The man in the tavern had a balding head and eyes like glass. It was a nice night. He tripped on the front stoop as he entered the tavern. A man glanced him up and down, by the front door. His mouth twisted downward, in a frown. He did not like to frown. He had nothing to smile about. Everything was going good in his life, except, everything was not. Such was the ways of the world. Such was the ways of nothing, and things that were shaped. The frown was brighter than the night outside. To say, it wasn’t much of anything. “You’re good enough,” he said gruffly, and beckoned him to a shadowy corner in the tavern. The building was cracked. Old. Had been riddled with use of wear and tear. He ordered the man a drink and ordered him to look at the moon and the stars through the barred window. He touched the window. The window was cold, just like the moon was cold.
“Who are you?” he asked. He gasped. His eyes bulged like a fish. His skin was parched. Dry. The smell of cigar smoke hung deathly in the air, and the air swirled, and was warm. His skin was tanned. He had been tanning in the sun, and everything about him was colorful, careful, carefree. The words hung steadily in the air and things were tarnished, and the wooden table was bronzed. He could see his face in it.
“My name is Hash,” he answered. “That’s all you need to know.”
He grunted. Drank a swish of scotch; poured it on the floor. The waitress gasped, and fainted. A woman waved her face with a fan. She looked half-dead. Maybe starved. She was one of the Falcons, the Peoples who gave Freemen a second chance. The Others were called Robots. They were the second ones, the ones who bred robot dogs and robot houses. The houses were the ones in the middle, set in the middle of the great, wide, place, in stone. The houses were colder than the sun.
The sun blazed heavily above them. It was not going to be long now, the reports said. They said everything was going to blow up. They were going to become obliterated. The scientists were not prophets. They were stating educated guesses. Degrees in facts. Mankind was dying. Strangely enough, the animals were thriving. An extinct peacock was found in a flower bed in Mexico. Pigeons and blue jays were becoming extinct. Man had lost his way. It was the end of time. The end of all times.
He yawned. He was getting sleepy. He had been drinking a lot. The man gave him three beers-imagine that! Three beers for nothing. It didn’t even taste funny. It tasted normal. The strangeness was not in him. He had not returned himself somewhere deep within himself, to the unhappiness found there. Unhappiness found at the bottom of a broken bottle. The bottle glistened and gleamed in the sun.
The hardships were nothing more than a simple trampling of fact. Of figures and nature and bygones. The simple fact of it. The human race was not simple.
The man swiveled in his chair in the command center of the ship. He was balding; rather fat; and had intense blue eyes and a long, pointed nose. His ears were rounded at the tip, and his face was flushed pink. He was not a kind man. He was not one to get along with. It was said he used to stowaway Prime Soldiers who didn’t get along with the whole lot; and his anger stemmed from the loss of his daughter, Eliza, at the age of five in a tragic house fire on the planet called Earth. Earth was far away, a distant memory, something as dim and dark as a dream. The universe was colder than anything and nothing more was dispersed than the shadows of night that stretched over an Eternity of Blackness. His meanness didn’t stop there. He was supposed to update his Logs every day, and send it to the Galaxy Council for inspection. The ship was his only home. He didn’t like anybody. He never liked himself. He was a man on a mission: to obliterate each and every solar system that contained Soid Bugs. They were ugly, crawling things that lived in distant suns, and created them to explode. They were intelligent. Conniving. Hideous creatures. Had nothing to hide, and everything to gain.
Eiffel Horner was not a man. He was an Earthling. It was written in the Chronicles of the Biosphere-the place where planes came and went-that the universe created at the beginning was that none other than the planet called Earth. Eiffel was not born on Earth. He was born on Jupiter 4.3434th, which meant there were ten thousand other Jupiters that bore the same name. The first Jupiter was in the galaxy, Sol, that was a neighbor of the first Earth. Now, the planet tripled in quadripillions. The Chronicles contained a summary of the planet Earth, and it said thus: “A planet.” It was a vague description, at best, caught between a truth and a lie, for Earth is not said to have existed or if it was just a myth. There was never really one scientist to look up to, but a zillion of them. These planets were the ones that were so old they were hard to track.
Eiffel was a Logger. His job was to Log his experiences, and report them back to the Chronicles-that was all. The Biosphere consisted of a man named Chronicle, for he was born and bred by a Strange Race that were never seen, and were only shadow images of beings once called “Earthlings.” Perhaps they were from the planet of Earth. Eiffel would ask them if he had a chance. He would never have a chance. The Chronicles told him where to go. He would never find his way back home.
He had a vague memory of some distant place that started with an “E” or an “H.” He could see it in his mind, in the far back corner, where nothing lived, except the consciousness. His mind was not whole. He was not well. That was why he had no job to do. His ancestor, a man named Biggs, was sick; he knew this from a dream he had, and was inspected by the prophecy council and it was dubbed legit. The next week, he got a rash. No being had ever gotten a rash, or a sickness. The human brain was always well. As well as could be expected.
The starship went deeper and further into the universe. It zoomed on its own course. It was robotic. Nothing could deter it from its intended destination-which was Earth, in actuality. The council programmed the planet into its system, hoping to help heal Eiffel and make him well. It was a silly dream, and one he would try to uphold.
Now, back to Biggs. Eiffel got the feeling he was from Earth-he was broad-shouldered, good-looking, and had a goofy grin and large, gray eyes. He could not think very well. He thought about “McDonald’s,” “Mara,” “sickness,” “home.” That was all he thought about, and nothing else. Eiffel thought the man was very stupid, very stupid indeed.
Eiffel was very heavy. He worked out in the exercise room once every other Cycle-a cycle lasted 27 hours. He sweated a lot. He was not used to sweating. He was not used to much. He was hungry. He got up from the exercise bike, and mopped his brow, and went down the hall to the kitchen and sat on a stool and asked the oven for a baked potato. The oven gave a strange, gurgled sound, and jumped and heaved and produced a hot, steaming, baked potato in seconds.
“Sour cream?” it asked.
He laughed a little. It was all a little too crazy. “Yeah,” he answered. “I guess.” He smiled at the oven, and the oven chuckled again, and sour cream appeared on the baked potato and it was thrust to him on a plate. He picked it up and found a fork in the drawer and scrounged around, looking for it.