Prompt: A sheep is tired of grazing around with his fellow sheep, and wants to become a rocket scientist and go to space.
The new grass was the old grass, and it was far worse than Rummy the sheep remembered. Back aboard the Poker station he’d been able to eat a hundred different things. The astronauts let him munch on grass from every one of their experiments and every one of the cultivars they had. Some of it was crummy, but much of it was transcendent.
The good grass he had on the space station made him feel like a completely different being; he wasn’t one of a dozen animals being experimented on in different conditions of gravity, he was a primordial beast, munching on the night sky itself. How dare they take him down, out of that glorious purple darkness, and put him back in an ordinary pasture with all the others.
He tried to convince them that he was special. Surely all those different foods, in all shades of gravity, had done something special to him. They needed more data and he could provide it if they only allowed him aboard the next rocket. He munched furiously on the terrible grass, thinking dark thoughts about his replacements. Monkeys? Parrots? Fish? Bugs even?
One of the others pushed him out of the way. He pushed back, smashing his head into their knee and forcing the younger sheep to hobble away. The grass on that patch, in the distance where the barn was barely visible, was terrible, but it was still his. Nothing in the barn belonged to him; it was all so damn communal. They treated his wool like a napkin for their drool. Back aboard the station he had his own cubby with his name on it. His food came in a little dish and the dish was always clean. Jintybix had said his dish had the best color of all the creatures’ aboard.
Rummy looked back at his bashing victim. He limped back into the flock and disappeared. They all kept their distance after that. The sheep was amazed they’d gotten the message so quickly. They’d never been to space and had all those strange foods change the balance of their stomachs. Rummy knew he was smarter since he got back from his voyage to the empty sky, but since he still thought with his stomach he assumed that was the organ of the intellect.
The others had dumb stomachs, empty of true fulfillment, but Rummy had a soul. Jintybix told him so. He walked further from the barn and put his face between two slats of the old splintering fence. He breathed through his nostrils, hoping a little bit of his soul could escape to the wind that way. He knew there was no wind in space, but perhaps his soul could swim along the edge of the air and dip its face back in.
Beeeeheeeeehhh… Rummy bleated weakly. Nothing appeared on the horizon as the sun began to sink. Did he have a way to kill himself in the barn? A sharp edge of a shovel perhaps? If he had to spend one more night in the pile, dreaming of the blankets in his cubby, he would surely go mad.
Don’t be so sad my friend
Rummy lifted his head so quickly that he struck it on the fence. He pulled his eyes out from between the slats and looked around wildly. No sign of him, but of course there wouldn’t be a sign. There never had been. Jintybix was just a voice, a voice that had found him aboard the Poker station five months into his science rotation.
He remembered it well. That night’s grass had been the best yet; there had been some sort of blue sauce drizzled all over it that made things pop and dance across his tongue. When he was full of it his stomach felt smarter than ever; he was certain there was a symphony ruminating in there somewhere.
The other animals were in bed, making tiny noises behind the transparent plastic walls of their cubbies. The humans worked in shifts, but the nearest one was out of sight. That was why it was so strange when somebody spoke to him. It wasn’t the baby talk the humans used. It was gentle, friendly, but assertive… The voice was both in his head, though he thought it was in his stomach, and outside the ship rotating around them lazily.
You don’t own this ship. What are you doing here? Who owns it?
The other animals didn’t speak Rummy’s language, so the sheep didn’t immediately realize he could respond. When he did he was guarded. He thought it might be a ghost, a spirit of space and hollow light, jealous of all his foods. Things quickly changed. Jintybix was so kind. Jintybix was made of compliments; he had a bottomless well of them that reminded Rummy of his endless gourmet experiments.
They had ended though. He was back on Earth. People had stopped taking pictures of him. His name wasn’t the near the top of the internet anymore. The only way he could resurface there would be to die in some unusual or disappointing way. It was fine though. Jintybix was back. His voice was in the air, somewhere outside that fence.
Yes, I’m back. I came back for you Rummy. I have some errands. Will you help me?
The sheep shook his head up and down so violently that he thought, for a brief moment, perhaps his soul was in his skull. He still thought of Jintybix as a spirit, and hoped the air was dense enough to make his material visible, but there was no such luck.
Oh I’m coming Rummy. Just wait there. Just keep being yourself you beautiful creature you
Rummy did as he was told. He stood there, even as the air grew cold, for hours. The barn door closed, but he was still in the furthest part of the pasture, grinding his hooves into the dirt. Finally, a new light came over the horizon. It was fast, way faster than anything human, but Rummy recognized it as a space ship. It just had that feel, like Poker station did. There was a beautiful burning rocket somewhere inside it.
Rummy didn’t turn away from its light even as it grew blinding and lifted him off the ground. The next thing he knew he was inside, in a space very like his cubby, looking at his old friend. He was not exactly what the sheep expected. He was less angelic, less puppy-ish, and more like a cross between an ornate carrot cake and a flaming jellyfish. Rummy was quick to compliment his appearance anyway.
Than you friend. You’re with me now. No more grass in dirt. Now it’s time for my meal. Can you show me where a few things are?
Jintybix sure had interesting ideas of food. Maybe that was why they got along so well back on the station. Hours and hours they had talked, through permanent night, discussing flavors, textures, and how those things probably determined the course of history for all species. Jintybix had listened very intently during his descriptions of his lambhood on Earth. He confessed they were what convinced him to descend and pick up a few things alongside his best woolly buddy.
They tore open the barn with that light, sharpened to a point. They extracted all the other sheep. They didn’t get cubbies. They were tossed into a giant bin and rapidly processed into flesh cutlets and bone collections by the light array. Rummy didn’t mind. Their stomachs never thought anything good.
Next they hit the farmhouse, and Jintybix took out the people. They were processed. Rummy’s eyes grew heavy; he didn’t have a taste for flesh. He settled down into the cubby for a nap. Wherever they stopped next, he was sure it would be a lush new pasture with food too strange to hate.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by jaykaydraws during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!