Issue 2 cover

Offworld Friends are Best

by Neal Blaikie

Issue 2 :: Spring 2008 (stories)

(Locus 2008 Recommended Reading List : (link))

(Recipient of an Honorable Mention in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois)

So Kelton says we're moving, and we move. Not a stitch. Pre-cision. I've never liked anyone on Bette anyway, so no one glooms my leave. Tight, tight, tight, and we're off. Bye world, you well you. No sniff from me, no no. Must brace! Forward, forward.

You know how, que? You've been there. What Kelton says goes, O ersatz leader, even tho Lennor and Gelya nod like they had some edgewise. Right. Sure ya did. Same as me, huh? Yeesh. What's the point in being dolt if you can't stand up for yourself? Whatever they do in there at night must be real speck for all that draggin and moanin, yes'n no no'n.


But I guess Kelt is the moneybags round here. Gelya with her cryptic stuff, all pens and paper—yes, paper!—strangles the muse whenever. Can't be bothered most. And Lennor, poor Lennor, what's he draggin that's small enough to warrant this life? Steppin n fetchin went out, say, eons ago, right? Well, spose there's his screechy cat stuff, spews forth bout the zact sec Kelto leaves for business or whatever. Guess he thinks it's music.

Hmmm. Okay.

But I guess I can't complain bout the commos, that's sudden. Bette's been a not-harsh mistress, tho the people spank. What with all this very ultra tech and such my little life's been prefeckly snappy. Yum! Course I do have to deal with Elmo. What a stew that one is! Could you be a bit more of a total lost one? Martha's socks! Any chance we could, say, accidentally leave it behind?

I might even stop the pee n em for that.

At least I got the cat, ole Mister Fibb, patchwork tabby o' me heart. He and I sit back and watch, danders up, faces hard-packed and simmered, as the shot goes like this: first the stuff gathers, skitter skitter, then big tubes appear. Helpers spring from their hideys and soon the tubes are filled. Pop goes the porter and, tube by tube, everything but us is sent through to New Place, Wherever. Good riddance, stuff, see you in storage. No dry eyes anywhere.

Cept mine.

Irised me fib, I say. Same as it ever was. And my mouth so big with yawn, a tube almost went for it. Confused behemoth. Pitiful gus. You know, it's always scramble, line up, disappear. Just like that. Just like last time. Just like all the times before, mas y mas, mas y mas. Exacto. Phisheyes. Yer soup, meef.

Kelton says (really talks like this, tho I mock a weeble), "This world has outlived its usefulness for our family unit, has nothing new to offer us. We must move on in order to maintain a prosperous slide along the growth continuum. The tyranny of the local, the expectations of the planetary culture, are stifling for us Offworlders. We must embrace change and become one with it. New worlds—new opportunities—await us, and we must once more take the plunge into the void between, the long dark night of space." Long sentences, more like it. Mangled clichés. The usual prop.

Surprise there.

And so time comes for us to go, all six, like ice logs floating down the river Styx. Burned and stiffened, drained of phlegm. Eyes slammed shut and blinkered. Our lives described in one loose sentence. Local reference morphed with mythic allusion.


"So, Eli," I said. "Why have you been following me?"

For a flash, I thought this too direct, his slump pointed downward sudden, his meanor not much meaner. Then a spark sparked, a match lit up in Martha's oven, and the prey rolled bright green eyes up at me and spoke. Or mumbled.

"You are—" He choked a bit, phlegmatic to a fault I'd say, but who's complainin now, eh? Progress was afannin, the cat had jumped the bag, had left it crumpled. I could tell there was no backward goin. And didn't want there to be. Bad.

Real bad.


I tried to grasp the wall's old stones, to pull up and climb, but kept slipping back into the dust with fading ease not under me. Then a high-pitched voice said my name, and I turned to see who called on me, to grasp at anything that was graspable. Was startled to see a teddy there, not ten meters away, standing still and staring, with my eyes now locked on its, its long arms swaying back and forth, back and forth in an imaginary breeze, one hand pointing off and on at its own chest, a sound like "pip" coming from its too-round mouth.

Was it telling me its name?


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"Offworld Friends are Best" is roughly 13000 words.

Neal Blaikie is originally from Northwest Florida, but now lives with his wife and daughter in a small town in California's San Joaquin Valley, where he works for the local school district. He has had one story appear in Interzone, and has others forthcoming in The Dos Passos Review and Gargoyle. By the time this appears in print, he will be moments away from finishing an MFA at California State University, Fresno.