D.J. (“Dave”) Butler grew up in swamps, deserts, and mountains. After messing around for years with the practice of law, he finally got serious and turned to his lifelong passion of storytelling. He now writes adventure stories for readers of all ages, plays guitar, and spends as much time as he can with his family. He is the author of numerous novels including the Witchy War series, the Cunning Man series (with Aaron Michael Ritchey), In the Palace of Shadow and Joy, and more. “A Window on Sarovar” is set in the world of his upcoming novel Abbott in Darkness.
Fiction Short Story
Window on Samovar
“I miss windows,” Ellie said.
John tried not to listen to her. He mumbled, mouthing the strange words that ran as a vocabulary list across the screen of his multitool. Eetroo, he read. River. Sarovar Alpha had many rivers. It was a watery planet with two principal continents. Eez, tomb, gravesite. When was he going to have to talk about tombs in his new job as a Company accountant? He shook his head and scanned down, looking for more practical vocabulary. Et, food, that should be a useful word. But what did it mean that em plus a verb constituted a present progressive?
“John,” Ruth said. “You’re folding your hands.”
“You’re just jealous that I’m so flexible.” He grinned at his wife. “Not everyone can touch the back of their wrists with their own fingernails.”
“I’m worried your weak connective tissue will snap and you’ll pull your hands off,” she said.
“That can’t happen,” he said.
“Are you sure? That’s exactly what can happen to your heart.”
John grinned again and said nothing, to avoid the conflict.
Ruth shook her head and looked at the girls. They lay flopped on cushions on the floor of the family’s cabin of the Sarovar Company starship Oberon. The cushions were a pile of all of the cushions from the cabin’s sofa, the pillows from each of the cabin’s four beds, the dog’s sleeping cushion, and two more inflatable foam pillows spat out by the printing unit in the corner. Ruth sat on the sofa, also made of inflatable foam, and without cushions.
“Are you actually looking at pictures of windows on your multi?” she asked Ellie.
Five-year-old Ellie harrumphed.
“You can’t have windows on a starship,” Sunitha told her younger sister.
“You can,” Ellie said. “The ship that took us out to Jupiter had windows.”
“That wasn’t a starship,” Sunitha said. “It was just a shuttle.”
“It still goes in space,” Ellie said.
“But not between stars.” Sunitha dropped into her faux upper-crust British accent. “Sarovar System is forty light-years from Earth. We couldn’t just fly there directly through normal space.”
“Mom,” Ellie said, “Sunitha is now going to try to tell me about wormwood because she thinks I don’t know anything about it or about how we got to Sarovar and she knows everything.”
The lights in the cabin shifted to amber, which was a prelude to a broadcast announcement.
“I do not know everything,” Sunitha said.
Ellie folded her arms across her chest. “That’s right.”
“But I know more than you.”