Monday, September 5, 2022

The Odin Chronicles • Episode 26: “The Savior and The Beetle” • by Roxana Arama

Ida parked her red electric car in front of the house with the FOR SALE sign and checked the listing on her tablet again: square footage, taxes, and fixtures. All looked great. The best Odin North had to offer. The neighborhood wasn’t far from downtown and the house had a great view of the mountains surrounding the oldest settlement on Odin III, a planet light years away from Earth.

Ida was ready to settle after half a lifetime on Galactic Mining’s payroll as a Regulatory Program Specialist. The bonus she’d received for her recent work on the founding of the Odin East settlement would take care of her down payment.

She walked up the metal steps decorated with pots of white dianthus flowers, wondering if the entryway would make a good impression on her housewarming party guests. But who would come to her party? Not her best friend, who hadn’t called in ages. Not her sister, who hadn’t spoken to her in three years. And definitely not her ex-husband, who’d recently moved to Proxima D. She missed them all, which saddened her, especially since she’d always tried to be of help to them.

The door was wide open, and Mary Gruber welcomed her with a big smile.

Ida was surprised to see her there, working as an assistant to the listed real estate agent. Last she checked, Mary was still a doctor at the Galactic clinic, taking care of people with injuries sustained on the job. Ida had sometimes needed Mary’s expertise to write her proposals for prevention and safety regulations.

“Trying something new, Mary?”

“You can say that. Jonas inspired me to cut the cord.” Jonas was her brother-in-law who’d quit his job on interstellar freighters. “I wanted to spend more time with people who smiled and looked forward to the future.”

Ida remembered to smile. But looking forward to the future? She missed her sister Lucie, who lived in town. When Lucie arrived at Odin North, Ida had taken her to Hans and Ray’s Deli shop, and introduced her to Ingrid at Weber’s Place, and showed her how to send messages back to Galileo Station from Shelley’s office. She’d hoped they’d build a future together here.

“How’s your family?” Ida said, a knot in her throat.

After Mary shared what was new, she handed Ida a pair of plastic shoe covers and started showing her the house. The structure was brand new, built with glass, steel, and mined stone. The kitchen boasted the latest appliances. The floors were heated to 37 degrees Celsius for maximum comfort. This was a gem of a house, a piece of real estate that was not just an ideal home for the sophisticated heart but also a savvy investment.

The living room felt warm, with its yellow walls and framed paintings of native flowers and animals. The smell of freshly baked cookies reminded Ida of her husband in their old kitchen, preparing a surprise dinner for her. She sighed thinking of Gordon before his mushroom addiction, the support groups, and the therapy with Aisling that had led him to doubt the fabric of existence as he babbled every night about conflicting timelines.

“Ready to go explore on your own?” Mary said, patting her on the shoulder.

Ida asked about the neighborhood, desperate for conversation. Her job had her sit at her workstation all day, looking at mining rules and regulations, reading and assessing land usage proposals, and making sure everyone got the help they needed.

“Take a look around,” Mary said after answering Ida’s questions.

The house was all on one floor, taking advantage of the plentiful land of Odin North. There were different sections to explore, from bedrooms to a small greenhouse, all under the same solar-paneled roof. Laminated notes taped to the walls at eye-level completed Mary’s earlier descriptions: “Marble countertops” and “Wired for house robots” and “Ideal space for a workout room.”

In the master bedroom with its blue bamboo cabinets, Ida noticed a spot on the beige carpet. She stooped to see a shiny green beetle, a species she’d only seen on Odin III. She’d learned from a nature podcast that it wasn’t poisonous, so she drew nearer.

“Are you alive?” she whispered.

The green feelers tapped a weak yes.

“You must be starving in this empty house.” Wherever those freshly bakes cookies were, they hadn’t helped that poor creature.

Ida lifted the beetle off the carpet and hurried to the window, which opened at the touch of a button. A foul odor hit her before the perfume of the syringa bushes outside could reach her. A bitter, repulsive, stinkbug smell.

“You didn’t need to do that,” she told the creature in her hand. “But I won’t hold it against you.” With a jerk of her wrist, she threw the beetle into the tangle of branches outside, where it was sure to find food and recover. “You’re welcome.”

The beetle’s flying arc was cut short by an invisible net, and a fat spider jumped from the shade, all twelve hairy legs scrambling to reach its victim.

Ida shrieked, but she was too far to reach the sticky web and save her beetle.

The spider began rolling the already bitten and paralyzed bug into a cocoon.

Eyes wide, Ida raised her hand to her mouth only to smell the bug stink on her fingers. She ran to the master bathroom to wash it off.

She scrubbed with a brand-new bar of gelsemium soap from the bronze dish matching the faucet. She couldn’t believe she’d killed that poor beetle when all she’d wanted to do was help. She looked at herself in the mirror, and for the first time ever she saw what her best friend, her sister, and her ex-husband must have all seen years ago.

Mary had to run after her to get the shoe covers back. “Oh, never mind, they’re already ruined.”

“I’m so sorry,” Ida said, taking them off. “What was I thinking?”

She was thinking about her best friend Aliya, who’d stopped calling after Ida tried to help her find a better job and in the process made her lose her decent-sized paycheck at Galactic Drone Design.

She was thinking about her sister Lucie, who’d complained that Ida had done too much to help her settle in. Whenever Lucie had a question, Ida had an answer, sometimes before the question was even asked. In the end, Lucie just wanted to be left alone to make her own choices and mistakes.

And she was thinking about Gordon. She’d had him committed to the Odin South rehabilitation center because that was the right thing for him. Of course, when he got out, he got out of her life too, and off the planet for good measure.

Back inside her car, Ida let out a soft sob. She’d only ever wanted to help. Like she’d tried to save that poor green beetle. But what if she stopped helping? Would the world sort itself out without her? She wiped a tear, a bit of hope breaking through. Maybe people would like her even if she didn’t try to help them—or because of that.


Roxana Arama is a Romanian American author with a master of fine arts in creative writing from Goddard College. She studied computer science in Bucharest, Romania and moved to the United States to work in software development. Her debut thriller Extreme Vetting will be published in 2023 by Ooligan Press (Portland State University). She’s a member of SFWA, the Authors Guild, and Codex Writers’ Group, and her work has been published in several fiction and nonfiction magazines. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her family. More at or @RoxanaArama on Twitter.