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Back to Small Galaxy (a Serialized Web Novel)
Posted: 10/1/2010 0:12
Last Updated: 10/1/2010 0:12

Chapter 2: Ruth

Some days are worse than others, but any day you don't die in a firey ball of death can't be all bad...

Randall walked off, ignoring the offer of the remaining cookie. Ruth popped it in her mouth and followed behind him. Ruth's day was not turning out as she had expected. She had expected this to be a fun night at a concert on a distant world with some friends. Instead, it was twelve thirty in the afternoon, she was hungry, and she had somehow made some poor guy's day even worse than hers.

"Richard! Slow down!" yelled Ruth as she tried to keep pace.

Randall stopped so quickly she almost ran into his back. He turned around on his heels and looked her square in the eye. Ruth actually shrank from his glare... but only a little.

"My name, is Randall. It's not Richard. In no way is it or has it ever been Richard," he quietly scolded. "For pete's sake, if you're going to cause this much mayhem, you may as well get my name right!"

Randall turned back around and continued to the parking structure across the street. Ruth audibly sighed, shrugged, and continued after him. This day was not going to be as much fun as she thought it was, but damned if she wasn't going to make the best of it.

"How was I supposed to know that! That's what that lady called you just a few minutes ago!" yelled Ruth in embarrassed indignation, attempting to catch up again. "You never said your name either, which now that I think about it was fairly rude of you!"

Randall stopped yet again. This time she actually did run directly into him. She bounced back a few steps, but pulled herself together before totally losing her balance. Ruth pushed her hair back out of her face and looked at him defiantly. Randall turned to her.

"Rude? You want to talk about rude?" Randall gestured at the blaze now well across the street. "You crashed a space ship into my job and burned it to the ground! I think that's a little rude!"

Ruth didn't have much of a response to that, so she resorted to the one defense he had left: she gave Randall a very sad look and began to tear up. Maybe not the most ethical approach, and she felt a little guilty for resorting to it, but he visibly softened.

"I'm stranded on this planet, nowhere near anyone I know. I have no idea how I'm getting home or where I'm staying," Ruth sobbed. "And I'm sorry about what happened... it's all my fault." Ruth wiped the tears from her eyes.

"It's... it's okay," sighed Randall as he awkwardly put his hand on her shoulder. "It's all just been... it's all just been a little much for me. Where are you going to stay?"

Ruth smiled at him.

"Oh no. No no no," stuttered Randall as he slowly backed away.

"C'mon, It'll be fun! Just until I find a way off this planet," smiled Ruth. "Besides... I don't have anywhere else to go." On that, Ruth returned to her sad face. Randall's resolve melted.

"Fine, you can crash at my place," replied Randall, visibly deflated. Ruth returned to her original composure.

"Neat! Where's your car!" said Ruth, in a voice far too chipper.

He sighed again.

********


The drive to Randall's apartment wound through smog filled corridors of freeway. It wasn't that long, but Ruth was thankful when it ended. He parked his car in the neighboring tenants' lot, and let the two of them in. It was a nondescript older building, and it was only a brief walk up three sets of stairs before they were at Randall's door.

Upon entering, the first thing Ruth noticed was that the entire place appeared to be furnished by IKEA. Self-assembled furniture filled the living room and attached kitchen, and it gave the space an aura the color of bleached pine. She giggled when she noticed that there wasn't one, but instead two futons in the living room. The entire apartment felt like a catalog, with the only personal touches being a few personal photos on the fridge. Ruth put her purse down on the island counter top as Randall's cellphone rang.

"Hello?" answered Randall. "Oh, hi Mom... yeah, I'm fine. You saw that on TV? No, I wasn't in the building when it happened..."

Randall went into another room of the apartment and closed the door behind him. Her hunger still pressing urgently on her mind, Ruth opened up the refrigerator and pulled out a package of string cheese. Peeling off a piece, she began to look at the few photos that revealed that an actual person lived here.

Most of the photos were of Randall's family, some with him in them. Randall was actually a fairly handsome man, but it was somewhat obscured by his hair - which could best be described as blond and floppy. In every photo he wore his glasses, which meant he likely didn't ever wear contacts, and polo shirts seemed to be his unofficial uniform.

She leaned back on the counter next to the fridge and ate more cheese.

Randall reappeared from the depths of the apartment, putting his cellphone away.

"So, apparently your little collision is all over the news. My mother saw it on CNN and freaked out," started Randall with slight dejection. "The current theory is that a meteor that struck the building."

Ruth just shrugged and continued to eat the cheese.

Randall sighed and sat down on one of the apartment's futons. "Why the heck were you even coming to Earth in the first place?" he asked, uncertain if he wanted the answer.

"Concert," she answered with her mouth still full. "One kick ass concert. In London. Which I'm currently missing. Because instead of landing quietly like I normally would, I crashed into California... which is nowhere near London." She sighed. "It was going to be one good concert."

He looked at her with a puzzled look. "Seriously?" he said in a perplexed tone. "A concert? All of this for just a concert?"

"Not just any concert," replied Ruth in an animated fashion. "The Monkey Tree was opening for Dead Larry. It was going to be awesome. Mark from The Monkey Tree was probably going to sit in on the third solo in Dead Larry's 'Firebomb' like he did back in Manchester in 2005. He added a whole other level to the song... I only got to see footage of it, but it was incredible... and now I get to miss it again."

She slumped back down against the counter.

"I'm still stuck on this," said Randall while shaking his head. "You crossed vast, unfathomable interstellar distances... for a concert."

"Vast?" asked Ruth, cocking her head slightly to the side. "It was an hour and a half in hyperspace to get here. This is one of the closer planets to where I live." She went back to eating the string cheese.

He furrowed his brow in contemplation, "An hour and a half? Has the universe suddenly become tremendously tiny? Where exactly do you live?"

"Not the universe. Just the galaxy," replied Ruth, chewing away. She didn't mind explaining, but she could see this conversation was going to start in a rather boring direction. "There's a lot of interstellar travel these days. I live and work on a transit station near Proxima Centauri."

"Transit station?" responded Randall, perking up. "You work on a space station? Doing what?"

Ruth peeled off another piece of string cheese and considered her options. Randall was the sort of guy who would be wowed by some fancy technical title, and for some reason she felt an odd urge to impress him. She didn't quite understand why she had that urge though, and fought it off. Instead, she opted to go just with the simple truth. "I work in the Music store."

Randall looked a little confused. "Music store? In a space station?"

Ruth rolled her eyes, "Well duh... Transit stations are halfway between Malls and Airports. It pays pretty decent too." She really was bored with explaining things at this point.

Then she noticed the rack of CDs on the other side of the room and lit up. Ruth quickly crossed the intervening space and sat down on the floor cross-legged in front of it. She began pulling cases out one by one, inspecting their track listings.

Ruth lit up a little when she pulled out a blue CD case.

"Rip Slyme? You listen to Rip Slyme?" she smiled. "My opinion of you just went up Randall." She put it back and pulled out another disk. "Oooh, Flogging Molly... I haven't heard this one yet..."

He just looked at her, "So... you travel through space to check out bands. You're what... an interstellar groupie?"

Ruth took tremendous offense to this, and stood up. She leaned over and stuck her finger in his face.

"I am not a groupie," she railed at him. "I love the music. I don't go around sleeping with musicians. The instant a band gets off the stage, they're just normal people. The music itself is the magic. It's the permeating, ineffable experience -- the performance is the important part... what kind of girl do you even take me for!"

Randall shrunk away as best he could.

"I'm sorry... I really am... I didn't mean to imply..." he stammered as he slowly stood up.

She smiled and relaxed. "It's okay, easy mistake." Ruth padded Randall's shoulder with her hand. "I know you didn't mean any harm. But this... this..." She held up the Flogging Molly CD with a grin. "You have to let me listen to this. I need to hear this."

He laughed. "Seriously?"

Ruth smiled, and nodded vigorously. "Yep. I really do."

"Stereo's over there," replied Randall, gesturing towards it. "How do you even know who they are?"

"Earth music isn't covered by interstellar copyright law... the stuff gets bootlegged all the time," answered Ruth, making her way to the CD player. "Well, except Metallica."

"Metallica?" asked Randall.

She turned her head back to him. "What, you didn't think Lars Ulrich was from Earth, did you?"

For the next couple of hours, Ruth went through Randall's CD collection, listening to whatever he had that she hadn't heard before. She was hungry for new music, and at least today hadn't failed her in that respect. Music really was everything in the universe of Ruth, and it appeared that Randall, for all his preppy looks, actually had some decent taste. She had actually discovered a band or two she hadn't heard of while sorting through his small collection.

After a while though, the length of her day began to get to her. While the sun was still in the sky, it had been over twenty hours since she'd last slept. She was, on every level, feeling exceptionally tired. Randall was leaning against the wall of the living room when Ruth approached him. She moved in quite close to him and looked him directly in the eye.

"So, we haven't discussed where I'm going to sleep yet," she smiled coyly.

"Um, yes... well, there are..." stuttered out Randall before she interrupted him.

"Where's your bedroom?" she asked, batting her eyelashes at him and moving in slightly. She was just a few inches away from him now.

"Um, right... right over there," he stammered, gesturing timidly to a nearby door. Randall was slowly turning a bright shade of red.

"Good!" she smiled, stepping back. Ruth padded his cheek with her right hand, "Because I'll need to borrow a pillow and blanket if I'm going to crash on the couch." She bounded into his bedroom and retrieved her needed bedding out of its mess. While it was incredibly mean thing to tease him like that, she couldn't help but think exactly how cute it was when he turned the shade of a tomato. She didn't quite know why she'd done it, but decided her own reasoning would become clear enough eventually.

Randall slowly exhaled.

Ruth smiled, tossing the pillow down on the nearest futon. She held up the comforter in her hand, "Hope you don't mind that I grabbed this." With that she plopped down on the folding couch, her head on the pillow, but the blanket still on the ground.

"That's fine," responded Randall. "I never use the thing."

The only response he received from Ruth was quiet snoring. She'd fallen asleep almost the instant she had laid down on the futon. Randall sighed, picking up the comforter and pulling it over her.

He then sat down on the other futon, pulled out his small white laptop, and returned to the e-mail he had started back when he had a much more rational view of the universe.





Trae Dorn
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