Episode 109: Vitrification

To Lem, it just looked like a rock, and not a particularly interesting rock. It was not very large. Not very colorful. A speck. A pebble in space. She was disappointed and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

Flash, on the other hand, was intrigued.

Let’s see if we can get this thing in here.

Why? Asked Lem.

It wanted to be found, Flash answered, let’s find out why.

Indeed, the mysterious cuplike object had been sending out signals that were picked up by the mother ship’s computer, and led them to it.

Poikani asked if he could look at the Ololian book, and Flash handed it to him.

You said it was mineral but not rock. Here’s that word vitrification again. What does it mean?

It’s when something turns to glass, Flash answered, as he manipulated the grappling arm to retrieve the object.

He was able to grasp it with what looked like a large pair of tongs, and maneuvered it carefully into a decontamination bay.

Turns to glass? Poikani asked.

Yes, like sand at a nuclear test site, soil at the site of a lightning strike, or clay fired in a kiln, that sort of thing.

Flash picked up his cup and flicked it with his fingernail. It rang like a bell. This was made out of mud, he explained.

He showed him the glaze, with its drips and burst bubble. This was made from sand. It was forever transformed through vitrification.

Lem was not quite seeing the point, and did not like bringing anyone or anything new aboard the ship. Still, she was happy to see her son taking an interest. She, who had been so curious, seemed to have lost interest in the object that would soon be joining them.

The signals from the thing sang through the computer. It chirped and whistled in patterns that sounded more and more like music, or at least language. Some of the sound combinations made Flash chuckle and Poikani giggle. The same sounds made Lem bristle and stare.

When the decontamination was complete, Flash pushed a button that opened a door and raised the newly acquired cargo into the cockpit.

It hovered above the floor. Yes, it floated, as it had out in space. Upright, like a cup, or perhaps I should say megaphone, because the sound coming out of it was deafening.

Flash and Lem looked at each other. His was a look of pain. Hers was a look of dismay, and she yelled Make it stop!

Immediately, the air fell silent. No one said anything. Not another beep or whir emanated from the floating object.

They just stared at it for a long time, until Lem broke the silence and asked What do you think it’s for?

I’m Bucket, it said, I hold things.

Categorized as Sci-Fi

Episode 108: Vessel

The time came at last, that the mothership approached the mysterious object, adrift in space.

Asteroids were made of rock, metal or ice, though Flash had heard tell of a teapot orbiting Jupiter or Mars.

Well, this is interesting, Flash muttered to himself.

What’s interesting? Lem strained to see.

The image on the screen didn’t look like much of anything. Roughly rectangular, or possibly cylindrical.

What is it? she asked again, excitedly. Why is it so pixelated? What is it made of?

She glanced back and forth between Flash and the screen, growing more agitated, but Flash was oblivious to her suspense.

It’s small, he said in a mumble.

He just sort of flipped the image around for a while, studying its contours, but Lem could make nothing of it. If she had been familiar with earthly objects, she might have thought it was shaped like a bag of chips or a sleeping bag, rolled up. It was just a hazy shape with no detail on the screen. She was beginning to get frustrated with Flash, the way he kept moving it around like that and saying nothing. Finally, he spoke.

Yes, I have seen something like this before.

Poikani had fallen asleep staring at the small torn packet with the prize inside. Flash noticed this when he turned to pick up his cup.

Lem was exasperated. Incensed.

What are you doing? she fairly shrieked at his apparent nonchalance.

Her squeal woke Poikani with a start.

What is that thing? I’ve been wondering so long. Waiting to find out. Now it’s right outside and you’re going to make coffee. What is it you have seen before?

Flash sighed. Sorry Lem. I’m not sure what it is. Mineral. Not rock. Not ice. What do you think Poikani?

I want to open this.

He touched the striped paper. It is the only thing he had thought about since Flash pulled it from the Cracker Jack, but Flash had forgotten all about it.

Lem wasn’t through. But you said you’d seen something like it before. What have you seen?

This, Flash said, picking up the cup he had chiseled out of the ice in the cave on the frozen planet.

Can I open it? Poikani asked.


Flash flipped the object on the screen again and pointed out to Lem how it appeared to be hollow, with an opening at one end. Or if you tip it like this, an opening at the top. Like a cup, but bigger than a cup. A vessel.

Is it a spaceship? Lem asked.

I don’t know.

I don’t get it. Poikani said.

Lem turned to face him. What was your prize? It’s a stupid Ololian joke book. And it only has one joke in it. When is clay no longer clay?

Lem didn’t know the answer, and Flash was staring at the object on the screen again.

Poikani read the punchline: When it vitrifies.

Flash chuckled. Not because the joke was funny, but because, you know, Ololian humor.

He took down the Ololian book and opened it to a much clearer picture of the mother ship and what was just outside.

Categorized as Sci-Fi

Episode 107: Wonder

Flash was in no hurry.

Whatever was out there, would just have to wait. He was not one of those who would snoop for presents as the holidays approached. He liked mysteries. He liked surprises. He didn’t dig through the cereal or Cracker Jack box to find the prize hidden inside.

That is not to say he didn’t wonder.

The blip on his radar screen could be anything. Once its true identity was revealed, it could only be one thing.

Objects tended to be disappointing. The Wizzzer, the View Master, the temporary tattoo or plastic monkey charm at the bottom of the Cracker Jack.

Contemplating this, he called upon the table of elements, and was soon digging into a snack of caramel popcorn and peanuts.

No thanks, said Lem when he held the bowl toward her.

At the bottom of the bowl was a small, red and white striped packet. Printed on the outside of the sealed packet, in blue letters, were the words

Do what you dream.

Aren’t you going to open it? Lem asked.

Not now.

Poikani looked disappointed, but all Flash could think about was the bit of peanut skin that had lodged between his tooth and gum.

It’s funny how a tiny particle can override such a vast view, but that piece of peanut testa made its home deep into Flash’s gingival sulcus, and he could think of nothing else.  Digging at it with his fingernail was ineffective. Flash tore the red and white packet open and used the corner of the paper to prod, until the offender lost its grip.

Poikani stared at the now open packet that Flash had discarded. The mystery consumed him. Meanwhile, Lem monitored the radar screen, imagining what the drifting object might be.

Categorized as Sci-Fi

Episode 106: Cool Boredom

Flash Meridian didn’t know what time it was. When you are no longer orbiting a star, time becomes obsolete. There is no sunrise. No sunset. No day or night.

He knew what day it was on earth … what time it was in Michigan. But it no longer had anything to do with him.

He would sit and think. Read. Eat. Sleep. But it all felt random and subjective.

It was stifling and liberating at the same time. It was not a luxury since there was no other to contrast it to out here.

He thought about his child, and imagined the children yet to come. The impossible children he longed for, like the one who had come and gone.

The longer he thought, the less he believed. All the while, he watched Poikani grow.

Poikani was proof that this could happen. Children could come. In his head, Flash invented them, and made up memories for them.

He experienced cool boredom in the monotony of his flight through uneventful space. His life wasn’t punctuated by big moments, and over time, he grew to not only tolerate this, but to settle into a deep gratitude in partnership with his friend Lem. He saw his life as a spiritual practice.

One day, he said to Lem, I’m too old. I’m alone.

He felt silly for dreaming of another child. For expecting the atoms to come together to form another thing like him.

Even as he thought this, or maybe it was hours … or days later … at any rate, a beep sounded from the radar screen. It could have been anything. A rock or metallic asteroid, a spaceship, a whale, or a pumpkin, adrift in the vast expanse. It was like fishing and feeling a tug on your line.

Could be a trout, a bluegill or a boot.

Categorized as Sci-Fi

Book Tour

My next book tour date will be Saturday, March 16, 3 pm at the Cook County Senior Center in Grand Marais. I’ll be reading from all three books, and will have books available for sale.

Categorized as Sci-Fi

Episode 105: The Whales Grew Feet

At times, Flash felt as though he were just a bystander, watching the events of his life fall, eventually, into place. At other times, he felt that he had a hand in how events occurred. He couldn’t take credit for anything. He didn’t know what might happen next, yet he was part of the process. He was part of it all.

Sometimes, it felt as though the universe had pulled the rug out from under him, but so far, he had always persevered. In retrospect, the time he spent worrying was pointless. He decided to trust something bigger than himself.

He put his arm around Lem and Poikani, her son. His fingertips just happened to graze the corner of the Ololian book. Subconsciously, he fondled the book, flipping the page corners with his thumb. He felt relaxed, his mind unencumbered by any conscious thought.

The cockpit of the mothership was well lit, but Flash had a far away look in his eyes. His vision transcended the physical world, and thoughts bubbled up from somewhere. He was aware of memories and dreams that floated up from his own distant past, and some that started from someplace deeper still, from the river that flowed through, and connected all human beings.

Wordless fragments rose, their undulating shapes passing through him from some ancient place, and continuing their ascent far beyond him without labels or definitions. He would catch up with them one day, when, free from the confines of his now necessary cells, he also surfaced.

Eventually, something unnamed beckoned only to fade. The longing alone remained, both comforting and taunting him, until he picked up the book.

Here, too, images were presented, only these engaged his conscious mind.

Certain whales preferred a connection to the ground, and hovered so close to the soil that their flippers touched down.

Flash read that they swam so low that they left a trail of grooves in the dirt. They fought the tendency to float any higher.

Over generations, their limbs would transform into feet, and these few whales were content, touching the ground.

Deep inside, they remembered that they once flew.

Categorized as Sci-Fi


The Flash Meridian books are here!

My first book, entitled MY HAND PAINTS, arrived on Christmas Day. MY HAND PAINTS was written in 2018, while I started writing The Adventures of Flash Meridian 19 years ago.

Categorized as Sci-Fi

Episode 104: Poikani

Flash and Lem sped along through space, and nothing really changed all that much. On one occasion, though, Lem opened her eyes after sleeping by Flash’s side.

Something was different. Yes, something had definitely changed. She just stared, unsure what to make of it. Something hovered above the control panel. It floated there, and Lem couldn’t be sure if the thing was glowing, or if it was just backlit, hanging, as it was, in front of the viewing screen. She didn’t move a muscle as she watched it, and actually began to wonder if it was really there. Maybe she was not quite as awake as she thought.

It rotated. So slowly as to be almost imperceptible, it turned on its axis. By the time it had made one quarter turn, Flash opened his eyes and saw it, too.

A thrill went through him as he remembered the arrival of his daughter in that very spot.

Do you see it? Flash asked.


What do you think it is?

But Lem already knew.

It is my son.

Flash got up and took the tiny creature, cradling it in his arms as he brought it to her.

The universe knew how to form its entire existence from a tiny particle, so why shouldn’t it be able to create children like this out of seeming nothingness?

Lem was content, and Flash looked on, feeling a mix of joy and longing.

He looked like her, down to the spots that migrated across his body.

Poikani, Lem whispered to the sleeping baby.

Flash was happy for Lem, and happy to have this new life join them.

Naturally, he thought about his own daughter who had come unexpectedly and then grew up so fast.

He understood that she could not be content, as he was, aboard the mothership. She was drawn to the mountains of Olo, and he savored the safety and familiarity of his home.

Oh, but how he missed her!

I want to do this again, he mentioned to Lem one day.

She looked at him, and said, Do what?

I want to have another child, he answered.

Do it! came her unexpected reply.

Flash Meridian drew a blank. His daughter’s arrival had been so unexpected, he wasn’t sure he could conjure up another child.

What is meant to be, will be, Lem said.

His daughter hadn’t come from wishing or begging.

Since she left, the cells of his heart had been heavy. He could never replace her. She had filled a vacant place in his spirit that he hadn’t even known was there. How many other open places did his heart hold, unaware?

Lem’s words came back to him. Your heart was open.

Flash had initially pictured a welcoming heart with doors swung open, a cozy home filled with love. He now pictured a heart with open spaces … voids that had always been there, or empty areas that had been eroded by loss.

Either way, his heart had room available, and enough love to share.

His heart mirrored the infinite vacuum of space, and he did not know the secret to filling either one. Perhaps, like the universe, his heart already contained everything, it was just expanding.

Like the crystal shards of Olo, or the molecules in the table of elements, the universe already had all the pieces.

He could hardly wait to see how they fit together.

Categorized as Sci-Fi

Episode 103: Microcosm

Life aboard the spaceship was very different than life on Earth.

There was no up, no down, and no orbit to measure time in segments of day and night. That manufactured grid of Earth “reality“ was obsolete. Within the mother ship, Flash still thought in terms of up and down. He was used to it. Toward the cockpit sole was down. But when he was in the TNI2, that same direction became “up” again, nestled, as it was, on the “underside” of the spaceship. Artificial gravity allowed him to sit without strapping himself to the seat. It also allowed him to drink from a cup, and set things down. These were side benefits to the real purpose of manufactured gravity, which was the ability to exercise his muscles.

He could turn it off and on at will, allowing him to float about, and access hard to reach equipment. Lem preferred to keep the gravity on.

All the water on Earth was said to have been there since the very formation of the planet. Similarly, all the water aboard the mother ship had been there since Flash began his journey. Those oxygen and hydrogen atoms kept coming together as pure water, regardless of the many functions they performed along the way.

The mother ship was a microcosm of Earth. Like the Earth, it had limited resources, which were sufficient to sustain the lives of those aboard. These resources however, had to be respected in order for life to continue.

The Earth itself had become stressed by greed and overly optimistic beliefs about its power to heal.

Lem’s planet, Ino, was an example of what could happen if such attitudes went unchecked.

Categorized as Sci-Fi