Authors: Gary Ghislain
FOR ILO AND SISKO, MY TWO FAVORITE SPACEGIRLS IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSEâ¦ AND BEYOND!
here are a few things everybody knows about Zelda:
1. They caught her stealing food in a supermarket just outside Paris.
2. She was “scantily dressed” in some sort ofâ¦let me seeâ¦“futuristic fetish outfit.”
3. She resisted arrest and sent two security guys to the hospital with concussions and a few broken bones.
4. They couldn't find her relatives, or any sign of a past, or anyone who knew herâlike she had just fallen from the sky.
Which makes it
much more interesting when she says she's from outer space.
I've been passing by Dad's office again and again, pretending to go to the bathroom but really trying to get a good look at her through the open door.
Here's the extra data I've gathered during my expeditions:
5. She has long, dark-blond hair. It's curly and messy, and she keeps hiding her eyes behind it.
6. Regarding the eyes: I managed to see them when she blew her hair sideways to take a good look back at me. They're green and mean.
7. She's pretty in a scary sort of way. Like something you'd really like to touch but that will probably bite.
8. Oh, and she's very tall for a girl. I think she's quite thin, too but it's hard to tell because she's wearing the oversize, worn-out jeans and sweater they give them at the juvenile detention center. I'd say she's about fifteen or sixteen, but she told Dad she's three hundred twenty-fiveâthat's three hundred twenty-five years on her planet.
I decide to make another round trip to the toilet. She has moved her hair sideways, like she knew I was coming.
“Why are you staring at me like that?”
“I'm not staring at you.” I point toward the bathroom. “I live here. I was just passing by.”
“So keep on passing by, DWARF!”
The policewoman sitting next to her jerks her handcuffs.
I walk away and lock myself in the bathroom.
I'm only fourteen. I might still be growing.
Dad lives on a farm in the middle of nowhereânowhere being the very edge of Normandy, one hundred miles from Paris. His village is surrounded by cornfields, apple trees, cows, and hateful villagers. The village is called Cornouaille. The villagers are called Cornouaillois, which is a ridiculous name and probably adds to their resentment.
The Cornouaillois hate Dad unanimously. He's from Paris, and he's a famous therapist, and that's more than enough to tick them off. They call him the “nutty professor” and his house the “nut farm” because of all the “troubled” teenagers the judge sends here to be fixed.
Now Dad's fixing Zelda.
“Is she crazy?” I ask.
Dad smiles. He's making her a hot chocolate and gazing at the cornfield beyond our back garden while the milk warms up. “No one is ever crazy, David.”
I look down at the tray he's bringing her. He's not using the cheap chocolate cookies he usually gives patients. He's giving her
cookies! The fancy new crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e ones I brought with me from Mom's place in Paris.
“Is she dangerous?”
“No, she's not dangerous.”
“So why is she handcuffed in your office?”
“Mm? Good question, son.” He blows gently on her hot chocolate, thinking it over. “You're right, it does show very little trust. I'll take the handcuffs off tonight.”
I'm having a nightmare where Zelda asks me to cut off her hands to remove her handcuffs when I'm awakened by a commotion downstairs.
As I leave my room, I see two uniformed policemen arguing with Dad down in the foyer. A train conductor has been beaten up. Zelda has escaped. They brought her back.
“She's a demon, a tigress, THE DEVIL!” one of the policemen tells Dad.
I sit down at the top of the stairs, where no one can see me.
“She escaped because she thinks she's here on a mission,” Dad explains.
But the policemen don't care what sort of nuts she is. They don't want Zelda to beat up any more train conductors.
“Use the damn shackles and lock her in her room!”
“I will,” Dad concedes. “But she'll escape again. Her drive is
You can hear the pride in Dad's voice. It must be very annoying for the policemen.
Dad offers them coffeeâor something stronger, like a Cognac or a local Calvados.
One of the policemen relaxes the second a Cognac lands in his hand. “She's not your everyday little girl.” He empties his glass in a single gulp. “Took four of our guys to immobilize her. Two of them are lying in the hospital as we speak.”
“She's tough,” Dad agrees, and refills their glasses.
I'm alone, eating my second serving of Coco Pops. Dad's still sleeping, recovering from last night's madness. I made him a pot of coffee and toasted some bread, hoping the smell would wake him
up so I can keep grilling him about Zelda. In the meantime, I flip through the letters the postman just dropped on the kitchen table. I'm trying to find the exciting ones, like Dad's daily hate mail. Last summer, Dad received two rabbit heads in a shoebox. The villagers would love to see him and the nut farm gone, and they don't mind wasting a rabbit or two to let him know.
One letter catches my eye because of the funny snake logo and the thick, fancy paper. It's been addressed to Dad's office in Paris and forwarded here. I open it. It's another cuckoo message about Zelda. We've gotten plenty of those since Dad was on TV to talk about his work with her. It's just a few words beautifully handwritten on the thick sheet of paper:
Let the Traveler go. Zelda belongs with us. First warning.
It's signed “The Sanctuary” with an
like a snake.
I quickly put the letter back in its strange envelope and drop it on the table when I hear Dad coming out of his room, yawning loudly.
He grabs a cup of coffee, sits at the table, and reaches to gently stroke my hair.
“Why did you tell them she's on a mission?” I ask, pouring extra milk over my Coco Pops.
Dad looks up from his coffee cup. The pouches under his eyes are two shades darker than usual. “Were you listening last night?”
I nod. It's no big surprise. Dad already knows how nosy I am.
“She's on some sort of quest,” he explains.
Dad never avoids a challenging question. He believes children deserve the truth, no matter what. I still regret asking him where babies come from at an age when most kids are perfectly happy with the stork theory.
“She's looking for a boyfriend.”
Even my Coco Pops stop popping.
“Or a soul mate, if you like,” Dad says, buttering a cold piece of toast. “She calls him her âchosen one,' and she believes he's waiting for her, somewhereâ¦
He draws a large circle with the butter knife. By “around here,” he means Earth.
told you to leave me alone, dwarf.”
Zelda's sitting on the floor in Dad's office, pulling hard on her shackles like she's trying to break the chain tying her ankle to the couch.
“I'm not a dwarf. I'm only fourteen. I'm still growing.”
She stops yanking on the shackles and turns around to give me a mean green look. “Same thing. You're
She gives the shackles a serious pull.
“There's no point doing that. They're not going to break.”
She gives a series of even stronger pulls.
Clank! Clank! Clank!
Even the couch must have felt those.
“Stop it. You're just hurting yourself.”
She closes her eyes and lies down, breathing heavily. “Are you going to stare at me like that all day?”
“I'm not staring. I was on my way to see Olivier before you started dismembering yourself.”
She reopens her eyes. “What is
“My friend. Our neighbor. He's fourteen, too.”
“He's actually quite tall.”
She sits up, rubbing her ankle.
“He's a bit fat, too.”
Out of nowhere, she flips around and lands on all fours, looking straight into my eyes.
“His mother says he's big boned.” I take a step back. She looks kind of threatening. “And he had a real girlfriend last year at summer camp. You can ask him: Kissing a girl is like kissing raw chicken.”
I'm not usually this talkative.
“Yeah, all weird and gooey.”
She seems to think about this, thenâ
âshe leaps forward. The couch, an iron monster of about a gazillion tons, jumps forward a good half inch, and I'm so startled I fall back on my butt in the corridor.
Here's another thing about Zelda: She's really stubborn.
“She wants a boyfriend.”
“You mean she wants to have
?” Olivier says
with the excitement you normally associate with climbing Mount Everest.
“Dad didn't say anything about that.”
We're sitting in his garden, eating blue-cheese snacks and daydreaming about Zelda.
“Is she hot? Can we go see her?”
“No, we can't go see her. She's busy.”
“Busy doing what?”
He snatches the pack of snacks while I try to come up with a good excuse to keep stalking Zelda on my own.
“She's busy getting fixed by Dad. They still have a lot of work to do.”
He calls his dog, Pipette, the only creature besides me who can stand Olivier, and starts scratching him. I join in, even though I don't like Pipette very much. It's nothing personal. When I was four, Mom had a Doberman. It attacked me and chewed off half my face. I stayed a full year in a clinic where they fixed my looks. I have a long scar hidden under my hair and a small one on the left side of my nose to prove it.
I don't like dogs in general.
“Did you tell her I had a girlfriend at summer camp?”
“I sure did.”
“Does she want to meet me, then?”
He smiles widely, something you should never do while eating blue-cheese snacks. “I get it. You're scared.”
“Scared of what?”
“Scared she can't resist my sex appeal and my moves.” He demonstrates his “moves” by embracing an imaginary girl and giving her a series of soggy little kisses. “Are
going to kiss her, then?” he asks, dropping the poor imaginary girl on the ground.
“Who? Zelda? No! She's, like, dangerous.” Pipette can't believe his luck: I've suddenly doubled my scratching speed.
“I mean, she's in your home. Locked. Handcuffed. Looking for a boyfriend.” He leans so close I'm afraid he's going to try his moves on
“Jump on her. Try to make out with her. She's, like, open territory, buddy.”
Pipette runs away yapping. I've crossed the thin line between pleasure and pain.
“You think she would like that? Being jumped on?”
“Totally! Girls love that kind of stuff. Let's go shoot some frogs.”
Dad doesn't want me to shoot frogs. He would rather talk about
I want to shoot them, which is way less fun. We go into Olivier's room for his air gun. I grab a new can of ammo from under his bed.
“She really believes she's from outer space?” he asks, getting his air gun from its hiding place under his mattress.
“Yes.” I pass him the pellets and crawl deeper under the bed, reaching for his stash of comics.
Olivier is a DC fiend. I'm a Marvel guy. That's one of the many fundamental differences between us.
I look at the cover. Power Girl, flying high in the sky, a jetliner passing right under her. She stares at me with narrowed eyes, her face and body wrapped in her windblown platinum-blond hair and floating red cape.
Olivier crawls up beside me and picks up another Power Girl comic. “Is she anything like her?” He nods toward the cover. “You know, with the great bazooms.”
“No, she'sâ¦she's just not like that.”
“Can you imagine?” He kisses Power Girl on the cover. “A Supergirl living right next door in your house.” He turns the pages to show me how
that would be.
Splash! Poom! Plop! Whiiiiz!
“Too bad your Spacegirl has small bazongas.”
“She does not! They'reâ¦” I try to show him more or less with my hands. “Besides, she's not a Supergirl or a Spacegirl.” I crawl out from under the bed. He's so annoying. I don't want him to talk about Zelda anymore, especially about bazooms and bazongas.
“So she's just nuts?” He gets out from under the bed, tossing the Power Girl comics on his duvet, probably for more kissing and contemplation later.
I nod, loading a pellet into the gun. “Yes. She's just nuts.”
There is a frog convention at the pond, but I don't have the heart to kill even one of them. I can't stop thinking about Zelda. Olivier gets annoyed and says I'm ruining the fun of killing frogs.
When I get back home, she's not in Dad's office anymore. She's sitting at the kitchen table, handcuffed to her chair while Dad's cooking lunch. She's playing with bread, making perfect little balls and lining them up on her plate.
“Are all the boys ugly on your planet?” I ask when Dad leaves us to get some wine from the cellar.
She adds another bread ball to the line. “There are no boys on Vahalal.”
is the planet I come from, and men are forbidden on it.”
“There's only girls on your planet?”
“Yes. It is what you Earthlings call paradise.” She starts eating the bread balls.
“What would happen if I accidentally landed on your planet?” I look over my shoulder, making sure Dad is still going through his extensive collection of Burgundy. “Would I be some sort of king, being the only man?”
you would be destroyed immediately.”
“More like vaporized by the Valks the instant you set foot on Vahalal.” She illustrates by squeezing a bread ball into nothingness.
“What's a Valk?”
“Valks are fearless warriors and holy servants of Zook.”
I want to laugh, because the Zooky-thingy sounds pretty funny. I don't. Dad's back, and the main rule in his house is
act normal when guests talk nuts.
“Do you have wine on your planet?” I ask when Dad uncorks his bottle of Burgundy and helps himself to a very large glass.
“Alcohol as a form of entertainment has been banned since the fall of the fifth Primitive Empire.” She collects a drop of wine sliding down the bottle with her finger and brings it to the tip of her tongue. “Phenolic acid, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, andâ¦by Zook! You're drinking sulfites, Earthling!”
“Well”âDad tastes the wineâ“there are also lovely aromas of cherry, raspberry, and pear, don't you think?” He gulps down half the glass, totally ignoring her warning about the sulfites.
Dad's too tired for their afternoon session. He's gone to “read” in his officeâmeaning he's sleeping on his couchâand she's locked upstairs in her room like a prisoner.
My heart's racing as I try to get a peek at her through the key-hole. I can see a corner of her bed and one of her bare feet dangling over the edge.
“Why do you like watching me so much, dwarf?”
She must have some sort of radar.
“I'm not watching you. I justâ¦I wanted to ask you something.”
She gets off the bed. Her eye appears right in front of mine on the other side of the keyhole. They're not just mean. They're beautiful, too.
“Why are men forbidden on your planet?”
“Men are a lower form of hominid,” she answers, like it's obvious.
“What does that mean?”
“They're inferior to women, weak, dirty, and generally useless to the survival of our species.”
“What about nice men? Orâ¦nice boys?” (I.e., me.)
“Don't be absurd. There's no such thing.”
“Why are you looking for a boyfriend, then?”
“It's my duty. I am a Traveler.”
“What's a Traveler?”
No answer. Just her green eye staring at me. “Can you unlock the door?” she asks.
“I don't have the key.”
“Can you get the key?”
It's on Dad's desk. And Dad's sleeping like a corpse. If I weren't such a good boy, I could easily get it and set her free.
“No, I can't get the key,” I lie.
A brief silence and then, “You are useless, Earthling. Leave me alone.” And the eye is gone.
Damn! We were just starting to develop a serious keyhole relationship.
“Don't you want someone to talk to?”
“Don't you have
you need to play with?”
Okay, maybe I do. But they can wait. Because right now, I can't think of anything better than talking to her. I've glued my eye to the keyhole again: She's sitting on the bed, tearing a pillowcase.
“What are you doing with that pillow?”
A rope? A weapon? Fuel for a spaceship? No! A curtain! Against me!
She hangs it over my peephole. Show's over. Just when I wanted more.
I feel bad for Dad. The policemen were right. She's a demon, a tigress, THE DEVIL!
He took her out of her room for a late session, sat her in his office, andâ
âshe jumped on him and smashed his iron elephant right on top of his head. I heard him cry for help, and when I came into the office, she was already running away across the garden, jumping over the fence like some kind of gazelle.
I'll tell you one thing: This girl's got legs.
I'm lying on my bed, contemplating the little fluorescent constellations, galaxies, and stars glued to the ceiling above me. She's so violent. I've never met a girl as violent as she is. Dad's the nicest person in the world. You cannot smash an iron elephant on the nicest man in the world's head!
I'm so angry at her. Spacegirl, my foot! She's just another thug with too much imagination, like all the nutcases Dad tries to fix!
Dad is downstairs waiting for the policemen to bring Zelda back. They caught her at a gas station outside Paris. She beat up a truck driver this time. Dad's so ashamed. Two violent escapes in two days: She's ruining his reputation as a friendly nutkeeper.
I sit up on my bed. Dad comes in, carrying a large glass of Cognac. “Son?” he says, sitting beside me and sipping his drink. “I've changed my mind about Zelda. She might be dangerous.” He has a bump the size of a chicken egg on top of his bald head to corroborate that fact.
“I can't have you here anymore,” he says gently. “I'm phoning your mother. You're going back to Paris.”
I don't know what's worse: leaving Zelda or going back to Mom and her tantrums for the rest of the summer.
“In the meantime, you must promise to stay away from Zelda, and that means not talking to her. At all.”
There goes my favorite pastime.
“Now I have to talk with your mom.” Poor Dad. Talking with Mom is
his favorite pastime. He makes a face like one of his ulcers just popped.
“Why are you angry with me, dwarf?” she asks. “I didn't do any-thing to you.”
“I'm not supposed to talk to you. I don't even
to talk to you,” I lie.
Zelda sits down on the terrace floor, pulling on the gizmo locked on her ankle, trying to figure out how to get rid of it pronto. I'm staying at a safe distance, carefully monitoring her movements while pretending to be very busy fixing the back wheel of my bike.