If you’re not caught up on my writing process series, you can start with this post here! As a quick recap, I’ve been taking you all on a journey through how I write stories. In the first post, I showed you how I come up with details before I write the story. In the second post, I showed you my rough draft.
And now, finally, you’ll get to see the completed story! I think it’s a cute little tale that even kids would enjoy, as it’s told from the perspective of a child.
But don’t think we’re done quite yet; I actually have one more post in this series where I’ll recap everything we’ve talked about. Be on the lookout for it next week!
And now, here’s my new short story, “Finding Home.”
Stars glittered like a million different opportunities in the endless void of space. Ele’s slim body lay nestled between very important buttons, knobs, and switches that he couldn’t be bothered to learn about as he gazed wistfully into the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Prof used to berate him all the time for accidentally emptying the fuel tank or activating the scanner as he scrambled over the buttons to get a better look outside, so Ele had learned how to arrange his body perfectly so that he didn’t touch any of the controls.
“Prof,” he said softly, “can you say it one more time?”
He could have sworn he heard a release of air somewhere in the ship that sounded just like a sigh. “We are in Draco Odysseus, Master Ele.”
A thrill ran through Ele; he never got tired of hearing that, even after he’d made Prof declare it twelve times. Finally, he rose from his perch, stretched all six of his thin, orange limbs, and slithered to the floor of the spaceship. He wished that he had something truly special to celebrate this momentous occasion, but the best he could do was his last pouch of dehydrated fish. From here on out, his stock would be exclusively made up of hearty dehydrated vegetable packets. But Ele decided that didn’t really matter, because soon he’d land on a planet and never set foot inside his spaceship again—other than to keep Prof company, of course.
Ele opened up the silver packet. A salty, savoury smell wafted to his nostrils and he grinned. He carried his snack back with him to the pilot’s chair and reclined in it sideways as he always did.
“What’s the closest planet, Prof?”
“The closest planet is designated Tangeter, about three hours away.”
Ele took one of the small fish snacks and tossed it in the air, opening his mouth wide to catch it. He snapped it up in one gulp, pumping a three-fingered fist in the air. “Yes! Take us there, Prof! Full speed ahead!”
Suddenly, the ship burst forward with a lurch. Ele was promptly deposited on the floor, but he just laughed, rolling around with the movements of the ship. However, when a few fish fell from the packet, he quickly got on his feet and scooped them up with his tongue. He munched on them happily before letting out a long belch.
“You should be practising your manners, Master Ele,” Prof said. “You are about to land on another planet for the first time since you left home. Perhaps you’d like to spend the journey learning about the customs of the dominant species on Tangeter?”
Ele climbed up into his chair and gobbled on a few more fish. “That sounds boring.” He stabbed a small button—one of the few he was acquainted with—to turn on a heated lamp right above him. “I think I’ll take a nap.” He tilted the packet of fish into his mouth, emptying the remaining contents in one swallow. Ele smacked his lips together and sighed, curling up into a comfortable position. He pulled off his eyepatch and closed his good eye.
Tangeter was only a dream away.
Ele awoke to the slight jostling of the ship. He blinked as a huge surface of light brown was displayed before him. In a moment he was wide awake, jumping to his feet in his chair and grinning at the sight.
“Ah, you’re awake,” Prof said. “Master Ele, you must be prepared for what you’ll see on this planet. The dominant species are designated Mirne. Here is an image—”
“No!” Ele slapped his eyepatch over the wrong eye. “I don’t want to see now. I want to be surprised!”
Prof stayed silent, which could only mean that he was aggravated. “Thanks for your help,” Ele added in a softer voice. “I just want to see them for myself. It’s been so long since I’ve met anyone new!”
“Please strap yourself in for landing,” was Prof’s only response.
Ele sat up the correct way in his seat, pulling a few straps around him as the ship began to violently shake. A tint of red appeared around the viewport and Ele grinned at the planet’s surface drawing ever closer.
“Landing in thirty seconds,” Prof announced.
Ele gripped his seatbelts tightly in anticipation. Suddenly, the jostling ceased, and a dark planet lay before Ele’s eyes.
“Wow,” he gasped. He’d never seen anything quite like it. Soaring peaks contrasted with great flat brown plains that seemed to stretch for miles. The ground was dotted with many dark holes and Ele couldn’t help but wonder who or what had made them.
“Landing in five, four, three, two, one.”
With a gentle bump, the ship touched down on Tangeter. Ele immediately threw the straps off of him and jumped to his feet, his hand over the door control.
Prof’s voice stopped him. “Checking atmosphere levels. Matching breathability to Nak species composition.”
Ele lowered his hand and grinned up sheepishly at the ceiling. He’d completely forgotten to make sure he could actually breathe on this planet.
“Air is breathable,” Prof said after a moment.
“Yes!” Ele slammed his hand down on the door control. A ramp lowered from the middle of the small ship with a long hiss and Ele scrambled down immediately on all six legs.
The air shocked him—quite literally. Ele’s limbs instantly froze up at the sudden onslaught of cold and he rushed back inside as quickly as he’d run out, closing the ramp behind him. He switched on his lamp at the pilot’s seat again and breathed out a long sigh as his limbs relaxed.
“You didn’t tell me it was cold out there!” Ele complained.
“It is standard procedure for the captain to check oxygen levels and temperature before they exit their ship,” Prof stated plainly. “There was no inquiry made.”
Ele frowned dramatically, knowing that Prof was trying to teach him a lesson again. But in a moment, his indignation faded, replaced by sorrow as he gazed at the great big world before him that he was destined not to touch.
“Maybe I can wait until the sun comes out,” Ele murmured. “It’ll be warmer then.”
“It will be seven days, sixteen hours, and twenty-two minutes until the sun appears on this side of the planet again,” Prof told him. “Then, temperatures will be twenty degrees warmer—still too cold for a young male Nak.”
Ele crossed his arms and sank into the seat. “You don’t know anything,” he said, knowing very well that Prof did, in fact, know everything. He rubbed his eyepatch as tears flooded his eyes. Suddenly, a million opportunities seemed to have been reduced to none.
“I can chart a course to a new planet,” Prof offered. His voice seemed to have softened the tiniest bit.
“No,” Ele sighed. “I want to stay here for at least a little bit.” He settled down in his chair once more and closed his eyes. Soon, he drifted off to a place where he could roam around on the chilly planet as much as he wanted to.
Knock knock knock.
Ele was so startled by the sudden sound that he yelled something like “Agh!” and fell completely out of his chair.
Knock knock knock. “Hello?” A nasally female voice asked.
Ele’s heart was in his throat. People? And moreover, people who spoke his language? He scrabbled over to the closed ramp. “Hello?” he said, directing his voice downward.
“You’ll want to move your ship,” the voice said, muffled through the thick metal of the ship. “There’s a spout right underneath you.”
“A spout?” Ele asked.
“Yes, but don’t worry; just look out your viewport and I’ll guide you.”
Ele paused, brimming with so many questions, but he followed the order of the stranger and went to the console. Outside, a funny-looking creature was standing in front of the ship, gesturing to the right.
“Prof, can you move a little to the right?” Ele asked.
“It will waste fuel.”
A whine started up toward the back of the ship, growing steadily louder. After a moment, there was a slight jolt as the ship rose a fraction into the air.
“That’s right,” Ele said, watching the creature’s movements. “Just a little more to the right. A little more. And stop!”
With a hiss and a bump, the ship landed on solid ground again. Ele went to the controls and pressed the button for the ramp. While he had no intention of going outside again, he figured he might as well invite someone else in.
Even at the top of the ramp, Ele could feel the frigid air. He turned on a second warming light overhead and crossed his front legs over his chest. In a moment, the creature appeared at the bottom of the ramp.
She was a very strange being, unlike anyone Ele had ever seen before. Thick brown fur coated her body, but her head looked almost like a bird’s with her small, beady black eyes and large bill. Her feet were webbed, and she stood on only two as she looked up at Ele. Her huge, flat tail thumped gently on the ground as if to display excitement.
“May I come aboard?” she asked respectfully, folding her claws together.
“Sure!” Ele said with a grin. “I don’t even know how you can stay out there; it’s too cold!”
Ele’s new friend got down on all fours and made her way up the ramp. “I barely feel it,” she said. “You must come from a warm climate.”
“I have to!” Ele rubbed a hand over the scales on his side. “Cold-blooded.”
As the creature got inside the ship and stood on her hind legs again, Ele noticed that she was quite a bit taller than him, even when he was standing on his four hind legs.
“I’m Terew,” she said, clapping her bill together. “I was making sure that everyone was clear of the spout this morning when I saw your ship right over it.”
“I’m Ele. And what is a spout?” he asked eagerly.
“A spout is a hole on the surface that fire comes through at regular times. We can tell by the position of the moon.”
“Fire?” Ele looked up at Terew in wonder. “I’ve never heard of fire coming out of a planet before.”
Terew couldn’t quite smile with her bill, but her eyes crinkled, which looked like a smile anyway. “I haven’t been to any other planets, but I’ve heard that Tangeter is unique.”
Suddenly, from outside, there came a loud whoosh and a wave of heat. Ele gasped and looked down the ramp. “Was that it?”
Terew nodded. “It’s almost time. Do you want to come see it?”
“I can’t,” Ele sighed. “It’s too cold for me out there.”
“Not with the fire from the spout it’s not.” Her bill clacked together again, and Ele was beginning to wonder if that meant something among her people. “Do you have anyone looking after you?” she asked, her voice a little softer as her eyes roamed around the cramped interior of the ship.
“Prof!” Ele grinned up at the ceiling. “He’s been taking care of me for almost as long as I can remember.”
The fur between Terew’s eyebrows wrinkled. “You’re from the Perileos Nebula, aren’t you?”
Ele nodded. “I had to stay there for way too long. These bad people were chasing me—that’s what happened to my eye,” he explained, pointing to his eyepatch. “But then we found hyperspace fuel and we got out of there! And now I’m here.”
Terew opened her mouth slightly like she didn’t know what to say. Her eyes looked sad somehow.
“It’s okay,” Ele said. “I can stay warm in here. I like looking at your planet, anyway. It’s very beautiful.”
“I really think you’d like it outside,” Terew said. “The fires from the spouts are huge, sometimes as tall as one of the mountains!”
Ele remembered the colossal mountains he’d seen. “Well…maybe I can try it. Right, Prof?”
“Local temperatures are warming to a habitable climate for Naks,” was all he said, though somehow Ele caught a hint of disapproval in his tone.
“Okay!” Ele said, needing no more convincing. “I’ll go.”
Ele got down on his legs and followed Terew down the ramp. When he got to the bottom, he pressed a tab with his foot that made the ramp collapse back up into the ship.
Unlike last time, the cold didn’t make Ele instantly retreat. On the contrary, blissful warmth heated Ele’s skin and he closed his eyes to drink it in.
“Look this way,” Terew said.
Ele blinked and followed Terew’s gaze.
He gasped, feeling frozen despite the warmth.
Ele had never seen a fire like it. It rose at least one hundred feet into the air, controlled into a single, thin stream. The flames were blue at their core and red at the tips, moving and changing like a living thing.
Terew smiled at him. “You can come a little closer if you’d like, just be careful.”
Ele nodded mutely, transfixed as he watched the massive column of fire. Warmth wrapped around him like a cosy blanket and he found his blinks becoming longer. Prof would tell him not to let down his guard, but he’d been on guard for so long. For once, he wanted to trust people.
Ele lowered himself to the warm ground and closed his eyes. He remembered that Terew was there and blinked sleepily at her.
“Thank you,” he said, and then fell asleep for the third time that day.
Gentle music awoke Ele after he finally got a full rest. He wiped his face clean with his tongue and sat up slowly, taking everything in. The fire was still going, but he was no longer alone with Terew. Several others like her were gathered around the fire at various distances, laughing, talking, singing, and eating.
Ele sat up, instantly feeling energized by the cheerful scene.
“You sure sleep soundly, don’t you?”
Ele turned at the sound of Terew’s voice. She handed him a smooth, flat piece of stone piled with vegetation and small, white pieces of meat.
“I’m not sure what you eat,” she explained, “but hopefully you’ll find something you like there.”
Ele’s stomach grumbled at the sight of the food—real, actual food! He dug into the meal messily, shoving everything down together. He didn’t really get a chance to taste any of it, but to him, it was a feast fit for a king.
Remembering his manners in the middle of it all, Ele paused, swallowed his last big bite, and raised himself up to look at Terew’s amused expression.
“Thanks!” he said, handing back the stone that had been wiped entirely clean.
Ele joined in with the dancing that followed the food and none of the Mirne seemed to notice that he was any different from them. Eventually, after many hours, Ele felt a chill begin to creep into his bones. The fire burned much shorter, its flames only a dull red. The Mirne slowly began to disperse and Ele got the feeling that something terrible was happening. He skittered across the ground, looking for Terew.
Just when he was beginning to think that she’d already left, he found her saying goodbye to a few departing Mirne. Breathless with fear, Ele rose onto his hind legs and exclaimed, “Terew! The fire is dying!”
She nodded slowly. “Yes, I know, Ele. It doesn’t last forever.”
Ele’s spirits sank in a moment. “Maybe…I can stay inside the ship and wait until the next spout fire. Then I can come out again with you!” He instantly cheered himself up with the idea. It wouldn’t be so bad living in his ship some of the time after he’d already lived in there for so long, would it?
Terew chuckled. “You would spend most of your time in your ship, then. The spout fire only comes once a week, and even then, sometimes weeks are skipped.” The smile in her eyes faded. Ele felt his hopes and dreams falling to his feet, one by one.
“You can’t stay here, Ele,” Terew continued. “It’s not the right place for you.”
Ele looked down at the ground and shuffled his feet. “No,” was all he could find to say.
Terew gently touched Ele’s head. Ele met the Mirne’s eyes and promptly scrubbed his face, conscious of the tears stinging his eyes.
Terew cast one hand toward the sky and looked up at the stars. “There are a million different planets out there; ours is just one. Somewhere, there’s a warm planet that will be home to you one day. I’m sure of it.”
Ele sniffed. “But I want my home to be here.”
“Me, too. I like you a lot, Ele, but you wouldn’t be happy cooped up in your ship all of the time, would you? From what I can tell, you’ve had enough of that already.”
Ele let out a long sigh. He’d come to a new galaxy just so that he wouldn’t need to live inside his ship.
“And it doesn’t mean you can’t come and visit—just have your ship save these coordinates. I’ll be waiting for you when you come back.”
Ele scratched his head, thinking. He knew deep down that he needed a place where he could be outside, and as much as he wanted this planet to be it, it simply wasn’t—but it didn’t mean he couldn’t come back.
Ele grinned and leapt onto Terew in a hug. “Okay! I’ll be back really soon, and I’ll tell you all about my new home.”
Terew froze, almost like she’d never had a hug before. But before she could get used to it, Ele dropped back onto the ground. “It was really nice to meet you, but I’d better get looking for my home. I’ll be back soon! Bye, Terew!”
“Goodbye, Ele,” she said, her eyes crinkling in that familiar smile again. “Good luck, and be careful!”
And, filled with the prospect of a new place to enjoy the sun, Ele waved to all of the remaining Mirne and sped back to his ship. Once inside, the first thing he did was ask Prof to save the coordinates of Tangeter.
“Now,” he said, turning on his lamp and leaning back in his seat, “it’s time to find home!”
Remember how this story started out? It began with a single word prompt: bonfire. And now, this is what it’s become. This is what I love the most about writing!
Do you notice all of the things that changed from the rough draft? I fleshed out a lot of descriptions, tuned up some dialogue, made the point of view altogether more childlike, and introduced some more showing rather than telling.
To create this final draft, I did one long editing pass through the rough draft, did a readthrough to ensure everything sounded good, and finally, ran it through Grammarly. I plug everything into Grammarly nowadays because it often catches little mistakes that I missed!
Next week, in the last post in this series, I’ll be recapping all of the steps we’ve gone through and wrapping it up. I truly hope that seeing my writing process has helped someone out there, and I hope you enjoyed this story!