I finally found medical help for my intersex condition

I’ll start with the diagnosis first.  I had a pelvic ultrasound done and I have a vaginal canal! The ultrasound technician also thinks that I might have a uterus and a cervix, but because of my weight, I have to have an MRI done to be sure.  I’m now waiting for my insurance to pre-approve the MRI, then I’ll be able to know for sure what exactly I have inside of me.

I’m detailing what led up to this.  I’ve already mentioned some of this on this blog, but I’m including it all below.  I’m doing this partially to detail everything in one post. However, I’m mostly doing this because I’m super excited about my result, and when I began writing my experience I just couldn’t stop.

The main reason I tried so hard recently to find a doctor that could help me and get my test done is that I bled more than I ever have before in October.  I woke up in the middle of the night thinking that I wet the bed, but instead my sheets were covered in blood.  My bleeding had never before been that heavy. It was really heavy the first day, then gradually got less and less until I stopped bleeding on the fifth day.  I bled again in December, but it was my usual spotty bleeding for five days.

When I first started taking hormones in late 2006 and in early 2007, I started bleeding from my penis every month. Starting at about mid-to-late 2007, my bleeding became unpredictable. I’d get PMS symptoms every month for a few days (bloating, cramping, migraines, and wild mood swings), but I’d only bleed every two to six months, give or take.

I’ve actually been getting the PMS symptoms every month since I was 12. My penis is the size of my pinkie nail (my mom told me that, since I was never circumcised, she and my grandma had a hard time even finding my penis to clean when I was a baby), and my testicles and scrotum are tiny. I was diagnosed as having hypogonadism and a microphallus when I was 12 or so by the school nurse when students were checked to see how puberty was coming along. However, the school never set up an appointment with a doctor to determine why they were so small, nor did they ever contact my parents. My mom thinks that they were just checking the boxes to meet state guidelines and didn’t really have the student’s interests in mind. I hadn’t thought about that previously, but I’m pretty sure she’s right about that.

My voice also never changed. Well, it did, but it went from sounding like my sister to sounding like my mom, rather than getting deeper. I had to develop a fake deep-ish voice, based on my dad, who luckily had a high-pitched voice for a man. When I was 15, I started getting female curves, so I gained 150 pounds to hide it. I was getting beat up regularly, was set on fire at a school bonfire, had my hair set on fire and was spat on in the bus, and was sexually assaulted at a neighbor’s house when I was 8, all because I acted like a girl. So, I was afraid that I’d be beaten even worse, raped, and/or killed if the boys in school saw I looked like a girl too.

On top of faking a male voice, I made a conscious effort not to make girlish arm gestures. I also began walking on the sides of my feet to stop walking like a girl. The latter is still a problem for me, as I did it for 15 years or so, so it’s a hard habit to break. I became the class clown and acted really stupidly on purpose so that if I acted like a girl accidentally at times, people would hopefully chalk that up to me acting dumb regularly anyway. That made me few friends, and I was often called mentally handicapped by kids in school. I was also diagnosed with high-functioning autism when I was 13, so it was hard for me in social situations anyway. Well, except when interacting with the girls. I sometimes let my guard down, like when I ate at the girl’s table at lunch or when I was assigned to a group comprised of only girls for a school project. I probably also let my real voice slip at times, but, even though none of those girls were close friends, they never were mean to me. The majority of the boys in school were a different story. However, there were a few that never harassed me, and two or three who were even friendly to me, sometimes even outside of school.

I have never had much body hair. I have none on my legs, underarms, chest, stomach, back, etc., and very little on my arms. I only started growing a very light beard and mustache when I was 20, due to the huge stress put on me after my dad died. After that, I sometimes grew out my mustache and/or my beard. I didn’t like myself for doing so, but I felt I had to for self-preservation.

When I didn’t have a beard or mustache, I looked female so much that those artificial intelligence programs that determine the gender of a face by its features would always state my face was female. When I was on a trip with my family to North Carolina when I was 15, right before I started developing female curves and putting on weight to hide them, I was still very confused about why I looked and acted so femininely. I decided to see how strangers perceived me, so I went into a women’s public bathroom with short hair, a blue Outer Banks T-shirt, and a matching pair of boy’s swimming shorts. Despite having short hair and wearing boy’s clothing, no one batted an eye at me being in there.

After my dad died in 2000, I began living as a woman part-time, even going so far as going to various stores dressed as a woman. I’d use my natural voice and felt more like myself than I had before I started faking my personality and mannerisms for self-preservation. However, some years I would have my mustache and beard, so when that was the case I’d wear some of the few pieces of women’s clothes I owned, but never left the house. A few years before I started living as a woman full-time, I hosted a gaming convention. Because people had commented that my picture, sans beard and mustache, looked like a girl when I posted it online, I grew my mustache out. Because my beard took longer to grow since it was so patchy, I also shaved my head. I hated how I looked, and never went that far again. Luckily though, the convention went off without a hitch, and I hosted conventions a few more times in the upcoming years.

I stopped growing a beard and mustache completely in 2006, and towards the end of that year, I purchased estrogen and a testosterone blocker online. I let my sister and mom know that I intended to live full-time as a woman in 2007 on the 7th of July. I remember that well, as it is 7/7/7 and those are known as lucky numbers. The vast majority of my friends and family were at least civil to me, and most were actually supportive. So, I do consider myself very lucky since I know several transgender women that weren’t so lucky.

In 2007, after I started bleeding, I went to the emergency room.  The doctor was extremely rude to me. He mocked me for saying that I had period symptoms and told me it was not possible for me to have a period. He also berated me for being transgender, saying I lived an unusual life and calling me the male pronouns he, him, and his.  He asked inappropriate questions like why I thought I was a woman. He never did any tests, assuming that my bleeding was because of the hormones I was taking and marked that I said I had a “period” in quotes on the side margins, outside of the various fields on the paperwork. There was no reason for him to do so, as doing it in large letters outside of official boundaries just brought attention to his derision of my condition.

I was so humiliated after that so I decided I needed to obtain and see a general practitioner. I applied for and was accepted for Medicaid. I got a general practitioner, who then transferred me over to another general practitioner in the same building who had experience with transgender patients.  He was kind to me in regards to being transgender, and officially prescribed me hormones. They were Spironolactone as a testosterone blocker and Premarin, pregnant mare hormones, for estrone, which he prescribed so that I wouldn’t be taking the hormones that I purchased online.

However, he was dismissive of my comments about bleeding, never ordering a test, and making an assumption that it was due to infection because I wasn’t circumcised.  He ignored the fact that my bleeding happened every few months for five days and then stopped before the cycle was repeated a few months later. He also ignored the fact that my penis was tiny and I never had an erection or ejaculated, saying that it didn’t matter because I was transitioning to female anyway.

During this time, I also was experiencing confusion and memory problems, so I went to get an MRI done on my brain.  They found an adenoma on my pituitary gland measuring about 1 centimeter. I was prescribed medicine to reduce it, which it did, to about 1 or 2 millimeters. I was never told whether this pituitary cyst affected my hormone levels.

My doctor then moved to Canada and I got a new doctor. This one was annoying because he blamed everything, no matter what it was, on the fact that I was overweight.  The only good thing that happened during the time that he was my doctor was that I was referred to a gastroenterologist that performed gastric sleeve surgery on me which caused me to lose over 100 pounds.

A few years later, Medicaid rules were changed in my state so that that the state didn’t cover the costs anymore. It went through health insurance corporations instead, and I was told that I had to pick between Excellus and Fidelis. Because of this change, my health provider no longer took Medicaid and I had to go to a new doctor.

This doctor continued my prescriptions for Spironolactone and Premarin, however, for some reason, he cut the amount of the latter in half.  He also didn’t properly keep track of my hormone levels, so I never knew whether or not my hormones were at the correct level.

I tried again to get help for my period-like symptoms, so my doctor referred me to an endocrinologist. After she saw me the first time, she diagnosed me with polycystic ovary syndrome. I was hopeful this meant that I had a female reproductive system, but it turned out that she didn’t read the part of my patient information that stated I was transgender. Once I told her that I was transgender, she had me leave her office and I never saw her again since she didn’t accept transgender patients.

I then was referred to a large hospital two hours from where I live.  They needed proof that a psychologist or psychiatrist was treating me for gender dysphoria.  However, they wouldn’t accept my psychologist or psychiatrist and wanted me to see one of their own psychiatrists. If I did this, my insurance wouldn’t let me continue with the group program I attended. The group program was the best thing that ever happened to me, helping me with my anxiety and depression as well as my socialization skills which I had difficulty with due partly due to my autism but mostly due to my post-traumatic stress syndrome related to my childhood verbal, physical, and sexual abuse and some verbal abuse I suffered in adulthood.

Last year, my doctor said that he was no longer comfortable giving me hormones and the testosterone blocker.  My best friend, who is a transgender female, told me that she received her hormones from Planned Parenthood.

Shortly after that, I bled more than I ever had, as I mentioned above. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most doctors weren’t accepting new patients and I wasn’t comfortable going to a new doctor anyway.

However, I was fully vaccinated at the end of March, so I decided that I would see if I could find a doctor in my area that would prescribe and monitor my hormones, as well as help me to find out what I had inside of me and why I was experiencing symptoms consistent with menstruation symptoms.

My mom told me to see online if anyone were comfortable treating intersex patients.  Planned Parenthood showed up, which seemed like serendipity since my friend had recommended them.

Planned Parenthood was great as the registered nurse told me she would talk to the program supervisor to help find me a specialist that would help me with my intersex issues.  I received a list of specialists from Planned Parenthood in the mail.  Most were in bigger cities two miles or more away.  However, there was one in a liberal town about 45 minutes away from me.

I went to the specialist in May. He was really thorough and wanted to know my history from birth right up to the present. I had a bunch of blood work done. They also planned to have me go back to get a pelvic CT scan done when it was pre-authorized by my insurance. Some of the blood work came back the same day and the doctor wrote that my testosterone level is “very low” and “unexpected”. I was hopeful at that as I took it to mean that he would be able to find something. I also had a chromosome test which I anticipated as it should be interesting to see how that one comes back.

My insurance wouldn’t approve of a CT scan without having an ultrasound done first, so I was scheduled for a pelvic ultrasound in early June. When I had the ultrasound done, the technician told me I have a vaginal canal. She thinks I have a uterus and a cervix, but because of my weight, she wasn’t sure.

After the doctor saw the results, he said he wants an MRU done. I also have to get bloodwork done to do the chromosome test again as that one didn’t get tested for some reason. Once my insurance pre-authorizes the MRI, I’ll get the bloodwork done on the same day.

Those will tell for sure what I’ve got inside of me. I’m super happy about the vaginal canal though, as that will make my surgery a corrective surgery instead of a sexual reassignment surgery. I’ve been praying to God to make me female and wishing that I was born a girl since I was 5.  37 years later, my prayers finally came true!

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Life as a transgender intersex person

I have read a lot of fiction about transgender intersex people, but the Katherine Phillips story, Walker’s Path, is the first I’ve read that actually pretty accurately portrayed the experience of living as an intersex TG person.

I am intersex and transgender. Although I don’t have ambiguous genitalia like Walker in the story above, it is definitely interesting how much Walker’s journey mirrors what I went through.

In the story, Walker is raised as a boy and begins developing secondary female sex characteristics. As such, he finds it hard to live as a boy and covers his body up in baggy clothes as a result. His girlfriend invites him over to her house for a slumber party with her female friends, and they find out about his intersex body. He agrees to be dressed in girl clothes, although his desire to present as a male makes it hard on his mental state when he sees how much he looks like a girl after they dress him up and put makeup on him. He begins to ignore the thoughts of having to be a male and begins to enjoy how he looks.

I can definitely feel Walker’s pain in this story. I was raised as a boy, felt like a girl, and wasn’t allowed to be a girl, so my experience is a lot different.

But I can definitely remember feeling like Walker in wanting to present as a boy, in my case to please my parents. I also wore baggy clothes to hide my body, as well as walked on the sides of my feet (a terrible habit it took a long time to overcome) in order to not walk like a woman. I remember it being way too hard to present as a boy, and being weirded out that people would call me she or her even when I was wearing boys’ clothes (and unlike Walker I was near 6 ft tall, and currently am 6 foot even). I once went into a crowded female restroom as kind of a test of my “maleness” and no one said a word even though I was dressed head to toe in boys’ clothes and had a short haircut. I had a teacher in high school wonder why I looked so young (I was a senior who looked like a freshman – and a feminine freshman at that). I definitely wasn’t going to tell him what I knew at that point (that my “male” voice was fake since my voice never dropped, that my arms had a feminine curve to them, that I only grew sparse hair on my body, that I grew absolutely no hair on my legs, and that I was never able to get an erection in my life).

I talked with my mom about this today, and I told her how weird it was to be addressed with female terms like ‘she’ and ‘her’ when I was dressed as a guy. We recounted a time that I went to extremes to present as a guy at a convention by shaving my head. She said that she thought at the time it was weird that I shaved my head although I wanted to be a woman, wondering if I didn’t want to be female after all. I explained to her that I didn’t want to be mistaken for a woman, and we remembered times that we would walk together at Eldridge Park with me dressed in guys’ clothes, and the passers-by would call us ‘ladies’.

If I had friends that wanted to dress me up as a girl at the age Walker is in the story, I know I definitely would have been hesitant at first because I was raised as a boy. I’m sure I would have relented after a while too, just to see how far they could have taken me. True, I have always felt like a girl deep down, but Walker’s experience is similar to mine since I had (and still have, sometimes) this unusual thought of being too ugly to present convincingly as a girl, even with evidence standing right in front of my face that this obviously is not the case.

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Sad Update

My stepsister contracted COVID-19 from her mother-in-law who contracted it, unknowingly, during Thanksgiving. My step-sister has type-1 diabetes, her kidneys were failing, and she was taken to the hospital and was put on dialysis.

She was in the hospital for two weeks, but she is now home and her kidneys are functioning again, but it’s still going to be a fight.

Unfortunately, her husband’s dad died of COVID-19 a day after she got out of the hospital. So, it’s going to be a bittersweet Christmas this year.

Please, everyone, wear a mask, stay at home this holiday season, and be safe.

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Fluidity in Space: Chapter Ten

Positively fuming, I did something that I thought I’d never do. It was something that was so unlike me but felt so right in the moment. I slapped Rob Martin directly on the right side of his face… hard.

He rubbed his cheek, and started saying “OK, I deserved…”

I fumed at him. “You deserved way more than that. My mother was murdered, and I’m only hearing about it now?!”

He hung his head. “I’m sorry…”

Still fuming, and before he could say anything else, I continued. “And, what was with that “Through the Looking Glass” jäte? Is this a joke to you?!”

He shook his head, which was bowed down about as far as a neck can go. “I’m sorry about that. I was hoping to lighten the mood when you saw the illegal business here, but I know I blew it. I’m really sorry.”

I just glared at him, and he continued while we walked towards the end of Splicer Town. “There’s someone I want you to meet. She’s the one that brought me up to speed on these things. I didn’t know about your mother’s murder until I was told two days ago.

I stared at him incredulously. “You don’t expect me to believe that.”

He took a deep breath. “I know it’s hard to believe after learning all of this… mulgeon so suddenly. But I swear it’s true. I knew about Splicer Town while I was captain of this ship, and I apologize profusely for not telling you about it sooner. But I believed your mother died from a brain embolism, just like everybody else.”

We stopped in front of a small, unmarked building. “We’re here. I know it doesn’t look like much, but the woman inside is a genius at detective work. She’s a modern-day Hercule Poirot, Adrian Monk, or Jessica Fletcher”.

Not knowing much about mystery fiction written on Earth, I just assumed the people he named were famous detectives, kept my mouth shut, and walked through the small door into the door of the woman that was apparently the Epoch’s greatest detective. Well, at least that’s how Rob sold her to me. I hope she lives up to the hype.

The office was dark and empty. I was surprised to see that that the only thing in this completely grey room was a twenty-first century-style coffee maker atop a simple wooden table, no bigger than the coffee maker itself, and a simple wooden desk with a simple wooden chair. The desk only contained a single sheet of paper. The whole scene matched the nondescript entrance to the office. It was all a bit eerie, actually.

Rob spoke up and introduced me to the detective. “Angel Siharath, meet Juliana Frederick”.

If I was superstitious I would probably have walked out as soon as the detective came into full view. She was definitely the child of a splicer, a black cat to be precise. She reached out her paw to shake my hand. I looked at it for longer than is polite, chided myself internally for my rudeness, shook her hand, and greeted her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

She looked at me, and her cat-like mouth turned up into a smile. “Your statement is a bit overstated, but I understand. I know this whole situation is a bit overwhelming, and I’m sure the fact that I’m a splicer baby doesn’t help matters.”

Continuing, she stated, “Plus, there’s also the matter of the mostly empty room. I’ve been told it’s more than a bit creepy”. She took a quick glance at Rob, before returning to her statement. “However, I prefer to work with as little clutter as possible. It helps me focus on the case at hand.”

She furrowed her brow at that remark. “And, this case is certainly a perplexing one. Most of my work involves theft or blackmail. This is the first murder case I’ve ever had to investigate.”

After saying this, her cat-like eyes opened wide as if she had shocked herself with her own statement, then quickly filled with sadness. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be so blunt. I’m treating this as just another case, but this one has caused real hurt. I’m sure this is hard for you. I promise I’ll catch the person or people responsible.”

Still extremely annoyed with Rob, I shot him daggers with my eyes as I stated “This has all been thrust upon me so suddenly, so I haven’t even had a chance to cope with this yet.” I then looked at the detective and tried to muster a smile, which I’m sure wasn’t very convincing. “But I appreciate your kindness and your willingness to help get justice for my mother.”

Detective Frederick then shot her own look at Rob that put my own to shame. Without a word, she had managed to turn his face beet red in shame, as he tilted his head down towards the ground. “I’m sorry if Mr. Martin was less than discrete. He’s been helping out here for the last few days and can be of great assistance to me, but he can be a little… less than sociable at times.”

At that, I grinned inwardly, despite myself. The great Captain Martin has actually found his match, and not only that, this detective seems to treat him as his mere assistant. It reminds me of a reverse Sherlock Holmes situation, with the great detective keeping her assistant in touch with his humanity in this case. OK, I don’t know a lot about Earth fiction, but I do know about Sherlock Holmes. You’d have to be daft to have not.

The detective then looked back at me. “I’m sure Mr. Martin told you that I believe your mother’s case is connected to the recent unrest between the people on this ship.” I just nodded my head in agreement, and she continued, “I think that they were meant to be a distraction for something big. I’m not sure yet what that could actually be, but I bet your quick thinking with diffusing the situation had thrown a spanner in the works, so to speak.”

“They likely thought that they could use the fact that you are new to your role as ship’s captain to their advantage, but they didn’t expect that you’d be every bit as good of a captain as your mother.” I actually beamed at that. My initial thoughts of creepiness about her had proven to be unfounded. I just met her, but think I already like this lady.

The detective went on to say, “they’re likely to try again and that puts the advantage in our court. We might not know what they are up to, but they definitely don’t know that we’re on to them. That means that we might be able to actually catch them in the act next time.”

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A Life Forever Changing: Part 1

I was born on March 17, 1979, in upstate New York, to Irish Roman Catholic parents. My dad is completely Irish, while my mom’s heritage is Irish along with many other nationalities from the Americas to Asia. She has often said that she was “Heinz 57”, and she’s not far off.

Being born on the day of the Feast of St. Patrick was very exciting, especially on my father’s side of the family. They were going to name me Patrick, but they were afraid that children would make fun of me since I was born on St. Patrick’s Day. Mercifully, they decided to name me Mickey instead. All joking aside, I actually like that name because it is androgynous, like me. I never really fit in with anybody.

Well, that’s not completely true, as I do have my family, and my home is like a safe place away from the rest of the world. I love my family, and I have a bond with my paternal grandmother, or Nanny as I call her, especially. When I was a newborn baby, I reached out and grabbed my Nanny’s finger. We’ve been close ever since.

The closeness to my entire family only grew larger months later when I got a severe case of croup. I couldn’t breathe on my own, and the doctors had to put me in a tank ventilator. My mother told me that she would cry when the machine made its breaths for me and that she wanted to hold me and comfort me, but I was stuck in my breathing machine. She did put a toy sun that would play “You Are My Sunshine” by the machine to comfort me. I don’t know if it’s a subconscious memory of being in the machine, or just of my mother’s story that causes it, but I still smile whenever I hear that song.

My sister, Melissa, was born when I was two. I learned to walk pretty quickly, and my mother told me that I taught my sister how to walk by walking while holding her as she walked along with her feet on top of my feet.

I also learned to swim early, but I actually learned to sink first. We have an in-ground pool that my parents put in before I was born. When I was a baby, I fell into the pool and sunk down to the bottom of the shallow end. I was just staring up at my parents from the bottom of the pool, smiling at them. They picked me up and acted happy so that I wouldn’t be afraid of water. It worked because I’m like a fish when I’m in the water. Both my sister and I spend hours in the pool in the summer.

It is actually swimming that made me realize that there was a difference between boys and girls. Girls, like my mother and sister, wore swimsuits that covered the top of their bodies. Boys, like my father, just wore shorts into the pool. I was dressed in shorts too, like the boy my parents told me I am, but I felt oddly naked. I felt that I should wear a swimsuit like those worn by my mother and sister. It’s at that moment that I realized that I was different. I’m told by my parents that I’m a boy, but I felt in my heart that I was a girl.

This only strengthened since then when I was 4 and went to Pre-K. I was enrolled in Catholic school and went to Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School. The girls in my class all wore a plaid jumper with dainty white ankle socks and mary jane shoes. However, I was forced to wear the boys uniform that consisted of navy blue slacks, a white pull-over shirt, white crew socks, and dress shoes. That remained the uniform in kindergarten and first grade too. I hate it. I want to wear what the girls wear, but I know that I can’t.

Because I was so different, my classmates all mostly ignore me. Well, everyone except for Lauren. We sit on the other side of the room from each other in class, but whenever we’re in the gym, we always team up together. When school’s over we even go to each other’s houses. I love going over to her house because we can play in the cool little house that she has in her backyard. It’s so much fun. Our parents act like we’re boyfriend and girlfriend, but Lauren doesn’t do that.

She treats me just like a girl. We play house, we play hopscotch, jump rope, and sing rhymes. It’s all the stuff that I want to do at recess in school, but can’t. I just sit on the swings when the grass is dry and we are allowed on the playground, or just stand on the other side of the Church parking lot during recess when the ground is too wet and we can’t play there. I look at the girls playing their games and want to join in. That’s why I like Lauren so much. She knows that I can’t do girls’ stuff at school, no matter how much I want to, so we play the fun girls’ games whenever we get together out of school.

I should say that I ‘used to’ do all of the fun girl stuff with Lauren. Earlier this summer, all of the Catholic schools in my town combined, and are all now known as Holy Family. Next year, for second grade, I will be going to Holy Family Primary, way across town in the school that used to be St. Mary’s. I was looking forward to going to my new school with Lauren. But, she just moved away, and I was devastated. Now, I’m left alone to go to my new school with no friends, and no way to be myself.

I should look on the bright side like my Nanny always says. I can’t be myself at school, but I can be myself when I am home. Like I said, my home is my safe haven. My sister is a big part of that. I’m now 7 and my sister is 5, and we play together all the time. In fact, she’s the only person I ever introduced to my friend inside of me. She is named Jenny. My sister has a friend inside of her named Helen. She talks to Helen in front of our family. I wish I could too, but I could never do that. Since Jenny is a girl, we do girl things together. I can’t do girl things in front of my parents. I have to be a boy in front of adults.

My sister is different though. I can be myself in front of her. When we play in her room, she lets me dress in her clothes. She gave me a white leotard to put on, and I put it on quickly, and happily. I stood there grinning like the Cheshire cat, and my smile only got bigger when she told me that I “make a cute girl”. She’s right. Even though I can’t be myself when I’m outside of our house, I AM a cute girl.

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Fluidity In Space Chapter Nine

I looked at my friend of many years and smiled. “Let’s forget about the issues on the ship for a bit, and just enjoy the meal.”

Captain Martin returned my smile. “Sounds good to me. When we’re done though. I really have something I need to show you.”

I enjoyed the chicken and the company. It was great catching up. It’s only been a week since I’ve been captain, but with everything going on, it has felt like a year.

At the end of the meal, although the food at the Ming was just as delicious as usual, I bid farewell to Zhāngwěi and took the rest of my food in a takeaway bag for later. I had much more on my mind right now, and Captain Martin wanted to show me something.

He led me to a passage behind the Ming before stopping. “I was hoping to wait a bit before showing you this, but fate had a different idea. Step through the looking-glass Alice, because your world is about to get turned upside-down.”

He opened the door, and it led into a back-alley that I never even knew existed. There were a lot of people with spliced genes here, none of whom I had met before. There were other people here as well, some who weren’t spliced, and others of whom I wasn’t sure. There was a heavy-set woman with pale skin, dark black hair, brown eyes, standing at approximately 182 centimeters tall, with missing teeth. She was talking with a green-skinned man, standing at about the same height, with jet black eyes and spiky green hair. I wasn’t sure if his appearance was the result of spliced genes, or if he simply dyed his hair, dyed his skin, and changed his eye color. It could be either, really, since there wasn’t any lack of people here with all kinds of body parts in all sorts of unusual colours.

All these different sorts of people were inter-mingling and just getting on with their daily lives. These people spent their time in a way I had never even known existed until today, living in an area was dirtier than the rest of the ship. No, not dirtier. That doesn’t describe it at all. It wasn’t unsanitary, or unsavory, or anything that word would conjure up in the mind. It was lived-in… and less… sterile than the rest of the ship.

And, the smells here were positively heavenly. As I walked with Rob further down the rabbit hole, I could see why things smelled so good. There was actually a butcher here, with what appeared to be real meat!

I stopped and turned to Rob. “That’s a real butcher. Those are real animals. It’s supposed to be illegal to grow animals on this ship. Not to mention, the DNA to do so was supposed to be destroyed.”

My eyes widened as I realized the truth. “You knew about this. How did you let this go on while you were the captain?”

Rob looked at me with heavy eyes, although I’m not sure whether that was due to weariness, guilt, or both. “There are hundreds of thousands of people living aboard this vessel. It’s just not feasible, or even possible, to enforce every single penal code with that many people, with that many differing mindsets.”

He continued, “Back on Earth, our ancestors had countries and cities and villages, each with their own police force. We have one ship, with many different areas modeled after Earth, but with one captain and one crew. We were supposed to be a ship of a couple of thousand people sailing through space for a century. Instead, we’ve been sailing for four times that. We’ve built up and out to accommodate the rising birthrates. Yet we keep the same system, at least in public. Splicertown here was a way to keep things going like clockwork.”

“The less ‘desirable'”… he actually made air-quotes with his fingers when he said it, if you’d believe it… “stuff happened back here while the rest of the ship ran smoothly under the pretense of following the same set of rules our ancestors did. It seemed to work well.”

I glared at him, my eyes piercing his like daggers. “Until today.”

He shook his head, wracked his neck back and forth, and then dropped his head with a sullen look. “Actually, the situation has been bubbling up much longer than that.”

I gave this man I thought was my friend and mentor a cold stare, unbelieving that he hadn’t told me any of this until now. “How long exactly has all of this been going on?”

He looked crestfallen at that, unable to even look me in the eye. “It all started about 10 years after the splicer children were integrated back into the school system.”

At that statement, I must have looked a sight like one of those animated videos from the old Earth archives, with my mouth gaping wide open. That would be about twenty years ago. That’s when my mother was captain of this ship. That was back in a time when I was only ten years old. It was back in the time when I thought things were happy on the ship. It was Back in the time that I drift to in my mind when things get rough so that I can pull myself back together.

I guess Rob wasn’t kidding when he said that stepping through that door would turn my world upside-down. If my mother was involved, I don’t think I’d be able to process any of it. She was my role model. No, she was more than that. She was my rock. She was my everything. She couldn’t have, wouldn’t have, knowingly let this go on. But I knew I had to ask. I built up my courage and decided to just rip the proverbial adhesive bandage off to get it over with quickly. “Did my mother know about any of this?”

His eyes started tearing up. Oh, no. This is not going to be good.

“Not at first. But when your mother found out about this, her eyes were burning with the same anger that I see in your eyes now. She was positively livid. She vowed to shut everything down and did everything in her power to shut it down.”

I relaxed a bit. At least my mother acted as the same principled woman I knew her to be. “Why’s everything here still going then? Why didn’t my mom put an end to this? What happened?”

He gave me a fearful stare, his lip trembling like I never saw in his eyes before. No, his eyes gave off an expression, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. “She tried hard to shut it down. Even went against her better judgment and hired a detective from Splicertown to get to the bottom of things. And he was good, but they were better. The people who started this hid their tracks well. Too well.”

I probably had the same scared look on my face that Rob did, as I dreaded his response to my next question. “What do you mean too well? What happened?”

“Your mother was murdered.”

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Fluidity in Space Chapter Eight

I just finished talking to the junior and senior crew. I told the junior crew I’d give them full compensation for senior benefits for the day, even though the senior staff members were in position. I warned the senior staff that the next brawl would result in anyone involved losing their commission. That should hopefully set them straight, and keep them from doing anything foolish.

Tensions are still high, but the ship is under control and fully staffed again. And I’m off the clock. On alert, but officially off the clock.

I went down to the ship’s arboretum and found my favorite spot. Letting my thoughts drift for a bit, I thought back to the events of twenty years ago.

I took off my mag-shoes and let myself float above it all. I looked out into the market square as I floated up to my favorite spot up on the highest maple tree on the ship. I grabbed onto the branch and peered out. I looked at the magnificently carved dragons, especially the yellow one with the scales and fins. That one was my favorite. I pulled out my drawing pad and flipped to my picture of the dragon.

Last week while eating at the Ming restaurant, I asked Mr. Ming what the yellow dragon’s name was. He told me it was named Huánglóng, and represented the Chinese Emperor and the center of the four directions. That’s why it was my favorite. I’d climb up onto the tree and draw Huánglóng so I could get myself centered after a bad day.

“I knew I’d find you up here Angel. Had a tough day again, huh?”

I looked over at my mother’s face and saw the telltale bags under her eyes that let me know that she had a tough day too. I didn’t want to ruin her day more with my problems.

“No, I just wanted to draw a little.”

“It’s OK sweetheart, I know something’s bothering you. You know you can always talk to me.”

I looked down at the mismatched socks on my feet. I put quickly put on a red one and a pink one this morning because I was so excited to be going to school since I felt like a girl again after so long feeling like a boy. I frowned at that thought and continued to stare at my feet. “The kids made fun of me again when I came into school as a boy, after being a girl for almost a week. Maybe they’re right, I should just pick a gender and stick with it. It would be so much easier.”

My mom took off her mag-shoes and floated up towards me. After she gripped onto the branch by mine, she lifted my head towards hers. “Honey, don’t even think of going against who you are. You need to do what feels right to you. I know that it’s hard, but you need to be true to you. You’re lucky that you know who you are at age 10. I didn’t know who I was until much later.” She smiled that big bright smile that I loved so much and kissed me on my forehead. “You’re special, and I know you’re going to do great things.”

With my mind back in the present, I wiped my tears and hoped that my mom’s faith in me was well-founded.

“I knew I’d find you up here Angel.”

What?

I looked down from my perch on the tree to see the tired face of the retired Captain Martin looking up at me.

I pushed myself off of the tree, as I had many times before, with enough force to push me back down to terra firma. I quickly put my mag-shoes back on and met my mentor and friend.

“I am so glad to see you, Captain.”

“You know there’s no need for that formality now. I’m retired, you’re Captain, and I’m just Rob.”

Heaven knows how much I needed this man’s advice right now. I grinned broadly and hugged him as tightly as I could.

“Let’s go grab a bite to eat while we talk. I’m sure your usual table at the Ming is still there waiting for us.”

Walking past the dragon sculptures at the entrance to the Ming that I loved in my youth seemed to melt my troubles away, at least a little. And, wouldn’t you know it, the table under the large sculpture of Huánglóng actually was available.

Míng Zhāngwěi, the son of the Mr. Ming that I knew in my youth, and the eleventh generation Ming to own the restaurant, came up to our table.

“Hello, Captains. It’s great to see you two together again.”

Zhāngwěi was also one of the children I went to school with. He actually turned down an opportunity to become a cadet in order to continue his family’s business. My mother and Captain, well at the time, Commander Martin, tried to convince him otherwise, but he was steadfast in his resolve. I think that’s why we got along so well, since we were both deadset in following the family business, even if opportunities tried to pull us elsewhere.

I wish I could remember what else he had said, but despite my insistence that my worries had somewhat dissipated, I’m afraid that they hadn’t. All I can be sure of is that I ordered the kǒushuǐ jī, or mouthwatering chicken, as that’s what I always ordered when I was here. I must have been out of it for a while, since, no longer than I thought this, our meals appeared at our table.

I picked up the chopsticks and poked at my food. “OK, might as well just jump into things, I thought”.

“I assume you heard the announcement.”

Captain, er, Rob Martin, nodded. “You did a great job mitigating what could have been a terrible disaster. Things are back to relative peace. I know your mother would be proud of you. Heck, I’m proud of you. I’m not even sure I would have done as good of a job had I been in command.”

“Don’t say that sir, I know that if you had been in command…”

“Let me stop you there. First, you don’t have to call me sir. I’m not your commanding officer, I’m your friend. Second, I honestly don’t know how I would have reacted. Nothing like what happed this afternoon has happened on this ship in centuries. You did more than an excellent job, getting all parties to come together. Releasing that shipwide video message with the fighting parties calling for unity was a masterstroke.”

“It’s not my message that bothers me. It’s the one that came before it: the one that showed the counselor beating the mother of two of my crewmen. It only showed part of the situation, and worse still, it was unauthorized. I’m going to have to investigate the crew for sabotage.”

I actually took a bite of my food, the first since I had come into the restaurant. “It’s this kind of stuff that I dreaded when I became Captain of this ship.”

Rob Martin rubbed the dark skin at his temples and furrowed his brow, deep in thought. “Yeah, you and me both.”

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Fluidity in Space: Chapter Seven

The alarm began to blare out, and the ship’s computer spoke two of the scariest words known to humankind: “Emergency: Code White”.

“Heilige kak!” I cursed myself inwardly for my unprofessional outburst, however, outwardly my body more than matched my panicked tone. The color in my face must have changed at least six shades, as I turned as white as the emergency code blaring through the ship’s speakers. It’s my worst fears come true. The highest alert has just been sent out, and I haven’t had enough experience as a captain to handle this. Sure, I had dealt with alerts before during my tenure as second of command of this ship, but they were nothing more than mere scuffles among the crew, or among the people downtown. I had trained for code white emergencies, of course, as a cadet. But that doesn’t prepare you for the real thing, especially when my bridge crew is in the brig.

After what felt like days, Lieutenant Mario Rodriguez called in. “Captain, this is an emergency. That video caused panic all over the ship. There’s violence going on everywhere, fear, and panic like I’ve never seen. As is the protocol, the off-duty security team went in to try to help the situation, but it’s not enough. I sent the entire bridge crew down to help. I’m the only one up here! Please, send help.”

Completely numb, and acting on nothing but pure adrenaline and instinct, I began to try to control the situation. My words seemed to come out automatically, as I felt like I was standing outside of my body watching someone else handle the situation. “Release everyone from the brig. We need to be at full staff.”

As the doors opened, I looked at my shamed crew, hoping that simply being in the brig would be enough to snap them out of it. If that’s not enough, hopefully, my speech will do the trick. I don’t consider myself a wordsmith by any standard, but I’ve always been able to inspire the crew to rise above and beyond. I hope I can still do that today. “All of the senior officers are to return to the bridge. Remember, you are all officers of this ship. Put all of your anger aside, and do your duty to make this ship as safe as it can be. You are the face of this vessel, as all civilians on this ship look up to you for moral guidance. Everyone here earned their position, and I have faith in you all to overcome your demons and be the best officers that you can be.”

As the officers all began to leave the room, I looked over at Carla Jackson and Maria Corben. The physicians were amazing. They both had no outward scars from the fight, and that fact led me to think of a plan. It was a risky plan, but I was optimistic that it could work.

Both women were looking at me curiously, obviously wondering if they would be free to leave as well. I mustered up all the courage I had and hoped I could muster up a speech to help them rise above their hate as well. This will be the real test of my leadership, as the hate between these two is so raw, and my plan won’t work without them both.

“Maria, Carla, I need you two the most. I know that you are both furious at each other right now, but please overcome your hate for now, for the safety of this ship. Maria, as the ship’s counselor, I’m sure you want to do everything you can to ease the situation. Carla, as the mother of two of the ship’s officers, I’m sure that you care about the safety of the ship as well, and especially about the safety of your sons. I’m going to address everyone aboard the ship, and I need both of you to help. Please, help me convince everyone to settle down. The presence of you both together should be enough to get things back to normal.”

Maria Corben agreed without hesitation, but Carla Jackson didn’t share her enthusiasm. “I don’t want to be near that… her. If people are beating the splicers, good. That doesn’t affect me or my family. Splicers shouldn’t be able to mingle with the rest of us anyway. I’m not participating in your ridiculous ploy. This riot doesn’t affect me, and it won’t affect my sons. None of us were insane enough to change our genes and lose our humanity.”

I displayed the security footage of Main Street, and gritted my teeth, hoping that I could make my point without losing my cool. “That’s the electronics store where your husband works.” The scene showed people, non-splicers, breaking the windows, smashing the products that were on display outside the store, and stealing everything they could inside. “Don’t tell me this doesn’t involve your family. It’s bedlam out there, and anyone could get hurt in this. Please, please, help me stop this.”

Carla’s eyes widened as she saw the scene, hoping that her husband was alright. His livelihood, and more importantly, his life, was in grave danger. Begrudgingly, Carla admitted that the situation had gotten out of hand, and agreed to try to help calm the situation. I began to address the people on the ship, with both women at my side.

“Please stop this violence Both of the women shown involved in the fight this afternoon are fine, and neither wants this kind of violence to continue. Remember, we may all be different, but we all came from the same planet. We are all on this ship together. We’re not just neighbors and colleagues, we’re family.” At that moment, Carla, surprising both Maria and myself, took the initiative and spoke up: “Don’t destroy our community over me.” Maria, for the first time not sure what to add, simply stated: “Please stop.”

The gamble seemed to pay off as reports of fights began to lessen. The violence didn’t stop completely, of course, but it tapered off enough that the security crew could manage things. I allowed Maria and Carla to return to their homes. I was exhausted and was tempted to go home as well. However, I couldn’t stop yet. The ship’s alert system was reduced to yellow, or medium alert. There were still pockets of violence, but it wasn’t near the ship-wide panic that we previously confronted.

However, the continuing violence wasn’t the part of this situation that troubled me the most. The computer system had obviously been hacked. Someone took the surveillance video, edited it to remove the beating of Maria’s mother, and then streamed the edited video through the emergency broadcasting system. This meant that the person, or people, involved in this had extensive technical skills. Even more worrying, the computer system is only accessible in corridors that are restricted to crew members. All evidence so far seems to point towards that as the most likely scenario. However, I shudder to think that a member of the crew would sabotage the alert system in order to promote violence against people on this ship.

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Fluidity In Space: Chapter Six

The atmosphere in the Jackson household was anything but relaxed. Junior Lieutenant Stephen Jackson was waiting for his father to arrive home from his shift at the electronics shop, and he was not the harbinger of good news. He only had a few minutes of break to talk to his father before he had to return to his new position on the bridge crew, but he aimed to make the most of the time he had. His father had to be told about what happened to his wife and oldest son, and he was adamant that he’d be the person to tell him.

Kevin Jackson opened the door and was surprised to see that his son Stephen had arrived home before he did. He could tell by the angry look on his son’s face that something had happened at work. The fact that his son was standing here meant that he likely hadn’t been involved in a brawl, but the look on his face made him apprehensive. What on virtual Earth had made his son so angry?

“That freak of a so-called-captain locked up mom and Jonathan. The splicer baby that calls itself a counselor beat mom senseless and the captain had the nerve to lock them up! The splicer spawn only got a day in the brig, while mom and Jon are being held with no set release date.”

The elder Jackson now had a look of anger on his face that made his son look like the Dalai Lama in comparison. “He did what?!”

His son didn’t say a word, but instead reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, metallic, silver disk approximately the size of a quarter of his pinky nail. He held it in the palm of his hand, then spoke. “Play file. Timestamp one-five-point-three-six-point-oh-seven.”

The room became filled with colored light as the augmented reality surveillance disc turned the Jackson family living room into Main Street. Kevin Jackson’s face turned white as he watched the monster beat his wife. That thing had actually come into the shop today. He wished that he hadn’t ignored her. If he’d beat the living tar out of her, as her kind deserves, he could have spared his beloved Carla from any pain.

As he recalled the blood-curdling high pitched scream that he heard this afternoon while he was in the repair room at the back of the shop, his blood boiled as he began to wonder if that was his wife that screamed out in agony. With his temper now at its peak, he turned to his son and asked for the disc. “Give me that disc, son, and head back to duty before you get into trouble too. I’ll make sure everyone on this ship knows just what kind of demon spawn these splicer babies really are.”

With that, Stephen handed the disc to his father. They didn’t need to say a word to each other, as they knew exactly had to be done. They both walked out of the house, silently, and entered the crew corridors. The son headed for the bridge, while the father walked towards the maintenance tunnels.

Just as Kevin had suspected, he did not have proper clearance to enter the maintenance area. Putting his programming skills to the ultimate test, he downloaded the code to his memory banks and quickly set to work decompiling and reverse engineering the detection code. Since he needed a hasty solution, he simply altered it to skip the bio-scan completely, and hardcoded the system to always register as a specific individual. Kevin Jackson might not be able to go wherever he wants on this ship, but that shouldn’t be a problem for Lieutenant Rodriguez.

Once inside, Kevin quickly made his way to the emergency alert system. He needed to be extremely fast, as his quick-and-dirty hack meant that it would be extremely easy to detect. If any crew member entered the maintenance corridors now, they would definitely be suspicious if the bio scan tells them that they are Mario Rodriguez.

He quickly set up wireless communication between the two devices and copied the relevant portion of the video straight to the storage unit. Now that the video was in place, he set an emergency timer to begin in half an hour. That should give him more than enough time to remove any traces of his code and his presence from the maintenance systems. He gave himself enough leeway to do what needed to be done while still setting the presentation to start in a relatively short amount of time. He didn’t wish to delay the retribution of the race of creatures that had attacked his wife. Soon the entire ship would see these things as the bloodthirsty monsters they are.

At the exact moment that Mr. Jackson had finished erasing all traces of his unauthorized entry into the ship’s systems, the ship’s captain was finishing a conversation with the ship’s counselor, the latter of whom was presently being held in the brig. “I’ll do everything I can to try to calm tensions down. Sadly, there’s bound to be increased anger after today, but luckily it was just one small part of the ship that witnessed everything. I’ll make sure that the people of Main Street know the whole story. Hopefully, once they know everything, the people of Main Street will quell the gossip on the other areas of this ship. It may not seem like it now, but most of the people on this ship are caring people.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll nip this thing in the bud. Your safety and the safety of everyone else on the ship is my primary concern. I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that it doesn’t get out of hand.”

At that moment, it seemed that the universe had conspired to play another cosmic joke on them. All of the emergency screens on every part of the ship turned red with the dreaded emergency alert text. Both counselor and captain tensed up as they braced for the worst. However, the video that followed was far worse than anything that they could have imagined.

The entire ship had just seen video footage of Maria Corben, the ship’s counselor, savagely beating Carla Jackson, the mother of two of the ship’s officers. There was no context, as the video of Carla beating Maria’s mother was nowhere to be seen. All that could be seen was Maria punching Carla as hard as she could, and all that could be heard was the primal growl that Maria had uttered due to her desire to protect her mother. However, as far as the people on the ship were concerned, the video showed Maria Corben reverting to an animal-like state, savagely beating a mother of two without provocation.

Both ladies opened their eyes wide with fear. They have now entered the absolute worst-case scenario. Neither had any idea how they could possibly get things back to normal without serious repercussions.

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Fluidity In Space: Chapter Five

My name is Kevin Jackson. I am the third man in my family to carry that name. It used to mean something on this ship, but it doesn’t hold much weight anymore. My grandfather was captain, my father was the science officer and second in command, and I’m working the cash register at Main Street Electronics.

I stared up at the clock, thinking about what time it would be if we didn’t use a system based on rotations of a planet that was who-knows-how-many lightyears away. All this adherence to a foreign culture that none of us had ever experienced really annoys me at times. Our experiences should be our own, not that of some people on a swamp-covered ball in a galaxy named after cow juice.

If I didn’t need the money, I’d quit my job. I’m really sick of having to deal with people complaining about the lack of colors available on our line of robo-puppies. People on this ship are so obsessed with emulating everything from the planet we left behind, but they still end up asking for replications of pets in crazy colors that never existed. When we had to study Earth history in upper form, I don’t remember seeing anything about phlox poodles, but I get dozens of requests for pets in insane shades like that every day.

Ugh, finally. Oh-seventeen-hundred hours on the tick. I can’t wait to leave this madhouse and get home to my wife and sons. I am so glad that my son Jonathan put in the request to authorize my use of the crew corridors, and I’m even more glad that the captain approved it. It’s so much quicker to go through the crew corridor just outside of Main Street than it is to walk to the housing district directly. In my case, it’s not a matter of favoritism over the fact that my sons are part of the crew on this ship. An accident left me as half of the man I once was, literally.

I used to work as a digital component programmer in a simulated sawmill that was located in the ship’s simulation of the Scottish Highlands. It was a great job until the electronics on the saw arm malfunctioned, and I lost my limbs in an excruciating minute that felt like an eternity. The audit of the accident showed that the machine’s processor was faulty. As it was a hardware issue rather than a software issue, the ship’s treasurer, Adam Rockseed, authorized complete payment for my hospital stay, rehabilitation, and for my robotic appendages.

The good side of that ordeal was that my pension would still grow as long as I worked, even if it was not at the sawmill. That was music to my ears, as I got far away from that God-forsaken place as soon as I could. Thus, I moved, with my wife and infant sons, from one simulated Earth location to another. We left our residence in the artificial Scottish Highlands to reside in the residential living quarters just off of Main Street in the simulated United States of America.

My sons are now grown men, but we still live off of Main Street. However, we’re now in a much more convenient location. It is nice since, due to the fact that my sons are officers on this ship, we’re allowed to live in the living quarters in the area reserved for senior crew members. Plus, now with my access to the crew corridors, I can leave work and go straight home.

Our sons have their living quarters, separate from my wife and me, but our family is still together. The three spacious living quarters, each with their own toilet area and shower, are combined with a kitchen and a living room in a structure that has the facade of a domicile designed following Victorian-era architectural norms.

Even as a juvenile, I was a genius when it comes to programming, so as you can imagine, living on a ship sailing through space meant that I had my pick of careers. At the time, I didn’t want my life to be determined by the career path of my father and grandfather, so I went against their wishes and took a civilian job. That was the biggest mistake of my life.

I chose the Scottish Highlands simulation because I thought it was so beautiful and lush with vegetation. After the accident, all that I can do is look at it and see nothing but its artificial components, and I can’t help but see that even its existence is artificial. It attempts to mimic something so precisely that no one on this ship has ever actually seen. Everyone on board this ship only has an inkling of what Earth really looked like due to the digital archives created centuries ago by our ancestors.

To be honest, I can’t help but see every part of the ship that way now, as I feel that we can be so much more if we forge our own path in architecture and design instead of using designs created by people who died ages ago. The Main Street location allows me to remain close to my sons, who are now both officers on this ship, so I don’t let anyone else know about my inner thoughts. I grin and bear it, as my family is more important to me than anything else.

When I finally left work, on the way to the elevator, I walked past the pathetic attempt to recreate the stone, gravel, and sand that made up the faux-asphalt in our simulated, sanitized, 20th-century-America-inspired downtown facade. Our ship’s depiction of Main Street is so far off from the virtual augmented reality simulations that we viewed in school.

The real downtown districts from that time period had real character, style, and a sense of being that we sorely lack. The real, unfiltered, storefronts of Earth sold similar items to our stores, but the owners weren’t afraid to show the dirt, grime, and decay that naturally occurred on the planet over the decades. They were actually proud of it, as our dictionary notes that they coined words for the natural aging of buildings, calling them “weathered”, which was seen as a positive trait. They also had phrases that emphasized their approval of natural progression, stating that “things only got better with age”.

We have a clean oxygen supply throughout the ship, but Earth’s atmosphere is an amazing cocktail, containing many disparate components such as nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and water vapor. That’s not even going into the chemical byproducts of pollution that gathered within the perimeter between the Earth’s atmosphere and the cold vacuum of space that we are always floating aimlessly through, but do our best to pretend we’re not. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to breathe that wonderful mix of elements into my lungs, but I’m sure it tastes a lot sweeter than the cold, sterilized oxygen that we’re forced to breathe.

My parents took me to a theme park simulation in the ship’s Augmented Reality Entertainment Network Archway as a kid, and even their make-believe Main Street seemed much more realistic than ours. The builders on Earth made these romanticized attractions to escape from reality, but our sterile attempts at mimicry are not an escape, they are our reality.

I can’t speak from experience, of course. Maybe our downtown really is accurate. Maybe the dirty, gritty, virtual AR simulations that I experienced in school were just a fluke. It’s possible Earth’s downtowns really did resemble the ARENA records of a theme park’s Main Street. But, if that is the case, at least the saccharine structures in the theme parks were real. There was a designer who wanted to bring back the joy of the Main Street storefront that he or she remembered. Our attempts to rebuild the theme park version of 20th century America are hollow. None of us ever experienced the real thing, nor did our parents or grandparents.

Well, enough reminiscing. I’m finally home. It’s time to kick back, relax, and enjoy some downtime with the people I love.

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