[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 18
“Mom? Mom where are you? Dad?” The house was empty. Not only were Joey’s mom and dad missing, but everything was gone. No furniture. No carpets. The walls were stripped of all pictures and posters. The doors were all open and each room showed the same barrenness.
“Hello!” Joey’s voice echoed and gave him a chill. “Is anyone home? Hello.”
He found his way though the house and looked outside. The sun was intensely bright. He had to shield his eyes. The heat was almost unbearable. He ran across the vacant street to the neighbor’s house. The door was open.
The house was in the same condition as his own; empty. He checked several houses, running from one to the other. Each time he encountered the same thing. Everyone was gone.
Joey stood in the middle of the street and screamed.
# # #
“Joey, wake up. Wake up.”
When he opened his eyes, June was over him, shaking him. June. The woman who smelled like his mother. It was the perfume. It had to be. She wore the same perfume his mother did. He smiled.
“You were screaming.”
He rubbed his eyes. “What time is it?”
“It doesn’t matter. What were you dreaming?”
“Nothing. It’s not important.”
June stood up and shook her head. “If it wasn’t important, I wouldn’t be asking. What were you dreaming?”
Joey smacked his lips and tried to recall. It was so foggy. “I was back at my house, but it was empty. No one was home. No one was in my neighborhood either. Everyone was gone.”
“Was the sun really bright?”
“Yeah. It was. How’d you know that?”
“I had the same dreams when I first got here.”
“Same dream! Why?”
“Vic will have to explain that. I think we’re still adrift so let’s go see if he’ll talk to you now.”
The bed wasn’t that comfortable so Joey wasn’t too sorry to get out of it. He was even more uncomfortable to see Dexter sitting on the bed across just watching; his three eyes blinking out of time with each other.
After using the extremely small, all-stainless-steel bathroom, Joey followed June up to the kitchen. Vic was there.
“I don’t care what it takes you tin can, just talk with Tootsie and get her working again.”
Vic was talking with a robot. It was crude in design consisting of a cylindrical body and head with large protruding eyes. It had arms and legs little thicker than rope, but equipped with oversized hands with too many fingers on each. Joey counted seven, but thought there may be more.
“SPX-39 isn’t good communicating with Tootsie,” it said.
“Well SPX-39 needs to learn how to be. I didn’t buy you to just sit on this ship and play games with the crew.”
“But the crew likes my games.”
“Excuse me, Vic. Joey’s awake.”
Joey assumed the robot’s name was SPX-39. It looked surprised when it saw Joey, shrieked, then collapsed into itself. It fell to the floor with a loud clang looking like nothing more than a fancy coffee can.
“What was that?” asked Joey.
“That was SPX-39. The most neurotic robot I’ve ever had to deal with. Now that he’s spooked he’ll be like that for hours. Why I ever bought that thing.”
June scooped up the robot and placed it on the table and sat across from Vic. “Because you knew it was in danger of being scrapped and took pity on it. That’s why.”
“Pity. That must’ve been it because it sure wasn’t common sense. I think I’ll scrap that thing if we ever get going again.”
Joey sat down next to June. Her scent made him feel more comfortable. He knew something was up, but didn’t want to jump to any conclusions before he knew what it was.
“So kid, how you feeling?”
“I’ll feel better once I know what’s going on.”
“Want a beer?”
Joey chuckled. “I don’t think so. It didn’t taste as good as I thought it was going to.”
“It wasn’t really beer,” June said. “It was actually a Klovokian Ale and a particularly strong one. They’re good, but you need to drink them really slow.”
“That’s not important. Kid, you need to know what’s going on and you need to know sooner rather than later. This isn’t going to be easy. You ready?”
“I guess so.”
“Earth isn’t what it used to be. That’s why we can’t go home.”
“What do you mean? I was there just yesterday.”
“No, you were there in two-thousand-five. You weren’t there yesterday. This is where the shock part comes in. On Earth, the year would be closer to ten-thousand-five.”
Joey blinked not comprehending what Vic had said. That couldn’t be right. How could that be right? Eight thousand years in the future?
“Something about the machine my dad built sent us through time and space and far into the future. From what I’ve been able to figure out, about eight thousand year into the future.”
“But, why can’t we go home?” It still made no sense. They couldn’t possibly be eight thousand years in the future. There’s no way. No one could do that.
“Look, kid. I hope when you left, my mom was doing alright, but there’s no way I can go back and see her. Earth isn’t the place it used to be.”
Joey looked at June. “You mean, the dream?”
“Kid, I’ve looked and looked, but the best answer I’ve found is there was a galactic war about six or seven thousand years ago. A weapon went astray and our sun went into a premature nova. Not a supernova, but just nova and it didn’t blow the Earth away, but it got hot enough to kill everyone off. Everyone on earth is dead, but you’ll have to understand, all that would have happened long after everyone you knew was already dead and gone.”
That was comforting. Not only was the Earth a wasteland, like he’d seen in his dream, but everyone was dead. Dead and gone. Never to be seen again. It was all lost. Everything. There were no more Iron Butterfly albums. No more Carlos. No more mom and dad.
What had they thought after he left? Did they worry? Did anyone miss him? What happened to them all?
“Everyone?” his voice felt weak as he asked. He felt sick.
“Kid, we’ve been back to Earth. I can take you back there if you want. June’s been there with me twice now. Not much changed over the years and we were actually still able to find our old houses. Everything was empty. It was all gone.”
“Just like my dream.”
“I think you got that from me,” June said sheepishly.
“What?” why was everything so confusing. What was going on?
“I picked up some strange psychic abilities that I really don’t have any control over. I was having the same dream and I must have been forcing it into your dreams too.”
“I don’t understand. Everything is gone.”
“June, I don’t think the kid is going to snap out of this one.”
“He has to.”
“Look, kid. I’ll put it another way. Maybe this’ll be easier. You, me, and June here are the last people from Earth. We’re it. Everyone else is dead.”
“No! It can’t be. It just can’t.” Joey tried to stand up and got his legs caught on the table’s bench. He banged his elbow hard on the floor. “It just can’t.”
“June, you need to get him something. I don’t want Dexter to knock him out again.”
Joey laid on the floor and kicked his legs and tried to force the bench to move out of his way as if it was the bench’s fault he fell down. He didn’t care. He just didn’t care.
“It’s not fair. It’s just not fair!”
Why did he press that button? Why? He was so stupid. All he had to do was leave, but no, he had to be a nice guy and look at that machine with Elsa. Joey stood up and started punching the refrigerators. He didn’t care how much it hurt. The pain let him know that he was still alive.
“This is your fault!” he screamed and pointed at Vic.
“My fault? How’s this my fault?”
“Your father built that machine. Without it, none of us would be here.” Joey lunged at Vic. He extended his hands to grab Vic’s throat. He stopped just a few inches from a very frightened Vic.
“Sorry I took so long.” Joey tried to turn his head, but could only move his eyes. June was holding what looked like a gun with a large opening pointed at him.
Vic took several quick breaths. “Kid, that was close. I’m going to have to leave you there until you calm down.”
“Vic, is that a good idea?”
“Look, he lunged at me.”
“Can you blame him?”
“Well leave him in there for a little bit or lock him up somewhere. I think he’ll be more comfortable right there, though. And come get me when that tin can wakes up and feels like talking to Tootsie so we can get out of here.”
Joey started to cry. Why had he pressed that button? Why?
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