Today I visited the home of a Flash Meridian follower/collector, and saw these items on her living room shelf. The action figure is from 2000.
Today I visited the home of a Flash Meridian follower/collector, and saw these items on her living room shelf. The action figure is from 2000.
Flash called out to everyone aboard to come and see something.
Poikani got up and walked across the cockpit. The sphere followed him. He didn’t seem to have trouble making new friends.
Flash pointed out a speck of light in the distance and announced “that is Olo.”
Everyone felt a rush of joy and excitement.
Lem, Poikani and Bucket chattered, and the sphere vibrated, but Flash just stared wistfully at the spark, dangling there in space.
Very gradually, Olo grew as the ship approached. It was an ornament. It filled more and more of the view.
Flash used the geoglyphs to find his way, and was always on the lookout for whales.
The ship stabilized its position and Flash turned to his family.
“Is everyone ready?”
Poikani seemed hesitant, and motioned toward the sphere with a questioning look.
Flash had worried, on previous visits, that his presence would have a negative effect on Olo. On his journey through space, he came to the realization that he was not an outsider here at all. He hadn’t come into the universe, he came out of it, the way a wave comes out of the sea. Furthermore, there was no past to regret, and no future to worry about. There was only this present moment.
He was right where he belonged, and he was who he should be.
Or so he told himself. You see, Flash Meridian was unsure whether he actually belonged on Olo. As much as he loved it… as much as he wanted to feel completely at home, there was a nagging doubt that gnawed at the back of his mind. The problem may have been that Flash had never really felt content and settled anywhere.
He kept these thoughts to himself. He and his family were eager to land. They longed to stretch their legs and walk in the open air of the crystal encrusted plain. That is, those who had legs. Bucket could float, and the sphere could roll along. Flash looked forward to feeling the temperatures of the light that beamed from the crystals.
He opened the hatch, and one by one, they squeezed into the small pod. It was a tight fit, but they all managed to board, and the hatch closed tight.
With a soft thump, they were jettisoned from the ship. A gentle roll flipped the craft and they began their descent toward the bubble of atmosphere. Flash couldn’t help remembering the view on his first visit, when the whales skimmed the air just beyond the border of space.
He remembered his second visit, with his daughter, and how soon she was gone. What could he do? She grew up before he was ready.
It took the table of elements longer than usual. Longer than a lobster dinner or a ruby, anyway. What finally came out took everyone by surprise, and they all just stared at it for a while.
It was a sphere. Its surface was mottled red and brown. Poikani reached to pick it up, but it was too heavy for him. Flash retrieved it and set it on the floor. It landed with a thump.
What is it? Poikani asked.
It’s metal, Flash answered. Beyond that, no one could say.
It was a beautiful object. Simple yet mysterious. Elegantly minimal. Compelling.
Bucket offered to hold it.
Lem just stared at it from a safe distance.
Poikani stroked it. The surface was slightly textured. It was cool to the touch.
It’s vibrating, he said. Up close to it like that, he could hear a tinkling sound emanating from it.
Hello, he said, still caressing it, and he started to hum. The sphere hummed, too.
He didn’t look up, but continued petting the sphere and humming.
Flash was fascinated. He hadn’t expected life to inhabit forms that looked like inanimate objects. He looked at Bucket and mused Everything is alive.
Someone suggested that Bucket play some music for the sphere, just to see what would happen. When he did, Flash immediately recognized the tune. It was the music the mother ship had been picking up all this time. The ghost of a whisper that had haunted Flash, and had been woven into the fabric of his life. It had become the soundtrack to his journey through space.
That was you? Flash gasped.
Now he could hear the full range of tones without the static and gaps. It was a lonely nocturne that Flash found both beautiful and devastating. It had a sadness and urgency born of eons of isolation and longing. It reminded him of something he had heard before in the whale song off Olo so long ago. Imagine isolating the cello or bass violin from a symphony. It was like that. Music you could feel even if you weren’t sure you could hear it.
When the sphere joined in, they sang in unison, creating a wall of sound. Then it broke off into an unexpected harmony, and everyone was mesmerized. Even Lem. The music reminded her of Ino. She thought of all the things she had lost. All the friends and planetmates. She thought of Peck, and knew she would see him again soon. Seeing him would represent seeing all of it again, at least enough to say goodbye, maybe. Having that closure, perhaps she could move on with her new friends and family.
The sadness of the song made Flash think of his daughter and her son.
The ship was all that Poikani knew.
The music was all that the sphere knew.
The K. D. head added the song to the library of human knowledge.
Time passed for Flash and his family, as it has for us who follow this story.
Lem, who was naturally cautious, came to accept and even embrace Bucket. It was hard to remember a time before he came aboard. He fit in so well, and Flash remembered Bucket’s words. That he had been made as a special gift for him. At any rate, no one could come up with a better explanation. The story of a teapot orbiting Jupiter didn’t sound so far fetched. I think it’s true.
As the mothership traveled closer to Olo, excitement grew, and everyone strained to make it out in the distance.
Those who had been there before reminisced about its beauty, and these first hand accounts added to the information that appeared in the book.
Everyone was anxious to get to Olo, but no one had the feeling that it was taking too long. This was just life aboard a spacecraft. You get there when you do. No amount of wishing or being anxious would move the ship any faster.
There comes a time when the best plan of action… the only plan of action is to relax, prepare, and dream.
They played. As I told you, Bucket would lead trivia games. They weren’t like trivia games on earth. Flash was the only one aboard who had been to earth. Well, the K.D. Head had been made there, and because she contained all of human history, Flash didn’t stand a chance playing against her.
“Will I make new friends on Olo?” Poikani asked.
This made Poikani happy, but also a little nervous. He was comfortable with those aboard the ship. They were his family. Bucket was the only new person he had ever met, and there was a transition when he arrived.
“It will be fine,” Lem reassured, though she recalled that her relationship with Bucket had been the most difficult. “It would be nice if you could practice along the way.”
“How can I do that?” He asked. “I can’t just say table of elements, make me a new friend, can I?”
Suddenly the system was activated, and began piecing molecules together to form something.
Flash was nervous. Could the table of elements create a living thing? Bodies are made of molecules, but could it animate them? He imagined all the things that could go wrong.
If a living thing came out of the chute, what then? If there was a problem, he faced the moral dilemma of sending it back to be broken down again, thus killing it. Not to mention that the system would be missing those molecules spent in its formation.
He agreed with Poikani’s reservation about asking such a thing, just as he questioned asking the universe for another child.
The wheels were in motion. Flash didn’t know if the process could be stopped, and the result of stopping it could be more horrifying than the end result, whatever that might be.
Ready or not, something or someone was coming.
Everyone aboard the mothership was excited about seeing Olo. In his anticipation, Flash fell asleep, and woke to a dream. He found himself in a desolate world. A dry, colorless world, lit with pure white light. The air was hot and dry, the landscape was coated with gray dust.
He walked, leaving crisp boot prints in the fine powder that blanketed everything. It softened the edges of anything that may lay buried. There was no wind, yet he trudged between dunes.
The sky was dazzling white. No cloud broke the blinding dome of sky.
Flash walked on, reminding himself that this was simply a dream. He was curious, but also longed to awaken again in the soft light of his ship.
On and on he walked, first up a hill and then across a muffled plateau.
He looked back at his path, which fell away behind him. Only his footprints broke the monotony of gray dust. It was so fine he couldn’t call it sand. This place reminded Flash of something he could not quite place. Perhaps the emptiness recalled his visit to Ino with Peck. There was something more.
He walked on. He walked onward and upward, and eventually found himself on a precipice where he finally caught a glimpse of color in this grayscale world.
Something in the valley before him glowed. A serpentine shape lay against the bland hollow, and on the other side of it, burned a rainbow of light.
Flash forgot about the heat, forgot his thirst and the weariness of his legs.
The harsh light of this world pierced a low, winding wall of colored stones.
When he reached the other side of it, Flash Meridian found himself immersed in a three dimensional world of transparent light.
He followed the wall until he came to a dip in the terrain. Here, the light flooded through a deep section of exposed wall, projecting, in great detail, an image of Buffy, the queen of Olo, looking down at him as he stared, bewildered, up at her.
These were the ruins of the Ololian castle.
As he realized this, he woke in the mothership. He asked the table of elements for a glass of water.
Flash was relieved to know that it had only been a dream. Still, if Olo were to die like Ino did, and become a barren wasteland, the castle walls would continue working. That is, they would preserve Olo’s history in holograms for future explorers or archaeologists to discover. Their function was not dependent upon any technology. They didn’t need an operator, or even an audience in order to beam their message to eternity.
He thought again of Ino, and of Earth as it once was.
Flash looked out on the view from the mother ship. Each of those tiny dots of light represented a star or entire galaxies. They were as numerous as the grains of sand on a beach. They each contained mysteries and wonders that Flash would never have the time to explore.
He was in the universe. The universe was in his body.
The closer he looked, the deeper the layers went in that well. Ever irregular and diverse with its expansion. If he could have somehow backed away from it, he would have seen that the totality of his universe dwelt in the body of someone else. And so on, forever. Infinitely forwards and backwards in a never ending story.
All he could really do was live his own life, within his reach. Anything else was too much. He could not explore the cosmos, but he could explore the vistas along the highway of his own life.
He reached again for that cup with all of its mystery, and asked the table of elements for coffee. This was a simple pleasure that reminded Flash he had everything he needed.
All of those stars would continue to burn, or burn out, without his scrutiny or intervention. He could relax as he and his family inched closer to the exit marked Olo.
Over time, a crystal city grew up from the Ololian plain, and in the middle stood a museum. You could even call it a shrine. It was built up around the TNI 2, right where Flash himself had left it when they gifted him the new yellow pod.
You could walk the very path that Flash walked, and stand in the spot where he had dropped from the sky and slid down the back of a whale to land on his feet next to the royal couple.
Within the structure, you could visit the miniature castle that Buffy and Skip had built. Stylists carefully arranged a copy of the book so that it looked like it had been tossed aside.
Panini sandwiches were served in the cafe, and the Flash Meridian Experience was illustrated with holograms that brought the story to life. The light passed through the walls, which were made of jewels to project the images in 3-D.
On cloudless days, the whales would dance in the air above, casting subtle shadows on the walls, which caused lighting effects in the projected scenes.
Other Ololian artifacts were also on display. A royal table setting carved from huge gemstones, a mannequin wore Buffy’s pink dress, but the TNI 2 was the main attraction. It had not been altered in any way, or even washed.
On special occasions, Peck would stand near the craft and talk about his time with Flash. He recounted the destruction of his planet Ino, and his experience of being a refugee until Flash welcomed him. He recalled his arrival on Olo in this very spaceship. He never explained his quiet departure, except to say that he had to look for something. He never did he say whether he found it.
There was excitement in the air, because news had come that Flash Meridian was returning.
Flash felt uneasy. He missed his daughter and longed to hold his grandson. He couldn’t shake the sound of that sweet echoing voice.
It wasn’t that he was unhappy. He looked around the mothership at the family he had assembled. He couldn’t take credit for any of them. Pensive Lem, playful Poikani, serendipitous Bucket, and even the supportive K.D. Head rounded out his improbable family.
In some ways, they were very different from each other, and yet they were all made of stardust, products of the same universe, and thus they were the same.
There were missing pieces. Necessary pieces.
A thought gnawed at Flash Meridian so that Lem noticed it.
There is so much to see here in uncharted space, he said when she asked, but I wish we could go back to Olo.
Poikani and I have wished the same thing, she replied.
Bucket’s only concern was that he would be left behind. He dreamed of holding gemstones to help the Ololians build them into structures on the plain. He could hover with the whales, floating high above the sea of crystals like Flash had done. Perhaps he could deliver room service to guests staying in the top floors of the castle, or hold things for people living in the reeflike mountains.
He’d been isolated for so long, floating in empty space, and calling out for someone to acknowledge him. He did not want to be abandoned again, to return to the solitude of cold darkness.
The vote was unanimous.
Everyone’s mood changed once Flash asked the K.D. Head to alter their course. It was that simple.
They were in no hurry. There was no perceptible change other than everyone’s anticipation. It would be a long journey, but they knew where they were headed.
Flash hadn’t realized how stressful it was flying through space with no destination in mind. There were so many possibilities. So many surprises. Any one of them could hold wonder or disaster.
Now that he was on his way back to Olo, the relief was obvious.
Flash loved Olo, and was happy to know that Lem loved it, too. He hadn’t been sure of this. Lem tended to keep her feelings to herself. Now she talked excitedly to her son about the unique and colorful place.
First and foremost, Flash looked forward to seeing his daughter, but he also looked forward to having more room to move about in. He couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place than Olo.
Bucket calculated how many gemstones he would be able to hold based on their size, and then the weight of a bucketful based on the type of stone.
Rubies have a density of 3.97-4.05, he said, while the density of amber is 1.05-1.09.
He explained to Poikani that faceted stones could be packed more tightly than raw, uncut ones, but he wouldn’t mind either way.
The Ololian book became a travel guide for Flash and his traveling companions.
News from Olo’s surface appeared in the book.
Poikani read about the fishlike creatures that swam in the silver rivers. He studied the different varieties and their unique habits. When he showed the bucketfish to Bucket, he grew excited, and felt they would have a lot in common.
I could hold one, Bucket said in a faint and dreamy tone.
Some varieties had a habit of swimming out of the water and darting about in the treetops. Their colors closely mimicked the tones of the branches. They were camouflaged if they stopped to rest in the cool shade. When startled, a whole school of them might explode from the highest boughs in a display unlike anything seen on Earth. The entire crown of the tree would appear to expand and shrink again, or swirl dramatically, independent of wind.
Other varieties, like the pumpkinhead, were brightly colored, primarily in yellows and oranges, but when the light hit them, they sparkled in rainbow hues.
The ruby Bucket held was the closest he had come to a planet. Unless there was something he had forgotten. Perhaps something from before the beginning.
Flash couldn’t seem to remember a time before he knew Lem. Their souls had become intertwined, or perhaps they had always been. Maybe they had known each other in another world or a previous life. As for his daughter, she was a part of him. Their spirits were inseparable, despite whatever distance lay between. Still, he longed for physical proximity.
He felt a connection to everyone around him and to his ship, which seemed to have a personality because of the K.D. head.
You can find friendship anywhere. Bucket joined the mammoths, the mer creature, the king and queen, and even the whales as friends who helped Flash on his journey. They were all a part of his story, cemented into place like the stones in the castle wall, and his picture would not be complete if any of them were missing.
Flash had been wishing for someone like himself. What he hadn’t realized at first was that everyone was like him. Everyone was different from him, too. Their similarities allowed them to relate to each other, while their differences made them all the more interesting.
Buffy and Skip, the queen and king of Olo, held a celebration to commemorate the creation of their planet.
When I speak of the creation of Olo, I am not referring to the destruction caused by the exodus of the whales, and the subsequent renewal of the planet. These events were also memorialized, of course.
Olo had its origins in a faraway galaxy. Its seed germinated and grew in the fertile soil of the creative minds of two earthlings, who longed for another world.
The mystery remains, how a world can grow from a seed the size of a human cell. Infused with electric pulses, that cell makes connections and grows into… anything.
The inhabitants of Olo pieced gemstones together on the plane below the castle. They allowed the crystals to dictate how they fit together to form a model of a summer camp with its cabins, chapel and dining hall. An amethyst walkway led down to a patch of cobalt, as flat and smooth as a lake.
The royal couple arrived on whaleback. They slid down the pectoral flipper, and landed, feet firmly planted next to the replica of the canteen building near the beach, and they were flooded with a feeling of déjà vu. They had in themselves, a vestige of their earthly counterparts which responded to the phantom camp and lake, the place of Olo’s birth.
Flash turned the pages of the Ololian book as he read this account, holding the book up to show the pictures to Poikani. A piece of Flash also lived on in that place, through his daughter and his grandson.
When the speeches began, Flash said he wished he could hear them.
You can, Bucket said, and the sound came crisp and clear.
Flash Meridian marveled at his new friend Bucket. Besides the audible treasures he offered, nothing was left out to clutter the small ship that everyone shared.
Poikani enjoyed Bucket’s company, and the two of them invented games where one would copy sounds made by the other.
You could ask Bucket trivia questions, and he would answer. He would play music to help you fall asleep. All of this was entertaining and helpful, but Lem sensed there was something more about him that they didn’t know.
She mentioned this to Flash, and he only pointed out that there were things she didn’t know about him, too, and vice versa.
You can’t have people figured out, he said, and pointed out that that is what makes people interesting.
She only glanced at them and smiled at seeing Poikani shaping a nest inside Bucket with the furry black hide, and giggling at the sight of it trailing behind him like a long black wig.
Meanwhile back on Olo, life was happy. People were kind, the views in every direction were beautiful.
Have you ever been to a cobblestone beach… the kind they have along the Great Lakes, where skipping stones stretch for miles and miles, and you can pick up as many as you want as souvenirs? That’s what it’s like on Olo, only the stones you can pick up are diamonds, emeralds and rubies. The kids on Olo have skipping contests with frisbee sized opal discs.
Flash was quiet, listening to the stories, and thinking of his daughter and grandson who lived there. He shook himself back to the present and asked, Bucket, would you like to hold a ruby?
Flash simply called upon the table of elements to produce one.
What popped out was a stone identical to the one Flash had seen on his first ramble on Olo. The stone that was later placed in the King’s scepter.
Come over here, Bucket, said Flash.
Bucket floated slowly over to him and bowed slightly. When Flash placed the gemstone into Bucket, the scene looked solemn like a knighting or a royal coronation.
It was just a gesture. The ruby would eventually be reabsorbed into the table of elements, the ship’s pantry. For now, a ruby was what the recipe called for.
Bucket wasn’t used to people, so he certainly was not used to people doing anything nice for him. He was so touched, he said he wished there was something he could do for Flash in return.
Don’t get me wrong, Flash said to Bucket with a smile. You can’t give me the thing I most want right now.
Ok. Bucket felt sad, but was hopeful. I can try.
Flash only shook his head and turned away. What he longed for required more than a floating pencil holder.
I hold things, Bucket said again.
Flash just looked at him with a smile. This innocent and eager object-like being reminded him of a puppy who only wanted to please.
I can hold your intangibles, Bucket said softly, his voice muffled by the objects he held.
You can hold my what? Flash asked with a chuckle. He didn’t mean to be condescending.
The echo of your name is only the beginning.
Flash froze. The echo of…
And then he began to hear it. His grandson’s voice calling out Grampa!
Flash turned and quickly removed the ruby and everything else from Bucket. With each item he took out, the voice became louder and clearer, filling the mothership with the sweet music of the repeating sound Flash had yearned to hear just one more time. He was engulfed in it. He inhaled the sound and wept.
The echoing word slowly faded until only the memory of it hung like a fragrant mist in the air. Flash turned his tear stained eyes toward Bucket. He knew, as Lem had known all along, he had underestimated him.
Just then, Bucket caught sight of the etch-a-sketch. I can hold this, he said, and packed the other items carefully around it.
Flash was intrigued by Bucket as he had never been before. How could such an… object? creature? How could such an entity have come to be? The Ololian book spoke only of composition and form, but clearly this was no ordinary clay pot. Flash went right to the source.
Bucket, he asked, what can you tell me about your origins? Can you remember where you came from? What history do you have prior to floating out where we found you?
Oh yes, Bucket replied proudly. I was created at the beginning of the universe as a special gift.
Created by who? Flash asked.
Bucket couldn’t answer that. At the beginning.
And who were you made for? Flash asked.
For Flash Meridian.
You were made at the beginning of the universe as a special gift for me? Flash asked.
How could you know I was coming?
I didn’t. I didn’t have to know, Bucket said. The fact that you found me is the proof. There is no need to question the paths the universe has preordained. I hold things for you, Flash Meridian.
You certainly do.
The voice sounded hollow and echoing, which shouldn’t come as any surprise, coming from the bottom of a… what was that you said again… Bucket?
What do you mean you hold things? Lem asked, imagining various meanings for the statement.
I hold things he repeated. I could hold this book for you. He picked up the Ololian book from where it lay next to Poikani and put it inside himself. It looked nice and neat, the pages even. The room looked tidier, too. I could hold this Wizzzer, he said, and placed that in him, too. One less thing laying around.
Well, hello little one, Bucket said, picking up the cup from the frozen planet like a doll and laying it gently inside.
You’d better not start that racquet again, or you’ll wake the baby, Lem said with a sneer.
Oh, I’m sorry about that, Bucket explained, no one had come near me for I don’t know how long. I got used to making loud sounds hoping someone would find me.
He deposited the joke book prize and wrapper with the other items.
What will you do with all that stuff now that you’ve got it? Lem asked. I’ll hold it for you until you need it, Bucket replied, and then I’ll hold something else.
Flash thought of the cat he had had back on earth. That cat was always taking any object small enough to carry. Sponges were a favorite item, and they would always go missing, to be found later under a bed. At least, he thought, they would know where to look for things with Bucket aboard. And what was the harm? He cleared the clutter, and one could argue that he added no clutter with his own presence, since he never touched down.
Bucket seemed to be good natured and helpful. Not only that, he seemed grateful to be rescued from a solitary life of drifting in space. He brought comic relief to the ship which, let’s face it, had become rather dull. Still, Lem had her reservations. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Bucket, she just sensed that there was more to the story. There was a mystery yet to be revealed. She tried to talk to Flash about her premonition.
Just look at him, Lem! Clearly he is a life form which is very different from you or me, just as we are different from each other. We can’t expect to understand all about him yet. This is why I came here. To see the different ways the universe put pieces together to make life. We’re made of the same stuff. Does he make you feel unsafe?
No, not unsafe, Lem answered.
Then why not try to be tolerant? Keep an open mind.