"So, how does this
The attendant at the desk
looked up from his podium, donning his best friendly
customer-service smile. His dark hair was cropped very short
beneath the cap that was part of his uniform. He looked like he'd
been kicked out of the Marines for being too nice. I pegged him at
about a fourth of my age.
involved. How does it work?"
I noticed his bright, cheery
eyes roaming over my shoulder to the long line waiting behind me
as he tried to gauge to what extent I was going to ruin his day.
"It's all perfectly
safe, ma'am." His voice took on the measured tones of someone
reciting an oft-practiced speech. "Off-World Travel is the
most popular recreation company on the planet. We have literally
millions of customers each year. Our health and safety record is
"That's nice." I
gave him an unwavering stare. "Humor me, though. How does it
The man directly behind me
in line cleared his throat and began jingling his keys. The
attendant mustered his professionalism and fought off an
expression of exasperation.
"Cities today are a
jumble of overcrowding, noise, and pollution. People yearn for
simpler times when we still had something called a 'countryside.'
Sure, there are a few nature refuges out there, but they're always
too crowded with tourists to really feel like an escape. Space
stations feel too artificial. Vacationing on other planets is the
obvious solution, but due to the boundary imposed by the speed of
light, traveling to them is a waste of your lifetime. And who
really has five hundred years of vacation time saved up,
His lips quirked into
a plastic smile.
"Off-World Travel has
solved that problem with their revolutionary technology that
transfers the spirit rather than the body. We provide a whole new
body on a whole new planet! Experience the wonder of an untamed
wilderness – or a not quite so tamed civilization if you're a
little less adventurous - and at the same time relive the miracle
I raised an eyebrow.
"What's more, our
process allows us to direct your spirit through time as well as
space. That means you can sign up for vacation packages ranging
from short stays to decades, and you'll still get home the instant
you left! Talk about taking a break! The only limit is your
"Isn't it always?"
I replied sardonically. The attendant remained unruffled. I
perused the offered catalog. Their prices were actually amazingly
affordable. I noted the seventy-year package was the most popular,
but decided upon the cheaper fifty-year option instead.
I gave the attendant a
resigned nod. He had sold me.
"Very well, what've I
got to sign?"
I skimmed over the paperwork
as I filled it out. I'd signed my name on fewer lines the last
time I bought a house.
"What's this bottom one
about?" I asked, alarmed that it appeared to be a page
discussing some sort of medical condition, which seemed to
contradict the attendant's earlier claims.
I heard the man behind me
sigh quite audibly.
"Oh, that's just a
waiver explaining that people sometimes experience temporary
memory loss during the vacation. Not once in our billions
of customers served has there been anyone who retained any memory
loss upon returning from the excursion. However, you may find some
of your memories are inaccessible to you while away on the trip.
Most people actually comment that this adds to their enjoyment.
That's the goal of a good vacation after all! Experience new
things, forget all your worries, ha ha."
I didn't return the laugh;
instead I gave him a scalding look while I completed the last
form. Everybody I knew had been on one of these things, and they
were all pushing me to try it, so I guessed it couldn't be
too bad. I finished my documents and moved on.
For once in his life, the
attendant greeted the next customer with heartfelt enthusiasm.
My mouth was filled with
fluid; I couldn't breathe. I coughed wretchedly, using the blessed
air that poured into my lungs to call for help. Someone slapped me
on the back, hard. I blinked, confused. I couldn't really recall
who I was, or how I had gotten here.
I raised my eyes and
recoiled in horror when I realized I must be within the grasp of a
giant. There were still flecks of liquid in my eyes, so he was too
blurry to make out clearly. Just a mixture of bright white, drab
green, and shiny silver. There was a painful tug at my stomach,
but my head seemed to be lolling uselessly and I couldn't angle it
in the right direction to figure out what had happened.
I felt myself passed off to
another pair of giant hands. This set toweled me off and wrapped
me in some kind of cloth. Feeling dry and warm, I calmed
sufficiently to better observe my surroundings. I had just enough
time to discover that the white clad giant carrying me was a
woman, when I was handed off to a second female lying on a bed
"You've got a
daughter!" exclaimed the first, beaming.
said the second warmly, hugging me close to her. "Welcome to
DAN DEVINE is an inaccurate scientist by day and an aspiring author by night. He served for a time as the editor of
Fools Motley magazine, but has recently decided to focus on improving his own writing. Since then he has published stories in
Dark Fire, Afterburn SF, and Flash Tales magazines.