by Lillian Csernica on May 31, 2018
Today’s fortune says:
You must learn to broaden your horizons day by day.
A LEAF ON THE WIND
Kathleen regained consciousness. She kept her eyes shut and her breathing regular. Thousands of voices made a steady clamor somewhere just on the other side of a door or wall. She lay on a couch that held the lingering odors of sweaty bodies, stale pizza, and something sugary. Concrete. Paper. Old draperies.
“I know you’re awake.” A woman’s voice, both dainty and authoritative. “Sit up. There’s much to discuss.”
Kathleen opened her eyes to see an excellent copy of Jane Fonda’s Barbarella. Posters on the walls ran heavily to superhero themes, classic Kirby art along with movie posters from the Marvel universe. She sat up slowly. All those voices…. She groaned.
“A comic con? Really?”
“This is where we blend in best.” The woman frowned. “Well, here and Burning Man.”
“Who is ‘we’?”
“We don’t have time for the basics. What name did the man give you?”
“Leaf. Leaves that Fall At Twilight.”
“In what language?”
“Of course. I’ll give you another name for him: otaku. Are you familiar with that word?”
Kathleen nodded. It meant the crazier kind of fan boy, the one with obsessions and a poor sense of personal hygiene. “I take it that’s not his real name?”
“No. Human vocal chords can’t duplicate our language. The result would approximate a whale singing light opera on meth.”
The very idea made Kathleen’s brain hurt.
“On behalf of the members of my crew,” Barbarella said, “I apologize for Leaf’s disruption of your life. He means well, but he takes his hobbies too seriously.”
“‘Hobbies’? What part of his ‘hobbies’ am I?”
“He’s on our cultural analysis staff. He loves Earth storytelling, the classics and the trash and everything in between.”
“So he really did want to carry me off to some enchanted kingdom.”
“I think the word he used was ‘Wakanda.'”
Despite her consternation, Kathleen burst out laughing. “If there’s one place I’d want to go, that would be it.” She sighed. “Where is Leaf now?”
“In detention aboard our ship. He faces disciplinary action for using a breath weapon.”
“He didn’t hurt me.”
“Do you know what day it is?”
“If it isn’t Saturday, then no, I don’t.”
“It’s Sunday afternoon.”
“I’ve been out that long? Why?”
The faux Barbarella stared at Kathleen. She threw both hands upward and took a seat on the couch, facing Kathleen.
“You might as well hear all of it. Leaf carried you through the transport rift. He’d used a personal code to deliver him directly to his quarters. He might have kept you hidden long enough to make returning you to Earth too costly.”
“When he applied the breath weapon, he lingered too long, allowing some of it to escape into the atmosphere. Our sensors alerted us immediately.”
“All this trouble because he wouldn’t stop kissing me in time?”
Kathleen felt a slight pang on Leaf’s behalf. It had been an amazing kiss. “What’s going to happen to him?”
“That will depend on how much damage control I can do before we return to our galaxy. The use of the breath weapon for the purposes of abduction violates at least three treaties.”
Kathleen could see where this was going. “Can you lock him into one biological shape?”
Barbarella looked at her in surprise. “Yes. Why do you ask?”
“Do it. Lock him into the Winter Soldier shape he was in when he appeared to me. Then leave him here on Earth.”
“What justice would that serve?”
“Exile. For a crime of the magnitude you’re describing, somebody will demand exile, permanent detention, or death.”
“What’s in this for you?”
Kathleen waved at one poster of Captain America: Winter Soldier. “Do you really have to ask? Leave him with me. He’ll be happy, you’ll be rid of a loose cannon, and I can keep an eye on him.”
“This would take time. The bio-ban alone–”
“Ever heard of marooning? That’s what you’ll do. He broke the rules. You abandoned him thousands of light years from home on a planet without the technological level that would enable him to escape. Your hands are clean.”
Barbarella gave her a grudging smile. “I’m almost sorry you won’t be coming back with us.”
“You’ll do it?”
“Understand, if he manages to cross the line again, both of you will pay for it.”
“I’ll take that risk.”
The following Thursday Kathleen came home from work to find Leaf sitting on her couch, remote in hand, surrounded by DVD cases and videogames and piles of books. On the coffee table sat a big salad bowl full of popcorn. Three empty pizza boxes stood in a neat pile by the front door. By the sound of the ’70s music, Leaf was watching Guardians of the Galaxy again.
“Hi, honey,” she called. “I’m home.”
Leaf hit Pause, sprang off the couch, and swept her up into a pepperoni-flavored kiss.