Planet of Dreams – Medical Officer’s Records – 20 January, 2265
Our flight path past the abandoned planet was leaked to the crew. Next thing we knew they were rioting in the corridors, and the chef was missing.
I found my patient under an apple tree on the planet surface. He was smoking an imaginary cigarette. I confirmed that Rasmussen had an acute case of hypnagogic hallucinations.
‘There are neurotoxins in this atmosphere. I’m afraid they’re making you dream into your awake time, Chef,’ I told him as I administered an antipsychotic.
I led him toward my skimmer. We were almost there when I was overwhelmed by the need to sneeze. There must have been some kind of malfunction in my air-filter.
‘Bless you,’ said Rasmussen. ‘Have a mackerel,’ and he smiled down at the apple in his hand. He began to sing the space travellers’ anthem.
He obviously needed more medication, so I placed the apple on his head and lined up the cross hairs. I drew the bow. My arrow knocked the cigarette from his mouth.
‘A fine shot,’ he said, ‘but quite unnecessary.’ He flung my bow and quiver into the long grass.
We were in what had once been a country garden, with neglected shrubs and flowers blooming all around us. It looked like a storybook except for a couple of antique dentist chairs – one on either side of the sundial. Rasmussen started to collect dead branches for a campfire.
‘Give me a hand,’ he said, but I just wanted to sit down and relax. I leaned over from the chair and took a sip of water. When Rasmussen launched into the second verse of ‘Starlore’, I sat up and spat.
‘Another nice shot,’ he said as he wiped his face. A finger pointed to the receptacle. ‘Spit in here.’ He refilled my beaker. ‘Have a rinse, Doctor.’
A spark flew up from the fire and caught the fabric of his jump suit. Smoke wafted from his midriff like a waking volcano.
‘Let’s leave this out of the records,’ he said as he dowsed his abdomen. ‘We are experiencing anomalies that may be temporal in nature.’
The earth quaked, just enough to cause an apple to fall from the tree. I thought I could hear something behind the hedge. It seemed to be slithering towards us.
The mackerel he was smoking over the fire turned to pie.
I wasn’t sure about the creature, but I certainly saw his fish turn to pie. Definitely heard a hiss when the apple was sliced into quarters. It looked good enough to . . .
‘Eat.’ The serpent gave the fruit to Rasmussen, and we shared it.
We stubbed out our cigarettes on a dried old snakeskin in the grass. On that day all the apples fell from our heads. We made ourselves new uniforms from fig leaves. We ate mackerel and apple pie, and we shared a cigar.
It was time to go.
Sandi Sartorelli is a graduate of the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme. She has recently returned home to New Zealand after a year in the Cook Islands. She is an optimist and hopes the food in her poems and short stories rouses memories of your most pleasurable or most ghastly eating experiences. Her website is Sandi Sartorelli – Poetry and Writing