great ball of fire (part 8)
It’s at this point you’re probably wondering what Nap’s plan was.
So was he.
But not with any particular urgency. His mind was instead focused on trying to imagine the things that Comet had witnessed. Traveling through the universe at an unimaginable speed for an unimaginable length of time. It was the unimaginable parts that threw him. Until that very moment he’d never been faced with the unimaginable. Everything had been painfully imaginable. As he paced back and forth, best he could given the lack of gravity, he wondered what you say to a comet.
What do you say to convince a comet not to slam into your home world?
He had been working under the assumption that the comet was intelligent and yet there was no actual evidence of this comet being conscious.
That was to say up until that moment.
Nap was suddenly traveling through space. Except it wasn’t him. He was a nothing but a head and a long tail.
He felt like a sperm.
He hoped that Comet wasn’t offended. They had been in communication for about five seconds and he’d already compared him to a space sperm. Why had Earth decided to send up him up here anyway? Of all the people on the planet they decide to send the one guy who would immediately compare the killer comet to a sperm.
Was that insecurity he felt? It was an unknown feeling to Nap so he had no frame of reference. All the time his sperm-like body plunged through galaxies and nebulas, stars too numerous to count, black dwarfs and white dwarfs and Sneezy and Dopey. Nap laughed and realized that Earth couldn’t have sent someone less equipped for this ride.
And the emptiness. Holy shit, the endless emptiness of space.
Back in the ship Madonna and Chance tried vainly to wake Nap up from whatever sleep he’d entered into. He was rigid, eyes wide. They had found him floating into things, banging his head and whatnot so they’d strapped him into his chair and slapped him and yelled his name to no effect.
Nap felt something rummaging through his memories. Suddenly there she was, Madonna, hindquarters splayed and all the good bits visible. There was the fortune cookie girl … hindquarters splayed and all the good bits visible. He realized he seriously needed some diversity in his fond memories.
He moved the rummager into some pictures of forests he’d walked through and mountains he’d climbed. The rummage seemed disinterested and tried to return to attractive girls with their hindquarters splayed and all the good bits visible.
Nap then tried to do some rummaging of his own. The rummaged becoming the rummager, but all he found was cold. The coldness of space. A pervasive feeling of loneliness punctuated with black holes and supernovas, stars singing at a pitch of a trillion hertz and planets where it rains molten glass.
But mostly emptiness.
Then he was back in his own recollections and he realized that nothing he’d seen in his few years of existence on a single planet could match the comets. So he focused on his interactions with others. The orphanages he was raised in. Pets he’d owned. Attending sporting events. His first kiss. The countless people he’d killed.
He’s been asked by numerous people to approximate how many people he’d killed in his life but the topic had never really interested Nap.
It interested the comet.
The body count was impressive, they scrolled by one after another for what seemed an eternity.
“Most of them really deserved it” he found himself trying to say aloud.
Finally Nap was able to wrestle the presence in his head to more wholesome interactions with his fellow men. Laughter. Joy. All to the soundtrack of David Bowie singing Peter Shilling’s Major Tom. “This is my home. I’m coming home.” Maybe not a great time for his subconscious to poke its head up.
“Does being conscious presupposed a subconscious?”
And finally, back to the hindquarters splayed and all the good bits visible.
He felt warm.
“Comet? Can I call Comet?”
Nap’s mind was filled with a creature. Tremendous in size. Towering. Completely alien and seemingly plucked from the furthest reaches of science fiction. What he didn’t know was that it was a tardigrades, a microscopic animal found on Earth and brought here by hypervelocity space dust billions of years ago. It crashed around inside Nap’s head but he was completely unaware of the importance of what he was being shown.
Then it was his turn. One thought to convince Comet to change direction and not smash into Earth.
He was back on the airplane.
The clumsy flight attendant and the food cart. The collision between the cart and his knee. How much it hurt. He exaggerated the memory and his knee went from throbbing to an excruciating injury.
“Do you feel pain?”
Now he was moving through an asteroid field. The smaller rocks vaporizing upon his approach. Plowing through them without a care in the world.
Nap wrestled back control. It dawned on him that this was his last chance. Earth’s only chance of survival.
He imagined every single person on Earth in a huge field. Waiting for their friend Comet the comet to fly by. To wave and send good cheer. He pictured the scientists lined up in front of chalkboards explaining in great detail, through numbers and charts, their plan to put their new very best friend Comet in an endless orbit around Earth so it would never be lonely again. He pictured small children holding up hand-painted signs with hearts on them. Attractive females with their hindquarters splayed and all the good bits visible. There’s never been a last chance that wasn’t improved with that visual.
Nap snapped back into reality. Back in the ship, Madonna and Chance each looking at him with apprehension. It was as if they both knew that this story only had one more installment.