Thursday, October 17, 2013

Part 8: They Grow Up So Fast

(You are reading this story in progress. To start at the beginning, please click here. To view the Table of Contents, click here. This story is being written live, daily, and with some audience participation in October 2013)


Sorry about the abrupt ending: they came back to my room to get me for another round of training. But now I’m done. My eyeballs feel a little funny and I feel a little queasy, but I wanted to finish writing up what’s been happening the last few days, because if I don’t write it down, I probably won’t believe any of this ever happened.

I finally know what day it is, in case you noticed the date on this entry. It’s Thursday. I’ve been gone for almost a week now. Well, *we* have been gone. The kids are . . .well, we’ll get to that in a minute. First things first. Where were we?

Oh, yes. The first time I lost my temper with them. Well, they knocked me out cold. And I totally understand that, because I am pretty sure I was really trying to kill Glop.

I call him Glop because that is the sound he makes. Thankfully, they are not like cats, who all call each other the same thing and have the same “name”. Well, they might, but not to me. Each Theommi makes a unique sound so. . .

. . .So I was trying to kill Glop, until Blurp came up and stung me. The toxin works so fast you don’t feel the prick of the needles in their skin. You’re just zonked.

When I woke up, I was in my new room. I freaked out, of course, because a) I was in a different location b) I didn’t know how long I had been out c) the kids were missing and d) why hadn’t we started out in rooms instead of a damn hyperspace dungeon?

OK, it wasn’t a hyperspace dungeon, more like a hyperspace cargo hold.

I yelled a lot. And punched the mattress. I held my knees to my chest and cried. In short, I tantrumed like Juliette would. And thinking about Juliette still makes me a little weepy, considering what they did to the children. . .

But more on that later.

They came to see me, once my rage had simmered down to a low blubber. I’m not sure I did them justice, explaining what they look like, so I made a little sketch:

I realize I am not the world’s best artist. There is no nose, by the way, it’s just a flap of skin that serves no purpose that I can think of. There are gills on the neck that wrap all of the way down to the chest, and they can take in air directly or they can suck in in through their mouths. I learned this when strangling Glop, because he didn’t seem to mind not getting air (he kept breathing the whole time), he just looked terrified. Maybe I was cutting off his blood supply. Maybe the salt in my skin was uncomfortable for him. Their skin kind of reminds me of slugs: wettish, transluscent, jelly-ish.

Ha, they’re jelly fish. . .get it?

OK, not funny. Or probably not funny for you, because you’re probably still thinking we’re all in danger. And we are; we’re just not any kind of immediate danger.

You see, they want me to fly their ship. Yeah, like the video game. And the presentation is the same, with that same damn display I’m having them take out. And the same controls.

The whole cockpit smells musty and old. The ship has to be millions of years old. I don’t know how they preserved it, but I’m wondering if they can preserve food as well as this ship. I wouldn’t need a refrigerator anymore, or have to throw out bags and bags of brown mushy lettuce.

The cockpit is actually pretty sweet. Not as complicated as Star Trek, just simple and considerately dark enough to help out my eyes. And the kids (I still call them kids) move around in it like they were born there.
I have two hand-mounted controls, which look amazing like taking a PS3 controller and breaking in half for each hand. But they require more than three fingers to operate everything, and the Theommis don’t have five fingers any more. Nor do they have the fight response they had back in their prime (or so they tell me. I’m not convinced they didn’t just steal this ship and have me fighting to produce and empire, instead of saving an ancient empire like they keep telling me).

The kids are gung-ho about the whole thing, of course. Their bodies might be fully-grown, their reflexes and brains trained to handle complicated stimuli like an adult, but emotionally, they’re still children. They think this is all some adventure game. They don’t stop to think about their parents and worried they must be.

I have to admit that I’m probably partly at fault for this attitude. I am trying to keep things light, to keep us focused on “winning the game” as if this all were the same video game we played a week ago. I don’t want them to be as scared as I am, as sad as I am, as pissed off as I am. I hope they understand, when we get back. If we get back.

And if we get back, will the aliens put them back in their child-bodies? It seems so unfair, to disadvantage them after growing them up. But it seems so unfair to rob them of their childhoods completely.

When I woke up in my new room, the kids were gone. When the Theommis came to see me, I asked about the children. Well, I demanded information about them. I didn’t pull any punches, either, I made it clear that I would absolutely murder the lot of them if they harmed the children in any way. But they showed me six black boxes, and told me what they were doing to the children: growing them up, teaching them the physics and engineering and mathematics they need to be able to do their jobs on the Zeppelin-ship. And when I saw them, in their new shiny silver suits, I had to admit that the fish-aliens did a pretty good job. I could recognize each child, and the “them” inside their eyes was still there for each one.

Once they were out of their chamber, we all got a tour of the residential portion of the ship. The bathrooms were shown to us (although I didn’t have to go after I was knocked out. I hope I peed all over the place and they had to clean it up: it will teach them that mammals need restrooms).

It’s not that I dislike them. They are peaceful creatures.  They remind me a little of manatees, except slimier and thinner. But they have an innocence about them. Their big round eyes never blink, which I think makes them seem sincere. And they make cute noises when they “talk”.

They’ve explained to me why they want to quell the rebellions in their Empire. I’m just not sure I believe them.

I mean, would you?

But I have to help them. 

I have to help them, because it's our only way home.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Part Seven: Out of the Frying Pan

(You are reading this story in progress. To start at the beginning, please click here. To view the Table of Contents, click here. This story is being written live, daily, and with some audience participation in October 2013)


I got someone’s attention, alright. Maybe I should say, “I got something’s attention”.  It’s hard to describe, a bit like a fish, but shaped like a person. Their limbs are thin, with three very long fingers, webbed to the tip. There’s a lump on their arm from a vestigial thumb—they showed me when they were explaining to me why I have to fly their ship instead of them.

Am I doing it again? Getting ahead of myself. God, I’m going to have to learn to be more patient. But then, if I were more patient, would they have chosen me?

So: I flicked the change at the wall, which made it ripple, and I could see the edges of a hallway. While I was gathering up the coins to throw again, I heard the swishing noise start up again. I flicked a quarter right in front of the noise. The quarter hit the wall, making ripples on it just like water, and in the valleys of the ripples I could just make out a figure with a huge, strange head. I thought a giant eye was staring back at me, but I couldn’t be sure. I yelled, “hey!” and jumped up and down, despite the pain in my bladder.

Then I threw another quarter.

Looking back, I suppose it should have occurred to me that the children slept right through this commotion. I should have marked that as odd. But I didn’t. I was so desperate to get out of our cell that I just jumped and waved and shouted “Hey!”.

And the eye came closer. It really was an eye, about ten times the size of one of my eyes. And below the eyes were big, fleshy lips.

It was an alien. It had to be. Any other day, this would have scared the bejeezus out of me, but when you get picked up by a bright light, I don’t know what else you expect besides aliens.
So I can’t say I was too surprised to see an alien on the other side of the wall. He wasn’t too scary. Fishy, but very human, too.

And then it opened it’s mouth. A giant fish’s mouth: the whole thing kind of protruded outward and got LARGE, right at my face.

It looked like he was going to eat my face. Or like he kissed the wall.

Naturally, I jumped back.

And then the blackness faded, from where the fish kissed the wall outward in a huge circle. It was like getting your vision back from standing up too fast.

I ran back up to the wall (which was still there), and I pounded the side of my fist on it. Freak or not, alien or not, eat-my-face or not, we needed to get the Hell out of there.

And we did.

Boy, did we get out of there. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

The chaos and the confusion of the next few hours (or days, or however long it took) amazed me. I thought George’s company was run by incompetent idiots, but those suits had nothing on these fish. The one who kissed the wall just gawked at me for a while. He honestly looked scared of me, which pissed me off, because if I had known that I was being imprisoned by sheepish fish, and if I could have torn the damn wall down, I would have fileted the lot of them, stolen their ship, and invited their carcasses to a block party. There were enough of them to feed about forty people, with leftovers.

Seafood salad.

I think they might have felt my rage. They certainly shied from me when I was mad. And when the first fishy bowed and nodded and did strange things with his webbed fingers, I was pretty mad. I felt like the Hulk, I was so pissed off. Past seeing red and into seeing green.

“Mama angry.”

No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t even think it at the time. All I thought was “Come back here you motherfucker or when I get out I swear I will piss all over you.”

I know, right? What would Mrs. Hernandez think? Or Mrs. Williams?

Frankly, I don’t give a damn. I was mad. And now, I was mad at a creature who had made strange gestures at me and then had taken off running down the hallway, leaving me to stew and get even madder.

I was past the point of gritting my teeth. Past hyperventilating. My hands were sweating, or bleeding, and I didn’t care except to hope that the sweat or the blood wouldn’t compromise my grip strength when I tore these creatures new assholes.
If they even have assholes.

They had stuck me in a crazy-making cell, stolen the children, made me responsible for the stolen children—who knows what people were thinking back home, that I was some serial killer or something—and then, when I finally get their attention, they run like little girls.

I think I finally understand the expression “mad with rage”.

And “Mama bear”.

Anyway, the fish-head came back with more fish-heads. All of them bowed and did funny things with their webs. Then one of them started to dance.  I’m serious. He put one hand in the air, his fingers together, and the the other arm went out to the side, like he was playing airplane. He jigged around in a circle. You know the one Native American God you see playing the flute? Cocapelli? Well this dance was Cocapelli meets Airplane. If I weren’t so pissed, it would have been funny. It’s funny now. But then, I was mad as hell. I beat on the wall again, making the fish jump back and eye me.

“Get us out of here!” I yelled.

One of the fish put a finger in the air. The other fish-people turned toward him. He put his hand to his chest, opened his mouth. I heard a sound like a burp. The other fish-people nodded, their eyes wobbling a little in their jellied flesh.

Then he put a finger to the wall.

And it disintegrated.

The first thing that hit me was the smell. It was a dirt smell, not a fish smell, like a fish tank. Then the noises hit me: I heard this wet sucking slapping sound, and realized it was someone walking by. What I had heard, through the wall, as a gentle swish-swish sound was really this cacophonic wet fish-slap noise. They might not have heard me yelling, as it would have been a small sound in an ocean of noise.

Once I was done reeling from the earthy smell and the noise, I had the sense to charge the leader and wrap my hands around his throat.

I’m going to take a minute to tell you that I’m not normally violent. I don’t believe in violence, I don’t spank my children (or anyone else’s). I don’t even jokingly punch George in the arm. I’m a peaceful person. But put me in a prison and deny me a bathroom—and put my kids in danger?—and I will rock your world.

So I did. I rocked this fish face’s world.

If it were possible for his thee-inch-wide eyes to bug out even more, they did. His mouthparts worked back and forth, but he was too far away to do anything more than gross me out. Which wasn’t enough to counteract the rage.

I squeezed. His skin was cool and gummy, and my fingers sank into it. For some reason, all I could think about were Swedish Fish, those red gummy candy’s with the strange (but good) flavor? I used to buy packets of them with the $1.26 I had left over after my gas and insurance were paid, back when I was 16.

If this creature tasted like that candy, I would have considered literally biting his head off.

The other fishies initially jumped back (again!), but then they schooled around me, touching me with those long, webbed fingers. It creeped me out but I wasn’t about to stop what I was doing, which was screaming, “Why did you lock us up?” at the rapidly glazing eyes of the fish I was strangling.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the fish’s mouths open up, just a quick burp of sound.


But then, from nowhere I could name, a voice settled in around me.

“Yes, you will do nicely, I believe. Just the sort of warlike behavior we need.”

I felt cool fingers against the side of my neck, and then I must have passed out.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Part 6: Housewife MacGyver. . . or not.

(You are reading this story in progress. To start at the beginning, please click here. To view the Table of Contents, click here. This story is being written live, daily, and with some audience participation in October 2013)


I have to pee.

Normally it isn’t something I’d write about, but at least if I’m writing about it, then maybe I’m doing something about it. There’s nowhere to go  here. It’s just a floor, the crazy scary walls, the light that seems to come from the whole ceiling, yet from nowhere.

I decided we can’t be dead if I have to pee. You’re supposed to stop needing food and restrooms when you’re dead. And I really need a restroom.

And when the kids wake up, they are going to need restrooms, too.

Maybe I should stop writing about it. I’m not sure if it’s helping, but I am sure it’s making me spitting mad to think about it.

I mean, who kidnaps someone, puts them in this mind-bending cell, and then doesn’t let them go to the bathroom?

I hear things in this cell.

It doesn’t make me feel any more sane, believe me. I hear shuffling sounds, like there’s someone just outside the cell. Since yelling didn’t work earlier, when we first got here, I’m guessing it still won’t work now. But I hear them.

Swish, swish.

Like they are walking by this cell, not caring at all that a woman and six children are being held prisoner in this cell.

Without a toilet.

I didn’t mean to write that. I didn’t even mean to think it. But it hurts. I keep playing games with myself, breathing, making the periods at the ends of my sentences bigger and bigger (if you hadn’t noticed). Trying to breathe through the ache in my bladder. I can say, with certainty, I’ve never done a longer or more intense session of Kegels. I will never leak when I sneeze ever again.

Oh, my God, it hurts to laugh. Note to self: don’t make me laugh at myself.

It occurs to me that I need to do something.

Sorry, maybe I should have put more spaces. You don’t have the sense of time that I have, journal. Here:

It occurs to me that I need to do something about this imprisonment.

I can’t just lie here, watching the children sleep. I have nowhere for them to go to the bathroom, no food. My milk dried up months ago, and while it could probably come back, it would take a few days. By then, we’ll have died of dehydration. I have no diapers for Juliette.

I have no way to care for these children, and they very well could die if I don’t do something.

Therefore, I must do something.

I dumped out my purse, to see what I’m working with. I’m hoping that there was a reason I grabbed it so tightly to myself, other than preserving you, journal, to help me with my sanity. Sanity is great, but it’s not going to do much for me if I’m dead.

And yes, it is strange that I’m writing down every step of what I’m doing. But I’m in a crazy prison, so strange is the order of the day. If it helps me focus, journal, then I’m going to do it, and I don’t need any flak from you or some future reader (which will never happen, because I’ll either be stuck in this prison forever, sold into some kind of weird slavery, wake up, or I’ll get home and burn this journal and all of the evidence of my crazy in it).

I’m going to take inventory. And like I read in that creativity article last week, instead of just writing down what the objects are, I’m going to write down their  components in the most general form I can

So, this is what I have:
  • Four used tissues (used for blotting lipstick, not snot).
  • Two pens (ball-point, medium, blue), one stick-pen, one clicky pen.
  • A journal (blue butterflies, holographic).
  • The wire in the binding of the journal.
  • The spring inside one of the pens.
  • A very fine wire from the spring inside one of the pens.
  • Two plastic tubes (pens).
  • Three pieces of butterscotch candy.
  • Three small pieces of plastic (candy wrappings).
So far, I could make spit-wads, or I could pick a lock if I knew how to pick a lock, which I don’t, and if there were locks, which there aren’t.
  • Checkbook.
  • Leather wallet:
  • Snaps, a clasp, one 7” zipper. 
  • Five rectangles of very hard plastic.
  • One rectangle of clear, flexible plastic.
  • Paper US bills: $57.00
  • Change in the change-purse:
  • Loose change: three quarters, eight pennies, a dime, and three nickels.
  • Two tampons and three overnight maxi pads (it never hurts to be protected).
  • Cardboard tubes (tampons), string, cotton?, stickers (maxi pads).
  • A lipstick
  • Eye liner
  • Mascara.
  • Compact (powder, small terrycloth pad, mirror, snapping round case)
  • A small brush (mascara).
  • Five receipts.
  • One pearl earring.

That’s it. I’m not sure what that was supposed to accomplish, except to prove that I’m no MacGyver. I have no idea what to do with any of this stuff.

I suppose I could see if the lipstick or the powder stuck to the walls. I could see if the wire bent, like if there was a deflecting force, or if it just stopped, like it was trapped (and bent by my fingers, maybe).

I could whistle Dixie, too. I don’t see what any of these things would accomplish. Let’s face it, I’m not built for this. Give me a thirty-item “to-do” list, a minivan, and cell phone and I’m dangerous, but . . .

No, it’s not here.  My cell phone. I just patted myself down, checked my purse, and even checked in my bra for it, but it’s not here. I’m not sure it would have worked in here, but it would have been nice to try.

There’s no point to any of this. I’m in prison, and I haven’t done anything wrong since I was 17. I pay my bills, take the kids to practice, go to the school on parent’s night. I do everything I’m supposed to do, except maybe enough  yoga. I don’t deserve prison.

Hey, this is interesting: when I flick a coin at the wall, it sticks there for  a minute, and sparkles, like the field is electric or something. Then it sparks a little drops the coin. Just lets it go.  It doesn’t make any noise, either, not even when the coin hits the floor (I hadn’t noticed that the floor is this weird plastic-foam-skin stuff). The sparks don’t make any noise, but I could swear that while the coin is there, I can see a little through the wall. Like it ripples, and in the bottoms of the ripples, I can see shapes, like hallways and doors and things.

Maybe there is something outside this cell, after all. Maybe I can get someone’s attention.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Part 5 Houswife Turned Space Captain: The Abduction.

(You are reading this story in progress. To start at the beginning, please click here. To view the Table of Contents, click here. This story is being written live, daily, and with some audience participation in October 2013)

Later (10/11/2013)

I finally caught a nap today when Juliette went down for hers. Not that it did any good—I had a dream about that light I saw the other day. It was so vivid, it was like it was really happening, but it must have been a dream. . .

I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself again.

I put Juliette down for her nap around 1:00. I was so tired that I would find myself gasping for air, as if I had forgotten to breathe. Everything around me looked really sharp. . .really hard-edged, like it was cut from metal or something. That used to happen a lot in college, but I’m definitely not that young anymore. I don’t remember feeling this crappy after losing one night’s sleep back when I was in college.

I laid down on the couch with a cool washcloth over my eyes. I didn’t really mean to take a nap, I just wanted to rest my eyes a little bit and get rid of some of the redness and swelling before I had to face the other Moms. I don’t need them thinking I’m strung out, or a pot head or anything. Rumors fly fast enough when they’re about missing Yoga—I can’t imagine how fast word would get around if they thought someone was doing drugs.

As soon as my head hit the throw pillow I knew that I was going to sleep. I felt this weightlessness take over my whole body. It was actually quite comfortable. Then around the edges of my vision I saw this redness, like light seeping in through my eyelids. The light grew brighter and brighter, until I swear I could see the light streaming in between the threads of the washcloth.

And we have nice washcloths. On sale they still cost me $7.00 apiece.

When the light was so bright that I couldn’t see anything else, the weightless feeling vanished. I felt heavy suddenly. Heavy, but not in pain. Not even from the bright light. That’s how I know I was dreaming—that kind of light in real life would have singed my eyeballs.

There was no pain, but there was a tingly, prickly feeling along my scalp. Like each one of the hairs on my head, including the little peachfuzz hairs on my face, including my eyebrows and eyelashes, even the hairs in my nose (which, let’s face it, we all have hairs in our noses, even if we do our best to hide them), like they each stood straight up and off of me. Almost like I was being electrified.

I knew it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real; I’d be fried alive if someone were pumping that much electricity into my head. And it was only my head—my arms and legs and torso all felt normal but super-heavy.
You know, now that I really think about it, it almost felt like there was a little breeze to the electricity, too, like a scan or something in the movies.

It was so strange.

But of course it was a dream.

I have to go. It’s time to shuttle the boys back to their soccer practice. Juliette has been so good today, like she knows I’m tired.

Or like she’s waiting for something.  Ooh. That just gave me shivers.

--Later. 10/11?

I don’t know where we are. I don’t even know what happened. I’ve spent the past little eternity—has it been hours, minutes days?—convincing the boys that everything’s going to be ok.

But it’s not ok.

We’re stuck. I’d say jailed, but it’s not like any jail I’ve ever seen before. The walls are black. Not shiny, not dull, not hot, not cold. Just Black. And just. . .there. Like your hand stops moving, or your back stops moving.

But there’s no surface. Your hand just stops moving. It’s so strange.

There are no bars anywhere. There are no doors that I can see. No windows. It’s like the light—and I can’t even tell where the light is coming from—like it just stops at the walls, the same way my body stops when I encounter it. Like there’s nothing at all around us.

It’s really frightening. I can’t stand to look at the walls because of it. My brain just starts to freak out and turn back in on itself when I look at them.

I tried yelling. That was the second thing I tried. The first thing was just standing still with my mouth open.

I’ve never been good in emergencies.

I just wish I knew where we are or what is happening. We were in the car and then—bam! White light everywhere.  That weird weightless feeling. Everyone frozen but me.

We never made it to soccer practice. Everyone’s going to think we’re dead. Oh, God, I can’t imagine how scared George and the Hernandez’s and the Craigs’ are.

Or maybe they’re frozen, too?

God, I’m not even making sense anymore. I pulled out my notebook and my pen for something to do, to keep from going crazy while the kids sleep, and here I am going crazy anyway. And on the record.
Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I’m having a psychotic break and I’m not even really here. Maybe I’m drooling in a hospital somewhere. Maybe the kids are all safe.

Or maybe I got into an accident, because I knew I had no business driving when I was so tired. Maybe we were in an accident and I’m unconscious. And I have to wake up to get help for the children and me.

Wake up.

Wake up.

It doesn’t seem to be working.

OK. I can’t keep gibbering to myself. I need to get my shit together.

What do I remember?

I remember picking the kids up from school. Isabella sat in the passenger seat. Garrett crawled in behind me, and Juliette was in her car seat next to him.

Kyle, Carson, and Julio all piled into the back. For once, because I was running a little late after a bad diaper mishap, they all had their shin guards and their cleats on. I waved to the assistant principal as I pulled away from the school.

I asked the boys how they were.

I turned right onto Oakwood.

I drove toward the intersection of Elm and Conifer. Right where the light hit us last time. I don’t remember actually bringing the car to a stop, but my foot was on the brake and we were almost stopped. I just don’t remember that little kick that signals a true stop.

And then light.

And panic.

And the thought that maybe my dream wasn’t a dream.

I remember clutching my purse. Why would I do that, and not reach out for one of the children? I don’t know.

I remember not being able to turn my head right away. I know I wanted to, to check on the kids, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the brightness and the whiteness of the light.

I remember wondering if I were looking at God.

Then I felt my body rise up, like it was going to float right up out of the seat. That’s when I finally could turn my head and check on the children. I think I expected to see their hair floating, the detritus of the car floating up around them, like we were in space or something, but they were frozen back there, just like last time.
Only this time, all of their faces showed slack-jawed, white-eyed terror.

I didn’t have long to look. I got the sensation that something was yawning open, about to swallow us whole. I looked out the windshield but didn’t see anything.

I hugged my purse tighter to my chest, like it was some kind of shield. I feel so stupid for that, now.

And then. . .

Then I can’t remember anything.

I know time passed. I have the sensation of passing time, of having lost some time. Disorientation or something else—I can’t explain it. Maybe I fainted. Maybe I was frozen like the children, finally.
I remember vision coming to me. Not like opening my eyes, because my eyes were already open, but like, in my open eyes, vision just bloomed in, from the center out, and suddenly I could see.

I reached out and gathered up the children in my arms, who must have regained their vision at the same time as I did. I pulled them all together like little chickens, and me the mother hen. I think I finally let go of my purse then.

They started asking what had happened, but of course I couldn’t tell them anything. All I could say was, “I don’t know, but whatever it was, we’ll get through it together.”

It seemed like a good thing to say, but I don’t believe a word of it.

Oh, God. What if we're dead?

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Housewife Space Captain Part 4: The Long Night of the Soul

(You are reading this story in progress. To start at the beginning, please click here. To view the Table of Contents, click here. This story is being written live, daily, and with some audience participation in October 2013)


  It’s 4:30 in the morning. I’m supposed to wake up in a half an hour to get the day started, and I haven’t even been to bed yet.

  I don’t know what happened. I started playing the game as a single-player, and there were so many more levels and so many more tasks to do.  The great part was that I never had to repeat my orders or discipline my crew; they did everything I asked because they were programmed to.

  The bad thing was that I stayed up all night playing a stupid video game.

  I can’t even say I’m mad at myself, or regret the time. I was in my flow. I was in a perfect zone. The night flew by, and I was exhilarated. I felt proud of myself, confident.

  Frustrated sometimes, sure, but I felt powerful. Like I was making things happen, not just accommodating schedules and “fitting things in” for everyone but myself. I was owning it.

  Or pwning it, as the kids say.  Do they still say that? They used to say that.

  Anyway, even though I had to wade through take-out containers to get across the living room, I decided to write in here instead of cleaning up like I should have done last night.  I just want a few minutes to relish this feeling.

  Powerful, effective, a real leader. A get-r-dun-er.

  I conquered whole solar systems. I ran negotiations with three separate races of aliens. Some of them didn’t even speak English and I had to use a weird program to tell me how to contort my body to communicate with them!

  And the Theommis. . . They worshiped me. They kept telling me that I was exactly what they had been looking for.

  I even—and I can’t believe I’m writing this—I even went online this morning to tell the game makers how to improve the handling of their Space Zeppelins. It’s so obvious after playing with them that the gravimetric thrusters need to converge to a ring, not a point, because the field will center at the point anyway, and you need to leave  yourself enough leeway to get the damn thing through the wormhole. So instead of threading a piece of yarn through a sewing needle it’s more like parking a car.

  And they need to do something about the overhead displays; they are so disorienting. When I turned off the display, my motion sickness nearly vanished. Plus, you don’t bank in space, so if I stayed off the planets by negotiating treaties, I didn’t have to deal with the atmospheres as much.

  I don’t know if they’ll respond to my emails. I feel like that time when I was in middle school, and I wrote to Mars Candy asking them how much rat hair was in their products. It’s a silly thing, but important. I was so excited when they wrote me back.

  I hope they write me back.

  Anyway, I need to get the coffee brewing. I’ll just wake George and Isabella early, and have them help me. I’ll cough a little and say I stayed up coughing all night. Hopefully none of them will walk near the game system and feel how hot it is.

  I wonder if I should play the game again, and see if I can win it even faster this time. I don’t believe that no one has ever finished it; it’s a fun game, but it’s not rocket science.
OK, maybe I should just stay away from the game. Here I am, not having slept all night, and I’m contemplating spending part of my morning playing the game instead of trying to catch a nap if Juliette lets me.

  I should take a nap, or clean, or do something constructive. I can’t wish my life away on a stupid video game, right?

  I can’t believe I’m having such a hard time letting it go. They must design these things to hook down into your soul.

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Part Three of Housewife Turned Space Captain: the Game

(You are reading this story in progress. to start at the beginning, please click here. To go to the Table of contents, click here. This story is being written live, daily, and with some audience participation in October 2013).

   All this stink over a little video game, I don’t get it.

   Kyle and Julio were playing their newest video game, “Theommis Wars.” I thought it was “The Amish Wars” at first, and then, when they cajoled me into playing the game with them, I saw the actual name. I asked them who or what the Theommis were, but they didn’t know.

  Anyway, they needed a fourth player. One of their online friends had dropped off the game or something, and they wanted me to fill in. So I was like, “Ok, I’ll play.” I mean, I like video games ok. They make me nervous and my hands sweat, and yes, sometimes I get a little sensitive if people are giving me too much of a hard time, but these are kids, right? Nothing to worry about.

  Anyway, in Theommis wars, you’re flying a space ship. Only it’s a lot like a hot-air balloon or what do you call it? A blimp? There’s another word for it, like the rock band. 

  A Zeppelin.

  So you fly a Zeppelin, and it’s weird, because you don’t think you’re going to move fast, but you do, and the damn thing swoops and banks in this crazy way. I actually had to pause the game for a bit and take a motion-sickness pill, because I was going to throw up. It’s all this crazy motion.

  So I play the game, and there are all of these challenges you have to go through, like obtaining the gravity drive, stealing into a space fortress in the middle of the night, laying siege to a pre-space-flight civilization, etc. It’s neat. Weird, but neat.  And half of the civilizations you meet are these kind of steam-punk aliens that you feel really bad for because you’re—you know—subjugating them. All with this one little ship.

  Well, you get more ships later on, when you become Fleet Admiral, but the first 15 levels are all with one little ship.

  I got really into the game, and as I kept winning, I got less scared. At first, the kids were making fun of me, talking smack, doing what kids do, but after a while, they shut up and just did what I told them. Apparently the guy who dropped out was the Captain. And, well, I’m a Mom, so I’m pretty good at giving orders and organizing things.

  To make a long story short, we won.

  The boys freaked out. They jumped up and down and broke some glasses (which I made them clean up), but they wouldn’t stop whooping and hollering that no one had ever beaten the game. They both hugged me and high-fived me all night, and when George came home, they told him all about it. Even he was impressed.
It was fun, although it was a little embarrassing. I mean, it’s just a video game.

  I’m actually kind of glad it happened, because if it hadn’t, I might not have ever written in hear again.

  I missed writing this morning. I was just so busy with getting the kids ready

  Why am I lying?

  I wasn’t busy.  Or, I wasn’t any busier than usual. Really, I just didn’t want to open up the journal. I didn’t want to read what I wrote last night, to even remember it. That’s why I started this on a new page. So I wouldn’t have to look at last night’s entry.  And here I am, bringing it up, when I was happy just to let it live in the past.

  Maybe I’ll go downstairs and sneak in another game. I’m sure they have a single-player version.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Life Less ExTraordinary: Diary of a Housewife Turned Space Captain, Part 2

(You are reading this story in progress. To start at the beginning, please click here. To go to the Table of Contents, click here. This story is being written live, daily, and with some audience participation in October 2013).

    Grabbing a few minutes of peace in the morning. I’m not a morning person, but I love mornings now that I have three children. The morning is the only time I have just for me, to sit in the quiet and sip my tea. To read a book if I want, or even write in a journal. Maybe that’s why I bought this notebook; to give myself a little time to myself in the mornings. Just a slice of a moment for me, not doing something for anyone else.

    I love my family. I do. I love George, who has to be the most supportive and loving man in the world. I love Kyle, my little athlete. I love my girls. Isabella is a little athlete, too, although she prefers softball and dance to Kyle’s basketball and soccer. And Juliette. . .

    Juliette is my precious little troublemaker. She’s the baby who rips off her diaper and streaks across the house naked. Of all the kids, she’s the one who reminds me the most of me.
Or, at least, of who I used to be, before the children.

    Right now all of them are asleep. I’m about to brew some coffee, which will wake up George and Juliette just by the aroma. Isabella and Kyle will be asleep in their rooms. Kyle will have the sheets up over his head like he always does. The child is so slim I’ve lost him more than once, just to realize he was in his bed the whole time and I thought he was just a bunch of wrinkles under the bed-covers.  Isabella will stomp her way through her morning, shattering my nerves. Then I’ll have to get Isabella and Kyle off to school, come back and start to work on this messy house.

   Kyle has a soccer game right after Isabella’s dance practice tonight, and I promised this afternoon I’d get with some of the other Mom’s and help them organize the fundraisers this year for the Intramural Soccer League.

   I wanted to get my hair done, too, but it doesn’t look like there will be time. Our anniversary is this weekend, and I wanted to look pretty. . .

   Oh, well, if George can still love me on a day like today, when my hair won’t ever leave it’s messy ponytail, then I suppose he’ll love me without a $100 haircut. I’ll do the best with what I’ve got, like I always do.

   And maybe I can steal a little time for myself this evening before bed, to write some more in here.

   Something weird happened. I don’t even want to write it down, in case someone ever reads this and thinks that I’m crazy. I’m not even sure that I’m not crazy. I can’t believe it, but I remember it, and I . . .

   Maybe I should just write it down.

   I was taking the kids home from soccer. I had my kids, plus Carson and Garrett and Julio. I was dropping them off at Betty Hernandez’s house.

   No, wait. I should start at the beginning, if I’m going to tell this at all.

   I had texted George to tell him what the evening plans were. I had just dropped off Isabella to her dance class, and I was swinging back over to Mrs. Hernandez’s to pick up Kyle and the other boys so the other mothers could talk candy bar orders amongst themselves. Juliette was having a ball in the back seat, yammering to herself like she always does. I could hear her toys rattling while she played with them.

   Suddenly she stops talking. I looked in the rear-view, but of course I can’t see anything because she’s in a rear-facing seat. But she was so quiet, just all of the sudden. It scared me.
You know, Mom always warned me that as long as kids are making noise they’re probably OK, and the point at which you should be worried is when they are suddenly quiet.

   And she was quiet.

   I called back to her. “Juliette, are you OK?”

   I know she can’t understand me, but it was a reflex.

   Except she did understand me.

   At least, I think she did. Because she said, clear as day, “Yeah, yeah.”

   Now, I know that could be just baby talk. She just made sounds, and they sounded like “Yeah, yeah.” And I was a little creeped out, but that’s what I assumed when I first heard it.

   I mean, I was busy. I was less than two minutes from Mrs. Hernandez’s—I was concentrating on getting there. Goosebumps are not enough to keep me from my mission, you know?

   So I picked up the boys and dropped them off at the game. Juliette and I watched the game for a little, and she was her normal self. Then I picked up Isabella from Dance, and came back to the game with both girls. It was great. A nice crisp feel to the autumn air. And you know that smell that the leaves get when they are changing? A little bit acrid, a little bit musty? The breeze had that smell. I watched the other parents clapping and hollering for their kids. Everything seemed a little too sharp, a little too real. Maybe it’s just my brain looking at everything suspiciously because of what happened, but I remember thinking even in that moment that it was just so beautiful—so real­­—like nothing in my life had ever been more real, like I had never been more present than I was right then. It was pleasantly intense.

   They lost the game, but it was close, so they were  a little subdued but happy when they all piled into the car. Garrett is such a nice boy, he sat next to Juliette and played with her while she cooed at him. I wouldn’t be surprised if those two get married one day. He has a gentle heart.

   Carson and Kyle were making boy war noises in the third row seats, and I could hear Isabella giving them a hard time with her piping voice.

   A normal trip home—or so I thought.

   The van was filled with the sounds and smells of a successful evening. Everything still seemed just a little too crisp, a little too perfect, but I ignored it.

   I should have ignored it.

   While we were driving back—and it’s only a ten-minute drive from the field to Mrs. Hernandez’s—I got this funny feeling in my chest. I even put my hand to my heart, wondering if I was having a heart attack. It wasn’t painful, it just felt swollen, like my heart or my stomach was expanding like a bubble. I think I took my foot off the gas and put it on the brake without realizing it, because when the ball of blinding white light dropped down in front of the van, I hit the brakes so hard and so fast I barely had time to brace myself. My head hit the headrest really hard, and I turned around, trying to blink away the blind spots from that light, to check on the kiddoes.

  But they were all frozen.

  None of them had moved. I mean, not even a hair on their heads had moved, from when the van had been cruising at 30 mph. Garrett’s hand still held the rattling butterfly toy. Isabella still leaned halfway over the second row seat. Kyle and Carson had their heads back in raucous laughter.

   But none of them were making a sound, or a move.

   They weren’t even breathing.

   I touched the back of my head to see if maybe I had hurt myself. I could move. I was breathing.
My head didn’t hurt, and the super-bright light showed me that the children weren’t turning blue or anything.

   I turned back toward the light. I shaded my eyes against it, but I couldn’t make anything out. It was brighter than those construction spotlights they use, and those things are so bright I have a hard time driving after.

   I still don’t know what possessed me. I guess it was fear for the safety of my kids and the kids in my care. Whatever the reason, I reached out my hand to the door handle, and I pulled it.
What was I thinking? Was I really going to get out of the car, leaving the kids behind, and go confront this thing?

   I don’t know. I’ll never know, because as soon as the door latch popped, the light was gone.

   Like poof. I mean gone-gone. As if it had never been there.

   The kids started laughing again, mid-laugh. I heard Juliette squeal in delight as Garrett shook the rattle toy. Everything resumed as if nothing had happened.

   I looked back at them, but none of them seemed to notice anything was wrong.

   And when I turned back toward the road, I saw I was at the four-way stop at Elm and Conifer. And it was my turn to go. Just as I touched the gas pedal to go, I heard Juliette's unmistakable giggle. And then she said, very clearly, "All gone."

Even Garrett heard it. I heard him gasp. I looked in the rearview mirror at his moon-white face. Even his freckles looked sickly pale. And I don't even know why I did it, but I put my finger to my lips and told him "shh."

   Why did I do that? What had happened? Had I fallen asleep? Dreamed a ball of light that stopped me right where I needed to stop, to keep myself and the children safe. And how had a thirteen-month old baby suddenly learned to talk? Was I imagining it all? Hallucinating?

   Had the ball of light been an angel, or a heart attack? Was the bright light the tunnel? Was Heaven a place where even babies could speak? Am I losing my mind?

   I don’t know. I can only hope it never, ever happens again.

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