Adventure High School Science Fiction

My mother’s always thought I was weird.

She’s right. I’m weird. She’s not. Mom’s an A-list celebrity, and people consider her beautiful, I guess, although everyone knows everything they think they like about her is fake. Any part of her figure they admire is pure plastic fabrication, and any part of her personality that they think makes her kind is just show.

I remember my brother Aiden telling me about someone named Ellen, once. I think he was seven or eight when the big scandal happened. Ellen had been revered for years as this amazing person with a kind heart who did good for others, but then accusations started trickling out about how, time and time again, she’d actually been really terrible to people. After a while, she just disappeared. Kind of like Obama, you know? Everyone my parents’ age remembers all he did as president, then he got out of office and was suddenly gone. Like, do I know where Obama is now? No. Do you?

(Xaviar claims he remembers Obama’s presidency, but he’s lying. He would have been only, like, five when he left office. Xaviar always has to prove that he’s better than everyone else. I wonder who he got that from.)

My mom voted for Obama, by the way. Not because she cared--about anything--at all--but because that’s what everyone else was doing. As if they didn’t all know, Mom. As if every inhabitant of America didn’t know you just adopted me for brownie points.

She was fully capable of having another kid. She was thirty years old, for the love of God. But my mother never misses a chance for virtue signaling.

I’m from Sweden. Or at least--my parents were, the biological ones. They couldn’t keep me, though; so my mom swooped in and saved the day, and I’m a part of this family now. I’m the only one with dark hair and blue eyes, (although, Googling pictures of Scandinavians, they’ll usually almost always be blond,) and I stand out like a shockwave in pictures, paler than all of them yet still a black sheep among their red, auburn, or brown hair and amber eyes.

Aiden’s the only good part of this family. My dad is really quiet, in a way that makes you suspect he has no opinions or importance. Whenever I haven’t seen him for a while, I usually forget what he looks like. Dad never does anything to or for anyone--never hurts you, never helps. He just exists, tagging alongside Mom whenever she needs to go somewhere and look like a loving wife in the public eye.

You already know about my mom.

My oldest brother Xaviar is just plain mean, although I guess he looks the most similar to me, with light-ish skin and darker brown hair. That’s, at least I hope, where our similarities end. He’s the kind of person to be rude to you for absolutely no reason, and he spends every waking hour playing video games.

I have nothing against gamers, but I have nothing for them, either.

Aiden, though--I have never known anyone more perfect. Everything about him is kind, from his gentle mess of warm curls to his liquid brown eyes with flecks of gold to the way he smiles, softly and with his head tilted slightly to one side, like he knows you better than you even know yourself and loves you all the more for it.

I’ve loved Aiden far longer than I’ve loved anyone else. Including me.

Right now, I’m lying in bed on a planet called Rectar, hundreds of millions of miles away from Earth. We’re here for “tourism opportunity,” as Mom calls it, and also to see if we can purchase real estate so she can get even richer and buy more Louis Vuitton bags. Knowing Mom, she’ll probably build an orphanage on the land and fill it with black and gay and deaf kids. To look good, of course. Mom thinks far less radically than even the most traditional of celebrities--when she was looking into adoption, she was shown a little boy from Hong Kong, but didn’t want him because he was “too yellow.”

And yes, that is a direct quote.

Sometimes I wish I’d stayed in Scandinavia.

“Cal? Cal, you awake?”

My eyelids flutter open from my fake sleep and I push myself into a sitting position against the soft pillow. Blinking hard a few more times, I see Aiden, standing at the foot of my bed with a breakfast tray. “The maid brought this an hour ago, but it’s on temperature-controlled dishes, so everything’s still hot or cold.” Aiden sets the tray on my lap. “I already ate. It’s nine--well, here, but on Earth I think it’s, like, three a.m. or something.” He takes my hand and rubs the back with his thumb. “How are you doing?”

I shake my head. “Confused.” I glance down at the colorful plate resting on my legs. “Not hungry.”

“Hey, look at me.” Aiden lightly touches my chin to guide my face over to his. “God, you look a mess. Here, we can fix that. Do you have makeup wipes?”

I’m too tired to resist. “In the outside pocket of my black suitcase--somewhere…” I wave my hand vaguely around the room.

Aiden leaves and soon returns with a damp white cloth. He wipes it gently around my face, and I’m too tired to keep my eyes open, to tell him I don’t care, to wish he didn’t have to do so much for me. I wish I could do it on my own.

Apparently, I can’t.

Aiden finishes cleaning my face and slides into bed on the other side of me. “Eat something, Cal. The food here is actually pretty good. At least have some O.J.”

I sigh and take a sip out of the glass. The slushy orange liquid slides into my mouth. I swallow, shaking.

“Aiden, why does Mom hate me?”

I already know the answer. It’s because I close my eyes when I’m scared, when I’m angry, when I’m upset, and that frustrates her. It’s because I have a limp in my right leg, and that doesn’t look good for her image. It’s because I cut my hair short, and that’s unladylike. It’s because I wear black, and black doesn’t look fake enough; and it’s because I’m adopted, and she never even wanted me.

No one but Aiden ever has.

He takes my hand again and holds it gently. “Calliope, no one hates you. Maybe Mom doesn’t understand you, or she speaks without consideration of your feelings, but I promise you, Cal, that no one has or will ever hate you.” With his other hand, Aiden tips my chin up. “Least of all me.”

I hang my head and mumble “Okay,” into a piece of toast, even though I don’t believe him.

Aiden can tell I’m not being sincere, but he also knows that he’s said all he can say. He puts his arm around my shoulder and leans into me. “What do you think? How do you like Rectar? Are you adjusting?”

I set the cup of orange juice down on the tray and fall back into my pillows. “Well, I know virtually nothing of it yet, but from what I’ve seen, I hate it.” I turn my neck and look lethargically at Aiden. “Surprise surprise.”

“That’s okay. I’m sure we’ll find something you like about this place. We’re bound to, in the month we have here.”

I groan and cover my face with my hands. “Don’t remind me,” I mutter.

“Ugh, I’m sorry, Cal. I know this really sucks for you.” Aiden sighs. “On the bright side, Mom only has a few events scheduled for us a week, so we can do whatever, really. Do you want to, like, go out today or something?”

I groan again and slide further into the sheets.

“Hey.” Aiden strokes the back of my head. “You have to get up, okay? If you don’t want to choose something for us to do today, then I will. Google says there’s a festival of some sort downtown today. Want to go?”

Like I have anything else to do. “I guess.”

“Great.” Aiden kisses the top of my forehead. “I’ll go get ready. Meet you downstairs in fifteen?”

“Sure,” I call as he steps through the door to his room.

I sigh and pull back the sheets, leaving the breakfast tray dejectedly on my bed. Too weary to take a shower, I change into a pair of jeans and a tank top, hurriedly do what makeup I feel like applying, throw on a jacket, grab my phone, and ride the elevator down to the lobby. 

Aiden’s already waiting for me beside the door, in a fresh set of clothes and with his thumbs hooked into the straps of a backpack. “I already texted Mom and told her that we’re going out. I was half expecting her to assign us a bodyguard, but she didn’t respond.” He adjusts the bag on his back. “How’s your leg? Do you want me to get a brace, or a wheelchair or something?”

I shake my head. “No, I’ll be fine. We can just stop if I get tired.”

Aiden nods. His springy yet simultaneously floppy curls are still damp from his shower, and his hair smells like heaven. He takes my right hand in his left. “Ready?”

“Ready,” I reply, and we step out into the world.

A few minutes after we leave the hotel, we’re walking along the sidewalk to the festival when something stops me. It’s a homeless man, sitting against the side of a building on a blue milk crate and holding out a cardboard sign. I live in New York, so it’s not like I’ve never seen homeless people before--well, I don’t see them very much at all, but that’s because we live in a mansion and I rarely see anyone at all--but this gets me in a different way. Rectar is supposed to be the planet of dreams, the planet of new opportunity. No climate change, no pollution, just people with a lot of money ready to build an advanced civilization as close to perfect as it can get. Yet here this man sits, begging for change on the most expensive planet in the world.

Is humanity really that hopeless? 

I tug on Aiden’s jacket sleeve and gesture to the man. He nods, pulls out his wallet, and hands the man a twenty-dollar bill. “God bless,” the man calls after us as we begin heading downtown again.

“You could have given him more,” I say to Aiden, blowing a strand of black hair out of my face.

He rubs my shoulder. “I know, but he’s probably just going to use it for cigarettes or weed or something anyways. We did what we could, Cal. And that’s enough.”

Even when we’re several minutes away, we can still hear the festival. Sounds of laughter and music and hard things clinking together reach our ears far before we’re able to see the colorful banners strung between lamp posts above the blocked-off street. I think we’ve arrived at some kind of annual art fair or something like that. We walk past booths filled with paintings, pottery, and photography, ducking into a tent every now and then. Aiden buys a silver necklace with a leaf on it for his classmate Evelyn who goes to the same private academy as him. Aiden’s a senior in high school.

“Oh, so this is for Evelyn?” I tease, jabbing his shoulder as we walk out from under the tent.

Aiden swats my hand away and smiles sheepishly. “She’s just a friend, Cal.”

I laugh and shake my head. “Am I your friend? How come you didn’t buy something for me?”

“You’ve expressed interest in literally none of the things we’ve looked at so far.” Aiden rolls his eyes when he sees me pretend to pout. “Fine, what do you want?”

“Surprise me,” I say mysteriously, spinning a circle in the middle of the street. My jacket falls off my back and to my wrists, exposing my bare shoulders. When people stare at me, I stop, stumbling a bit, and limp ahead to Aiden. “Well, that was dumb,” I mutter as Aiden laughs.


Instinctively, I look over at Aiden, but of course he hasn’t spoken. The voice is a female one, and it comes, loud and strong and cold, from several feet behind us.

Aiden and I move to the side so as to not disturb other pedestrians and turn around to try to find the source of the voice. “Who--” I whisper, but we spot her almost immediately.

Tall and spindly and dressed in all black in the middle of the day, the woman advances upon us. She’s wearing a long lace dress and a matching lace hat--heck, she even has black gloves. We don’t know that it’s her, of course, but who else could it be?

“Calliope Josephine Archer?”

“Um,” I whisper to Aiden and close my eyes, hide my face in his chest.

“Calliope! Calliope, is that you?”

I hear her voice just a few feet away. She has a strange accent of some sort, but I can’t place it.

“Ma’am? Can we help you?” Aiden asks uncomfortably.

I feel the woman’s gloved hand on my bare shoulder. I shrink back, still not looking. 

“Who are you?” Aiden asks, before the woman can say anything.

“Is this Calliope Archer?” Her hand reaches for my neck, for my face, to turn me to her.

“Ma’am,” Aiden says firmly, a hint of anger in his voice. “Please leave my sister alone.”

“Your sister!” The woman snorts. “You two aren’t siblings! I thought you were this girl’s boyfriend!”

My nails dig into Aiden’s arms.

“Ma’am, you’re bothering us, and I have no idea who you are or what’s your business, so if you’ll just excuse us--”

“Okay! Okay, I’ll tell you. I’m this young woman’s great-aunt Anneke. I was visiting Rectar to deal with some complications following the death of my older brother Niles--he moved here, you see, in his old age for a change of climate, and his will was terribly messy and I was to set things to rights--”

“Well, I’m sure that’s all rendering you very busy, so we’ll be leaving now,” Aiden told her.

“Wait! Wait, you’ve missed the most important part. Your girlfriend here--”

“She’s my sister,” Aiden growls in a dangerously low tone.

The woman chuckles lightly and moves on. “Calliope here, she’s my great-niece! Her grandfather just passed away; aren’t you being rather insensitive?”

“My sister has four living grandparents, thank you very much,” Aiden says, his voice getting deeper. “We’re going to leave now.”

I peek a tiny bit out of Aiden’s chest just as the woman reaches forward to grab his arm. He slaps her hand, and she draws back.

“I mean her real grandparents,” she hisses. “Her grandfather is dead! And he left her an inheritance!”

Suddenly, everything stills. I feel Aiden tense up and my breathing slow. I remember the homeless man on our way here--I remember how greedy and selfish and self-centered my mother is--I remember how desperately I want to leave this family, run far away and leave everyone but Aiden behind--and everything gets that much clearer.

I stand up and look at my great-aunt Anneke. She has icy blue eyes, like mine. I read the shock in her face as she looks over my smudged eyeliner, my short, spiky black hair, the tank top I’m wearing with the jacket dangling behind me, the light-wash jeans and sneakers. An obvious look of disgust forms in the creases of her pale face, and I can tell she regrets ever having spoken with me. Still, she can’t go back now.

Holding on to Aiden, I correct my posture and look Anneke firmly in the eyes. “How much?”

“Cal--” Aiden warns me quietly.

“It’ll be fine,” I whisper. I repeat to Anneke, “How much money?”

She hesitates before responding, “In American currency--three hundred thousand dollars.”

I start to feel dizzy. “But that--that doesn’t make any sense. He’s never met me. Why would--” I falter. “Why would he ever give me that much?”

“Your grandfather had hundreds of millions of dollars, Calliope. That’s why he could afford to move here.”

“I--I don’t understand.” I swallow, my saliva feeling like sludge. “If my grandfather was so rich, why couldn’t my parents afford to keep me?”

Anneke’s eyes gleam coldly. “Every family has its secrets. And there are some things no one should know.” She stares deeply at me. “Are you ready to claim your inheritance?”

“Cal, I don’t think--” Aiden begins again.

“Shh, it’s fine,” I say to him. I turn to my aunt again and tell her, “Yes.”

“Wonderful,” Anneke says, the wrinkled skin around her lips lifting into a smile. “Can you do what’s required of you to collect the money?”

“I--I think so,” I say. “What is it?”

Anneke’s smile deepens. “Are you ready to move to Sweden?”

December 18, 2020 21:35

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Annette Lovewind
03:57 Dec 22, 2020

You know I read the first one and I got to say, really well written and I love how much detail you put into describing everyone and the surroundings. Also, you are very creative and I have to applaud you for that. This one is also very well written and I can imagine every part of it. Love the twist and I'm excited for whenever part 3 comes around. Very Nice job!


14:25 Dec 22, 2020

thank you so much!! :) do you have any criticism?


Annette Lovewind
01:40 Dec 23, 2020

Oh yikes, I really suck at giving that since half of the time I don't even know what I'm doing. I'm not really sure what to give you. I'm sorry!


13:37 Dec 23, 2020

that's ok, thanks for commenting :)


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