An introvert names a planet in this light-hearted space travel romance story.
Your parents get to name you. Until you are old enough to name yourself. Unless you decide to let them name you again.
You get to name your pets. And they have to, eventually, learn that name. Even if they don’t want to be called Mister Fluffy.
And I got to name this planet.
So when you fly in your spaceship and look across the galaxies to this tiny planet so far away you see the following: Uninhabitable Planet.
When you look back at your planet you see: Earth.
Sometimes your planet is called Planet Earth.
And sometimes my planet is called Planet Uninhabitable Planet. That can’t be helped.
Uninhabitable, the word, means that no one can live there. Unlivable. You will die if you tried.
My planet is not uninhabitable. Which is easy to prove. All you have to know is that I live there. And if one person can live on a planet, then it’s habitable.
Inhabitable also means you can live there. Which is odd, since inhospitable means unfriendly and unwelcoming, not friendly and welcoming. And there is no such word as uninhospitable. There’s no need.
Uninhabitable, the planet, is actually quite nice. It’s very much habitable (and inhabitable).
I named it Uninhabitable to keep people away. But that didn’t stop everyone. So I called the best flat place to land your spaceship: Plains of Broken Ships.
And next to Plains of Broken Ships, you will find Boiling Lake of Certain Death, which, despite its name, is no warmer than your local swimming pool. And, since there is very little wind on my planet, it’s not even wavy.
Also, as you are navigating to the Plains of Broken Ships and the Boiling Lake of Certain Death, you’ll have to pass through the Clouds of Toxic And Choking Gas. In truth, there are often clouds above the lake, but they’re just regular clouds.
Why do I do this? Simple. I really don’t want much company.
Even so, a few people land their space ships on my planet every year. When I’m here, I greet their ship and they are often surprised to see a human standing outside their window in a t-shirt and shorts, as they’re putting on their space suits and are double-checking their air tests since the ‘atmospheric chemistry,’ which is very close to Earth’s and to the inside of their ship, seems odd for an uninhabitable planet. Or, occasionally, they’ll see me floating in a canoe on the surprisingly placid Boiling Lake of Certain Death.
When we meet outside, they wonder if I’m an alien. Which I am… to this planet. When they realize that the planet is most definitely habitable, they ask what happened to the toxic gas and boiling lake.
I ask why they came to a planet when they were actually expecting both of those.
They generally shrug the common “Because it was there” shrug.
One day, a young woman landed her small cruiser on the Plains of Broken Ships. She didn’t bother to check the atmosphere or grab her space suit. She simply opened the door and hopped out.
“Have you been here before?” I asked.
She shook her head. “My friend came a few years back and said it was lovely. And also said you were lovely. So I figured I’d pop over when I was nearby.”
I shook her hand and welcomed her to Uninhabitable.
She laughed. “Is there any food here?”
I nodded. “So long as you want fruits and vegetables, you’ll find plenty in the Septic Jungle.”
“Let me guess-” she started, but I knew what she was asking.
“Not septic. Not a jungle.”
She laughed. “Did you know that there is a real town in England Earth named Gravesend? And a Disappointment Island off of New Zealand Earth?”
I nodded. “Disappointment is also a town name on Earth.” Then added, “But I think that actually attracts curiosity seekers.”
“So you decided to do the opposite of Erik the Red, who-” She stopped, since she could tell I knew where she was going.
I nodded. “Not a big fan of too much company, I guess.”
“You know you could hide when people come here, right? Or live on the other side, in the mountains?” She didn’t wait for a response. “Are the mountains even named? I only saw a few place names on this planet.”
I shook my head.
“Can I name them?”
I shrugged. “So long as-”
“They sound awful?”
We jumped into my light craft and headed over to the Septic Jungle where she pulled some fruit off the trees and put a few vegetables in the carrier.
“Does this fruit have a name?” she asked with her mouth full and sticky pink juice dripping down her chin.
I shrugged. “You didn’t even ask if it was poisonous or spider-riddled before you took a bite. Why does it need a name?”
She laughed. “’Spider Riddled Pinkfruit’, it is!” She held up a long red, nobbly bean, which I knew to be tasty, filling and very healthy for humans. It made good porridge and good meal for bread. “And this?”
“Manchineel,” I replied.
She shook her head and looked disappointed. “That’s a tree. And I doubt it would put off many people.”
“Then you name it.”
“Can we call it Giant Poison Redbean?”
I waved my open palm to the thousands of vegetables in the area. “They can’t all be called ‘poison bean.’”
She nodded with understanding. “You’re right. If we’re going to name all the fruits and vegetables, we’re going to need to be creative.” She took a bite of the Manchineel and her eyes widened. “This is amazing!”
“And they all taste different enough that it’s hard to get tired of eating them.”
“Uninhabitable is quite the paradise,” she said and laughed at her own comment. “But we came this this way to name the mountains, so let’s go!”
We sped over to the mountains.
“Like a whole range of small Machapuchares,” she said, shaking her head in awe. A tear ran down her face. “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” And then she started laughing.
I cocked my head.
“Naming things is hard, since I’m unsure to go with an ugly-sounding name like the ‘Eyesore Mountains’ or something painful like “the Great Glaucoma Range” or ‘The Hyphemas.’”
“I like the last one,” I said. “I had that once.”
“Very few people will get it. Does that matter?” She paused for a bit and then seemed to decide before I responded … not that I was planning to. “You did name the tasty bean vegetable after a deadly tree no one has ever heard of.”
“But a few people will know and that’s what matters.”
“OK, then,” she decided. She swept her arm across the mountain range. “I give you… ‘The Traumatic Hyphemas!’” She laughed. “I like this game.”
Then she stopped suddenly and said, “I have a confession to make.”
“I kind of hate confessions,” I said.
“As expected,” she added. “But you’re going to hear this one anyway.”
She continued. “I’m having fun, but that’s not the confession.” She bit her lip and took a deep breath. “My friend said I would like you and I’ve been kind of lonely lately. That’s really why I came here.”
Truth is, I was also kind of lonely.
“And I do like you,” she added. “You’re smart and funny. And I bet you’ve read a book or two.”
I shrugged. I did read a lot, while floating on the Boiling Lake of Certain Death and eating Manchineel and, what I guess she would call, Spider Riddled Pucefruit.
“So what we need to do next,” she said “is find a terrible, unnamed planet far enough away so no one puts the two of these together, call it Paradise, and give everything there amazingly compelling names.”
This actually sounded like fun.
Then she added, “If a fish, for example, if fish can even survive there, is poisonous, though, we have to name it as such. We can’t have people eating things that will kill them.”
“What if it just tastes horrible? And has zero food value?”
She laughed a laugh that echoed joyfully across The Traumatic Hyphemas. “Then we call it Paradise sea bass.”
And we did just that. We found our Paradise and gave everything there, even the ugly cardboard-tasting fish, names that would be on the menus at the fanciest Earth restaurants.
But we have to start where we ended: What’s in a name?
And if you could name yourself again, what would you call yourself? Would you even bother with Robert or John or Mary or Pat? Or would you pick one of those on purpose?
Clearly you can guess what I did.
- Millard Dullmore