“Extended Periods of Absence” by James Bloomer

“I don’t think that it is too much to ask for you to tidy the kitchen.” Tanya’s face caged her anger.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “it slipped my mind.”

“Slipped your mind!” Now the anger was unleashed, roaring at me like a pack of hunting carnivores. She blinked and in a micro-second I was pulled to the far future, to spend a month fighting off the Alerion invasion of the solar system, a long bloody war where mankind stared into the abyss of annihilation.

I returned, weary and burnt out, to face Tanya.

“I cook dinner every night,” said Tanya.

“We could get a takeaway,” I said, shrugging.

“Or you could cook.”

“Me? Well, yeah, okay.”

“Don’t sound too enthusiastic.” Tanya turned away from me. I was relocated in time to the shipyards of Jupiter, as we raced to build a generation ship that could carry us away from our dying sun. A year I toiled. Hard graft. People died. We were desperate.
I returned to see Tanya flick on the kettle. The sight of her a tonic to my aching mind. She turned to see me smile.

“You think that this is funny?” she said.

“No, no of course not,” I said, struggling to remember what the conversation was about. “It’s just that I love the sight of you.”

“Compliments won’t get you out of this,” said Tanya brusquely, but I could sense her coldness thawing.

“Tanya,” I said softly.

Pulled away again, five years of terror as we tried to settle a rock that we struggled to call home. The indigenous species a nightmare monster, full of intelligence and cruelty and violence. We were taken to the brink. Coming back only due to a stubborn refusal to accept extinction.

And I was brought back into Tanya’s gaze, and I fell into her arms. I couldn’t even remember the last words that she had said. I just knew that I wanted to hold her.

“I love you,” I whispered into her ear.

She pulled back to stare into my eyes.

“Do you think that it’s that easy?” she said.

“Yes,” I said. And she smiled. And we kissed.


James Bloomer has a PhD in particle physics (he studied Tau Leptons at CERN) and has probably forgotten more physics than most people ever learn. He won the 2010 James White Award and the winning story was published in Interzone. His stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, DayBreak Magazine, and a selection of other magazines. He writes software for a living, runs the blog Big Dumb Object, and you can find him on Twitter @bigdumbobject.
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  • Is this autobiographical? I do the same thing when my wife yells at me! It’s exhausting!