Off-Worlding Excerpt 1 – Ch 1
Grumm slithered into the control room, his lower half swishing silently along the floor of the spaceship. “Geez, Hathiant, are you seriously watching that boring human again?” When he noticed his Amorphicine partner’s coloring, he added, “You all right?”
Hathiant’s normally lime green skin had taken on an olive hue as he stared at the scene in front of him. “Alex Dandridge is having an awful month.”
“Sucks to be him, I guess.” Moving up to the control panel, Grumm switched the display. Instead of Alex, the screen now showed two evening gown-clad women wearing far too much makeup. They waggled their fingers at one another as they shouted and scowled. A smile enveloped Grumm’s face. “If you want to watch humans, I suggest The Real Housewives of Scranton. These females yell at each other constantly. I love it when they tell one another to calm down. Apparently, you can’t actually make a human calm down by uttering that phrase. Who knew?”
Without a word, Hathiant reengaged the viewscreen’s display to Alex.
“Hey,” huffed Grumm, “I was watching that. They were about to start throwing things. That’s the best part. If nothing else, at least turn off the viewer and check out the view.” Gesturing out the space-ship’s all-encompassing front window, he continued, “I mean, we’re twenty-two thousand miles above this bizarre, little planet. From here, the blues and greens are rather pleasing. Their moon is glowing bright over yonder. I get such delight out of watching the ludicrous amount of space junk and satellites as they bounce into one another. Sometimes, they even fall to Earth. Reentry burn, baby.”
As Hathiant’s color darkened slightly, Grumm shook his head. “I just don’t get your fixation, Hath.”
“In this month,” Hathiant replied, “Alex’s mate disengaged with him, then his current vocation ended, then—”
Interrupting, Grumm asked, “His what? Vocation?”
“Remember, this culture uses currency to purchase items. He had what they refer to as a job, selling their idea of food to other humans. But the owner of the establishment revoked this privilege, so now he has no currency.”
Grumm stuck his tongue out. “Ewww. I still can’t believe the stuff they consume. What they consider to be edible baffles my mind. I once watched this guy eat a thing called a triple cheeseburger. If they only knew what was in the special sauce.” He slid closer to the viewscreen and pointed with one of his two-fingered hands. “Didn’t he used to live in a much larger building?”
“That is his automobile. He was also evicted from his domicile because of the job loss. He is currently residing in his ground-based transportation.”
“Ah. That can’t be fun.” Grumm was silent for a moment. “I don’t understand why you care. Please don’t tell me you still blame yourself. It happened over a decade ago.”
Hathiant’s color deepened to a dark forest green.
Grumm quickly added, “Sorry. I don’t mean to add to your depression. But you’ve really got to move on with your life.”
Hathiant vehemently shook his head. “I just feel so sorry for him. I wish I could do something to help.” Giving himself a whole-body wiggle from his tail to the top of his head, he took a deep breath. His color eased to a lighter hue.
“Oh, come on, man,” Alex Dandridge whined into his phone as he ran his hand through his messy blonde hair. “You gotta let me and Tulsa crash with you. We’ve literally got no other place to go. It’s getting dark and it’s been snowing all day. You’re not gonna make us sleep in my car in this frigid Michigan wasteland, are ya?”
After a moment’s hesitation, Monte replied, “I’m sorry, Alex. We don’t have the room.”
“And your wife hates me.”
Monte sighed. “Mary doesn’t hate you exactly. She’s just a little funny is all.”
“Uh huh. Everybody’s funny. Now you’re funny, too. Seriously, haven’t I apologized enough for that one time I drank all your beer and slept in her flower garden?”
“You always drink all the beer, but the daisies never did bloom again after that night. Regardless, I just can’t help you. I’m sorry, bud. Stay warm.” Monte hung up before Alex could say anything else.
Looking down at his lap, Alex sighed. “Well, Tulsa, it looks like we’re sleeping here tonight.” He ran his hand along his cat’s orange and white body. “And maybe for a while. At least until spring, when we can sleep in that woman’s flower bed again. It was amazingly comfy.”
“Hold on, sweetie.” He started his pre-millennium forest green Saturn. When Tulsa’s body stiffened, he continued to gently stroke her.
Alex glanced at the fuel gauge and frowned. “I don’t even know if we have enough gas to run the heater all night.” Putting the car in gear, he carefully backed out of the parking lot, then released another sigh. “Let’s go visit Mom and Dad.”
Racing along the slick country road, porch lights were few and far between. Alex could see the ancient, massive oak tree looming in the distance, directly in front of the sharp right-hand curve.
As he approached the tree, he looked out at the spot where his parents crashed their car and died. The bark had never grown back. “Hi, folks,” he said softly. “I’m home.”
A deer dashed across the road, missing his front bumper by inches. Instinct made him slam on the brakes. The Saturn’s nearly bald tires gave no traction on the slippery street as the oak tree grew menacingly closer.
Though he should have been scared, Alex felt a calm wash over him. It looks like I’ll get to see my parents again, he thought, and much sooner than I expected. The mighty oak filled his windshield as he braced for impact.
Hathiant’s eyes widened, his hue instantly transforming into tea green. “He’s going to hit that tree!”
Grumm moved closer to the screen. “This should be interesting. I’ve only seen these types of crashes on their TV shows.”
Moving quickly, Hathiant engaged the forward thrusters. As the spaceship shot toward the Earth’s atmosphere, Grumm looked over at him. “What are you doing?”
By way of response, Hathiant yelled, “Prijatel!”
When the hull started heating with the burn of reentry, Grumm released a howl of panic. His own skin became light green, almost mint. “Ahhh! Okay, I’m on it!” Slithering to the opposite side of the control panel, he activated the ship’s unique shielding. “Prijatel engaged.” He magnified its strength and tuned it to refract light.
They entered and passed through the Earth’s atmosphere, zooming toward Alex’s car.
“We’ll never reach him in time,” said Grumm. Then he repeated, “This should be interesting.”
Hathiant zipped over to the Prijatel’s controls, pushing Grumm out of the way. “I got this. You need to pilot. Get us as close as possible.”
As Grumm moved to the vessel’s controls, Hathiant increased and focused the Prijatel. The shield extended from the front of the ship like a thick arm, protruding forward. “Come on,” whispered Hathiant. “Just a little closer!”
They reached the car with a second to spare. Surrounding it with the extended shield and lifting it off the ground, Alex’s forward momentum rapidly ceased. His car stopped less than an inch away from the oak.
Grumm kept the ship several feet above the soft, snow-covered earth. Looking out at the levitating car, his coloring returned to lime green. “Well, that wasn’t very interesting after all.”
Hathiant breathed a sigh of relief, his own skin hue slowly returning to his usual shade as his panic ebbed. “We did it. Thanks, Grumm.”
“Sure. So, let’s drop him and get out of here. Before he catches on.”
Hathiant stared out at the car for a long moment before slowly returning it to the earth.
Wiggling his hands above the controls, he caused the Prijatel’s beam to cease. As it returned to the main shield, the tiniest of smiles curled Hathiant’s lips.
“Okay,” said Grumm. “I’m getting us out of here.”
“Wait. I need to do something first.” Hathiant reached over and turned off the Prijatel.
Grumm’s eyes widened as his skin turned mint. “What have you done? The ship is visible. He can see us!”
Hathiant nodded. “He can see us.”
Like what you read? You can order yourself a copy right here.