io9 is proud to current fiction from LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE. As soon as a month, we function a narrative from LIGHTSPEED’s present subject. This month’s choice is “Spaceship Joyride” by Dominique Dickey. You may learn the story under or listen to the podcast on LIGHTSPEED’s web site. Get pleasure from!
Essentially the most stunning boy you’ve got ever seen in your life is hot-wiring a spaceship.
It’s an objectively unsexy spaceship, insofar as a spaceship could be unsexy—a six-seater constructed like a 2008 Honda Odyssey, a automotive mannequin you’re solely conscious of as a result of it continues to seem in memes.
The boy is decidedly not unsexy, although. His identify is Eddie, he’s your xenobiology lab accomplice, and he’s at the moment bent over the spaceship’s popped hood. And he’s in his pajamas. His fleecy pants have rubber geese printed on them, which he appears totally unashamed of, which solely makes him extra compelling.
“You’ve finished this earlier than?” you ask him, simply to have one thing to ask him. From the way in which his fingers transfer . . . in fact he’s finished this earlier than.
“On a regular basis,” Eddie says. The spaceship makes a stuttering kind of whirring sound because it powers up. Eddie slams the hood down. “Bingo. Let’s go.”
He swings into the motive force’s seat. You climb into the passenger aspect. You strive to not watch his slender fingers as he buckles his five-point harness, considering, Eyes by yourself work, child. You’ve finished this half one million occasions and you continue to fumble the buckle over your chest. The straps click on into place and cinch down tight.
Eddie glances over at you. His smile is lopsided, like half of his mouth is gradual on the draw. You are feeling one thing shift in your intestine. “You prepared?” he asks. You nod, unsure why you don’t belief your voice. He places the spaceship in gear. He has one hand on the wheel, the opposite on the again of your seat, so near touching you. If he have been touching you, you assume you’d lean into his hand. He’s touched you earlier than, straightforward: a handshake that leads right into a momentary hug, a slap on the again, ruffling your hair. Like he touches all his buddies. Like there’s nothing to it. Prefer it doesn’t make his intestine do . . . issues. Not the way in which yours does.
He’s nothing such as you. He’s regular, and also you aren’t. What’s not regular about you? It’s simply that he’s a boy, and you’re a boy, and boys aren’t alleged to really feel like this. It’s that taking a look at him makes you wish to set your self on fireplace—after which a minimum of your outsides would match how you are feeling on the within, like each floor of your physique is rippling and set alight.
And goddamn, the way in which he rolls his decrease lip between his enamel as he seems again over his shoulder makes you are feeling one thing you don’t have the phrases to call. You pressure your self to look out the windshield, on the receding parking bay of Sacred Coronary heart Secondary Faculty. Behind you, open house grows nearer. You’ve half a thoughts to want it could simply swallow you and prevent from the methods you’re sure to embarrass your self tonight.
The vacuum of house is chilly, chilly sufficient to place out this ungodly fireplace.
The spaceship picks up pace, then suggestions backwards out of the parking bay and into the void. You float, straining up towards the straps holding you in place. Your hair most likely seems silly in zero gravity, a cloud of waves round your face, however Eddie’s is ideal. He clicks a button on the sprint. The door to the parking bay rolls shut. The ship flips over, although it doesn’t matter anymore which manner is up, and then you definately’re zooming away from Sacred Coronary heart.
“The place are we going?” you ask. You’ve realized you don’t know, and that’s silly and greater than a little bit bit reckless. Who’re you to get in a stolen automotive with a heartbreakingly stunning boy and not using a vacation spot?
“I do know a spot,” he says. “About an hour out, tops.” He varieties a set of coordinates into the dashboard show. They’re unfamiliar to you, however not distant.
“What sort of place?”
“You’ll see.” When he grins, it lists to 1 aspect.
The radio is busted, or possibly it’s the audio system which might be blown out. All that comes out is a tuneless rattle that morphs into abrasive static, and Eddie rapidly turns it off.
Both manner, the sound system is shot, you’ve got an hour of driving forward of you, and nothing to do however speak to Eddie. He’s straightforward to speak to—you like speaking to him—however being alone with him within the little bubble of the spaceship just isn’t making you any extra eloquent. The low gentle from the dashboard turns his pores and skin clean and bluish, however you recognize it solely washes you out, and any trace of a flush will likely be much more seen in your face. You hope he doesn’t take a look at you. You actually want he have been taking a look at you. His eyes slide backwards and forwards from the windshield to the dashboard screens, his fingers at an ideal ten and two.
It’s an hour of driving and it’s important to discuss one thing. So, you speak concerning the newest xenobiology lab, as a result of that is how you might be helpful to him. You wish to be helpful to him. You need him to love you, and usefulness is the way you’ve at all times conned folks into liking you. And Eddie’s good folks, or a minimum of decided to humor you, so he asks you questions on xenophyophores and makes little noises as you ramble to sign that he’s actually listening.
“This will’t probably be that attention-grabbing,” you say after some time. You test the dashboard show—you’re about fifteen minutes out out of your vacation spot, now. Rattling. Both time’s sped up or Eddie’s actually hauling ass on this clunky spaceship, most likely as a result of he’s realized that he’s trapped in it with you and your limitless science bullshit. “I’m boring you,” you say. “I have to be boring you. Your flip. You discuss one thing.”
“Hand to god, you’re not boring me.” His voice comes out with the identical earnest depth as his litany of properly worded follow-up questions. “I feel it’s actually cool that you recognize all these things.”
Proper. As a result of it’s helpful.
“It’s helpful, a minimum of,” you say.
He makes a sound, glances down on the sprint. “It’s not simply that it’s helpful, it’s that you just actually care.”
“Properly, it was xenobiology or soccer, and also you don’t wish to see me try a free-throw.”
He reaches over and shoves your shoulder, laughing, and your intestine does that factor once more. Is that this what folks imply after they discuss butterflies within the stomach? You hate how a lot you’re keen on the sensation.
Final semester, if you first got here to Sacred Coronary heart, you didn’t care about making buddies. You have been the brand new child, beginning your senior yr in a wierd place as a consequence of a collection of follies that you just’d left half a galaxy away. Whether or not or not the scholars right here preferred you was irrelevant. Your goal was to hit your commencement necessities, move all of your lessons, and hopefully get into an honest college alongside the way in which.
Then Mrs. Marian, the xenobiology trainer, paired you with Eddie for lab. Not being preferred grew to become a terrifying prospect. You wished this boy to love you.
You bought fortunate. It was straightforward to make Eddie smile. When he laughed it got here out abruptly, just like the sound waves have been pushing previous a bottleneck in his throat. He invited you to eat lunch with him and his buddies within the backyard. You mentioned sure. He invited you to check with him and his buddies within the commons. You mentioned sure.
Midway by means of final semester, the invites stopped coming. After the preliminary stab of panic in your chest, you realized why: as a result of your presence was a given. He didn’t want to ask you, as a result of he knew you’d be there. Since you have been his pal. You’d made it.
Just a few weeks in the past, the invites began up once more. All the time texts, by no means questions, as if he knew you wouldn’t say no.
Meet me by the pine for lunch. I’ll carry sandwiches.
However why? Why would he exit of his approach to invite you someplace you have been already sure to be? Extra importantly, why does he know your needlessly sophisticated sandwich order: a turkey and swiss with just one slice of bread toasted, further mustard, and the barest smidge of mayo on the not-toasted slice?
Meet me on the statue within the commons. Let’s do the lab report collectively.
You confirmed up all over the place he instructed you to, on the appointed time, even when it meant extricating your self from different commitments.
Meet me by the library steps. I’ve acquired a query concerning the xeno quiz.
Typically—as a rule—the remainder of his buddies weren’t there. This made you are feeling awkward at first, however Eddie’s straightforward as hell to speak to, after which there’s the matter of feeling such as you’ve acquired the solar beneath your pores and skin if you’re with him. How might you say no to even a second of that?
Meet me on the parking deck after lights out.
How might you probably say no, even when you recognize he doesn’t really feel the identical? He’s attempting to be your pal. The least you can do is let him.
“Ta-da!” Eddie says, with a flourish that’s most likely an try at jazz fingers.
Based on the GPS, you’ve arrived. Based on the view out the home windows, you’re exactly in the course of nowhere. You go searching, blinking, a bit afraid that you just’re lacking the joke.
“That is it.” Eddie kills the engine. The placement indicator on the sprint shifts backwards and forwards together with the ship because it bobs freely in house.
“That is it?”
He turns in direction of you with out taking his seatbelt off. “Yeah. I, uh, didn’t actually know a spot. I simply wished to take you for a drive.”
“Are you taking anybody to promenade?” he asks, completely with out preamble.
All his buddies—who you continue to need to remind your self are your pals, too—are asking women from Our Girl of Perpetual Assist, the women’ faculty on the subsequent rock over. Who would you ask? Who would ask you? You huff. “No,” you say.
“Do you wish to go?”
“I imply, it’s a convention, proper? I can’t be the loser who doesn’t go—”
“Shut up.” He makes a sound that you could’t place, till you understand he’s midway to laughing, holding it again. “I’m asking if you wish to go with me. Do you wish to go to promenade with me?”
“Sure.” You don’t have to consider the reply. Your solely fear is that you just’ve made your self sound too keen.
Eddie seems at you, nods, begins the spaceship’s engine once more. “It’s a date,” he says, with that capsizing smile, and also you’re absolutely blushing now.
A collection of indicators on the sprint gentle up. The audio system crackle and hiss. Beneath the static, you’ll be able to hear an aborted, muffled siren.
“The place is it?” he asks, and there’s not a touch of mirth left in his voice.
You duck your head, then go searching. Eddie curses. “Nonetheless veiled,” you say. There’s an emergency car pulling up on you and it’s undetectable by radar or by sight, mixing into the starry background. A risk you’ll be able to’t make out.
You hear the staticky blare of the sirens and you might be afraid, as a result of you consider how your father’s black pores and skin turns midnight blue within the darkness, how that darkness turns into harmful. Not in the way in which a weapon is harmful, however the way in which a goal attracts hazard in direction of it. The bluish glow of black pores and skin is a risk, within the sense that it’s threatened.
You are feeling your father’s concern: a concern so previous, so deeply ingrained, that you just don’t know who put it there. Was there ever a single second when the world taught you to be afraid? Or have been you born working from this menace, flinching at sirens? The latter appears extra seemingly.
You consider your father’s concern, your father’s pores and skin.
You consider Eddie’s concern, Eddie’s pores and skin. The attractive boy behind the wheel turns blue at the hours of darkness. Not you, although. You’re protected, and also you’re afraid—not for your self, however for the effortlessly cool boy within the goofy pajama pants who hot-wired a spaceship simply to ask you to promenade.
The police ship seems abruptly, glossy and black and looming above you, lights flashing pink and blue. There’s an aperture within the ship’s stomach. A voice comes by means of the radio, however the phrases are splintered into nonsense sounds. Nonetheless, you recognize what it’s saying: You might be being pulled over. Please enter the regulation enforcement car. Failure to adjust to additional directions will end in penalties. You might be being pulled over. Please enter the regulation enforcement car. Failure to adjust to additional directions will end in penalties.
“Play it cool,” Eddie says, as he steers by means of the hole.
You’ve by no means been cool a day in your life. You relaxation your fingers in your knees such as you’ve been taught, eyes ahead. The siren stops. The underside of the police ship closes behind you, sealing you in. There’s the hiss of stress altering, the gut-wobbling feeling of synthetic gravity settling. That is undoubtedly not butterflies.
Eddie places the ship in park and rolls down the window. An officer in a basic darkish blue uniform strides as much as the motive force’s aspect. You scan his chest, attempting to memorize his identify and badge quantity in case something goes sideways. Shortly—you’re meant to be dealing with ahead, in a state of affairs like this. It’s what you’ve been taught to do.
“Are you conscious of why I finished you?” asks Officer Holt, badge quantity 070963.
“No, sir,” Eddie says. His voice comes out with such a wierd high quality that it’s inconceivable not to take a look at him. A muscle jumps in his jaw. You may see the place his pulse resides beneath the pores and skin of his throat. You marvel simply how briskly his coronary heart goes. You don’t wish to know. His fingers flex towards the wheel, a grip so tight it have to be painful.
You look down at your personal fingers in your lap, your pale pores and skin washed out by the dashboard lights, the blue veins exhibiting by means of, your pink plaid pajama pants.
“Loitering in an lively roadway,” the officer says, which is silly, as a result of house doesn’t even actually have roads. Eddie doesn’t say something. The officer asks for his license and registration. Eddie proclaims each transfer earlier than he makes it—“My license is in my pants pocket. I’m going to succeed in into my pocket. The registration is within the console. I’m going to succeed in over and open the console.” He fingers the documentation to the officer, who takes it and walks away.
Eddie’s fingers return to the wheel, falling again into that very same tight grip. “I’m . . . scared,” he says. It’s not a confession, as a result of it by no means was a secret. You can see the concern in the way in which his pores and skin tightened into goosebumps from the siren’s first sound. You’re sure he might see it on you, too.
“I’m on this with you,” you inform him.
“You’d be high-quality,” he says, however there’s no bitterness in it, such as you assume you’d be bitter in his place. He turns his head simply far sufficient to take a look at you. “I’m sorry I lied.”
“It’s okay.” You don’t know what he was even mendacity about, till—
“I don’t do that on a regular basis. I by no means do this sort of factor. I simply wished you to assume—”
“I already assume the world of you.” Possibly it’s too sincere, however the state of affairs appears to warrant that sort of honesty. “Wait, then why have you learnt the right way to hot-wire a spaceship?”
He shrugs. “Tutorials are straightforward to search out, in case you go searching.”
This boy, who discovered to commit a felony from a goddamn YouTube tutorial, will certainly be the dying of you in a method or one other.
A distinct officer comes as much as the spaceship. He strikes actual gradual, his fingers on his hips, and leans to date ahead his head is nearly within the window. “Gents,” he says, “would both of you care to clarify why you’re out driving round in a stolen car?”
The panic prickling behind your sternum feels prefer it lasts for weeks, months, years, but it surely should solely be a second as a result of by the point the spots clear out of your imaginative and prescient, by the point you cease considering shit-shit-shit-shit-dammit-dammit-dammit-motherfucking-hell, Eddie nonetheless hasn’t mentioned something and Officer Moreno, badge quantity 061941, continues to be awaiting a reply.
“There will need to have been a misunderstanding,” you say, earlier than you even know what you’re saying, the place you’re going with this.
“Oh?” Officer Moreno asks. Eddie seems at you with a lot concern behind his eyes that it downright hurts you to see.
“Sure, sir,” you proceed. “We’re college students at Sacred Coronary heart Secondary Faculty. The varsity owns this car, and a fleet of others prefer it, and commonly loans them out to college students for excursions off-campus.” To this point, all of that is true. The perfect lies are principally fact. “We’re on an outing, and one thing will need to have been misfiled in our paperwork, main Sacred Coronary heart to imagine we’d stolen the ship after we supposed to signal it out for just a few hours. See? A innocent misunderstanding.” You smile at him such as you’re in a toothpaste advert. It could possibly’t damage.
Officer Moreno chews on his lip. “An outing, huh? The place have been you even going at the moment of night time?”
“Nowhere specifically.” You’re stunned by how clean the lie comes out. “We’re simply practising driving. It’s simpler, you recognize, with fewer ships out and about.”
“Huh,” Officer Moreno says, and shuffles away.
You hear your heartbeat in your ears, but it surely sounds incorrect. It’s just like the rattling of the damaged radio. Static as a substitute of a gradual thrum. You take a look at Eddie. He’s dealing with straight forward, his expression betraying completely nothing, his fingers nonetheless on the wheel.
Officer Holt walks again over, taking ridiculously lengthy steps—significantly, the way in which he walks can’t probably be straightforward on the joints. Eddie’s jaw tenses. The officer stops beside the open window.
“All proper, boys,” he says, “right here’s what’s going to occur subsequent: we’re going to present you a journey again to Sacred Coronary heart and get this complete misunderstanding sorted out. You two simply sit tight, and we’ll have you ever again at college in a jiffy.”
“Sure, sir,” Eddie says, in a voice that hardly sounds prefer it’s his. Officer Holt walks away. Eddie continues to be gripping the wheel, dealing with ahead.
“I feel you’ll be able to roll up the window,” you inform him, simply to say one thing, to possibly get him to maneuver, as a result of the frozen manner he’s sitting seems so tense and unnatural, so not like the boy you recognize.
“Proper,” he says. He presses the button to boost the window, then goes again to gripping the wheel with each fingers, though the ship’s engine is off. It doesn’t really feel such as you’re shifting, however the location indicator on the sprint begins to shift again in direction of Sacred Coronary heart. You twist your fingers collectively in your lap and marvel how quickly you’ll get again, and what’s going to await you if you arrive.
Eddie doesn’t appear that occupied with speaking and, actually, neither are you. You consider a collection of information, to present your self one thing to puzzle over within the silence:
Eddie needs to take you to promenade.
Eddie drove you an hour out into the center of nowhere to ask you.
Eddie should’ve been assured you’d say sure, or else ballsy as hell to threat an ungainly drive again to high school after you turned him down.
Eddie is aware of you want him.
Eddie likes you? Unclear. Possibly he needs to go as buddies.
Eddie mentioned it was a date. That’s a determine of speech. Don’t get forward of your self.
Eddie’s stunning fingers are nonetheless vise-tight on the steering wheel.
When he speaks, it startles the ideas filter out of your head. “I believed sneaking again in can be the laborious half, but it surely seems like that plan is shot,” he says. “Who’s on tonight?”
“Mrs. Marian.” Your xenobiology trainer is the resident supervisor on obligation—a truth you solely know since you needed to slip previous her in your manner out of your dorm to the parking deck.
“We’re in bother.” The strain is beginning to fall out of his voice, which makes it clear simply how a lot he modified himself beneath stress. It’s endearing and interesting and actually a little bit bit terrifying.
“We have been already in bother,” you say.
“We’re extra in bother.”
“She likes me.”
“Everybody likes you,” he says and once more, there’s no bitterness in it.
“Loads of folks like you.”
Eddie makes that half-laugh sound once more, like he’s holding the complete pressure of it behind his enamel. It makes one thing ache in your chest: you wish to hear the actual factor. “After the previous half hour, I wasn’t so positive,” he says.
“It’s not your fault.”
“It’s the textbook definition of my fault.”
“Okay. Possibly that’s true. However I mentioned I’m on this with you and I meant that.”
That’s what lastly will get him to take a look at you. “Thanks,” he says, and one thing concerning the depth of his voice makes your intestine do this annoying and great factor once more. Butterflies? No, xenophyophores.
The aperture within the backside of the police service opens. Eddie begins the ship, and also you watch him go searching as he orients himself. The parking bay of Sacred Coronary heart is under you and a bit to 1 aspect, and for a second you’re in house and it doesn’t matter which manner’s up, and then you definately’re within the parking bay and all of the angles really feel wonky from the sudden shift in orientation. Eddie has one hand on the steering wheel, the opposite curled in his lap. He places the ship in park.
“We could gaily march to our execution?” he asks—due to course Mrs. Marian will likely be proper inside, ready for you.
You must simply undo your seatbelt and go away it at that, however it’s important to ask, when you’re nonetheless within the spaceship with him, as a result of you’ll be able to inform that as quickly as he opens the door one thing will change. The night time gained’t be what it was, anymore, and that will likely be each a reduction and a pointy sorrow.
“Wait. You mentioned— You mentioned it was a date. Did you imply that the way in which I feel you imply it?”
He unbuckles his seatbelt and leans throughout the console, near you. He doesn’t kiss you, however he touches your face, and it feels extra intense than you’ve ever imagined a kiss might be. He’s lifeless critical when he says, “What the fuck are you speaking about? We’re already relationship.”
It’s your flip to chortle, the sound popping out damaged. He seems wounded. You wish to contact the wrinkle between his eyebrows, so that you do. His face relaxes beneath your fingertips. You might be aflame.
“Was this not a date?” he asks.
“You are taking me to all of the nicest locations,” you say. That will get a correct chortle out of him, his head tipped again and his mouth open large. You are feeling such as you’ve swallowed a star.
“What about all these occasions I introduced you lunch?” Eddie asks. He touches your face once more, a momentary brush of his hand.
“Okay,” you say. There’s nothing else to say.
“You’re a dumbass,” he tells you. You may’t argue with that.
“Properly, let’s . . . gaily march forth, and all that.”
He seems at you want he doesn’t know what to do with you, then presses a button on the sprint. The ship’s doorways click on and unlock. You climb down on wobbly legs.
Mrs. Marian is ready as quickly as you clear the parking bay. She’s a small brown girl carrying a white bathrobe open over a pajama set, her hair tied up in a silk scarf. You’ve by no means seen the way in which anger modifications her face earlier than.
“The police went round to the entrance entrance,” she says. “They wished to speak with the headmaster.”
“Christ on a motorbike,” Eddie says, voice barely a breath.
You watch Mrs. Marian as her eyes scan over you—two teenage boys of their nightclothes, faces nonetheless tight with fear—and her livid expression breaks into one among concern.
“Had been you scared?” Mrs. Marian asks.
Eddie seems at you for a second earlier than he nods. “Yeah.”
“I used to be, too.”
“It was my fault,” you say, earlier than you even know what you’re saying. Why not? Falling by yourself sword is simply one other approach to be helpful, and possibly Mrs. Marian will go straightforward on you.
Eddie rakes his fingers over his brief, tight curls. “Are you able to shut the hell up?”
“It doesn’t matter whose fault it’s,” says Mrs. Marian. “You’re each grounded for the remainder of the time period. You go to class, you go to check corridor, you report back to your dorms. That’s it.” When Eddie begins laughing—that actual, loud chortle once more—Mrs. Marian pulls him right into a sudden hug. He’s manner taller than her however he goes limp on the contact, eyes falling shut. “What the hell is so humorous?” she asks, as soon as she’s launched him.
Eddie opens his eyes and appears at you, smiling off-kilter. “Guess we aren’t going to promenade in spite of everything.”
Concerning the Writer
Dominique Dickey is a author, editor, and cultural marketing consultant working in RPGs and fiction. Along with creating TRIAL, Plant Lady Sport, and co-creating Tomorrow on Revelation III, Dominique has written for Thirsty Sword Lesbians, Dungeons & Dragons, and Pathfinder. Their fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Journal, Fantasy Journal, and Nightmare Journal, amongst different venues. They dwell within the DC space, and are at all times on the hunt for his or her subsequent thought. You could find them on twitter at @DomSDickey or at dominiquedickey.com.
Please go to LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE to learn extra nice science fiction and fantasy. This story first appeared within the June 2023 subject, which additionally options work by Wendy Nikel, Sarah Gray, Elad Haber, Kyle E Miller, Ruth Joffre, Deborah L. Davitt, Wealthy Larson, and extra. You may look ahead to this month’s contents to be serialized on-line, or you should buy the entire subject proper now in handy book format for simply $3.99, or subscribe to the book version here.
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