“But Mom! You know how much I hate spacewalking!”
“Linda, you’re fifteen years old. It’s time you grew up. Your brother’s only four and he loves being out in open space.”
“That’s because his head’s a vacuum and he feels at home out there. My brain on the other hand is full of many things and it’ll explode if I go out there.”
“The only thing you’re full of is yourself. Now put on your pressure suit and get going.”
Decomp it! She’d do anything to get out of it, but when her mother started insulting her nothing would move her. It took a lot of effort not to roll her eyes, but Linda managed it. Barely.
“Yes, mother. I’ll go now.”
As the outer hatch began to open the air around her whooshed out into space and although her magnetized boots held her in place she still gripped hard on supports on either side of her and she swallowed the desire the scream.
Then a helmeted head poked around the outside hatch and a hand quickly followed it waving at her and she clamped down harder on the scream.
Perfect, her hallucination, Spaceboy, had come to play again. Each time he appeared he left no trace on the ship’s sensors and no one else could hear him speaking to her across the com link. It made no sense and she would have said something to her parents or her family’s doctor, but since Spaceboy didn’t bother any one she hadn’t done anything about it because even an imaginary friend was better than no friends at all.
“Whatcha doing?!” his voice rang inside her helmet and she winced.
“You don’t need to shout, you know. I can hear you perfectly fine.”
“Oops, sorry. It’s the first time I’ve used one of these things. I normally don’t bother, but I know how much you hate spacewalking so I didn’t want to freak you out too badly.”
“How can you spacewalk without a helmet? That’s impossible! And how do you know what I like or don’t like?”
“Because you told me. Or maybe will tell me. Whichever. As for not needing a helment, it’s just mind over matter.”
“If either of us takes the helmet off, it’ll be a case of brain all over airlock, so don’t try it.”
“Suit yourself. What are we doing today? A grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup on Nitiura? I know a great creap restaurant.”
She didn’t bother asking what either of those things were but given the restaurant part they had to be food of some sort. Nor did she ask where Nitiura was. It was just her mind spacing her as usual. She blamed it on her hormones. Like the zit that had shown up on her forehead this morning.
“I’m going to crawl across the outside of the ship until I get to the decomped antenna, find out that nothing is wrong with it and then force my freaking-out muscles way back here. That’s me. You’re welcome to do whatever you want.”
He vanished from view, giving Linda a moment to gather her wits together enough to start the spacewalk.
His head thrust itself into the airlock again and she shrieked.
“Don’t do that!”
“Everything all right out there, Comet?”
Spacejunk! “I’m okay, Dad. Just letting off some steam before making the leap.”
“Don’t think about it, Comet. Just focus on the skin of the ship and you’ll have no problem.”
Linda couldn’t focus on anything what with the way Spaceboy was sliding around the rim of the airlock, a stupid grin on his face.
“I’m fine, Dad, really.”
But she wasn’t. The ship was moving through space at near light speed. If she let go of the ship and made the mistake of sliding outside the gravity field, she’d get left behind in a flash and end up dying alone in the darkness.
“The antenna’s good,” Spaceboy said. “Let’s go. I’m hungry.”
“I can’t take your word for it. I have to go check for myself.”
“Then what are you wasting time for?”
Why did her imagination come up with such an irritating boy? Easy on the eyes sure, but as annoying as a solar flare during planet docking.
He reached out to pull at her arm and she flinched away, but she didn’t break his grip. He’d never touched her before and she assumed that being a hallucination he wouldn’t be able to. And yes, here he was touching her. Holding her. Pulling on her arm just like a real person.
She let him pull her out of the airlock and along the outside of the ship, half walking, half floating. How was this happening? Was he not a hallucination?
He pulled her up to the antenna and pointed at it.
“Look, it’s fine. Now can we go?”
Where his hand held her arm she felt a tingle that wasn’t at all bad. In fact it felt quite good.
“Wheeee!” He threw himself off the ship and she grabbed for a handhold and bit down on the remains of breakfast that wanted to come up again.
“Don’t do that,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Oh, sorry, right. Hatred of spacewalking.” He swam back to the ship and took her arm again. “But you know, if we’re going for that soup and sandwich you’re going to have to let go.”
“Yup, and you’ll be all right. C’mon!”
She shook her head and was rewarded with dizziness.
“No. I can’t. Really.”
“Suit yourself. But you know you will, one day.” He let go again and swam out towards the limit of the gravity field, turning once to wave at her before crossing the border and vanishing from her sight.
She watched the empty spot for a moment, then started her slow way back inside, feeling just as nervous as before but for a completely different reason.
He was right. One of these times she would say yes.