Bus Ride- A Short Story by Leona

Giovani grabbed his hat and stuffed it into his pocket. Time to get to work. He grabbed the data card from the cartridge by his door and tucked it into his wrist piece. The screen on his wrist lit up and showed that it had a full battery. Messages and company ads started to appear on the screen. Giovani shut the screen off and plodded through the door. He looked back before closing the door and saluted his augmented reality dog, Pepper, who was laying on his couch. 

“See ya pal,” Giovani said. The dog blinked and stretched his paws. Giovani closed the door.

In the street, Giovani found people moving through the early morning bustle of the city. The City of Ashes was a mid tier outpost on the Southern continent. It was a major exporter of raw material such as natural gas and sugar. People had been farming the continent for centuries. When he was 13, Giovanni arrived with his family. His father had believed that the move from the capital would give his children a better life. It was up for debate whether or not this was true. Giovanni made his way to the crowded bus stop. Various people were milling around waiting for the bus to arrive. He noticed a fellow farm hand was at the station and shuffled through a group of older ladies.

“Scuse me, ma’am” he said. 

He had bumped the lady’s bag. She turned and hissed in a foriegn language. Giovani recognized it as a capital language. He couldn’t really remember much after moving to the Southern Continent. He said nothing and held up his hands. The older lady grabbed her bag and pulled it tightly against her chest. Her large Victorian skirt swirled and her pinched face soured. Capital tourists sometimes found their way to the south. Giovani never knew why they came, but every season always brought a hoard of gaping eyes. The capital tourists always wore archaic looking clothes and too many layers. The lady was sweating at her temples and forehead. She blinked and Giovaini moved past. It was better not to interact with the tourists. It was better to just pretend he didn’t understand.

“Mate!” called Giovani’s friend, Tire. He lightly punched his shoulder. 

“Making friends?” Tire asked.

“You know it.” Giovani said, “Everywhere I go.” He smirked. Seeing Tire always put him in a good mood. His wrist device buzzed.

“A lover calling?” Tire ogled. His eyebrows raised.

“Ah!” said Giovani. “Just another stupid ad.” He swiped the advertisement and shrugged. “They love me I guess.”

“You know,” said Tire “one day you’re gonna win the lottery and never know cause all you do is swipe away those ads” 

“Ha! You bozo. Nothing like that will ever happen.” Giovani said

“You never know my friend. Luck is a mysterious mistress.” Tire smiled. “Looks like the bus has arrived.”

The huge commuter bus pulled up to the stop. It was a sleek black monstrosity that had the words “City of Ashes” painted in white across the side. The letters had faded and some of the paint had peeled. With the help of some graffiti, the bus now read “Shitty of Asses”. But the bus driver, Gregor, thought it was the funniest thing ever and so he never got the company to repaint it. The bus came to a stop and the doors swung open. The driver’s loud voice welcomed them.

“Good Moooorning Asses!” Gregor shouted into the com device. “Time to make money!”

Giovani and Tire piled onto the bus with all the other commuters. He made special care to avoid the tourist lady and found his way to the second story of the bus. He made sure to buckle his seat and Tire slipped in next to him.

“Still think you’ll never win the lottery?” Tire said while buckling up.

“You bet.” Giovani said and closed his eyes. He braced himself for the bus ride. The seat smelled of oil and sickly sweet. He could hear people scrambling to buckle before the launch. The speaker blared with Gregor’s voice.

“Are you folks ready for the ride of your liiiiife?” His baritone voice scooped with each vowel. The bus rattled. Giovani felt his seat rumble and his body suddenly braced against the seat. The bus surged forward. He felt a pressure build in his chest as they moved at a breakneck speed to the next stop.

Gregor’s voice sounded above the roar of the bus, “Keep your asses in your seat!!”

I had a lot of fun with this piece. Its always fun to write short little vignettes. Let me know what you think. Short stroy writing is still something I am experimenting with and trying to get better at, so I’d love to hear your feeback!

Madame B. – A Short Story by Leona

So, let me tell you straight. In my neighborhood, there is this lady, you see. Her name is Madame Bevere. No one knows why we all call her ‘Madame”. We just do. It seems to be like some code or honor. Not really sure. But that’s besides the point. I want to tell you more about her. 

Madame Bevere had these crazy stories that she started telling me when I was a kid. When mom would go do some errands, she would leave me with Madame B. I would play in her backyard which had a pond and trees. A real nice garden and all, but a bit overgrown. Honestly though, it was perfect to play in. Stuff that you remember when you’re older cause at the time it felt so magical. Anyway, one day while I was out playing and I lifted a rock to find a salamander. But this lizard was odd colored with light skin, like, almost white. So, I ran and told Madame B. You know what she said?

She started off on this crazy story about how she and her then boyfriend had defeated a gigantic white lizard. It was so crazy that I had to listen. Like, a story that you want to believe in. Then Madame told me all about her adventure. Being lost in the woods, going into a cave to then stumbling upon the white lizard’s lair. She said what tamed the beast was her excellent rodeo skills. Apparently back in the day, Madame competed at the rodeo and won high trophies for her success. So all she had to do was pretend that the snake was a bull. And that was that. Finito.

Now whenever I see a lizard at the zoo or some weird snake, I think of Madame B. She seemed to have a story for every occasion and every situation. Made you wonder if it was all real or not. But, you know, I like to believe she had some truths to her stories. Cause what’s life without a little magic, right?

This story was inspired by a pictore from Visual Verse. I would highly recommend for any writers to check out this online journal. It is a great way to kickstart your creativity. For this piece, I wanted to have a very colloquial tone, almost as if it was a conversation transcribed. I love that idea of hearing a character’s voice in your head, as if you are sitting down with them at a coffee shop.

Mirror Mirror – A Short Story by Leona #shortstory

Jamie lifted her hands from her pocket to adjust her ear plugs. She was listening to some of her favorites as she traveled on the train. The train was filled with daily computers and students. Everyone was trying to rest before their day began. Jamie noticed a girl from her class was loudly talking with her friends.  Smiling, waving and randomly touching the shoulder of the boy to her left. Jamie looked away and wished she didn’t see that. It always made her uncomfortable. 

“Next stop: Total station” The robotic voice of the train said. Jamie looked out the window and stared at the brick wall flying past. She flitted her eyes back and forth until it made her dizzy and slightly motion sick. She closed her eyes.

“Total station” the voice said. Jamie heard the train doors open. Her eyes opened. She looked out the window to watch the passengers get on and off the train. An older man held onto the morning’s newspaper and stomped on a cigarette before entering. Two school girls held hands and were imitating a pop star’s famous dance moves. They were giggling. Jamie noticed a girl slowly walking off the platform. She was wearing similar clothes to Jamie. Her school uniform and a green satchel bag swung by her waist. The girl turned and looked directly at Jamie. 

She gasped. It was her. Jamie blinked. A perfect reflection of Jamie’s face stared at her from the platform. Jamie blinked again but the girl did not disappear or move. They continued to maintain eye contact. Jamie’s mind raced. She was clearly seeing a version of herself. There she was standing on the platform. The girl raised her hand and waved. She mouthed the words “Good Luck” and started to turn away. 

Jamie jumped to her feet. She grabbed her bag and made for the train doors. The young girls were dancing in the space between the seats. The doors started to close.

“No!” Jamie shouted. She pushed through the school girls and tried to get through the doors. 

“Next stop: Everton Station ” the robotic lady said. Jamie’s hands hit the door. The doors had slid closed and latched just as Jamie bounded to them. She banged her hands and frantically searched through the small window. There on the platform she could see that version of herself walking away toward the exit stairs. Her green satchel still sung and bounced with each step. Jamie’s view started to change as the train moved away from the stop. Soon, she was staring at blackened brick walls that flew by at an unreasonable pace. It made Jamie feel sick. 

She turned. She blinked and started to sway. Jamie noticed the old man had unfolded the newspaper so that she could read the news headlines. It read “Girl discovers Irregularity in Time Warp”. Below the heading, there was a black and white picture of Jamie. Her face was bright and she was smiling sheepishly. Jamie’s knees buckled. This was the second time today in the matter of minutes she was seeing a duplicate of herself. Jamie gripped the seats for support and slid back to her seat. She lifted her hood over her head and kept her face toward the window. Whatever was happening, Jamie knew it wasn’t good.

Magnolia Blossoms – a Short Story by Leona

Maybe it was the way he always laughed. Or the open eyed smile that made my heart rush. I would blink thinking that he would disappear but there Abisani stood, tall and steady. 

Abisani arrived in March. Through the refugee office, he and his family were given a house next to my family home. His family came from Eritrea. He said they ran and ran until it led them to my small hometown in the US. Abisani arrived after my mother died. A cold dark November evening.

Maybe it was the way he waited for me to talk. Or the way his hand rested on my shoulder, never asking for me to be anything else.

I had dark days and long nights before Abisani and his family arrived. The sky seemed to change without me noticing. Day after day. My father said I should ask for help. I just didn’t care. My mother’s things still lined the bedroom and her books were still in the library. 

“Kayla, are you ready for our walk?” Abisani asked, breaking me from my thoughts. I noticed the cuff of his blue jacket was slightly upturned. 

I fixed it and said, “Yes, I want to see the blossoms.”

“You know it might be too early for them. Sometimes they don’t happen until later.” He took my hand and led me outside.

I had forgotten how wonderful the sunshine felt in the spring. My skin was cooled by the air and simultaneously warmed by the sun’s rays. I wanted to laugh, it felt so lovely. 

“You know,” I said to Abisani.  “I think there will be a blossom just from me.”

He squeezed my hand. “I hope so too.”

“My mom loved the spring flowers. She would-” my voice cracked. It was all too soon. Too fast and too slow. I wished that time would stop but then ramp up to lightning speed all at once. Then I wouldn’t have to remember. I could fast forward or pause. But the sun kept rising and setting at its pace. 

“What colors were her favorites?” Abisani asked.

“Purple.” I said, “She loved anything purple, lilacs, tulips, and irises”.

I remember the small flowers on her bed sheets. They were so small. And yet, that’s all I could remember. I stared at those flowers for hours unwilling to look my mother in the eye. I blinked.

“Oh! Here they are.” Abisani said. 

We had walked to the end of the block on our street. The trees that lined the way were still clinging to the buds unwilling to let us see their beauty. As we turned the corner, we saw the magnolia tree at the entrance to the park. Like a herald of good news, the tree stood with a few blossoms on the lower branches. Soft creamy petals with pinks and magentas. I didn’t mind that there were only a handful of flowers. They made me happy. 

“Let’s go over and see if they smell good.” I said marching toward the tree. Abisani filed next to me. He had a magical way of always matching my steps. He had a mysterious way of always knowing when to grab my hand. 

“You know my mother says petals bring good luck. I don’t think it’s true.” Abisani said. He started to reach out to one of the blossoms.

“Wait!” I said and grabbed his hand. It was slightly chilled in the April morning air. He looked at me and paused.

Maybe it was the way he always listened to me and intuitively knew what I was trying to say. Maybe it was his warm skin, deep brown eyes and slightly crooked smile.

“Close your eyes,” I said. I closed my eyes and hoped Abisani had followed me. 

“Now take a deep breath.” I said. I breathed in and tried to take in all the different smells. The cold spring air, slightly damp. The sweet smell of the magnolia blossom.  Honey almost. The sun flooded my eyes and I blinked them open.

Abisani was still standing, eyes closed taking it all in. 

Maybe it was the way Abisani understood loss. He has lost his homeland and I lost my mother. But we found each other. Maybe it was the way he didn’t let sadness consume him. He said that it washed him and washing was good for the soul. Maybe that was why we loved being close.

“Open your eyes,” I said. Abisani blinked and said nothing for we were content to watch the blossoms sway in the slight breeze.

The Antonym December Flash Fiction Contest Finalist- Halka Hata by Leona Cicone

I am excited to share a short story of mine that has been chosen as a finalist for a flash fiction contest!

Read the story here: https://www.theantonymmag.com/halka-hata-leona-cicone/

A side note, in the same week this story was accepted another was declined. It has given me a certain perspective on the perseverance of the artist. I share these pieces because I am proud of them but also because I hope you can feel inspired to create your own art and feel emboldened to share it with the world. You don’t need to be “the chosen one” to be creative. You don’t need to make money from your art to call yourself an artist/writer/poet/musician. Instead you can create and enjoy your craft for the sake that it’s wholly and solely yours.

If you would like to read the other finialists, look here: https://www.theantonymmag.com/the-antonym-december-flash-fiction-contest-announcement/

Time Together- A Short Story by Leona

My lips feel chapped against the grain of my multi-colored scarf. You had given it to me so long ago, I forgot if it was for my birthday or for Christmas. I muddle through the crowded street and pushed my way to our apartment.

Stamping my feet and shaking off the snow, I enter our warm home. Your cat sits on the chair in the corner and I say. 

“Hello Arnold”

I always wondered why you named your cat Arnold. It reminds me of that character from that one tv show we both watched as kids. I don’t remember the title any more. Was it really just called “Hey Arnold”?

I hang my coat in the coat closet where it belongs and pick up the mail that you left in the entryway. You never want to look at all the junk mail so you make me do it. For some reason, you always feel the necessity to open up every letter even when it is clearly just junk mail. I remember coming home once to find scattered papers everywhere with you sitting in the middle carefully reading a credit card promotion. It was this way with you sometimes. You would get so fixated as if you didn’t mind that you distracted yourself with something really tedious. I smile at the memory.

“Kerry?” I hear you call. “Is that you?”

“Hey babe” I say as I walk to the kitchen. I see you are by the stove cooking a delicious smelling dish. It always surprises me how much you like to cook. I mean, I love cooking but in my experience I hadn’t met someone who loved it more than me. Well, that is to say before I met you. You turn to face me and smile. 

“My sweet.” You say as you catch me in your arms. I am still surprised at being able to hug you so freely and being near you so often. I squeeze back and enjoy your warm embrace. My arms start to pull away but you tighten your grip. 

“Gotta catch’em all” you say in my ear. It’s so ridiculous I just laugh. My body is buzzing against your chest. We stand still for a few moments and I hear the hissing of water boiling on the stove.

“The pasta!” You suddenly pull away. I am still smiling.

“Can’t let the pasta boil over, Chef Tegan.” I peek around you to see the water has indeed started to boil over the pot. I grab a checkered towel from the counter and start to wipe around the pot.

“No no!”, You shoo me away. “Back, back. Milady does not need to assist the poor peasant boy in the kitchen.”

“But what if I want to help my farm boy?” I say, slightly pouting. 

Your eyes twinkle and you wink at me. I think it’s both charming and hilarious how you wink at me even when we are alone in the house. As if there is some ghost that might be listening and we need them not to catch our inside joke. 

“Ahh but even the farm boy must do as you wish and this morning you wished for delicious pasta primavera. I must continue for milady.” You say.

“Then I bid you A-Dieu” I say and turn to leave the kitchen. Picking up the mail, I put all of it in the trash and I grab a cup of water. I turn to leave.

“No parting kiss for your farm boy?” You say while stirring the pasta on the stove. You are so funny, it’s one of the many reasons we are in love.

“As you wish,” I lean into your expecting lips. “You are ridiculous and it’s everything I love about you” I whisper into your ear. As I pull back, I see the blush on your cheeks. It makes my heart jump. How you manage to make me feel so alive is still a mystery to me. But it’s a mystery I don’t mind never solving, as long as you are by my side.

Audio Book – A Short Story by Leona

The whirl of the cassette player was a comforting sound. Elena had let the player spin even though she needed to flip the cassette. It was such a hassle to get up. Lifting her body and then moving her legs. She liked the sound of the twirling mechanical pieces. She had just finished the second part of her favorite story, Pride and Prejudice. She played the cassette because it was her favorite audio version of the story. Her daughter was always telling her to buy a new CD player and “modernize”. It was always that way with her kids. Elena lifted her body to get up from the chair. Her doorbell rang.

“Coming!” Elena called. One, two, three! She pushed herself up. The doorbell rang again. Hmpf! Elena called again.

“Coming!” she said. “You bastard,” she said under her breath. If it was her daughter, she would have let herself in. So it must be someone new. Someone Elena didn’t know. She always disliked new people at her door. She shuffled over and stopped the cassette then went to address the doorbell. 

“Hallo?” She cracked the door slightly. A pink bunny. That’s what she saw. No, there was more too.

“Hello! Are you Mrs. Thomas?” a woman said from behind the giant pink bunny stuffed animal. “This is a delivery for you. I just need you to sign.” The pink monstrosity got closer. 

“I didn’t order anything like that.” Elena said. But the pink was too much so she backed up and let the girl inside. The delivery girl put down the giant bunny and held out a clipboard. 

“Sign here.” she said.

“Who is this from?” Elena asked. Who in their right mind sent her this stupid bunny? It was egregious. 

“Hmm, it says it’s from Mr. Darcy. Does that name sound familiar?” the girl asked.

Elene blinked. Mr. Darcy? She smiled and started to laugh. Clearly someone was playing a joke on her. But only someone who knew her well. The girl didn’t even realize Mr. Darcy was fictional.

“Oh, yes.: Elena said. “That name sounds familiar. I guess I will have to find a place for this terrible thing.”

The girl tipped her hat and closed the door. Elena and the bunny stood in the entryway. It was too big for her to lift. How did that girl carry it in here? Elena dragged the bunny to the living room. She put the next tape into the cassette and sat down.

“There is also one other person in the party,” he continued after a pause, “who more particularly wishes to know you.”

I like to listen to audio books each day. This sotry was, in part, ispired by my personal hobby. I was also trying out a situational story and tried to imagine how the character would react. It was a fun short story to write. Now I’m back to try and finish a different short story. Wish me luck!

Andromeda and the Moon : Part 6- A Short Story by Leona

After the long day of training Andromada still had work to do. She waved goodbye to her friends as they went back to the dorms. She headed in the other direction to the animal companion training center. Andromeda didn’t mind the longer hours of work because Sparky was always so happy to see her.

“Andromeda!” he shouted as she entered the compound area. He ran up to her and  started jumping.

“Ehy!” she said “Sparky, sit” she commanded. Sparky sat. She handed him a treat from her pocket and said “Good boy. Are you ready to practice?”

Sparky happily gobbled the treat and followed close to her heels. He had improved so much even within the past 3 days. The animal training area held lots of different equipment that allowed owners and pets to practice getting in and out of the spacecraft. When Andromeda had explained this to her teammates, they were extremely jealous. Team B was not going to touch a space craft for another 3 days and potentially they wouldn’t even be part of the group sent out to solve the “there’s an asteroid headed toward our planet” problem. At the moment there was no one else in the training room, Andromeda checked the time and realized she was a bit early. Her trainer, Zelky, would be arriving in a few minutes. She and Sparky started going through the practice commands. After a little while Sparky asked, “When am I going to play with Maffei?”

Andromeda paused. She hadn’t really thought about her brother the past few days. What was he doing right now? She didn’t want to think about it and said,

“I’m sure you will play in a few days.”

But would they? The aestorid was still on it’s way toward Planet 678 and there hadn’t been any update as to how that problem was going to be solved. If anything, the base seemed more agitated. There had been looting at one of the farm fields and a long message was sent out about it just this morning. Harvard has asked Andromeda about it before her training with Sparky. 

“Why do you think people do it?” he said.

“They’re hungry,” Andromeda said.

“How can they be hungry? Everything is rationed out and delivered to houses.” Harvard said, waving his hands.

Andromeda hadn’t thought about that. On Earth, looting occurred when people became desperate so why would someone loot here? Did people just want to take for the sake of taking? Andromeda shrugged and didn’t answer Harvard. He was always asking questions she didn’t really know the answer to.

Sparky jumped up on her leg. He brought her back from her day dreaming. His little tail wagged and he said “You know I just love to play, right?”

She smiled and felt guilty for some reason. With all the training, Andromeda had not been able to visit her dog that often. Ever since Sparky was a puppy, he had been by Andromeda’s side. It felt like they had been apart longer than just a few days. She picked up her dog and snuggled against him.

“Your hair smells like oranges.” Sparky said squirming against her embrace. “And hello? Hello! Hello!”

Andromeda let her dog back on the ground and turned to see who Sparky was talking about. It was Zelky, her companion trainer. Zelky was older than Andromeda but she wasn’t sure by how much. She had bright pink hair and a bright smile. In just one day, Zelky had become Andromeda’s favorite person on the base. She had her own companion, a capuchin monkey. Andromeda had no idea how she got a monkey in space. When she had asked Zelky about it, all she said was “Oh you know, some people get lab rats, I got a lab monkey.”

Zelky was confident and capable. And she always seemed to know what Andromeda was thinking. 

“Girly, what’s up. I can see the frown in those eyes.” Zelky bent down to pet Sparky. He was licking her hands and very content with her scratching. Zelky’s monkey sat on her back and looked at Andromeda. The monkey who was named, Dia, tilted her head to one side. Zelky straightened up, she rested her hands on Andromeda’s shoulders. At that moment, Andromeda felt all the tension in her body tighten and lift to the surface of her skin. Then Zelky gave her a hug. Andromeda hugged her back. All the tension from the past few days was released. Her eyes started to water. Her breath caught in the back of her throat. 

“It’s okay to worry Andromeda. I am worried too.” Zelky pulled back. She pat Andromeda’s cheek. “It’s okay to live in the what if. Now,” she said, stepping back. “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

Andromeda wiped the tears from her eyes but why kept falling. So she gave up and tried to talk with Zelky. It was hard to explain everything, but she tried.

“I think I’m realizing what I’m doing here.” Andromeda said. “I mean, I just realized today that I might not ever see my parents again. Was it the right choice to try and do something with the space flight training?” she paused. Zelky nodded and said nothing. Andromeda continued,

“I may never see Maffei again. I may never see my dad or my-” Andromeda’s voice caught in her throat. She couldn’t say it. It was too much. She started to cry again. “And my body hurts. My feet hurt and it hurts when I laugh or jump because of all the training. It feels so pointless!”

Andromeda put her hands to her face and covered her eyes. Even though meeting all her new friends was fun and exciting, even the party they would have didn’t really help alleviate the feeling of dread. Andromeda realized she had been holding on to that dread the moment she heard the full announcement from the sergeant. Her excitement for recruitment had only masked the feeling.

Sparky said “Hey! I see a monkey!” It was his favorite thing to say whenever Dia was near. For some reason he loved the word “monkey” and liked saying it over and over. Andromeda heard Zelky let out a chuckle. Andromeda pulled her hands from her face. She saw that Zelky was petting Dia and looking at her.

“You know,” Zelky said. “Everything you’re saying is true. You might not be able to do any of those things again. But that is only one side of the coin. The other side is “What if I do get to play with Maffei again? What if I can hug my mom again?” Zelky stood straighter. “We can’t live in the possibility of what will happen when we can only change what is happening now. And right now you are trying your hardest to help the Planet and your family from the asteroid. Just like everyone else in the space program. We are trying and working hard not because we believe the “what ifs” won’t happen. No, we know something will happen but we are trying hard every day to make sure to change our present into the future we want.”

Zelky walked over to the training flight unit. Dia jumped from her back and onto the craft. She turned back to Andromeda. 

“So yeah, I am scared too, but I am not going to live in the what if’s. I am going to live in the now.” she paused.

“Now let’s get started with training. And remember it’s okay to cry. But let’s keep on training even through our doubts.”

“Look there’s a monkey!” Sparky said again as Dia made her way across the training unit. She wiped her tears and sniffed her nose. What if she could be the one to save the planet?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Andromeda and the Moon : Part 5- A Short Story by Leona

Andromeda panted as she made her way through the training course. Her sergeant’s voice rang in her ear com. 

“Let’s go team B! I want to see you move it!”

Any sort of motivation from these words was lost on Andromeda as she heaved herself over the climbing wall. She and her “Team B” mates had been training non stop for 3 days. Each morning she would get up at 4:30am to shower and be ready in the mess hall by 5:00am. After role call and the quickest most unappetizing breakfast, everyone would haul themselves to training. Andromeda was so tired that by the time dinner rolled around, she was usually too tired to eat. She had not expected for training to be this intense and it was only day three. 

Because Andromeda brought Sparky along, she was required to spend extra time in the “Flight Animal Training Facility”. Here, she and Sparky would perform exercises and training maneuvers that would supposedly help in the future. Andromeda had been lucky that Sparky was already fitted with the Speech Collar. Because of this, he was accepted into the flight school along with her. Apparently, animal companions could replace the need for a safety robot that usually accompanied any space pilot. 

“Move it galaxy!” the sergeant shouted her favorite nickname for Andromeda and she picked up speed. She had been trying to beat her previous time through the training course but her sore legs protested. 

“You got this Andromeda!” she heard from the sidelines. It was Callie. Callie had also been placed in team B and per her request, had been made Andromeda’s roommate. Callie waved enthusiastically from the sideline. You could always count on Callie to have a smile and wave. Her friend was always cheering on her fellow teammates and encouraging everyone. Andromeda focused back on the training course. There was just one more obstacle before the finish line. It was to army crawl over a sand pit. The great equalizer. Many of Andromeda’s  faster teammates struggled on this course. Partly because many of them had never experienced a large expanse of sand before. On Planet 678, the ground consisted mostly of rock and other solid material such as ice and mineral deposits. Andromeda was one of the few people on her team on Earth and from amongst the Earthers, she was the only one who had been to the beach. She loved this obstacle. For it wasn’t about your quickness, but instead your diligence and energy in each movement. Slow and steady won in the end with the sand obstacle. 

Why did they need to learn how to crawl on sand to become a pilot? Andromeda had no idea. But it sure was a difficult obstacle. She crawled on her stomach and slowly inched forward on the sand. At last she made it onto the other side, every part of her was covered in sand. She heard her sergeant’s voice from her left ear. 

“Good job Galaxy, you’ve shaved off 15 seconds from your last run. Making good progress to make a passing time for fighter crafts. In the space force, the faster and stronger you were meant that you handled the better faster crafts. It didn’t particularly make sense to Andromeda, but many things of Planet 678 didn’t make sense. Andromeda just went with it.

Callie ran to the end and gave her a big squashing hug. 

“You did it Dromeda!” She squealed. Andromeda returned the hug and gave her friend a squeeze. 

“I’m so sandy, Callie! I wish there was an ocean to swim in!” Andromeda said. They made their way to the dorms. She would have to quickly get cleaned up to make it to the mess hall on time for lunch. Callie sighed, “I wish I didn’t have to do my training class in the afternoon. It just stinks. Literally. All the boys in Team B stink. Smelly shoes galore.” 

Andromeda laughed. Everyone on base smelled and the base soap that they used didn’t really help their cause to create a ‘better smelling world”. She quickly showered, changed and went down to the mess hall. There she grabbed the typical slop from the space force chefs 9if you could really call them that) and made her way to the team table. She was greeted by a rag tag group of Team B members. Team B was made up of a lot of Earthers and others who didn’t make the cut for the elite Team A. But the force could use everyone that joined recruitment, so they were put together and labeled “Team B”.

Andromeda set down her tray. Callie was already there and chatting to their friend Ceylon. Ceylon was from India. Her parents had moved to the planet when she was little so she had lived almost half her life in space. They were chatting about new uniforms. Next to them sat Remus and Romulus, twin brothers from Planet 678. When they first introduced themselves to andromeda, they told her that they had been grown in a lab. The first twin lab babies. She was pretty sure this wasn’t true but apparently having twins in space was very uncommon. They were arguing over which spacecraft was the fastest and why.

“You don’t just “boing” along with a SFX-900.” Romulus said. His pale eyes glinted in the fluorescent light. “You can actually fly with that piece of machinery. Everything I’ve read says its better at maneuvering.”

His brother, who at this point was fed up with the conversation, took his brother’s napkin and rubbed it in his face. “We’ll See who’s faster when we actually start flying!”

“Get of mee!” The boys started to scuffle.

“Hey you two, cut it out.” Andromeda turned. It was Harvard. He smiled and took a seat next to her. Harvard had made it into Team A but had ended up spending all the down time with Team B. Andromeda didn’t mind as Harvard was one of the few boys on base she felt actually wanted to talk about more than just “the fastest ship in the galaxy”. Over the past 3 days, Harvard had asked her a lot of questions about her life on earth. It was fun to talk about and even funnier that Harvard didn’t know basic things like McDonalds and IHOP. The pancake house had become a recent fascination for him.

“So back to our conversation yesterday, you really have a restaurant where all you eat is breakfast? People actually sit down and pay money for that?” Harvard looked at Andromda quizzically. She laughed.

“As I said, it’s normal for people to not eat in their houses or at big mess halls. And people on Earth don’t just eat for sustenance, they eat for fun.”

“I’m not sure I can understand that.” Harvard said, starting to eat the mess hall food.

“Yeah, I noticed. Here on 678 no one seems to care how the food is prepared, just if there are enough vitamins in it.” Andromeda said. She missed her mom’s cooking and the yummy jollof rice. Then Callie welcomed another team member,

“Hey C-fix! C’mon over to sit!” 

C-fix was a larger Earther from San Francisco. He was half Korean and half black american. Andromeda didn’t really know much about him except that he loved American football and pizza. She knew the pizza thing because when they first met he started his introductions with “Papa Johns or Dominos, that is the question”. When Andromeda admitted that she was lactose intolerant, C-fix seemed very disappointed. Also she knew “C-fix” wasn’t his real name but it was how Callie introduced him. Andromeda was pretty sure that he had a slight crush on Callie. He seemed unable to say no to the random things Callie asked him to do.

“Hey Callie” C-fix said, “Team” he nodded to everyone else. The twin boys had finally stopped grappling with each other and were quickly scooping up food into their mouths.  Callie said to the group “I think after our final evaluations in 2 days, we should have a party! Like with soda and cake and maybe even karaoke! What do you guys think?”

But their response was drowned out by the first warning bell, alerting them that there was 5 minutes left to lunch. Everyone quickly finished their lunch and started cleaning up. As Andromeda put her tray away, Harvard said next to her “What do you think of the party idea? Is that a thing you do on Earth?”

Andromeda said “Of course! Parties are the biggest on earth! Every year we celebrate our birthdays with presents and cake! I think a party is an awesome idea. Maybe we could even try to bake something for it!” 

As they made their way to training, Andromeda felt her muscles strain. Everywhere hurt and she wasn’t sure she could make it through, so maybe a party is just what she needed to motivate herself. She dreamed that if she got through training, there would be the biggest piece of cake waiting for her on the other side. 

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Part 6

Andromeda and the Moon : Part 4- A Short Story by Leona

Mom’s silence was never a good sign. It meant she was thinking of the right way to say what she wanted to say. Andromeda was sure what she wanted to say was, “Are you crazy? My daughter is enlisting?!?”

Andromeda had just brought up her desire to enlist to her parents at dinner. It seemed like the best time since everyone was there to listen. She could ensure that her father and mother would be in the same place. Dinner was the one thing they both had not missed. Although their schedules had kept them away from the house for most of the day, they always came back for dinner. It kept some semblance of normal going for Andromeda and Maffei. At that moment, her younger brother was eagerly eating his dinner, not caring what was being said.

Her father began, “Well, I think it’s a fascinating proposition.” Her mother jerked her head in his direction.

“Fascinating, hon? That’s the word we’re going to use here?” She turned toward Andromeda. “Honey, I know you want to fly and learn to be a pilot but, no. Absolutely no. You are not enlisting.”

“But, mom,” Andromeda said.

“Well,” her father said. Andromeda could tell the tension in his voice rising.

“It’s just that Callie is going and I’ve always wanted to be able to travel space more.” Andromeda interrupted. “Think about all the places I could go!”

“You don’t know what the base commander has planned for the flight teams. What if they send you to your death” Mom said.

“What if we all die in 7 days?” Andromeda stood up from her chair. Her mother paused.

“Well Andi,” her father said. “I am of a similar opinion to you. Tanya,” He turned to her mother. “We should give her a chance. Enjoy these moments on the base. You’ve seen how she and Maffei are stuck at home. I heard that in a couple days they are going to shut down the market and deliver food. Do you want your daughter to be a prisoner?”

Mom signed. 

“Time for another yummy meal!” Sparky called from underneath the table. He had gobbled up some of Maffei’s food that scattered the floor around his seat. Her dad smiled. Andromeda giggled and her Mom smiled too. The air didn’t feel as intense. 

“Ani,” her mom said, “I think that I could take Maffei with me. He could become my little assistant.”

“What’s an assistant?” Maffei interrupted. His mouth was full of food.

Mom continued “You might only have 7 days left. So I guess it would be good to forget your impending doom. Learn how to fly a craft.”

“Really?” Andromeda couldn’t believe her ears. Was this really happening? Her dad smiled. “Just make sure to bring us the paperwork by tonight so you can start right away. I think tomorrow might be the last day of recruitment.”

Andromeda quickly finished her meal. Shoveling food into her mouth as fast as possible. Her mother and father were talking quietly about what had happened throughout their day. She couldn’t believe it. She was going to fly.

“Andromeda!” Callied shouted down the hallway. “What did your parents say?”

Andromed grabbed her friend’s hands and started jumping. “They said yes! And I am going to recruitment just like you!”

The girls squealed together, giving eachother big hugs. Callie pulled from their embrace and said. 

“We have to go! I don’t want to be late” she started running full speed down the corridor. Andromeda followed with Sparky hot on her heels. Her parents had left early for work, Mom taking Maffei with her. She was glad that no one was going to drop her off because this felt like the first adult thing she had done since turning 16. I guess imminent destruction did that to people.

Andromeda weaved her way through the unit passages and into a whole new part of the base. She had never been to the space carrier wings. Callie was in front of her keeping pace and running from one big room to the next. Everywhere people who were part of the flight operations walked about with purpose. Everyone seemed to have a place to go. Some people did glance at Sparky and Andromeda wondered if she would be allowed her pet companion. They were running through a huge hanger that helped multiple space crafts. Andromeda hadn’t seen such larger planes before. They were indribile. Their very presence is formidable. Then Andromeda heard a siren. People on the floor around her responded by moving away from the center. Then with a loud thud, Andromeda saw the floor open and slowly a lift moved into view. On the lift stood a striking team of space pilots. They wore sky blue jumpsuits with red helmets. She noticed that one team member looked to be her size and height. She wondered if they could be the same age. One person didn’t have their helmet on and she saw bright red hair and bright red glasses. The woman was clearly the leader and motioned for her team to follow her to the other side of the wing. After another siren, the people around her kept moving along and Andromeda realized she had lost sight of Callie. Sparky kept close to her with all the moving people and expansive spaces. She looked around to see if she could find Callie or any indication of where she was to report to. Then someone tapped her shoulder.

It was a boy with brown hair who clearly had been born on 678 with his blueish nose and ears. He looked extremely nervous and his hand gripped the bag on his shoulders like it was a life saver. He coughed.

“Are you a recruit too? I am looking for where to sign up.” he said

“As a matter of fact I am.” andromeda said. “What gave it away? My confused look?”

“Actually it was your dog.” he said looking at Sparky. “Everyone knows that no animals are allowed on the hanger.”

“Oh” andromeda looked down at Sparky. Her dog had grown quiet but was alert to all the happening in the hanger. “Also, I don’t know where I am going.” she said

The boy smiled “Maybe we can go together. I’m pretty nervous with this being the first day and all. Also my name is Harvard. Nice to meet you.” 

Harvard lifted his palms to face Andromeda and bowed his head. She returned the greeting and remembered how Danny and her dad greeted each other in “678” fashion. 

“My name’s Andromeda and this is Sparky.” she said.

“And I run very fast. Don’t forget.” Sparky added, sniffing Harvard’s shoes. “Mhh you smell like petroleum and forests.”

“Okay, Sparky that enough” Andromeda said before he had more time to say weird things. “Let’s find that office together.”

She and Harvard walked alongside each other looking around the hanger. A crowd had gathered on the far side of the expanse and they started walking toward it. As they approached Andromeda saw a screen sign with the words “recruits” glimmering in neon blue. It took a few minutes to reach the sign and the group of people since the hangar was so large. She and Harvard walked in silence as Andromeda’s nerves started to rise the closer she got. This was it. This was the beginning of her flight training. 

“Alright” a voice at the front of the group said. “It’s time to officially register. Once we have your name down and your paperwork filed, we will send you off in teams to go down to start training. Let’s get in orderly lines, people! Make it quick!”

Andromeda and Harvard were at the back of the group and followed as people started forming different lines. 

“Andromeda!” a familiar voice called. She turned to see Callie waving at her in a separate line.

“Where did you go? Oh it’s so exciting! Make sure you tell them that we want to be bunk mates! Then we can be together in our rooms!” Callie said.

Harvard spoke from behind her “So you know that girl?” he asked

Andromeda waved and smiled at Callie. Then she said to Harvard “Yeah she and I are from the same unit.”

“Woah, you must have some smart parents. Cause Callie’s dad is the nuclear bio-engineer on the base, I’m sure they live in the nicest parts on the base.”

“Well we’re all going to be flight students now, so I guess it doesn’t really matter where we come from.” Andromeda said. The line moved forward. 

“NEXT” a voice called.

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