Author: DJ Lunan

The Zeppelidrone hovered soundlessly outside the window blinking its countdown, indicating less than twenty minutes to make our decision to sign the contract.

“You will need to be sterilised before we can go, no natal medical facilities on-board”, said Dex reciting the small print governing his role as ‘Cosmos Safari Expert’.

“Can I be re-purposed afterward?”, I replied sarcastically.

“Hmpf! All vaccinations, mediation, sterilisation and molecular re-assignation to be completed at travellers’ own expense”, continued Dex hesitantly.

My husband is in his element, seated in his favourite armchair, leafing through the 87-page printed contract. Yes, the SunShip Company sent a real paper contract!

SunShip knew Dex well. Inefficient outdated media fit neatly with his love of pulp fiction, calligraphy, and three-piece-tweed suits.

I knew he would sign it. Sunship knew it too. He always did. Sometimes with a quill.

Our biggest question is whether I would join him. Could I endure three years on a Cosmos Safari?

Dex had asked me to join shorter tours, but I always dodged, preferring a couple of months solo on Earth to exhausting intra-galactic tours scheduled to the minute with gazing at alien life, junk, mammals, and art. And worse, legions of so-called Experts, yawning on clever-clever without injecting any real value.

“Is it all-inclusive?”, I probed.

Dex scanned the contract, pausing to lovingly lick his index finger to help him turn each page, “Food, travel, and air are provided as part of this contract for the Expert…. that’s me”, he paused, evidently chuffed, smiling broadly, brushing crumbs from his vintage Harris tweed jacket onto the floor, “….and their companion”.

“A companion?!”, I responded ironically, “can I not be an associate Expert? I’m actually very clever!”.

“Ahh … just wait, clause 4, states: ‘Food, travel, and air will be provided at économie throughout the Safari, with the daily option to upgrade across and within consumption categories to ordinaire or Premium™ at the expense of the Expert and companion’”, he reported.

For the first time since the contract had arrived by Zeppelidrone, Dex sought approval in my eyes.

I pulled my supremely-unimpressed face, hoping Dex would get the hint to re-negotiate our status.

“I will, definitely….”, faltered Dex, “….inquire….further on this matter”.

I smirked knowingly at his fudging, doubtful he would inquire or negotiate further. He’d simply whip out his favourite feathered quill from his antique crocodile leather Filofax and sign the contract.

“What’s the route?”, I inquired to break the awkward silence.

He smiled geekily, slipped into a daydream, and detailed ponderously, “We will circle Neptune’s frozen moon to slingshot out of the Solar System into the NV quadrant, see the whispering galaxy, catch flowering season on Neunion…..”

I remained bemused by my optimism. Three years of lean food, unlimited access to fitness equipment, swimming pool, music, literature and film coupled with zero money worries would re-invent me as trim, fit, and well-read. Off-worldy wise! Moreover, I would finalise my doctorate while travelling, and return a Doctor, primed for a new career and a family.

“…..visit two lava planets, and all being well, catch the Orplyx migration….I’ve only dreamt of seeing such things”.

I knew I’d lost him. Maybe I only borrowed him while he was planted firmly on Earth.

“….Cosmos Safari Expert….big step up….big leagues, big ships, unconfined vistas….”

But could I find me? Could this be my re-invention?

I packed a pipe with molocum root and lemon leaves, lit it, and passed to Dex.

“Shouldn’t we….”, he started, motioning to the Zeppelidrone blinking ‘fifteen’.

“Nah, let’s get high, then sign”, I smiled, contemplating my looming three years of space to grow.