I wake up at 3 a.m. in the wrong house. There's a night light and some shoes on the floor that are too big or a kind I never wear: steel toe or ones without laces. I've lost a good portion of my sight because against the wall above the bed is a shadow that doesn't recognize me. Outside the window, the street lights seem distant as undetected as an exoplanet.

I'm walking in someone else's shoes. I remember a planet that is incredibly black. The streets are empty, the stop signs are no longer signs of anything. Perhaps memorabilia of a past life, throbbing, driving in all directions. Because a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, one I call where--I've--been, and the other, where might be home, I walk in a direct path.

I haven't always been this disorientated. I was doing research on how this planet is locked to a star, that only one side of that star ever faces it. My data indicated blood-boiling heat and skin-scraping winds. And that was the dark side. I was not dreaming or forging data.

I keep having this recurrent dream of a woman whose body slowly approached the density of balsa wood. She could float on water, and later in that dream, time moved so fast, a year turning to 1.1 earth days, that I lost her. Using the new technique of microlensing, I made several abortive attempts to find her remains, perhaps nothing more than gas particles in some icy dark wasteland. That woman was my adoptive mother on a cold grey planet.

I turn and walk up to a house. It has no color, or none that I can discern, only the skeleton of rafters, jousts, floorboards, etc., as if my eyes are x-rays. Some law of physics is forcing me to enter this house through an open window, making me think it could be my home. I've traveled through so many galaxies, deceived myself into thinking that each planet or star could provide a home. My mouth is dry and there's a strange hum in my head.

Inside, I move by touch, feeling the hard or sharp or soft shapes of objects until I locate a staircase. I climb very slowly, lightly. Inside the room, I stand before the woman sleeping, safe in her nocturnal dreams of warm stars and helix nebulas. I stand there for what must be hours, but that is a relative judgment and very unreliable.

She turns, one eye opens, then the other. "Who are you?" she says, sitting up. "What are you doing?" I tell her that I was trying to find home. That perhaps I've landed on the wrong star.

She gets dressed and leads me back into the street. We're both looking for some signs of life that can help me reach my pirate ship--TRS-186. I can't remember where I landed it, how long ago or how I lost some of my short-term memory. Time passes so quickly on certain stars, and others, hardly at all.

Soon, I detect that it will be sunrise, and all life here, whatever remains, will vanish.


Kyle Hemmings
Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey, where he sometimes skateboards and listens to surf music.