Look Up

"Mister, can I ask you a question?"

Chuck opened his eyes. The boy couldn't have been more than eight. "Sure."

"Why are you lying in the grass staring up at the sky? Ain't nothing up there."

Chuck laughed. "Sure there is. Stars, lots of stars, clouds of gas and dust, all sorts of other things. You can even see the plane of the galaxy, where the stars are thicker."

The boy threw back his head, mouth open. "Where?"

"There, see? It's called the 'Milky Way', at least around here."

"Aw, I can't see nothing."

The boy must have crossed the field from the well-lit farmhouse, squeezed through a gap in the fence too small for a cow. "You just came from inside, just now? Let your eyes adjust; sit down for a minute." The boy looked at him, sizing him up. He wasn't surprised: people from rural areas were shy of strangers. If only the boy knew how strange Chuck really was. "It's all right. I don't eat little boys. Anyway, even if I did, I'm not really all that hungry."

Eventually the boy sat on the grass, then lay on the grass, just out of reach, staring up. After a short while he said, "I think I see it… lots of stars in a line, like a row of seeds in a furrow."

"Every one of those stars is a sun just like yours. Some of them are bigger, smaller, brighter, hotter. A lot of them, most of them have planets around them, just like yours. Some of their planets have people on them, people like you, but different."

"How'd they get there?"

"They're from there. That's where they were born, where they live. They evolved there."

"How do you know that?"

Chuck laughed. "I just know. It's like I've seen them, all of them, though I've never been. Like somebody else's memories of walking around, exploring, visiting, talking. It's a lot to hold in your head all at once."

"Does it hurt?"

"No, no. My head can hold a lot more. Years and years more."

There came a call from the farmhouse: a boy's name in a mother's voice, time to come in, time to wash up, to get changed, to go to bed.

"Coming, Ma!" The boy shouted at the top of his lungs. To Chuck he asked, "You gonna lie out here all night? Town's not that far…" He pointed up the dirt road.

"I'll get there in a while. There's no hurry. Do you think anyone will mind if I lie here a bit longer?"

The boy shrugged. "I won't tell."

"That's very kind. It was nice to meet you." Chuck held out his hand.

The boy regarded Chuck's hand as a risk, sized it up, then shook it resolutely, like a man, before running off to squeeze back through the fence. Once through, he turned, and asked, "Hey, Mister, where you from?"

Chuck smiled, raised his hand to the sky, and pointed. "That one."


  1. I couldn't wait for him to say "that one" or "There!", because I knew from your carefully (and wonderful) clues that he was "not like the other guys".

    Plus, I loved how he described the universe and all it has to offer. I felt like I was on that hill with them.

    (and Gio (one of my twins) would definitely ask questions like this. I also, loved the "ah, I don't see nothin." it was perfectly placed on a small boy's tongue)

    1. Yeah, Chuck is (to quote John Cleese in Silverado) 'not from around these parts'. Thanks for reading and commenting. :-)

  2. Love how the natural caution was eclipsed by the natural curiosity that all kids have. Great work!

  3. Oooh, I really liked this. A visitor from above is very intriguing. I love the innocence of the little boy, too.

  4. LOVE how the boy related the galaxy to his knowledge with the "like seeds in a furrow." Fantastic.

    1. Thanks very much; I was afraid that bit was too 'on the nose'. :-)

  5. I liked the dialogues in this piece, the simple explanation of a complex universe and the ending. Great take on the prompt.

  6. I like the sweet feel to it... the curiosity of the boy, both wary and kind, telling him town is not so far. And I love the ending, Chuck pointing to the star. I wasn't sure if he would take the boy with him. Very nice piece.

    1. Oh, Chuck isn't going anywhere for a while. :-) His main story is "Chuck and Frank" (A Quartet) from my collection "Flash Forward". You can read the first part here by searching for "Chuck's New Frank".

  7. I was waiting for him to admit he was an "offworlder", too. :) Nice voice in the little boy.

  8. Like the others said, I think you captured the boy's curiosity very well. I enjoyed the interplay between the two and also expected the reveal at the end based on the clues, though I wonder what the boy's reaction would have been to that. :)

    Concrit: The story could be a little tighter, cutting some adverbs and extra words. Also, if he wasn't "from around there", how would he know the boy had to go through a small hole in the fence? It implied great familiarity with the area, knowing that is the only way, as opposed to a drifting alien who wouldn't know if it was that, or gate in the fence, at least until he saw the boy leave at the end.

    The last line is my favorite.

    1. Thanks for the comments. :-) As far as the hole in the fence, I wrote it as if the prompt photo is from Chuck's perspective... so he's laying in the grass close to the fence, or to be precise, just outside the boy's family's property. He doesn't have to be greatly familiar with the area, because he can clearly see the fence (and thus, the hypothetical hole) as well as the house, and where else would the boy be coming from, he would decide. That probably would have been more obvious to the reader if I'd included the picture with my post but I have sort of a rule about only posting the fiction itself on my blog. In this case it may be slightly working to my disadvantage.