So I got bored. I fiddled with technology and my pizza cutter until I stumbled upon a device that cuts holes between worlds. I sliced a shinning trapezohedron into the air and entered a parallel dimension where Herman Melville wrote Alien. Here’s the first chapter…
A L I E N
by Herman Melville
“In the vacuum, no one can detect your exclamations.”
Call me Ripley. Some years ago—never mind how long exactly, cryo-sleep and genetic cloning memories fuck that up—having little or no money in my account, and less and less holding my toes to the earth, I thought I would take off again and see the Outer Rim. It’s a tic of mine, to feel gravity squeeze my spleen, cutting off the circulation. Whenever I find myself grinding teeth in my mouth; whenever unease hatches in the damp, dripping nest of my soul; whenever I find myself pausing in the warehouse, suddenly trapped in the exo-coffin of my Caterpillar P-5000 Power Loader, and it is all I can do not to hurl a four-ton crate through the wall and rampage through the streets in my steel skin—then, it’s high time to get off world as soon as I can. This is my substitute for a noose and a drop. With a flourish, the melodramatic throw themselves off cliffs; I quietly take to the ship. No surprise there. If they’re honest with themselves, then most everyone has felt, at one time or another, the way I feel when looking up at the stars.
Weyland-Yutani Corporation is a city unto itself, or a great coral reef—commerce surrounds it with her surf. It’s an ecosystem. Like coral, it looks passive enough at a glance, but look closer and see the different species of coral colonies going to war, spitting up their stomachs on each other, digesting each other in time-lapse combat. All these star-gazers.
Circumambulate the hypnotic spiral. Offices, board rooms, cubicles—repeat. What do you see?—Posted like gargoyles in every available space, thousands upon thousands of company men slow-choking on their ties. Some chat, some type, some crane their necks, on lunch breaks, for the tiniest skyward peek. They are all star-starved, pent up in windowless rooms—smothered in suits, shackled to desks, nailed to the planet.
Listen. Engineers complaining to HR about their shares and the bonus situation in the contracts they already signed, for the runs they already made. They always do. No content for the mal. You’ll get whatever’s coming to you. Up above, the super-suits take higher and higher offices, getting as close to the vacuum as they can without spinning away. They reach for the stars the way needles reach for north, never touching.
You could leave the Company. You could head into the country, find some wilderness—barely spoiled. There might be magic in it. But it’s not outer space. All meditation heads into the stratosphere. I want to go where prayers go, mingling with ancient radio broadcasts for ever. I want to kiss all this bullshit goodbye.
But here is an android. He desires to give you the most courteous, capable, and efficient assistance—to carry out any tasks you find distressing or unethical. I avoided them—these synth-mucoused, milk-blooded mannequins. You wouldn’t find me on a crew with one. But you would find me on a crew—up and away—away from these offices—sky—there is not a drop of sky here! Why is almost every healthy child with a healthy soul, at some point crazy to get on a spaceship? Why on your first voyage as a passenger, did you feel such a mystical vibration when breaking atmosphere—like being born—or when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of your planet? Why do we throw all our gods up there? It has to mean something. People used to feel the same pull towards water, gazing into rivers and oceans, but I think it’s because they saw the sky there—a phantom within graspable distance.
Now, I say I go into space whenever I get the shakes, but I never go as a passenger. Vacations are expensive. They make me moody, feeling like a fifth wheel, and I don’t sleep well. I don’t go as a Captain or a Cook. Never needed the honor; never liked the kitchen. The food up there is shit anyway.
No, when I go off world, I go as a lieutenant warrant officer. True, I have to take orders. But when the damn Company runs everything, who ain’t a slave? Tell me that. Even space-captains have to answer to Mother. Passengers don’t get paid. I do. Take little satisfactions where you can get them.
I go for the solar winds, the motes of meteor dust, the smell of sulfur and fire and time that draws me down the tube of a billion miles of terrific acceleration. I thought of the hug of centrifugal force as I punched in my particulars. The program called Providence collated and drew up possible assignments. On my way home, I kept glancing down at the printout:
commercial towing vehicle ‘The Nostromo’
course: Earth to Thedus (round trip)
I can’t say why the Fates—the computers and company men—put me on that course, when you consider all the possibilities of the cosmos spread out—a trillion comedies and tragedies—but when I think back on it all, and the part I played, free will feels like the delusion of autonomy in the middle of an event horizon.
At home, I faced the last overwhelming weight holding my last little toe—my daughter Amanda. I didn’t know how to tell her about all the marvels out there, about my everlasting itch for things remote. I did not know how to explain the effect the stars had on me—how when I’m out there, I want to be here, and when I’m here, I want to be out there. So instead, I kissed her forehead and promised to be back for her eleventh birthday. Tucking her in, I sang, “You are my lucky star. You…lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky.”
Then I picked up the case containing Jones, my cat, and the tears fell before I even closed the door. Back then, I used to cry over such things. These days, my blood is a bit more corrosive.