Once upon a time there was a boy who lived in the space between worlds. Oh, he visited planets—a lot of them—but he didn’t live on any particular one. Nor was he born on any of them. When he thought about it, which wasn’t often, he would say that he had gone from non-existence to existence the way the universe did.
And how did he pass his time?
He had fun.
He explored planets, rode comets, swam through nebulas. He visited ancient times and distant futures. Who knows how long he lived this way. Without a planet to give him reference, how could he measure time? Without a sun to give him a night and a day, how could he know when a day, a month or a year had passed? He slept when he wanted to, ate when he felt like it, went wherever his fancy took him.
How sad, you might be tempted to say. All alone in the universe, no family, no planetary roots. Nothing. Just him satisfying whatever every whim. But don’t worry, there’s no sadness here. No loneliness, no boredom, and no longing to belong.
Those are human sensations and while he might look like a human, he wasn’t.
“So, does this story have a point?”
Linda had no patience for this load of space junk. People didn’t spontaneous generate. They couldn’t ride comets and there was no such thing as non-humanoid aliens. That was pure fiction.
It had to be some sort of trick. Plus he was as irritating as being strapped into an escape pod with a fly buzzing around your head.
On the other hand, he didn’t show up on she spaceship’s sensors and did a whole lot of impossible things. She’d seen them. Maybe he did have a point. Maybe he was telling her the truth.
“Nope. No point at all,” he continued. “You asked me who I am and I thought I’d tell you something interesting.”
“But is it true?”
He grinned and Linda’s stomach fluttered like she had just swallowed that figurative fly buzzing around her head. She swatted at it with her mind and her stomach calmed down.
“What’s truth?” he asked turning up the power on the smile. Linda defiantly stared him in the eyes feeling slightly like a rabbit trying to stare down a fox.
“Generally it’s taken as a generally accepted consensus of facts,” she said turning to sarcastic offense in an attempt to stay focused on the moment. “You know, empirical data and all that? Or don’t you believe in facts?”
“Facts are fluid, like everything. It’s a matter of choice.” He sauntered over to her desk and started flipping through a picture frame with a collection of images from the last time she was planetside. “I’ve never been here. It looks cool. Feel like showing it to me?”
“What if I choose to report you?” She snatched the frame out of his hand and put it back on the desk. “Technically you’re invading the ship and my parents need to know about intruders.”
He flopped down on the bed and spoke to the ceiling.
“I’ll choose not to be seen.”
She resisted the urge to drag him to his feet and make him take the conversation seriously.
“It’s that simple?” she asked.
He sat up and nodded. “I can teach you if you want.” His barely contained eagerness reminded Linda of her little brother when he was finally about to get something he’d been wanting for light years.
“But I’m human,” she said.
“And I’m not?”
“You just said you weren’t.”
“Ah, but that’s because the story would be more interesting if I weren’t. Or perhaps it would be better if I were human. What do you think? Should I be human or no?”
“This isn’t a story. It’s real life.” A serious conversation with this guy was impossible.
“And what’s real life other than an extended story? Don’t let it be written for you. Take control of the plot and decide for yourself what the rules are.”
“Even the rules of physics?”
“Especially the rules of physics.”
Maybe he was right. Just by being here he broke any number of rules. She blinked her com lenses in place and flipped to the room’s monitoring equipment. As expected, she was the only one who showed up. Scrolling back through the the surveillance footage, it showed her walking around the room just as she had, but there was no sign of her having spoken or interacted with anyone in any way.
“Show me,” she said. “Something small.”
Space Boy jumped up and went to hug her but she stepped out of the way. She’d touched him once before and that had gotten her into big trouble.
“Without touching me,” she added.
“Fine,” he said with a pout. “Hmm… Something small. Oh! I know! Look into the mirror.”
Linda did as she was told, careful to stay out of reach. In the reflection she saw him hovering behind her dancing about like he had to pee.
“What do I have to do?”
“Change your eye color,” he said.
“Just like that? Decide I want to change the color of my eyes and blam! they’re a different color?”
He nodded, too excited to speak.
Whatever. She’d try it and then when it didn’t work he’d have to tell her the truth.
She stared at her own face in the mirror, directly into her eyes, shifting back and forth from one to the other. She wouldn’t say what color out loud in case this was some sort of trick he was playing on her. Nor would she go for any normal eye color.
Pink, she thought. I want pink eyes.
Of course, nothing happened.
Then her body forced a blink and when she opened her eyes again, her irises were no longer their normal brown.
They were pink. Bright neon pink.
Exactly as she’d chosen.
He was right. She could break the rules of physics. Cool.