“Just Trust Me”

I was browsing the archives of a message board I joined years ago, and found this bit of writing. I wrote it back in October 2008, in about an hour (with no edits or rewrites) as part of a  NaNoWriMo writing prompt (“just trust me”), meant as practice before the big writing event in November. I’ve more or less lost the ability to write fiction like this, but I still liked it. So I thought I’d share.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~“Just trust me on this, OK?”

“But Jeff… the very idea… it’s…”

“Insane, right? Preposterous? Impossible? I know that, Anna! Dammit… of course I know it… but just LOOK at it! It’s alive, a living thing!”

Anna shook her head, frustrated in her disbelief. “Jeff… we’re millions of kilometres away from the nearest planet…”

“’More things in heaven and earth…’” Jeff quoted, excitement shining in his face. “Anna, I KNOW I’m right about this… whatever that thing is… it’s surviving outside of its planet’s atmosphere!”

Anna turned again to the view screen. Their small ship was the first to enter and chart this part of the galaxy, the first to explore this newly-discovered solar system in search of a habitable planet, life, or exploitable resources.

“Jeff…” she tried again, running a hand through her short-cropped red hair. “Jeff, the only even remotely viable planet here… it doesn’t meet any of the criteria for life… it’s like Mars used to be, back home, before it was terra-formed. Only there doesn’t look to be any polar ice, so no chance of water at all… Jeff, how could anything survive out there?”

“But it’s not on the planet, Anna! It’s… it’s out there, in space!” He gestured at the object in a near frenzy. “And the way it moves… it’s like… it’s like the vids of whales I used to watch as a kid.”

“Whales?” Anna asked, temporarily distracted.

“Yeah, whales,” Jeff replied. “They were huge mammals that lived in Earth’s oceans a few hundred years ago, before they were wiped out in the nuclear catastrophe of 2209. They were massive, but extremely gentle, and the biggest of them lived off microscopic organisms.”

“Again, this isn’t a planet’s oceans… there aren’t even any planets with oceans in this god-forsaken place.”

“Dammit, Anna, that’s not the point! Just LOOK at it!”

“I AM looking at it, Jeff! I can’t explain it either, but your theory is just…”

“Absurd? Crazy?” Jeff replied, bitterly. He crossed his arms over his chest, his dark fringe falling into his eyes before he impatiently brushed it away. “Look at the way it moves, Anna! The shape is streamlined, it looks organic, it moves randomly, almost as though it’s playing…”

“Jeff, don’t go anthropomorphising it now,” Anna cut him off. “Look, we’ve been away from Earth for months, we’re both missing home. I can’t wait to get home to Rachel, and I know you miss your kids…”

“I’m NOT just looking for a touch of home out here, Anna! For God’s sake, you can see it as well as I can! It’s not some random rock formation, it’s not an optical illusion… it’s either a living organism in and of itself, or it’s a ship…”

“And if it’s a ship, then we’d better hail home to base. We don’t want another war on our hands, we shouldn’t handle this alone…”

“There you go again, always assuming that other species are always going to be hostile.”

“Well, after the Crimillera tried to harvest us as food source, and the Sildarin tried to blow up our planet, I’m afraid I have a rather limited viewpoint.”

“Oh, and we did nothing to deserve that, after what we did to our own planet and people? The Sildarin were only doing what they thought was right for the safety of the universe…”

“Don’t you DARE try to justify for them, or I’ll have you in front of a court-marshal.” Anna glared at him. “You know how many lives were taken… just because you lost no one close to you-“

“My little brother was in the final attack,” Jeff cut her off, in a deathly quiet voice. “Don’t talk to me about loss.”

Chastened, Anna looked back at the screen. The… whatever it was… was floating between the fifth and sixth planets of the system, moving within and around the asteroid field. She sighed. “I don’t think it’s a ship.”

“No, nor do I.”

“I say we mark this place off as uninhabitable, head back home, and pretend we never saw anything.”

The corners of Jeff’s mouth twitched. “Come on, Anna,” he mocked gently, “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

She eyed him irritably out the corner of her eye, her main focus still on the thing in the asteroids. Then all her attention fixed on it. “There’s another one.”

Jeff followed her gaze, his excitement building, then looked off to the side and cried, “There’s more of them! I count four, five coming through the asteroid belt!”

“They’ve changed, Jeff. That first one’s not moving about aimlessly any more. It’s changed course and it’s coming right at us. We should get out of here, now, or prepare to attack.”

“No… Anna this is the opportunity of a lifetime! We’ll never see anything like this again…”

“Probably because we’ll be dead if we don’t get out of here NOW, Jeff!”

“Just trust me!” Jeff said again. “Please, just trust me… I have a feeling…”

“It’s not about feelings, Jeff, it’s about protocol, and survival… they’re moving at an incredible rate, they’ll be on us in minutes!”

“There’s more of them now… nineteen, twenty… twenty-one… and there’s three more… it’s a whole massive pod!”

“These are not your whales!” Anna cried, “Jeff, they’ll probably kill us outright… or they won’t even see us, and plough right over us as if we weren’t even there, so unintentionally or not, we’ll likely be dead in, oh, six and a half minutes.”

“You admit they’re alive, though?” Jeff asked, with a certain smugness in his voice.

Anna glared at him, then laughed, albeit slightly hysterically. “Yes… yes, alright, I admit it… they’re most likely living creatures… though how they manage to survive out here…”

“Creatures adapt.” Jeff said, still staring at the pod of massive creatures heading towards them. “They either formed out here, or became space-fairing before their planet died, if it was habitable in the first place… if we run now, we’ll never know.”

“And if we die now, we’ll never know anyway.”

“Always the pessimist, aren’t you?”

“I prefer ‘realist’.”

“Some would argue there’s little difference.”

An alarm started beeping insistently as the hulking beasts grew closer. They were massive; Anna estimated, with a touch of awe, that the biggest was about one and a half, possibly two kilometres in length.

“I think the smaller ones might be juveniles,” Jeff said, excitedly, pointedly ignoring the alarm.

“The smaller ones are probably big enough to crush us single-handedly.”

Jeff ignored her, instead staring with utter rapture as the creatures neared. They really did remind him of the vids he’d seen as a child, of the great baleen whales that were once the masters of the earth’s oceans. He’d always been full of regret that he would never, ever see one alive. These creatures were, excuse the pun, an entirely different kettle of fish. Vast, yet streamlined, moving at an incredible speed, they had five sets of fins along the sides of their great bodies, and tails not too dissimilar to whale flukes. The heads were long, thin tubes, and as Jeff and Anna watched, one opened and expanded, revealing a vast black maw, before closing again.

“They’re feeding on dust!” Jeff exclaimed. “Space dust! Rock dust! It must be how they get the minerals to survive!”

“How could they get so big on only dust…?” Anna said, though faintly, her fingers clutching so hard to the console before her that her knuckles were white.

“The whales of Earth thrived on plankton. And they were the largest creatures ever to live.”

“They’ll be on us in thirty seconds.”

“It’ll be alright.”

“Twenty-eight seconds.”

“Just trust me.”

The two explorers grew quiet as the giant pod neared. The thirty or so individuals were on a collision course with their small ship, smaller even than the smallest of the creatures. The alarm in the cockpit blared ever louder, one of the screens showing simulations of what would be a fatal crash, though neither Jeff nor Anna paid it any heed.

Then, moments before it hit them, the leader of the pod peeled off to one side, avoiding them, and one by one, the others followed suit. One of the smallest paused, and seemed to look at them. As they watched, it arched in a slow, graceful circle around the ship, before flying (swimming?) away to join a larger beast that had stopped to wait for it.

And then they were passed, moving swiftly in the direction of the outer edges of the solar system.

The alarm ceased it blaring, and the silence rung loud within the ship.

The two pilots stared in awe at the retreating pod, both feeling strangely humbled.

Anna cleared her throat and swallowed. “Can we go home now?”

“Yeah.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
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