On Earth, they call Hollywood the entertainment capital of the world. In space, they call Nexula the entertainment hub of the universe. Like planet-hopping locusts, Nexulan talent scouts search the galaxies for new material. When they discovered the human race, they knew they'd found a winner. For eighteen months, a Nexulan production team gathered information about Earth's heroes and legends. They also created a spectacular ad to promote the product.
Finally, their work done, the crew headed home, bringing with them a series of small silver disks. When a Nexulan, or any similar species, activated a disk, he'd experience great moments in the life of a legend.
Two hundred miles above the surface of the Earth, as the ship prepared to enter hyperspace, it collided with an orbiting wrench that had been dropped by a Russian technician during one of the early Mir missions.
The combined speed of the ship and the wrench ripped a gash in the main cargo compartment, spilling out the disks. The crew returned to Nexula with empty tentacles.
Most of the disks fell into the ocean. A handful of the disks and a gel-sphere recording of the ad ended up in the woods near Ferdinand Demara Middle School. If humans were like Nexulans, none of this would matter. But when a human activates a disk, he gets more than an experience.
He becomes a legend.
The shaker was clogged. Ryan frowned and shook the garlic powder harder. Nothing came out.
"Tap the bottom on the table," his sister Taylor said. "You need to dislodge the granules."
You need to dislodge your brain, Ryan thought. Ignoring Taylor's advice, he leaped from his seat and shot his arm down full speed. That worked. Sort of. The lid flew off, dumping a pile of powder over his pizza.
"Crap," Ryan muttered, staring at the miniature mountain that rose from the cheese.
"Sit down," Ryan's father said. "Do you have to ruin every meal?"
"Somebody has to." Ryan picked up the slice and brushed it off. Grains of garlic ticked against his plate, but so much stuck to the piece that it looked like a sandy beach towel. Still standing, he reached for another slice.
"What...are...you...doing?" His father fired each word across the table like a shot from a large caliber pistol.
"Getting some pizza," Ryan said.
"Eat what you have, first. And sit down. This isn't a barn."
"But that one's got --"
"Eat it!" his father shouted, jumping to his feet so fast his chair toppled over.
Ryan turned toward his mom. Sometimes—rarely—she took his side. "Listen to your father," she said.
He glanced at Taylor, who wouldn't look up from her food. All out of brilliant advice? It figured. She only had answers for things that didn't matter, like homework and tests.
Ryan knew his father wanted him to beg for another piece. No way. He sat and took a bite, flinching as his taste buds went into shock. He managed to choke down half the slice before the garlic won. "Can I go now," he asked his mom.
She nodded, and Ryan headed up stairs. Behind him, he heard his father say, "Hard to believe they're twins."
Bits of garlic crunched between his molars as he gritted his teeth. I'm not the one who ruins everything. He spent the rest of the evening in his room, reading one of the few books his parents hadn't taken away yet, then went to sleep.
Late at night, a powerful thirst woke Ryan. After he got a drink, he thought about starting his math homework, but quickly dropped the idea. It wouldn't make any difference.
I'm dead no matter what I do. School was like quick sand. With each step, he sank deeper. Ryan expected to be completely buried before he reached high school. He saw himself repeating eight grade forever, like a lame imitation of a ghost, a doomed spirit who eventually became invisible to his teachers.
At least it was Friday. Just eight periods lay between him and freedom. He sighed as he thought about his classes. Social studies was the mental equivalent of a trip to the dentist. He didn't get algebra. English put him to sleep. Science, which should have been so cool, had turned into a mind-numbing series of biographies. Art was bearable. So was lunch. But gym was torture and wood shop was terror.
"What's the point?" Ryan gazed out his window at the dark sky above the tree tops, as if an answer had been hidden there in a code known only to a lucky few. High up, a star flickered, then grew impossibly bright. Ryan watched as the star broke apart and the pieces fell to earth.
Copyright © 2003 by David Lubar
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