Ryan Grey-secretary aboard the lightship (unnamed)
Gloria Chance (blonde)
Chann C. Erik
Anna San (Elf)
The strange man stood in the doorway of the lightship, looking out at the vastness of space. Space was everywhere, of course; space was in everything, and it looked massive and dark against the sky filled with stars. The strange man was human. The others on the ship were not human; they were Ulranian, Uversian, and Kerian, from worlds far beyond what the Earthman had ever known himself. He had been aboardship for several months, filing paperwork, doing other odds and ends. He was not the captain. The captain was an Xi Krode, an invisible being who had crossed dimensions to the other side and reported for duty, due to a glitch in the Universe Patch on Stellar 5-8. That was the crossing point from this world to the Other Side, the place where beings were without bodies. He glanced down at the starboard, and moved several knobs with his mind. The ship shuddered; an image of Earth appeared above the computer-the computer was white, and it ticked and tocked and shuddered, heaved, as if it were tectonic plates moving in the center of a planet. The man missed home. He missed home and everywhere else. Mister Grey’s first name was Ryan. He supposed it was an Earth name. Ryan reminded him of better days, playing in the yard with his sister, Gretchen, now long dead because she was Earthwoman; Ryan had been going from planet to planet, stocking up his ship, talking to the locals and asking about the weather, asking about things he absent-mindedly forgot about later. There were no days and nights in space. Only the blackness. The veil of space that was cold; bitterly lonely. He wanted to go into space if not to avoid humankind, the people that had twice decided to shun him for his malpractice; for the nights that were graceful and dark and they blamed him for the bad weather; the darkness; the viruses that spread like flies. Everything was spread; everything was absent from his mind, everything was voidless, everything was depthness, the everything was within and the night was veiled.
His name was Ryan.
He was an Earthman.
On a lightship.
He did not remember day from night. He did not remember everything. He did not remember the seasons of Earth; he did not remember those sleepless night, lying naked and alone, and cold; or how he felt when he looked at a woman. The captain walked towards him. Ryan could see him shimmering against the veiled night. “Sir,” the captain said (he called everyone “Sir,” even the women-it was a joke among the crewmembers, now.) “What is the time?” His voice was gruff. Like the wind. Ryan missed the wind. He could experience it in the virtual tank. It wasn’t the same thing. He missed the wind. The wind missed him. That was all.
“Fifteen hundred,” he replied, his smile quickening. “Why do you ask?”
“Ah,” he replied. “It is time for my morning run.” He smiled at Ryan and jogged away, his legs shimmering just a little bit more than usual. He turned to the viewscreen. The stars shone brightly.
It was time to work on the map.
They were supposed to locate Sector V-4; Ryan’s eyes were purple-they had changed color after he decided to Orbit; after he decided to stop being a human being and start being a Universalian, or whatever they called People of the Stars now. Being in space was different from being on Earth. It was much deeper. Much colder. Everything was something new. Everything was something else, the stars were deep; space was deep. Ryan was afraid of space when he first started out in the world. When he first rose from the depths of his Trenton, New Jersey home; the hurt was deep in his heart, of having to leave home and no one being the least bit worried or fearful of his safety; it was all like, “Goodbye, good luck, see you soon.” Ryan dimly remembered Earth. He did not miss it so much. He did not mind the aloneness. Every day was the same. Every day was exactly like the other. The days were not days. The nights were not nights. The cold was very cold. Everything around him was cold. His mind grasped the dimness of space. The everything that was around him, solid and real and the everything inside of him.
The captain returned.
Ryan was working on his log. “Yes?” he queried, looking up from it.
“What,” he heaved.
“Yes?” The repeat.
“Jogging. Hungry. Food.” He puffed his chest with pride. His pride was in the way he walked; the way he spoke; the captain was the captain and nothing else was what it appeared, moving and unmovement, the movement of himself. The shift in the dark. What was the shift in the dark? The strangeness of it. His mind grasped at straws. His mind saw things…the how; where he lived; the dimness of his mind was sacred; dwindling; he was fearful in his reverie. The strangeness of the nothing. He had been on the lightship for several months, and it felt like years. Light years were different in space. Actually, they were the same in space or somewhere else. He couldn’t feel it. His vision was different from Ryan’s. In all his years as captain, he had never met a being quite like that of Ryan.
Something dinged far above him, in the walls-it was like a doorbell. Ryan remembered doorbells. They were supposed to be for houses.
“We’re docking,” he told Ryan.
Ryan was surprised. “So soon?” he said. “Where are we docking?”
“I thought Anna told you. We’re on Flin 7.”
“That’s a dumb name,” he remarked, shaking his head. “Whoever came up with that…”
The captain smiled. His head shimmered. “The computers came up with the name,” he replied. “Did I ever tell you the story about how the computers came up with all the names of the worlds that were discovered?”
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Yes,” he snapped. He thought about it for a minute. “Oh, wait. No.” He shook his head. “What computer came up with it? When?”