III. The Zero-Gravity Waltz

In the darkness of Space, it can get very boring, very quickly. Oh? You don’t think so? Well, imagine being locked in your car on a very, very long road trip; where you can’t even open the window to let the breeze in because you’ll not only run out of oxygen in about 15 seconds, but you’ll probably swell up to twice your normal size in the space of a minute. You won’t burst though, don’t worry- your skin happens to be very stretchy. ‘Ah’, you’re thinking, ‘But I can hold my breath for minutes! Won’t that do the trick?’ Alas, no, dear one; any air that you’ve left in your lungs would expand very quickly- and then you’d end up with a pair of very exploded lungs. But back to business, this is Toogo in space, not you or me- and there is no one to talk to, and not much to see; for unless you’re up close to a planet, or a star, chances are you won’t see many interesting things.

For Toogo, the silence of Space is deathly still- there is only the slow rumble of the Ship, and nothing else to strike each other and create sound for lightyears in either direction. Distantly the light of stars throb at him, blurs of fire and matter reaching their arms across the emptiness.

The Grand Adventure of getting home, as Toogo thought it would be, is just the opposite: horribly tedious and boring, and in his great rush to build his Ship, he forgot to even bring a book. He’s tried talking with the Ship, but she’s a grumpy thing; Toogo tried to give her a name (he thought perhaps Delilah,) but the Ship would have none of it and stopped responding when he reminded her that she really owed her existence up to him, as without his brilliant engineering skills she would mostly likely have ended up melted down into a collector’s coffee table. He stares out the window morosely, tapping his fingers on the glass in little rhythmical patterns, scrounging up the memories of past pieces he’s played on the piano and humming along tunelessly.

It is about ten seconds before the image before him registers in his brain and he sits bolt upright, cracking his head so hard on the ceiling that his vision blurs with unshed tears. There, in the middle distance, creeping slowly closer, is another Ship. He stares greedily at it, as this is the first interesting thing to happen in about a week, besides finding a stray Suri grub in his food. (It has taken up careful residence on the dashboard but, poor thing, doesn’t seem to be doing too well, even if he did give it a piece of lettuce; Toogo supposes that grubs just don’t much fancy living on limited oxygen and not much else in Space.)

“Ship,” says Toogo, in a voice high and scratchy from disuse, “Bring us closer, please...I want a closer look.”

“Acknowledged.” The Ship fires up her thrusters, pfft pfft pfft, and they edge closer; the outline of a space shuttle becoming clearer against the black.

Irrational excitement spikes through Toogo as he realizes There is a Girl in that Ship. It is so dreadfully dull to be alone in the dark for weeks on end, and he has begun to talk t the grub (who he has decided to call Boris,) for want of anything else to do. So the mere sight of a living, breathing being- one with which it is becoming increasingly obvious that he might communicate with- stirs itself into great bubbles of frantic joy, bursting from his chest.

He can see her from the window, her black hair in a cloud around her face from the lack of gravity. She smiles and waves to him, and he hurriedly waves back. Their Ships are pulled alongside each other now, close enough for the tips of their wings to bump gently together, as if they are moored ships on a sea of nothing.

She makes a series of hand gestures to him out of the window, and of course he understands none of it; but there’s nothing for it, since even communication that means nothing is better than the silence of Boris the Grub. He makes a series of hand gestures back to her, and she frowns, looking slightly put out and turns back to her controls, ready to steer her Ship away.

“No!” shouts Toogo through the window. He flaps his hands at her frantically, in an attempt to still her movements at the controls. She stops, long enough to glance out the window, and it’s enough for Toogo: he’s out of his seat and fighting with the airlock in a matter of seconds.

“Ship!” He shouts, grabbing his helmet from the vacant passenger’s seat as an afterthought, “Ship! Delilah! Open the door!”

“Door? Door does not compute.” says the Ship. Toogo swears there’s a hint of smug laughter in her voice, and it infuriates him.

“SHIP!” Toogo bangs on the side of the door. She rattles back at him menacingly.

“Do not damage me. We are lacking in repair equipment.”

“AIR LOCK!” shrieks Toogo. “OPEN THE AIR LOCK!” “Why didn’t you say so?” wheezes the Ship. “Air Lock opening.”

And the door sighs open with a whoosh, sucking Toogo out into the darkness of space. He floats for a moment, acclimating to the feeling of nothing, the slight pressure against his fingers and toes.

She’s there already, waiting for him, and the relief of encountering another living being washes through him like a wave. They drift closer, staring at each other curiously for all of a minute. Finally, she points to herself and says “Eri,” in a voice muffled by her helmet and suit. He points to himself in turn and says, “Toogo.” The faint sound of oxygen passing through her suit thrills him. She is living, and has a name, and while they don’t speak the same language, the comfort of another body sharing the loneliness of space is overwhelming.

The stars sing to them through the thick silence of space, little echoes of sound that can almost be heard in snatches and flutters. Toogo extends his hands- it seems only natural. She responds by placing her gloved hands in his and together, slowly, they whirl through Space in a perfect Waltz.

III. The Zero-Gravity Waltz