Read The Faarian Chronicles: Exile Online
Authors: Karen Harris Tully
you talking about? Is this some Middle
Eastern superstition or something?” Judith had long since grown used to the
high-tech “prototype” hologram hovering around. “I assure you, nothing bad will
happen.” She raised the scissors.
“Judith, before you do that, may I show you
may not the best idea to cut Sunny’s hair?” Sensei asked, holding out a hand.
Judith handed over the scissors with a little “humph” of exasperation.
Sensei looked over at Dad who was rubbing his hand against
his forehead as if he had a headache. He sighed and nodded at her unasked
question, then moved from his chair to stand beside me.
“Samabish, would you mind handing me one of those,” she
towels next to your elbow there, please?”
The Robot tried to take a towel from the dispenser next to
him, but his hand passed right through. I giggled as he cursed.
Sensei retrieved the towel herself with an apologetic look.
“Sorry Professor, sometimes I still forget you’re not the real Samabish Obot,”
He sniffed. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Sensei gave him a dignified nod and released her green hair
from its standard utilitarian bun. I was always surprised at how long it was,
down to her lower back. She grabbed a lock of hair at random, made sure Judith
was watching, and quickly snipped the end off.
As she held it up for inspection, I could see white fluid
start to well up out of the ends of each strand, like when you pick a
dandelion. Before the white stuff could drip on the floor, she wrapped it in
the paper towel and squeezed, as if putting pressure on a wound.
“That’s why,” she said simply. “It’s really quite
uncomfortable.” I was stunned. My eyes were like saucers, and Judith’s
expression was gaping. Dad caught her as she slumped to the floor in a dead
At first I couldn’t think, and then my thoughts raced around
in circles like a hamster on a wheel. I didn’t even notice Dad moving Judith to
the reclining chair. Why would Sensei's hair
that? Was it bleeding?
No. People’s hair didn’t bleed. But it was doing something… something
I always thought she dyed it that bright green color. Was it
natural? Did she have plants growing out of her head? What did that have to do
with me? My hair wouldn’t
, would it? No. No. Of course not. People
got haircuts all the time.
Except Dad never let
you get a haircut,
the little voice in my head whispered.
Why would her hair
that? I thought again. There
had to be something wrong with her. Her not me. It had nothing to do with me….
And then another stream of thoughts spun through my head.
How did I survive that avalanche? They said nobody could have survived that
long. Was I just amazingly lucky? Why would Sensei say the sun was important
for me, when the doctor said it wasn’t? How did she know? And what was she
saying about my
I spotted the scissors on the rolling bedside table where
Sensei had set them down. Without thinking, I reached for the table and yanked
it toward me, grabbed up the scissors and whacked at a chunk of my hair.
“Yeeow!” I screeched, dropping the scissors. Pain zinged up
my damaged hair into my scalp, like cutting a fingernail too short.
“Sunny! Are you okay?” Dad asked concerned, rubbing my arm.
“I told you it was uncomfortable,” Sensei said calmly,
handing me a paper towel at the same time as I heard footsteps running down the
The Robot announced, “Nurse,” and disappeared. I quickly
wrapped my weeping hair in the towel and tried to look normal.
The kindly, middle-aged nurse bustled in. “Are you okay in
I sat there, not knowing how to answer her.
“I-I was just trying to get the knots out of her hair,”
stammered Judith. “She leaned too far forward and ended up getting pudding in
it.” Everyone turned to look at her. How long had she been awake?
“Would you like to wash your hair?” the nurse asked me.
“Some conditioner would probably help with those knots and I can help you so
you don’t hurt your knee.”
“No!” I yelled. I couldn’t let her see. I didn’t want her to
. “I mean, no. Thanks,” I tried to say more calmly.
She gave me a strange look. “Okay well, just push your call
button if you need anything.”
I managed to nod as she shut the door.
“Dad?” I looked over at him. “Dad, what’s
“Sweetheart, there’s nothing wrong with you.” Dad looked
right in my eyes and gripped my hand. “Absolutely nothing.”
“But Dad,” I held up my fist with my towel-wrapped hair
still clenched inside.
“You’re a little different, honey. That’s all. Special,” he
“Not that special,” the Robot muttered.
Dad ignored him. “I wanted to wait to tell you. Maybe I
waited too long.” He paused. “Sunny, what I’m about to tell you is a secret.
You can’t tell anyone. Not even Andi, okay?” I nodded. “Spit swear on it?” He
spit into his palm and held it out to me.
“Ewww,” I protested with a giggle, but spit on my hand all
the same and shook on it before wiping my hand on the blankets.
“So unsanitary,” I heard from the Robot. Dad looked over at
Judith. She nodded solemnly, agreeing to the oath.
He took a deep breath. “Sweetheart, your mother isn’t from
the Middle East.” My mother? “Neither are Sensei or the Robot. Obot. I mean
Professor Obot.” He blew out a breath and tried again, ignoring the Robot’s
affronted squawk. “What I’m trying to say is… your mother is from another
planet. A planet named Macawi.”
I was silent for a moment, before what he’d said sunk in.
“What?!” I screeched again, not caring if the nurse heard.
“Shh, shh. Calm down. It’s okay. Everything is going to be
okay,” he soothed.
“My mother is an
and you’re telling me to calm
“No, no. She’s human. You’re human. I know it’s hard to
believe, humans on another planet, but it’s true.” He rushed on, “And after living
there so long, they’ve developed certain… special abilities different from
humans on Earth.” He lifted a strand of my hair. “See?” I shook my head.
“I’m not explaining this very well.” He squeezed his eyes
shut and rubbed his forehead.
Sensei stepped in. “Your hair is the reason you don’t need
as much oxygen as other Earthans.”
“The green is chlorophyll. I know the Professor taught you
about chlorophyll, right?” Dad asked.
“Of course I did,” the Robot sniffed. “Whether she retained
anything in that thick head of hers is another matter."
Dad ignored him. “Your hair absorbs sunlight, converting
carbon dioxide to oxygen. That’s what allowed you to survive where no one else
would. See? Special,” Dad repeated.
“So,” I spoke slowly, “when I’m thirteen, I’ll be going to
this other planet?” He nodded. I looked from him to Sensei. I had so many
The door banged open and Andi burst in. “The cafeteria here
is amazing! Look Sunny, I got you your favorite…” she trailed off, waving a bag
of dark chocolate M&Ms. She took in the strange scene in the room. “Hey,
what’d I miss?”
Would I always be half alien? Would I ever actually belong
knew about Earth and even visited here often, which I
suppose was how I’d been born here in the first place. To them, I would be the
But here, if people here
, they would only care
about the alien part.
about the alien part. Send me to some
secret lab to
the alien part. I made myself stop there.
Andi’s reaction had been telling enough and I’d known her
all my life. It took a while for her to get used to the idea. For both of us,
actually. Dad freaked when he found out she knew, but Andi wasn’t dumb, and it
was nearly impossible to keep secrets from her, especially something this big.
The humongous woman who’d just stepped out of the hippie bus
gave me a calmly assessing look but didn’t say anything. She stepped out of the
way for a couple other people to pile out. A second woman stopped in the
doorway of the van. She was not as big as the first but was still tall and
buff, scowling and reminding me of an unhappy Xena, Warrior Princess, wearing
desert camo and a knit Rasta hat.
Unhappy Xena looked me up and down, sneering with disdain.
“This her?” she asked the first woman in Faarian, finally stepping out of the
van. “Scrawny little thing, isn’t she?” she observed. Scrawny? Who was she
calling scrawny? I was a gymnast. I was nothing but muscle! But something told
me not to mess with Unhappy Xena.
“Myrihn, be nice,” the bigger one growled. “She can
obviously understand you.”
“Well she should, Teague, after all that money her mother
spent on tutors all these years,” Myrihn replied.
The last person to exit the van was a diminutive young man,
rounding out the strange bunch. He was completely unlike the two women, with a
pretty face, designer jeans, and a stylish fedora. How did these people come
from the same place?
They left the side door to the van open and immediately went
to the trap doors Dad opened on each side of the barn floor, revealing stairs
into some sort of bunker. The two women, young man, Dad, and Sensei all
disappeared down the stairs and started to bring up box after box to load into
the van. I started to help, feeling awkward standing there, and was shocked at
how many crates and boxes of all sizes were in the concrete bunker that ran the
whole length of the barn underground. I’d known Dad had been collecting
supplies for a while, but this was ridiculous. How were these all supposed to
fit in a VW bus?
I walked over to stand by the edge of the van door,
curiosity pulling me to peek inside. I sucked in a breath and didn’t even look
around when enormo-woman, Teague, walked past me chuckling.
Inside the bus was a huge circular room, with a downstairs
like a 70’s sunken living room – minus the shag carpeting. Cargo nets hung from
the walls, ready to secure the boxes. A floor-to-ceiling cylinder in the center
looked like it had a control room inside.
I jerked my head back to look at the outside. Yep, still a
VW bus. What the heck? I stuck my head back around the door and noticed
no-nonsense looking plastic jump seats with five-point harnesses attached to the
wall all the way around. I really didn’t want to think about strapping myself
into one of those seats.
“Sunny, get out of the way honey,” Dad’s voice intruded on
my astonishment and I jerked back. The look on my face had the crewmembers
laughing. I flushed and went to stand by the wall again while they loaded some
crates as large as the van’s sliding door.
Eventually, the impossibility of the scene wore off and I
went upstairs to search for my missing iPhone. I checked that the Leatherman I
nearly always carried (except at practice and tournaments) was in my pocket. It
had been a present from Dad and came in handy. I finished throwing a few things
into my bags and sealed everything in the Ziploc bags that Judith had left at
the end of my bed.
The Robot had been specific: traveling to Macawi was a very
wet business. If I wanted my belongings to survive the trip I had to seal
everything in plastic and push out all of the air.
Sensei had warned me to only take what I needed, and nothing
frilly or girly, but how did I know what I would need? And I was a girl, wasn't
I? Some of my things were bound to be girly! Like my Ziploc-packed bras. Of
course I needed those, and of course they were feminine, by definition. The
majority were the sports-bra kind that I wore every day, but for some reason, I
really wanted to take the satin padded one that I’d worn once with a dress when
Andi had snuck me out to a dance. For the first time in my life I’d felt
almost… curvy. It had been delicious.
Judith came in then, breaking into my thoughts, with red
eyes and a book in her hands. Andi stood awkwardly in the doorway as Judith
wrapped me in her arms and kissed my hair.
“We’ll miss you so much, honey. Every day.” She took me by
my shoulders and looked me in the eye. “You’d better write all the time,
everything that happens. Promise me.” I nodded.
“This is for you, in case you get homesick. You can always
see us, whenever you want.” She handed me a photo album. I opened it to the
first page and saw a picture of all of us together and happy, taken at a picnic
last summer. My family. I about lost it right then.
I closed the book before I started to cry, so that I could
smile as I said, “Thank you, Judith. I love it.” I hugged it to my chest, the
best gift anyone could have given me.
Andi came in, biting her lip, with one arm behind her back.
She pulled out a stuffed orange cat. “I know the real Meowman can’t go with
you, so you can take this one instead.” She looked over at the orange tabby
sprawled out and purring on the bed. “I’ll take care of him while you’re gone,
I promise. He’ll be right here when you get back.”
I threw my arms around her as my tears started to overflow,
the force causing her to stumble before she caught herself and hugged me back,
laughing a little, and then crying too. Then Judith was hugging the both of us,
and we were one big laughing, bawling mess together. Judith gave us each a kiss
on the forehead and we let go, all of us sniffling and smiling watery smiles.
“Wash your faces and come down for breakfast you two. We
don’t want to keep our guests waiting.” Andi and I groaned in unison.
Hours later, after devouring three meals like they hadn’t
seen food in a year, taking a hike, and going on a sightseeing tour with
Sensei, our visitors finished loading the Volkswagen spaceship. When I came out
after sunset with my bags in hand, I was surprised to see Dad’s helicopter that
he used for work sitting on the helipad, and wondered if he was going somewhere
after I left. I checked the barn and found the VW bus missing, but her crew was
milling around the helipad with mugs of coffee.
I stared at the helicopter for a moment, shining in the
outdoor floodlights. It took me a full minute to figure out they’d changed
disguises. I went over to look through the open door. Yep, what looked like
Dad’s helicopter on the outside, held the cavernous circular space filled with
crates on the inside. How was that even possible? I looked curiously at the
pretty-boy pilot standing nearby. He was young to be a pilot; in his early
twenties I’d say, and watching me with amusement.
“How do you do that?” I asked in Faarian, gesturing to the
He grinned. “It’s a projection, sort of like your TV
screens, but thinner, like a hard skin. We tell it what image to project and
there it is: instant camouflage,” he answered me in English, his accent almost
as interesting as the explanation; part rasping, part whistling between his
teeth. “It also projects the surrounding landscape on the rest of the skin,
making the bulk of it invisible. That’s actually new for this old bird. It used
to be that we could only disguise these babies as large buildings, or cruise
ships, or military cargo planes.” He patted the side affectionately.
“Well,” I said, trying to keep up, “why don’t you just
project the landscape and have the whole thing be invisible?”
He laughed. “It works better if you can see some kind of
local vehicle when it’s on the ground. It would look kind of strange for people
to be climbing in and out of nothing, don’t you think?” I had to admit he had a
point. “Plus, anyone watching would be used to this helicopter taking off here,
so it’s better than the van disguise we used before.”
“Um, yeah, since nobody drives those things anymore," I
replied. "Anyway, who would be watching?”
He only pointed up to the sky and waggled his eyebrows.
“So, why did you use the Volkswagen bus in the first place?
Why didn’t you just arrive looking like the helicopter and set down right
“When we arrive on the planet, we do most of our traveling
invisibly,” he explained. “We try not to switch disguises mid-air like that
since your country’s detection systems keep getting better. So, we landed in
the trees for cover and then assumed the van disguise to complete the trip on
I nodded. I guess that made sense.
Soon the crew boarded, and my family gathered round to say
goodbye. I’d never thought of myself as a crier, but today was proving me
“Here, munchkin. Don’t want to forget this.” Dad handed me
something enclosed in several Ziploc bags. My missing iPhone! He winked at me.
He'd modified it with a small solar panel attachment, sort of like on a
calculator. “Had to make sure it would work there, now didn’t I?”
I gave him another hug and said quietly, “Thanks, Dad.
You’re the best.”
He cleared his throat and was blinking rapidly when he
pulled back. “Hey remember our saying.” He gave me an encouraging chuck under
the chin. “Life’s an adventure.”
“Yeah, yeah, make the most of it.” I said, repeating his
“That’s a girl,” he replied with another, longer hug.
"I'm going to miss you."
"I'll miss you too, Dad," I sniffed, looking up at
his familiar face. It was hard to believe I wouldn't see him again till I could
visit next year. I
to find a way to stay on Earth then. One year
already seemed way too long.
I hugged them all one last time and stepped inside the ship.
I looked around, amazed at how full the cavernous space had become.
Shrink-wrapped boxes and crates of every shape and size were packed tightly together
into every possible space, including being strapped onto many of the seats that
formed rows around the circumference of the ship, strongly reminding me of the
centrifuge ride at the county fair.
There were only a couple of seats left unoccupied by box,
bag, or crewmember and I saw my bags strapped in next to one of the empty
seats. I walked slowly over to sit and strap myself in with the five-point
harness, as the engines started to hum. I waved one last time to my family
through the window behind me before the glass frosted over. The windows were
barely opaque when the ship started to spin.
The center navigation column with the cockpit inside was
rotating faster and faster, in the opposite direction from us and the ship’s
hull. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths, trying not to puke. When I peeked
again, the entire outside wall had turned white, thankfully cutting off the
spinning view, but the central navigation column was a complete blur. I tried
not to look at it.
I focused on the seat to my left, which at least seemed to
be standing still. All my possessions, everything I had to my name for my new
alien life, were packed and stacked next to me on one small seat.
The realization that it was my own life spinning out of
control hit me with full body impact. I felt like I'd missed a release move on
bars and was crashing to the floor.
My eyes burned and my jaw clenched with sudden rage at my
mother and the unfairness of it all. Who did she think she
wanted to scream, to throw and kick and break things, but I was stuck in this
seat with the world spinning sickeningly around me. I brought my feet up and
hid my face in my knees, seething and churning as the ship spun faster and
faster and lifted off the ground.