Be careful mocking eccentric small business owners, asking them for an adventure because you might find yourself on an alien planet.
Waking up in this battleground wasteland was payback. Rafael Vásquez was sure of it. His parents were small business owners themselves, and he knew better than to ridicule others. He was better than that. He regretted making fun of that eccentric couple and their boutique selling “personalities.” He thought their business was a joke or some crazy immersive art installation. The place did look the part with its floor-to-ceiling assortment of drawers, all labeled and allegedly filled with personality traits. At the time, he told himself he was “just playing around,” but now accepted that his attitude must’ve come across as mocking when he requested they give him an adventure instead.
Rafael went to bed like usual only to wake up on his blanket and pillow in a crater filled with corpses of green lizard people in military gear. He was no expert on alien lizard biology by all accounts, but judging from the bodies’ rot, they had been dead for a long time.
After spending the first half-hour pinching himself to wake up, screaming for help, and begging to be returned home, Rafael settled to a state of acceptance. An adventure was what they must’ve given me, he thought. I’m not sure why my clothes are different and why they didn’t bother to give me my shoes.
With no answers, he wandered about the graveyard. He knew he wouldn’t get far in his socks, so he took a pair of boots from a corpse. He then pilfered a golden sword and what he interrupted as an automatic assault rifle from someone who looked important because of their uniform’s cleanliness and intricateness.
“I wouldn’t normally steal from the dead, but I’m just trying to survive, so I hope you will forgive me,” Rafael apologized as he equipped himself. “Man, I wish you could tell me where I’m at.”
The alien landscape reminded him of some photos he’d seen of Mars but mixed with New Mexico’s desert that he’d experienced with his older brother and cousins during a road trip to visit family. A few hours passed, and all was silent until three white lights whizzed past above him. They looked like drones to Rafael as they spun a circle around them, flashed gold, and proceed to fly north. With no better leads, he chased after them.
Thanks to the flat red clay valley and the casual cruising speed of the lights, they were easy for him to follow. The lights came to a stop when they arrived at a patch of land unobtrusive by bodies or nature. The lights spread out, singling for a landing spot for the spacecraft above. To Rafael, it looked like a house-size flying limo. The ship had a few significant scratches against its shiny black paint, but they only gave it a sexy rebel battle scar vibe. Along the side near the front were neon blue digital letters in an unrecognizable language until he blinked. They transformed into English to read Starbringer II.
The side doors began to slide open. Rafael pointed his rifle at them, but then he had a thought. Maybe they’re here in peace? After all, if they wanted me dead, they probably could’ve killed me from their ship. Rafael returned his gun to his holster.
The ship’s ramp extended out, letting off three people. Taking command of the center was a six-foot-tall humanoid lizard with sapphire, red skin. There was something about her that gave Rafael the impression she was a slick, badass rebel with a gentle heart. She sported black jeans and a black leather jacket with a neon blue backlight like a rebel, but then she also wore a black t-shirt with a drawing of a calm white tree with flowery branches.
To her left was a seven-foot-tall minotaur with red bull fur and muscles that could crash kegs with a glance. Numerous pockets adorned his outfit, from his brown camo cargo pants to his matching brown shirt. Then to the woman’s right was a flying metallic silver sphere the size of three basketballs with four mechanical arms surrounding it.
The lizard woman pointed her pistol up, flipping it to its side, showing she was didn’t want to fight. She spoke to Rafael.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand you,” Rafael replied.
The woman sighed. She turned to the robot and issued a request. The robot beeped, pulled out a wristband from a compartment inside itself, and strapped it around Rafael’s wrist. Rafael was hesitant but didn’t resist. Upon finishing, the white wrist band pricked his skin like a needle.
“Ouch,” Rafael commented.
“There, can you understand me now?” the woman asked with slight annoyance in her tone.
“Yes, I can understand you now. What is this thing?”
“It’s a basic networker,” she explained, dumbfounded that he didn’t know the answer. “How’d you get here, kid?”
“All I know is that I went to sleep in my bed, and I woke up in a crater filled with dead bodies on an alien planet.”
The minotaur huffed. “You expect us to believe that?”
“I swear, I have no idea where I am or how I got here.”
The robot emitted a series of beeps.
“I see,” the woman acknowledged. “What is the name of your homeworld?”
“What!?” the minotaur exclaimed. The robot beeped in confirmation. The minotaur turned to the robot. “What do you mean he’s not lying?”
The woman put the backside of her hand against the minotaur in a gesture to calm him. “You’re a long, long way from home then. My name is Kára. The big lug is Sinas, and the mechanical is Norbit.”
“I’m Rafael. Could you help me get home?”
“Visiting Earth is highly restricted, but I might know someone who can smuggle you in.”
“But it won’t be easy, and it sure won’t be cheap,” Kára finished. “We could use someone in our crew to do miscellaneous errands, you know, earn your way back home.”
“I’ll do whatever you need me to do,” Rafael offered.
“Good. How about you start by handing over that sword you got. The family commissioned me to retrieve it.”
Without wavering, Rafael turned the sword over. “Here. It’s yours.”
“Thank you. I hope you’re an adventurous sort, Rafael, cause that’s what’s in store for you as part of my crew.”
This week’s short story was brought to you today by the following writing prompt: “You lay your head down to sleep, only to wake as the sole survivor of a horrific battle of some kind. Blasted earth and wreckage are all that surround you. You walk through this silent graveyard towards eerie lights in the sky.”
I thought it would be fun to callback The Little Shop of Personalities with another character having a different reaction to the shop. I was initially stumped on how to end it though. Did I want Rafael to get home or not? No, because he wanted an adventure of a lifetime so I turned his tale into his origin story for joining Starbringer II, which is from an audio drama podcast series I’m developing. Don’t forget, you can find other stories I’ve written about characters and places in the page tags.
Thank you to Bien Julian at Design Pickle for bringing this scene to life!
That’s all for this week! Be careful what you wish for now.