Story Go Round 09/13/2009, #2

Hugo's Pulitzer Prize Nebula

(pre-titled by Amber)

Back at the lab, returning from a supply run, Hugo deposited shopping bag after shopping bag onto the old, modified dentist chair he used for his pantry.

"Honey, I'm home!" he shouted hoarsely. No reply. He said bravely, "I've brought more awards from my coteries of fans and slavish admirers, picked fresh! Honey?"

Honey came running out of the simulator, threw herself into his arms, kissed him all over his face, and then forgot about him entirely as she peeked into each shopping bag with trepidation mixed with ennui.

"But none of them are purple," she said wistfully. "Why aren't they ever purple?"

He handed her a pamphlet titled, "Chromatic Law and You." "Dear, there's lots of mauve and maroon in there. And my fans don't always have the awards that I like."

Holding the pamphlet like a school-girl giving a presentation in class, Honey recited: "according to Reign-Bough's second law of Chromatics, every eight item in a series of items must be ... purple!"

"So of course," Hugo said testily, "they get around it by only producing series of seven items. Alas, no law against that. Anyway, what have you been up to?"

Honey smiled coyly. "It's a surprise. Besides I wouldn't want to ruin your big moment, it's only your second today. Shouldn't we be talking about you?"

"Damn it, Honey, no! We always talk about me. My hopes, my dreams. My last stool. My first kiss. We've been over me to death. I want to talk about my nebula. I ... I want you to talk about my nebula."

Hugo pulled her into a fierce hug.

"You really think you're ready," she said, eyes wide.

"I do. I am."

"Hugo, your nebula is so ... big it's like a supernova. It has me seeing stars. When other people fly into it, they disappear — forever!"

"More, say more."

"It's off the charts, baby."

"Keep going..."

Instead, Honey turned and walked away. When she'd gone ten feet, she turned and beckoned him with a single finger. Hugo smiled weakly. He knew that following her meant getting further and further away from his bags of awards.

This would, literally, weaken him. Like a reverse sort of Kryptonite, Hugo's awards gave him superhuman strength — of mind anyway. Away from them he was like a two-bit science professor at an ivy league college — a joke. Honey liked him like that, and he knew that she liked him like that, but did she know that he knew that she liked him like that?

While his mind pondered that question , his body took several steps toward her. The lower part of his left leg turned gelatinous and his body skewed sideways. He took another step and his right hand gnarled into a useless claw. He was nebulizing.

Hugo Campbell was becoming his own nebulous creation.

Honey beckoned him on, on into the simulator. "Surprise!" she clapped, closing the door behind him.

And then he saw for himself what she had been up to. She had been creating simulated applause, and cheers, and visits with the Queen and the Prime Minister and the Pope. There were awards, mountains of them like piles of candy stretching off into a hazy distance. Thanks to his darling Honey, he would now never have to grow as a person. It was final.

But could he ever leave the simulator?