Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cafe at the Edge of Outer Space

Wow, this week has flown by at warp speed! Robert Appleton here again. Sandwiched between my already released The Eleven-Hour Fall and its sequel The Elemental Crossing, is my science-fiction romance short story CAFÉ AT THE EDGE OF OUTER SPACE on July 7. If you dig either of those genres, you'll love this one…

In the distant future, our overpopulated planet requires all sixteen year olds to undertake a ten-year exile as a rite of passage. Paired with a mate on the voyage out to kick-start adulthood, they must all pass through the café on the edge of outer space, the legendary waystation orbiting Earth.

Frank Archer isn't ready for life away from home. He's smitten with his new girl, Emma Whitaker. But whether he likes it or not, it's time for the boy to become a man. He has a beautiful girl to protect...through the deadliest terrorist attack ever conceived!

Here are two short excerpts:


Strangely, I find an air of nostalgia where there is no air. I’m looking out of a window that never needs cleaning from outside. It’s pretty much impenetrable, too. Just the faint threat of things over which we’ve no control – you know, asteroids, solar flares, terrorism, things like that. “Facing space,” they call it. Something to do with a rite of passage. Everyone leaves Earth at sixteen – that’s the law – and we’re not allowed to return until our twenty-sixth birthdays. Talk about a graduation.

There’s a kind of window over the Earth as well. It isn’t solid, it’s translucent – a hazy helmet of cloud and pollution. Great Britain passed by a few minutes ago. I could just about make out where I lived, more or less dead centre on the island. Apparently, Britain used to be much bigger. And warmer. More sandy beaches, less pack ice. I can’t quite picture Blackpool without snow, though. Outdoor roller-coasters? They must’ve been insane.

It’s been days since I saw anyone familiar. All my classmates are still hundreds of miles below, probably wondering what the café at the edge of outer space is really like. I wish I could tell them. I’m the oldest, but their turns will come soon enough. It’s actually not too different from the school diner: everyone’s in each other’s way, no one wants to stay here long, and the food is bloody awful.

So, I’m out on my own. I left Earth a boy, and they’re counting on me to find Frank Archer the man. There’s something disconcerting about that whole idea. I don’t want to change. Why should I? Where will travelling the universe take me, except away from here? What if I never find another place as peaceful as Lancashire. What if I change for the worse? We’re the future of Earth; without proper guidance, who’s to say we won’t become a planet of cutthroats? So much for their claims of overpopulation – by the time you’re old enough to understand the notion, they’ve already shipped you off into orbit. It’s a bizarre way of treating children, if you ask me.


Our gentle footsteps seem invasive, illegal somehow. The dark tunnel effect is dizzyingly effective as we tiptoe out onto a three-hundred-and-sixty degree stellar walkway. I hold my breath. If Emma’s hand wasn’t squeezing mine, I’d be head over heels off balance instead of head over heels in . . . liking her a lot.


It’s a deep-bone thrombosis of stars and gravitational attraction. Body to body, orbit to orbit, me to her. We’re cosmic trespassers, and I feel just as transparent as the see-through window encasing us. She looks right into me, her warm breath reaching my cheek where it lingers. Utter silence. My heavy breathing now feels part of oblivion, hers a solar wind from light years away. We’re together now, though. So together. She roves her flat palm from my side across the front of my t-shirt, exciting a halo that dissolves down through my entire body. As I take that hand, I’m a wisp at her mercy. Her fingers pulse magic as we draw near, and her breasts press against my rib cage. Near. No fear. We’re…

Coming July 7 at

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