Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

‘The Companion’: chapter 15

My name is Cerise Vallance, and I am in a bad mood at the moment.  I have just had to ditch the name of my online publication.  I had called it My Lips Are Sealed, and I got some-one to do quite a stylish graphic of a Cupid’s bow mouth with a finger raised in front of it.  You know – as if saying ‘Shhh!’  The intention was to associate the product with the idea of secrecy and confidentiality.  I know that seems silly for a gossip-magazine, but the consuming public is like that: irrational.

Anyway, I recently made an alarming discovery about the name.  I was trying to get an interview with Kelvin Stark.  I have been trying for months, and this time I thought I had cracked it.  I tracked him down to the laundromat, of all places. He had a machine on the go, and he was in the middle of some ironing, and so I had him cornered.  I started to interview him, and he seemed more co-operative than  usual, but my pleasure quickly wore off because he would not stop sniggering in a way that I thought was surprisingly ill-mannered.  I broke off in the middle of a sentence.

‘Is anything the matter?’

‘Nothing; nothing; nothing.  Nothing at all.’  But he carried on sniggering.  I gave him a sideways look.  ‘Your e-paper is called My Lips Are Sealed, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, it is.  Why?’

‘Do you know that it has acquired an alternative title?’

‘No, I didn’t know that.  What is it?’

My Flaps Are Stuck Together.’  I must admit that it was difficult to go on with the interview after that, but I did my best to keep my composure.  I put a note in my diary to launch a competition among the readers to find a new name. 

‘Are you seeing any-one at the moment?’

‘You mean in the Biblical sense?’





‘No what?’

‘No, Ma’am.’

‘I mean: what you are saying is that you are not seeing any-one at the moment.’

‘Yes.  That is what I am saying.’

‘What about Prudence Tadlow?’

‘What about Prudence Tadlow?’

‘Are you seeing her?’


‘Have you seen her in the past?’


‘But you aren’t seeing her now.’


‘What happened?’

‘She finished with me.’ 

‘Why the hell.  Er.  Why did she do that?’

‘She said I had too much on my mind.  She said she believed that I was not serious about a relationship with her, because I was thinking about another woman.’

‘Another woman on the spaceship?’

‘No.  Another woman back on Earth.’

‘Who is she?’

‘I’m not telling you.’

‘Why not?’

‘It’s private.’

That was all I got out of him.  I did not push him too hard because he seemed to have outgrown his habit of talking complete nonsense every time I asked him a question and I did not want him to revert to his silliness in future interviews.  I charge a small payment for my publication, and if I could get an interview with Kelvin at least once a month, it would double my circulation. 

I sent Prudence an email summarising what Kelvin had said and asking her if it was true.  Her reply simply said, ‘Yes’, which was rude and uncalled-for but perfectly acceptable for the story.  PRUDE DUMPS KELVIN was the next edition’s headline, with a sub-head of She said he had mystery girlfriend back on Earth.  Circulation went up thirty per cent in one week. 


I have been Pamela Collins for over a year now, and I feel less comfortable in her skin now than I did when I first created her, back on Earth.  She is serving her purpose well enough, I suppose.  People look past her and through her as if she were one of those machines they had on Earth in railway stations and hospitals to clean the floor.  I think that is one of the reasons I decided to start the language classes: not just to have some kind of controlled contact with Kelvin, but to get some acknowledgment from my fellow passengers that I could do something that they could not do. 

I am trying to select a science officer among the crew to cultivate.  I have been taking radiation readings since we set off, and they have been rising recently.  I would have taken some gravimetric readings to see what large masses were nearby, but the ship’s compensators would invalidate them.  All I can do is work out the relative intensity of different kinds of particle, to see if it suggests anything about the source.  I just want to make sure that the crew knows as much as I know, but without alerting them to how I found it out.  One idea would be to use my 3D-printer to make an array of particle-detectors, the point being that I would get into less trouble for being a human being who has smuggled a 3D-printer than for being an android.  Even so, this would take quite a long time.  I hope this phenomenon dies down.  It takes a lot more radiation to harm me than it does a human, but I don’t want Kelvin’s balls to lose their potency.  Horace may need a little sister some day. 

I have seen Kelvin talking to a tall chap who I think is Chief Engineer Holt.  He might be worth getting to know. 

If the first year we spent in this tin can was one of settling-in, the second year seems set to be one of frivolity and silliness.  According to the ship’s artificial, Earth-based calendar, in two weeks it will be Hallowe’en.  Somebody suggested that we have a party, and the idea has caused mass hysteria.  Pamela has been advertising a costume-making service (I fear for the new colony’s wardrobe: it seems that hardly any-one on this vessel can sew).  I have been cheating by embellishing the costumes with pieces made by the 3D-printer.  These are only made out of dye and plastic beads, and don’t take very long to finish.  So far, I have made ten zombies, eleven Frankenstein’s monsters, six Draculas, five wolf-men, nine demons, four Grim Reapers, three Phantoms of the Opera, and a mad scientist.  The mad scientist is for Kelvin, and is the only one of its kind I will make.  Apart from a lab-coat, which he already owned, and a mask with a wig, there is very little to it.  Most of the part will just be Kelvin’s acting naturally.


I have no idea who thought of this party idea, but I am claiming it was mine.  It is going to be great for my circulation.  I have decided to use it as an opportunity to re-launch the publication, and so I need to have decided on a new name by then.  There has been a trickle of suggestions coming in via the competition, but they have been disappointingly dull.  The name needs to have plenty of pizzazz, and it must be innuendo-proof.  All potential references to unwashed genitalia are strictly off-limits. 

It is rumoured that Kelvin will be bringing out a Hallowe’en-themed beer for the party.  I must find out if that is true.  If it is, I might ask him if he wants me to promote it for him.  I am hoping for lots of drunken debauchery.  If I am lucky, Kelvin will get off with some-one new, and if I hit the jackpot, it will be some-one really good-looking who knows how to handle publicity. 


I wish that ridiculous Vallance woman would stop referring to me as “Prude” on her horrible website.  If she goes much further, I think Judge Fitzgerald may be hearing the ship’s first action for defamation. 



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