Stories have always played a part in Christmas celebrations and over the next few weeks I would like to share your festive tales… and you can find details of how to participate at the end of the post.
Today a story from outer space by Richard Dee... and a Christmas dinner with a difference…..
I wondered about writing a Flash Fiction for Christmas, that got me thinking about how you might celebrate it if you were living on a different planet. Or even if you would. The date is really just an artificial construct that has grown up due to the physical characteristics of the planet, and events have been fitted into this pattern over millennia. But if you were somewhere else, say you were on a planet with a solar year of 480 days, set light-years away and remote, you would have to start again. And that threw up all sorts of questions.
That all seemed a little complicated for what was meant to be a bit of lighthearted storytelling. I only wanted to write a Flash so I set it a little closer to home and made it a bit more familiar.
The crew had drawn straws and Martine had lost. I hadn’t bothered, I was happy to stay and let someone else go.
It wasn’t as if I had anyone special to go home for and I honestly couldn’t be bothered with Christmas, all the commercialism and repeat movies, it was for families and kids. The rest of the crew were on their way back to Earth for the holidays, I was the one who was stopping in orbit to watch the shop with the reluctant loser.
I hadn’t been lucky with that, or so I thought. It was typical; Martine was the one person that I had hoped was going home; she was the one who was stopping. I reckoned that the psychological profilers had slipped up with her when they had selected the crew. If I could have chosen someone else to share the fortnight with before the new crew arrived, it wouldn’t have been her. She was the awkward one.
Still, we had to make the best of it.
“Why did you offer to stay?” she asked me, as we watched the shuttle depart, “Don’t you have any family on Earth?”
A lot of us were unattached, the agency preferred it that way, there was less potential for problems as far as they were concerned.
“No,” I said, “and before you ask, I’m not bothered with all the festive stuff. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to enjoy being up here.”
“With me?” she finished. “I know we don’t really get on but I don’t want to have a lousy fortnight with you and a load of Bah Humbug bitching.”
She smiled, she had a nice smile, it was a pity that it hadn’t been on show more often.
“Truce?” I said. She smiled again, “I hope so. Let’s have a Happy Christmas.”
We were in low orbit and passed the whole northern hemisphere twice a day. As there were only two of us we had plenty of work to keep us busy. And as the time had passed we started to get on much better. She opened up, she was very upset to be here, and not because of me. She told me that she loved Christmas and all the festive activities with her family. Her enthusiasm got through to me and I even started to see why people celebrated. I dropped my Scrooge persona for her sake; it was bad enough that she was here without me making it worse.
We had agreed to stop work on Christmas Eve and relax for forty-eight hours, apart from the essential safety stuff. The agency had supplied us with vacuum-packed festive treats, but to be honest liquidised mince pies weren’t exactly enticing. But as we couldn’t have crumbs floating around in the cabin everything was made to be eaten through a straw.
As the day drew to a close we chilled and watched the night creep across Europe, we could see the snow-clad peaks of the Alps, the sky was cloudless and the twinkling lights of the cities made a living map.
“We’re in a perfect position to watch,” Martine said as we sipped our non-alcoholic festive drinks, at least that was what it said on the pouch. It tasted like spiced apple juice to me. We were strapped in to stop us bumping around; even lifting the drink to our lips was enough to change our centre of gravity and move us around the cabin.
“To watch what?” over the last few days I had got to know her better, she wasn’t really awkward, just quiet and intense and I had to admit the profilers had got it right after all, it was me that had been out of step. I had learned to get on with her and was glad that she had stayed. Her reply still surprised me though.
“To see Santa on his sleigh, we have a perfect view.”
I thought that she was joking, “We could film it; record it,” she carried on; “prove it once and for all.” Surely she was a bit old for all that?
“It would all be a bit of a blur,” I said, joining into her train of thought, “he would have to move really fast; all those houses in one night.”
“My nieces would love it though,” her eyes shone, “they still believe. I think I still want to, because of them.”
“I think we all want to believe,” I said, “it’s better than the real world with all its cynicism.” Had I really just said that? It showed how much being with her had changed me.
There was a rattle from the hull, we had grown used to the occasional piece of dust or whatever bouncing off us, relative motion meant that it was unlikely to do us any serious harm but this sounded like a lot more than usual.
Martine looked at me and raised an eyebrow, “a few bigger pieces, perhaps we should swing the cameras around and have a look.”
“Perhaps its reindeer,” I said, she leant across and punched me on the arm.
“Don’t mock,” she advised; a flash of the old Martine. “Just when I thought you were going all mellow.”
The station suddenly rocked violently from side to side, Martine screamed, or perhaps it was me. All the loose objects bobbed around, creating a blizzard of motion, it was like being in a snow globe that had been rapidly shaken.
“What was that?” I shouted over the wailing alarms.
“There,” she pointed through the port, heading away from us towards the centre of a sleeping Europe was a dark shape. It must have been moving fast, it was already glowing in multiple colours from the heat of re-entry, green and red and gold as it hit the top of the atmosphere.
We both unstrapped and floated around the cabin, cancelling alarms, catching and stowing all the floating objects. As we competed to grab things in the confined space we kept bumping into each other. It turned into a game and we couldn’t stop laughing.
The last alarm to cancel was by the airlock, as I pushed the button, silence fell on us, broken only by Martine’s breathless giggles. I happened to glance through the inspection window.
“Did you put them in there?” I said.
Martine floated across to me; she looked through the clear panel at the collection of coloured boxes sitting on the deck.
“Maybe you were right about the Reindeer?”
©Richard Dee 2019
About Richard Dee
Richard Dee is a native of Brixham in Devon, England He left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986.
Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich.
In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as HMS Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority.
Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.
His first science-fiction novel Freefall was published in 2013, followed by Ribbonworld in 2015. September 2016 saw the publication of his Steampunk adventure The Rocks of Aserol and of Flash Fiction, a collection of Short Stories. Myra, the prequel to Freefall was published in 2017, along with Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café, a murder mystery set in space and the start of a series featuring Andorra Pett, an amateur detective. He contributed a story to the 1066 Turned Upside Down collection and is currently working on prequels, sequels, and new projects.
A small selection of other books by Richard Dee
One of the recent reviews for Andorra and Her Sister
Andorra Pett – space station café owner, scooper pilot and sometimes super sleuth – returns for another adventure. Andorra finds herself on Earth to sort out her ex, Trevor’s affairs following his grisly murder at the hands of a mobster on Mars.
Intending this to only be a brief stay to finalise affairs before returning to the space station orbiting Saturn and the comfort of partner Derek. Unfortunately, as ever, trouble manages to find her in the form of her estranged sister Tia. When she is arrested for smuggling through importers and money laundering she calls the only person she can for help – younger sister Andorra.
Suspecting from the start that something is amiss, not least Tia lacking the sense to pull off such a crime, Andorra cannot help but be drawn in to solve the mystery and see that justice is served. Smugglers, corrupt police and a chance run in with Clive – an old face from her first ever mystery – make for high jinks aplenty. He is found running what he claims to be an official Oort Cloud Café tribute bar complete with sleazy Andorra lookalike waitresses and slanderous tales of fictitious romances assuming Andorra will never hear of it way back in space.
Once again Richard Dee has delivered a wonderfully funny murder mystery with a cast of characters new and old to entertain readers. The mystery becomes farcical as it twists and turns to a conclusion. Andorra sees herself in her share of trouble and tight spots all in the pursuit of clearing Tia’s name. This third instalment of the Andorra Pett series is a wonderful addition and only makes me long for book four in 2020 that much more.
Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
Read more reviews and follow Richard: Goodreads
Connect to Richard
I would also like to invite you to share your fiction here too in December with one of your stories.
- I know how busy everyone is at this time of year, but perhaps you have a short story you have already published on your own blog and would like to share with another audience over here.
- I will leave the word count to you but as an approximation I would be happy with stories between 500 and 1,500 words…if longer then I am sure it will not be a problem.
- If you are an author I will also be delighted to share the link to buy your work on Amazon.
- Some of you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore and I have all your details, so no need to include again, but if you are new to the blog then I will need some information.
If you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore then please send the following to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- The link to your short story if already on your blog
- Or, your word document of your story.
If you are new to smorgasbord the please send the following to email@example.com:
- The link to your short story if already on your blog
- Or, your word document of your story
- Your amazon author page link for your books (so I can find your bio and book covers)
- Links to your blog and two other main social media links.
Thanks for dropping in and I look forward to hearing from you soon with your stories. As always your feedback is very welcome.