INTRO: Welcome to Odin III, a grubby little mining world on the dark and dusty backside of nowhere. It’s a world where everything that’s worth having is already owned by Galactic Mining, and where people have come to squander their hopes and lives, working for the company and dreaming of striking it big. It’s also a world where some very strange and peculiar things have begun to happen, and it all started about five weeks weeks ago, in a bar called Weber’s Place, when Ray Cornwall didn’t just warp the fabric of space/time, he completely bent it…
16. “Dreams of Another World”
by Jenna Hanchey
One Saturday night in Weber’s Place, two women nursed drinks on opposite sides of the bar, dreaming. Olivia Fontaine swirled a glass of chardonnay with one hand, watching the translucent liquid sparkle in the dim light. She was a newcomer to Odin III. The long journey to the outskirts of the galaxy had not readied her for a positive first impression of the mining colony, and nothing she’d found there so far had changed her mind. She dreamt she were anywhere else.
Sure, her husbands Derrick and Abed had gotten great offers to work at the elementary school here—Galactic was desperate for teachers on its colonies—but what was she supposed to do on this backstar planet? Playwrights should be in centers of culture, where their commentary could make a social impact. Olivia sighed, looking around the bar. If this was the extent of social life in this town, her dreams were done. She knocked back the remaining wine and set the glass on the counter.
“Another?” Ingrid the bartender asked.
“Sure, why not. Not like I’ve got anything else going for me,” Olivia admitted.
“Haven’t seen you around much. New here?”
“Yup. My husbands just started teaching at the elementary.”
Olivia barked a laugh. “I was a playwright. But it doesn’t seem like there’s much use for plays on Odin III.” Ingrid shook her head, moving back down the bar.
On the far side, Constable Alma Jenkins had just finished her second beer. She rarely indulged in flights of fancy; she was a grounded and no-nonsense sort of woman. But after multiple drinks and an emergency that called her girlfriend, Raisa Popov, back into work, she let a little of her frustrated desire slip through.
“I could’ve been an actress, Ingrid. A good one. I can even sing, did you know that?”
Ingrid raised her eyebrows. “I don’t think I did.” She tossed a bit of cheese onto the floor where Sheba, her cat, gobbled it up.
“No one knows. I haven’t performed since the community theater shut down, oh, when I was in high school.” Alma leaned her head into her hand. “I miss performing. Hell, I just miss theater. Plays create other worlds. And in those other worlds, I could be anything.”
Ingrid looked at her thoughtfully. Swapping out the empty bottle for a full one, she dangled the new beer in front of Alma. “On the house, if you follow me.”
Alma looked at her sardonically. “My drinks are always on the house.”
“I know, but you should follow me anyway. There’s someone you should meet.”
A week later, Olivia Fontaine burst into the constabulary office. Rasputin, a large bloodhound, bolted upright from behind the desk. Alma Jenkins stopped recording her report, concerned by the look on Olivia’s face.
“It’s not working! I can’t do it.” Olivia noticed the dog. “Oh, wow! Is he yours?” She leaned down to pet Rasputin, who reveled in the attention.
“No, he’s my girlfriend’s. I bring him to the office sometimes when Raisa’s working late.” Alma realized the visit wasn’t about a case. “So, you’re having trouble writing the play?”
“I can’t make it work! I don’t know Odin III’s culture, histories, fears, desires.” She snuggled the bloodhound, who leaned into her side. “I keep writing stories about what I knew on Earth, just set here instead. And it doesn’t work! There’s no one coming from Kansas to the big city trying to break into the holovid industry. There’s no fears of government conspiracies or national enemies to tap into.” She gestured at the close walls and lack of staff. “There’s barely a government here.”
Alma smirked, grabbing a leash off her desk. “There may not be much of a government, but there’s plenty of fears and desires. And maybe even a conspiracy or two.” She winked at the bewildered playwright and attached the leash to Rasputin’s collar. “C’mon, I was about to go on my rounds anyway. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll see what stories we can find.”
“Are you sure?”
“Are you kidding? Do you know what it’s like just sitting here twiddling my thumbs and waiting for you to write something for us? I hate being useless. But this I can help with.” Alma held the door open for Olivia.
“Well now you’ve made me more nervous. What if I let you down?” Olivia said, looking at Alma as she walked through.
Alma clapped a hand on her shoulder. “How about this? If you trust me to lead you to some stories, I’ll trust you to do something beautiful with them. Instead of worrying we’ll let each other down, think about it as trusting we’ll hold each other up.”
Olivia pursed her lips, nodding. “Okay. Deal. So where are we headed first?”
Alma appraised her companion’s shoes. “Are those comfy?” When Olivia nodded, she added, “It’s a long trek to Daraja Mapunda’s workshop, but it’ll be worth the effort.”
Olivia’s conversation with Daraja was just the beginning. Over the next few weeks, Alma introduced to her an eclectic spectrum of residents on Odin III. Olivia learned why people called Daraja “the Machinist” through stories about his inventions. An older couple spoke lovingly of how their pet cats kept them sane in the stark Odin III landscape. Jonas Gruber told her of his travels, and how he sought meaning in the stars only to find it waited for him back home. Father Luigi recounted his searches in the mines for creatures that may or may not exist. Even Raisa Popov scheduled some time at Alma’s urging, opening up to Olivia about the vagaries of time dilation and the choice to leave her family behind to give them a better life.
A few weeks later, Alma again sat alone at the bar on a Saturday night. This time, her beer remained untouched. She was focused on the holographic text projected from the tablet in front of her. The sound of a chair scraping the ground broke her concentration. Olivia sat down to her right. For a moment, both women looked at each other wide-eyed. Hopeful, but afraid.
“Is it what you—?” Olivia burst out, just as Alma asked, “Is the lead—?”
“You first,” Olivia insisted.
“This play… it’s stunning. And the lead character! Expertly constructed to embody the theme. Is she… meant for me?”
“Of course.” Olivia melted in relief. “Oh, I’m so glad you like it. I was worried it wouldn’t meet your expectations. Especially after all the work you did to set up interviews. What do you think of the title?”
Alma smiled. “Dreams of Another World is lovely. It ties the literal move to another world to the metaphorical creation of new possibilities—it’s beautifully done.”
“There’s only one problem,” Olivia said as Ingrid brought her a glass of chardonnay, “where are we going to stage it? The only place I’ve seen that’s large enough is the Catholic Church, but I don’t get the sense Father Francis would be keen on renting it out.”
Alma sighed. “No, I doubt it. Hmm… there’s the old community theater building, but it’s been shut down for a long time. It’d take substantial maintenance to get running again.”
“Not to mention money that we don’t have.”
“Money that we don’t have yet,” Alma appended.
Ingrid crossed her arms, leaning over the counter. “What about here?”
“You’d let us use the bar?” Alma exclaimed.
“Yes, yes, this could work!” Olivia nodded, grabbing a tablet from her purse. She swept her gaze over the room and started sketching three-dimensional designs.
“Could be good for business,” Ingrid shrugged. After a moment, she admitted, “It’s not often I see people on Odin III getting to make their dreams a reality. If I can be a small part of that, well, why not?” She pulled a liquor bottle and three shot glasses from under the bar. “For a cut of admission, of course. What do you say ladies?”
Alma nudged Olivia, who was clearly already running with the idea, and tilted her head at the three brimming shots. Olivia put down her tablet. Each of them raised a glass.
“To holding each other up,” Alma said.
“To Dreams of Another World,” added Olivia.
“And to what we create in this one,” Ingrid finished.
Three glasses clinked together, transforming the dream of another world into a promise.
audiobooks in Emily S. Hurricane's Bloodlines series. Her fiction has also appeared in Daily Science Fiction and the Apex Microfiction Contest. Follow her adventures on Twitter (@jennahanchey) or at www.jennahanchey.com.
Her most recent appearance in our virtual pages was “From Soulless to Soulful.”
In the meantime, stay tuned for Part 17 of The Odin Chronicles, “A Question of Timelines,” by Travis Burnham, coming next Monday.
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