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Amore Tank Your Hearts entry: The Heart Treads a Rocky Path

#1 - 2017-01-28 20:48:48 UTC
This story is officially submitted for consideration to the Amore Tank Your Hearts judging committee as a long-form Comedy piece. I spent many hours researching asteroids to understand their voices properly--please enjoy it!

...@*** The Heart Treads A Rocky Path ***@...

There were many asteroids in this part of space, and not many humans or anything that was made by humans; some way off, there was a place they liked to put their ships, and some way further off in a different direction, there was a gate to another place. Asteroids could not use it. Ships much bigger than the asteroids used it, but asteroids could not. A human would call that unfair. Asteroids did not, because there was no particular reason to want another place. It was a very pleasant spot; busy with rocks, but not too crowded, with just a few ships going about, and a wonderful flattering light from the system’s pink sun. A good place.

The planet was not so thrilling to consider, was barren even, and so it was natural that the asteroids in this particular system spent a great deal of time looking at each other. It was a surprise to them all when a smallish Jaspet roared into the belt at a ridiculous speed and would have passed straight through it if it hadn’t collided with an even smaller scordite and smashed it completely to bits, then cratered into a larger kernite. It bounced off, clouded by fragments and dust, and a number of further incidental collisions over a span of time cooled its momentum enough that it tucked comfortably into the general orbit of the belt at large.

The large kernite asteroid was near enough to the jaspet one to note that its previously angular shape had taken on a new and fetchingly rugged contour as a result of all that, and most of one side had a dappled satiny sheen from pulverized kernite.

What was all that about? Kernite asked it, in the way that asteroids do.

Which part, asked Jaspet, the getting here or the getting you all over me?

How rude, said Kernite, and was silent for a time. A few orbits of the sun.

A human ship came by at intervals during that time. A little yellow thing with lumps up front. It didn’t ever stay for long, and it didn’t bother Kernite. Other kernite asteroids, occasionally. Jaspet, certainly.

After another orbit, the jaspet’s satiny side caught the pink sun and it seemed to shrug a little, as asteroids do.

I tried to go through the gate, it said.

You can’t do that, said Kernite.

Funny thing about that, said Jaspet, is that I know I can’t do that, because I tried to do it and ended up over here instead.

Everyone already knows you can’t go through the gate, said Kernite. You could have been destroyed.

It wouldn’t have destroyed me, said Jaspet. Ships carrying enough asteroid to be their own asteroid go through those gates all the time. Didn’t you ever wonder what would happen if you actually tried?

Kernite rotated ever so slightly away from the sun. No, it said. We don’t do that here. This is a nice place.

Well, said Jaspet. It’s not like it would have worked anyway.

Another few orbits of the system’s sun happened, and in this time the kernite and the jaspet asteroids drifted ever so slightly further apart, as asteroids with differing masses might do. The little yellow ship came and went again a handful of times, and at one point the gate itself hosted a series of explosions that it was very exciting for the asteroids to watch. There were many large ships and only one little yellow ship; when the large ships blew up the little yellow ship, an even smaller ship came out of it and this ship was able to go through the gate. And then it was quiet for a while.

Something occurred to Kernite, and it broke the silence. You don’t even go here, it said. Do you?

The jaspet had been paying attention to something else, or sleeping, or some other thing. Another little yellow ship started visiting it after a while, and it finally answered.

What? Of course I go here. We all go here.

You’re the only jaspet ore in this entire belt. Maybe this entire system, said Kernite.

Oh, said Jaspet. That’s odd.

How did you get here really? You can tell me.

I don’t want to talk about it, said Jaspet. Its words were less lively than they had been.

Kernite noticed that the pearly sheen had faded from Jaspet’s surface, even in the best light of the pink sun. That was a shame. It had looked nice. Without the shine, it looked smaller. This was a bothersome subject, clearly, but Kernite couldn’t imagine why. There wasn’t anything wrong with being jaspet, certainly.
#2 - 2017-01-28 20:50:28 UTC
So you didn’t try to go through the gate, Kernite asked.

Oh, said Jaspet, I absolutely did.

This doesn’t make any sense, Kernite said, peevish. I am only trying to make friends, and you are making it very difficult. It isn’t as though I’m saying you shouldn’t be here. Obviously you should be here.

Oh, obviously, said Jaspet.

See, said Kernite, you are doing it again. Do you want me to stop trying to make friends with you? I don’t want to. Scordite is so boring and veldspar only ever complains. I’m sure you understand why I want to talk to you instead. Even pyroxeres are no good really, do you know how rude they are?

How rude? Jaspet asket.

So rude, said Kernite. So rude you would not believe.

There’s one right over there, said Jaspet.

Don’t talk to it, said Kernite, most forcefully. You’ll only encourage it.

I’m going to talk to it. I want to hear this.

Don’t! Nobody wants to hear that.

Maybe I do, said Jaspet, a little of the old vigor filling out its words. Maybe I like rude things.

You don’t know them, said Kernite, all forboding. You probably don’t like that sort of rude thing. I will make a deal with you so I do not have to hear all that. Instead I will tell you a story with exactly one rude thing in it, and afterward you will tell me how you got here. Does that sound fair to you? A nice thing, between friends?

Are we friends now? asked Jaspet.

Of course we are, said Kernite.

Because this sounds like you mostly just want me to talk about a thing I said I didn’t want to talk about, said Jaspet.

Yes but afterwards, said Kernite. It will be a good story.

A little yellow ship drifted over and pointed its beams at Jaspet, who made an irritated minor shift in its orbit. Fine, it said, quietly. And Kernite began its story.

There was a system with many asteroids in many belts around it, said Kernite, but this isn’t about them, this is about the planet and the humans and other things living on it. It is a new story, a human story. I heard it from a planet. This planet was mainly barren and very pretty, almost like a very large asteroid, but it had a good atmosphere and just enough water that some things could live there, and so they did because humans do that. They’re very persistent.

Hmmmmmph, said Jaspet again, as the little yellow ship flitted off.

Kernite continued. And there was a person on this planet who was using a vehicle to get between two settlements that were very far apart, to a human. A human would have to walk a long time to get between them, without a vehicle. So this person was traveling along, enjoying how pretty the planet was and how nice it looked as the planet rotated and the part with that human on it started to turn away from the sun. There were long shadows and warm light and it was really very wonderful. But! Humans are sleepy in the dark.

And so it was that this person became sleepy, and wondered if it was still able to pilot its little vehicle. How lucky this human was that there was another, smaller settlement along the way, a settlement with one place to buy food and one place to buy fuel for a vehicle and one place to sleep while it was dark. It went to this place and asked for a spot.

“Oh,” said the other person there, in the way that humans do. “Of course you may stay here while it’s dark.” And this person took the first person down a long hallway full of places people liked to sleep.

“Only you mustn’t be bothered by strange sounds you hear while it’s dark,” said the other person. “Don’t be bothered at all.”

The first person thought this was strange, but agreed, and went to sleep. But there were strange sounds in the night of course, very loud and very strange, like rocks smashing into each other. Ha. You know what that sounds like, don’t you? Jaspet?

Jaspet mumbled something.

Of course you do. So. This person goes and tries to find out what is making this sound, and it is coming from behind a door. They open the door, and there are stairs. So they go down the stairs for a very long time, for entire orbits maybe, a huge long time for a human, and finally at the bottom of the stairs there is another door and another human guarding it.

Humans eat and drink though, said Jaspet. They can’t go down stairs for a whole orbit without doing that.

Oh shush, said Kernite, it’s not important and how do you know so much about humans anyway?

Later, said Jaspet.

SO, said Kernite, there was another human guarding this door. And they were very serious and very forbidding and they were wearing long religious clothes. And they pointed at the first person and they said: “You can’t come in. I am a mink, and I am here to say that only minks can find this out. You are not a mink. Go away.”
#3 - 2017-01-28 20:51:34 UTC
The noise was still happening, and the first person was very confused. They wanted more than anything to find out what could possibly be making that noise, down there at the bottom of such long stairs that were under a perfectly normal sleeping place. None of it made sense! So they asked the mink: “How can I become a mink?”

“Mink school,” said the mink.

So the first person climbed back up the stairs, back to the place to sleep, and slept through the rest of the dark and when it was light again it took its vehicle and instead of going to where it was going before, it went to mink school. It was very hard. It took orbits and orbits to finish, hundreds of them, and there was a test at the end but they failed and had to do it all over again.

A planet told you this story? Asked Jaspet.

That one right over there, said Kernite. The pretty one. Hi!

Hi, said the planet. In the way that planets do.

You’re not that close to the sun, Jaspet said. How can humans live for hundreds of your orbits, twice? They don’t live that long.

Oh, said the planet, you know. It’s just a story. Don’t worry too much about it. It’s just something I heard.

From who? Jaspet asked. The planet waved its magnetic field a bit to indicate the pink star at the center of the system, which said nothing.

How do you know so much about humans, anyway? asked the planet. You’re little. They don’t even go on you.

Later, sighed Jaspet wearily. The yellow ship had come back and was waving its beams around Jaspet’s surface again. Eventually it fixed its beams and settled into orbit around it.

Go on, said Jaspet. Finish the story.

Hm, said Kernite. So. Mink school. The human did mink school twice and became a mink and went back to where it had found the stairs the first time, and went down the stairs again. And the huge noise was there of course, and the mink at the door was also there, but this time it let the first person through. And there were more stairs.

This part wasn’t in the one I told you, the planet said.

Shhhhhh, said Kernite. Stairs. There were more stairs and the human went down them. For hundreds more orbits. And all right all right, eventually it reached the bottom and there was another door down there, but this time the door opened easily because it knew the human was a mink. And there were no more stairs!

Oh good, said Jaspet, very very quietly.

But there was a room, and inside that room there was a box. And from this box the noise was coming, the huge noise of rocks hitting each other, rocks that were too large to go in the box. How could that be? None of it made sense! And so the human came forward into the room and it opened the box, very, slowly, and looked inside. And do you want to know what was in it? Do you?

No, said Jaspet.

Yes, said the planet.

I can’t tell you what was in the box, said Kernite, delighted, BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT A MINK!

Nobody said anything for a while.

You said there would be a rude part, said Jaspet finally.

There was a rude part, said Kernite. The last part. It was very rude not to tell you after making you listen to all that, don’t you think?

So rude, said Jaspet.

So now you have to tell me how you got here! Kernite was very excited, and suffered an erratic rotation.

And how you know so much about humans, added the planet.

...I’m not a real asteroid, said Jaspet. I was mined. A human ship mined me from a lot of bigger asteroids and I was in the ship when it went through gates except the ship that mined me was blown up and I was back in space.
….that’s ridiculous, said Kernite. That doesn’t make sense.

And then I tried to go back through the gate, said Jaspet. I thought it might work, if I wasn’t a real asteroid. I thought I could go back maybe.

Maybe you still could, Kernite said, hopefully. Somehow.

I don’t know, said Jaspet. Maybe. I’m just tired really. Now you know the worst thing about me anyway. I figure I’ll stay.

Jaspet did have a much more irregular contour these days, Kernite noticed. It hadn’t really looked for a while, not since the kernite dust had worn off. And it was much smaller. The yellow ship was orbiting it again, beams twinkling gently in the belt’s drifting grit.

You look awful, said Kernite.

So stop looking, said Jaspet.

Fine, said Kernite.

Rude, said the planet.

And anyway, said Kernite, it doesn’t matter if you’re a real asteroid or not, the sun here is pretty and there are lots of people who are much worse than not being real--I told you about the pyroxeres?

Jaspet said nothing.

I’m sure I did, before the story. About the mink. I told you, didn’t I?

Still no answer.

Kernite peered close then, as close as the intervening distance and smaller rocks would allow, and saw the little yellow ship’s beams blink off, and the ship itself drift gently for a moment before a dart of light sent it toward the gate. Jaspet was a shadow of its former self. All pockmarked, and eroded, and there was no glitter there. Not even the subtle nearly-black glimmer of jaspet ore, not even where the pink light was brightest on it.

Kernite saw the gate activate, far away, and watched the little yellow ship take the last bit of Jaspet that was Jaspet out of the system.

….oh, it said, mainly to itself. Oh.

Oh no….

#4 - 2017-01-28 20:52:36 UTC
Is it gone? asked the planet.

I think it is, said Kernite. I think it went back home, sort of.

I don’t think so, said the planet. You don’t know what reprocessing is, do you?

No, said Kernite, should I?

Nevermind, said the planet. I’m glad it could go home, one way or another.

I miss it already, said Kernite.

You should probably have told it what was in the box, you know, said the planet. Before.

Wait, said Kernite, there’s actually something in the box? You never told me there was actually something in the box. What is it?

Oh, you know, said the planet. I’ll tell you once you’re a mink.

...@*** The End ***@...
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