The last half of my second day on Hoth was very hot and dry, but uneventful. The field goon stayed away from our end of the field the rest of the day.
I ached all over. It seemed the day would never end. Two days of bending over in that fierce heat while brushing off plant leaves was enough for a lifetime. How could Arn and the others on this forsaken planet possibly do this all day, every day?
When the end-of-the-day siren finally sounded, Arn and I slowly made our way to the shack to turn in our gloves and brushes and pick up our soup, making sure we were last in line. Arn didn’t want anyone to get a good look at me, and neither of us wanted to answer questions about who I was or where I came from.
After we had picked up our bowls of stew and had drunk as much water as we wanted, in the deepening dusk we made our way back to our tree to eat our slimy meal. It still tasted like grass soup, but I was hungry and ate quickly.
“You survived another day Tammy”, Arn said.
“Barely. How do you do this every day?”
“I don’t have a choice and now you don’t either”, Arn replied. “You’ll adjust soon enough. After two days your skin is already getting darker. Your body will adjust to the heat in a few days. Like you said, maybe you were outdoors before you arrived here, but I don’t see how.”
Where’s My Home?
“I don’t remember where I came from, but I know I spent a lot of time outdoors. Wherever it was, it wasn’t here.”
“Any other memories coming back yet?” Arn asked.
“Just something very fuzzy about someone bringing me here from somewhere far from here and dumping or dropping me here.”
“Why would they do that?” Arn asked.
“I have no idea. You must know something about this planet. Maybe you have some idea where I might have been before I was dumped here. Surely this planet has other settlements.”
“Let’s take back our bowls and get our last drink before dark.”
We stood and slowly walked toward the shack. In a few minutes it would be totally dark. There were no lights, no moon, no stars. We had just enough light to hand prune face our bowls. How did she see anything in that shack? I couldn’t really see her, just her hand reaching out of the opening in the wall of the shack to take our bowls.
After drinking more water, we returned to our tree.
“You don’t trust me to be away from you for even a moment do you?” I asked Arn.
“You might be misinterpreting that. This planet has some strange things and I’m not sure you’d be totally safe by yourself.”
“Things like what?” I asked. “I can take care of myself.”
“Oh can you now?” Arn asked. “Well if you’re not from around here you probably don’t know that the heat and the goons aren’t the only things you need to watch out for.”
“Fill me in. I’m all ears.”
Arn said nothing. I could hear him breathing, but he said nothing.
Are You Human?
“You said you might answer some of my questions tonight. But you’re not saying anything.”
“Shhh,” he whispered, moving close to me. “I’m listening.”
Arn was within a foot of me. This was the closest we had been in the two days I had been on Hoth. I could smell him. I thought he would stink since he obviously had not bathed recently. He smelled slightly musky, but he did not smell bad at all.
Maybe it’s the hot dry air, lots of water and the slime soup. Maybe he snuck off last night while I was sleeping and took a shower. But where?
After a few minutes he whispered “It’s o.k.”
“What were you listening for?” I whispered.
“I was listening to see if anyone is close enough to hear us. No one is, as long as we whisper quietly.”
Arn lay down on the ground, and I followed his lead.
All of our future conversation after dark would be whispered face-to-face close together while laying on the ground. We thought that would reduce the chances of anyone overhearing our whispers.
“You could hear if anyone was nearby?”
“I could hear the old woman close the door on the shack and walk away from us. Did you hear that?”
I admitted I hadn’t.
“Remember, I said I hear really well, and I’m a light sleeper. If anyone walks any closer to us than the shack tonight, I’ll hear it.”
“Humans don’t hear that well,” I said.
“This one does.”
“You’re saying you’re human, Arn?”
“I’m saying I am.”
“You were going to tell me what there is besides the heat and the goons I need to watch out for.”
“I was going to answer your question about other settlements on the planet,” Arn replied. “There may be other settlements. We’ve heard rumors, but none of us really know. The goons in the administration buildings probably know but they don’t tell us anything.”
“The problem here, Tammy, is that there are two kinds of people here, field workers and goons.” Arn continued. “Obviously you’ve never been a field worker, and the only other choice is goon. But this business about you working out here in the fields the last two days doesn’t make any sense. I don’t have anything or any information that would be of any possible use to the goons. They know everything I know and probably a lot more.”
“Maybe there is someplace on the planet where things are different than they are here,” I said. “Isn’t that just possible? Think about it. If I came here to get something from you, I’d have figured out by now that you have nothing of value, and I’d be gone wouldn’t I?
“Maybe Tammy did something to really piss them off, so they exiled you out here.”
“Think about what you’re saying Arn. You already said you think they kill anyone who crosses them. If I had crossed them, I’d be dead.”
“But you’re pretty.”
“You think I’m pretty?”
“You’re the prettiest female I’ve ever seen on this hell hole of a planet. Maybe the goons don’t want to kill a beauty like you.”
“So they put me out here to dry up in this heat and turn into prune face number two? If they’re as despicable as you think, don’t you think they would have kept the prettiest female you’ve ever seen for themselves?”
“Actually, that had crossed my mind. You just don’t make sense, Tammy.”
“None of this makes sense to me either. It’s all like a bad dream. I don’t like anything about this place except you, Arn. But you don’t even trust me. Of course if I were in your shoes, I’d probably feel pretty much the same way about me. I can’t tell you much about myself except my name. I don’t know where I came from, how I got here, or why I’m here. Maybe it will all come back to me, but for now I can’t remember.
“If it does come back to you, I’d guess you’ll want to go back to wherever you came from.”
“Of course. It’s probably not possible though. I don’t even know where this place is or how to get back to earth from here.”
What did you just say?” Arn asked in an alarmed whisper.
“I said I don’t know how to get back to… to earth. Earth. That must be where I’m from. Do you know where that is?”
“Never let anyone on Hoth hear you use that word”.
“What word?” I asked.
“The name of the place you said you come from.”
“Really? Well if you know the name of the place I come from, do you know where it is?” I asked.
“A long way from here. A very long way from here. Look, you’ve had another long hard day. Morning will be here before you know it. If you’re planning to make it through another day in Hoth, you’d better sleep.”
Arn let out a sigh and stayed where he was, about a foot from me. I didn’t move away. I felt safe.
I like him. I think he really does believe me. Yeah, I see why they call this place hell, but I don’t think it’s really hell. Wonder if it’s always been like this?
Where is earth? Is it a town or another country? Why is it forbidden to say the name of it here? Why doesn’t Arn seem to want to talk about it? Maybe something happened to it and it doesn’t exist anymore. I think Arn knows something he doesn’t want to tell me. What could it be?
I couldn’t have guessed how or when that question would be answered, not if I’d had a hundred years to guess.
It seemed like only a moment until I was waking up at first light.
Where am I again? Oh yeah! Oh shit!