerry looked up at the now-solid ceiling.

 

“Looks like we’ll be safe from rain and maybe even alien attack,” Jerry joked.

 

“Yeah, if they attack us with water guns!”

 

Vince looked over the the hill with the three rocks.

 

“I’ll start with that hill, there are three rocks just sitting there, ripe for the picking,” Vince said as he gathered his collection bag and analyzer and headed in the direction of the hill and of La’Laan and Sa’saan.

 

Sa’saan was alarmed. “The creature moves toward us!”

 

“It won’t come near. Fear not,” La’Laan tried to reassure Sa’saan.

 

Vince clambered up the small hill and grabbed one of the spheroid rocks. It was lighter than he thought and considered taking all three. He decided one was enough and dropped it into the collection bag.

 

“The Hill of the Three Rocks is no more!” Sa’saan exclaimed.

 

The creature walked back to his craft, leaving La’laan and Sa’saan undetected.

 

“We were not found!” Sa’saan exclaimed, relieved.

 

The canopy darkened the ground even more as the rain began to fall in small pings off the canopy roof.

 

Ping! Ting! Ping!

 

“Get your galoshes, Jerry, the rain has started.”

 

The time of The Wet has began! Sa’saan was excited as this was only the second time. Oh, how wonderful it was in the time before. This will even be better! The clouds covered the entire Dark and the musical notes of The Wet began to play out on The Brown.

 

But, not on the Hill of Three Rocks. There are only two rocks. And the creature’s covering is blocking The Wet from reaching The Brown, and from Sa’Saan and La’Laan.

 

Sa’saan could not help thinking of Za’zaan. Withered, old, lifeless Za’zaan.

 

“You are thinking of Za’zaan,” La’Laan addressed Sa’saan, knowing the thoughts.

 

“Yes. We will be as Za’zaan was.”

 

“No. Have patience. The creatures will not stay here. Have they ever done so before? No. Give it time. They will return to The Dark just as surely as they descended from it. They do not know that we are here.” La’Laan tried to be reassuring but could tell it was not really working.

 

Lunch Time

 

“Let’s break for lunch,” Jerry said.

 

“I don’t think I can eat another freeze-dried bag of chicken alfredo,” Vince responded with downcast eyes.

 

“It’s either that or that rock you found. If you want to boil that, go for it,” Jerry joked, pointing at Vince’s collected rock from Three Rock Hill.

 

“Nah, I’d like to keep my teeth for a few more years.”

 

“Take some readings of the vegetation. There’s not much, but maybe there’s something you can add to the chicken alfredo to give that local flavor,” Jerry suggested.

 

“Not a bad idea, Jerry,” Vince exclaimed.

 

Vince gathered up his analyzer and started moving around under the canopy taking readings of the scant vegetation around him.

 

“Anything spicy?” Jerry yelled over to Vince.

 

“Nope, not yet.”

 

Vince walked to edge of the canopy, not wanting to go out from under it and get soaked by the alien rain. He walked over to where he found the rock and its two companions on the hill.

 

“Got something!”

 

La’laan and Sa’saan were paralyzed by fear as the creature approached, pointing its shiny box at them.

 

“What is it doing?” Sa’saan asked, wracked with fear.

 

“I don’t know. Maybe it just wants to know what is here. He took a rock from Three Rock HIll, but hasn’t detected us or even knows that we are here,” La’laan explained.

 

“But what if it finds us? What will it do to us? Will it put us in that container with the rock?”

 

“Why would it? Don’t worry. It will move back to its craft once it waves its shiny box around for a while.”

 

Sa’saan waited for the creature to move back and hoped that The Wet would continue long enough so that the creatures would leave and remove their covering and they could rejoice once again. Sa’saan thought of Za’zaan and knew what it must have been like at the end as Sa’saan felt this could be the end as well.

 

“Gonna make us a salad, Vince, or what?” Jerry called from the hatch of the spacecraft.

 

“Yeah, yeah. There’s not much here, but I think I found enough to at least spice up that freeze-dried bag of poop you sent us with.”

 

Vince waved his analyzer around the area just beyond the hill that had the three rocks. Not far from it, just under the far corner of the canopy were two flowering plants. About two meters tall, with purple and yellow flowers jutting from their thorny branches. The kind of looked like multi-colored sunflowers with a bit of palm frond thrown in and splashed with a rainbow of Home Depot Interior Colors.

 

Sa’saan shook in the sudden breeze as The Wet began to move sideways, spilling a little on La’Laan and Sa’Saan.

 

“I can feel The Wet, La’Laan! It’s glorious!” Sa’saan exclaimed.

 

La’Laan didn’t feel as optimistic. The creature was moving about them, waving his shiny box in their direction, but hasn’t moved back yet. It only makes sounds that its companion responds to with even louder sounds.

 

“OK, Jerry, I’m coming back. Get out your salad tongs and your checkered tablecloth, Chef Carson is in the house and is returning with only the finest of local produce,” Vince yelled in Jerry’s direction.

 

Salad Fixings

 

The creature pulled a long, shiny object from a bag it had wrapped around its top section. La’Laan didn’t like it and feared the worst. The creature was opening and closing the long object and it made soft screeching sounds as the blades rubbed together.

 

Vince grabbed the palm frond-sunflower from the top and placed the shears around its midsection and closed the blades together.

 

“Nooooo!” Sa’saan cried. But there was no respond.

 

Sa’saan watched as the creature kept closing the long shiny ends of its object as parts of La’Laan became detached and fell to The Brown, glistening with just a bit of The Wet.

 

“La’laan!”

 

But La’Laan could not respond. Sa’saan was alone.

 

“Whatcha got there, Vince?”

 

“It reads as edible. Kinda like a sunflower. I chopped it up real good, so I’ll throw it in a pot with that chicken alfredo and we’ll have a meal fit for kings.”

 

“Well, we didn’t have a checkered tablecloth. But, maybe there’s another one of those and you can place it in this collection tube and we can have a centerpiece while we dine,” Jerry suggested.

 

“Excellent idea, mon capitan. There is another one. You know this dark, dreary rock isn’t bad at all. I might just set up a retirement cabin after all.”

 

“You do that, now.”

 

Vince went back to the edge of the canopy, past the hill with two rocks and approached Sa’Saan.

 

“Come on little buddy, how would you like to join us for dinner?” Vince addressed the remaining plant, not expecting an answer.

 

Sa’saan could feel the flowers and branches fall to The Brown and thought, one last time, of La’laan and The Wet never to be enjoyed again.

 


© Copyright 2018 Jeff Macharyas. All rights reserved.

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