Part V. The Secret of the Gold Planet

Putting people to sleep, made me sleepy. If I ever had grandchildren, I might tell them what I did with my life. “I went to sleep on the job, putting people to sleep.”

“Why did you do that?” They might ask.

“Because I couldn’t stand being awake.”

There wasn’t a horizon, so our sleep schedules occurred every 40 hours. I dreamed about sleeping. It got so I wondered whether I was asleep or awake. After my shift ended, I went to my bunk. That’s when I heard him. Captain Crewcut was patrolling the ward. He pulled an empty syringe out of his pocket, and injected it at the base of a patient’s brain.

“Perhaps you can tell me the secret of the gold planet,” he said. The stuff coming out was white; it looked like cerebral spinal fluid, so different from the green stuff we injected.

He immediately shot himself in the neck with the white stuff. I nearly puked. His eyes rolled back into his head, leaving two white spots where his pupils used to be.

“Schumann, you should be sleeping,” he said. “You do remember what I told you about following protocol?”

“Yes, but what you’re doing is obscene.”

“That’s only because you don’t understand. This crew never landed because they believed their dreams. Their dreams took over until they couldn’t tell the difference between waking and sleeping. The aliens on the gold planet are like greedy bankers; they have many telepathic safeguards.”

“Well, why steal his brains?”

“Because at least one of them knows the secret of the gold planet. I intend to discover that.”

His eyes were changing. They were going from white to black. Crewcut looked like an alien.

“You’ve got to leave protocol behind, whence you accept escape protocol. Will you be joining me?”

“I think I’ll stay and look after the ship.”

“Suit yourself,” he said. Captain Crewcut jettisoned the vessel and began his descent.

“It’s hot! It’s hot! I’m burning up! Aweeeee!”

“I think I’m going back to sleep,” I said. “All the gold in the universe isn’t better than a good night’s sleep.”

It was better than riches. Sleep had become my religion. I was a devout disciple of dreams. And I slept more soundly that cycle than ever before.

The End


Part IV. Awake

When I woke up, I had experienced 6 months of humiliation. I looked at my peers. They had endured the same. It was Captain Crewcut’s idea of a bad joke.

“What’s that smell?” I asked.

“It’s a nursing home in outer space. What did you expect? These people have been waiting here for 40 years.”

“Why didn’t they go back?”

“That’s a good question, I don’t have the answer to. We’d better suit-up.”

When we got to the ward, nobody was awake. “

As you can see, we keep them comatose—similar to hyper sleep, but with one exception; we have to keep them under with special medication, similar to stem cells.” Captain Crewcut was even more powerful looking in a medical jacket. Anyone who looked at him could tell he liked to play god.

“You insert the needle like so. Follow these charts. If something out of the ordinary happens, come and get me.” He said this like nothing out of the ordinary would happen.

That was it, and he left us. It was difficult to go to work with the view from outside. The gold planet glowed like a volcano. It was like staring at a second sun, but more solid, and so large, it nearly blotted out space.

“You’re telling me, there’s not a single place on that planet to land?” Brandon asked.

“Just look at it though, the eruptions, and the rivers of lava.”

“Somehow, Cortez would’ve found a way. The gas mines were pretty bad; I doubt the gold planet can be any worse.”

I read the charts and gathered up the syringes. “Mr. Covington, It’ll be two doses for you.” When I administered the contents, his body relaxed. He could’ve been 100 years old.

Then a pulse, like a gigantic sun spot shot across the station. Vibration and sound caused my ears to ring and my head to explode. Several of the patients sat up in the toxic black and gold light. Their faces were half-dead, with paralyzed muscles that quivered to speak, but couldn’t.

“What’s going on here?” Captain Crewcut demanded. “My god, you’ve got to give them more medication.” He started inserting the syringes himself, at the base of the skull, not paying attention to dosage.

I wasn’t a medical professional, and obviously, Captain Crewcut wasn’t either. He was panicked, but in no time, all the patients were sedated. It caused me to wonder about the Captain and why he so desperately needed to keep the patients under. It was an answer I was going to get to the bottom of.

Part II. The Sadistic Boss

The universe has a strange way of giving us what we think about, and refusing us what we want. -Intellectual Shaman

“I hope all of you have empathy, because I don’t,” he said. There was a tightness in his face that betrayed his arrogance, although he wasn’t trying to hide it. His crewcut made him taller. He was definitely in command. I think I admired him, immediately; not for his lack of empathy, but for his sense of self. As we go through life, we have to adopt systems of belief about ourselves and other people. Most of these are fairly common, based on societal constructs. For atheists, they resort to politics, and for believers, they defer to a higher power. This man was god. It’s rare to find someone who genuinely believes it. They aren’t trying to be god, or pretending to be someone important; they just are.

“As you may have observed already, this rust bucket isn’t exactly new, or even second hand; they don’t call it the Lazarus for nothing. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘How did I end up here?’ Well, they all think that. I promise you an uncomfortable journey, but a fast one to Planet 59. The next three years will go by like you never lived them, kinda like the person who works the 9 to 5. You’ll stay busy or be shot into outer space. Anybody is free to be free; it just may be hard to breathe.” He laughed like he had said something clever. My peers gaped in horror. There was no HR to bail them out.

The main track around the Lazarus branched off into barracks, bar, gym, and entertainment room. The main problem was the air quality. It smelled like an old movie theater—one couldn’t tell if it was the mildew in the air conditioning or the pee in the seats.

“What are you going to do with your money?” Jordan asked.

“I’ve got a plan to buy a homestead near the outer rim. I’ve nearly got half saved. Given this journey and work, the government will be favorable,” Will said.

“Lot of wildlife out there, reptilian, I think.”

“I’ve got a rifle.”

“What are your plans, Schumann?”

I looked at them. Honestly, I didn’t know. “My business is my business,” I said.

“You don’t have to be a Jerk about it,” Brandon scoffed. He was missing two fingers from his right hand due to birth defects. They all had something wrong with them. I had something wrong with me. I just didn’t know what it was yet, and I didn’t want to find out.

Part I. The Elevator to Outer Space

The elevator gave everyone the sinking feeling of no escape as it reached escape velocity.

“God, will I be glad to leave this rock.”

“And go where?”

“Anywhere, but here—where there’s less methane.”

“What’s the matter, tired of breathing farts all day?”

“What do you think?”

Living on Planet X was worse than living with a parent who smoked; you got so that you breathed it in, and the poison reminded you of home.

I was hired for interplanetary space work, which is a fancy name for saying, low pay, radiation exposure, and no place to go. When you’re 21, and you have ambition, you will do stupid stuff to get ahead, and often it isn’t until later that you realize “getting ahead” was a clever salesman who lied to you. It takes decades to get ahead, and usually this requires one to use their own head and stop worrying about where they fit into the grand scheme of things.

Working in gas mines is as bad as it sounds, and a lot worse. Sure, you wear a gas mask, but the stuff seeps into your clothes, gets onto your skin, and permanently effects how you smell. I haven’t had a date in three years. I realize that my plan to work on a space station is not much better than working in the mines, but where else is there to go?

I can’t stand people who say, “Pay your dues.” They’re just as trapped as everybody else, and they don’t know it. Maybe they’re one rung up on the ladder, but they’re on the same ladder. If I was to start a political revolution, it would be the party of “self”—not self-aggrandizement or self-love, but self-emancipation. People can’t escape who they are, and other people treat them according to their self-belief. I was expendable, despite my experience, which left me wondering what I had been doing for the last three years. Obviously, not anything important, despite the boss telling me how valuable I was and what a great job I was doing. If I escaped that, and I wound up in the same situation, I don’t know what I would do. It seemed that people in authority never spoke the truth. It was a secret club of saying one thing and thinking another. They were obsessed with their own importance, yet, they knew they were not important outside of their organization, which meant they had to protect their position. They were at the top, and the ladder was leaning against something I could not put my faith in.

Working with up-and-comers is alright, until they’ve moved on. You start to feel stuck; then you realize they are going places you don’t want to go, and you ask yourself, where am I going? It’s not a pleasant thought, if you don’t know.

I was with another group, two years younger than myself. We were headed to a transport that would take us to Planet 59. We would never touch down; no, our job was to take care of the sick and dying. Forty years ago, a ship was going to land on Planet 59, but it turned out the whole planet was one big volcano. Supposedly, it’s saturated with gold, but you can’t land, or even get close to it without burning up.

So, here I am, trapped on this elevator before we get to the ship. I’m hoping boredom won’t afflict me. Give me a sadistic boss, but don’t make me face the same day over and over again, until I can’t tell one month apart from the next.

To be continued…

I can never get a word in…

I prefer to be formless

a nameless expression of nothing

not for a lack of ambition, but for an ambition that knows no lack

I cannot go on

without it

no one understands this nameless thing

some might call it demons

I call them spirits

they talk to me

and I listen

I talk to them

and they keep on talking

I can never get a word in

Maybe there’s not much difference

between the spirit world

and the rest of it.

The Dog Walkers

Moonlight reveals the character within. -Intellectual Shaman

I was running in the early morning, but you could hardly call it morning, it was pitch black with the stars overhead. The country brushed up against the city, and I ran in the in-between place where the trail connected nature with the constructions of men. Even in my limited years, I’ve learned that the in-between places are full of sorcery and magic, but I wasn’t expecting to find that on the suburban trail.

There was the occasional elk or owl, and a bear prowling trash cans. I didn’t know what to do if I ran across something wild—probably just run away, I thought. It was a windy night, and a wild morning, when I went for my routine run. There were these lights on the trail, the most unusual lights you ever saw. They were like lighthouses, projecting into the night, and the other lights were green ropes floating in mid-air. It was like a cult of light. I soon realized they belonged to runners and their dogs; they always giggled when they passed.

It was difficult to see them, and then one ran under a lonely street light. She walked onto the trail with her golden retriever, then stopped and stared at me. She was perfect. I don’t mean the type of perfect that goes to the gym, although she was fit, but I mean her posture and face and body held a symmetry that is not found in nature. Her energy projected fierce independence, which I found attractive, like gold to a greedy man. I looked at her dog, expecting to see the same, but he looked defeated.

“Morning,” I said.

“Good morning.”

I didn’t know what to say next.

“You keep fit,” she said.

“Thanks, but the Thai food has different plans.”

She laughed, a high-pitched cruel laugh that was sexy.

It was below freezing, and I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes, but I just wanted to keep standing there anyway, staring into her green eyes. I was frozen, and might’ve actually froze if she hadn’t intervened.

“Here’s my number,” she said. “This little guy needs his exercise; I think he’s feeling down. Remember, call me.” And she disappeared into the night. Her dog ran behind her, attached to his green leash. He kept looking over his shoulder at me; it was a pleading look, but I didn’t give him much thought.

My dinner date that afternoon was with a normal woman. It was an online date, and when she sat down, I knew I was in trouble. Her picture was big, but she was even bigger, so much so that I worried I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for her food. Dessert rolled around and she wanted more.

I started drinking.

“You don’t get out much, do you?” She asked.

It was a fair guess; after all, it was an online date.

“Not much,” I said.

“It shows,” she criticized between mouthfuls of vanilla ice-cream.

I was starting to feel sick. I was a writer, and the conversations I had with myself always went better than this. I got the check; it was in the triple digits. She burped.

“So, your place?”

“I think I have some laundry to do,” I lied.

“Suit yourself, but you don’t know what you’re missing.”

I had an imagination, but I did everything to shut it down. Instead, it drifted to the girl I met on the trail, 777-5555. “Strange number,” I muttered.


“Would you like to go for dessert?”

I was expecting her to say, “It’s short notice.”

But she said, “Yes!”

I picked her up in my truck. She smelled like strawberries, and she wore a green dress with red lipstick. The night was young, and I was feeling much older. She was having an effect on me, every time she spoke, which wasn’t very often.

I dropped her off and she asked me, “Would you like to come up, and have some tea?”

Sure, I wanted some tea.

“Let me go freshen up a bit,” she said.

I waited… I was going to get lucky, but I had no idea.

I looked down at her dog, to give it sympathy, and right when the moon reflected across its face, I saw a man tethered there, to her bed post.

My dinner jumped out of my mouth.

“I don’t know if you’re into dominance and submission, but I have a collar for you to wear,” she said.

I was gone.

I stopped running for a while and going on online dates. I ate Thai food for a month to calm down, but it didn’t work. I was done with witches and women for at least six months.

The End

Feel Everything

flattened by her voice

rolled over by her monotone

following her rules

until she changes them

not many men are free

they think they can become more

by working more hours

or following directions

but they should follow their own direction

before they forget how to

the money won’t be necessary,

although, I cringe when I say that

it’s about living with less

and caring more

some think you can be free if you don’t care

but they are usually aimless

their darkness leads them into more darkness

caring requires suffering

and the more that you can suffer

the more you can feel

don’t pray for reprieve

but for a gut-wrenching toughness

not a thick skin

but a thin one

that feels


“You’re so arrogant,” she said.

“You’re so arrogant,” she said.

“I just know what’s important.”

“I bet I know more than you.”

They don’t share my enthusiasm

although they pretend to, at first

at the end of the day, they say “goodbye”

and when I say “Hey, goodbye!” They’ve already lost interest

They notice things about me

and when I show them more

they disapprove

My confidence has been growing

like a robust weed

it doesn’t belong in their garden

with neat rows

of sickly tomatoes

waiting to be harvested

they’ve poisoned me with their sarcasm

and public humiliation

leaving me to die in the dirt

“you’re so bitter, you must hate women.”


It’s true, and I marvel at myself

I’m sweet

despite being rooted in the same spot

for so long.

Where does my confidence come from?

It comes from becoming

who I want to be

dismissed and labeled

fenced off and forgotten

I’m okay with that

Most are stunted and half-dead

waiting to be harvested

I have no place

in their garden

and as I keep growing

they wonder what feeds me

it isn’t their opinions, good or bad

it isn’t success, in their eyes

but success, in my own

I don’t need their empowerment

I don’t need anything

and they hate me for that

“You’re so arrogant,” she said.

Father Frankenstein

following in the footsteps of my father

the ground is soft and weak

following in the footsteps of my father

sinking into despair

following in the footsteps of my father

my feet are larger than his

feats of feet

walking where they shouldn’t go

“You’ll sink!”

“The ground is firmer over here.”

following a father of fear

and turning away

from all I know

linear lines

led him here

into a sinking swamp

He created me

and he is my creation

put together from dead things

and brought to life

by belief.

The Computer Soup Between Your Ears


is not the presence of pain

but the absence

of it

wanting complete control

we strangle our creativity

I have laid in bed for hours

thinking up ideas

On those days

I wonder…

what a waste

what did I accomplish

for all the hours

but the days when I “accomplish”

for someone else

are the days

I’ve lost


they don’t belong to me

it’s like my mind is inhabited by a computer

with a job description

and when lunch time rolls around

it eats

and when 3:30 arrives

it leaves

just a blankness

a white screen

lost creativity

when your soup

is watered down

by “important” thoughts

and responsibilities

the memory-wipe

is gradual

and after a few days

you know what you want

not praise

not a job well done

but a seasoned story

well told.