A Long Way From Home ~ Book One

Chapter Fifteen

Ørjan logged off his IM client and smiled. Imagine, Martin, going to the Moonbase. He had always been so lucky.

"So, did you chat with anyone interesting today?" Ørjan's father asked, showing apparently genuine interest in his son's doings.

"Yeah, it was Martin." Ørjan smiled at his father.

"Oh, that is nice," his father said and smiled back at him, "how is he doing? Did you ask him if he wanted to come visit in the autumn vacation?"

"No, I didn't, Dad. Martin and his mother have been selected for the Moon program. I guess they will be moving to the training center soon."

"Oh really? That is very nice for them. I knew they were working on hiring teachers for that program, so Tora must have applied for it. I bet Martin is really excited about it?"

"Yeah, he really is," Ørjan replied, "he can't wait to get going, though they don't know much yet as they've only just been told that they're selected."

Ørjan was really happy for his friend – but at the same time, he was sad. He had hoped to get Martin to come visit him when the schools closed for a week in October, but with him going to the moon, that obviously would not be possible now.

The more he thought about that, the sadder Ørjan started to feel. Ørjan, his parents and his three years younger sister, Lena, had moved to a small place just East of the city Trondheim just this summer. Almost as long as Ørjan could remember, he and Martin had been best friends, and now he might not see him again for at least a year or two, when he could come to visit Earth from the Moon. And even then, only if it would be possible for Ørjan to go meet him, because Martin wouldn't spend the week or two on Earth going to this out-of-the-way place just to visit Ørjan, he was sure.

He really hated this place. It was so remote and so dark. Sure, he could get into Trondheim, Norway's fourth-largest city, quite fast by taking the train or bus, but he was still a bit too young to be allowed to do that on his own.

It was his father's job that had taken them here. He was working at the airport, and had been given the opportunity to take a much better job at Værnes, Trondheim Airport. What Martin couldn't understand was why on earth they had to live out here – couldn't they have lived in the city and then his father could have used the train or bus to get to and from the airport? It wasn't that far. Trondheim was a nice city, with lots of things to do and lots of other kids that could have been friends to Ørjan.

But his father had insisted that he wanted to be able to get to work by taking a long walk or riding his bicycle or even using skis. And to do that, they had to stay this close.

Ørjan was more than good enough in English to appreciate the name of the place they'd moved to – it was called "Hell".

Ørjan didn't much like the school he was in, either. He hadn't managed to get any close friends yet, and he really missed the teachers he had back where they used to live. When he complained about that, his parents reminded him that he would have had to start in a new school anyway, since it was his first year at youth school.

"I know that," he would answer, "but I still don't like this place. Why did we have to move?"

Lena, Ørjan's eleven-year-old sister, had managed the transition much better than Ørjan had. She had met some girls in her class that she immediately became friends with. Ørjan was happy for her, but at the same time, he could feel a sting in his heart when he watched how she and her new friends played together.

A few months later, Ørjan walked into the living room of the house, and sat down on the couch. He picked up a cartoon magazine and tried to read, but just then Lena and a friend of hers, Ørjan thought her name was Stine, entered the room.

"Oh, kewl – you are here. Do you want to play some video games with us?" Lena asked her brother.

Ørjan was surprised. He hadn't thought his sister and her friend would like to do anything with him, but they were both looking expectantly on him.

"Well, I don't know…" he answered, even though he really wanted it, he felt like he had to pretend to be cool and not want to do things with his younger sister.

"Oh, come on, it'll be fun!" Lena smiled at him, "I know you really want to."

"All right, we can play for a while," Ørjan smiled and started up the video gaming machine.

They played for a while, and all three of them had a great time. For Ørjan it was the most fun he could remember having since the move.

Later that night, after Lena had gone to bed, Ørjan sat down next to his mother, clinging close to her.

"Why can't I get any friends like Lena does?" he asked.

Karen, Ørjan's mother, sighed and put an arm around her son. "I don't really know, Ørjan, you just have to keep trying. I'm sure you will find someone."

"But we've lived here for ages already, and no one ever wants to do anything with me," Ørjan complained. "I wish Martin could come to visit."

"I know, but you know that they are going to the Moon – I think they're due to take off any day now, they're just waiting for the weather to be good enough at the launch platform."

Ørjan sighed, but smiled a bit too, looking up at his mom – "it's really cool, isn't it, Martin going to the Moon and all, I just wish that I could go too."

"I'm sure he'll tell you all about it next time you talk to him."

"I bet he'll get a whole new bunch of friends there and forget all about me," Ørjan said, pouting a bit.

"Now, come on, Son," Karen sighed, "yes – Martin will probably get new friends, he might already have some from the training – but I'm sure he won't forget about you. Remember all the stuff you two used to do together when you were kids."

"I know – it's just – I'm so lonely, it's so boring out here. Why couldn't we live in the city?"

"Ørjan, we've talked about this countless times. We will stay here, and you will find some friends soon – just give it some time!" Karen exclaimed, a bit tired of his negativity.

"Time? We've been here for months already, and what have I got? Nothing, No one!" Ørjan yelled, running for his room where he slammed the door behind him, dived up on the bed and cried into the pillow.

An hour later, Karl Steinhagen came home from the late shift at the airport and walked into the living room, finding his wife Karen dissolved in tears.

"What's wrong, dear?" he asked her.

"It's Ørjan again, he just can't feel at home here. I try and try, but he just feels so lonely and lost. He's my boy, Karl, and I can't stand looking at him suffering like this."

Karl hugged his wife and said, "I know – I see it too. Maybe we should have lived in the city after all. Perhaps we should start looking for a new place?"

"I don't know," Karen said, "that would really be bad for Lena, she has got some good friends here now, and I wouldn't want to break up so soon and have to make her start all over too."

Karl sighed. "So what do we do?"

"I don't know," his wife said, "I just don't know."

The next day was a Saturday, so there was no school for the children. Lena was up before her parents, and they found her watching cartoons on the television when they came down. But Ørjan slept in as usual. When the time approached noon, Karen was tired of waiting for him to get up, so she knocked gently on his door, opened it and peered in.

What she saw there almost made her cry. Ørjan had fallen asleep in his clothes and all, obviously crying into his pillow after their talk last night. She walked into his room, stepped over the mess that cluttered his floor, silently deciding to talk to him about that later, but not now, and then she sat down on his bed, gently putting an arm on his shoulder.

"Ørjan, it's almost the middle of the day," she said caringly to him and stroked his back.

Ørjan opened his eyes and looked up at her, noticing how he still wore all his clothes from the night before. He remembered how he was feeling, but with the full night's sleep he had, it didn't feel quite so bad right now. At least he could brag to the other boys about having a friend who was on the Moon mission, and he was sure that Martin would contact him as soon as he could when he got there.

He got up, jumped in the shower and put on some clean clothes his mother had prepared for him while he was in there; then walked downstairs into the living room where he saw Lena playing something with her friend Stine again.

They invited him to join them, and he sat down on the floor next to his sister and grabbed one of the gaming controllers to join them in the game.

Just as he was starting to get into the game, his mother came into the living room. Ørjan took one glance at her and felt scared. He had never seen such an expression on her face.

"What's wrong?" he asked his mother.

"Ørjan, it's..." Karen started, not sure how to continue, "it's Martin, he's..."

"Martin?" Ørjan asked, feeling how the blood left his face. "What's happened?"

"They don't know, Ørjan," Karen said, "it appears that they had a successful launch last night, but then, on the route to the Moon, something happened and all traces of the ship are gone."

"Gone?" Ørjan didn't really understand.

"Yeah, so it appears. There was even radar tracking it – it just suddenly disappeared."

Ørjan slowly sunk down and was lying on his back on the floor, letting the gaming controller go so it fell next to him. Lena was very quick to get there and hug her big brother close.

"Who's Martin?" Stine, Lena's friend, wanted to know.

"Martin was Ørjan's best friend from where we lived before," Lena explained without letting go of the hug.

"Is!" Ørjan shouted, "he IS my best friend."

"Yeah," Lena said, without letting go, "and he is Martin's best friend.  He and his mom are moving to the Moon."

Karen came over to her kids and sat down next to them, putting her arm over her son's shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Ørjan," she said with tears in her voice, "I'm so sorry."

Throughout the day, the entire family kept watching the breaking news broadcasts on the TV. It was all about the missing Moon shuttle. A lot of theories were put forward, but no one could really come up with a good explanation for what had happened. Some of the bigger nations had offered their assistance, and were sending search and rescue crafts to follow the path of the missing ship, but there wasn't really much hope of anyone finding debris to get some answers.

Weeks progressed without any more answers coming. Ørjan took it very hard when the roster of the ship was shown, with name, age, and pictures of all the people on board shown to some sad music. The authorities had declared them all dead, since they now had been gone so long that the oxygen resources wouldn't last, even if they had just deviated from the course and somehow weren't found. When Martin and his mother came on the screen, Ørjan couldn't watch any longer and ran, crying, up to his room.

There he was found by his father a little while later, still crying into the pillow.

"I'm sorry," Karl said to his son, not really sure how he could help him. He was taking this so hard, much harder than Karl would have expected.

"I'm such a stupid, stupid idiot" he heard from Ørjan between the sobs.

"What?" Karl asked, shocked. What was this?

"I can't stop thinking how I have lost my only friend and how I will be alone and never get any new friends and how I never can have Martin coming to visit me and show me everything from the Moon. I just feel so sorry for myself. And Martin... Martin... Martin's dead, Dad, dead! I'm so stupid and selfish..."

Karl sighed and put his arm on Ørjan's back, gently caressing him like he used to do when he was younger. 'How did he get so big?' he started to think. 'How did he get so big and taking such things upon himself? Why couldn't he just stay a little boy who would be pleased by having his Mom and Dad play with him?'

"You're no idiot, Ørjan," he stated, "it's only natural to think such thoughts. You had looked forward so much to Martin being able to visit you again, and then this happened. I'm sure you're feeling sorry for him and for what happened, and I'm sure Martin wouldn't think bad about you for having such thoughts."

"You think?" Ørjan said and turned his head, looking at his father for the first time since Karl came into the room.

"I'm sure. Don't you remember Martin? Don't you remember how kind he always was, and how nice he was about everyone's feelings?"

"Yeah, he was very nice."

"That's right. Why don't you think back to the good times you had with Martin, and remember him that way? It's okay to grieve for him when he's gone, but you can't just think the sad thoughts – you need to get through this, Ørjan. Remember that you have two parents and a sister who all love you very much."

"Thanks," said Ørjan, "I guess I can try."

"That's my boy," Karl said, patting his son on his shoulder.

"My boy – you make me sound like I'm a little kid again," Ørjan said, teasingly hitting his father's arm.

"Oh, but you are, you will always be my little boy," Karl smiled, very happy to see the first sign of a smile on Ørjan's face, even though it was through his tears.

"Thanks, Dad," Ørjan said again and really meant it. It had felt really good hearing the nice words from his father. Hearing him say that he is loved. Ørjan's family weren't any better saying such things than most other Scandinavians, so Ørjan really felt it meant something when his father said it.

When his father left, Ørjan was lying on his bed, staring in the roof. He was no longer crying, but thinking back to some of the nice times he had with Martin.

He thought of how much fun it was, when they were just little boys, to go swimming in the local water park. They hadn't done that very often, but once in a while they managed to get one of their parents to take them, and it was lots of fun playing in the pools and the slides. Martin had always been more daring than Ørjan and would usually push Ørjan to try something he really didn't dare. And every time it was incredible fun when he got over his fear and jumped into it.

Like the time they were jumping from the 5-meter tower into the big pool. Martin, who was born a few months earlier than Ørjan and therefore had been allowed up in the diving tower sooner (you had to be 10 years old outside of organized practice – which neither of them participated in), was so excited that Ørjan finally could try jumping from the height.

"You'll love it, it's sooo much fun!" he exclaimed in the car on their way to the water park. "Just wait and see."

Ørjan wasn't as sure. He thought it looked pretty scary, and was afraid he would land on his stomach and really hurt himself. But Martin wouldn't stop talking about it either, in the car on their way over, in the changing booth or in the pre-bath shower.

When they entered the swimming area, Martin grabbed Ørjan's hand and dragged him towards the diving tower. Ørjan almost froze at the sight of it, but followed Martin up the ladder, trembling like mad.

"Would you like to jump first, or should I show you before you jump?" Martin asked his slightly younger friend.

"You first, please," Ørjan said, holding a tight grip on the railing, barely looking down from the tower.

"Okay, look now!" Martin said and ran towards the end and jumped out in the water, screaming with joy as he flew through the air.

As he broke the surface, still giggling, a lifeguard blew in his whistle at him and told him "no running, please". Martin looked a bit sour for a second, but shrugged it off and hurried as fast as he could without running to get back up to Ørjan.

"Now it's your turn. Just jump in. It's really fun," he said. Ørjan just took another look over the edge and shook his head, feeling nervous.

Martin put a hand on his shoulder and Ørjan gripped tighter to the railings screaming "no, don't push me, please!"

"Of course not, silly, I won't ever push you," Martin said, "I just want you to jump – it's so much fun, and I'm sure you'll love it once you try."

"I don't know..." Ørjan said, looking once more into the water far below. It really looked high, much higher from up here than it did from down below.

"Do you want me to go again?" Martin asked and Ørjan nodded. Martin jumped off, no running this time, and once again came up from the water, cheering, and hurried back up to Ørjan.

"Just keep your arms down and stretch your fingers and toes to break the surface nicely and you'll be just fine," he coached Ørjan.

Ørjan carefully let go of the railings and tripped towards the edge. Martin was about to follow him, but Ørjan felt a slight panic rising, fearing that Martin would push him into the water, on purpose or by accident, so he yelped and Martin stopped.

Standing at the edge, Ørjan looked over the pool, but not straight down. He bent his knees slightly and made some jumping movements without really leaving the floor. Martin stood quietly behind him, watching without disturbing him.

Finally, Ørjan got a brief flash of courage and he allowed himself to jump up and leave the platform. He immediately regretted it as he started to fall towards the surface, but he knew that there was nothing he could do. He stretched out his fingers and toes like Martin had told him to, and awaited the water that came rushing towards him at a continuously rising velocity.

And he hit it nicely and slid right through the surface, and finally, the fear was gone. He had never been afraid of being in the water, and moved freely in the pools, so he started to move away from the drop area long before he broke the surface, cheering just as Martin had done before him. When the fear had gone, he finally realized just how much fun it was to fly briefly through the air like that.

He looked up at his friend, standing on the edge of the platform cheering with him.

"Wasn't that kewl?" Martin shouted down to him, waiting impatiently for Ørjan to get out of the area that had to be clear before he could jump. Ørjan crossed under the floating markers, and Martin jumped right after him.

As soon as the first fear of jumping had been conquered, Ørjan couldn't get enough of it, and he reckoned they both had jumped off the 5-meter platform at least 20 times each before their time in the pool was out that time, and many more times later.

Thinking back to moments like this, made Ørjan a bit less sad, but it was still hard for him. He became even more introverted and both his parents and teachers were getting more worried as the months progressed.

The winter nights were very long in Hell, with only four and a half hours of sunlight at the darkest times. Ørjan spent many of the dark hours sitting at his window with the view over the fjord. If the weather was clear, he would be looking out to the stars, thinking about his lost friend. He became fascinated by the northern lights which he never could see where they lived before. He would often be lost in dreams as he watched the pale green bands of light dancing over the skies.

A few weeks before Easter, Karl found his wife, Karen, crying at the kitchen table when he came home from work.

"What's wrong?" he asked, worried.

"I don't know if we can live like this any longer," Karen cried, "just look at Ørjan, it's destroying him."

Karl sighed and sat down across from his wife and took her hands in his. "Did anything happen?" he asked.

"I got this today," she said and handed him a note. Karl could see it was from Ørjan's teacher expressing her worries that Ørjan would never speak in class or participate in the activities with his classmates during the breaks. She wanted to meet with Karl and Karen as soon as it could be arranged to discuss what they should do.

Karl sighed and shook his head slowly. "I don't know either. It's been really hard on him – the move, the darkness and then the thing with Martin on top of it all."

He kept his wife's hands in his, not knowing what else to say or to do. He really wanted to do something, he was a man of action, but this situation he was not prepared for at all. He had no answers, nothing to fix, no bolts to tighten or wires to connect.

On that same night, there was a very nice aurora over Hell. Ørjan was sitting at his desk, as usual, looking out the window, studying the beautiful sight. Somehow he fell asleep like that. That was something that hardly ever happened, but the next morning he woke up with his head resting on his desk.

In his dream, he was screaming out to his friend, Martin. Somehow, Martin felt so much more alive now, not just a distant memory like he had been before. It was almost as if he could talk to him.

'Why did you have to die?' he asked in his dream. 'Why did you have to leave me behind like this?'

'I'm not dead,' Martin answered, 'But we're lost!'

The next morning, Ørjan felt a bit better. He ran down to his mother who was preparing breakfast in the kitchen. She turned and looked at him, surprised.

"What's up with you today?" she asked.

"I had a dream last night," Ørjan said, "it was with Martin, he said he wasn't dead, just lost!"

Karen didn't really know what to say. Ørjan was old enough to know the difference between a dream and reality, so she didn't really think he believed it, but somehow she could see the hope in his eyes. Maybe his sorrow was so bad that he was willing to believe it, just as a way to get through it?

"Well," she said, "you know they wouldn't have had oxygen enough to live this long."

"I know that," Ørjan said, "but still, that's what he said to me."

Ørjan turned and ran out of the kitchen again, heading back to his room.

Karen started to walk after him; she had to talk to him now. She didn't want him to lose that good mood, but she was afraid that she had ruined it with what she said. How would she handle this?

Just as she approached his door, she heard him yell from inside; "Mom, come quick! Come!"

She quickly entered the room and saw her son looking shocked at his computer screen, pointing at one window. Karen looked over his shoulder, and she too couldn't believe her eyes. It had to be a trick, someone messing with them, didn't it?

On the screen was a single window, an IM chat with a few words:

Martin: Hi Oerjan – are you there?

Editor's Notes:

Well, that is a nice surprise, isn't it?  Of course, that little message could mean almost anything.  Of course, since I am an optimist, I kinda think it really is Martin, and he has somehow been transported back, but The Wanderer is not a Time Ship, so how did he get back there? Of course, I have my suspicions, which I intend to keep to myself, because I don't want to lead anyone astray. Well, actually I would love to lead you astray, but since this isn't my story, I won't say anything. I am ready and eager for the next chapter.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

The Other Editor's Notes:

JEEZ!© Where did The Phone get the idea he could do a whole chapter and not resolve the Cliff Hanger!  That's just Evil! {Pot calling Kettle black}

What about my nice shiny Quest?  And Ivan and Bandit, and John and Saul, and Leonif and Filya and 'Bob and Neal.  Jeez!©

I'm getting my own pitchfork and torch and heading for Norway.  I wonder if the TSA will understand?

Well, maybe the next chapter will be better.


Host's Notes:

I was going to say what a wonderful chapter this is, but instead, I refer you to the notes above!

I am going to start editing Chapter Sixteen and hopefully it will have some answers, however; I doubt that.

The Story Lover