Come Alive is rapidly winding down now. Just this fragment and perhaps two more, maybe one if I can economize a bit.
Henry looked out over the space station, for that was exactly what this colossal thing was, and he felt a little in awe of the sheer scale of everything he had seen. If, as Bob had told him, the station was 1500 kilometers long, he was looking at a ship that was close to a thousand miles long, and that just seemed outrageous to him. He and Pinky were in a tower near the docking platforms at one end of the station, and though the tower appeared to be hundreds of meters tall he couldn’t even begin to see the far end of the station. What was weird, however, was the spinning cylinder below.
The tower they were in was decoupled from the main body of the station and from up here the station was moving and they were standing still. Yet just a few minutes ago, while in the station and looking up at the tower, it had felt as if the station was standing still and the tower was rotating away from them. And now he and Pinky were up in the very same tower floating around in complete weightlessness – and while Henry thought the sensation was exhilarating he couldn’t get over the scale of everything up here. Had it been built here, or had Pinky and her people traveled here from…
“Man, what a blast! I could do this forever!” he said to Pinky as he somersaulted and ricocheted off a wall.
“I thought you might enjoy it up here,” she said, casually smiling at him. “This is a good place to escape the effects of our gravity, is it not?”
He caught something in the tone of her voice and reached for a handhold, but his momentum was simply too great and he bounced along the wall until he finally grabbed hold of a handhold and stopped. Then he looked at her, trying to get a read of the expression he saw on her face.
“You okay?” he asked when he came up blank.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, are you feeling alright?” The question seemed odd to her, at least to him it did – if he was reading her reaction correctly, so he pushed himself away from the wall and on a trajectory back to her.
Then the look on her face turned to one of growing alarm – as she made a quick calculation of his mass and velocity – yet she was wearing a belt that appeared to allow her to move about the space with ease. “What are you doing?” she asked as Henry approached – and as she maneuvered away from a colossal impact…
“I wanted to talk without shouting,” he said as he sailed past her, suddenly aware that the next wall he might grab hold of was well over a hundred meters away. “Well…fuck-a-doodle-doo…” he sighed as he sailed past – as Pinky receded into the distance. “That was real fucking smart, Taggart.”
Yet Pinky sailed past him a moment later and met him at the far wall; when he arrived she helped him stop and grab a wall anchor. “You want to talk? To me?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I told you…”
“Ah, yes, you told me that you love me. Don’t you find such talk a little silly?”
“Silly? I haven’t heard that word in years.”
“Well then, how about impetuous?”
“Not to me. Is that what you felt? That I was being impetuous?”
“No, not really, but I have no frame of reference, Henry. We do not pair bond they way you do, and our associations are more – structured – than yours appear to be. When you tell me that you love me it is as though I understand the words, yet the importance is lost to me.”
“You don’t – love anyone?”
“Not in the way you are speaking of.”
“Well, in what way, then?”
Pinky shrugged. “I am more interested in why you felt it important to tell me this.”
“Because I do.”
“But we cannot pair bond. We cannot produce offspring. We cannot cohabitate.”
Henry laughed. “Pinky, you may not know it, but you’re describing the perfect marriage to me. Love, without all the messy complications…”
“Messy complications? Do you not mean responsibilities?”
Henry scowled and looked towards his feet. “Yeah. I guess I do.”
“So, do you feel any sense of responsibility to me…or is it for me?”
“Both maybe, but I’m not really talking about that kind of love…”
“Really? So, do you mean to say that there are different kinds of love?”
“Certainly. Like…you can love some friends and not others, or you can even love a car or a painting…”
“Oh, yeah, sure. Happens all the time.”
“So, in what way do you love me?” Pinky asked.
“You’re a friend, and I started to like you as soon as I got to spend some real time with you.”
“You don’t find me…unattractive?”
“No, not at all. You’re just different, but different isn’t a bad thing.”
“I have found myself wondering, since you first said you loved me, what it would be like to love someone.”
“I take it you mean you haven’t?” Henry said, a little sympathy creeping into his voice.
“No friends, then?”
“None,” she said – matter-of-factly.
“But…you’re an empath, right? I mean, you find it easy to feel what other people are feeling?”
“To a degree, yes, that is true.”
“Have you ever had sexual relations with anyone?”
“No, never,” she said again, and very matter-of factly – again, and yet completely without embarrassment.
“How do you reproduce?”
“You would call the process…artificial.”
“No shit. What a drag.”
“Yeah. You know…a bummer.”
Pinky shrugged. “Sorry, you’ve lost me.”
Henry shrugged. “I guess, to me anyway, it feels like you’d be missing out on something important by not experiencing something so elemental as love.”
She nodded. “Perhaps because physical interactions are no longer of interest to us, or even what you would call a biological imperative. Also, have you ever considered just how much violence is associated with such acts?”
“Of course, but I think you’re missing a bigger point here.”
“And that is?” Pinky sighed.
“Why would love produce such a wild variety of calamitous reactions unless it was a pretty big deal…?”
She turned and looked at him, something like an alluring smile growing on her fine-featured face. “Henry Taggart?” she whispered.
“I have a vagina. Could you show me this thing?”
Henry’s eyes started the whole semaphore thing again, and when he realized what he was doing he wondered if he was sending out an S.O.S., but then he saw something in her eyes that hit him in just the right place. Something vaguely human, and something truly lovely.
He nodded, and she came to him.
The Old Man and the Young Boy stood on the quay, looking at Rolf as he walked over to the boarding gate.
“Can I help you?” Rolf asked.
“Is Henry here?” the Young Boy said.
“No,” Rolf sighed. “Did you know him well?”
“Has something happened to him?” the Old Man in the Cape said.
And while he really didn’t understand why, Rolf felt ill-at-ease with the expression on the Young Boy’s face – as if there was something almost malevolent in the way he was looking around the deck of the boat. “He passed away yesterday,” Rolf said, still not taking his eyes off the Young Boy.
“Oh?” the Old Man replied. “I’m so sorry to hear that…”
Now, as Rolf looked at the boy, he felt an overwhelming impulse to flee – or to fight.
“…We had only recently met, and we had a ripping good conversation a few days ago…”
And just then the Young Boy turned and looked right into Rolf’s eyes, and the sensation of evil he felt became palpable…
“…and I was hoping to continue our talk,” the Old Man concluded.
Rolf shifted his gaze and realized Tracy was standing beside him now, and again, without quite understanding why, he felt more at-ease.
“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?” Tracy said to the Young Boy.
And now the Young Boy’s eyes drifted to Tracy’s, and a soul crushing smile drifted across his face. “I think you know the answer to that question, Tracy,” the Young Boy hissed –
And again, without knowing why or even understanding the feelings flooding through his mind, Rolf launched himself from Time Bandit’s deck, and he realized his intent was to attack the Young Boy with all his might.
Yet before he could cross the space between them, the Young Boy simply disappeared and Rolf careened onto the snow covered grass.
The Old Man held up his Cane, then apparently had second thoughts before he too disappeared, and Tracy came to him, helped Rolf to his feet.
“Aren’t those the people that shot you?” Rolf asked.
“I’m not sure, Rolf. I think so, but the last thing I remember seeing was a police officer drawing his pistol and taking aim…”
Tracy nodded. “Yes. At you.”
“And you pushed me out of the way. The bullets hit you.”
She pulled the boy close and held him tight, running her fingers through his hair.
“We should leave now,” Rolf said, his voice trembling.
“I don’t think that will matter, Rolf. I think they’ll be able to find us no matter where we go.”
“So what do we do now?”
“We finish reading Henry’s notebooks, Rolf. All of them. Everything he knew is in those things, and everything he thought we’d need to take them on is in there, too.”
He turned and faced her. “You’re not sick, are you? I mean, you’re not going to leave me too, are you?”
“No, I’m not sick, Rolf, and we’re going to get through this. You and me, together.”
“Yes. And Anton will be with us, too.”
Rolf nodded and was still holding on tight…when Dina walked up and out of the companionway. She saw Tracy and her grandson standing together in the snow and she cursed the day Henry Taggart had drifted into her life.
© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.