APAGear - Volume 5, Number 5 - August 2003

A Long Way to Home, Part 8

Dennis D. Kirkpatrick

Author's Note: This is part eight of a serial story that started running in January 2001 on Jovian APAworks, a now-retired APA for Jovian Chronicles that I maintained. I am reviving the serial on APAgear after a long hiatus. It feels good to be back.

Incidentally, this serial is a multi-part piece on Carolyn's return home from a failed mission to the outer rim of the solar system and is intended as a prequel to her stationing on Stevenson Station as described in Carolyn's bio published in the first issue of Jovian APAworks. You can reach the beginning of the story here in the Jovian APAworks Archives. Enjoy.

Carolyn still felt dizzy. The girls had shared two bottles of champagne on the ride over, but Carolyn had had the most, quaffing down four glasses... or was it five. Carolyn couldn't remember. All she knew is that the champagne went straight to her head.

Having checked into Sarah's hotel suite at the Elysée Grand Hotel in the downtown district, Sarah and Christine left Carolyn to tend to the absconded PUV outside. Sarah had left Carolyn two detox pills and a bottle of water to help Carolyn sober up. The detox pills still sat on the coffee table, Carolyn having stared at them now for almost an hour. She slowly sunk deeper and deeper into the plush couch, letting the champagne take her away.

As she fell asleep, Carolyn heard children laughing. There was also the faint sound of water. She opened her eyes, and the laughter stopped. Carolyn found that she was still in the hotel suite, but the sound of the water hadn't faded. In fact, it was growing louder as if coming closer. Carolyn scrunched her nose and stretched, looking around the room. The room, the bed, the sitting area, the minibar, nothing had changed. Still, there was the sound of splashing water, and it was getting louder.

Standing up, Carolyn walked toward the bathroom to see if the shower or bath was running, but they weren't. Perplexed, Carolyn also noticed that she wasn't dizzy anymore. Suddenly, the sound of children laughing rang out behind her, seeming to run past her. Turning around, Carolyn saw nothing.

"What the--?" Carolyn exclaimed.

Next, she heard more laughter behind her, and then she heard still more laughter to her right and then to her left. Soon, it was growing as loud as the sound of the splashing water. Carolyn closed her eyes and shook her head, confused. "What is this?" she asked herself before she heard a dozen or more chilren shout and scream. Everything suddenly fell silent and a gentle breeze now blew across Carolyn's face.

Opening her eyes, Carolyn found herself standing in Heisenberg Park across the station. At least, it looked like Heisenberg Park. She was standing on a muddy bank. The main lake was in front of her, and a gentle breeze generated by the the station's atmospheric systems kissed her face and hands. Looking above, the station's light bar shone bright, casting daylight on a skyscape that arced downward, showing a cityscape that eventually disappeared behind the trees of the park.

"Hello again," a young girl's voice intruded from behind.

Surprised, Carolyn jumped and slipped, falling head over heels into the water. "Wha--!" Carolyn shouted as her back slapped the water, sending a cold snap through Carolyn's nerves. Regaining her composure as best she could, Carolyn righted herself and stood up. She pushed the streams of water off her eyes and saw a little girl standing on the shore. It was Isabella, but the girl was older than before. She now looked at least seven, maybe eight years old.

Isabella was giggling. "Aunt Carolyn's scared."

Carolyn frowned, but her scowl quickly turned into a smile with Isabella's continued giggling. "Isabella, what are you--- I mean, what am I doing here again?"

"You wanted to be here?" the girl answered in a question.

"I wanted to sleep in the hotel," Carolyn replied. "I was happy sleeping on the couch." Carolyn then squinted her eyes and placed her hands on her hips as she stepped out of the water. "It was you, wasn't it? You called me here."

"No, I didn't," Isabella answered. Her voice sounded honest and sincere. "I was playing with friends, and then you came and frightened them away."

Now out of the water, Carolyn was dripping on the grass. Carolyn shook her arms, the long sleeves of her blouse clinging to her skin. "I came and scared your friends away?" She pointed toward the forest of trees several meters away. "Are they hiding there? Tell them to come out."

"I can't. They're no longer here."

Carolyn stopped wringing and stomping. Instead, she looked back up at Isabella and getting a worried look on her face. "Where did they go?"


"Yes, I know that but where?" Carolyn's voice sounded frustrated.

"They went back to their own place," Isabella explained. "They went home. At least, I think that's where they went."

Clicking her tongue, Carolyn replied, "You think?" She didn't ask anymore questions. Instead, she silently pointed at a nearby rock and walked toward it. Leaning up and sitting against it, Carolyn took off her shoes and shook the extra water out of them. Isabella just followed.

As Carolyn finished draining her second shoe, she finally spoke. "So, why didn't you run?"

"I did, but I recognized you as I was leaving." Isabella smiled. "So," the girl explained, "I came back. I'm sorry that I scared you."

"That's OK," Carolyn shrugged. "At least, now I'm sober."

Isabella looked at her aunt curiously.

"So," Carolyn continued. "I guess the next logical question would be to ask you where your home is?"

"Oh, it's very close. It's as close as yours."


"Mmmhmm," the girl replied.

"And where is that, exactly?" Carolyn asked, probing.

"Where you want to be," Isabella explained. "It's the place you go to when you're tired of everywhere else."

"So, is this my home?" Carolyn gestured to the park that surrounded them.

"I don't know, is it?" Isabella asked, her question sounding innocent and sincere.

Carolyn almost chuckled at the way the conversation was continuing. She looked down at her feet. "I guess that I don't know either, Isabella."

"You told me that would happen sometimes."

"I told you?"


"I never told you that. How could---"

Just then, the sound of Sarah and Christine's voices intruded. They are laughing, but then Sarah bursts out in astonishment. "What the fuck? Carolyn, what have you been doing?"

Carolyn looked all around, but Sarah and her younger sister weren't visible anywhere.

"Why are you leaving now, Aunt Carolyn?" Isabella asked.

Carolyn looked at Isabella. "Leaving? I'm not leaving."

"It was good to see you, Aunt. Thanks for visiting with me. I'll see you soon."

"What? Isabella, wait!" That was when everything changed. The park disappeared and Carolyn was back in the hotel suite, staring at a bewildered Sarah and Christine.

"What happened?" Sarah asked, clearly astonished and looking Carolyn up and down.

"Nothing," Carolyn responded, but then she realized that she was still wet from falling into the lake. Looking down at her clothes, she was still wet and muddy. Christine just started laughing, but Carolyn had never felt more frightened. She started to cry as she stood up. "What the fuck is happening? This can't be real! This can't be real!"

"Carolyn?" Sarah called, looking worried.

Christine stopped laughing as Carolyn collapsed onto the floor.

To be continued...