The low buzz of coffee machines and chatter filled Nari’s ears as she read through NASA’s latest post on Twitter. Three space travelers arrived safely at the space station four hours ago. Nari took a sip of her honey lavender latte, wondering what it would be like to travel through space. It had always been her dream to work for NASA, maybe even as an astronaut. Nari was only thirteen though, so she had a while before she was old enough.
Nari observed her surroundings. Everyone in the coffee shop seemed to be working on something, except for a few distracting groups of friends. She sat by herself in a small booth right by the window, bathing in sunshine. Nari loved the feeling of the sun on her skin, and she also loved how beautiful San Francisco was. So sitting by the window was a win-win for her.
“Hello.” Nari jumped in surprise and searched for where the voice came from. Standing beside her booth was a girl around her age. She had fair skin and shoulder-length dark hair, and her eyes were a beautiful shade of emerald green. She wore a short green romper with long sleeves and around her neck was a long diamond necklace. She was carrying a black backpack that matched the dolly bow black bandanna she wore over her hair. She was carrying a paper in her free hand. The girl seemed really friendly, and a bit flamboyant.
“Hi,” Nari said, a little bit confused. No one ever approached her when she was in the coffee shop. She didn’t really want anyone to either, Nari would much rather study astronomy than have small talk with strangers.
The girl put her backpack down and she studied the paper in her hand for a moment until her face lit up.
“May I sit here?” she asked excitedly as she put the paper in her pocket. Nari stared at the girl in confusion and shock before coming back to her senses.
“Uh, sure,” Nari answered, not feeling sure at all. The girl seemed mental, and Nari had a feeling she would be really annoying too. She picked up her bag again and sat down across from Nari.
“So, uh, what’s your name?” Nari asked the girl, trying to make things less awkward. At least for her, the girl didn’t seem to notice the awkwardness.
“I’m Selma, and you are?” Selma asked, and then she laughed at her question as she gazed out the window. Nari didn’t answer at first, she was too caught up with the girl’s unusualness. Selma had a certain vibe that told you she didn’t care much about what people thought of her, and Nari suspected that she was fun and adventurous too. It looked like Selma was the polar opposite of Nari. Selma observed Nari’s laptop as she waited for her answer. You would almost think the girl had never seen one before.
“Oh, Nari Lim,” Nari finally answered. The girl nodded, acknowledging her answer, and kept observing the laptop.
“What is this?” Selma finally asked, referring to the laptop. Nari was taken aback by the question. So the girl really hadn’t seen one before?
“This? You’ve really never seen a laptop before? Or were you referring to the model?”
Selma pondered the question. “I was referring to the model,” she said with utmost certainty.
“Right. Well, it’s a Samsung Galaxy Book S,” Nari answered, but Selma wasn’t listening. She had already taken a dictionary out of her book bag and started searching through it. After a minute or two, Nari decided to continue studying astronomy on her computer. After all, Selma seemed really focused on reading the dictionary.
After five minutes of silence, a soft glow started to produce from behind Selma’s dictionary. She didn’t seem to notice. “Hey, I think your phone is going off,” Nari told her. Selma looked at her as if she were speaking a different language for a moment. Then a look of realization crossed her face. She quickly packed her stuff up and then shoved her right hand in her front pocket, holding her backpack with the other. The glow was gone.
“Gotta go! Adventure’s calling.” Selma whispered the last part, as if it were top secret. When Nari didn’t say anything, she dashed out of the coffee shop and disappeared around the corner.
“So, she really is adventurous,” Nari muttered under her breath as she went back to studying astronomy on her computer.
Nari counted the cracks on the sidewalk as she made her way to Ria’s Cafe, the sun shining directly on her. She had gotten into the habit of studying astronomy in the cafe everyday since summer had started.
“Hello! Are you visiting the cafe again?” Nari jumped in surprise, and looked for the familiar voice, knowing exactly who it was. Walking beside her, of course, was Selma. Today she was wearing a blue jean jacket and a little black dress with ruffles. She wore black cat-eye sunglasses on her head, and her short dark hair was down in beachy waves. Nari decided she liked Selma’s bold taste in fashion, it reminded her of Paris. Nari’s taste in fashion was still much different, though. She preferred to wear Korean clothing because she had lived in Korea up until two years ago. Nari was eleven when she moved to the United States because of her mom’s job. She frowned at the memory of learning English, it had been very frustrating.
“Yeah, are you?” Nari asked. She was surprised to find that she was hoping Selma would say yes, Nari hadn’t made a proper friend since she moved to the United States because… Nari shook her head, deciding not to think about it.
“Yes, I want to try a cappu-seeno,” Selma answered. Nari looked at her curiously, that girl was definitely one of a kind.
The two girls finally made it to the cafe, and Nari sat in the same booth as she always did. Selma sat across from her. Selma ordered a french vanilla cappuccino and Nari ordered her usual honey lavender latte. As Nari pulled her laptop out of her bag, Selma asked, “What do you do on your laptop?”
“I usually just study astronomy. It’s my dream to become an astronaut.”
“Oh, yes. Traveling through space is very fun.” She giggled at her comment and then started studying the salt shaker on the table. “You know, the salt from here isn’t very good.”
Nari didn’t know how to respond to that, so instead she asked what Selma’s hobbies were.
“I like astronomy too, but my favorite hobby is acting.” Then Selma switched to a New York accent and said, “Ay, stop grilling me!”
She laughed at Selma’s New York impression, it was fairly good. Nari decided that Selma’s unusualness wasn’t so bad.
“Honey lavender latte and french vanilla cappuccino?” Nari nodded her head and thanked the red-headed waitress as she handed her the latte. Nari looked over at Selma as she was handed her drink.
“Thank you,” Selma said before the waitress left, and then she turned to Nari and started saying something about being excited to try her cappuccino. But Nari heard none of it because something on Selma’s right hand had caught her attention. It was a perfectly shaped cloud birthmark. And it was glowing.
Nari was laying in her bed, a brown blanket over her head and a laptop in front of her. She couldn’t study astronomy without her head wondering toward her visit to the cafe earlier that day. The perfectly cloud shaped birthmark had just started glowing, right before her eyes.
Nari recalled Selma shoving it in her jean jacket pocket and saying she had to go. Selma didn’t wait for an answer, she just dashed out of the cafe and disappeared around the corner. Just like she had the day before.
After pulling the blanket off her head, Nari sat up in her bed and gazed at San Francisco during the night through her window wall. Her apartment was on the fourteenth floor, so she was very high up. Tall skyscrapers flooded her vision, each one lit up inside. Big cities were always beautiful at night, she felt lucky to live in one.
“Sissy?” Nari turned around and saw her three year old brother, Tae, standing outside her room. He was wearing onesie pajamas that had a pattern of donuts, hotdogs, and ice cream on them. Tae loved food, he was always helping their dad cook meals.
“Tae? Why are you up so late?” Nari asked him. She noticed that he looked worried.
“Where Fe-ix?” he asked her hurriedly, completely ignoring her question. He looked around the room anxiously.
“Who is that?” she asked him half heartedly. Tae didn’t know the difference between real life and dreams, and he also had a lot of imaginary friends, so Nari knew that Felix wasn’t real. Tae had always been very imaginative.
“Fe-ix! He a sairmonia. Fe-ix take me to clouds, but then I in my bed again!” Tae said, as if Nari should already know this. Nari rolled her eyes slightly.
“I think you had a dream,” she said. Tae gave her a look of pity, as if she was the ignorant one here.
“No! Not dream. I saw all with my eyes! Fe-ix’s hand even glow!” Tae yelled in frustration. Nari’s eyes widened.
“His hand glows? Tell me about that.” Tae calmed down, glad that she seemed to believe him.
“Well, he have a cloud on his hand and it glow. Every time it glow, I back in my room!” he said, frustrated. Nari nodded in shock. She was disturbed by how coincidental Tae’s dream was. Or was it really just a coincidence that Tae had a dream about someone who had a glowing cloud birthmark on their hand like Selma’s?
“Go back to sleep, maybe Felix will take you to the, uh, clouds again,” Nari said.
“Not a dream,” Tae muttered on his way back to his room. But Nari didn’t hear him because she was already back under her covers, searching her computer.
“Sairmonia,” Nari said into the google microphone, recalling that Tae said that Felix was a sairmonia. Not to Nari’s surprise, sairmonia wasn’t even a word. Tae had been talking nonsense. So instead she looked up glowing cloud birthmarks. It was worth a try. Once again, nothing came up.
Nari took the blanket off her head yet again and laid on her pillow, facing her window wall. She stayed up thinking about what she had just learned for a good thirty minutes. Right before she fell asleep, she decided to wait for Selma at the normal time they usually saw each other at the cafe the next day.
Sitting at her usual table, Nari looked out the window, hoping to see Selma. Nari had already been in the cafe for an hour, just sipping her latte, and there was still no sign of Selma.
Defeated, Nari searched through her bag for the Samsung laptop. Her hand caught something smooth and plastic. It was fairly small, and it felt like it might’ve been some kind of toy. Nari didn’t have any idea what it was, though. She pulled out the toy and was filled with surprise and grief when she realized what it was.
In her hand was the Hello Kitty McDonald’s toy that her best friend, Kim, had given her a week before she died. Nari hadn’t looked at the keepsake since it was first given to her, it was too hard. Nari’s eyes filled with tears, Kim died of leukemia right before Nari moved to the United States. It had made her move much harder, and Nari remembered vowing to never make a friend after she died. She didn’t want to have to go through that again.
Nari observed the toy for the first time in forever. The cat was wearing a purple bow that matched its purple shirt. The shirt had a pink heart on it. It had butterfly wings on her back in the colors of red, orange, and purple. On the cat’s head was a pair of dark purple antennas. Nari turned the cat around to study the wings after she remembered that Kim had written some nonsense on it.
I'm not supposed to tell you this, but I'm a sairmonia. I know how much you want to go to space, here's your chance. My friend, Selma, has agreed to take you to Andromeda in two years time. She will find you and explain everything. Don't tell anyone.
Nari’s eyes widened as a few realizations hit her in the face.
- She hadn’t written nonsense, she had written in English and Nari only knew Korean at the time.
- Tae’s dream was, somehow, real. Or maybe it wasn’t a dream at all.
- Selma started talking to her for a reason, and from what the message said, it seemed like Selma was not from earth. Or the Milky Way. Nari had been studying astronomy for a long time and she knew exactly what Andromeda was. It was a galaxy.
“Hello!” Nari looked up from the cat and saw that Selma was suddenly sitting across from her. Nari was surprised at first, but then remembered that her friend was supposedly from a different galaxy. Nothing was surprising anymore.
“What's a sairmonia?” Nari whispered, still in disbelief. She knew something weird was up with Selma, but she didn’t think it was this weird. Selma laughed.
“So you’ve figured it out right before I was about to tell you,” she said. “Well, it’s what we call the people from our galaxy, Andromeda. In our language, it means galaxy travelers.”
“But you can’t travel to other galaxies, it’s not possible. It would take millions of years!” Nari protested.
“You’re people are very narrow-minded,” she muttered, and then said, “It is possible. No one from earth has tried it yet, though.”
Nari nodded, still trying to wrap her head around what Selma was telling her. “How do you travel between galaxies? Why does your hand glow? Why is my brother having dreams about the sairmonia? Why didn’t you just go ahead and tell me two days ago? And why do you keep popping up out of nowhere?”
Selma smiled mischievously. “Your friend, Kim, asked me to take you once I was old enough to travel between galaxies. Well, now I am. I’ll answer your questions on our way there. If you agree, of course. What do you say, are you up for an adventure?”