“Space”

Stephen Walano

All rights reserved by the author

 

Rikat was tall, about 6 ft. 2 inches, muscular but thin.  He had no hair to speak of due to his somewhat Reptilian complexion.  His skin was a scaly, dark blue while his eyes were a light green.  Rikat was beautiful but no one would ever describe him as such.  It was something about his expressions or the way he acted, you just felt like you knew a lot about him just by looking at him.

            Rikat lived a happy life.  After all, he was living on the planet Zeraj during the most glorious of times.  There was an abundance of resources, wealth and space.  Disease and famine had been wiped out centuries ago.  Most importantly, it was an age of tremendous freedom and learning.  The High Ruler, Teatri Bezak, unlike many rulers with absolute power, ruled his people with dignity and respect.  He listened to the great council of elected representatives who brought forth the qualms and concerns of the Zeraji people while acting as a decisive element in the ancient government he existed in. 

            The most wonderful aspect of Zeraj, was the planet’s abundant space.  Covered in mostly jungles and tropical grasslands most of the population lived close to the seven cities across the planet.  Rikat lived near the capital city of Imaije.  Now this city would not be what you and I would consider a modern city.  Although greatly technologically advanced the Zeraji people had always emphasized a life style that respected and coincided with their natural surroundings.  The buildings in Imaije were not only spread out but were also masterpeices in terms of incoporating nature in architecture.  Trees and ferns were planted on the many padios and terraces while rivers flowed straight through the bottom level of houses.

            Rikat’s house was three stories high with a white exterior and many large windows to give light to the many plants inside.  On the first floor a small stream ran through the kitchen and dining area.  It not only provided an interesting backdrop but provided water and plumbing to the house, after going through a small filtration system of course. 

            Enough about the fascinating home of Rikat.  Let’s talk about Rikat and the facsinating persona he had.  I would try to explain Rikat’s age in terms of years but that would be impossible for his race has a far more different rate of aging than us humans could understand.  I would say a Zerajian would have an average life span of 110 years.  However, people of Zeraj had an unusual system of aging.  I would have to say that about twenty years of their life was spent as an actual child.  Then they had another 15 years as what we would consider a teenager or a young adult.  And after that they would not even start to show signs of serious aging until the last 10 years of their life.  This ,of course, made it extremely difficult to discern the age of Rikat’s people.  Let’s just say that Rikat was somewhere in that 15 year area of his life in which he is a youthful adult.

            Being the highly popular fellow, Rikat had many friends.  He was the sort of friend that you expected initiative and leadership from and never thought twice about.  He was just plain powerful.  Always knew the right solution.  Was always able to solve the problem.  In fact, Rikat was always the one people came to with his problems.  Of course these were always silly menial problems such as a conflict with a lover or an unnecessary an extremely juvenile argument with a friend.  Pretty much all of their problems were quite stupid and overblown.  That’s the way it was on Zeraj.  People didn’t truly have real problems so they made up these silly squabbles out of a need for drama in their lives.

            All the same, Rikat was always a good listener to his foolish friends.  He knew the solutions because the problems were so easy to solve.  “Tell her you’re sorry.”  “Stop being so selfish.”  “Remind him that you love him.”  The solutions were so easy to come up with but they were all to distracted by the “drama” of the situation to realize this.  Rikat’s gift was his lack of drama.  He didn’t want or need what they always were trying to experience.  He just knew it all was fake and overblown and it drove him mad sometimes.

            Rikat never showed it though.  He always appeared happy and confident, solving everyone’s problems because they were so easy to solve.  He never talked about his problems because they really didn’t make any sense.  He had everything.  Everything was super.  So he would just keep whatever troubled him inside until it just melted away like an ice cube in the palm of your hand.

After all, he had no idea what made him feel so bad.  He just felt completely empty about everything.  The supposed “drama” that his friends experienced was horribly unsatisfying to him.  No matter what, there was just nothing new, nothing meaningful about his existence and it bothered him.  He desperately longed for something bigger.  Something that removed the emptiness he felt but it just never came.  So he went on ignoring this feeling.  Keeping it inside of him while smiling on the outside.  He was always strong, always confident.

Anyway, it was evening in the city of Imaje and it was the last night of the two week holiday of winter.  The Zerajians had two holidays that both lasted for a period of two weeks, the winter holiday and the summer holiday.  During these two weeks an elaborate series of events and celebrations occurred.  No one worked.  Everyone just celebrated.

             Rikat was having a large party at his house with about 40 of his friends to celebrate this happy occasion.  Two of Rikat’s best friends were Jusai and Nimban.  Jusai was not very bright at times but he was very kind and friendly.  He was one of the friends those friends you needed to have.  You know.  The kind of guy who would blindly get your back no matter what the situation.  As loyal as he was he had no concept of Rikat’s often occurring emptiness.  He looked like Rikat except for his more brownish complexion and his scraggly hair that Rikat lacked.  He was also skinnier.  

            Meanwhile, Nimban was of a species of hominids on Zeraj that had evolved from whale like creatures.  He was large and had small eyes and smooth grey skin.  Despite his species tendency to gain weight quickly, Nimban was very fit.  Although quite able to breathe on land he always preferred wet, humid conditions in which his skin would not dry out so easily.  The only friend Rikat had that truly understood him.  He was far more intelligent than he let on.  While Rikat always seemed cool and confident in everyone else’s minds Nimban could always sense the fear in his eyes or the uncertainty in his voice.  He was intelligent, witty and a voice of reason in Rikat’s life often knocking sense into him when he got down. 

Rikat never could hide aything from him and Nimban knew that something was wrong.  It was just the way Rikat had been acting lately.  Rikat’s girlfriend, Senko, had broken up with him the past week.  What bothered him was not how Rikat felt about it but how he didn’t seem to feel anything at all.  Now one would think this might be normal had he simply not liked her but Nimban had witnessed the pairs seven month long relationship.  He had seen Rikat being quite happy with her and then all of a sudden things just came to a crashing halt.

Now before I even start any dialogue let me remind you that the people in this story are what you and I would consider aliens.  They speak an entirely different language than us and have stranger slang terms than you or I could possibly imagine.  Now in order to make this far less confusing all the dialogue has been translated into English with some American slang terms to properly convey the meaning of each quote.  It’s not cheap it’s just easier and a hell of a lot less confusing.

Jusai had just gotten in from a snow fight in the back of Rikat’s house.  Rikat had the snow shipped in from the mountains as a celebration for the party (In accordance with Zerajian tradition of course.) 

 “I totally just pelted that girl in the boob!” Jusai came in yelling with glee to Rikat.  Rikat looked over and saw his friend Jehanna knocked over in the white fluff with snow covering her left breast. 

“Nice shot, but it appears she got you all over your ass.” He replied.  In Jusai’s haste he had failed to notice the accumulation of snow that Jehanna’s girlfriends Nekasa and Zitu had pounded him with as he attacked Jehanna.

“You know my right cheek was feeling a bit icy.” Jusai said.  He turned around and yelled, “Okay, we’re even!”

“Is everyone having a good time”, Rikat asked his two friends with a smile on his face.  Of course, everyone was having a good time.  There was plenty of people, food, and drink and most of all snow.

Yeh, of course!  You know it!” They replied overlapping one another.

“Hey, the food is great.” exclaimed Nimban.  I am going to miss this when we get back to work tommorow. 

“I’m going to miss the feeling in my rear.” said Jusai trying to rub the warmth back into his assailed buttocks.  “Hey, look who it is!  Senko’s here.”

Rikat once again showed a face of polite happiness but Nimban saw right past it into the dread inside of him.  He knew this was going to be awkward. 

Senko had just entered the room.  She spotted Rikat and walked towards him.  Rikat looked to his side and realized that Jusai and Nimban had already bolted.  They did not want to be around to see any of ugliness that might occur.  “What a bunch of wusses.” he thought.

“Hey Senko, good to see you.” he said playing the polite host.

“Really, that’s not how you felt last week.” Senko replied with a pissed off expression on her face.

“Can’t we just enjoy the holidays?”

“Funny, Nimban isn’t around for you to hide behind so you have to hide behind these festivities.”

“Lame insult.”

“Lame attempt at changing the subject.  Now tell me why the hell you’ve been so distant lately.”

“Look, I just felt like the magic had left our relationship.”

“The magic hadn’t left.  You left!  You never tried to care about anything I cared about.  You never argued you just ignored me after a while.”

“Cause all you care about is stupid little things.  It was always who was seeing who.  What did someone say to someone else.  What kind of flowers should we plant in front of the house and the consuming interest that went into it!

Senko paused and bit her lip.  She looked at the floor with hurt.  “I cared about you.” she said softly and then she left to go outside only to be pelted with snow by Jusai oblivious to the situation that had just occurred.

 

It was late the next night when the space plane was being boarded for its 5 hour trip into the upper atmosphere.  Rikat, his job being a pilot for the space tourism agency warmly greated passengers as they got on the large gleaming vessel.  It was roughly twice the size of Rikat’s house in length and height with two very large wings that spread out from the top of it.

Space Tourism was a fairly new industry that was only about twenty years in age.  It had become extremely profitable but not in the way that many would have predicted.  The original investors thought of it as an amusement ride that would give people a thrill.  Instead it had evolved into somewhat of a catering service.  A backdrop for events such as weddings and banquets.

The plane was a sky skipper so it was basically two planes in one.  One part was the passenger and control section which Rikat was in.  The other section was the wings which detached and flew back on autopilot to the surface once the vessel had cleared the atmosphere.  Once in space, Rikat’s space plane would glide above the surface of the atmopshere unitl gravity brought it back in.  At that point Rikat would initiate a safe landing and return the ship to the runway.

Today’s event was a birthday party for a toddler.  Rikat hated this job.  He had originally become a pilot out of a longing for adventure in the stars.  In return he had found an industry that had cheapened their wonder beyond belief.  Every day he took people out into space only to have them be indifferent to it.  I mean of course it was beautiful to them but they were always far more interested in the party that was going on.  So for a bit of money, this wonder of space and mystery that had entranced him all his life was sold to those who hardly appreciated it.

Once everyone was aboard Rikat announced to the party the safety rules of the trip and what a pleasure it was to have them aboard.  He then climbed into the cockpit at the front of the plane.  The plane was situated on a runway about a mile in length.  Rikat turned on the huge engines to start the climb into space.  In order to avoid the intense

G-forces that came with exiting the atmosphere Rikat had to fly the plane up at a steady pace for about an hour.

            On the way up everyone remained seated and strapped into their seats.  Once outside the atmosphere they had the choice of either floating or wearing gravity boots.  All the food was kept in containers that were connected to the table.  Most of the adults chose to keep their boots on while children prefered to simply float around.

            Rikat cleared the atmopshere with relative ease.  The clouds and blue skies disappeared into blackness and a million white sparkles.  Rikat remembered the first time he piloted a ship into space.  It was amazing but then he realized to his horror that no one else really gave a damn.  It made him sick.  Absolutely sick. 

            After that, Rikat just sort of shut down.  He didn’t no why he felt so bad.  It was just the last straw.  Perhaps, it didn’t matter how boring his life was there was always the thought of being a space pilot that made the future look brighter.  It was like watching all the adventure and romance of your life being sucked away.  Things quickly started to go downhill with Senko after that.  He just stopped feeling all together because if even the stars had lost any meaning than nothing seemed to compare. 

That was what ended their relationship.  Not quarrels or disagreements.  It was his complete lack of true emotion.  He still smiled and acted like everything was fine but meanwhile he didn’t feel anything real.  He didn’t love anything.  He didn’t hate anything.  He was just empty.

Once, the plane was in a stable orbit, Rikat left to go entertain the party.  He came out of the cockpit and witnessed the usual scene of adults hanging around in their gravity boots talking and their kids floating around in the air fighting with their food.  Nimban was working as a waiter at the tables.  He had to dodge several floating children in order to get to where Rikat was.

“Yes, our roasted butani is the finest.  It’s my personal favorite…”, Rikat was creating small talk with the guests about the meals and the catering when Nimban butted in.

“Captain, we got some issues downstairs with catering.”  Nimban said.  The guests looked a little bit concerned after this statement. 

“I’m sure, it’s nothing.” Rikat reassured his guests.  “What the hell is going on down there Nimban.  Don’t say things like that in front of the customers…”

Nimban cut him off, “Yeh, alright.  Shut up.  Listen.  The two moved into one of the back rooms where the waiters hung out on breaks.  “What the hell is going on with you?  I heard what you were talking about with Senko.  Now don’t act innocent with me.  Jusai might be dumb as a brick but I’m sure not and if you just think you’re going to act like something is not wrong and then just pull stupid shit like break up with your girlfriend for no reason than you better explain yourself.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t pull this shit with me, Rikat!”

“Alright fine man.  Look, I guess you could say it’s the job but it’s more than that.  You know when you were just a kid you always thought there was something more, something you just got to reach for but could never touch.  Well now look at us.  We got friends, fancy houses, everything we could ever want and we’re on a freaking spaceship.  And it all means nothing.  There’s no more of that reach.  No more of that drive.  That’s all.”

Nimban gave a good hard look at his friend.  Rikat.  You know not all things in this world are physical.  You’ve spent so much time looking for stars that you fail to see there’s something to reach for all around you.  So we conquer explore the hell out of this universe.  We map out jungles.  We cross oceans.  We make a freaking space ship.  So what?  Eventually people become so used to everything that even the most spectacular things are as unexciting as your breakfast…”

“I don’t know man. Breakfast was pretty good this morning…” Rikat shot in.

“You’re a wiseass.  Look, the real adventures are the ones you have with your friends.  When you deal with the people you care about.  You lose sight of that and no matter what you’re going to feel like a stone.”

Rikat looked at the party going on.  The people weren’t oblivious to space.  They just cared way more about their family members.  That was the one thing that would never lose its wonder.  The one thing that Rikat had overlooked and that was all he needed to feel better. 

 

© Copyright 2005 by the author

All rights reserved