The Paper People
I never had sleeping dreams on Earth. When I told people that, they looked at me as if something must be wrong with me, that I must have some sort of brain malfunction. Yes, that’s true. There is something wrong with me. Maybe that’s why they put me on a spaceship and sent me to Pluto. Maybe the God of Time wanted me to find my dreams somewhere else.
“What an awful thing to not dream,” my tense and terse mother used to say to me before she died. “I didn’t give birth to you just so you would never dream.”
I don’t know why she would say such a thing, but she did. She was a “Dubuque Queen.” That is, she was a woman who was all about the local society scene in Dubuque, Iowa. That’s where I was born and grew up before I left home and became a Starman. I made a sign and have it in my quarters and it reads: DUBUQUE 3,600,000,000, and it has an arrow pointing in the general direction of Earth.
My mother was very much a woman geared toward gatherings and festivities and church activities and so on and so on. I remember watching from the lonely shadows of our home as her ladies’ groups would gather in our living room to gossip and chitter about whatever they were chittering about. Casseroles. Widows. The milkman. None of it ever seemed very important to me, but it was surely very important to my mother. Seemingly much more important than me. Those are the times I would hideaway in my room and sit by the window and look up at the stars, even during the day and when they were not out.
I think my mother’s growing resentment for my existence really exploded after my father left. I wish I had been able to go with him, but my mother wouldn’t have it, not because she wanted to love and protect me, but because she was worried about how it would make her look to the world. But none of that matters now because I am the only man on Pluto, but at least I am beginning to dream.
The dreams that come to me now are wildly vivid and stay with me for days. For the most part, the dreams are not unsettling. But there are visions that come to me during the night that at times are, and when I suddenly wake and sit right up in a startled panic, the same beings casting about in my dream are somehow still there.
I catch a quick glimpse of them as they slip through the walls and out into the vast complex that is Station Kronos Kuiper where I believe they wander like ghosts. They look like ghosts; like childhood ghosts created by bleached bedsheets. They are indeed white, but it is not a pure white. It is the white of a being that does not live in a perfect afterlife. It is a worn white, a torn white, an unraveled white, a used white, a wrinkled white. I suppose they still encounter struggles. I call them the Paper People. I call them that because it appears as if they are wrapped in paper from head to toe. There are two small slits where the eyes sit, and they are permanently squinting. They like to confer with dark skeletons.
Maybe I’m just losing my mind and they aren’t real at all. I would think that would be a very easy thing for a person to do in such isolation and so far from everyone and everything I have ever known. I’m not really sure how I handle it, I just do. I suppose I let my mind slip like tectonic plates. It’s a natural thing. It’s geological psychosis. I wonder at what point my insanity will crumble me to pieces.
I try not to dwell on it. I try to make it a priority to busy myself in one way or another. I take long walks through the now hollow corridors. I explore. I do maintenance checks. I eat. I go to the bathroom. I read. We have a vast library here on Pluto. It’s all digital in white and blue. It’s all electric magic. I can call up just about anything I want.
There are times that I feel as if I’m just filling in the gaps between birth and death. But then I thought about it deeply and realized that is what we are all doing. Now, we all fill these great gaps in various degrees, of course. Some have lives full of wonderful experiences, wealth, love, happiness, divinity. Others may rot in a prison for 50 years because of a very bad day. But even still, up here on the fringes of our solar system, life has become even larger, wider, grander.
Yet it makes me feel miniscule, a grain of salt caught up in the winds of the astral plane. Even so, I wish I still had someone to share it with. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel so small if I were bound to someone. It would be wonderful to be able to share all these wonders I witness, and it would be wonderful to crawl into someone when I feel broken. Why do I wish for so many things that I know will never be? At least in this particular life.
I wonder if I will become one of the Paper People in the end and rattle these icy halls for eternity. I must stop thinking about the end. I will go to the great garden we have here, and I will breathe for today, and I will relish in life.
Author’s note: This is the second piece of this play-around project. Read the first part HERE or visit cerealaftersex.com. I hope to craft more of this story over time as an experiment in writing some science fiction, or something like that. Thanks for reading and supporting independent content creators who just want to do what they love to do.