Neville hurried away from the asteroid of the Toaster People. He looked around, scanning the other asteroids for signs of life. If one of the asteroids had been populated by humans, then surely there must be others. Not everybody that had let go of the world would want to settle in a place where a toaster was the ruling deity. All Neville had to do was find another inhabited asteroid. One occupied by people who were a little more sensible. Then, at last, he could find a home.
As Neville gazed across the great sea of celestial bodies, he couldn’t help noticing for the first time how spectacularly awesome the scene before him was. It was like a vast hanging mobile where each individual piece had been specially crafted by a different sculptor. Each asteroid had its own unique shape and glowed with its own unique hue.
But there was one asteroid in particular that caught his attention. Smaller than most of the others, it moved unpredictably across the sky. First it would flit one way. Then suddenly it would stop and veer off in a completely different direction. It was like a small dog that had lost its master and didn’t know where to start looking.
Neville was intrigued by this strange asteroid and decided to take a closer look. Approaching it was difficult. Every time he started to get close the asteroid suddenly darted off at right angles, forcing Neville to quickly brake and change direction, a difficult task in zero gravity.
Finally Neville made it to the asteroid. He reached out to grip it before it could change its trajectory again, then hauled himself aboard. He sat down for a minute, to get his bearings, and then tried to stand up.
Standing up was not a simple task. Neville felt like a surfer riding a particularly treacherous wave as he staggered and swayed to keep his balance atop the winding, twisting asteroid. He fell down and struggled back to his feet three times before he finally started to get the hang of it. Then he set off to explore this strange new place.
After walking for about a minute, Neville noticed something even odder. A bright orange beach umbrella. He approached the umbrella and saw a girl lying underneath it, on a large rock shaped somewhat like a banana lounge. She was wearing a swimming costume and a pair of dark sunglasses. Presently she spoke.
“Did you bring the sunscreen?” she asked in a fairly expressionless voice.
“No,” replied Neville.
For a second there was an awkward silence. Then she spoke again. “I guess I’d better get back into the pool then.”
“But there’s no pool here,” said Neville, somewhat perplexed by the nature of this conversation.
“There isn’t?” The girl moved her head from side to side, quickly realising the truth of Neville’s observation. “Well that’s okay. I can’t swim anyway.”
“Then why are you wearing a swimming costume?” asked Neville.
“How tall are you?” replied the girl.
“I don’t know,” said Neville, as it had been a while since he’d last measured himself.
“My uncle is tall,” said the girl.
“Oh really?” said Neville.
“His name is Ron and he has a moustache.”
“Oh.” Neville struggled for something else to say. Fortunately the girl’s thoughts had already moved on.
“Maybe I’ll go down to the newsagent. Buy myself a book.”
“But there’s no newsagent here,” protested Neville. “We’re in the middle of outer space.”
Once again the girl made that movement of her head “There isn’t? Well that’s okay. I can’t read anyway.”
“But if you can’t read, why would you want to buy a book?”
“What colour skirt do you think would go better with this swimsuit, red or green?” asked the girl.
“Red,” said Neville without even thinking.
The girl screwed up her face. “I don’t like red.”
“Well then green.”
The girl screwed her face up even more. “I don’t like green either.”
“Then why did you ask me?” exclaimed Neville who was now totally confused.
“Why did the leopard change its sheets?” asked the girl without even missing a beat.
“You mean why did the leopard change its spots,” corrected Neville.
“I don’t know. To get to the other side?”
Neville had finally had enough. “This is a particularly aimless conversation,” he said firmly.
The girl shrugged her shoulders. “This is a particularly aimless asteroid.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Throw a stone at me.”
“Do you deliberately try to not answer any of my questions?” demanded Neville.
“No I mean it,” said the girl. “Throw a stone at me.”
“But I might hurt you.”
“Just do it.”
Neville bent over and looked for a stone to throw. He chose a small pebble because he didn’t want to cause any injuries. Then he took careful aim and threw it softly at the girl. But the girl didn’t even flinch as the stone flew harmlessly away to the side.
“See,” she said.
“But I aimed that stone straight at you,” cried Neville.
“Do you understand now?” said the girl. “Nothing on this asteroid has any aim. Nothing that you say. Nothing that you do. This is the most aimless asteroid in the whole asteroid field.”
Neville looked around. The girl definitely had a point. The way the asteroid twisted and turned through the asteroid field, it seemed to have no idea where it was going to go next. It made Neville dizzy to watch. He looked back at the girl.
“Nothing on this asteroid has any aim?”
“Including me. I have no aim.”
“But surely you must have some sort of aim,” protested Neville.
“I don’t know.” Neville thought for a moment, trying to figure out how to back his argument up. “It must get terribly boring after a while.”
“Maybe it does,” replied the girl. “I don’t know. It doesn’t really seem to be that important. Not on this asteroid anyway.”
“Then I think it’s time we both got off this asteroid,” said Neville who didn’t like the idea of not having any aim. “Will you come with me?”
“Oh all right, if you insist. Just let me go and get the car keys.”
“But there’s no car here.”
The girl moved her head from side to side. “There isn’t? Well that’s okay. I can’t drive anyway.”
Neville sighed and turned away. She wasn’t going to join him. She was just going to lie around, living her little aimless life on her little aimless asteroid.
He jumped off the asteroid and watched as it zigzagged crazily away. In his heart, he knew that what the girl had said was wrong. It was important to have an aim. What was the point of living if you didn’t?
Neville decided there and then that he had better find an aim for himself. But thinking about your life direction while you’re standing in the middle of an asteroid field isn’t such an easy thing to do. The best way to work out what his aim would be was to get out into the open, so he could concentrate better.
Neville found a nice quiet spot, turned himself around so that he didn’t have to look at the asteroids any more and started to think. What would be a good aim? How could he create a fulfilling life for himself here in the middle of nothingness?
Suddenly Neville’s concentration was broken by a roar. A great whooshing roar, coming from right behind him. He turned to look and then froze in fear. The world was rushing into view again. It surged forward at a crazy speed, spinning wildly and throwing people off in all directions. And it was coming straight for him.
For a couple of seconds Neville was too terrified to move. Then he collected his wits and began to run as fast as he could. But it was no use. There was no way he could get out of the way in time. The world loomed behind him, larger and larger. He could not possibly outrun it.
Neville closed his eyes and curled himself up, preparing for the shock of impact.
Suddenly he felt a strong hand tagging at his shoulder. In a flash he was pulled out of the way, just as the world hurtled past. It came so close that Neville could see all of Africa, only millimetres from his nose. He breathed a great sigh of relief then turned to face his saviour.
It was a girl, about his age and about his height. She had medium length, slightly curly, reddish brown hair, and a serious face which softened slightly as she met his eyes.
“Phew,” she said. “That was a close one.”