It had taken Lloyd Ferndale the better part of his forty-seven years to realize a fact he had been fighting for most of his life. He preferred being alone.
It was one of those things he had always known, much preferring the time in his room listening to obscure music from the middle of the Twentieth Century to being with others. Yet, he had always fought against it. Or, at least, always tried.
If only he had been able to accept this fact earlier in life, he could have spared himself and others a great deal of trauma and pain. Particularly the women in his life.
Rose Marie, for example. She was the young woman he had lived in a tiny pod unit on TaurI Nova with for over three years. Each of which was supposed to end in marriage. Each of which, in reality, ended with him making lame excuses about it “not being the right time.”
It was no surprise that eventually Rose Marie, all twenty-three years old of her, was wise enough to realize this man eight years her senior was far more immature than she was. After several false starts, she eventually, and quite correctly, told him to take a hike.
Such patterns repeated several times for Lloyd over the decades. This included not one, but two, additional women he persuaded with promises of marriage only to fail to live up to his word.
He was an asshole. And knew it. But it wasn’t as if he lied to them on purpose. He tried. He tried really hard to be the person he told them he was. It just never seemed to work out that way.
Which is why, after years of such a painful charade, he finally admitted to himself that he preferred a more solitary life. A wise move and a great relief to all.
It was this enthusiasm for a life of isolation allowed him to rise above several other more technically qualified applicants for a job which seemed made for him. It required him to live alone on remote asteroid at the very edge of the star system.
It was a simple enough job. All he had to do was to make sure the communications antenna for Interstellar Radio One was properly maintained. A job which was incredibly easy given that the entire system was automated and had been programmed for full self-maintenance.
He was there almost exclusively for the once or twice a year manual reboot of various systems following glitchy software updates. The rest was largely just hanging around. On his own. Which he loved.
It also paid well. If it weren’t for the cost of getting someone there and back, it would make no sense to pay someone 1.2 M a year to basically sit on their ass. But it did. And they did.
The mineral miners had to have their computer-generated synth pop, after all.
In truth, the part of the job Lloyd despised the most wasn’t the isolation, it was being forced to listen to the trash Interstellar One insisted on playing. For at least two hours a day, he was subjected to the worst of synth pop, Kpop, Classic Trill, Mind Thrash and other such banalities. It was far and away the worst part of his job.
It caused his blood pressure to rise. Literally. The medical readouts had proven it. He loathed the stuff that much.
However, other than those two hours of required monitoring, he was left to listen to whatever he choose. Usually a healthy dose of the ROLLING STONES or perhaps some early, Jeff Beck era, YARDBIRDS.
He occasionally missed the company of women. However, that could usually be remedied by a quick session with the stimulation devices and the pornography the company provided.
As for his rare bouts of actual loneliness, they were quickly eased by an interlink chat with a coworker on base who was also somewhat knowledgeable about music. The banter back and forth while downing a few beers was something that he always enjoyed.
It was an ideal match between worker and job just as the algorithm had predicted. Lloyd was happy. Interstellar One was happy. Everything worked perfectly.
Until it didn’t.
It was on a particularly windy day that Lloyd first received the message from base. One of the Interstellar One corporate starcraft was having technical difficulties. It could probably self-repair but, if it could not, it would need to make an emergency landing. An emergency landing on Lloyd’s asteroid.
Base assured him that such a landing probably would not be necessary. However, he was required to stand by for the rest of the night. Something which proved incredibly distracting as he tried to watch HOUSE, an obscure Twentieth Century Japanese horror film he had found in the data pool.
But things got really bad about an hour after he finished watching the movie. The corporate starcraft’s attempt at self-repair had failed. They would be making an emergency landing after all.
Lloyd immediately plunged into despair. He had no wish to share his home with anyone, let alone, some black-suited, wide-tied, self-anointed “cool maker” with a title like “Vice President of Integration, Real Media, Sigma Section.” Such were the types which flew on the Interstellar One corporate craft.
The news kept getting worse. Lloyd was informed that the craft would be arriving the very next day and he should prepare to “temporarily lodge” those on board for between forty-six to a-hundred-and-three days.
He was already reeling from this information. Three months of uninvited company was not the sort of thing that made him happy. But the blows kept coming.
Lloyd had been expecting one, maybe two, of the cool corporate types he so despised. Plus the crew. No more than five or six people total. Painful enough.
He was told to expect nineteen.
He just couldn’t see it. More honestly, he COULD see it, and the vision terrified him. Nineteen people. With him. Invading his world. Destroying his rituals and routines. For months.
He wanted to quit on the spot and just leave. Which was a problem. He could resign and give up his highly lucrative and, up until then, perfect job. But even then there was no way he could leave. He was stuck on the asteroid he had so loved. Imprisoned.
He told himself it couldn’t get any worse. But he, of all people, should have known better. It can ALWAYS be worse. And it did.
He watched the sleek corporate craft with the Interstellar One logo on its tail slowly descend. He read the annoying catch phrase painted up the entire length of its side: “Bringing Music and Love to the Universe.” He prepared for the army of arrogant corporate music executives and their self-entitled attitudes.
What he saw was far more terrifying.
Even he recognized them. They were THAT big. That famous.
They were walking down the gangplank, all thirteen of them. All girls, ages nineteen to twenty-four. It was SOFT HUG the most popular Kpop band in the star system.
Lloyd knew he had only himself to blame. For, with every inch of his being, he understood that this was retribution for all he had ever done wrong. It was a fate he deserved.
He had finally been sent to hell.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the first work of fiction I have ever posted on this site. I hope to add a few more here and there, where appropriate. However, the site’s topics will remain more or less as they are and remain primarily non-fiction. If you have any thoughts, pro or con, please let me know in the comments section below.
As pertains to this specific story, it’s fiction. I have actually been a closet Kpop fan for years and consider groups like BLACK PINK and AOA to be tremendously talented entertainers. But don’t tell anyone. I’m still fighting off music snobs for my article on THE CARS and don’t need any more grief right now.