Wisp Part II. Part I can be found here.
At one point, we all drifted to the lounge to talk about our plans, and our world.
“Where will you go, Kiran? Will you stay with us?” I asked.
“You know who I am… a person not of this world. There’s no way I can really stay.” She said simply, without turning to me.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“You sound like the ship psychiatrist right now,” Galius snorted. He’d been oddly quiet throughout the conversation up to now.
Kiran ignored him. “There’s nothing you should do. Your world is not the only one out there…I want to see all of them. I need to see all of them, keep them alive. But until then…I think I can stay here. You’re a nice man, if a little weird. And this is a nice ship, I have to admit.”
“What’s with the smoke, then? Is that something unique to humans?” Veras chimed in. Had he never seen a human before? Kiran looked nothing like one – but then again, she had claimed she was human.
She burst out laughing. “Humans do not usually dissolve into smoke, nor do they have black skin with red cracks in them. That’s…just me, really.”
“I thought that there were such a thing as black humans.” I said. Not that I’d ever seen any.
“Well, kind of. There are different skin tones, yes, but they’re all a varying shade of brown. What we consider ‘white’ people are really light tan, not white…and what we consider ‘black’ is a much darker shade of brown. I haven’t seen anyone with pure black skin.”
“Is that bad?” Veras asked, before coughing slightly. “Sorry ‘bout all the questions. I feel bad, pestering you like this…”
“No, it’s fine. I’m used to curious people…it’s better to be curious and to ask than to make assumptions. Um…anyways, you guys probably all realized that I’m not holding together well. This smoke exists because I’m incompatible with this universe, much like you guys would begin dissolving in mine. The more I travel to different worlds, the more I die.”
“Ouch, so that is bad. Gotta admire your courage, kid. It takes a lot to be able to be so calm when your life is fading away right in front of you.” Veras sighed. “So you’ve been stuck in this universe for a while?”
“Well, I’ve been to many universes. But they were never really home, you know?”
“Yeah, I do know. Well, not the going to different universes part, but being away from home. Or never really having one. I think we all do, here on this ship. Me myself, I was a wanderin’ mercenary with a couple of friends before they all grew tired of the life and decided to go back home. But our home planet had gone into civil war since then, and I couldn’t stick around. Long story.”
“We have the time. You can tell it if you’re comfortable.” Kiran offered.
“Hmm…yeah, I think that’d be nice. Would probably want a few beers first, though.” Veras got up, slowly walked over to the kitchen.
But the conversation never really happened. Veras and Kiran just chatted about nothing over a couple of beers, and once again, I realized that I didn’t know anything about the crew I’d assembled.
Galius approached me one day, a look on his face far serious than I’d ever seen in a long while. “Hey, Galius. What’s up?”
“You seen Thola anywhere? She’s…not really been hanging out with us.”
“She’s probably in her room then, as usual. Why, is something bothering you?”
“Of course something’s bothering me! Why else would I be asking?” he snapped, before sighing. “Sorry, man. Not your problem. You ever thought about investing in a punching bag?”
“The next time we stop on dry land I’ll get you one.” I tried to crack a smile, but when he didn’t return it, that smile quickly faded. “Galius…what’s wrong?”
“I’m going to try and talk to Thola. Wish me luck.” He suddenly got up, and was gone.
The captain’s quarters are sometimes the loneliest places to be. Because nobody else is theoretically allowed up here, and nobody else will really come up here, really. Except maybe Galius. But even his rude intrusions are a welcome against the still quiet of this area of the ship.
I wonder, if what I was doing was inexcusable. If I was truly crazy for trying to create my own family like this, for running this way of life. I wonder if this was all the work of some twisted fantasy.
The silence was my only answer.
Log recorded from Thola’s room
Thola: Who’s there? Is it the Phantom?
Galius: Nope, it’s me, Galius.
Thola: What do you want?
Galius: A chance to talk. Haven’t seen you around. Thought I’d say hi.
Thola: …come in. We can…uhm…have a little chat.
Thola: So what is it that you wanted to talk about?
Galius: I don’t know. I’m not like Phantom, flitting about always wanting to know about everyone’s lives. I just like talking for the sake of talking. Even if it means babbling like an idiot.
Thola: Really? I…I don’t think I can relate, I’m sorry.
Galius: Hey, no harm done. Didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Here, I’ll make it up to you with really lame ladder jokes.
Thola: …ladder jokes?
Galius: Jokes about ladders. So, what did the shopkeeper say when the guy stole his ladder?
Galius: “Further steps will be taken!” … Yeah.
Thola: Well, you were right about one thing. It was a…pretty lame ladder joke.
Galius: Hey, I’m pretty certain that you probably cracked a little smile under that mask, eh? A little smile on your pretty face?
Thola: You…you haven’t even seen my…my face. It is not pretty.
Galius: How’d you know that? You’re not Draconian, are you? Yeah, I know I haven’t seen your face, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty. Just like none of us have seen Phantom’s face, but he still has that reputation of being that handsome little lech.
Thola: You are his best friend. How…how could you have not seen his face?
Galius: He’s a paranoid little guy, a bit scared. I don’t think he knows what his own face looks like. Besides, the past is the past, and I don’t want to disturb it, you know?
Thola: Mhmm. He tries to disturb all of our pasts, though.
Galius: Well, he’s insane like that. Always clinging onto his hope for family, you know? Dunno what to do about him. But he’s not that crazy, so it’s okay to trust him.
Thola: I…I’ll think about it.
Galius: So, more ladder jokes?
Thola: You’re an interesting person, Galius.
Thola: Phantom is the one that so desperately wants a family, but you’re the one that talks to all of us and keeps it together. I think I can trust you, more than I can trust him.
Galius: Phantom isn’t a bad guy, Thola. Just as lonely and scared as anyone who’s lived on a ship his whole life can be. That’s why we’re all here, to be each other’s company.
Thola: I know. But I…don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone. They can’t see my face…tell how I’m feeling…and I can’t talk straight when…when I talk about myself. But I want them to know, you know? Who I am…I want them to accept me. Kiran, Veras…even Phantom.
Thola: I died once, Galius. My old life…our planet got invaded, and I tried to rip myself apart, only to be saved by the few soldiers that remained, and bandaged up like I am now. And then the soldiers got ambushed too, and I was the only one left alive.
Galius: Then Phantom came?
Thola: Phantom came. But why did he come to a destroyed world like mine?
Galius: It’s something he does. He always used to wander around to worlds that were dead or dying, hoping to save someone. Kiran was the first, you were the last, he always needed to save someone. He really is crazy. The world’s gonna end, and he’s still trying to hold everything together.
Thola: I still don’t trust him, though. He’s so…empty. Even more than me. Can you promise, Galius, never to tell him what I just told you?
Galius: I promise. If you ever want to share your story, you have to be ready to do so. But keep in mind, Thola, that we’re all friends here.
Galius: Anyways, the next time you want to hear a really lame ladder joke…I’m always around.
Thola: I’ll think about it.
I went through the logs. All of the recordings, the little memories that my family shared. The memories that I had never seen before, that showed me pieces of everyone.
Nobody really knows who I am. Not even me. But does that matter? You do not need to know everything about a person to be friends with them. Everyone, after all, has their own demons…demons that they might not want to share with everyone.
Having brought this family together, I should have the right to know who they are. I’d set up cameras and microphones throughout this ship for that reason – to see the aspects of my family that would never be shared otherwise. But maybe that never worked, because even now, in this dire hour, my friends do not trust me. My family has bonded with one another, and left me behind.
I wonder. What have I done wrong? What is it that their eyes expect in me, even Galius, who has followed me for years without question?
I know now that my family is not as tightly knit as I had imagined…and that thought is killing me.
The world ends tomorrow. We are all marching onwards, determined to meet our fate and to fight for our lives. And even if the world does end, even if we fail, I should be happy. I did create my family, after all…it had been my dream, and I had endured the emptiness of space for that reason.
Of course, I am happy, in a way. If I were to go through hell, I have my family that would follow me every step of the way. I traveled many worlds to save the few that make up my crew, and the gratitude in their faces and voices when they are saved is what drives my life, and motivates me to keep going.
But still, their happiness, their sadness, and their secrets and friendships, they all drive holes into my broken heart. They all make me realize that I cannot get close to them, that in the end, I have always been alone.