Joe at the Helm

By Lee Alon




Things have taken a definite downturn with Joe at the helm, forever doomed to continue onwards in a ceaseless spiral of morbid aimlessness.

Joe was wondering how the hell he managed to put himself in this miserable predicament after so many years of trying to avoid just that. As he saw it, there was no clear-cut answer to such an annoying enigma. Life just sucks, Joe decided, and then you (hopefully) die.

Only for him there will be no blissful relief, no release from eternal damnation, no respite. Joe was doomed to remain here captaining this drifting hulk, with only irritating Martha for company. Once a beautiful award winning model, Martha (although still hot beyond what most mortal men could ever imagine) was now nothing more than a bickering wench bent on driving Joe further beyond the edge, past a point he previously thought unimaginable. While other guys might deem him lucky for getting free action every night courtesy of Marthaís breathtaking figure and willingness to partake in some kinky shenanigans, Joe knew the truth: he hasnít felt passion in eons, couldnít even recall what it felt like in his past life. Now the mechanical encounters he had with the demon were simply distractions, a means of forgetting just how fucked up he was.

The ship was bigger than both of them could ever hope to discover. Martha, who constantly harangued him about her glorious history as a universe-conquering fashion magnet, took to remaining enclosed in one area, never venturing beyond her confines for any reason. Not that there were reasons anymore. The devastated duo hasnít been sick, hungry, tired, thirsty or in any way physiologically challenged for millennia. Joe missed taking a shit so much he could taste it. Oddly enough, they just got horny every night, like clock work. At first enjoying Marthaís huge, erect 36DDís, perfect six two figure, flat belly, slightly tan complexion and smooth, creamy manifestation was indeed a heavenly experience, yet soon enough the novelty dissipated. Joe came to realize it wasnít him doing the thinking, not even his little trusty appendage. It was literally a mechanism neither of them could restrain which made the two copulate feverishly at exactly the same time every single night. If there were nights, or days. You try doing this for thousands of years on end.

Joe was equally compelled into returning to the shipís cockpit (no pun intended) after these illustrious encounters and take up navigation duties. But just like his intercourse with Martha, being at the helm was some higher beingís idea of a joke. Joe had as little control of where the ship was headed as he had over being on it to begin with.

Besides these two chores Joe was pretty much left to his own devices, which meant he spent eternity trawling the behemothís endless organic corridors, echoey chambers and bottomless grottoes. He would ever so often hear stuff rustling behind him in the shadows, or perhaps even imagine screams and moans floating down from far above. It could have been Marthaís dementia, but not likely with the ship so vast. Although his memory was slowly degenerating, Joe recalled times when on his sojourns throughout the colossus he would run around terrified, believing some horrific abomination breathing down his neck, until it dawned on him he could never die, could never even get seriously hurt. He flung himself from tremendously precipitous heights only to crash violently and walk away unscathed a split second later. Even breathing made no difference. He could stop and not a glitch: like some pre-fabricated drone heíd find himself at those two daily junctures, fucking Martha and piloting the wreck, no matter how far he wandered off.

-----

Another time Joe spotted himself again at the helm. It was akin to waking up while knowing you never slept. He remembered the previous roll in the sack with Martha vividly: that girl had aeonsí worth of head-giving expertise under her belt by now.

Concentrating hard, Joseph tried bringing back recollections from his past. Useless. His brain wasnít good for much anymore. There was nothing there about who he was, where he came from, howíd he get on this hurtling piece of junk. No family name, faces (except Marthaís) or remote connotations. Blank. Through some weird twist of irony, Joe had pixel perfect images of what was apparently his car in another life (a mint garnet red Chevy Caprice), every video game he ever played and a list of favorite grocery items, etched forever at the forefront of his rotting psyche.

Martha, on the other hand, had nothing but memories of her past existence. She tirelessly accosted him with fashion world minutiae and other assorted trivia he found almost as infuriating as being held captive here.

-----

Joe bit Marthaís left nipple. She whimpered and groaned with untold satisfaction. He pressed the monolithic breasts tightly, making her work the other nipple simultaneously.

They fornicated voraciously for hours. Joeís prowess had no limits. Every time they did it there was new stuff to explore. That night Martha discovered twenty new ways he could make her come by use of her belly button alone. Amnesia or not, Joe was certain he was nothing like this Herculean lover type before.

He was mindlessly ambling his way back to the cockpit when the noises came back. Something crept eerily in the barely lit corridor behind him. He turned, bored and expecting to see nothing. No surprises.

The cockpit door whooshed shut as he sat down at the plush armchair. Massive, ornate controls lowered hydraulically and settled in front of him. He moved them this way and that, but nothing really changed. The ship responded, but wherever Joe pointed was the same. With so many astral objects flying around in space they should have struck something by now, something big enough to take him away from all this misery. Joe was depressed again, as usual. He longed for variety. Even having Martha do her annoying spiel here, on his turf, instead of in her usual chambers would be a refreshing change.

He longed for death.

There was a brushing sound coming from outside the door. It wooshed open, and a thing entered the cockpit with obvious nonchalance. Joe thought he should have been astounded, yet he wasnít. The scene reminded him of doing it with Martha and flying the ship. He had zero input into unfolding events.

"Joe", said the thing, "I know youíve been hearing me creep around you, this was part of the test".

"What test?" asked Joe, trying unsuccessfully to sound bewildered.

"To see if you would come to the right conclusions. To check whether or not what is really going on here would become apparent to you. Needless to say, you failed admirably. This makes sense if you look at the life you led", the thing noted.

"Is Martha part of it?"

"No, sheís a genuine babe. Enjoying yourself?"

"Now you ask me? Iíve been banging her for how long now?"

The thing seemed to ponder Joeís query. "No definite time frame. Quite long, either way".

"Who are you?"

"Not sure. Like you I was put here for some purpose and little else. Mine is apparently to test you and recall items relating to your past life. Mostly your misadventures. I have to say you were quite a let-down back then."

"So you remember stuff about me, and you know itís your duty to give me tests. Let me guess, you canít help it, right?" asked Joe.

"Joseph, they always said you were far removed from genius. Of course I didnít choose any of this. Like you and Martha I found myself here and started doing things. How and why has long ago faded from my mind", answered the thing.

"What are you?" Joe wanted to know.

"No clue. What are you?"

"IímÖIímÖJoe".

"My point exactly", the thing was a bit cheerful as he quipped that last one. "Actually Joe, considering your ill-fated sci-fi streak and with all the movies youíve watched Iím surprised youíre not screaming right now at the sight of me", the thing was getting a tad too haughty for Joeís liking.

"Yeah, maybe. So are you like a custodian or something?"

"Sorry, canít help you there. Iím here exactly the same way you are". The thing was poking at something on the floor, with obvious boredom.

"So why the hell did you come here right now to begin with? Donít you have somebody else to bug?" Joe felt a compulsion to navigate.

"Eh, what? Oh. Well, itís like this: I havenít the faintest why Iím supposed to follow and test you, I just know it. The test, by the way, was to see if anything would come back to you. However, it seems memories are increasingly leaving your mind, so youíve failed. Test over".

"Jeez man, thatís the most pointless waste of time ever. What on
Earth is it meant to accomplish?" Joe couldnít wait for the thing to leave since he was annoyed at going through the conversational motions like a badly scripted robot actor.

"Iím not on Earth".

"YeahÖalrighty then. Let me get back to controlling the ship ok? Thanks".

"You ainít controlling nothing, man". The thing was snickering. "Before I forget, the test was also designed to gauge your ability to resist the programming weíve all experienced. If you stop to think about it, all of us have been subjected to the same test, and weíre all losers. I canít stop testing and following you. Iím a total loser. Ha!" The thing looked like understanding something complex after a long time trying. Presently it made to leave by crawling back down the corridor.

Joe knew he had two more questions to ask.

"Hold up, are you gonna keep following me around? And, and, what exactly is it you know about my past life?"

"Iíll probably stop following coz something tells me the test is over, like I mentioned before. As for your record, I mostly have bits and pieces regarding career, education, hobbies and other highlights. Guess Iím sorta like a resume, in your case filled with failure. You were a failure, Joe".

The last sentence echoed down the shipís interior for unknown reasons. Later even Martha mentioned something about it to Joe.

The thing crept out the chamber and quickly disappeared.

Joe was conspicuously unmoved by the discourse. Instead of ecstatic, he was largely numb.

-----

"Let me tell you about Tokyo, Joe, now thatís a place! Iíve been there lots of times, you know, doing shows and stuff. One timeÖ"

"Shut up Martha, Iím not here for the engaging rapport", Joe was less and less tolerant of her drivel. Besides, her speech was too fast for comfort. It sounded like she said "Tokyo Joe", a name strangely familiar to him somehow.

The two were getting geared up for their nocturnal amorous ritual.

He had to ask. "Did you ever run into anybody else besides me?"

"Sure".

"What?! How come you never said anything?" Joe only sounded surprised.

"Thereís a little creep teaching math to an empty classroom just around the corner. Itís kinda funny. You should check it out. Heís the only one except you. Anyway, one time I was walking in Ginza andÖ"

"Martha, do the whole freakiní cosmos a favor and put a sock in it" Joe said while unstrapping her bra.

-----

Some time later Joe finished his romantic duties with Martha and went for a walk in her foreboding quadrant. The corridors here were even more desolate and dark than in other parts of the ship. He was mentally prepared for losing his way in this horrific environment when a light came into view as he turned a corner. It poured from a room built into the wall. Joe heard a tinny nasal voice going on about something scientific-sounding.

He went inside.

"Hi Joe, wonít you grab a seat?" denoted the little creep. He looked like a math teacher alright, pointing to an empty chair. There were rows of desks with chairs. Each desk had textbooks, all open to the same page. Even pencils and erasers. Joe sat down. He noticed the blackboard was full of equations, calculations and other crap.

"Thanks for coming. Joe, since I know next to nothing about you Iím gonna have to give you a little quiz".

"For Peteís sake not you too. Enough with the testing". Joe, once more, only sounded agitated.

"Itís my job, you see, Iím testing anyone who comes to join the class. Ask any of my students, theyíll tell you", the little creep looked around the room as if it was filled with attentive learners.

Joe laughed out loud. "Heh, I think you got it wrong there Archimedes or whatever your name is. Your job on this hunk a junk is probably resident cuckoo. There isnít anyone here, dumbass!".

"Now, now, please refrain from using such foul language. You should take an example from my other students, they never complain".

"Thatís because theyíre not here" Joe hissed at the hamster-like instructor. "Do you, by any chance, remember who you are and how you got here?"

"No, I donít. I teach math, you see", he was half looking at Joe, half waving his hands at the blackboard as if trying to demonstrate some far flung concept.

"Just teaching, hmmm? Who are the other students?" Joe asked.

"Passengers like us, I suppose. I never ask, They wouldnít know. Do you?" The little creep gazed at Joe fixedly.

"No". But then something clicked inside Joeís head. Something dormant for countless millennia. Remembrance! Joe had a bonafide memory moment. "But I sure know I hate math! I know I hate math! Hey man, I remember!"

"Sorry Joe, that may not necessarily be your memory. However, it is in keeping with your abysmal history of slacking off and underachieving", said the thing.

"Aaaah! Where the hell did you come from?" Joe yelled as the thing took to lounging on a few desks.

"I kept following you after all. Maybe you got a second chance. Or maybe some other eventuality transpired. But anyway I think you might have made some progress here", the thing was picking at its pointy fangs.

"So did I pass the test?"

"I havenít administered any quiz yet", answered the little creep.

"Wasnít talking to you, Pythagoras".

"You remember lots of math characters for someone who failed it in high school", the thing puzzled. "And I donít think you passed MY test. I would feel it if you did".

"You donít know? Not much of a tester are you?"

"Hey pal, letís not get bitter here. After all, youíre our navigator but I doubt you have any notion of where the ship is headed", the thing asserted.

Joe saw his point.

"Excuse me, but if youÖpeople, yes, if you donít want to study then please let the others get back to class business okay? We have quite the syllabus to go through" the little creep sounded adamant.

Thing pointed its bony tail at the blackboard. "What are you teaching them, anyway?"

"Basics of Hyperspace Drive Logarithms". The thing and Joe both noticed the blackboard was full of schematics and numbers prescribing the workings of starship engines.

Joe felt tired at just thinking of such lifeless tripe. "Itís been fun guys, but my helm shift is up so if youíll excuse meÖ"

"Sure Joe, itís just one more thing for you to leave unfinished. Who cares?" The thing was enjoying a spate of cynical laughter.

"Up yours", Joe exited the room gracefully. "Catch ya later, Hawkins". He gave the little creep a wink.

On his way to the cockpit Joe thought he heard something rustling behind him. But, oddly, this time it left a prickly sensation in his brain, like the eerie movement was, in fact, inside him and not in the gloomy corridor.

-----

He navigated the ship for a while. Without being able to trace it, he felt like this time the controls were definitely not as before. Then he saw something taped to the wall- a post-it note. Joe reached over to pluck it. From Martha! She was here? Outside her lair of decadence? Maybe things were changing.

Joe read. It said Martha realized talking to him was a waste of time. She maintained he had little or no idea how women should be treated, and that he was becoming too much of a selfish bastard for her to take. Martha also made some bold claims regarding their sex life. She stated, amazingly, that from now on sheíll learn to live without Joe, using either herself or the little creep down the hall to sate any irresistible impulses. Joe found all this incredulous. It made his mind-itch become more of a buzzing roar. Something was different. Joe didnít want to lose Martha. That was it. He KNEW losing her would be bad, especially to someone like Mr. Pen Pocket over there. Heíd make her see there was more to him than a pre-packaged stud. Sheíll have to think beyond the erection, and come to know the man within.

Things were clicking in Joeís mind. He saw stuff rushing back over him, clearer and clearer. No longer was it just the car, grocery list and games, he remembered. Images came and went with lightning speed, but some lingered. He recalled.

The door whooshed.

"Joe, I believe youíve done a manís job after all this time. Look ahead". The thing happily pointed to the star screen with one of its clawed limbs.

The scope indicated they were now inside a nine-planet system. This was rather immaterial, except for Joe never before noticing the cockpit even had such an instrument.

"What do you mean? Iím making a difference now? IímÖIím in control?"

"Maybe. But then again, who is? I do, however, feel youíve passed the test. You remember! What do you remember Joe?"

"I can see faces, people. I know which town I came from. I remember the first time on this ship. These memoriesÖhowíd I get them back? Hey, my favorite movie, I know! Blade Runner!"

"Good call, Joe. Donít ask me where the stuff came back from. I, too, am recollecting. But my memories are beyond anything the likes of you could possibly comprehend".

Joe snapped out of his euphoric daze. "Ah? You remember being a class-A snob asshole? Give me a break, beyond my comprehension".

"There can be no dialogue with fungus!" Wailed the thing.

This made Joe think back to a movie he watched with three buddies at a cineplex back in í97. He didnít sleep for a week after seeing that flick. The thing was in it.

"AAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!" he screamed.

"Joe, Joe!" the thing was shaking him.

"AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGHHHHH! Please donít devour me! Please, I seen you do it!"

The thing slapped him across the face with slithery tentacles. "Joe, Iím sorry man, I couldnít help myself. I meant my memoriesÖwell, canít explain them to you, thatís all. And youíre not fungus, youíre my pal! Dude!"

Joe slowly came to. He looked at the controls. The ship responded faster than ever. More memories came back. "I remember being alone. Afraid of never finding love. I see myself wasting life on, on, on stuff. No substance, just wandering around without any goals. Man, I remember fear and desperation! Why do I remember now? It was better being ignorant!" Joe was nearly tearful.

The thing thought that one over. "True, but stop to think of how miserable we were a mere short time ago. I, for one, bask in a glorious past filled with gilded triumphs and consecutive victories over vanquished foes. IÖ"

"Thanks for rubbing it in, man!"

The thing seemed to shrink, although it was still immense. "Sorry Joe. All Iím saying is that getting our past back should fill us with renewed ambition. A desire to do things right. Weíve been given a golden opportunity, a chance to begin again!"

"How the hell are we to begin again stuck on this oversized debris?" Joe blared.

"Great, Joe! Youíre thinking! Yes, thatís our new objective: getting out. And out weíll get, even if it means Iíll have to chew an exit!"

Looking at the thingís mouth, Joe could certainly see that latter scenario coming to pass.

Martha. The need to keep her in his life resurfaced. This was one resolution he would not drop halfway, a mission he would not let fall by the wayside.

"What about Martha? Has she changed? I think she did, look at her note". Joe handed it to the thing.

"Hmmm."

"Well?"

"Hmmmm".

"So?"

"She changed".

Joe rolled his eyes. "Wow, that was brilliant, howíd you divine that gem of an observation?"

The thing failed to see his sarcasm. "Well, for one sheís expressing feelings in a way never before apparent. Also, she wasnít at her room for the first time".

"How do you know sheís not there?"

The thingís multitude of beady black eyes blinked in unison.

"I gotta go see her, man. I canít lose her, not now, not after being a dick for so long".

"Or using one for so longÖha ha ha!" The thing laughed.

Joe was getting up when something else occurred to him. He leaned forward towards a previously unseen cluster of lights, and pressed a switch labeled Auto Pilot.

He looked at the thing on his way out. Instinctively, his hand shot slowly up. The thing grasped it warmly and accepted the shake. "Good luck Joe".

Joe knew they wouldnít see each other again. "Good luck, man".

-----

On his way to her place, Joe passed by the classroom. The corridors seemed less ominous somehow. Inside, the blackboard sported a pink post-it. Joe wondered when Office Max took up residence on the ship without his knowledge.

It was from the little creep. He proclaimed to have found every answer to each problem on his agenda, freeing cerebral resources until then shackled and unusable. The little creep took leave from his post, but vowed to return with plans for an all-space drive liable to take them home.

-----

Joe recalled the thing mentioning Martha going AWOL, but gladly she was back, dressed to impress and exuding eroticism.

"Martha, Iíd like you to reconsider and maybe one day forgive me, I had no control over stuff between us".

"And isnít that like your modus operandi, eh Joe? Anything bad goes down just say it wasnít you", replied Martha.

"Look, us remembering and me wanting to be with you of my own volition has to mean something. Give me a chance, please?"

Even though not at the helm anymore, Joe knew precisely where he wanted to go. Building a life with Martha seemed ridiculous, but there were no options left.

"Iíll try, Joe. Iíll work hard at making this happen, because I too remember".

"What kind of memory? Tell me".

Martha looked out through a porthole into orderly space. "Always wanting you".

The End

Copyright © 2003 by Lee Alon

Bio:

neoadorable@yahoo.com

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