Posting Notes

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Science vs Romance - Wedding Dress Prompt - Holly

I wrote this a few months ago without any specific future in mind for it. The title is borrowed from a Rilo Kiley song.

He leans against the window, putting his cheek to the glass and allowing the steam from his breath to cloud his view of the spinning planet below. It wasn't that long ago that he had spent hours in this spot, transfixed on the changing star patterns as they hurtled through space. Now he spends a few minutes here when he can in order to remember the feeling of wonder. A year ago, he would have wiped the condensation away immediately, resentful at the obstruction of view. Now, he lets it bead up and slide down the glass, wondering if those on cleaning KP would know it was his fault that the windows are dirty.

Footsteps behind him. Heavy, with a little hesitation as they near, realize someone else is there. Must be Henry. He doesn't bother to turn around, merely waves a hand behind him, still staring at the planet reflected in the drops. "Hey, Henry. Need to get away?"

Everyone seeks out their own personal space, after months with the same faces. Henry clears his throat before answering, "Layna just told me she's pregnant, Wes. I don't know if I want to be alone or lost in a crowd."

Big news. He looks away from the glass toward Henry, who shifts uncomfortably. "Same thing, isn't it?"

"I guess. I was just thinking that a year ago, I would have jumped ship and hid down on that planet, despite their horrible tasting food. I've been on this ship for five years, but Layna, she's changed me more in the last few months than the last five years combined."

Typical. Henry, the grunt of the group, trained in combat styles that most people had never heard of, is more afraid of change than a ticking thermo-nuclear bomb. "Things always change, Henry. You have to, to survive. Layna isn't going to domesticize you--you're just going to have something else to protect on this ship," he says, noting the tick of the second hand on his watch. Time. Now there's something that always changes consistently (an irony of his job that never failed to amuse him). He is a time specialist. Space time, real time, air time...its all relative.

Henry nods. "You've definitely changed, if you don't mind me saying. You're a lot quieter, less annoying with the questions. You don't geek out as much, either."

"Yea. Things that used to bother me don't bother me anymore. Like not knowing answers to questions. I've learned to let a lot of things go." Wes sighs. It feels like defeat.

"What else doesn't bother you? You know, things you've adjusted to that you never thought you would." To his surprise, Henry looks genuinely interested. Despite having guard detail for Wes's group pretty constantly for the last few months, Henry has never had much to say to him beyond reminiscences of home.

Wes squints. "Grammar, obviously," he pauses, smiles at the memory. "Back home, my biggest pet peeve was the misuse of 'their', 'they're', and 'there' in English." Suddenly words fly from his mouth at a pace he's learned to avoid, "All the linguists are redundant up here, with the translation chips and symbology as written language, and despite the usefulness of Common Tongue, I miss the right to be upset at the abuse of written language. We're all scientists now, and no one can remember the beauty of the written word! My native tongue was a bitch to learn, none of the rules made sense, but people spent years and years fighting it, trying to make it beautiful.

"Everything here is so economical! It's sensible, besides the absurd, like the warp engine I've been repairing since the day it was built. But you know, as technology advances, the art that we boast about in our museums ceases to be created. We've de-evolved in creativity. We're back in the Egyptian era of writing--we're two steps away from cave drawings. And I've lost the right to rant about proper English grammar!" Wes breathes hard now. He has turned towards Henry, using the window as a wall, so that space stretches out behind him. To speak about art, he turned his back on science. This feeling of passion towards something, anything really, makes Wes' heart pound. Too long since he's had a reaction like this, a normal human reaction to something completely irrelevant to his current situation. He wants to wallow in the sensation of anger, tired of being the calm physicist stuck on his back under wires.

Henry stares at him. "You asked," Wes says, crossing his arms. Defensive stance. Real smart, sassing the trained killer in the room. Wishes he could take it back, remain the mousy, quiet nerd.

Shaking his head, Henry turns around and walks down the corridor the way he came. "I asked what didn't bother you. Everyone has something to bitch about these days."

Wes hears Henry mumble something about pessimists as he turns the corner. The one time he speaks with sincerity and passion, the listener runs off. Granted, it was Henry, but he feels a mounting sense of heaviness. He misses home more than ever, he misses simplicity and fantasy and grammar police. He misses the thrill of emotion, before the psychologists learned to destroy it for the greater good of the mission.

In the quest to discover other cultures, he's become a robot, a walking talking biloid that fixes engines and solves equations with no interest in the intricacies of language, with no excuse to explode with emotion, or let a tear fall quietly as he watches a purplish-blue planet spin in space.

No excuses, but it happens anyway.


  1. I shed a single stoic man tear for the loss of the single stoic man tear. I will (begrudgingly) admit that the last line is more graceful without it however. RIP Single Stoic Man Tear.

    That said we never did review this back in the day, did we! I loved it then and still do. Great job with the awkward, not-quite-successful-male-bonding banter, you capture it really well. Soliloquys are difficult to make readable but it comes off perfectly as a nerdy rant, great for establishing character. I want to see more characters and hear more about their mission!

  2. Hey Holly!

    I won't lie, I'm a sucker for outer space stuff, so I loved this! I like that you wrote in present tense as well.

    I think the character of Wes is really unique and interesting - most of your typical, cliched scientist characters would get along great in the cold, clinical atmosphere he describes, and I think it was a neat twist on that concept that he actually dislikes it. I especially liked that he was crazy about grammar - it's not something you hear from most scientist type characters, but it really makes sense when you think about it - there is a certain "science" to language as well.

    Also, I'm not sure if this was intentional, but it was interesting to me that the scientist was named "Wes" while the tough guy was named "Henry" - I feel like you would usually see these names in reverse and it was a nice bit of irony, intended or not!

    The only very small suggestion I have for you is at the very end, he mentions the "purplish-blue planet" - is this supposed to be Earth? I'm not sure of the overarching setting of your story, of course, but I think having him stare wistfully at Earth from the spaceship window would be pretty poignant. However, I would definitely describe Earth as "green and blue" instead of purple. Again, I'm kind of taking this out of context, but it's just a thought!