**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**
By the time the local sun disappeared behind the skyline of Haven, one of the two moons was already visible just cresting the eastern horizon. Paul stared at the large beach combing machines the Sakum’malien drivers staged at the edge of the dunes awaiting the departure of all the human sun worshipers. Perhaps they wondered at the odd human behavior, but they said little if anything to anyone – even those who spoke some words of English.
The odd feeling of having
forgotten something returned, taunting him with information he could not grasp
to recall. Again, he sensed a presence but there was no one immediately around
except for Chase, Julie and Clare.
“Come on,” Clare
prompted. Paul turned and hurried along as the four of them were among the last
to leave the beach and rinse off in the beach house before getting dressed into
more proper attire for dealing with the big city life.
Julie and Clare hugged
one another and said their goodbyes as Chase and Paul retrieved their coaches
from the docking station. When they arrived queued behind one another, Julie
hugged Paul and Clare hugged Chase. They two men shook hands. It was a nice
late afternoon get together they shared.
Chase was always
traveling, mainly between his company’s office in Andromeda and Haven where he
worked. Paul worked from dawn to dusk daily, sometimes even going in to work
for a few hours on weekends just to catch up. He sometimes worked every single
day within a month just to finish a project.
Clare climbed into the
floater coach and Paul entered after her, settling in at the controls of the
console. He waited for Chase and Julie to get settled and pull away from the
boarding curb before he pulled out of the parking area and onto the street. “You
aren’t in any trouble leaving work early?” Clare asked.
Paul shrugged, “What if I
am? I’ve been working there for five years. I receive minimal raises in reward
for always finishing my work on time or ahead of schedule and being at work at
least on time but usually early and always staying late when necessary.”
“You don’t want to lose
“Of course not but I don’t
think they even know I exist. No one knows who I am but if I was missing for a
while they might finally appreciate what ol’-what’s-his-name takes care of for
“Maybe others would take
up the slack and they’d never notice.”
Paul nodded. “Yeah, well
that puts the onus back onto me, now, doesn’t it?”
After a long pause Clare
cleared her throat, “What was it Chase and you went off to yourselves to
“Were you and Julie
jealous of phantoms and some imagined competition?”
Clare forced a smile but
her eyes did not leave his.
“Chase knows a guy he met
a while back named Pete. When I was out in New Milan with Chase last fall we
both met him and I beat him at shooting pool.”
“He must be awful at it,
“Thanks a lot!” Paul exclaimed
even as he shook his head in disbelief.
“I’m, just being honest,
hon,” she said. “My baby brother beat you when we went to visit my folks last
“Yeah, that little
scoundrel’s a hustler, though,” Paul countered, after receiving a wave of impressions
and perceptions the memories cascaded into his mind, filling in many missing
pieces of an established past that stretched back well before he stepped out of
the ocean water onto the beach.
Everything was there,
meeting Pete in New Milan, accompanying Chase to Andromeda on a detour while on
their way home. Chase signed a band and then they returned to Haven. Paul never
told Clare he and Chase detoured through Andromeda. It took them three extra
travel days but Clare always believed he stayed in New Milan for an extra
meeting. It wasn’t like they did anything wrong, but it was just he never
bothered to tell her where all they went.
As Paul pulled the coach
up to the curb of their apartment building, he pressed the button commanding
the door to open and as soon as the coach stopped, Clare stepped out onto the
curb and waited for Paul to do the same and dock the coach before he joined
her. They both entered the building and stood in the lobby waiting for the
elevator car to arrive.
“So, that was the big secret
Chase had to talk to you about, this guy Pete?”
“Yeah, it was part of it.
Pete’s in a band and they’re looking for a female lead singer.”
“So, of course he thought
“Yep.” The elevator
arrived and they both boarded. Paul pressed the button for their floor.
“I could see her doing
“I could too,” Paul said.
“I was waiting about calling her, seeing if she’d call first. I guess I have an
“You miss Cristina, don’t
“I do,” Paul confessed.
Even though he felt as if he had been with her recently.
“It’s been a year a least
since she left for school.”
“Closer to two years,”
Paul said as he tried to pin down an exact time or event associated with it. “I
mean we talk by phone or even exchange messages over the global network but we’ve
not been together for a long time. The conversations we’ve had were mostly
about her acting and how successful I am. I don’t know where she gets it from
but somehow she thinks I’m successful.”
“Aren’t you?” The
elevator arrived at their floor and they stepped out. Their apartment was just
down the hall, the third door on the right.
“Maybe on a comparative
basis. I have steady income. She doesn’t. That’s not how I would define
“The material element is
a consideration.” She arrived at the door two or three steps ahead of Paul,
keyed in her security code and leaned against the door as it unlocked and
opened. She held the door open for him as he arrived.
“I suppose what I make is
a lot or most people.”
“Well, I think you’re
“I’m happy – not with
work but the rest of my life’s great.” He wrapped his arms around her waist
from behind and kissed her neck.
“I love you
unconditionally.” She reached up with both hands and grabbed his head, then
turning she releases and kissed him passionately.
“I don’t know what I
would do without you,” Paul said as their lips parted. “It’s just I’m not quite
what I wanted to be and whenever Cristina sends me a message it reminds me
because she’s the one who’s still faithful to her dream. I guess it makes me
feel like I’ve given up and maybe sold myself short, just accepting what I can
get paid to do.”
“Cristina reminds you of
whatever it is that you perceive as your failures. But you’re successful at
what you do.”
“I know. I know exactly
what you’re going to say. I’m far from being a failure but failure lurks just
past the next decision at my company. I’ve never felt like I have any sort of
job security. Backstabbing assholes and highly political opportunists surround
me. I have a knot in the pit of my stomach every day when I go into the office.
I feel like they’re going to fire me, not just threaten it, but follow through
with it. I’m not sure that enduring all of that is worth the pay credits.”
“You just take things way
“Maybe that’s part of it,
but most of it is I work for self-serving pricks.”
“Everything in life is
about perspective,” Clare said.
“And I lack perspective –
is that what you’re saying?”
“I was going to say maybe
Cristina is more mature than you are. You always say she handles rejection
well. Yet you cannot seem to define your success. You have a good paying job.
Some people would call it a dream position.”
“My job is anything but a
dream position,” Paul said, flipping around a dining room chair backwards and
sitting with his chest resting against the chair back.
“Nothing is easy, Paul.
Is there any job anywhere that will pay you what you think your time is worth?”
Paul smiled. “Of course
not. With the difficulty of the job comes the compensation.”
“Not always commensurate
to the demands of the job…”
“But high enough that
some damned fool, like me will attempt the job because it pays better than the
last three things I tried.”
“Exactly,” she said. “So
what do you want for dinner.”
“Let’s shower and get
fixed-up and go out for dinner and some dancing.”
“Really? What’s gotten
into you tonight? The beach didn’t wear you out?”
“Yeah a little, but I
want to make it a memorable day for you.”
“It already is. “
“Then let’s work on the
night part of it.”
“Okay,” she smiled
“I really need to take a
proper shower and put on some lotion,” she said. “I’m sure you do too, you
always burn so easily.”
“I wore enough sunscreen
I think. I’ll call for reservations. Where do you want to east?”
“Surprise me,” Clare said
as she headed toward the bathroom.
“I’m not sure you really
want me to do that,” he called out after her.
“It’ll be fine,” she
“Okay. But don’t say I
didn’t warn you,” Paul said as he flicked on world viewer and brought up the
index for local restaurants. “I think it’s always a good night for Italian.” He
said to himself.
After calling for
reservations, Paul began watching the news. By the time he heard her shower end
he was ready and waiting to take his turn, tired of the dryness on his skin and
the overall smell of fish.
When she emerged from the
bathroom Clare headed to the bedroom to apply her makeup and get dressed. Paul
showered quickly and joined her in the bedroom where he dressed accordingly, in
casual attire appropriate for the restaurant to which they were going.
“Are we in a rush?” she
asked while putting on her eyeliner.
“No, I made the
reservations for eight thirty. Take your time.
“This is a nice surprise.
Usually you take the easy way out.”
“What does that mean?’
“‘I’m tired – lets eat in
and go to bed early’.”
“I’m a guy. I always seek
the path of least resistance whenever possible. Sit down a relax a bit.”
“You are the one who was
“It’s a normal state of
being for me. I’ll prevail.”
“I hope so.”
Paul joined her on the
couch. “You look pretty.”
“Thank you. You look
“We match well, then.”
She laughed. “Whatever’s
different about you, keep it going, okay?”
As the news on world viewer
played in the background, they shared light conversation about other things
that had happened throughout the day, mainly the morning events in Clare’s life
at her dance studio. She was grateful when Julie called her suggesting they
take the afternoon off and head for the beach.
Clare looked at her wristband.
“We probably should be going.”
Paul smiled, starting to
get up a few seconds before his cell phone ringer flashed on his wrist. He
tapped his earlobe, “Hello.”
“Hey, it’s me,” his
sister’s voice was welcome.
“I was going to call you.
What’s the news?” He tapped his right wrist to display her holographic image in
the palm of his outstretched hand so that at least Clare knew whom he was
“I didn’t get the part.”
“When you didn’t call, I
was worried it was something like that.”
“They wouldn’t tell me
until yesterday. I went out with friends and got drunk after I found out. I’ve
been sleeping it off all day.”
“Are you okay now?” He
asked then allayed Clare’s concern with a nod and a wink.
“Except I want to come
home and I have no money. I mean, I really am embarrassed having to ask you,
“I’ll get you home if
that is what you want. How much do you need?”
“I don’t even know,” she
said. “I have really tried to make it on my own. I even took a job waiting
“I think Chase might have
something to interest you.”
“Really, I thought he did
musical groups, not actors.”
“I think you need to
broaden your horizons a little, sis.”
“Well, I’m an actress.”
“You have an amazing
voice. You should be singing.”
“I’ve been auditioning
for musicals, Paul.”
“You’re not getting the
traction you need. For whatever reason, they’re passing you over, but everyone
who knows you says you have a wonderful singing voice. So, let it become your
“I’m trying to do just
“You aren’t getting it.
Listen to me, Cristina. You have to make it where you can, and then go on from
there. Then you can do the other things you want to accomplish. Once you have
established your credibility, you can do other things maybe something you can’t
imagine right now.”
“Well, I guess if you pay
my way home I should at least listen to your advice.”
Paul laughed. “If you
think I’m full of shit, just tell me.”
“It’s not that.”
“I think I’m being pretty
“Some of what you say
“Cristina, honestly. I
think everything will be fine for you, but you have to adapt. It’s a big,
“Yeah strange is not the
half of it. Lately, I’ve had some bizarre dreams.”
“Really?” Paul asked even
as Clare reached up on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek and then proceeded
on toward the bedroom. “Hold on.”
“Okay,” Cristina said.
“Hon, retrieve the coach
and I’ll be right down.”
“Last night could be
explained away by all the alcohol. But even before that…the dreams are like the
world had not been completely terraformed – like it was forty years ago, you
know all the cities were still domed.”
“The strangest part, you
were in a lot of trouble there,” she said. “You were in prison and trying to
escape. It was very bizarre.”
“And what was it that you
did in that world?”
“What do you mean what
was I doing there? It was a dream, or more like a nightmare.”
“No, I mean what did you
do for a living?”
but no, I think…I think I was actually a singer.”
“See, in your dreams it’s
your destiny. Take it as a sign.”
“Maybe it is, Paul. I don’t
know. I’m tired of this craziness. And I want to see you and just sleep for a
“Good you can rest up and
when I go to New Milan next month you can come with me.”
“I’ll be back at school
by then,” she protested.
“So you have spent almost
two full years learning how to act and perform…”
“But I can’t land a role
at an audition.”
“Sometimes, I think
destiny forces your hand. Maybe you need to audition for a rock band in New
“Come home and make a
fresh start, sis. Take a sabbatical from your studies. I have always thought
you have the potential to be a star. All you need is to find the right path. Chase
seems to think you’ll work out for this band in New Milan.”
“I don’t know…”
“The two guitarists are
professional sound engineers so the audition will be at a real studio. Chase
knew one of them, a drummer from another association. Chase sort of auditioned
them. He said what they lack is a vocalist of your caliber.”
“He said that?”
“Maybe not in those exact
words, but it was his idea to ask you to audition.”
“So, he’s the one who put
you up to this?”
“Yeah, well, I worry
about my baby sister, especially when she calls me to tell me she’s broke.”
“Okay, I hear you. I told
you I’d give it a shot.”
“Go into this with a
positive attitude. I have a very good feeling about this.”
“You know me. I’m always
positive whenever I audition.”
“This can work for you.”
“In a strange way, I feel
good about it, too,” she confessed.
“That’s the Cristina I
know and love. Go to the station in the morning. I’ll arrange everything for
the ticket from this end, okay?”
“I appreciate this a lot,
“Hey, if I was in trouble
I know you’d come to my aid.”
“Since Dad and Mom…well
we only have each other.”
“I know. We have to be
family first. “
“I’ll call if there is
“Okay, sis,” Paul said. “Have
a safe trip.”
“See you day after
He tapped his earlobe to
disconnect the call. He went to the kitchen for a glass of water, fully
intending to go straight downstairs. He hoped Clare was not pissed at having to
wait. But when he passed through the dining room he felt the strange presence
again, an eerie sensation as if he just passed through another consciousness,
causing him to shiver as his skin erupted into gooseflesh.
“Who’s there?” He
With no answer, even the
sensation of the presence was gone.
He continued, rapidly
gulping down the water.
“Is anything wrong?”
Clare stood in the doorway?”
“No, I was just coming. I’m
still having odd feelings,” he said.
“Maybe you need to rest.
We can go out some other time.”
“No, I need to spend all
the time I can with you.” He felt the presence again – behind him, but saw
“Yeah.” He nodded.
He opened the closet door
on his way out the door to grab a light jacket. After slipping it on he stepped
out into the hallway to join Clare. “I hope I don’t get a ticket. I’m parked in
the loading zone.”
“It’s okay. So, Cristina
is coming home?”
“Yeah. I have to get her
Clare nodded as they
arrived at the elevator.
“She’ll be here at least
a month. Then she’s going out to New Milan.”
“With Chase and you?”
“Or just Chase. I haven’t
decided to go.”
The elevator doors
opened. They stepped inside. He pressed the button for the lobby. Then as
mostly a reflex he plunged his hands into the jacket pockets, his right one wrapped
around a small orb. Withdrawing his hand he looked at it resting in his palm.
“Something I thought I
lost.” He closed his fist around it, the opening his hand palm up it
“That’s from the magic
act you used to do?”
He chuckled. “Yeah. Maybe
that was the last time I wore this jacket.”
“You need to check your
pockets before you hang things up.” She wrapped her arm around his elbow.
“I know, hon. Sometimes I
forget,” Paul admitted.
“So, where are we
“I thought you wanted me
to surprise you.”
“I said that, didn’t I?”
“Having second thoughts?”
“No, it’ll be fine. I’m
sure,” Clare said.