Card Challenge: Day 32
Card Day 32: A boy walks along rolling green hills at night, blowing bubbles into the sly. The bubbles take on the shape of planets, rings and all, as they float upwards.
Peter dreamed big, probably too big many times. His dreams had the nasty habit of shoving into the real world, pushing the daily necessities out of the way. Nevertheless, Peter was also resolved to never sacrifice his dreamer’s spirit, no matter what the costs. Right now, the costs were approximately $1976.15 in back rent and interest.
He had no idea where the money would come from, nor what he would do when his meager possessions—a ratty couch from the thrift store, a low-power microwave, and a collection of ratty t-shirts that he had collected in college—were kicked to the curb. His latest big plan had failed miserably, which would have been a devastating blow to many. But Peter’s terminal case of optimism painted everything with possibilities and new horizons. Who knows, he mused, perhaps the bout of homelessness would finally sate that hunger for adventure gnawing at him.
Hands in his pockets, Peter walked along the street, whistling with his hands in his pockets. Yes, there were massive problems looming, but he was utterly unable to do anything productive towards those at the moment, so it was best to focus on what he could do. Right now, he could whistle and trace the patterns in the clouds.
The next night found Peter under the stars. He had opted to leave the couch for some other passing vagabond to use, mainly because it would not fit into his hatchback. The t-shirts, microwave, and an old lamp he had nearly forgotten about rattled in the trunk as he puttered along the highway. The eviction had gone through, so he was now free to see the world. Wanderlust tugged at his heart, pulling him out of the city. He was not sure where he was travelling to—the signs on the highway pointed to Wichita—but he was eager for the next great adventure. Peter dreamed of the stories he would hear and live out. Perhaps this would be his chance to write a book. Or, he pondered, maybe he should pick up odd jobs and pay his way around the country. He could do restaurant work in Wichita, clean some windows in Austin, sell newspaper in New York, and catch lobster in Maine. The world was open to him, and he was beholden to no person or thing.
The limitless freedom was exhilarating, if not also terrifying.
However, Peter had been on the road since 8am and the sun had long since disappeared from the horizon. The gas station coffee did little to keep him awake, and so he turned left off the highway, turning into a lonely exit promising a truck stop and a campground. Peter opted for the campground which, he thought, would be quieter than the hustle and bustle of an active travel center.
He pulled into the dirt lot and, seeing no one around, drove along towards one of the many abandoned camping spots. It seemed like the highway signs had not been updated since the place had closed down. Nevertheless, it would do for a place to snag a few hours of sleep. The car was stuffy with the scent of fast food French fries and summer heat, so Peter rolled the window down. The wind sung through the car, carrying a hint of highway exhaust and diesel fumes. The muter roar of the highway droned in the distance as Peter pushed his seat back and flipped his baseball cap down over his eyes. A smile on his face and not a worry in his mind, Peter fell asleep almost instantly.
The restful sleep, however, was not to be. While he was able to gain a few hours of relaxing snooze despite the best attempt from horns on the highway, it was a peculiar silence and electricity that woke him just past midnight. The crickets were silent, as was the highway, and the air hung heavy and still. As he struggled towards wakefulness, Peter was reminded of the huge storm that had blasted through town a couple years ago, predicted by a similar stillness. The air felt alive and electric, as if it were humming all around him. Peter peered out the windows into the inky blackness, lit by the silver disc of the moon. No clouds obscured it, meaning it probably wasn’t a storm on the horizon. The stars sat twinkling as brightly as ever, immune to the aura of unease permeating his setting.
Suddenly, there was light in the air. It was bright, as if all the electricity in the air suddenly became visible in that moment. The hum of energy returned, redoubled, and seemed to pulse with the strange light. In the light, Peter saw…things.
At first, his mind could not make sense of what he was seeing. Where the world had been black just inches from his window, now it was lit in cold white light. Shadows danced along it, his eyes unable to see through the brilliant light to make out more than the shape. They were squat htings, with appendages flailing about. They seemed to walk upright, with four other things—arms, perhaps?—moving in an almost swimming motion through the air. Finally, one drew closer, and he was able to see a being with tiny, dark eyes and a long antenna-like nose. It walked up to the door of the car, placing its hands on the edge of the window. Its fingers were webbed, splaying across the door in an impossibly wide span. Peter felt lightheaded, the world spinning in a haze of light, shadow, and that enduring hum.
As if aware of his overwhelmed sense, the creature turned towards the others, emitting a sharp series of squeaks and rumbles. The light overhead disappeared, the sound ceased, and the creatures vanished. And then, Peter vanished. His car sat, lonely and mostly empty in the abandoned campground, a monument to isolation and adventure.
For his part, Peter was finally objectively terrified. He found himself in a corridor with steely walls. Light seemed to glow from the walls themselves, flooding the corridor with stark white light. It was too bright, pulsing behind his eyes. One of the creatures was at his side, taking his hand in its webbed fingers. It tugged at Peter, pulling him down the corridor to a large room where many others sat. He was directed to a chair, its dimensions clearly not made for his lanky human body, and dutifully sat. From behind him, someone fitted a small contraption to his ear, swatting at him harshly when he tried to remove it.
There was a flurry of voices in his mind, speaking languages he had heard and some he had never imagined. He was certain that he even tasted one of the languages, a gush of fresh strawberries filling his mouth. Then, the noise died down, giving way to stilted English.
“Inhabitant of Sphere 279. Welcome. We invite you hear to know you, to learn of you. We mean you no harm. You may return to your terrestrial location at any time you wish.”
All the eyes turned to him expectantly. Peter smiled, laughed with discomfort. He scratched at his head, his mouth flopping open and closed as he sought the words to speak. As soon as he took a breath to say something, one of the creatures thrust a pale blue sphere towards his face. Peter heard his voice in the sphere for a moment, then listened as it became the squeaks and growls of his hosts.
“Uh, think I can hitch a ride?” They laughed—at least, he heard them laugh in his head. In the room, it sounded like gears grinding to a sudden halt.
After a moment, the leader spoke. “Of course. Such is our quest. We will learn, you will learn.”
Peter smiled, finding his wanderlust growling hungrily in his mind. He could travel the galaxy, picking up odd jobs to pay his way. A bus boy on Neptune, interpreter on Pluto, landscaper in Alpha Centauri, a barista on……
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.