I Wander the Stars: Part 3

    

     Dying.

     Burning.

     Falling.

     Drowning.

     I woke up screaming.

     In my panic and confusion I ended up tumbling off the bed,landing on the floor in a tangled mess of blankets and hair. I was only half-awake as I felt someone quickly extract me from the blankets and pick me up, holding me close. My eyes were squeezed shut as I tried to block out the horrible images from my nightmares. I was shaking like a leaf and drenched in a cold sweat, my long brown hair sticking to my face and neck in damp clumps. For what seemed like an eternity, all I could hear was the cacophony of war and my own blood thundering in my ears. But suddenly a voice cut through the noise, calling my name.

     I cautiously blinked my eyes open as I returned to my senses, and reality finally registered. I was in my room still, the room I’d woken up on after my ship exploded. My heart was pounding so hard it felt as though it was going to burst, and I was cold, clammy, and shivering violently—though whether this was from the nightmares or my chill I didn’t know. My legs dangled in midair; two strong, gentle arms supported my knees and head.

     Someone was clutching me tightly and speaking. I looked up and saw David’s face.

     “Oh, good,” he said, smiling. “I was worried.”

     “What?”

     “I heard you scream, so I came quick as I could to see whatwas wrong. Bad dreams?”

     “Yeah.”I shifted a bit, feeling awkward at the position I was in. David noticed and quickly deposited me back on the bed,rearranging the covers and pillows back to how they had been before I’d knocked them askew.

     “Want to talk about it?”

     “Not really.”

     David just nodded and pulled up his chair. I methodically calmed myself, going slowly down the length of my body from toes to head and forcing my muscles to relax. I focused on my breathing, counting sets of ten. After a few minutes I had regained my composure. I looked over at David to see that he had been watching me.

     “Hi,”I said.

     “Hi.”

     “I’m really sorry about all that.”

     “There’s nothing to apologize for. Everyone has nightmares sometimes.”

     “Yeah, but still.” After a short pause, I decided to drop theissue and moved on to something that had been bothering me.

     “You know my name, but I never told you.”

     “That’s true. Sorry, I couldn’t help picking it up when I was…you know. In your mind earlier.”

     “Oh! That makes sense. Hey, where exactly are we? On a ship or a planet or what? Where are all the other people?”

     “Finally asking the right questions!” He smiled. “We’re now about a galaxy away from where we picked you up in the Doren Sector. This is a ship, built and staffed by my people. We’re actually an ecological investigation team—we go to planets, study their ecosystems, and, if need be, help them out. It’s a good job.”

     “Sounds nice. Helping people all the time, doing some good in the world. Always wondered what that would feel like as opposed to…well, you know. What I was doing.” I glanced down at my hands where they rested on the covers, subconsciously lacing and unlacing my fingers.

     “You can join us when you’re ready. We’re always willing to take on more helpers.”

     I thought about it for a second. It did sound nice, and I liked David. If the others of his species were half as good a person as he was, I would be happy for life. But there were a lot of obstacles to me joining them.

     “I don’t know much at all about ecosystems or plants or anything,”I said. “I never studied them, and most of ours was dead anyway by the time I was born.”

     “Doesn’t matter. We can easily teach you as you go along.”

     “And I’m human.”

     “There are several different species on our ship already. We don’t discriminate.” David looked amused.

     “And I don’t even know my own brain anymore.”

     “All the more reason to stay here where you’re relatively

safe and we can help you figure things out.”

     “And I know absolutely nothing about you.”

     “That’s true,” he conceded. “Want me to tell you some things, or would you rather try to sleep some more?”

     “By all means, please start talking!” I said. “I don’t want to sleep right now. It’s still too fresh in my mind; I’d wind up stuck back in the same dream.”

     “All right. But promise me you’ll sleep later.”

     “I promise.”

     “Okay. Now, where should I start?”

     “Start simple. Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? Who’s your family? What’s your favorite food?”

     So he did. Over the next few hours, I learned a lot about David and his race. His name wasn’t actually David, but that’s what it would translate to in English. He couldn’t tell me the name of his species because it was impossible for me to hear, let alone remember and pronounce. His planet was much like Earth had been before it began to die but with more plants and less water.

     He wasn’t married, but he had parents and four siblings back home who were younger than he was. He hadn’t always wanted to be an ecologist and doctor; he’d initially wanted to be an inventor, but after enduring many failed creations (which often caught fire) his exasperated mother made him find a new hobby. His species didn’t age as quickly as humans, and though he looked to be in his thirties, he was really closer to one hundred and thirty. He wished that their ship had a swimming pool but said the food was excellent. He told me that tomorrow he would introduce me to some of the others on the ship and take me to find some clothes. It was only then that I noticed that I had on a drab jumpsuit several sizes too large for me.

     “Sorry about that,” David apologized. “I couldn’t find any your size. But we have very talented tailors here who’ll make you up a wardrobe in just a few hours. You’ll love it.”

     “Okay,”I said. For the first time in years, I was beginning to feel alive again. I was even looking forward to meeting new people.

     “I’ve been talking for quite a bit now,” David said at last, “and I need a break. You sleep, and then I’ll come wake you up so we can head out. Sound okay?”

    “Yeah!”

     “See you in a few hours, then.” He dimmed the lights and closed the door behind him. I heard him whistling as he headed off. Smiling, I turned over in the bed and closed my eyes, wondering what the next day would be like. My last thought before drifting off was that this ship and the new life that came along with it might be exactly what I needed.

     “Minnie! Wake up.”

     I shot upright, blinking.

     “What? What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. It’s morning.”

     “What?”

     “It’s morning. Don’t you remember where you are?”

     I looked around in confusion for a second before my brain, still fuzzy from sleep, clicked into gear.

     “Oh! Right. We’re going out.”

     “Yep!”

     “Um,”I said, throwing the covers off and standing up, “I know we’re headed to get clothes for me, but is there something else I could wear until then? I don’t care about looking nice so much as feeling comfortable…after sleeping in this it feels kind of gross,” I explained while pointing at the jumpsuit I was in. David grinned.

     “Got you covered.” He held up a green dress—very simple.

     Almost a slip, really. “Sorry it’s a dress, but it was the only thing we could find. One of the botanists had it in her closet from when she was a kid. I’ll be in the hallway, so come out when you’ve changed.”

     “Okay, thanks.”

     David left, and I quickly extracted myself from the jumpsuit, relieved to be out of the uncomfortable material. Whatever the green dress was made of, however, it was delicious. I sighed in pleasure as I slipped it over my head and felt the fabric slide like water down to my ankles. A bit longer than I was used to, but at that point I couldn’t have cared less. It felt wonderful, looked nice —like something normal people would wear, and someone had been kind enough to loan it to me. I was determined to take good care of the dress, and I hoped to meet whomever the owner was so I could thank them properly.

     I stepped out of the room into a nice hallway, well-lit and painted a soft cream color. It wasn’t metal like I was used to. I couldn’t tell what the material was. When I asked David, he said it was a natural product from his home planet derived from a plant he described as somewhat like a palm tree. As we walked towards the glass doors at the end of the hallway, I couldn’t wait to step into the new chapter of my life.

Stormy Nights is a rather eccentric high schooler with a wide range of interests. On an average day she can be found buried in a book, writing various stories and poems, or (by far the most likely) drowning in schoolwork —which inevitably leads to her daydreaming in a fantasy world while procrastinating. Books are her favorite companions, and she positively adores the library. Public speaking is her greatest enemy, she owns an unhealthy amount of half-used notebooks, and she is petrified by large cities. Her idea of a perfect evening involves curling up in a cozy recliner in a room full of bookshelves, a kitten and fuzzy blanket on her lap, The Lord of the Rings in her hand, a mug of hot chocolate by her elbow, and a thunderstorm raging outside her window.

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