It’s been a few days, hasn’t it? I’m afraid that’s my fault. My sleep schedule has been blown wildly off course the last few days, including that one night I fell asleep at 6pm and woke up around midnight. I’ve still been writing, I just haven’t been updating the blog here. Which is going to cause me some issues in a few minutes while I try and remember where I was at.
Not surprisingly, I ran out of ideas for who should get the pen next, so I had to switch to my “B” roll. This is a re-do of a story that a friend of mine asked for and that I wrote part of, if I remember right. The strange thing is, neither of us has any part of that story. And I’ve looked through a mountain of old USB keys, external hard drives, and internal hard drives, not to mention scouring old, old emails.
So, let’s see where we got for that adventurous pen.
Norm wiggled his beer bottle. “You want another?”
“Naw,” said Lenny. “I got to get back home and I’ll end up missing the last train if I don’t head out.”
“All right, buddy. See you tomorrow.”
Lenny hauled himself out of the booth and out the bar door onto the city street. It was fully night but lights from the shops and street lamps kept things bright. It was a little chilly and Lenny breathed the night air in. Maybe his job was in jeopardy, maybe it wasn’t, but right now he was glad he was where he was. He always felt the city got a little more magical the cooler the weather turned.
He took a seat and watched out the window as people moved about doing their things. It seemed odd to him, right at the moment, that there were millions of people, all living their own lives even if he knew nothing about them. It almost seemed easier to believe that they stopped existing once they left his field of view. Lenny wondered, then, if that was some sort of mental illness and if there was a psychiatric term for it. There probably was.
The train next to his started to move out and he could see more of the station. There was a coffee shop there that he hadn’t noticed before. It wasn’t very crowded right now, but there were a couple of people sitting at a counter. The place wasn’t very big and that was about all that could fit in there, but there were some tables and chairs set outside of it. An outdoor cafe in an indoor train station. Lenny decided that he would have to stop there, at least once. Maybe the next time his train was late, which happened fairly often.
A man came through the train door and dropped a briefcase, a newspaper, and a candy bar on the seat in front of Lenny. Then he sat down opposite of him. Then he stood up again and took off his London Fog trenchcoat and placed it over his things. He sat down again. For a moment, he looked like he was thinking of standing up again but decided he didn’t need to. He was situated, as they say.
Reaching under his coat, he pulled out the briefcase and placed it on top of the coat. He flipped the two latches and opened it, pulling out some papers and a pen. Then he closed the briefcase and put it on his lap and used it as a desk, reading through the papers and marking things down with his pen.
To Lenny, he seemed a bit disorganized and flustered, as if that was his normal state of being. The train started to pull out of the station and he looked out the window again, watching the coffee shop disappear beyond his sight. Leaving the station, the buildings of the city could be seen again, towers of light reaching the heights of darkness. Eventually, they, too, would be left behind and the train would move through darkness.
Lenny stared out the window for the most part, aside from handing his ticket to the conductor. The trip was mostly dark, but every once in a while it passed through some town or another and lights could be seen. The train slowed down a bit during these crossings and Lenny was able to see some of the houses or shops, if it passed right through the town. He thought that he should get in the car one day and drive to these towns and check out the shops or restaurants, just to do something different. He wouldn’t, though. It was one of those things he’d think about, but never do. He wasn’t sure why; it wasn’t like he had a family chaining him down to his apartment. He was free to come and go as he chose. Not having a family also meant being able to afford jaunts like that. He sighed heavily. One day. Before he died.
He noticed, then, that his seat mate was writing on a form and then shaking his pen vigorously and looking at it as if it offended him. Then he’d try writing again and do the shaking routine. Finally, he opened the case part way and tossed the pen in there and then shuffled things around, probably looking for another pen. He looked up at Lenny.
“Say,” he said, “could I borrow your pen?”
“I don’t have a –“, he started. Then he patted his shirt pocket and remembered the pen from the bar. “Oh, yeah. Sure.” He handed the pen over to the mousey man.
The man took it and looked at the chain curiously.
“You have a thing against banks?”
“Uh, no, why?”
“Looks like this was taken from a bank. From one of those little tables they’re usually chained to.”
“Oh. I don’t know, I picked it up at a bar.”
“Well, someone liberated this fellow. His compadres are probably jealous of this guy’s freedom, wondering what he’s been up to and what he’s doing.”
Lenny looked at him and wondered if the guy was a few floors short of a skyscaper or just overly imaginative. “No doubt,” he said. “That pen probably can’t believe its luck, having seen things very few bank pens get to see.”
“It must have been very excited; it peed in your pocket.”
Lenny looked down at his shirt pocket and saw a black blob of ink at the bottom of his pocket. “Son of a…”
“Don’t blame the pen. He probably couldn’t contain himself. And it still writes, so that’s good luck.”
“Good luck, yeah,” said Lenny, not really seeing any good luck.
His seat mate went back to writing on forms. Every once in a while he’d stop and think about something, and twirl the pen around causing the short chain to whirl around like a helicopter blade. Lenny went back to staring out the window and wonder what he was doing with his life.
Soon enough, the familiar sights of his home started appearing. His stop would be up soon. He put his satchel in his lap and waited for the train to start slowing down.
The fellow across from his noticed this.
“Do you want your pen back?” he asked.
“No,” said Lenny. “You should keep it. If it comes with me, its days of adventuring will be over and it’ll be stuck in a drawer.”
The man laughed. “I’ll try and keep the legacy going, then. Have a good night.”
“Yeah, you too.”
Clem stepped down off the train car. It was late, it was dark, there was a slight chill in the air, and there weren’t a lot of other people around. The parking was well lit, though, so that was good. He walked over to his car
Bill lay on the cot and listened. It was mostly silent. He thought it was weird because he knew that, not far away, massive machinery was in motion. He should be hearing loud groans, squeeks, and screeches. Instead, he only heard the the hissing and gasping of his air supply. He knew why he couldn’t hear his ship re-configuring itself for mining duty: there was no air outside of his habitat.
“Habitat” was a generous word for what he was sleeping in. It was barely more than a tent, although it was supposed to be a lot tougher, to withstand things micometeorites and whatever else could go flying through the vacuum of space. It had the fold-down cot, which he was now laying on, and a kitchenette of sorts.
There was no concept of ‘day’ or ‘night’ here, with ‘here’ being an asteroid that he hoped would have a decent run of precious metals.
And there it was: he way laying on a cot in a tent on an asteroid. In space. That was something he never even considered a few years ago. During all those job interviews, he never once answered that, in five years, he’d be trying to sleep on a small dead rock in the middle of nothing. Well, not really nothing; he was in an asteroid field, so there were lots of other asteroids about. They weren’t very close, though. It’s not like he could walk out his habitat and wave at a neighbor passing by on their own asteroid. That would be pretty cool, though.
He picked up his PEA and brought up the timer. There were still several hours to go before the ship finished the configuration change. A red banner across the top of the screen informed him that he still did not have a connection to the sub-space communications net. He wouldn’t be able to watch anything or talk to anyone. He didn’t have anyone to talk to, so that wasn’t a big deal. There were people he missed back home, but he wasn’t sure they missed him.
It was obvious he wasn’t going to be able to sleep right now, so Bill got up and looked out of the plastic window facing the ship. It didn’t look like much, just a mostly square lump. Most of the changes were happening on the inside. Ever once in a while, steam would vent out and disapate. Flood lights illuminated the area around it, but it was just flat grey landscape. Bill was glad the computers handled the landing because he was sure he wouldn’t have been able to land the massive craft on the small circular area by himself.
“You want to do what?” asked Fred, incredulously.
“I want to mine. An asteroid,” said Bill.
They were having lunch at a bistro in the station. Bright white tables and chairs on a bright white floor, with bright white lights everywhere. Fred was wearing a jumpsuit of the style that was so popular recently. Everyone was wearing the purple grayish things these days. Bill had no idea why, but he figured they were easy to print out and, since there was nothing endearing about them, easy to toss in the recyclers at the end of the day.
“Have you lost your mind? Why?”
Bill pushed his lunch around with his general purpose utensil. He wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe noodles? Maybe dumplings?
“It’s different,” he said.
“Different, all right. You can get killed doing that. Do you know how many miners get ejected into space when something goes wrong?”
“No. How many?” Bill asked, curiously.
“Well, I don’t know. A lot. Probably. You should look that up, maybe it’ll change your mind.”
“Don’t you ever get bored? All the white around here. Every day it’s the same thing.”
“White means clean,” said Fred. “And being the same means nothing unexpected. Nothing dangerous. Like, you’re not going to be blown out into space because something exploded when it shouldn’t have.”
“Sure, but nothing else is going to change, either. I’ll be doing the same job with no chance of doing something else or making more money.”
Fred dropped his utensil on his white plastic plate. “Oh, so you think you’re going to get rich? You think you’re going to strike a vein of, what, gold? Platinum?”
“Maybe. It could happen,” said Bill. “I’ve got a better chance of finding platinum out there than I do here.”
“How are yo going to get a ship? Mining equipment? It can’t be cheap to get all that stuff.”
“I’ve got savings. It’s not like there’s a lot of stuff around here to spend it on.”
“You should find a woman, Bill. That’s something to spend your money on.”
“Women don’t want anything from me,” said Bill. “I’ve had lots of time to prove that.”
And that’s where I’m at. With, you know, hopefully more tonight. We’ll see how that goes. Providing I don’t fall asleep at my desk at 6pm or something stupid like that.