Regulus by JS Wiig
Are you enjoying your spacey Christmas? Here's another installment of our short stories from the Space-y Christmas contest. This short story by JS Wiig prepares for us a unique futuristic take on the Christmas Story. Be sure to check out his author spotlight at the end. Enjoy!
“You lied to me” crackled over the spacesuit headset.
Well, technically it wasn’t a lie. Withholding the truth was not lying. But still, she sounded angry and rightly so. He had to be cautious then or risk losing her.
“I did it for your own good.” Dang, probably not the best thing to have said.
He didn’t even really know why he said it. It’s not like he was protecting her by hiding the truth. If anything he was protecting himself from whatever rejection he always feared was coming. And it wasn’t like she wouldn’t have found out anyway. It was probably his subconscious looking to mess things up like always. Or maybe it was just the hormones. He’d read somewhere that hormones caused these kinds of things to happen when a woman was with child. But a man? He had felt a bit moody lately. Who would know? He sure didn’t. No male in his known universe would know. He had nowhere to turn.
And then there was the confusion. How was this even possible? Not as much his condition, per se, but it being him. He’d never really been that devoted to the Church. In fact, he’d come to the station because he wanted an easy checkout from his depressed existence. He definitely didn’t come here to fall in love or bear a child. What made the universe think he deserved to have something so grandiose happen to him? Then, of course, there was Simone …
Her face reddened behind the glare of her visor. If he could’ve heard through the dead silence of space, it’d have probably been the sound of her breathing air system operating at max capacity.
Yeah, he’d definitely messed up this time.
"He had felt a bit moody lately. Who would know? He sure didn’t. No male in his known universe would know. He had nowhere to turn."
They worked the rest of their shift in silence, which was a good thing: it precluded him from saying anything more stupid. And he would have, given the chance. After all, he always did, and it was never what he truly meant or felt. Routine maintenance of the orbiting space station’s solar arrays was a task they had completed hundreds of times over the last three years, and it turned out they didn’t need to speak any more to do it.
They finished, entered the airlock, and began removing their suits.
“Don’t ‘look Simone’ me,” she said, her auburn hair clinging to the soft curves of her neck. “As your mission commander—heck, as your supposed friend—I should have been informed, by you, the moment you even suspected. Instead, I had to read it in a physical condition report weeks after the fact. You’ve got some explaining to do, and it better start in 3, 2, 1 …”
“Ok, yes, you’re right,” John said, avoiding the sharp gaze of her piercing green eyes. “But first, I didn’t lie. I just …“ He rubbed his hand through his own sweat-matted helmet hair. “I just haven’t told you the whole truth.”
The airlock opened with a hiss and they re-entered the relative calm of the station’s inner hull. While they may have been temporarily shielded from the intense solar radiation of the four suns there, John feared an even hotter flare rising in Simone. The airlock closed behind and Simone spun on him, her finger jabbed menacingly in his face.
“Three years we have spent together on this station,” she blazed. “Three years! I thought I could trust you. What the hell am I saying. I have trusted you. With my life. I care for you, John, maybe even more than that, I don’t know. And now this. How am I supposed to feel about this, about what’s happening to you. What’s happening between us?” She looked at him, apparently waiting for an answer.
“I … I didn’t know,” he fumbled.
Her finger fell to his chest. “What?”
His gaze moved to the floor, and his feet shuffled about. “I didn’t think it was possible,” he said after a long pause, more to his shoes than Simone.
“Not possible? Don’t you match the genetic profile? Didn’t you volunteer for this mission? Don’t you spend over four hours a day bathing in the solar radiation concentrating chamber as prescribed? Are you not still a virgin? Not possible? YOU CAME HERE SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS REASON!”
"The nearly imperceptible motion of the station’s continuous plummet around the fourth unnamed planet of the double-binary Regulus star system suddenly made him queasy."
“No, it’s not that. What I mean is—“ Well, that was it. He had to say it, or he risked losing her for good. “The thing is, I didn’t come here for this. I wanted to die and was too much of a coward to do it myself. So I figured I’d let the Church do it for me, like they’ve been doing for thousands of years.” He shuffled about some more, searching for words. Not his forte. “But then I got to know you and …” He looked up at her, into those wonderful green eyes.
Simone’s hand fell to her side.
The nearly imperceptible motion of the station’s continuous plummet around the fourth unnamed planet of the double-binary Regulus star system suddenly made him queasy. In the past three years it had never done that—not until recently.
Simone must have noticed because she came to his side and supported his arm. “Are you ok? You look like you might be sick? It’s the baby, isn’t it?”
“No it’s fine. It’s just—”
Bile rose quickly in his throat. He clenched his lips tight as to not make a mess there. Simone rushed him to the lavatory where he emptied his stomach.
Later, as they rested together with his head in her lap and Simone tenderly caressing his forehead, a communication from the Imperial Church arrived. It read:
Hark! We have received and analyzed your latest quarterly physical report. A miracle has occurred! For over 10 millennia the Imperial Church has awaited fulfillment of the Prophecy of the Bearer, the Second Coming of our Cherished Ruler, and the ushering in of a new era of Peace and Blessing. Thousands of devout male virgins have perished in the holy fires of the sacred suns of Regulus in this bravest of crusades; it is in the enriched aura of these past sacrifices that you have now blossomed. Your service to the Church shall not be without reward. The remaining days of your natural lives, as well as your eternal afterlives, will be spent among the hallowed halls and gardens of the Imperial Palace. Also, per the binding covenants, you will be granted the privilege of naming the coming Savior, our new Empress. A ship has been dispatched to return you to the Central System and should arrive within the week. Congratulations!
With gratitude, Popess Grace the XXIV
John and Simone set the tablet displaying the communique down on the bed and clasped hands. John placed his free hand on his slightly swollen abdomen and suddenly craved pickles and ice cream.
He smiled nervously up at Simone. “Well, what should we name her?”
Meet JS Wiig
JS Wiig started writing just over six minutes ago when a bunch of words suddenly appeared, swirling around like dizzy spots in front of his eyes. He found that when he put the words to paper, they cleared from his field of vision.
Unfortunately, when he got all the words down, even more appeared! It looks as though this may be a long-term battle to fight. Hopefully, the words get put down in an order that resembles something coherent.
Connect with JS at www.jswiig.com.