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Conics Unfortunately: 3

by Ventomology

You now know what happened on the GS Pax all those years ago. I had to bully a great number of important earthlings in order to wrangle out permission to publish that, so try to be thankful.

Enough about the attack though. Let’s move on to the sappy good stuff.

I remember waking up in a room that smelled so much like the ship that at first, I thought I’d just had a nightmare. The hospital, like the ship, was scrubbed down with bleach and disinfectants, free of scents and excess noise. The mattress was covered in heavy vinyl, and when I shifted to pull my arms out from under the polyester blanket, the firm foam kept me from sinking.

I realize now that I should have heard the telltale swish of synthetic fabrics rubbing against each other, but I’m willing to bet I was too relieved to be alive to even think about things being wrong. I knew that in moments, my father would come drag me to breakfast, and I would say hello to my mother while she took a breather from discussing politics with Mr. Emil.

Closing my eyes, I settled back into the bed and pretended to be asleep.

Here is another thing I should have realized: the lighting was half natural. When I closed my eyes and saw red graze my retinas instead of the blue tint of LEDs, I should have guessed I was seeing sunlight. Even as a child, I knew the difference, though I think I felt it more than knew it.

Moments later, I felt the graze of someone about to shake me awake. I expected my father, and so I burst up, arms flailing.

That is when I knew something was wrong.

I laid eyes on a great, large, pale man who most certainly was not my father. The man wore dark blue scrubs and the funny nurse hat, and his arms bulged with more muscle and fat than I probably had in my entire body, especially considering the things I learned next.

I cowered into the mattress, feeling a sick roiling in my stomach. You must understand that to a six-year-old, anyone larger than an eight-year-old is terrifying. (Focci thinks I would be unlikely to find any earthling’s size intimidating now, but the captain of the Bellevue still makes me want to hide in a box and never come out.) The man smiled, probably trying to ease my fear, but I found him only scarier.

His mouth moved, and I strained to hear what he was saying, but all I caught was a soft, indistinct murmuring, like the hum of a struggling electric engine. He frowned when I kept cowering, and leaned over.

I panicked. I flailed my arms and tried to kick, but when I moved, my fingers tangled in a long, skinny tube, and the blanket hardly moved. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to peddle the air, but all I felt was a tingling halfway up my thighs.

The waterworks came next, of course. When I think back to the scene, I am struck by a sense of guilt, because the poor nurse had to deal with my tantrum and my bawling and the unexpected dilemma of not being able to communicate with me. I evidently refused to open my eyes for several long, tortuous minutes, but even if I saw the nurse sign, I would not have understood.

When I at last tuckered myself out, too tired to be angry about the tingling in my legs and the vague whispers of sound that managed to reach my ears, I crossed my arms and huffed and glared at the nurse. I doubt he found me intimidating, but I used to imagine that he thought I was some kind of child demon.

He crossed to the door and leaned out. I presume he shouted something, because he raised a cupped hand to his mouth and took in a breath deep enough to move the broad mass of his chest. The nurse yelled several times, as far as I could tell, and then when he was satisfied, he let a small, hopeful grin dimple his chin. He turned back to me and picked a folder up off the stout, grey table by the door, and as he returned to my bedside, he leafed through the papers inside, tongue stuck out in thought.

He sat. A chair with an ugly blue cushion and grey paint the same shade as the table stood right next to a hunk of machinery on a cart, and the nurse placed himself so that he only barely rested his butt on the seat. He slid out a picture and held it up for me.

Crane and Shell, lounging in all their feline glory, stared back at me from the cardstock. They rested in a tangle of gato and earthling toddler, with snowy white Crane half on top of midnight blue Shell and me, tiny and chubby, sitting atop the pile. As a teen, I tried to pretend I didn’t smile when I saw that picture, but I know I did. Few people manage to not smile when they see a photo of a gato, and even fewer can claim they wouldn’t smile at the sight of a gato friend.

I spoke then, I think. I don’t know if the words came out clearly, but the vibration in my vocal chords told my brain that I had managed to at least get out some noise.

The nurse grinned and nodded. He pointed at the clock hanging over the door, and then held up two fingers.

I don’t honestly remember what he meant by that. Immediately after that brief moment of communication, a black lady with an afro stepped in and had a good long poke at me. Her time in my hospital room felt long and arduous, a never-ending series of uncomfortable tests and jabs. (Focci tells me that he finds earthling professionals profoundly boring, and that doctors on Sirena lug around gigantic orange bags that light up and play poetry out of speakers. I can’t tell if he’s pulling my stubs or not.)

The doctor left me alone for what felt like hours, and then suddenly the door to my room burst open, slamming against the wall with enough force that I could feel the smack. Crane and Shell bounded in, prehensile tails curling, and the pair wasted no time in perching their front paws on either side of my bed.

Mind you, I could not understand gato at the time. My mother and father had only just started me on Punjabi, and I think they intended for me to pick up Global Gliss before delving into the non-earthling languages. Nonetheless, when a pair of alien felines come and pat your cheeks with the sandpapery pads of their feet, it is hard not to sense the way affection oozes into the room. With the sunlight tinting everything a light, joyous yellow and a pair of loving adults to comfort me, it was like nothing had ever been wrong. I forgot, for a moment, my questions about my parents’ whereabouts, about Ambassador Emil and his baby daughter, about the place I had been before the hospital.

I understood later that Shell and Crane were being extra generous with their pats that day. They felt the urge to give extra attention, the reason for which I would not learn until a bald white man in glasses stuffed hearing aids into my ears, clapped my shoulders, and told me very seriously that Mr. and Mrs. Sethi’s bodies were never recovered from the wreckage of the Pax.

But in that moment on the day I awoke, when all I felt was sandpaper skin on my cheeks and warm fur hovering over my arms, I only knew that I loved my godparents.

-A Life Unfolded: the Story of Tejal Sethi

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15 Reviews

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Reviews: 15

Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:36 pm
ryanmakenna wrote a review...

Alright, so I know you've already heard this as others have commented this as well, but I was a bit confused with whose POV this was until the very end. As a reader I didn't like that I read this entire thing in Ellipse's voice only to find out in the last couple paragraphs that it wasn't Ellipse at all. It might just be personal preference, but I would have liked to know that Tejal was speaking from the beginning so that I could give this chapter a new narrative voice and personality in my head, rather than try to figure out how it fits with Ellipse's story.

The other confusing part for me was the flashbacks (like @Carina wrote). Since she pretty much covered it, I'll move on.

One thing I LOVED was when Tejal said: "I can't tell if he's pulling my stubs or not" !!! OMG that was so great. I didn't think anything of it when I read it initially, I just thought it might be a cute idiom that you made up for the space culture, but once I figured out it was wheelchair boy who was talking, I adored how you changed the popular phrase "pulling my leg" to "pulling my stubs"!

Also, creeping suspicions.... Ambassador Emil's daughter is Ellipse! Very subtle if so, and I wouldn't have guessed it normally had I not been looking for things like that.

Overall I love the backstory you've built for Tejal. I am already invested in Ellipse, but now I want to know even more about Tejal!

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Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:28 pm
Carina wrote a review...

Back for the third chapter!

Now this was all a pleasant surprise. :o Chapter 1 and 2 must be like a prologue, of sorts *applauds* and it was well done! The lead characters (who I assume are Ellipse, Tejal, and siren) have been introduced in a unique way, leaving memorable first impressions on the reader so the characters can slink back easily into the story down the road.

It took me a while to realize that this is about the dude chasing (rolling?) after Ellipse, whose name we found out is now Tejal. I was going to suggest making the change of characters POV more obvious at the beginning since we're used to Ellipse, but I really liked the way you unfolded this chapter. Once you mentioned gato, I knew this was about the boy, and then I was like, "OMG. THIS IS HIS STORY. (IS HIS LEGS GETTING AMPUTATED NOW IN THE HOSPITAL?!)"

This chapter was written well and, again, captured my attention so much that I found myself engrossed in the story. There are a couple eyebrow raises that I'll bring up, though:

You must understand that to a six-year-old, anyone larger than an eight-year-old is terrifying.

So, this must be a flashback to when Tejal was six. That was what I pictured until...

As a teen, I tried to pretend I didn’t smile when I saw that picture, but I know I did.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding this, but I am definitely a bit confused at the timelines here. It took me a while to realize that it must be in the POV of Tejal in the present/future that is narrating the reminisce, and not past Tejal who was remembering all this. So, my only suggestion would be to bridge that connection with a bit more clarity.

And of course, I gotta quote a line I really liked in each chapter. :p

With the sunlight tinting everything a light, joyous yellow and a pair of loving adults to comfort me, it was like nothing had ever been wrong.

I adored the poetic vibes from the sentence.

TO THE NEXT CHAPTER! Will Tejal actually be the main character? Will he narrate his badassery being a wannabe Mowgli from The Jungle Book? What happened in the Pax? At a slow and steady pace, I'm sure I'll figure all this out soon.

* edit: after reading some reviews, I realize that it isn't obvious this chapter that Tejal is actually wheelchair boy. o.0 I've already established the two together and based my whole review off that, so I hope I'm right. xD


Ventomology says...

Ahh wow I didn't realize I had stuck one of these interludes in so early. If you check the very bottom of the chapter, that may lend a few clues as to why this chapter is written the way it is.

And since it is my personal opinion to never confirm nor deny any predictions y'all have, I will at least tell you that I'm glad you think Tejal is the wheelchair boy, since I'm pretty sure I was going for that.


Ventomology says...

Ahh wow I didn't realize I had stuck one of these interludes in so early. If you check the very bottom of the chapter, that may lend a few clues as to why this chapter is written the way it is.

And since it is my personal opinion to never confirm nor deny any predictions y'all have, I will at least tell you that I'm glad you think Tejal is the wheelchair boy, since I'm pretty sure I was going for that.


Carina says...

Yep, the end confirmed that it was some flashback of sorts, and will continue to develop in the story. (At least, I hope that's what it implies, lol.) Maybe if it was stuck to the beginning of the chapter, it wouldn't be as confusing. But then again, it reminds me of a movie: opening scene, title, then rest of movie. So maybe it's perf the way it is. :9

I totally just took a sneak peak to the recent chapter and saw Tejal's name pop up. It's going to take a lot of willpower to not confirm my predictions by hopping chapter-to-chapter for the answer. BUT I DIGRESS

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289 Reviews

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Sun Jul 09, 2017 7:59 pm
TheSilverFox wrote a review...

Theory time: Emil's name is one letter away from evil, so clearly he's evil. :P

On a serious note, I'm a bit surprised with the change of format, since the previous chapter is now a strong cliffhanger that makes me that much more curious to read what happens to Ellipse. At the same time, the present chapter provides a lot of interesting backstory and actually causes me to empathize with whom I'm 99% sure is wheelchair boy (I confess I haven't the slightest clue what Bisc is reading, because I know it's not what I'm reading). I mean, admittedly, based on the beginning, Tejal has somewhat of an ego or is temperamental, thanks to the "try to be thankful" line. Still, in this excerpt, I see a scared young boy who has lost his legs and his parents at the same time, and has to adjust to living with (admittedly cool) godparents whose language he doesn't even speak. As such, I can understand the life and issues that wheelchair boy has had to face, so he doesn't seem like so much of an outright antagonist to me (or at least once I can sympathize with to some extent). And, I will admit, the "pulling my stubs" line was funny. :P

I don't know if there's much else I can say? My own guess turned out to be mostly correct, and I even though that his gato parents were possibly friends of his birth parents, which is surprising, considering my lack of accuracy. I would like to point out that I'm fairly sure bleach has a strong smell of its own (although I can only ever think of vinegar because I don't think my family has bleach), so perhaps specifying it as no excess noises and sounds would work? Too, I am still curious to know where Tejal has come from or what exactly he is, since his constant referring to "earthlings" indicates that he certainly isn't from there. I imagine that will be answered at a later point in the story, though my bet's on him being the human child of colonists/explorers/traders/etc. And I guess that's about it. In the end, I find this a lovely chapter (and adorable, considering Tejal's happiness at the end) that sets up a nice cliffhanger and is accompanied by a bevy of backstory. Great job!

Ventomology says...

This chapter is cute, isn't it? And let me know if you get too far and never see mention of Tejal's birth parents again, because I thought I had mentioned their profession somewhere, but I guess I forgot to slip that little detail in?

Though, if you know what Pax means, you might be able to guess.

Anyways, thanks again!

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537 Reviews

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Mon Jun 26, 2017 3:38 pm
BiscuitsLeGuin wrote a review...

Ok I may have jumped to the Green Room for a bit after lunch, but I'm here now!

Nit-picks and nice moments:

child demon.

I think that would more commonly be written as "demon child".

took in a breath deep enough to move

I think there should be a comma between "breath" and "deep".


Character: I can really feel invested in Ellipse in this chapter. You bring me her fear so well, and you make the other characters so intimidating. And you've done so much in the previous two characters to endear her to me. Seriously, well done.

Setting: I think I just about understand what this place looks like, but I have no idea where it is, and I'm a little confused about when. She was expecting a spaceship, so that's why I figured this followed on from the previous chapter, that she was waking up after some sort of kerfuffle between her, the siren and the boy in the wheelchair. But it seems to be Earth, which would make sense for her childhood. Then you tell me she's six, so the latter must be true, but it would help if you made that clearer from the beginning.

Plot: I'm not really sure how this relates to what was going on. It sort of feels like an out of place prologue. If you had a couple of sentences at the end linking it back into the story from the previous two chapters that would really help.

I will review your next chapter as long as I don't get too distracted by tennis,
Biscuits :)

Ventomology says...

Ah, whoops. I forgot to edit this one to match the way I'm now formatting the interludes. Sorry about that.

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Fri Apr 21, 2017 10:06 am
Lumi wrote a review...


This will be short and sweet, but maaaaan oh man do you do recaps right!

So you'll know this is the first installment I've reviewed, but it may have me hooked. You give everyone a fleshed personality, powerful characteristics, and give power to the disabled. I love the underlying messages here. My major qualm is that when the narrator begins to freak out over the nurse getting near him, it reads a bit too much--on first read--like molestation. But hear me out.

The narrator is taking in a lot of information. He's injured. He's in a hospital. His parents are missing and until he sees the picture of the gato, and then later Shell and Crane, all is unfamiliar. He has a reason to register on the level of being that freaked out. I really do wish we knew what the nurse was signing to him, but some context clues later on tell us that he could be implying he has two visitors, or that it's two o'clock and time for them to come in, time for him to be happy, time for anything.

But there's also a nagging problem with pacing towards the end where it turns into an info dump after the anthropomorphic godparents leave. It's adorable that he reflects so well on them petting him, but then we just learn that (his parents? people of import to him?) are dead or missing. I feel like some expansion could be desired here. But the relationship between him and his godparents is adorable and I wouldn't change it for anything.

All good stuff. I hope this helps.

Ventomology says...

Ahh... that is a good point. I'll have to keep all the possible reactions in mind when I come back to this guy.

(Also how did I get two of the like YWS gods here what is happening omg)

Thanks so much for giving this a shot!

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1436 Reviews

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Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:53 pm
BlueAfrica says...

Oh, right, except this is the one I already read. MOVING ON.

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1436 Reviews

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Reviews: 1436

Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:25 pm
BlueAfrica wrote a review...

Diving right in.

I really like the way you used certain words in this chapter. Examples:

Few people manage to not smile when they see a photo of a gato

I can’t tell if he’s pulling my stubs or not.

It reminds me of Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. Several of the stories take place in the past and use words as we'd expect, but there are two story lines that take place far in the future, and to help put us there he twisted real words around the way they might actually eventually get twisted in real life, to mean other things. Like I'm pretty sure "nikes" means "shoes" and I think "ford" means "car." Those are probably the least interesting examples, but they're the only ones I remember off the top of my head. So I liked seeing you do that as well - I think it's something most authors don't consider, using current words just a little differently to put us in the future.

Bonus points to you for using words from languages other than English in this way.

I couldn't figure out whether or not the narrator was supposed to be human, however. He kept referring to earthlings, which to me says "humans," which makes me think he's not one. But then the way he's described in the photo puts me in the mind of a human who simply grew up somewhere other than earth. Then there's the fact that he doesn't seem to experience anything in this chapter in ways different than a human.

To be fair, this is my first chapter in this story, so maybe that's been established already. If he is a human, it's a little strange he'd refer to "earthlings" as if he's not one of them, but that might only be because "earthlings" typically refers to humans in other sci-fi stories. If he's not human, I'd like to see how his species reacts to, feels, or thinks about things differently.

Also, I thought this was a little funky.

The time immediately after that brief moment of communication was filled by the memory of a black lady with an afro poking me and looking at my ears and eyes and mouth.

Props to you for letting us know there's some people of color in this sci-fi, but since everyone else is just referred to as "earthlings," "black woman with an Afro" was kind of jarring. This wouldn't be a problem if white earthlings were also described by their skin color - plus it would do away with the issues of "this character's race was not mentioned, therefore s/he is white" and "white is the default race" that occur when you describe only people of color in terms of race.

Finally, the italics. I don't know if your whole story is in first-person flashbacks or only certain bits. If the first, italics are 100% totally completely unnecessary, because what are they there for?

If the second, arguably you could use them. My personal preference is, don't. As a reader, it takes me out of the story when an author suddenly starts using italics. The only example I can come up with where that wasn't true is A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, but she actually didn't use italics for Nya's story, just a different font. I can't explain why that didn't bother me while italics do, but that's the long and short of it.

ANYWAY, an entire scene suddenly in italics takes me out of the story. This won't be true for all readers, and ultimately it's up to you, but I like to let people know.

Write on!

Ventomology says...

(OMG It's BlueAfrica cue the shrieking)

Hey thanks so much for giving this a shot! I have a bad habit of putting my chapter titles in the description part (because they're absurdly long), but this chapter happens to be somewhat separate from the story at large. I would use a completely different font, since I have things I could be doing with that option, but I've never seen font-changes on YWS, so I settled.

Thanks for pointing out that awkward little sentence. I am awful about proofreading on LMS work.

Also, I have been reading "Chosen Grandma," among other LMS works, but mostly on my phone while riding the bus... otherwise I so would have left a review by now. I will endeavor to better my time management in the future.

Thanks again!

BlueAfrica says...

Omg your reaction <3 Also how did I not even realize this was your LMS work??? So obviously I should read more of it in the future. I've just been going to the Green Room when I feel like a review and choosing the oldest things with no reviews to read.

Thou call'dst me a dog before thou hadst cause. But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs.
— Shylock, The Merchant of Venice