Ammona, Part 5

Bunk Room 942 wasn’t quiet for long.  Ammona scrolled through a media feed on her PTD while she lay on her back, left arm behind her head. She tried hard not to listen to the conversation Hian and Barrett were having, but it wasn’t easy.

“So, where you from?” Barrett inquired, while he attempted to play Tetris with his belongings and the locker he had chosen.

“Not really from anywhere,” said Hian, “My parents were military when I was a kid.”

“Not anymore?” Barrett asked, pushing a dark jacket into his locker.

Ammona scrolled past a news video about the Prime Minister of Celestial Affairs. The caption said there will be more restrictions on civilian spaceflight after a series of passenger craft accidents. They no longer seemed like accidents, said the caption. Of course millions of people were commenting on the video. Ammona kept scrolling.

“Nah, they’re retired now. That’s one thing military gets you: early retirement,” Hian answered Barrett.

you make it to the ship? A message from Drea popped up on the PTD. Ammona closed the media feed and flipped to her messaging app.

totally. stupid dude in my bunk room tho. truly hope i have 0 classes with him. She typed back, and tapped the Send arrow. saw some cool magnorcycles in the cargo hold. She added, and hit Send again.

“That sounds like a good deal.” Barrett was busy replying to Hian. Ammona heard the computer voice outside acknowledge someone else, and moved to sit up on her elbows. As always, she was curious about who the last of their bunk mates was going to be.

“Sometimes,” said Hian, and then fell silent as they also realized someone was coming through the door.

“Hey there folks,” a dark-haired person stepped through the door. He was tall, probably over six feet. He looked like a boy that Ammona had been to high school with, but she didn’t think it was him. This person’s face was narrow, his eyes set back, his nose like a beak. Ammona thought he looked like a very intelligent bird, though the way he stood reminded her of a cat. She shook off her initial judgments and sat up all the way.

“Well, hi!” Barrett greeted him warmly. “What’s your name?”

“Romero,” he replied, pulling his backpack off his right shoulder where it had hung carelessly a moment before. With one fluid motion, he flung it up towards the other top bunk, across from Ammona. The bag landed on the pillow, perfectly cushioning its fall.

Show off. Ammona thought. Her PTD buzzed, and she realized she still had it in her hand. She looked down at the screen to see a reply from Drea.

the journey won’t be long. find stuff to do, you’re good at that. you’ll barely see him. 

She’s right. Ammona admitted to herself.

“I’m Hian, and that’s King,” Ammona heard herself being introduced.

“Hi,” she looked up. “Nice to meet you.” Romero met her eyes, something she wasn’t used to.

“Nice to meet you, too,” he said. “I think we’re about to take off.” Ammona looked down at her PTD. She quickly typed a reply to Drea.

you’re probably right.

Ammona closed her PTD.

“It’s about time,” said Hian, “I got on board way too early.”

“When did you get here?” Asked Barrett, as he shut his locker and returned to his bunk.

“Pretty much first thing this morning,” replied Hian. Romero climbed up to his bunk and sat against the wall.

“I didn’t know I was going until the last minute,” said Romero. “I’m pretty sure they held the ship for me.” There was laughter in his voice, and he chuckled to himself after he spoke, like he had made a joke. Ammona could see something behind his eyes, boldness, and entitlement. For a moment she thought to herself that this was very much like her, when she was younger and she had not yet experienced the crushing weight of adulthood and brokenness. She shook off the feeling and focused on what he had actually said.

“They held the ship for you?” Ammona couldn’t help herself. Who is this dude? She wondered.

When Romero laughed, his whole face became a laugh. The laugh wrinkles near his eyes compacted into a sea of future crow’s feet, high cheekbones raised themselves when he grinned into the full laugh. Hian and Barrett laughed too, seemingly for no reason. There was something catching in it. Ammona was annoyed and intrigued. “I’m just kidding,” said Romero, “Well, half kidding. There was another kid they were shuttling down here, but it was just he and I left when we got on board.”

“I see,” said Ammona, “Lucky you made it.”

“Luck doesn’t have anything to do with it,” said Romero, grinning. Ammona didn’t know what he meant. She looked down at her PTD. No reply from Drea yet. She wondered what her best friend was doing.

The sound of an electronic bell rang on the console attached to the wall, near the door. Ammona looked up, and so did everyone else.

“This vessel will depart in 5 minutes.” Said the panel’s speaker. “Please remain on your bunk or in your bunk room until it is safe to roam about the ship. Do not delay in returning to your bunk.” Another bell played on the console, and the screen flashed red with words in white. Ammona couldn’t read it from her vantage point on the top bunk, so she assumed it said the same thing the panel had just said. The bell played again.

“This vessel will depart in 5 minutes,” the speaker began the recording again.

“Oh, hush,” said Hian, “We all have ears.” Barrett laughed, and Romero grinned.

“…or in your bunk room until it is safe to…” the speaker continued. Hian rose from their bed and went to the panel. Barrett followed and stood behind them. Nosy as always, thought Ammona. They both tapped the red screen in a few different places. Hian tried some gestures.

“Do not delay in returning to your bunk,” the recording insisted.

“I don’t think that’s something you can disable,” Romero began, “I’m pretty sure the security on an Academy transport ship is pretty tight.” The recording faded away after the last bell sound, and Ammona laid back down on her bunk.

“Don’t count on it,” Hian said, and the two of them kept trying.

I hope this thing takes off soon. She thought, and checked her PTD for the time. I should’ve checked what time that recording played. I don’t even know if it’s been five minutes yet.

The other two had still not returned to their bunks, but Ammona said nothing. Romero was also quiet. He had fished out his PTD and was typing on it. Habitually, Ammona pulled out hers and checked it again. Still no message from Drea. Maybe that was her fault.

“What about this button on the side of the panel?” Ammona heard Barrett ask.

“Either non-functional or the functionality’s been shut off,” Hian’s voice replied.

The whole ship moved suddenly, and Hian and Barrett both almost lost their footing.

“Don’t delay in returning to your bunks,” said Barrett, as he lowered himself to his bunk.

The whole world was moving then, as the spacecraft lurched out of the Orb’s docking station. Everything shook uncontrollably, as if the planet gods had turned the craft into a tuning fork and tapped it against a celestial object. Vibrations, that was all Ammona could see. She had to put away her PTD. Her whole body was shuddering. Everything she saw looked a little fuzzy, moving back and forth through a million tiny iterations of itself, quivering like a child in a snowstorm. Yet nothing was cold to Ammona.

Forgot what this was like. She thought, and noticed that all her bunkmates had fallen silent. Something, something about being hurled through a canister into the darkness and hoping it all works out. Ammona thought of Drea, of the funny things she said sometimes. She thought of how she might not see her for years. She thought of how Drea hated space travel. She’s scared of so many things. Ammona thought, and she tried not to be angry with Drea. She knew in a way that Drea felt abandoned, but something in Ammona felt abandoned, too.

Sure, she thought, as she became used to a shuddering world, as the vibration became normal and her physical components chose to accept it. She’s the one who is too scared to go out on adventures. She’s letting her fear trap her. That’s why she feels abandoned. But I feel abandoned by her, because she chose a safe cage over me. We are so weird. Ammona shook off the thought and looked at the ceiling several feet above her.

The world still shook as the spacecraft took off, and Bunk Room 942 was quiet for a moment while its inhabitants waited patiently to travel through a starry void.


Previously, with Ammona:

Ammona, Part 1

Ammona, Part 2

Ammona, Part 3

Ammona, Part 4

Collage and story created by Corissa Haury


Glossary of Acronyms

PTD – Personal Tech Device

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Hiking Up Douglas Mountain

Getting to the mountain

Days off together are a precious commodity for Nick and I, since he works retail and I have a 9-5:30 job during the week. We never know when we might get a day together, so we try to take advantage when it happens. Yesterday was just such a Sunday. We slept in together, and headed up to Douglas Mountain in Sebago after we stopped off at DD so I could get my coffee.

The drive up to Sebago
The drive up to Sebago

The drive up was cloudy at the outset. Nick said that even if it didn’t get brighter or warmer, the view would still be worth it. He has already hiked to the top of Douglas Mountain a few times. The sun came out as we ventured further north and wound around the lake. We took Route 114 North up through Sebago to Douglas Mountain Road, past picturesque farms and bright green hills. The Maine countryside looked fresh from numerous April rainstorms. We saw no more signs of winter.

Peaceful green Maine countryside
Peaceful green Maine countryside

We arrived at the parking lot around 12pm, and prepared our backpacks with water and some snacks. This time of year the forest is busy composting millions of leaves, and recent rainwater helps to turn everything into a useful mulch. So we started out carefully, stepping around the thick mud and ankle-deep puddles at the bottom of the hill.

Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain
Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain

The hike out to the peak and back, using the Eagle Scout Nature Trail (map here), is about 3 miles. Both of us had brought our Apple Watches, but we forgot to “start” the hike digitally at first, so we both ended up tracking 2.65 miles there and back. Though muddy and full of many puddles that looked like mass mosquito nurseries, the trail up the mountain was gradual and provided many rocks and roots to step on during the climb. It was steep enough that I had to catch my breath a couple times on the way up.

 

At the summit

The 16-foot stone tower at the summit was originally named for Dr. William Blackman, a surgeon who had purchased the area in 1892 and built the structure himself. Later it was purchased by a nature conservancy organization, and given to the town of Sebago for all to enjoy. Thanks to Dr. Blackman and the kind hikers who passed before us, we made it to the summit.

A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail
A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail

By the time we reached the Blackman Tower, the sun had come out and the sky was a rich blue. It was gorgeous. We spent some time atop the tower, hanging out together under wide skies. We looked out at Maine, and west to New Hampshire. There was a sign which showed the different distances to at least 20 different hills, ponds, and mountains all around. It said the tower looked out over several hundred square miles. Nick said the sign was new to him, though he’d been here a few times last summer.

We were there for an hour, snacking on jerky, saying hello to other hikers, and reading aloud the playing cards we have that show edible wild plants on them. The wind was wild but not cold, and the sun shone warm for a long time. The mosquitoes were decidedly fewer at the top of the tower. Nicholas kindly offered me his warm sweater, because he’s a gentleman like that.

At the top of Dr. Blackman's 16-ft stone tower
At the top of Dr. Blackman’s 16-ft stone tower

Soon enough we decided to go back, and ventured down the Eagle Scout trail the way we had come, to the parking lot. It took us a little less time to get down than it had to go up, but that is only natural considering the 480-ft elevation gain we had climbed. It wasn’t a long ride home, where we both promptly relaxed after consuming a delicious home cooked meal (thanks Nicholas) and I took a nap. Here’s to more hikes, and seeing more of the Northeast this summer.

Blue skies over the Blackman Tower
Blue skies over the Blackman Tower

 

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Ammona, Part 4 [Short Story]

“State your name. Last name first, please.” A computer voice said. It carried the note of a tenor, and spoke in a British accent.

“King, Ammona.” The young woman watched the screen calculate for a moment to find her in the registry of accepted students. Its background was an image of the Sierra Nevada mountains in western America. The mountains looked so beautiful they might not be real. Ammona wondered briefly if the image had been enhanced or created by someone in any way, as the computer brought up her room assignments for the trip to Pluto Colony.

“Welcome, Miss King. Please make your way to Bunk Room 942.” The screen blipped, and a beautifully rendered map of the space ship appeared. An animated arrow started at a dot that said You Are Here and moved around several corridors towards Bunk Room 942. “Please do not leave Bunk Room 942 until after departure. Your Bunk Room monitor will inform you when you are free to roam about the ship. Enjoy your stay, and please call for any assistance on your Bunk Room monitor.” The cheerful British voice had politely told her to go find her bunk room.

Ammona grabbed her bag, which she had placed on the grated steel floor, and turned around the assignment console, to the right. She smiled to herself in excitement.

Miss King followed a few right and left turns down a series of hallways that looked identical to her. She’d been on a few starships before, but not many. It was expensive to fly unless someone else was paying for you. Ammona slowed her rapid walk, and observed her environment. There were not a lot of other students wandering around the halls. They were, no doubt, faithfully stowed away in their various quarters.

The hallways were covered in steel grates, everywhere. There was no space wasted on the ship. Beneath Ammona there was floor storage. On either side, storage bins covered with the steel grated gates that held the cargo safely intact. There was symmetry to the pattern of storage bins, in many different shapes and sizes. Ammona saw a bicycle storage bin, and another bin that had a motorcycle. Another held three beautiful magnorcycles, shiny and clean. Ammona’s breath caught when she saw one with a royal blue seat, and matching handles.

You’ll have to find out who owns that. She told herself, and tried to reach through the grate to touch the shiny chrome and leather seat. The gate’s bars were too close together. She gave up after a moment, and moved on. More reason to find the owner. Ammona liked giving herself goals, so she wouldn’t be bored.

The rest of the storage bins were full of indiscernible crates, plastic bins, and dark packages wrapped in canvas. The hallways became just as indiscernible, and Ammona looked at some of the numbers by the doorways to indicate where she could find Bunk Room 942.

914. She read the numbers to herself. 926, 928, 930, 932. This is the even side. She followed the even numbers around a left corner and saw the worst person stepping into a doorway. Please, god, let this not be 942. She thought, as she approached the doorway Eric Barrett had entered. Seriously, the last thing I need. Someone tempting me to sock them in the mouth. She stood outside the door for a moment, and saw the comm panel on the outside.

Ammona pressed an access key into the awaiting touch screen on the wall.

“Welcome, Miss King.” Said the British computer man, and Ammona watched the door slide to one side. The bunk room was tiny. She stepped in.

The room was a 12-foot by 12-foot by 12-foot box with a bunkbed on either side. Ammona tried not to let panic engulf her, show on her face, or even change whatever she felt like saying next. She didn’t have time to think about any of that.

“Hey!” Said a friendly voice, and she looked down into the face of an androgynous person with a heart shaped face, clear brown eyes and a shaved head. They sat on the bottom bunk on the right, and their sheets were a purple-blue that appealed to Ammona. They wore a casual green t-shirt that said Lucky Stars and had an interesting illustration of the constellation Sagittarius, the Archer. Their jeans and high top black boots struck Ammona as neopunk, and she liked it. “Nice to meet you. I’m Hian.” Hian extended their hand. “Welcome to BR 942.”

“Nice to meet you, Hian.” Ammona said, trying to smile away her shock at the tiny room she was going to be in for the next several weeks. “I’m King.” Hian laughed, as if it were a joke. When they laughed, their eyes twinkled. It made Ammona smile.

“That’s pretty cool.” Said Hian.

“It’s you!” Said Barrett, who had undoubtedly taken the other lower bunk. He’d had his back turned before, but turned to see Ammona after she announced her name. “How funny that we’ll be in the same bunk!”

“Yes,” Ammona swallowed her irritation. “How funny.” Hian looked at her, and Ammona ignored their gaze. “I’ll take this bunk.” She threw her bag up onto the bed above Hian’s and climbed up the attached ladder.

“Well, it’s going to be nice to get to know some people before classes start.” Said Barrett. “You know, get a crew going. We’ll be best friends before this is over.”

Somehow I doubt that. Ammona thought. Barrett continued to mess up his sheets with his hands.

“Bunk friends aren’t necessarily best friends.” Said Hian.

“Just doesn’t feel like home unless I get the sheets all messy.” He said. “I wonder when our last roommate will get here.”

“Who knows?” Hian shrugged.

We are not roommates. This made her think of her favorite roommate and her real best friend. Ammona took out her PTD* and checked her messages. Still nothing from Drea. She thought. I wonder what’s she doing now. 

The room was quiet for a little while. Ammona was grateful, though from time to time when Barrett shuffled around or moved on his bunk, she felt awkward. Social guilt plagued her, but she would truly rather read a book on her PTD than listen to Barrett gab on. Ammona looked around and saw that there were two lockers on either side of the room, at the foot of the bunk beds. She hadn’t noticed them before because they were on her right and left when she walked in. Cool, at least we have that. She thought. I wonder when we’re taking off.


Previously, with Ammona:

Ammona, Part 1

Ammona, Part 2

Ammona, Part 3


Glossary of Acronyms

* Personal Tech Device

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