Space People is an ongoing adventure story about a crew of otherworldly male scientists that abandoned their home planet on the eve of its destruction to explore the infinite pockets of space. The so-called smartest of the smarties failed, however, to include a single member of the opposite sex on their voyage. Lost, listless, and lonely the men drift across the endless night sky gathering space dust for nutrients and space worms to drink from. They contemplate their place in the great space while their bodies evolve to existence without gravity. Their torsos are an open box straight through the center of them. Their limbs stretch and expand.
Not until they decide to explore other worlds do they realize gravity is no longer their ally. Finding themselves borderline useless on land their existence in the world is complicated even further.
We will be sharing excerpts of the adventure from time to time here, on this website, because the story has worms in it. Of course it has worms in it.
Please enjoy the first few chapters of the saga below...
1. ALWAYS AFLOAT
Today is Xander Clem’s one hundred-twelfth birthday. He floats in the darkness of everything surrounding him and his companions. Numbers rattle in his brain, he visualizes lists and times tables, concluding that if his planet were still a planet, if they didn't depart it on the eve of its destruction, if they'd landed somewhere else, he would be dead, or well into this life’s fourth century. He looks at his compatriots as they drift. They are alone out here, too scared to risk their lives on expeditions, terrified of the unknowns that creep in the eternity of the great space.
As scientists they have failed this expedition’s pursuits. Though they survived their planet, they have given up on knowledge. They live on the intoxicating nectar of worms, their sole source of liquid, thirsty for a glass of anything else, perpetually drunk, dehydrated, lethargic to the infinite possibilities that fill their periphery. Xander’s birthday marks another forgetful year of space worms and space dust, collected by the vessel and pumped into their feeding tubes. They drift, like buoys, tethered to their spherical ship by pairs of occasionally knotted tubes, the only object in the universe they can rightfully call home. The six men are adrift in the wilderness of the great space. Black skies, white stars, illuminated gases, and occasional planets fill their horizonless lines of sight.
Space. All things exist within and around it. Their spaces were once held together by ground and space itself defined their bodies into parts, their lands by marks, maps were separated by roads and buildings and forests. The world was grounded. Here, the map has spread out, space is now the cubic volume of infinity, measured on an always moving channel of axises. Here, their bodies, constantly pulled in all directions, have adapted accordingly.
Though it was designed with a function to simulate gravity, once afloat, their vessel lost power any time they attempted it. When they gave up on gravity they used any number of tubes to tie one another down just for the sensation of friction. They’d spend days in what they now called a day convincing themselves that some mock gravitation towards a surface would eventually calm their insides. But strapping oneself to a forever twirling sphere only induced the sickness quicker. Tired of cleaning the vessel’s walls and drawers during all waking hours, they forfeited these pursuits.
These six men have witnessed their own evolution while afloat. Space has made its way in and through them. A cubic window, a passageway, a square hole has opened through the center of their bodies and expanded to the far reaches of their torsos. When the spaces were new, the men imagined the hilarity of losing a set of keys near a kidney or some other now-less-useful organ. They joked about their evolution for a time, but time won.
Xander’s one hundred-twelfth marks seventy-two years afloat, weightless, and worldless. Seventy-two years of false starts and non-starts. Seventy-two years of lengthy conversations about the nature of their evolution. Millions of revolutions with no revelations other than that they are thirsty, they are cold, and they are still not over leaving all of the women behind.
Their planet would make precisely four rotations in their current space day, making the men well into their 400s now, back home, should back home still exist. This fact was keenly observed by the quickening in pace of the scientists’ wristwatches and by the accelerated speed a world takes on when they are perpetually moving in slow motion past it. After witnessing their planet collide with all those falling rocks they decided to abandon traditional measurements of time aboard their forever floating home, urging one another to strip each wrist of a ticking clock and forget about what age they may have been once.
They merrily cheered this over the course of several old days in a current single day, which felt like several hours, and then they returned to drifting. Young Qelvin, however, glued his wristwatch, with its rolodex of days and dates, to the ceiling of his bunk, to keep home close, for as long as he was drifting. Old Tate, made a tally of days within days, and formulated a calendar in reverence to what was. Eddard made a map of the seasons back home, and above the map he layered sheets of translucent plastic, that represented months, sixteen squares in total to track the old time. And Xander too marked months every seven or eight days, to keep a loose grip on the past, each of them silently toasting the new year every few months with a wink and a hug.
They each were picked based on certain criteria, a shared heightened mental ability. Certainly they knew it was coming to an end: their planet. They all remember Quill being quite keen on that fact. The flood waters rising and what-not. Of course they weren’t coming back, each of them knew that going in. Yet none could remember prior knowledge of the meteor shower that made asteroids of the whole damn place. Xander’s precious animals crumbled to bits. Malcolm’s trees, burnt to a synder, all over again. Eddard’s discography, forever forgotten. Qelvin’s lenses, Tate’s farm, Quill’s hangar, where all this was dreamt up: Gone, gone, gone.
Xander watches Qelvin stretch, there is hope in the movements of his twisting body. “When the day comes,” Qelvin is forever saying, “I’ll be well limber.” Xander nibbles up a portion of space dust and stares at the pleasant glow of the nearest planet waiting for a ration of worm to chew. The planet’s slow rotation reveals a vast yellow sea with a sparkle reminiscent of gold, divided cleanly by lines formed, in Xander’s head, by impossibly large combs. He imagines the population of this planet making a concerted effort to cover their tracks.
Xander fumbles through his empty space, the large cube shaped opening in the center of his torso, searching for an itch to scratch. He ends up fondling an organ, holding it like a ball-of-play for a moment before remembering the itch. Xander disconnects his feeding tube and snatches a worm within it to chew then locks the tube to the left side of the hip of his suit. It will be hours before he swims back towards the vessel, to his bunk, to the other five scientists who may or may not speak a word to one another before another cycle of cold sleep.
For now he takes in the sights of the wakeful hours with a nice chewy wormy, thinking of purer forms of water, contemplating the equations it takes to melt a mass to liquid, and how garishly they all used to gulp it down. What he wouldn’t give for a squeezy pack. Something to rinse the dust other than the innards of worms, the most recent of which presently squirms as Xander wrestles it into place between his back-of-mouth teeth, positioning it perfectly to get the most of its small gush of hydration.
As Xander’s teeth press down upon its wiggling body, the worm, whose name cannot be pronounced in written words, thinks only of its yesterday, of being launched out of orbit from its stone’s atmosphere - a small rock it and its family had inhabited for as long as the worm could remember. The worm inched along towards a delivery of flexi straws when a sudden rumble announced the presence of a very large and foreign metal claw. The claw edged its way along the dirt fiercely scooping the worm and simultaneously burying the straws it was meant to fetch.
The frustration over the missed delivery and the general confusion of the situation hardly registered before the weightlessness changed everything the worm knew of its world. The worm separated from the heavy feeling of the surrounding dirt it had been steamrolled into and was suddenly afloat, along with a million particles of ground, each separating from itself like a palm opening. There were many other worms of course, many of whom, like it, were still vomiting, wide-eyed, mouths agape, making their adjustments to anti-gravity, but none of them were this worm’s family.
More unfamiliar to the worm than the sudden floatation was the metallic encasing of the vessel that sucked it up through the arm of the claw, the blinking lights, and the intoxicating hum of the engine, that sounded like a beggar-beetle’s wings humming as it breezed by. In and out. Two distinct sounds, drawn out like breath all around the worm. It floated wiggling to the profound sensation of touching nothing for what ended up being too short a time before another tube sucked the worm and a few bits of dust towards the mouth where it currently resides. The worm is reminded of this as the dry tongue of Xander slides its body into the vice grip of his teeth. The last thing the worm hears is the wet smack of its insides squeezing out against the mouth of its destructor before experiencing an even more infinite weightlessness.
Xander swallows the wiggly worm, wiggling no more, and looks through the holes of his five companions’ stomachs. It’s seeped in. You can see stars through each windowed torso, their expanded spaces adding to the darkness. Space is a part of them, emptiness defines them. He resists dwelling on loneliness, and thinks of their resilience while they look deep into each surrounding abyss of their purview. This uncharted space is their land, the stars their flock. Yet, for being the six smartest smarties, they’ve done very little quantifiable research in the past seventy-two years. The scientists can never seem to find a good place to start. They reason that there are too many good places to start, this has generated a massive stall in productivity.
Beyond the stars are more stars. Beyond that there are galaxies upon galaxies. To imagine that space has no parameters stifles the men when confronted with their exploration: each chosen to document the great and many unknowns in this forever world. Many years ago they were hungry to know what was out there. Now they are simply hungry.
Xander looks at his vast surroundings as he drifts, the five scientists that represent the last of his people, the sphere that replaced all sense of gravity, the tubes from which they snatch their worms, imagining the taste of frosted cake in his mouth. He is already troubled by his mind’s indulgence, but the thought is there. While he imagines each star as a flickering flame atop a candle buried in icing something unusual enters his periphery.
There is a sudden absence of stars. Xander adjusts his focus to the darkness, where light does not poke through. As this darkness grows equations rattle off in his mind. Is space moving? Am I drawing nearer to one end of an irrational grid? He looks to his compatriots, each lost in their own bobbing. Each of them staring off. And just as quickly as this absence of light appeared it consumes Qelvin, swallows him whole, he and the chewed bits of space worms and dust within him, gone, forever weightless, homeless, wandering.
2. THEN THERE WERE FIVE
Xander removes his calculator and sends coordinates to the others. Qelvin is gone, his tubes wave limp and bodiless off the vessel, unaware of their host’s disappearance. The men stare past the absence of their partner into the unrelenting universe. Now they are five.
Xander and Tate swim to the vessel. The others continue to dangle, scratching their heads. These men learned many years ago that there is no rush, to anything, at all. If they are grieving, then grieve they will. Or perhaps some are simply not done with today’s stretching.
Xander has an oval shaped head, hairless face, his oily black hair is always perfectly parted in the mornings, before exiting his bunk. His wide eyes can slip right into the core of a beast if one locks into them for too long. He is younger than the next scientist by a decade, and, three dozen years younger than Tate, the eldest member of the consortium.
Antigravity is a tricky yorik, or so they’ve said. Tate remembers a time when any direction he bent was a relaxation, but now, it is all a struggle. He misses the weight of the world, the force of being pulled towards something. He misses the sight and smells of his beloved farm. Yet, he is mirthful in conversation with his fellows, excitable at the extraordinary wonder of their surroundings, always patting his shiny bald head and brushing his hands through his white moustache.
The conference room, once filled with a long table and chairs is now empty, its walls lined by drawers. The floating furniture proved to be very difficult once the vessel’s gravity-inducing mechanism failed. They sent the furniture out to float as they do in the great space. Xander and Tate hang off bars they mounted to the ceiling.
Tate: What in space?
Xander: A darkness is upon us. That is no joke!
Tate: Is he -
Xander: He’s gone. Vanished.
Xander: Oh! Most certainly, Tatey. Swallowed up.
Tate, cups his bald head with his whole palm and slowly rubs it from above his eyes to the crease in the back of his neck.
Tate: Swallowed up.
Tate: My goodness. What in space?
Xander: It was just darkness that took him, Tatey. An absence of stars.
Tate: What in space?
The three remaining scientists gather within the vessel. Eddard, the resident sound engineer and composer, removes his headphones, ruffling his thick mane of hair, unzips his suit, goes about his nightly activities. He feeds his roaches, puts on a large robe with many fastenings, and covers his space. Even after all these years he is still shy about the hole in his gut. He feels like people can see through him, which, they certainly can. He runs his fingers through his lavender beard, and combs his wild hair, He is keen, even here, on keeping up appearances.
For the first two years Eddard composed playful melodies to soundtrack their wake and sleep cycles. Their sole expedition off the vessel, an unspeakably bleak event, threw him into a deep depression, overtaking the mood of all his tunes. Eddard retreated into the deep space in his mind as the emptiness expanded in his belly. Long dissonant notes, sometimes one note per day, started to drive all aboard the vessel mad. The crew insisted he unplug his noise boxes from the internal speakers system and compose with his headphones from there on out. That was 70 years ago. Little did Eddard know, that even before the public outcry, they’d already dismantled their ear-speakers, opting for silence even between one another during their floats in the great space.
Malcolm, the moodiest among them is fuming mad, but says nothing, which surprises no one. He sulks his way to a far corner of the conference room, arms crossed, avoiding eye-contact with the other scientists, offering the occasional humph or grunt while the others proceeded.
Vandrik Quill makes a final loop around the vessel now that everyone else is inside, to inspect his ship. He tinkers with a bolt and presses the buttons that suck the feeding tubes and tentacles in before shooting through the entry-port, eyebrows raised with a passion long absent among the men, a finger pointing as he shouts.
Quill: What in space is going on out there?
Tate: He was simply swallowed.
Quill: Great space!
Quill adjusts his eyeglasses.
Tate: What in space!?!
Quill: I say we find this darkness. I say we light it up!
Xander: You saw?
Quill: Of course I saw. Our man - swallowed up like dust by a great big nothing, more nothing than all of this… NOTHING!
Quill outstretches his arms to either side like the wings of a winged thing.
Quill: He’s out there, and we’re in here. So we’d better start looking for the dark.
Xander: Certainly you don’t think he’s alive?
Quill: Alive?! Of course not. But that doesn’t revoke our badge to catch that darkness!
Xander: My space, man, what’s got into you?
Quill: X pronounced Z!
Quill places a hand gently on Xander’s shoulder.
Quill: We haven’t had a reason to stay afloat this long. It’s been decades! Forty years since the passing of the Pink Qwhale! Don’t you remember a flesh that isn’t worm’s meat? Our man is out there, eaten! What in all of blorging space are we doing out here? Hmm? I, for one, am not going to settle on this life afloat.
Xander nods approvingly.
Quill: So, let’s set a course for that combed planet, for a start.
Tate: Yes! And let’s get some good sleep while we -
And like that he pulls the valve in his neck and is instantly asleep, afloat.
VALVING IT: YEAR ONE
An Introduction to Space Sleep
Before they made their grand exit, Quill designed a valve to induce deep sleep. This twistable knob tapped into the neck of each scientist, which when tugged, sent the traveling scientists instantly to a deep yearslong sleep. However, after their first misery of an expedition, the scientists started using the valves recreationally, to dull the pain of the memories. Soon all aboard came to depend on the valves for any deep sleep at all, their bodies untrained to the floating. Tate’s move, invented after their first long sleep, is to dramatically tug his valve mid-sentence during a conversation and conk out on the speaker:
Malcolm: Great space! How long were we asleep?
Malcolm: Yes, I remember years. But how many?
Xander: I feel like I’ve been buried alive.
Quill: Two years.
Eddard: Not so bad. Two.
Qelvin: How many is that back home?
Xander: We’ve been asleep for eight years?
Malcolm: Two years.
Tate: Yes. Two. But also eight.
Xander: Blorg me.
Qelvin: Anyone else have dreams? I dreamt of marvelous juggs. I was surrounded by them. They were closing in on me, like a chase, in a game, where you can’t wait to be caught. By the juggs.
Eddard: You dreamt that for two years?
Qelvin: Eight years!
Tate: My goodness.
Qelvin: Did you dream?
Malcolm: Yes, I dreamt we were afloat, in space, but we forgot something on our planet that we needed.
Eddard: You’re in a rotten mood.
Malcolm: But what was it? Oh. Yes. Women. We forgot -
Eddard: That’s enough.
Tate: This valve really did the trick. How many sleeps do we have left?
Xander: How do you mean?
Tate: What amount of medication did we come equipped with?
Xander: Well, it isn’t a medication actually.
Tate: How’s that?
Xander: It’s just, Quill, help me with this.
Quill: Yes, it’s actually just a valve. The valve shuts off the flow of cortisol and induces a rapid rise in melatonin. That plus weightlessness produces an instant sleep. Then we made some adjustments to some neurological frequencies, also connected to the valve, and voila! Sleep city.
Tate: So all I have to do is -
Tate pulls the valve and is instantly asleep, floating amidst his colleagues.
Qelvin: What in space?
Xander: He just conked out. How long will he be out?
Quill: Two years.
Xander: What? Is there anyway to wake him?
The men all start laughing at this.
Eddard: The old boy’s just valved it!
Qelvin: And if I pulled it slightly less forcefully -
Quill: No! Qel -
And off goes Qelvin. Tate and Qelvin float in place, their mouths agape, and eyes comatose until the men drag their weightless bodies to their bunks.
Quill: Well, first things first, we may want to adjust these valves.
Quill adjusts the valves to induce a more gradual, intoxicating wooziness. Once discovered, this becomes abused, almost instantly.
Except, nothing happens in an instant here.
The scientists spend their first several decades afloat addicted to valving it.
The men collect Tate’s floating body and arrange him within his bunk. For all their years afloat the ritual of cleaning up Tate before his body gets tangled in someone else’s is probably equal to the amount they sedate themselves on gentle tugs on the valve mixed with the rot of worms.
What was long understood, before taking this journey, before their bodies evolved in plain sight, was that there would at least be worms here, as there are in the dirt back home, that if there’s one thing that is universal throughout all of space, is that there are always worms, and worms live to drink, and the sweet rot that lives within them is an intoxicating agent to these beings.
Tate would often reference the sweet worms of his youth and the bootlegging his family would do as a side business to their farming. “Anything that grows can be farmed,” he would often tell the men when they were at their lowest galaxy drifting moments, reminding them there would one day be land for them to plant seeds, and worms to gather from the soil, and bottles to fill from their innards, and drinking to be done until morning.
“There is a story of a farm. On the farm melkcore’s were milked. From that milk men were fed, and from that feed seeds were sown. From those seams came me. A melkcore is much like a man, with much less needs...”
Tate Terje begins all stories about himself with the phrase, “There is a story of a farm.” Tate, how did you come up with the number seven? some someone may ask in response to a mathematical finding, and Tate will begin always at the beginning, “There is a story of a farm...”
He was eight of eight, the youngest of the flock, born in a third of the time a normal gestation period took. He arrived the size of a peach, throbbing in his Pop-pop’s hand. His body was underdeveloped, his head bald on top with light hair on the sides, like an old man at the start, but his mind throbbed with life. His temples pulsated. It looked as though all blood flowed only to charge his busy mind. He’d grow to full size by the age of twelve, totalling about four feet, eleven inches. He’d lose all the hair his head could grow by his tenth birthday.
When he was ten Tate devised simple steps to change the flavor of melkcore’s milk while still within the beasts. Typically a melkcore’s raw milk tasted like the thick creamed-pulp of a very bitter lemon. Factories were built to process the stuff. Flavors were sold separately. With Tate’s formulas they became capable of producing pure and natural taste combinations on-farm. Years later the Terje family would go public with Tate’s technique, beginning the flavor age.
On his eleventh birthday Pop-pop took his young boy atop the tractor and toured the farm as they had done every year on this day since Tate’s first birthday. Tate watched field hands sling picks over their shoulders and into the bedrock. He watched his friends Lawrence and Chuck drag wide combs behind them forming perfect rows in the silt. He watched his friends closely, two men in their fifties, handkerchiefs tied round their necks, wide brimmed hats casting shadows over their faces. He could feel the sweat forming in the crooks of their arms and down their backs, he could see the darkened fabric encroach on the bits that remained dry. Tate took inventory of the wrinkles on each man’s face, tracking the lines that formed once gravity stopped supporting you and started asking for something back.
Normally birthday cake was not an entity that would survive past the night of its intended use with a family as large as Tate’s. Eight children. Two parents. Four working grandparents. Two surviving Greats! Yet, he managed to slip an extra few slices out of the fray before they were gobbled up. That night the boy was lifted and passed between his brothers and sis, tickled and twisted as he made his way round the family. They told him why he is good and that he is loved and then each of them, one by one, blew on his tummy and kissed the top of his shiny head.
Tate bided his time in the bedroom that night before slithering out with the extra cake that he stowed away. He snuck his way to the servants’ quarters, no longer needing to graze the guiding string he’d installed years before to make his way around the massive property without getting lost. Memory is a difficult thing to master when you have to work at it.
The men were up, laid out on their cots, or hovering over a checkerboard, still recovering from the heat of the long solstice sun. Lawrence and Chuck were on the far side of the room, both with a book in one hand and playing cards in the other. Lawrence’s glasses sat low on the tip of his nose. He hardly looked up from the words, yet continued to play the game while acknowledging his young friend in the room, with a raised eyebrow.
"Do you know any men born on this day, Charles?" he asked Chuck, eyes on page.
"I believe there are many names one could name," answered Chuck, also not lifting an eye from his page.
"Well, perhaps we should make a list," replied Lawrence.
"Oh, I believe I have such a list already started since the last time we spoke of this." Chuck dips his long pointer finger into his shirt-breast-pocket fishing out a tiny scroll of paper, placing it down on the table between them with pinched fingers. Without removing his hold he spreads his fingers away from each other and extends the scroll out. Tate beams at the familiarity of this game. He watches as the list reaches across the table, ready for them to ask him if he has a name to add. Which of course, he does. Once they are through with their playful ignoring Lawrence and Chuck deliver small rocks to the boy with stories of their age.
“The rings of the purple rock are left by the sun,” says Chuck, “which bleaches its way into the rock year after year, before burning the rest of the rock a darker shade of purple. Sands and stones and the sun and time.” Chuck looks up at the boy. “These are the things to watch.”
“The other rock,” says Lawrence, “is more deceptive. You have to look within it to find its mysteries. It ages only in darkness, and unlike most things, recedes its energies when confronted by the sun.”
Tate retrieves the stowed cake and presents the slices to the men. Each man, being the kind of men they were, offered half their slice to the boy, who shook his head before giving in and having a bit extra.
Tate asks the men if they are tired and they reply, “Yes.” He asks them if he can help and they reply, “How?” He asks them about the comb they drag across the farm day in and out. He asks about the force they use to carry the comb and the weight of the instrument. The men divulge their information, happy to oblige the young sire on his day of birth. And with each bit of information they slowly chip away at their modest slivers of cake and their chances at keeping on here, unbeknownst to the three members of this cheerful party.
To help his friends Tate eliminates their jobs. He designs a string system that hangs over all sections of the farm. The long combs are held up by twenty foot high stakes with wheels at their ends. The wheels rest on the strings and the strings are pulled by rotating levers. He works well into the week drawing out the system with a ruler for all the lines. He presents the plan to his parents a week later and they discuss its strengths and follies. There is no fault Tate’s Pop-pop can find in the work. They set forth on erecting the system immediately.
The solstice passes. Lawrence and Chuck drag their comb and watch the crews erect the towering poles that will connect the strings that will take their place. They are too old to work the bedrock and too tired to put up a fight. They will take their comb show elsewhere, hats in hands.
Tate is eleven years old. He watches the men he delighted in knowing gather their possessions and prepare their beds one last time before leaving the farm. Tate’s brain ticks away inside his skull, pinpointing the precise places where he can destroy the system, one malfunction at a time in order to rehire his friends, but they are already going and gone. His Pop-pop replaces them with two younger fellows that will work for a little less money and who have living quarters a few farms passed this farm while they work out the kinks in the strings that keep mysteriously knotting.
The remaining four scientists float to the center of the vessel, eager to move forward.
Xander: If this isn’t our moment, then I’m not sure what is.
Eddard: But what of the boy? Should we not wait.
The scientists look at Eddard, their wiley composer, always wearing the face of a thinking man, his eyebrows forming sharp peaks over his forehead. His hair, a nest of curiosity.
Quill: We cannot wait. X pronounced Z is right - the moment is upon us.
Malcolm: What moment? What are you on about?
Quill: This is an opportunity. An instigation. A message from the great space!
Xander: Qelvin would want us to.
Malcolm: Don’t you look to me from the path of grief. It could have been any of us. Would you be using my name in that sentence if my name replaced his name and my body was dangling in the darkness.
Eddard: Malcolm, do you really think it’s possible, that he’s alive?
The men are silent. Even the ever angry Malcolm takes a moment for himself, his eyes closed briefly, to offer his compatriot some form of consolation.
Malcolm: Let’s get it over with then. We are only looking for trouble. We can grieve along the way.
Eddard: I’ll compose an Elegy.
The men roll their eyes.
Xander: And we’ll get to work. Where to?
Quill: How about that combed planet there.
It has been seventy years, almost three centuries in days of days, of crippling complacency for the six, since their first and only expedition off their vessel. Each passing year the men age while their skin lightens towards translucency, the blue blood beneath it turning them into paler beings than they once were. Their limbs continue to stretch - what they call the noodling - their bodies gradual elongation. Their spaces have expanded to the far reaches of each torso. They eat the same worms, and suck the same space dust, while dragging along in staggering silence.
The soundlessness is really the killer. Once the innards were outed and their spaces took shape the silence hollowed the emptiness in all aboard the vessel. Qelvin’s disappearance - this darkness, this swallowing up - marks a day of true change. The Six are Five. A reckoning is upon them.