Flash: Memory of a Kiss

Photo by YesMore Content on Unsplash

Cooling foam still dripped off the newly landed spaceship when the skin cracked and dropped a disembarking plank. Two spacers slid down the rail either side of the steps and barely caught the landing as they adjusted to full planetary gravity. Hurrying away from the ship, they ignored the person yelling words not legally usable on the planet. Local laws did treat ships like embassies, allowing some breaches in etiquette, and basically making the whole port a bastion against the religious restrictions found on Saints World.

The two ignored their fellow crewman. You snooze, you lose. Someone had to stay on ship at all times. Sucks to be Stan. Short for Standby for those who don’t spend a lot of time without gravity. After one final gesture, the figure walked away from the hole, the plank reversing course and resealing the skin. The younger of the two would apologize and trade out later. How much later remained to be seen.

A tiny bar cut out a corner of the customs area, inside the port. Spacers didn’t have to jump through immigration, visas, and tourist entry hoops to get their drink of choice.

“Beer,” were their first words in atmosphere in six weeks.

Saints World restricted words, religions, sex, genders, species, actions, imports, exports, clothing, and a host of other things. If humans could figure a way to make a law about it, Saints had a law. One of those laws was no drinking alcohol.

Except the monasteries made really good alcohol of all sorts – wine, beer, buzzbee, distilled liquors. None of it could be legally exported, except the buzzbee; too much money to be made there for the Church’s governmental coffers. For locals to drink, they had to pay an indulgence tax.

The Port of Call bar folded the tax into their fees; spacers didn’t care.

The two beers hit the smoothed, shiny local wood surface after credits transferred.

They sipped the drink slowly, swallowing carefully. Microgravity taught caution in eating and drinking; food couldn’t always figure which way was “down” when swallowing.

The younger of them shuddered, his Adam’s apple transversing up and down his throat with precision.

The elder set her drink down and sucked in the unrecycled funky air of the spacer joint, still sweeter in its own way than Far Meadows Finder, though she would never say that within the ship’s AI hearing range. She adjusted the ship’s earpod, verifying activation, something both of them should have done before leaving the ship. Mammy likely had followed the regulations to the letter, hence why he remained on ship. FMF pinged back.

The bartender leaned against the wall, watching the customs area for any clients. “Evie, Adrian, welcome back.”

“Father Andrews,” Evie nodded, taking another small sip of the nutty brew. “May as well pour Adrian another. He has the body mass for it.”

The young man hummed agreement beside her, breathing through his nose, the stein never leaving his lips.

“Done.” The monk-custom official drew another beer off the tap and placed it on the wood between them. “Sister Evie—”

“Just Evie, I wouldn’t want to be branded a heretic for assuming citizenship I had to give up.” She smiled sadly at him. “Spacer Evie if you must.”

Father Andrews leaned on the stool behind the bar, not quite sitting, likely some new restriction of when rest may be sought on a holy day. All days on Saints had some holiness to them. “Spacer Evie, may I ask a question?”

Adrian dropped one empty glass and reached for the next. The elder spacer laid a hand on his. “You only get this one, and in an hour you are reporting back to the ship. Think wisely about what is next.”

“Yes Captain.” He picked up the beer and edged toward the stained glass and plants decorating the customs waiting area.

Evie watched until he settled in the colored lights from the sunlight streaming through the glass from the local dual stars. “Please, ask away,” she said, taking another small sip.

“I know spacers can’t drink much in space. Especially crews the size of yours. Always on rotation and may need to respond with no moment’s notice in an emergency, therefore can’t afford any recreational impairment. But why is beer so important to new arrivals? It’s all they want. Not wine, not buzzbee, not whiskey or gin. Just beer.” The monk reached for the empty glass, accidently brushing the top of her hand where it lay on the bar. “I know you got The Neer, the near-beer substitute, but all spacers want is beer as soon as they arrive.”

“The Neer is worse than pis…not quite perfect.” Evie changed her words soon enough the high-ranking monk wouldn’t need to report them. The custom’s area did obey planetary regulations, mostly.

The Saint grounder shook his head. “I know it is not Blue Mountains or Crystal Stream, but the bitter and hops has a good mouth feel. Sure the foam is missing, but you can’t have that in space.”

“Worst thing inside the skin, needing to burp and can’t because the body doesn’t know how to in the microgravs.” Evie ran a finger through the condensation, wondering at it. On ship, those drops would be breaking off into balls of water she would be needing hunt down, while the other on-duty crewman would be adjusting environment to prevent more condensation from occurring. “Neer isn’t beer, even with the trippy version providing the five minutes relaxation effect. No bubbles. The bitter is off somehow. Gravity holds the world.” She shrugged, taking another sip. “Drinking The Neer is like … a memory of kiss. When all you can have is the memory, you turn it over in your head a thousand times.” She looked at Father Andrews for a moment, pushing against at least four commandments but worth it, making eye contact with eyes that exactly matched Adrian’s in color. “But nothing can compare to being held and kissed by one you love.”

(words 1,002; first published 1/21/2024 – created 11/14/2023)

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