“Surprise! Three tickets to Kepler-22b!” said Sunuva Bishton, whipping the slips of paper from behind her back.
The six-year-old girl’s face shined like Kepler-22. “Wowie-wow! Thanks, mommy!”
“That is where you wanted to go, right?” asked her father, Kolo.
“Yes! It is the so-super mostest pretty!” Arxglöten had read about the beautiful, habitable Kepler-22b in The Budding Tourist’s Guide to the Exoplanets. Described in prose, though Arxglöten only understood the pictures, were the lush seas, appearing violet from the reflection of the sky; the wildly foreign vegetation in pinks and bright oranges; the plump clouds, rising like Greek columns, yet unlike anything on Earth; and, finally, the fauna—creatures that wandered the multichromatic plains, with bizarre physiologies, who often solicited goosebumps in their uncanny appearances. The girl was enticed.
“We figured we should do something for the new millennium,” said Sunuva.
The father added, “Yes…It’ll be a great start to 3000, eh?”
By the end of the day, the Bishton family will have traveled over 600 lightyears. With a little bit of budgeting, they had managed to purchase three round-trip CosmoTour Wormhole Express tickets, allowing them access to the most advanced array of starcraft ever produced. The CT-BLASTO 445s were equipped with High-Energy Spacetime Dilation Actuators, which, with the help of our friend plutonium, can create wormholes to any location in which the craft will be engulfed.
In the early morning, the three waited to board the ship at the New Old New York City Cosmoport; the departure had—not out of the ordinary—been delayed. Giddy Arxglöten skipped around the terminal, the stomps of her feet echoing off of the imposing height of the place. Kolo slept; Sunuva admired the grand, geometrical design of the port, then continued to read her Sanyo AV digi-novella.
The novella was a historical fiction, taking place in the 21st century. The protagonist, John Smith, embarked on a quest to find the nearest bank. Sunuva found various aspects of this ancient life fascinating: the restaurants, the cars, the quaint cell phones, and—most of all—the pets. Many pet species, like the cat and dog, are severely endangered now (what with the temperature and all) and going for exorbitant prices. John Smith had a cat which purred and meowed and cutely panted as it slept. Sunuva had never heard these noises in-person—only through the audio recordings on Megawikipedia—and felt a sort of sorrow about this, a crushing case of missed opportunity.
But before any more sorrow could disperse through her veins, in came their CT-BLASTO, ready for action. It was about time, for the designer chairs and their angular design did not support the human spine ergonomically.
The three of them situated themselves in the much more comfortable seats of the expensive ship. At once, the screens in front of them switched on and played a safety instructional video. Buckle your seatbelts when the “Caution: Weightless Condition” indicators are illuminated. Any motion sickness can be disposed of into the labelled bags in front of you. The stewardess at the front of the ship pointed to the various Emergency Notification switches. The instruction finished, and the other passengers sighed a breath of relief. They had clearly been through this many times—experienced tourists they must be.
It had been explained to them that the craft would have to rise to the exosphere before it could travel through the wormhole. Sunuva and Kolo had gone to space once before (for surprisingly cheap—times have changed) for their honeymoon to the Moon. Arxglöten, at the age of six, before the customary fifth-grade field trip to the ISS-2, had never been to space and was feeling anxious. The kindly stewardess noticed this, and she offered the girl a Sedat-o-Bar, her choice of flavor: Space Lasagna™, Choco-Grape™, or Phenylalanine Zesty Cherry™.
A Sedat-o-Bar is really a wonder of culinary-slash-medical engineering. A smooth, unassuming rectangular prism packed with chemicals with ludicrously long names, it could set anything from an overweight elephant to an underweight toddler into a deep sleep, without any negative (well, no long-lasting) side effects and for any length of time—provided the dosage is set correctly. And it still tastes delicious!
Arxglöten chose Choco-Grape™ and chomped on that purple and brown brick-looking thing. She gulped the last corner piece when her eyes began to droop and her limbs began to tingle, like they were being pricked with thousands of little needles. Something was obviously wrong, but she couldn’t muster enough energy to produce a thought. Just as quickly as she had eaten the candy, she fell into a deep, dreamless slumber.
When Arxglöten awoke, she felt much, much lighter. The sensations that the Sedat-o-Bar had given her had subsided, though there was a slight hint of a headache in the back of her skull. She looked out the window and saw that it was night.
“I was asleep for so long, mommy…” she said.
“It’s only been a half-hour. We’re in space, Arxy.”
Arxglöten glanced back outside. Space looked a great deal like night.
“It looks boring,” she said bluntly.
Kolo chuckled and said, “I promise you it will look much better soon. I think it’s almost time for the wormhole.”
At this time, the flight attendants were gliding through the aisles in zero-G, holding on to the handrails at the top of the cabin. They searched for any sleeping passengers and nudged them awake. The seat screens activated again, but now the tone of the narrator’s voice seemed much more serious. It solemnly said, “Attention all passengers. It is gravely important to listen to this informational video regarding the guidelines for wormhole travel. Failure to comply with the instructions for transit can result in serious injury or death.” Arxglöten had not heard the word death much in her life, but its sound alone was enough to put her on edge.
“Passengers must assume the proper positioning and mode of breathing. Before transit, attendants will be checking each passenger for their compliance and assisting young children or those with disabilities. Instructions will begin now.
“When the automated system announces ‘Brace for wormhole travel,’ please 1) bring knees to chest, 2) keep feet flat on your seat, 3) clasp hands behind head, 4) bring forehead to knees, and 5) touch elbows to legs. When the automated system announces ‘T-minus five seconds,’ exhale all carbon dioxide from lungs and do not breathe until further notice. When the automated system announces ‘Entering wormhole,’ close your eyes and do not open them until further notice.
“We are required, as stated in the case Slomsly v. CosmoTour Galactic, Inc., to list the possible results of failing to comply with the safety guidelines. Failure to assume the fetal position can result in: internal organs vanishing into parallel dimension, emerging from wormhole outside of ship, emerging from wormhole in superposition with ship, emerging from wormhole in distant past or future, swapping brains with another passenger, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, or implosion. Breathing during transit through the wormhole can result in multiple large oxygen bubbles forming throughout the body, causing discomfort. Failure to close eyes during transit through the wormhole can result in: panic attacks, seizures, blindness, projectile vomiting, or existential crises.
“Thank you for taking the proper precautions to ensure your and others’ safety.” The male voice suddenly gained a commercial enthusiasm, causing an emotional whiplash: “Wishes for a wonderful trip from CosmoTour! This message will repeat.” The message repeated…nine more times. Clearly the mentioned lawsuit had made quite a dent in the company.
The possible deadly outcomes of wormhole transit disconcerted the first-timer Bishton family. Arxglöten did not understand the large words, but could tell by her parents’ facial expressions that something was awry.
Once again, the stewardess noticed and floated over a cart of snacks, each packet held down with straps. Her cute smile and courtesy soothed the family, and not only the daughter this time. “Pistachios?” she asked. It was definitely against guidelines to send passengers through the wormhole under sedation.
“Sure,” said Kolo.
Olysa glided the cart back into the attendants’ quarters and parallel-parked it among the many others. She unstrapped her tight, itchy attendant’s hat, which was comically rectangular and bore an emblem of the CosmoTour Wormhole Express.
She leaned against the wall, gripping the railing, and took out her pack of Lemon-X™ (lemon drops with nicotine). She put one in her mouth and closed her eyes for a while.
She then opened the heavy door on the wall opposite her and entered the pilots’ cockpit. The small enclosure was lighted with the bright red, green, and blue LEDs from the control panel. The window above it framed the pale face of the Moon. Buttons and switches lined the walls. The two pilots sat, one with the control stick in his hands, the other reading a Sanyo AV digi-mag.
Brack looked up from his magazine at the woman. “Hey, baby.”
“Hi, Olysa,” the other pilot said, meekly.
“Hi.” She didn’t know his name. “Is everything going okay, Brack?”
“You bet, honey,” he responded, dismissively. “Dandy.”
She giggled, “You’re such a geek when you use words like dandy.”
“Well, gee-golly,” Brack joked.
The other pilot sheepishly grinned, then said, “I’ve got to use the restroom.”
Brack looked at him. “...And?”
“Can you take control?”
“Oh, right. Sure, Davin.”
Davin left the room, leaving Olysa and Brack alone. Brack strapped himself in Davin’s seat.
“Do you know how to work it?” Olysa asked.
“Of course I do, of course I do…”
Brack fiddled with the stick, trying to find a comfortable configuration for his hands.
Olysa said, “Are we almost at wormhole altitude?”
“Um…” Brack looked at the multitude of numbers on the screens in front of him, trying to find the one labelled “altitude.” There were ones for fuel, for temperature, for air pressure, but nowhere was the altitude. He conceded: “I don’t know.”
“It’s alright,” Brack said. “Davin will be back.”
Olysa smiled and said, “Okay.”
The pilot looked down at his chair and realized that it could swivel. “What the—my chair can’t do this!” He spun around.
The stewardess laughed. Brack stopped and locked eyes with her. After a pause, she said, “I like guys in uniforms.”
“You mean you like me in a uniform.”
Olysa blushed, looking down at her feet. “Yes…”
He smirked. “Come here, honey bear…”
Davin buckled the seatbelt to the toilet. He turned on the vertical television installed on the interior of the bathroom door, which was already tuned to some Japanese physical challenge show. He shrugged and left it.
He was only able to watch five seconds when the screen abruptly flooded with a neon red. A large wall of text appeared, listing directions and warnings, and a heading that read “BRACING FOR WORMHOLE TRAVEL.”
A deep, booming, electronic voice came over the loudspeakers above: “Brace for wormhole travel,” it said.
A panic, and a rage, overwhelmed Davin’s mind. “That moron!” he yelled aloud.
He hurriedly unfastened his seatbelt and opened the door. He tripped over the pants at his feet and frantically kicked them off. They twisted and spun, weightless, the legs like blades of a wind turbine.
He threw his hands across the handrails, like he was traversing monkey bars, and flew from the hygiene section to the cockpit and threw open its door.
Olysa and Brack simultaneously gasped. “Davin!” the co-pilot blurted.
“You idiot! What have you done?!”
Davin stuttered, “Your pants are off, Davin!”
“So are yours!”
“Oh—” He looked down. “Yes.”
“You activated the wormhole!”
“What?” Brack looked behind him. His back had pushed the “Initiate Wormhole” button. “I don’t—me and Olysa—”
“We’re not at altitude! The crew is given warning when we approach the exosphere! There are still attendants out there!”
“Stop talking. We have thirty seconds to strap ourselves in and take position. Olysa, get off and go to the attendants’ quarters.” She said nothing and left. “Get in your own chair,” Davin said firmly to Brack.
Brack hastily unstrapped, then restrapped in his own chair. Davin strapped in and curled into the fetal position as per the protocol. “Brack! Position!”
Calming, or attempting to calm, new age music played over the passengers’ cabin speakers. The attendants in the cabin glided themselves as fast as they could to their area. They spoke to the tourists while flying by, “Please assume positions, everybody. Thank you.” They were polite, even when morbidly panicked.
The Bishton family sat in position. Arxglöten could not tell if she was terrified or overflowing with excitement—or both at the same time.
The CT-BLASTO began to vibrate. Ten seconds remained. The quake gradually grew more and more violent.
“T-minus five seconds,” announced the system.
Under the music, one could hear the gust of air as the passengers exhaled.
The attendants threw themselves off of the walls now, in a desperate attempt to reach the quarters’ seatbelted chairs. They sprung like frogs in a feline panic.
Kolo squeezed his eyes shut. It was presumed that they had entered the wormhole, but so far, he could not feel any different sensations on his body. He thought transit through a wormhole would be noticeable.
And he was correct. Shockingly, his skin started to burn—not totally painful, but not pleasant. His legs, he felt, were growing longer, and continuing to sting. His vision under his tight eyelids was not completely black; a gradient of blues, purples, and greens pierced through. It took a Herculean effort to not open them—what sort of pandimensional beings and fractal patterns might he see? His height grew and grew, and he felt he was rising from his seat. His eyes seemed to have a conscience of their own; they were a dam, desperately wanting to burst open. But the warnings of disfiguration and death had scared him enough, and he knew better than to look.
Sunuva squeezed her eyes shut. Immediately, she could hear tones of different pitches. They emanated from all points around her. They swept up and down, some were buzzing and some whistled. They crescendoed to a climax, almost deafening, when they halted abruptly.
A mysterious soundscape of Earthly sounds took the brief silence. It sounded like her abode in New Old New York; she could hear the moans of the public aerotransportation vehicles, the moans of her sickly neighbor, her husband’s wretched coughs, the giggles of her daughter which tickled her like feathers.
Earth was hundreds of lightyears away by now, she thought. Where were these sounds coming from?
Arxglöten squeezed her eyes shut. There was nothing save silence and darkness. She could not feel where her body ended and the air began. It was the roomiest room temperature.
A faint glob of light manifested itself in the distance—even though her eyes were still sealed. Something was affecting her brain directly. A slight fear ran down her spine. Shattering the silence, somehow it spoke her name: “Arxglöten…”
She made a noise somewhere between “hello?” and “what?”: “Hewhlot?”
“Hm? Arxy, it’s me!”
The blob grew and morphed. It formed the shape of a human woman.
“I’m you, Arxglöten! From the future, of course,” the woman said.
Arxglöten thought for a second. “Okay.”
“You’re going to meet someone very special on Kepler-22b.”
The little girl was confused, but something deep inside of her was excited. “Huh? Who?”
Before future Arxglöten could answer, her body was compressed back into the flowing bundle of photons. It reformed into the shape of a balding man.
“Hi, I’m Jim,” said Jim. Arxglöten did not like Jim.
Unbeknownst to the young girl, as she was not too educated on quantum physics, the premature creation of the CT-BLASTO’s wormhole caused some timelines to fold in on themselves.
The attendants attempting to make it to the quarters had not done so in time. Their eyes stayed open as the ship traversed through the wormhole. The passengers could hear their screams, though they could not see what they were screaming at.
Olysa had been the only flight attendant to survive. She sat in wormhole position on the bed of her small sleeping cubicle.
Davin was alive. Brack was half-alive.
Brack was slightly misaligned in his positioning; his body was not perfectly compressed. The warping of spacetime had transported his liver three feet to the right. The first aid administrator hastily took him in.
There was a screeching sound, like the spaceship was sliding on concrete, followed by an explosive, deep thud, like the spaceship crashed into a concrete wall.
Davin sat, wide-eyed, and could barely think. His co-pilot was now missing a liver, and he could only imagine what had happened to Olysa’s coworkers. He gathered his fragmented thoughts and spoke over the PA system, “Greetings, passengers. Everything is fine. If you look out of the window now, you will see the marvelous Kepler-22b.”
Arxglöten, oblivious to the events transpiring around her, gawked at the atmosphere and landscape of the Keplerian planet. The pictures in her book were comparatively hideous.
Kolo and Sunuva were unmoving, unsettled by the muffled shrieks they had heard from the cabins behind them. The beauty of the planet tried to soothe them, but ultimately failed; above them, a comically rectangular hat was stuck in the ceiling. It was not adhered with any substance—it was inside of the ceiling. It had emerged from the wormhole in superposition with the ship.
The ship descended through the columned clouds, and eventually it was expelled through their soft buttocks. Arxglöten looked upon the surface. She could see winding, deep blue rivers, purple and orange tree-like plants, maroon hills and sharp mountains—but in the dead-center of it all was a boring, tragically human gray rectangle, which barfed a parking lot. On a designated space, the CT-BLASTO plopped.
The flustered passengers spilled out of the ship. The Bishtons followed a line and walked into the gray rectangle. Perched upon the entrance overhang was a sign reading, “Keplerian Tour-Deluxe—Hotel, Food Dispensers, and Entertainment. Owned and operated by CosmoTour.”
Inside, the family was directed by a young employee to one of the many secretaries. The prodigious lobby contained an elevator that connected the levels of the hotel section. Each level was lined by electronically-locked doors and visible from the ground floor.
A secretary greeted the family with a warm smile. Kolo handed the man the three tickets. “Thank you,” the secretary said, “you are up on floor 7½.” He handed over a keycard. “Your tour is scheduled to begin in two hours, at 14:00 Circadian Rhythm Time. You are with Tour Group C.”
The family thanked the secretary and wandered into the central lobby. A multitude of stores and food dispensers circled them. A CosmoTour Digi-Bet™ QuiKasino-n-Foodstuff was unashamedly the highlight, being owned by CosmoTour themselves.
“How about this?” Kolo said.
They walked into a food dispenser named OISHI-SUSHI Fish-Plus-Vellocet. A contraption stood with dozens of buttons, each with a food option. Kolo chose Synthe-Karp, Sunuva chose Haipa-Mega-Shichikin, and Arxglöten chose Chik’n-No-Additives. Kolo deposited $25 USD (Universal Dollars).
They sat at a table and consumed their processed, artificial food. It had a slight burning taste, like alcohol.
Nobody spoke. Arxglöten ate in glee. The parents ate slowly; they had a visceral unease that something was amiss.
“Kepler-22b really is a wonder of an exoplanet. I’ve been to a few of the other Keplers, even some other exos, like Teegarden’s or the Glieses, and I can confidently say that nothing is quite like this fascinating and amazingly habitable planet—you can see that the atmosphere is not too dissimilar to Earth’s. Anywho, my name is Klauftenhringerablonog, but you can call me Klauf. I am your tour guide, group C. Let’s do a head count; there should be twenty here.”
Klauf bounced his finger around in the alien air, counting the attendees. His flat tour guide hat bounced as well.
“Aren’t you excited, Arxy?” Sunuva asked.
“Okay, twenty,” Klauf began, “we’re going to get started. The first thing we’re going to see is the Plain Normal Rock. If you would follow me down the Slomsly Trail.” Tour Group C left the parking lot square to the right of the hotel. The tour guide led them along the trail into an artificial opening of a Keplerian forest.
The trees, for lack of a better word, were svelte, jamming far up into the sky. Their “wood” was soft, smooth, and wrinkled where a finger was placed. The material was mostly light brown, though it had streaks of light blue, like veins or the accidental markings of a colored pencil. Their diameters were no more than a foot or so. Sprouting from the sticks were long, graceful strands, similar in shape to wild grass, which were a bloody orange color.
Various species of flora were denoted with informational signs titled with the scientific name. Kolo admired a plant; it grew like grass, but the blades were honeycomb-shaped, filled with miniscule hexagonal holes that would have flared trypophobia. A gentle wind shook the growth. Kolo leaned his ear next to the thing and could hear whistling tones as the wind passed through the holes. The sign named the plant K-22b harmonicus.
Klauf smiled as he entered the glade. Centered, almost cinematically, was the Plain Normal Rock. The trees seemed to slightly bend away from it, as if intimidated.
“This is the Plain Normal Rock. As you can see, there is nothing plain or normal about it.” The rock spanned around twenty feet in both width and height. It was outlined with an elastic barrier. “I’m going to ask you to refrain from touching it, but please feel free to walk around and admire the illustrations.”
On the rock were depictions of some sort of grotesque lifeforms. They had many more limbs than humans, though which were legs and which were arms was unclear. They were depicted groveling at the base of some pyramidal structure resembling a ziggurat. Other drawings of nature, like the sun, Kepler-22, and the vegetation of the planet stamped the rock.
“The first scientific expedition team came here in 2987, and they found this thing, right here. The depictions of the animals inspired the team to search for life as well, and as you probably know, they managed to find it.”
Tourists snapped pictures of the rock with their Canon HYPER 3Dfilm™ 2500s. Arxglöten marveled at the drawings for a couple of minutes. While many would find the lifeforms unpleasant, she inexplicably found them cute.
“Okay, everyone, our next stop is the Keplerian Springs,” said Klauf.
The trail wound through the forest. Wrapped around the trees and arching above the trail were light pink vines. They clung to Sunuva’s hair.
A hissing, like the static of a Sanyo AV Foto Tellie-Vizschin, slowly approached as Group C walked down the Slomsly Trail. Klauf brushed aside some low-hanging exodendron to reveal the rushing springs.
A waterfall dropped from out of a tall cliff to feed the lake at its base. The water was a dark navy blue. Arxglöten felt the cool mist that rose from the basin. She examined the grand waterfall and noticed a dark crevice behind the foamy current.
“This waterfall flows in from the Armstrong River on the top of that cliff there,” said Klauf. “Many local species can be seen drinking from here. And, if you look closely, you’ll see some Keplerian waterbugs.” All of the adults kneeled down next to the water. The tour guide watched the bugs intensely. “Now, these truly are amazing things. Scientifically, they are known as K-22b hydropedus. They absorb water, requiring very specific chemical contents, and perform what could be called photosynthesis, although of course it has vastly different components from that on Earth…”
Klauf’s voice slowly faded in the ears of Arxglöten. As the grown-ups admired those tiny organisms, she meandered around the shore of the lake towards the waterfall, and the exoplanetary trees hid her presence. Something beckoned her to the cave.
She began to run through the forest. She looked behind her and saw, through the vertical sticks, the oblivious tour group. She smirked and snuck under a fallen stake, climbed over a pile of green rocks, and landed next to the rushing water. She could see the entrance of the cave behind it. Carefully, she checked that the adults were still occupied, and slipped in behind the waterfall.
The S sound of the water reverberated in the hollow cave. The walls were made of orthodox gray rock. For a moment, Arxglöten stared into the darkness intently. She waited for something, although she didn’t know what.
As her eyes focused, she could see a dot of light in the center of the pitch-blackness, like the end of a tunnel, like the blob she had seen while traveling through the wormhole.
She stared at it more. It did not grow or morph like the last one. She could tell—it was real.
Davin and Olysa stood in the cramped emergency aid compartment in the basement of the Keplerian Tour-Deluxe, over the operating table on which Brack laid. He was coming out of anesthesia.
“Brack! Can you speak yet?” Olysa yelled.
“Hrgh, wh—blgf…” he replied.
“Oh, honey, they put your liver back in! Isn’t it wonderful?” she told him.
Davin asked frankly, “Brack, buddy, I’m going to need you for Circadian Friday—to bring the lovely tourists back home. That’s in two days. Will you be okay by then?”
“Whnm? Ghllmglf…Gha dunnho…”
“You don’t know? Is that what you said?”
“Well, get better. We can’t drive the ship without you.”
“Brack, take your time!” Olysa hastened to say.
“Arxy! Arxy!” shouted Kolo. Tour Group C abandoned their waterbugs in search for a missing daughter. The group divided in half between the two sides of the lake.
Kolo led his wife along, holding her hand. “Arxy!” he repeated, “Are you out there?!”
Kolo stumbled over a fallen stake, then so did Sunuva. Kolo propped himself up; he noticed, to his right, a cave.
Arxglöten could not see the walls but walked forward anyway. She kept the point of light in the center of her view, letting it calibrate her. She cautiously put one foot in front of the other and stretched her arms to her sides to check for rock. Slowly and steadily she approached the emitter. She was a few feet away from it when she saw through it—an opening. Through the hole she could see something grand, something pyramidal, steps on its outside.
Even more cautiously now, she stepped through the opening—and freezed. Surrounding her was the immense cavity within the tall mountain she had entered. Luminous golden crystals were like wallpaper and made the room as bright as the hotel of human engineering. But nothing human could resemble the central structure of the room: a tall pyramid decorated with illustrations of those lifeforms on the Plain Normal Rock. It had a flat roof, upon which sat a pillow-like thing made of the soft, plastic material of the Keplerian trees.
Arxglöten was filled with a euphoria of beauty; she nearly cried. Tears formed in her eyes to the point where she could not notice the organism atop the ziggurat’s pillow…until it spoke.
“Arxy! Arxy!” Kolo repeatedly, repeatedly yelled as he sprinted down the cave. Sunuva kept up behind him, dialing up the brightness on her Sanyo AV digi-novella to light the way.
They too noticed the tittle of light, but, contrary to Arxglöten, they were instinctively repelled by it. They stopped at an instant, slamming their feet down. The two exchanged glances, fearful.
“She must be in there,” Sunuva said.
“I’m scared, Kolo.”
“Arxglöten Bishton!” the thing said. Arxglöten was taken aback. “Can you hear me?”
“Y—Yes?” the girl replied.
“That is your proper Earthling name?”
The thing, the purple mass, as in the illustrations, had dozens of limbs. It did not have any discernible face, nor did anything move when it spoke. It was like it was communicating telepathically.
“We have been following your essence since you departed from the Cosmoport. Your pure heart has led us to believe that you are our only salvation. Oh, Arxglöten of Earth, your people have been massacring us…Their loathsome Tour-Deluxe facility leeches off of the resources of our holy planet. They enslave us for entertainment to the Tour Groups. Then, all hope was crushed when a human spaceship formed a wormhole improperly. Those buffoonish, uneducated Earthlings had no clue of the repercussions of this—multiple timelines of the Multiverse folded in on themselves, and one of my Keplerian descendants from the near future was transported here. He was incredibly ill, and, after regaining his senses, told us that the Earthlings had taken the whole planet for themselves. Our brothers were being butchered, he said, to be turned into Chik’n-No-Additives. Our sisters were being sold as pets, as the Earthlings had killed all of their very own pets on Planet Earth. The energy of the sacred crystals you see in this cave were harnessed—by Sanyo AV, CosmoTour, Sedat-o-Bar Holdings, Nintendo, too many companies to name—driving the populations that live underneath the mountains out, into view of the humans. So they were turned into Chik’n and pets, too.
“Oh, but, Arxglöten of Earth, your pure heart, your essence we have felt from lightyears away, can save us all! Heed my words, darling—”
“Arxy! My God, you’re here!” shouted Kolo. His eyes were tightly shut. He waved his arms around until he hit Arxglöten’s back.
“Daddy! Hi!” she said.
“I can’t open my eyes, honey. Please come with me!”
“Come!” the father exclaimed.
The Keplerian organism quickly fled from his pillow, descending the steps of the pyramid and entering a door located on a level.
Kolo blindly picked his daughter up and ran back the way he came.
Sunuva stood beyond the room; she could not bear to enter the crevice with Kolo. The father had kept his eyes shut, for the light of the crystals pierced his mind and created a stabbing pain.
She cried with joy as the man emerged with his daughter upon his back. He opened his eyes again.
“Arxy! Why did you leave us?!”
“The cave wanted me to go in.” A feeling in her mind told her not to mention the organism.
Tour Group C ended their trip early. They headed back on the Slomsly Trail, past the Plain Normal Rock, through the forest, and ending in the parking lot of the Keplerian Tour-Deluxe. The Bishton family entered their room on the 7½th floor, and immediately they all fell asleep.
On Circadian Thursday, they awoke. No words were spoken as they showered, got dressed, and walked downstairs to find a breakfast food dispenser. They unanimously, silently agreed on EZ-Breakfast. Sunuva and Kolo had a Chik’n-Biskit, while Arxglöten surprisingly had an Egg™.
“Hm. You always eat Chik’n, Arxy,” Kolo said.
“Just wanted to try an Egg™,” she replied.
Tour Group C was scheduled for another trip in ten minutes, but they had decided not to go.
The entire day was spent in the Tour-Deluxe. Father-daughter time was spent in the CosmoKiddies TECHNO-R-KADE. Mother-daughter time was spent in the Sanyo AV Digi-Market digi-fiction section.
The next morning, it was time to go home. The family got ready and stepped outside, where the CT-BLASTO 445 was awkwardly waiting. They boarded it in haste.
The pilot announced over the intercom, “Greetings, passengers. We unfortunately are a bit short-staffed, so no concessions will be provided. Also, our previous co-pilot is now deceased, so please be patient with me as I try to work this panel all by myself!” He chuckled. “We hope you had a great trip!”
Kolo shut his eyes. Quietly, he asked his daughter, “What did you mean by ‘the cave wanted me to go in?’”
“Nothing,” she said.
“Hm…” He thought to himself. “Did you have a good trip?”
“Yes. I’ll never forget.”