A few months ago, I came up with an idea for what I would name Follower Story. I asked my 200th twitter follower if I could write a short story with a character based on them. I also asked him a few other questions so I could try to match this person.
My 200th follower happened to be Jim Darling (@Mr_Darling). I’m very thankful he agreed to participate in this experiment. Just as a warning, I knew I would be pulled in different directions based on how the story was developed in my mind. I like the story that resulted, though I’m not sure I was able to write a character that was as close to Jim as it could have been.
In any case, here is the story. Let me know what you think or if you’d want to participate in a future Follower Story.
I could see the young boy floating through my viewfinder. He was twisting around holding his knees to his chest. His face seemed to be all teeth. I could tell he had never been in space before.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“My name is Lucas Barlow.” he said.
“Have you heard of the Elle One before?” I asked.
“My dad had mentioned it in his letter before. I don’t know where we are, though.” he said. As he looked out the window, he seemed to realize something. “Why aren’t they moving?” he asked, seemingly to no one in particular. His brow had furrowed down and his eyes narrowed slightly at the sight out the station window. Had he forgotten I was there?
“What do you mean?” I asked, a bit puzzled.
“The Earth and the Moon.” he said. “The Earth is still in the same spot of the sky as when I got here. It hasn’t moved. That’s not right. Is it?”
“Ah, that’s because we’re at the Earth-Moon Lagrange point.” His brow seemed to find an extra few millimeters for it to deepen his frown, but now his eyes widened as well. I fought off a small chuckle.
I should know better than to get technical with firsters.
“Well, on Earth you fall towards the ground, right?” I asked.
“Yeah, do you expect us to fall into space?” he answered with a grin.
“Not exactly.” I said, smiling at the image my mind produced. I let my camera go and made a fist with my left hand. “If you’re attracted to the Earth, here.” I said. “What happens as you go towards the moon here?” I made another fist with my right hand and spread it apart around arms length away. My eyes followed along the path between the two hands to settle on my right hand.
I watched the boy out of the corner of my eye. He seemed to consider what I said. He turned his face first to one fist, then the other.
“Wouldn’t it balance out at some point? Like a pendulum hanging straight down?” he asked.
“That’s right.” I said. “Though it’s more like balancing a pencil on your finger.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Have you ever balanced a pencil on your finger?” I asked. He shook his head. “It’s hard. Here, have at it.” I said, handing him a pencil.
He brought up the pencil in front of his face. He placed his finger onto the eraser at the end. Then he let go of the pencil. His lips turned up in a brief smile. But then the pencil started moving away. The smile disappeared and he tried to twist his hand to stop the pencil from floating away, but that only sent the pencil flying off into the distance with the boy reaching out after it.
“See it’s pretty hard.” I said. He nodded at that as he looked towards where we had last seen the pencil. “It’s alright, I’ll find it later in the filter. Whenever you lose something you go there a day or two later.”
“So where are you off to?” I asked the boy.
“My dad’s a janitor at the far side observatory. I’ll be going there tomorrow.” he said.
“Are you taking the elevator to the far side, then?” I asked. He nodded. “You’ll enjoy it. There’s some fantastic views as you go down the tether. And you slowly get the moons gravity as well. It’s lots of fun.”
“You mean it’s an actual elevator? Right to the surface?” he said. I laughed a bit in spite myself.
“Yeah, they have tethers right to the surface from here. You’ll probably take the tether to the south pole though. Then from there there’s surface transport to the observation site.”
“Cool. I can’t wait.” he said. “I’ve gotta run… I mean float away. I was going to play space tether ball with another boy I flew up with.” He turned to leave, making a flourishing sweep with his arms as he floated away. I centered him in my viewfinder as he floated away.
I had trouble telling someone’s height up in space. Everyone always seems to be lying down. But not… him. He was easily the tallest man I had ever seen.
He was looking straight at me as he approached me from the corridor. He didn’t seem to move as he floated past the walls, easily going faster than anyone else I’d seen moving around the hotel, despite his calm stillness. It was an odd duality that I almost couldn’t wrap my head around. He had me captivated.
As he neared I could finally tell why he was looking at me. He gaze was directed straight at my camera. Subconsciously I lowered it slightly. I hadn’t even take a picture and somehow he made me feel guilty with his gaze.
“Are you a historian?” said the man stopped himself with a quick flick of his wrist onto a wall. He seemed to stop mid air. It was very disconcerting.
“No.” I said, not quite sure what to make of the man. “I just like taking pictures. It helps me understand others.”
“Why understand others? Understand yourself.” said the man. His voice boomed. It was only then that I realized how large his chest was. It wasn’t overly muscular, like a muscle man, but just large. Like it could hold twice as much air as most people.
“It helps me understand myself.” I said. I hesitated for a few breaths before slowly lifting my camera. “Would you mind if I took some pictures of you?”
The tall man looked straight at me, seemed to bore into my head and look at my soul. Without meaning to, I held my breath. His eyes narrowed… and he waited.
“Yes.” he said slowly. “If it will help you with your journey. You must discover yourself. Dectana Gaishin, Dectana Intus. Like the ring, return to the home.”
I breathed out slowly. I felt like I was trying not to scare a wild animal. Slowly, I brought my camera up to my eye and centered the man in my viewfinder. He seemed to stand up straight, which was odd considering he was floating.
“What brings you to the Elle One?” I asked.
“I’m on my Dectana Gaishin.” he said, almost without thought. He was looking at my camera I realized. I was confused by his answer, but I tried changing tactics.
“Do you want to try my camera?” I asked. A look of shock appeared on his face.
“I couldn’t. Too private.” he said. He cocked his head to the side and slowly the look of shock faded. “But I would like to know where I could get some imaging equipment.”
“Sure.” I said. “What type of equipment do you need?” He now looked slightly frustrated. This didn’t seem to be going well.
“You know. Imaging. Looking at planet. Finding what’s down there. Imaging.” he said. I started to understand. He was a Saturnian gas miner. A thought occurred to me with that realization.
I looked over to the window. The Earth was shining brightly in the middle of the glass. The smooth sphere, rounder than anything I’ve ever seen, was a swirl of color. I looked at the tall man and pointed out the window toward that blue sphere.
“You’ve come to visit that, haven’t you.” I said. He froze. He looked at me as if I was peering at his soul. Slowly he turned away from me… and towards that blue sphere. He started to hum softly to himself as he drifted towards the window. I didn’t understand. He didn’t touch the wall. How was he moving?
His gaze moved across the sphere like he was trying to follow every cloud and every land mass. I could tell his eyes were glancing to the side of the sphere as well, as if searching for the planetary ring that was so familiar to him. His hands moved to his chin and clasped together. He was praying.
“I’m no expert, but should you be taking that picture?” said a soft voice behind me. I turned clumsily to look who was talking while lowering my camera.
She had soft blonde hair tied up into a ponytail. I figure it was to keep it from floating into her face. Her hands were clenched in fists and were firmly planted on her hips, which reminded me of my mother when I’d done something wrong.
“Oh, well, I’ve asked if I could.” I said.
“Bahaha.” she burst out in a fit of laughter. “Of course, you look professional enough to have asked. I’m only toying with you. Twisting your gears, you see?” She shook her head, but I could only stare back blankly. “Well, since you just have the best manners, let me introduce myself. My name is Sasha Spinner.”
“Uh… my name is Jim Darling.” I said. “I’m sorry, I must have left my manners… well back there.” I pointed towards the Earth out the window. “So Sasha… Spinner. You must be the new dancer for the show. Our last dancer moved on to the colony at Mars. Her shows are even being rebroadcast back on Earth.”
“First off, I’m not a dancer.” she said. “I’m a flight engineer for spaceships flying within trans-lunar space. Why would you assume I’m anything like that?” I could tell I had struck a nerve. I immediately tried to find something to say to sooth the situation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the first to talk.
“I think what he means is, women don’t suit man jobs like mining or flight engineer.” said the Saturnian man’s deep voice. I turned to me and smiled a pleasant smile. I believe he thought he was trying to help. I smiled just a touch to let him know I appreciated the effort. To be fair, I think I was a bit scared of that man. He really was tall.
“Sasha, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean any offence.”
She glared at me. How could I prove I didn’t mean any harm?
“I’ll… I’ll give you a picture for free.” I said. I didn’t know if she’d bite, but it was my only shot. Her glare faded a bit, so I pressed on. “I could get a picture of you with the Earth behind you. Wouldn’t your family enjoy that?”
“Could I get a picture with… him in it as well?” she said, as she pointed at the Saturnian Man. I glanced toward him and tried to give him my best pleading look. I seriously doubt it translated to Saturnian though. But it seemed to be enough.
“I will be trophy for you. Save your picture.” he said. Well at least he knew enough about women not to refuse. I started taking pictures of them after a quick promise to Sasha that I would send her all the images.
Jim Darling took a quick drink of his water. His throat was parched. He’d been talking quite a bit. He looked at the older woman in the room and sighed.
“It’s alright grandmum. I know your days are long.” he said.
He began to pack away his camera, though some of the images were still on the screen on the wall.
“I like that one the best.” said a fraile voice behind him. He turned to look at her pointing at an image of the little boy. Then her hand trembled and slowly went limp. Her face creased in a look of pain. There were fewer moments of pain now that Jim’s grandmother was in space with him.
“I like that one too.” Jim said. “He’s so hopeful.”
At least Jim can share with his grandmother the stories of these wonderful people he meets. She did seem to forget for a few moments listening to him speak and looking at his images.