Grey Soil

The artist had come to live there so slowly it seemed dreamlike.

It was an outpost on some far-flung moon. Really only a supply depot. She has been part of a party who had stopped there on as part long haul outward journey. While the ship was refuelingand resupplying, she wandered in her EVA suit. It as a low gravity moon so it was easy to get around.

It was there she noticed the stone. It was beautiful and grey. When she took it back into the base it oxidized and looked like copper, but it felt like soap stone. On the rest of the journey, she tinkered with the stone, worked it into a small box and at the end of her trip gave it to a member of the crew as a gift. On the return the crew member had commented on the gift and others asked for something similar.

And that’s how it started. She would go to the moon, dig the stone and work it then it would be distributed on her return.

The problem was the transition back from the quiet of the outpost to the bustle of her life back home.

The transition took a few years, she stayed longer and longer at the outpost working the stone until she never went back.

It was allowed as there needed to be somebody there to manage the place. She became the same as a lighthouse keeper of old. Sitting at her desk working away at the grey green boxes, making designs which would come to her in dreams. Ships would stop by. The resupply ships dropped off what was needed and took her boxes away.

Sometimes they were pleasure ships, sometimes military. She liked the soldiers, they were always so polite and respectful. If she was bored and needed a break, she’s make a connection the cleanest and neatest of them.

Even those ships stopped being as frequent. Even the supply ships were manned more by drones. They still took her boxes so that was ok. She was a hermit in this beautiful black void of the universe.

One day a man came. She hadn’t heard a ship arrive. None of the automated systems had kicked on either. It was strange but she welcomed in as she would anyone else.

There was food, coffee, conversation. He looked around and she told him all about her time at the outpost. Maintaining things, making boxes, and enjoying the quiet. She showed him an example of her work.

He was amazed and couldn’t speak for a moment. He told her that the boxes, where he was from, were considered some ethereal art by a fantastic artist who was unknown. The pieces were exceptionally valuable as they were so rare.

She had admitted it did take her some time to make each one, but that they were rare was surprising. He reminded her that it was a big universe.

They liked each other and as he admitted he didn’t have anywhere to be fast he stayed some time with her.

She hadn’t had a long-term guest in a while so she was nervous, but they fell into a routine. She enjoyed the company, and he was easy to connect with.

It was after the supply ship had gone a third time since his arrival, she started to wonder what his aims where. Surely, he must be on his way to somewhere. This life was not normal for most people out there.

She brought it up with him over breakfast. He didn’t respond only that they should go out and get more materials as she was running low.  She agreed and later that day she was in her suit ready to go out onto the bleak world she called home. He was nowhere to be seen. She went out the airlock thinking maybe he’d gone out before her, but she’s not heard. It was odd. Outside she was hit by the light reflecting off the regolith. She saw footprints leading off in the direction where she normally got the stones from. He was there standing looking out to the void above.

He was not wearing a suit. He turned looked at her and smiled. He seemed to be fine even though this moon had no atmosphere. She suits had radios to allow for communication. It would seem he didn’t need a radio either, he said the words and they appeared in her head.

He explained that he wasn’t human, but that was obvious. He had been curious, they had come across humans a number of times now and they wanted to know more about them. That’s when they had encountered her boxes. They were beautiful and subtle, delicate, and intricate. So, they tracked her down and he was sent to meet her. They didn’t have art, not made of worlds the way she made them. He asked if she would like to join them and teach them. He held out his hand

After shipments stopped, they sent a person with a transport to the outpost. The place was clean and tidy. Nothing was out of place and the drones had continued their maintenance routines. The sculptor had left but there were no records of her transport off world.

On her bunk they found a note, that read “Gone Fishin”.

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