Author : Jason Frank

He fumbles at the door and we, the Thomases, look over even though we know it’s him (even the human’s speculative fiction hasn’t imagined the technologies that hide that entrance). Our door opens and the Outside Thomas shuffles in, looking much the worse for wear. He doesn’t make eye contact with a single Inside Thomas, but he does find a spot on the couch devoid of other Thomases to collapses on. He sighs deeply, a sigh not unknown to any Thomas.

Sometimes a Thomas needs time to collect himself. We give him that. Then we crowd around with overloaded trays of our best tasties and fill up his glass with our best mess-you-up. A few backslaps and drinks drunk and the Outside Thomas perks up. He’s smiling and taking off his suit and relaxing into standard Inside Thomas-ing. I stand apart, watching. I am next in the rotation; I am to be the new Outside Thomas.

The music gets louder as the Thomas welcoming festivities lurch towards full boil. The dispenser is nearly silent as it produces my outfit, correct to wrinkle and stain of the Outside Thomas when he came in. I put it all on and look in the mirror and see that I look very Outside Thomas. I go out the door and nobody says goodbye or good luck or anything.

I take in a deep breath of outside air and head off towards The House. We Thomases set it up so that it wouldn’t be a far walk, but far enough to let a Thomas get his mind right. Walking helps with the standard Outside Thomas mental exercises: I am the Outside Thomas (x 15), I am the one true Thomas in the eyes of the world (x 15), (in the eyes of Youngstown, Ohio anyway (just once, just for me)).

It is what non-Thomases call a lovely day. No Earth days can compare to the worst day back home, but no Thomas expects a non-Thomas to understand that. I hardly notice the weather, or thoughts of our once home. The face of the last Outside Thomas crowds my mind.

At the door of The House I pause. No technologies mask its presence; entrance is given to anyone with a simple (easily duplicated) bit of metal. Several more deep breaths go in and out of me before I use my bit of metal and enter.

The shock of activity is immediate. It puts to shame even the more rowdy efforts of the Thomases. Several of the half-Thomases run about randomly, somehow avoiding the toys that threaten any foot fall. The youngest of the half-Thomases bolts by, pantless (though closely pursued by Viv, pants in hand). All thoughts of the last Outside Thomas slip away as I yell out, “Honey, I’m Home!”

Dinner is a delight. All of the half-Thomases have begun to show hints of rascality that any Thomas would approve of. Viv’s cooking is amazing. Viv has gained some weight (A Thomas likes some meat on his Viv). A Thomas likes to sit at the head of the table sometimes. A Thomas can be happy as the only Thomas around.

The little ones go to bed then we go to bed. I can’t keep my hands off of Viv. She asks what’s gotten into me. I tell her I’m more interested in getting something into her. She starts laughing and we do it and she laughs most of the time then she falls asleep. I hold her in my arms and can’t imagine what could exist on the outside that could bring a Thomas down.

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