The Joke’s on us

(a SF monologue)


I could hear Quail’s laugh as I eased through the air lock and mounted the rover.

All I wanted to do was kill him.

Quail had once more lured me into one of his twisted jokes, telling me one of the female crew members of our Europa station crew wanted to have sex with me and when I showed up, I found her clutched in his arms.

No one on the crew except me took Quail’s jokes to heart because someone was always doing something to someone else in an endless string of jokes to keep from going out of their minds from the tedium of duty on this frozen chunk of chemical ice encircling Jupiter.

I was the odd fish who didn’t find any of it funny and lacked the knack to strike back the way everybody else did.

So I mostly ducked out of people’s way by taking the surface patrol duties nobody else wanted to do.

I loved the privacy of the broken silent surface, and when angry, the isolation from letting my rage led me into something rash.

That’s when I saw the hole in the ice.

I thought I was crazy because nothing melted on Europa.

Had this been Io, one of the other moons, I might have mistaken the melting for molten sulfur.

I panicked and called back to the station.

No one there believed me. Even Quail thought I was pulling his leg.

When I transmitted images of the hole back to them, Quail seemed impressed with the trick and said, “I didn’t know you had it you, boy.”

But I could hear the others in the background scrambling in panic.

If I was crazy, I wasn’t alone.

Unfortunately, I had left the rover standing in one place too long and it began to sink into a pool of chemical mush.

Fear made me forget all I was supposed to do, and though Quail continued to insist this was all a joke, he gave me instructions how to delay my sinking, while others in the crew broke out the hovercraft to come rescue me.

All I had to do was wait and hope they got to me on time.

But as the rover sank, systems failed so even Quail’s voice vanished after a while along with the lights and gradually the heat.

Although afraid, I pondered the potential meaning of the melting and concluded that even if rescued, we were all doomed – an knew the orbiter needed to rescue us was months away on the other side of Jupiter.

Then I saw a glow coming through the rover’s portal and knew the hover craft had arrived.

Quail’s grin replaced that glow as he tapped on the four inch thick glass.

Later, he said, told me it had taken him a month to set the heating coils just right as to make the trick work right.

And while it would take two months to dig the rover out of the refrozen chemical pool, the look on my face was worth it.

But all I want to do is kill him.


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