Size / / /

Adam ditched me at breakfast, by phone, out of the blue.

I mean, sure, I hadn't been easy lately, what with my giving up coffee and everything. But then again, he hadn't been easy either, what with his being an asshole and everything.

We'd been going together seven months and he ditched me at breakfast. Unbelievable.

And then Marcia called me to say that a certain person who shall be nameless had arranged a high-school class reunion, ten years on, and everyone but everyone was going.

"So, you going, Dina?"

Trouble was, on the last day of high school I'd carefully and very publicly told everyone that in ten years' time I was going to be a famous writer, living in New York, married with no kids, skinny as a rake, and far too rich and successful to go to a reunion.

"When is it?"

"Next month. Everyone's going and they'll think you're really weird if you don't go too." Marcia can be very supportive, on occasion.

A month. A single solitary month to shed ten pounds, find Mr. Right, and finish the damn novel that I'd started in high school and never quite got round to even looking at again.

"Sure, I'll go," I heard myself saying, casually. "Why wouldn't I?"

But I'm not all dumb. I decided the best I could hope for was one out of three: either a man or ten pounds or a novel.

I went with the novel.

See, I figured that finishing my book would be easier, and way cooler, than finding a man or getting skinny enough to count as actually thin, or both. So that night I dug the typescript out of the box of my school things and looked it over.

It was a time-travel romance.

It was a time-travel historical romance. With robots and ball gowns and a great twist at the end, hopefully, if I could think of one by the time I got to the final page. I'd written five chapters, all those years back. And now it was show time.

So. I kept an eye out for stray dateable men, and I kept my eyes averted from chocolate cake as well as I was able, which isn't very able when you're a waitress, but mostly I finished working my shift and went home and just typed.

With a week left before the reunion I had three chapters to go, and with a day left I got to the last chapter, the one in which Julianne realises that Prince D'Alembert isn't a robot after all. But I still didn't have that final big twist.

I sat and looked at the last sheets of blank paper for way longer than was truly healthy, until finally, at 2 a.m. on the morning of the reunion, I gave up. I quit. Utterly totally.

No man. No skinnyness. No novel.

I sighed, checked the doorstep for handsome strangers sent by fate, found there weren't any, and went to bed.

I woke at noon on the day of the reunion, feeling like something the cat had spent the whole night dragging in and dragging out again over and over. This was not a good time to have given up coffee. I figured I needed to retox.

So I threw on jeans and a sweatshirt, went quick down to the supermarket, strode quick down to the coffee section, picked up some of the pricey stuff, turned on my heel, and thwack. That was the sound of my forehead on his collarbone as I walked right into him.

"Sorry," he said. "Sheesh."

"Why don't you look where you're standing?" I snapped, caffeinelessly.

my brain was suddenly doing three billion calculations a second...

I was about to say something else but my brain was suddenly doing three billion calculations a second as I looked at him. No wedding ring. Model looks and muscular build. Own hair. Reunion this afternoon.

"Hi! I'm Dina!" I put out a hand. We shook.

"I'm Zirk."

"Zeke?" I was guessing that he was called Zeke, but that he'd said it in a Swedish accent.

"No, Zirk."

A strange-name alarm bell went off in my head.

"Can I call you Zeke? And if you're free this afternoon, do you want to go to this, er, thing?"

"Wait." And he stared into the distance and totally stopped moving.

"Hey, Zirk, did I send you to sleep?"

But he stayed frozen like that...

But he stayed frozen like that for maybe ten seconds. Then, all of a sudden, he shook himself, just like a dog getting out of a lake, and said: "I was not asleep. I was looking into the future."

You have to humor them. "So, did you see how to end my novel?"

"Yes. It will work better at the end if Julianne's stepmother was a cyborg from the beginning, because her--"

"--because, because . . . her father's evil business partner swapped her genes! But the Prince swaps them back! This is great! What else can you see in the future?"

"You will spend much of the drive home worrying that you gave your phone number to a stranger you do not know of. But you do not need to be worrying, I am not a stalking horse man. I shall come to your reunion. And you look great. You do not need to lose any more of your pounds."

"Thanks," I said. And then I wondered how he knew so much intimate stuff about my life, my novel, my reunion. "But you think I'm giving you my phone number? What planet are you from?"

"It's not a planet. It's more of an asteroid."

"Nice meeting you, Zirk," I said, in a get-outta-my-life kinda way.

"Wait!" he said, and did the trance bit. Then the dog-shake bit. "The future has changed now. We are now in a timeline where you do not give me your phone number. But you must know this: I do a very good jitterbug. It is the national dance on the asteroid that is my home."

"Zirk, can I ask, are you on any medication?"

"Dina, I have three words to say to you."

"Are you going to tell me that God loves me?"

"No, I am going to tell you: Christy Anne Remington," said Zirk, complacently.

Christy Anne Remington had always said I'd be single at our ten-year reunion. It had been the last sentence she'd spoken to me at school. I was quite sure she was mean enough to have smugly treasured that pronouncement, all these years. We saw each other around, sometimes, but we never talked. And she was the certain person who shall remain nameless who had organised the reunion.

Credit to Zirk, he knew the three most persuasive words in the language.

"Okay, you win. Meet me here at 1:30. And in the meantime, think of a cover story for the asteroid thing. See you later, Zeke."

"It's Zirk. And the asteroid thing is my cover story."

"Then say you have amnesia, or something."

"I have hay fever, would that do?"

"Just be here at 1:30, okay?"

I was late, but at 1:45 he was standing in the coffee section, staring into the distance, stock still.

"Hey," I said. He shook himself like a dog coming out of a lake.

"Dina!" he said. "You look stunning. Christy Anne Remington will be having a cow."

So we hit the road, with my ego doing 100 miles an hour. I had the handsomest date in town, I had an end to my novel, and I had the objective opinion of a spaceman that I didn't need to lose weight.

But through my joy it slowly occurred to me that we really needed a backstory, Zirk and I. I mean, the whole point of taking a man to a reunion is to pretend you're his One True Love. Rather than being some supermarket pick-up by the coffee, a few hours back.

"Zirk, tell me, what do you do?"

"Do? Sometimes I am an umpire. Football."

"Can we make that quarterback?"

"Some of your school friends follow the football. They have seen me umpire. They have not seen me quarterbacking."

"Can we make you an ex-quarterback with a tragic injury, like, say, . . ."

"Hay fever?"

"Um, maybe not like hay fever. We need something more glamorous."

"I could tell them the truth, then?"

I narrowly missed a motorcyclist.

"I don't know what the truth is, but I have this feeling in my gut that it's not going to play too well in a small-town high-school gymnasium, you know?"

But he wasn't listening. He was sitting stock still, staring into the distance.

"Hey, Zirk!"

He shook himself. Like a dog. "Sorry, but I was listening to a conversation that you and I have in the future."

"What were we talking about?"

"You were telling me all the stories about people from school. So, now I know all the stories. This is good."

"This is very good. You know about the horse and Marcia?"

"Oh yes. That is a very funny story."

"And about Petey Boyd and the--"

"Yes, I know all these stories. And I know other stuff about your life, too. I know you like the music of the Carpenters . . ."

I missed another motorcyclist. "Don't tell them that! Say I like gangsta rap, or something."

". . . okay, gangsta rap, and I know about the pregnancy scare with Michael Atkins . . ."

"Nooo! No one knew about that! Not even Marcia!"

He looked like a kicked puppy. "Perhaps it is safer if I do not tell any stories, at this reunion of yours. Perhaps I shall be silent and enigmatic."

"That's the best plan I've heard all day."

And he nodded, mouth closed tight.

"Hey, Zirk, not that enigmatic, okay? You look like you swallowed a bee."

"I could do sign language, though? On my asteroid sign language is--"

I grazed a motorcyclist...

I grazed a motorcyclist, who wobbled but regained his balance. I pulled over to the side of the road, stopped the car, and looked my passenger in the eye. "Zirk, can you go into your trance kind of thing and see into the future? I'm kind of keen to find out how taking you to the reunion works out."

"I have seen it all."


"It works out very fine. We end up very much in love."

"Cool," I said, restarting the car.

"Of course, there are a couple of problems, but we get through."

"A couple of problems in our romance?"

"No, in the reunion. But they are not so bad."

I pulled out into the traffic again.

"At least, I hope they are not so bad. Maybe they are." There were no more motorcyclists to graze. "But Dina, you look so very pretty. I do not understand why you want to lose more of your pounds. You look stunning."

That's what I like about Zirk. However bad it gets, he always tells me I look great.

"Except the belt, I'm not sure it works, really. On my asteroid--"

"I can imagine."

We parked, I took the belt off, and we made our way to the gym.

At the entrance to the gym was a registration table.

"Oh, it's Dina! And look, she's brought a bodyguard! Are you, like, really famous, Dina?! This is so exciting!"

"Hi, Toni. How are you? Did you know I've written a nove--"

But Toni's attention was elsewhere. "Oh, just look at him, he's like a mountain!! Is there snow on the top!?"

"Toni, this is my partner Zir-- er-- Dirk. Dirk."

"Zirerdirkdirk? He sounds like an alien!"

"You are most perceptive. I am from an asteroid a long way away, on a mission to change the future of your planet."

My smile was really beginning to hurt.

My smile was really beginning to hurt. But Toni thought that was the funniest line she'd ever heard. She was persuaded, eventually, that his name was Dirk so she wrote him a name tag and gave me mine and ushered us into the gym.

Oh my. People. Lots of people.

I looked around. Jay-D was monopolising Marcia. The Schroeder twins were doing their inscrutable act. Christy Anne was wearing a flattering low-cut thing and talking to Sandra Lee. She gave me a little superior smile. I was about to show how mature, centred, and at peace with myself I was by sticking my tongue out at her but then Marcia rushed into my arms like we hadn't seen each other six times a week for the past ten years. I guess Jay-D's not-very-considerable charms were already wearing thin.

"Hi, Marcia, this is Dirk."

"Hi, Dirk." She stepped back to get a better view of him. "Well, where did you find this one?" she whispered.

"Supermarket, by the coffee. This morning. But don't tell."

"Your secret's safe. But what's your cover story? I mean, why hasn't everyone seen you two around town?" She was surveying Zirk. "Maybe he could be Army, posted abroad?"

"I'm not Army. I'm football," Zirk said sadly.

Marcia jumped in. "But a glamorous ex-quarterback, right, whose career was tragically cut short by--"

"Christy Anne! Hi!!!" I said quickly and loudly, as Christy Anne hove up to us.

"Dina!" she said, all crocodile smiles. "Is this your husband?! Where have you been hiding him? Nothing wrong with dating a football umpire, after all, is there darling?"

Her husband had joined her. Bobby Remington, town heartthrob, genuine college ex-quarterback. Various halls of fame. Now rising rapidly through the ranks at the Army base nearby. He had a wafer-thin haircut, but to my disappointment his hair appeared to be his own. Maybe Christy's breasts were his as well. They sure weren't hers.

"Bobby Remington," said Bobby, putting out a hand to Zirk.

"Zirk er Zeke er Dirk," said Zirk, not very smoothly.

"It's Swedish!" said Marcia, merrily. "Those names in Sweden, all burbly burbly burbly!"

Christy looked suspicious.

"Don't worry," I said. "Sweden's NATO."

"You umpired one of our Army games," said Bobby. "You used to play? I mean, the way you read the game is simply incredible. You never miss a thing."

"Ah, no, I never used to play. Hay fever."

"Oh?" said Christy Anne with a smile that turned hydrochloric. "How tragic. Do tell us all about it."

Marcia and I both opened our mouths, but it was too late. Zirk had decided to ad-lib.

"Yes, hay fever. But amnesia too. So, uh, then I would forget that I would get hay fever, and then, you know. Achoo. You see, back home, on my asteroid--"

I jumped. "Astro-turf! Zeke er Dirk still gets those two words muddled up! Even after all these months . . . and indeed years! . . . we've been together."

That was Christy Anne's opening. "So you are married! But I don't spy any rings. Are you married to each other?"

"We are getting married on the 8th of August," said Zirk, firmly. "You are warmly invited to come, Christy Anne. There will be lots of gangsta rap, of course."

Before the earth opened up to swallow me, as I was devoutly asking it to do, the Schroeder twins came up to us, blank-faced, just like they used to be. They were the all-state mixed-doubles poker champions. They would have won the nationals, but Henry couldn't count, and Trisha couldn't bluff.

"Zeke er Dirk, this is Henry and Trisha Schroeder, my good old friends. Hey, did I tell you guys I've written a nove--"


Zirk went stock still, his hand held in the air.

Christy Anne was delirious with joy. "Dina, you're marrying a mentally unbalanced person! How noble-hearted of you!"

"Zirk! er Dirk!" I shouted.

He shook himself out of his trance, like a dog getting out of a lake. Christy Anne put her hand to her mouth. Maybe she'd have smiled so wide she would have swallowed herself. Who knows.

"Sorry," said Zirk.

"Don't apologise on my account," said Christy Anne. "I think it's perfectly wonderful that Dina is marrying a football umpire with all these diseases."

Zirk smiled benignly. "No, the reason I am sorry, Christy Anne, is that I must be punching your husband. I am filled with apologies."

"You what?" said Bobby Remington.

Thwack. Zirk hit him on the left side of his jaw. Hard.

Thwunk. Bobby hit the floor.

Every single conversation in the room, however animated, stopped dead.

Every single conversation in the room, however animated, stopped dead. The spotlight operator turned the spotlight on us.

"You're a dead man, Zirkerzekeerdirk," screamed Christy Anne. "As for you, Dina, if you ever show your face within a hundred miles I promise I'll set the dogs on you. And my brothers!"

"Nice to have met you," said Zirk to the Schroeder twins. "Come to our wedding, August 8th. There will be lots of traditional wedding gangsta rap, naturally."

And I took one of his elbows, and Marcia took the other, and we briskly walked him out of the gym, and out to the parking lot. We'd got a ticket.

Sometimes it never rains but it pours.

I drove back home and we slunk into my apartment, as if there were paparazzi, or Christy Anne Remington's Dobermans, or brothers, waiting to jump out at us.

In the kitchen I reached for the vodka, poured one for Marcia and Zirk, took one myself, downed it, and said:

"Zirk, why did you do that?"

"Funny," said Marcia, "I was going to ask the exact same thing."

"Wait!" said Zirk, and he froze solid again.

We waited.

Then he came round, and shook himself. "We are in a different timeline now," he said. "You know there are nuclear weapons at the base, where Bobby Remington works? Well, there was a crisis in the future regarding nuclear missiles, and punching Bobby was the only way to stop it. I am truly thanking my lucky stars that it worked!"

"It's like that film!" said Marcia. "I bet Bobby was going to press the missile launch button when he shouldn't have! But now that you have intervened he won't!"

"No," said Zirk, patiently, "he was going to not press the button when he should have done. But now he will press the button when he should! This is very good news!"

"Oh," said Marcia. "I guess I didn't see this film after all."

"That's why I came to Earth," said Zirk.

"Earth?" said Marcia, politely. She always got polite on vodka.

I, however, was the opposite.

"Zirk! You're a monster! You're the Antichrist! I can't believe it! I took the real-life actual Satan to my school reunion! Here on Earth it is considered a bad thing to cause Armageddon. Very bad. People frown at that sort of behavior!"

"Wait!" said Zirk.

But I didn't wait. I was on a roll. "I trusted you! I--"

"He can't hear you," said Marcia. Zirk had gone back to his trance. "Dina, do you think he sold his soul for his looks? He looks so much better than Christopher Walken did in that film."

Then Zirk shook himself awake. And then he explained the whole thing to us.

This is how it went.

Before Zirk hits him Bobby Remington, despite his choice of brides from Hell, is basically a good-hearted soul. So when he is instructed, by his mad maverick local commander at the base, to launch a nuke at China, Bobby refuses to follow the order. Bobby prevents nuclear war and would be quite the hero except nobody knows what happened.

Three years after that the mad maverick local commander becomes a mad maverick commander in very high places, and when he issues the command to launch again, it is obeyed. Hundreds and hundreds of missiles fly in all directions and the whole world gets blown into little kitty-litter-sized pieces. That was the way the old world ended.

In Zirk's new alternate world, Bobby's humiliation at the reunion, or rather Christy Anne's constant repetition of his humiliation at the reunion, darkens Bobby's heart, so that in our new timeline Bobby does press the button when he is first asked. The whole world is awestruck in horror watching the CNN shots of this solitary missile flying China-wards, and the whole world basically says, "God, if you make this end happily we'll never think war's a good thing ever again."

And God listens. Or the missile engineering was done real cheap. One of the two. Because halfway across the ocean the missile goes pfffffz and glides gently and safely into the sea.

Everyone rejoices. The DVD of the flight footage is the champion seller of all time. People reconsider whether nuclear weapons are such a fine idea after all.

The mad maverick commander does some jail, finds Buddha, gets pardoned, and does a whole lot of chat-show time promoting pacifism and turning the other cheek. War and violence and everything become really last-century. World peace comes upon us. The End.

"See?" Zirk smiled at us.

I didn't smile. "Zirk, it's kind of hard to believe," I said.

"I believe him," said Marcia, fluttering her eyelashes at Zirk. "I really do."

"Marcia, don't you go stealing my man from me."

But Zirk stayed steadfastly on my side. "Dina and I are engaged, Marcia. My heart and Dina's are as one."

"Your butt and my foot are going to be as one!" I said. Vodka does something bad to my sense of romance.

"She has had a very long day," said Zirk to Marcia. "I believe I'll be carrying her to bed in less than a minute."

"Carry me to bed!?!" I said. "I'll . . ."

And then the floor came up woozily to hit me. I heard Zirk's voice, from a very long way away, saying: "You see? She has fainted."

Marcia tells me that Zirk carried me to bed but that she was the one who put me to bed and all. She wanted to watch over me in case I swallowed my tongue or something, but instead Zirk sat by me all night and I didn't swallow my tongue, not even a little bit. Zirk doesn't need sleep. They don't, on his asteroid.

Marcia went home after tucking me in. I was glad. I was kind of worried about Marcia swallowing Zirk's tongue, to be honest.

I slept through the night. The next morning I sent Zirk out to get the coffee I'd forgotten to buy the previous day.

And when he came back I was up and awake and eating breakfast with Marcia.

"Wait!" I said, as he walked in. I put my hand in the air. I had had horrible nightmares of being Christy Anne's sworn worst enemy for the rest of my born days and the world still blowing up anyway. "What if Christy Anne mellows out, and doesn't totally humiliate Bobby, and so his soul remains good and--"


"Wait!" said Zirk, and he went stock still, and stared into the distance.

"I love the bit where he wakes up," whispered Marcia.

And then he came out of it, and shook himself.

"Ooooo," said Marcia.

Zirk gave her an odd look.

"I investigated several million timelines," said Zirk. "There is no timeline in which she doesn't heap humiliation on the head of her husband."

"Well, hurray for Christy Anne!" cheered Marcia, charitably.

"Yay!" said Zirk, looking pleased with himself.

"But what about the other stuff? I mean, how come you're a football umpire?"

"It is a good way to learn the souls of men," he said. "Plus I got to see Bobby play with the Army team. That's how I knew he leaves his left side too open, so I could be punching him."

"But he said that you read the game really well. Are you sure you were never an ex-quarterback with a tragic--"

"I look into the game's future, before each play, and see what fouls are going to be committed. Then I call them when they happen. It is like taking candy from a little baby."

"Okay," I said. "Okay. I buy that. But what about this whole outrageous wedding thing? How am I going to get out of that with even a shred of dignity left?"

"But I have seen our timeline," said Zirk, with a sincere look that melted my heart. "It is fate, it is the will of the universe, that we must be married. All of creation leads to our married union."

"Oh, Zirk!" I said.

"Oh, yuk," said Marcia. "Unless I can be bridesmaid, in which case you have my total blessing."

"But Zirk, we hardly know each other," I said, sobering again. "All the things we've never done, like--"

"I have seen our marriage," said Zirk. "It lasts forever. Sure, I see that I am chasing a pretty 35-year-old in my mid-life crisis, but she and I only sleep together once, and it means nothing, I swear." He put his palms up, to indicate his honesty. "You and I, we have great-grandchildren."

"What about the sex?"

"And we have great sex."

"How great?" said Marcia, absently.

"Shh!" I hissed. "I'm thinking. This is a big decision. I can't hurry it."

So I thought. I thought of all the single men out there who I might be more compatible with. People from my own planet, say.

"Zirk, you said that the whole thing about 'your asteroid' was a cover story. What's the truth?" I was hoping he was simply a tall, handsome Swedish guy with a touch of clairvoyance. I was really hoping that. It would make my parents so much easier to handle.

But Zirk looked crestfallen. "It is true! I lied, I do not come from my asteroid."

"Then where?"

"I come from . . . it is a great humiliation . . . I come from, I can hardly bear to say it . . ."

"Say it!"

"I come from someone else's asteroid. I thought you would never respect me if you knew."

"Oh Zirk," I said. His crestfallen look finished me off. My last resistance crumbled. "I don't care if you're from the wrong side of the interplanetary tracks. As long as we're happy. And as long as we don't have to live on that asteroid -- or visit there ever, really -- that's fine by me."

"My mother will want to visit us," he said, like that was a whole other story. Actually, it was a whole other story.

But hitched we were...

But this story nearly ends with our wedding on August 8th. Christy Anne pulled every string and yanked every chain to make sure the whole town boycotted it. Like we cared! Like it wasn't romantic that Marcia was bridesmaid and usher and witness, and that one of the waiters I work with, who wasn't scared of Christy Anne so much as jealous of her dresses, was best man and photographer and DJ and caterer and liked it so much he set up in the wedding business straight after.

Both our families were there, and got along like a house on fire, which I always thought was meant to be a positive, uplifting kind of simile, but in this case wasn't. My family thought that Zirk's family were Pentecostals, while Zirk's family thought my family were kidding them about not being able to see into the future.

But hitched we were, and we walked out of the church into a brave new interspecies future, a future that was a broad, wide, mysterious, exciting adventure. Well, to me it was. Zirk knew pretty much all of it already, from having gone into so many trances.

And, in the fall, Bobby Remington's rogue missile went pfffffz into the ocean, right on cue. We've got the DVD, like everyone else.

So. It all worked out pretty good. World saved, husband found, weight no longer an issue.

And the novel?

Well, sure, I didn't actually technically finish my novel in time for the reunion, but thanks to Zirk's inspiration I finished the first draft the day after the reunion. And by Christmas I'd finished the final draft.

I was real proud of that, looking at all the pages neatly typed, until I asked Zirk how many copies it sold, in the future.

He went into a trance like normal, and emerged, wet-dog shake and all, same as ever.

But there was a frown I hadn't seen before.

"What's wrong?" I said.

"You know you were thinking of giving up your job and writing full-time?"

"Yes," I said, quietly.

"I don't want to be the bring-giver of bad news, but . . ."

"Just tell me how many copies I sell!"

And, in the fall...

"I tell you the good news first. Christy Anne buys your book and she really enjoys it! She writes you a fan letter! It is the start of a new friendship between you two, this is very good news. And she is so inspired by you that she writes a novel herself, all on her own, and she becomes a successful author who . . . oh, I do not think I should tell you all that."

I speak slowly, looking him right in the eye. "Just tell me: How. Many. Copies. Do. I. Sell."

He speaks quickly, looking me right in the ear. "Two. But that is good, because we print it ourselves and do not print many copies, so it is not a big loss of money, and Christy Anne's book which we also publish is very big and . . ."

For a reason Zirk clearly can't fathom, this does not make me happy.

"Hey, any other surprises? A marriage should always have surprises, after all! Perhaps Christy Anne is also the pretty 35-year-old you sleep with all those times in the future!"

"Dina, I have good news. It is only the once that I sleep with someone else, and it is not Christy Anne."

"Well, thank goodness for--"

"And more good news! It is not Marcia either, though at a party in the future she and I nearly--"


". . . but we don't! Because I love you, now and forever and you do not need to lose any of your Earth pounds, now or forever, and the whole of creation brought us together and you must never forget that. Now or forever."

"Oh. Well."

"Well what, Dina?"

"Well, if you put it like that," I say, as the last of my resistance crumbles all over again.

"And besides, you sleep with Adam once more, when I am away at the asteroid, but that is okay and we patch everything down."

"Up. We patch everything up. And by the way, I do not!" I say. "I absolutely do not sleep with Adam again! How can you say that?!"

"There is some vodka involved, I think."

"Oh. Yeah." I sigh. "Look, Zirk, let's mend those bridges when we come to them, okay? It's nearly Christmas. Let's forget about trances and wet dogs and timelines and everything and just have a nice time, you and me."

"Okay. Yes. This is a very good plan."

"Great! So, what are you getting me for Christmas?"

And before he can stop himself he goes into a trance, and when he comes out of it he smiles a big smile, after the shake.

"You like it very much!" he says. "My surprise gift to you is a great success! Apart from one minor problem, but the police are very understanding and--" He sees my look. "But that is a other whole story, I think, and it is for telling another time. Am I right?"

He was right. He was very right. After all, it was Christmas. A time to let bygones be bygones and willbes be willbes and just cosy up on the sofa together, man and wife, and watch the snow out of the window and . . .

"Zirk, when you say police does that mean--"

"Hush, Dina. Hush."


"Shhh. Let us just be watching the snow. On my asteroid snow is sentient, did I tell you that? I think you would really be liking it. In fact next year we could spend Christmas there."

I couldn't really see it happening but I didn't want to dampen his hopes completely.

"Maybe, Zirk. Maybe."

"Maybe is good! I shall look into the future and--"

"No, Zirk. In this timeline you do not look into the future, not tonight."

"I do not?"


"So what do I do?"

I leant over close and kissed him, long and slow.

"Ah," he said, after the kiss. "In this timeline I see exactly what I must do."

"Great," I said.

And it was.

What a Spaceman Gotta Do, illustration by MAtt
"... What a Spaceman's Gotta Do" illustration © 2003 MAtt


Copyright © 2003 Daniel Kaysen

Reader Comments

Daniel Kaysen lives in Brighton, England. He has sold short stories in a range of genres, including romantic comedy, science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

He is awaiting inspiration for the final twist of his novel.

He likes the Carpenters.

He did not go to his school reunion.

For more about him, see his website.

This is Daniel Kaysen's fourth appearance at Strange Horizons. His short fiction has also appeared in Interzone, The Third Alternative, and Ideomancer, among others. For more about the author, see his webpage.
MAtt is a cartoonist and illustrator who daylights as a Special Operations programmer for an online spare-parts company. He also does critical writing about video games. For more about him, visit his website.
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17 Jun 2024

To fly is to deny death / as the body’s natural state
scrawled in the ashes of who I might have been
Ellie Mathieu can tell when the Big Easy arrives by the smell of its engine.
Issue 10 Jun 2024
Issue 9 Jun 2024
Phonetics of Draconic Languages 
A Tour of the Blue Palace 
A Tale of Moths and Home (of bones and breathing) (of extrinsic restrictive lung disease) 
By Salt, By Sea, By Light of Stars 
Critical Friends Episode 11: Boundaries in Genre 
Friday: The House that Horror Built by Christina Henry 
Friday: Utopia Beyond Capitalism in Contemporary Literature: A Commons Poetics by Raphael Kabo 
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Issue 15 Apr 2024
By: Ana Hurtado
Art by: delila
Issue 8 Apr 2024
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