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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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by Harris Tobias
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FACADE

by

Harris Tobias



It is all fake. It looks real. It looks like Earth but of course it isnít. On close inspection, thereís no substance to it. Itís all facade. I know what it is, itís me. This planet is trying to give me what I want, trying to make me feel at home. Itís kind of sweet in a twisted way.

I remember when my lifeboat first landed here. Everything was so strange, so alien. The plants were orange and looked more like coral than anything Iíd ever seen. After a few sleep cycles the sky was blue and the grass was green. It was as if the planet read my mind and was trying to make me feel at home. I know that sounds crazy but how else to explain this place? Itís like a movie set. Itís the landscape of my boyhood home in New Hampshire. There are the White Mountains, Wilmerís Pond, the apple orchard, the woods behind my house where I used to play. I expect to hear my long dead mother calling me to wash up for dinner. Itís all here, but not really; itís an illusion. Try and climb the apple tree and youíll see what I mean. The treeís trunk looks round and smooth but itís bony and rough to the touch; the branches look leafy but there are no leaves, not really; and the apples, I dare you to try and pick one. Go on, reach your hand and pick one, youíll see itís just a dream.

Iíve been living off the local biota since the crash, weird tasting creatures that sometimes look like squirrels, sometimes hares except they arenít either. Once the veil of illusion is pierced and the reality is revealed, the creature reverts back to what it really isómore a multi-legged slime mold than a squirrel. I have my sidearm and I use it to bring down some of the larger animals. The planet makes them look like the familiar animals of my youth. The other day I shot a deer, but it wasnít anything like a deer, really. A real deer would have fed me for a month, but this hallucination dressed out to hardly more than a rabbitís worth of meat. You canít trust anything on this world.

Several times now Iíve dreamed about rescue only to see the fantasy projection of a ship landing off in the distance. The first time I got so excited I ran off waving my arms in the air, shouting for joy. There was, of course, nothing there. The second time I walked to the ship which looked substantial enough from a distance but, close up, proved to be just a mirage. The third time I didnít even bother to go. After that there were no more rescue fantasies.

I get the feeling this world is trying very hard to make me happy. I donít know why but that seems to be the case. Iíll give you an example: the other night I had an erotic dream. Iím a young man and those things happen naturally to men my age. Anyway, a day or two later this woman appears at my camp. Of course itís a phantom but this time it was one I wanted. She looked vaguely like a girl I used to know, I forget her name, but I called the hallucination Kyra after my old sweetheart. Kyra didnít speak but her presence was a comfort and I spoke to her endlessly. Sheíd smile and appeared to listen but, like everything else on this world, she was fake. One day, for no reason, I poured boiling water on her. She didnít scream, she just disappeared. I felt bad about killing Kyra but not so bad that I didnít kill her a few more times over the years.

When we abandoned ship, I shared a lifeboat with four crew mates. The Calamity. That was my ship, the SS Calamityó not the most propitious name for a space ship as it turned out. When she hit that rock, I didnít see many life boats get away. I guess we were five of the lucky ones. Our good luck soon turned into a nightmare. We drifted for weeks, slowly dying. Rations were gone, air was scarce, lots were drawn. Iím not proud of what I did, but survival makes a man do desperate things and, if nothing else, I learned some things about myself I hadnít known.

Several times the planet has sent those ghostly images to me. My four buddies come and sit with me around the fire. I apologize to them for what I did. They sit there mute, half eaten and forgiving until I canít bear the guilt any longer and kill them all over again. I think this world has come to understand that not all my dreams are pleasant and not every memory begs to be revisited. At least I havenít seen my old ship mates for quite some time.

The only possible explanation I can think of for this worldís behavior is that somehow this planet is conscious. Not only conscious but lonely, possibly female and doing its best to seduce me into loving it. Of course, I donít know any of this for certain and I may very well be out of my mind, but this is what I believe. I miss Earth, so she re-creates the Earth for me or her best approximation of a place sheís never seen, scraped together from bits and pieces of my memory. I long for familiar things, so she does her best to supply them. I want companions, she makes Kyra and my old shipmates for my amusement. I canít say sheís won my heart, but you have to admit it is touching in a bizarre sort of way.
     
I know now that Iíll never be allowed to leave this world. Even if a rescue ship lands, I will not be permitted to leave with them. I know this because of what happened several weeks ago. I was at my camp in the New Hampshire woods. The sun, as always, was shining. Kyra was there looking delicious in a short skirt and translucent blouse. I could just make out the outline of her breasts. I was telling her some lame old story Iíd probably told her a dozen times before. She was smiling like always, when I noticed a flash of light and the streak of a descending space craft over her left shoulder. Having been hoodwinked before, I wasnít about to drop everything and go off expecting anything real. I remember telling Kyra, ďI thought youíd given up on that tired old trick.Ē This time, however, she looked perplexed and her pretty face scowled back at me.

Not more than a half an hour later, a dark cloud blotted out the sun and the air grew cold. It was the first time I had experienced anything other than perfect weather in all my time on the planet. It was startling. A wind came up and a brief thunderstorm complete with thunder, lightning and pouring rain drove me into my shelter. This was something new and unexpected. I wondered if Iíd done something wrong and that maybe the world was annoyed at me.

As the storm raged, I looked out and saw Kyra still sitting where she was when the storm began. She appeared to be thinking. Then just as suddenly, the sky cleared and the sun shone down on my perfect world. Kyra was standing and signaling me to follow her. She often guided me on hunting trips and I had come to rely on her especially for the bigger game.

We made our way through the familiar forest for a mile or two. At the top of a rise, Kyra motioned for me to hide. I gladly complied. I knew that whatever game it was, it was not going to be what it appeared, but I couldnít help but feel excited by the thrill of the hunt. I was a kid again in the woods with my uncle and my dad. I lay still and waited.

I wasnít prepared for the small herd of elk that crested the hill before me, but Kyra urged me to shoot them all. I knew I wasnít going to be eating elk steaks for the next year, but I didnít care. I shot to kill and with four quick shots I left four dead elk. No not elk, of course they werenít. What lay dead on the ground were human beings, four of them, two men and two women. When the mirage was dispelled and the reality of what I had done was revealed, naturally I was stunned. I expected to be tricked but not into murder. I had slaughtered my rescuers. I was angry and disappointed. I railed at Kyra before shooting her too. She, of course, just vanished. I knew sheíd be back. As for the rescue team, well, they werenít elk but they werenít bad eating either. After a while, I forgave Kyra and weíve had many a pleasant meal together since.

Read more stories by this author



2013-07-13 10:34:40
Magonian - This is a thought provoking story which has the potential to be expanded to further explore the philosophical and psychological implications of the way the planet confuses reality with illusion. The repeated cannibalistic theme stands out from the more conventional subjects treated in science fiction.

2013-01-25 19:42:09
Space_Moose - Would be more interesting with a bit more dialogue between the main protagonist and Kyra so we could learn more about the characters (good, bad, ugly sides) and make them more interesting or mysterious. Good story outline but all he seems to be doing on the planet is eating and having dreams. What you should have included is a fellow crash survivor (human or AGI) I recommend some kind of AGI so they could converse and philosophize about their surroundings with each other.

2012-06-12 05:25:03
I liked the way the environment around this man had a twisted side to it, which eventually became a twisted side to himself. Obviously I'm ... (more in Forum) Michele Dutcher

2012-06-06 23:12:21
Thrilling story! The planet is really mysterious!




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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
A Felony of Birds

by Harris Tobias
The Greer Agency

by Harris Tobias
Assisted

by Harris Tobias
Hold The Anchovies

by Harris Tobias
Alien Fruit

by Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

by Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

by Harris Tobias
The Stang

by Harris Tobias


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