Thursday, November 25, 2010

Impaired Judgement

Alex had been lonely before, but there had been at least some fleeting reason behind it. He understood why and could usually see a path through it. This was different. The narcotic effect Carbon had worried about had taken root in his brain, irrational and inescapable. He felt depressed and perfectly isolated, despite Carbon sitting a few feet away curled up with her legs hugged to her chest.

She had pushed him away too late with a whispered apology, just as the connection broke the effect set in. The source of the pained look she wore was clear to Alex, a burst of panic had ripped through the Carbon part of their mind link just before she had severed it. She knew what was going to happen but she didn't want it to happen to him. Now they sat on opposite sides of the couch, temporarily destroyed.

"It's too bad that..." Alex tried to make a joke but just ran out of steam between getting the idea and actually saying it. He didn't really see the point anymore. "I'm going to get something to sleep this off with. Is that safe?"

She looked at him with grief in her eyes, voice feeble. "It should be but please do not. This should not take more than an hour to pass and I do not want to be alone right now.”

“Well. Yeah, sure.” Alex was pretty sure an hour would feel like an eternity like this, but he was willing to put up with it for her sake. He really didn’t want to be alone either. “Is there anything we can do to speed this up?”

“Not specifically.” Her eyes narrowed in thought for a moment. She unbuckled herself and scooted over to him, undid his belt before taking his hand and tugging him up off the couch with her. “There is one thing I have been told... I do not know if it a true remedy, but it can not hurt to try.”

“What are you doing?”

“Bringing you along. It is improper to drink by yourself.”

“How is that... How is that different than taking a sleep aid?” Carbon pulled him into the passageway without any trouble, he wasn't putting up any resistance anyway. His eyes closed and he shook his head as she towed him behind her towards the aft end of the ship. The CPP was widely recognized as having dry ships. “How did you get alcohol on board, anyway? Didn't they check your gear?”

“It is different because it is not being done alone.” She toggled the door controls to her cabin with a shrug. “I moved onto the ship before it left dry dock for the first time. No one checked anything I brought on board with me.”

Any other time, Alex would have been surprised at what he saw in Carbon's cabin. In place of the light gray walls and allegedly mood-enhancing blue stripe, it had been covered in a detailed mural. The cabin became a clearing in a strangely colored alien forest, trees reaching up to the night sky above on the ceiling. He'd have thought it beautiful in it's own way, but right now it was just an oddity as she deposited him on her bunk before rummaging through the dresser embedded in the wall.

“They checked mine. Why is your bunk so big? Is this down?” Alex held on to the comforter stretched over the top, squishing it under his fingers with the distinct crunch of feathers. Her bunk was significantly wider than his, though it was welded down to the floor.

Carbon came back up with a hexagonal bottle, about the size Alex would expect for a liter. Thick clear glass held a pale green liquid and she dug a claw into the wax sealing the cork. The motion needed to drink from a rigid bottle in zero gravity was awkward, kind of tossing the bottle at your face to make the liquid travel into your mouth. She took a long drink, maybe a third of the bottle and made a horrible face before pressing the cork back in and tossing it over to him. “It is the standard bed for a Tslao ship and it is down.”

“That’s nice. Nicer than what I got.” He was starting to feel a little bit better, even if it was just an incremental adjustment back towards normal. A drink couldn’t hurt. Alex twisted the cork out of the bottle and he went through the awkward motion himself, sucking down a sample before continuing with two mouthfuls. The pleasant, almost pear-like flavor lasted for several seconds before being overwhelmed by the burn of alcohol. He shuddered and corked the bottle, “what is that? Hundred proof?”

She settled down on the bed next to him and shook her head as she took possession of the bottle again. “No, that would taste horrible. It’s only seventy percent alcohol.”

Alex shook his head as she took another drink. “That’d make it one-hundred and forty proof and we’ve drank half the bottle already.”

“Is that bad?”

“It’s... Uh, well, that can be a lot to drink all at once on an empty stomach.”

“I ate-” she stopped and thought about it for a moment, realization dawning on her face. “I did not eat that much.”

“I didn’t either. That’s smooth, though. Fooled me with the first sip.” He was starting to feel a little flush and maybe just a little bit better than he had a minute ago. “Need to be careful with the hard alcohol.”

“I did not have that much.”

“Yeah, you did. I only had a few swallows of it and the bottle is still half empty.”

She stared at the bottle in her lap for a long time, brow furrowed. Her head jerked up and she looked at Alex, eyes wide and a startled. “Is that amount dangerous?”

“You should be fine. I’m just guessing, but that’s like, pfft...” He looked up at the ceiling, briefly entranced by the pattern of stars. “I dunno, eight shots? That’s a nights worth of drinking, for some people. Not something you should have all at once.”

“Oh.” She sounded surprised and looked back down at the bottle, bewildered.

“Oh? I don’t like how that sounds.”

“I have had, ehm... deep wines.” It took her a moment to determine the right words. She looked up at him, eyes focusing slowly and looking decidedly lost. Her head tilted to the side as she spoke. “I have... never drink this before?”

His mouth twisted into a frown, “you’ve never had this specifically or you’ve never had hard liquor?” Not that it mattered, he hadn’t seen her drink before. It’d been a year since he’d drank. Neither of them had any resistance built up.

“Liquor... Liquor. I like this, what is it mean?” Her eyes squinted as she sussed the word out with a little laugh.

“Great. This is a good place to stop, then.” Alex reached over and plucked the bottle out of her hands. Carbon grabbed for it, eyes wide as she made a little distressed noise and looked absolutely shocked that he would take something from her. He set it down on the bed behind him and shook his head. “We’re done with this for now.”

“Fine.” Carbon shifted away from him, crossed her arms over her chest and pouted like he’d just taken a toy from her.

Alex smiled, she was kind of cute like that. “Look, just wait a little bit and we’ll see how you’re feeling. Pacing is important.”

Thsen she. Avara?” She talked over her shoulder at him, too rapid for him to understand what she was saying, if he even knew the words.

“I didn’t catch that.” Had had been drinking on an empty stomach. He was too hot and everything was lagging behind in that annoying way that it did.

Her eyebrows went up like he should have gotten it. “Avarah?

He shook his head, not sure if it was actually a different word or if she was starting to slur her speech already. He opted for the latter, his smile turning into a grin and an easy laugh. “No, you’re speaking Tsla. I can’t understand what you are saying.”

“Do you feel better too?” Her face scrunched up in concentration as she held up a finger, enunciating the words slowly, punctuating each one with a poke at the air. It sounded like she actually wanted to know but it was taking everything she had to get the words out.

“Yes.” Alex nodded in agreement then leaned over and kissed her without a second thought.


  1. Whoo-hoo!

    I liked this: “I have... never drink this before?” It sounds drunks. ;)

    My main thought is that the alcohol hits too fast in the text. I'm not sure if it's a very small bottle or just that a lot of drinking isn't narrated. It seems like inhibitions wouldn't fall so quickly, even with the emotions from the link. Perhaps a mention of his physical reaction? A flush to the face? Warmth? Some emotion with her poking the air? :)

  2. I rewrote that line so many times. I'm glad it works!

    The bottle is mentioned as being ~1 liter and she drank maybe 300ml with the first pull, then more with no food. In retrospect is a little bit fast, yes... I think I will adjust that out a bit, and a little more physical reaction will probably help me do that.

  3. Back to reading and commenting. I too like the drunk line, and, having been in that state many times before like your portrayal of the situation but do think the pacing could be a little slower. I also think that Alex could have pushed the cabin differences (or should in the future) more.

  4. Oh, drinking in space can't be good because vomiting in space is so very gross. And in this case very funny too.

    She had pushed him away too late with a whispered apology, just as the connection broke the effect set in. Just breaking the connection gets two mentions in this paragraph, could probably cut one.

    "It should be." This could either be bundled together with the rest of what she says or cut. Put before the description of her tone it detracts from the impression of vulnerability.

    but he was willing to put up with it for now. Why? So he doesn't have to be alone, or so she doesn't?

    squishing it under his fingers with the distinct crunch of feathers. I really like the detached description of her bunk and the little details he fixates on.

    “Is that bad?” This appears twice. Also, it seems strange that he doesn't comment on her lack of knowledge about what they're drinking sooner (esp. when it's clear she doesn't know how strong it is).

    Love that he gets distracted by her mural. The drunk-speak and the pout are great too. (but if he puts the bottle down on the table won't it float away?)

    Also, I second that Whoo-hoo! Can't wait to see what these crazy kids get up to next.