TRANSCRIPT: Amber Palmer’s plays have been seen across the US, including at Activate Midwest, Flint Repertory Theatre, Bristol Valley Theatre, and Tipping Point Theatre. A monologue from their play “It’s a Small World (or The Robot Play)” is published in Best Men’s Monologues of 2019. Awards and publications include Best Men’s Monologues of 2019, City Theatre’s National Award for Short Playwriting (finalist, 2019), Tipping Point Theatre’s Sandbox Play Festival (2nd place, 2019) and Gary Garrison 10 Minute Play Award (Region 3 finalist, 2018). They were Artist-in-Resident at The Mitten Lab in 2019 and resident playwright at Queer Theatre Kalamazoo in the 2019-2020 season. MFA Western Michigan University. This is “Star Sucker”.
There’s nothing like the feeling of harvesting starlight. It’s a moment of piercing, insurmountable heat, and then, all at once, cool darkness. People go into star harvesting to feel the raw power of the universe in their hands, but I often think I do it for that flash of heat. That brief moment where you watch something end and something else begin.
Okay. That’s a lie. I got into star harvesting because I got dumped.
And this wasn’t one of those “everything was mutual. We’ve changed as people” break ups. This was a blindsided, “it’s not me, it actually is you” kick to the face. After something like that, the idea of sucking the energy out of stars to feed your friends and neighbors sounds like a sweet gig. Best case scenario, everyone likes you for doing a dangerous, but necessary job. Worst case scenario, you fall into a star and disintegrate, and honestly, that’d be fine.
It’s the one day off that was always the hardest. It’s easy to forget that we’re a displaced population when you’re traveling all the time, but being confined to a communal ship, even for a day, brings all those feelings back. The small bedroom I’m allotted is a prison with just a simple bed and a screen to receive my next assignments. Lying here, I can still hear the sound of them drilling into the soil of our home planet. It was only one or two probes at first, but after they found that the soil could support their life, it was a constant hum on my planet. We shouldn’t have been surprised when they pretended our relationship was symbiotic until they got what they wanted. It was in their nature after all.
A ping rips through the hums. Another assignment. Some mercy. But even looking at the message, it feels like an impossibility.
“Extraction: Earth’s Sun. Please leave immediately and with discretion.”
I quickly type “are you sure?”. Up until now, I hadn’t fully considered who was giving me my assignments. It was all very disconnected, which has always been fine by me, but now. This is a strategic move. There are so many other stars. Another ping. Another simple message.
“Yes. Please leave immediately and with discretion.”
I grabbed my work bag and hurried to my excavator. There’s something about knowing a secret that makes you completely forget how to function around other people. Did I used to wave or smile at my neighbors? I have no idea, but running to the excavator, I was waving and smiling like a one-person parade. We’ll call that discrete. It’s fine.
I hold my breath until the excavator door closes behind me, and all at once, I’m moving and there’s no looking back. It’s all preprogrammed. All of this would be automated if our scientists could discover how exactly to replicate our ability to extract energy from stars. They still haven’t gotten it right, and honestly, I’m hoping they never do.
I couldn’t help but think about Shelby in the hours between my home ship and Earth’s Sun. How appropriate is it to tell your ex that you’ve been tasked with essentially destroying their home planet? Would she even believe me? If she did believe me, would she try to stop me? But as the hours ticked down, I knew I at least had to warn her. At a courtesy.
A gentle ping signaled that I arrived. Mentally, I created excuses for my supervisor as to why I needed to use the escape pod. I’m sure they’d believe it was an accident, and woops, I just happened to accidentally bring an Earth vampire with me. Yeah. This will be fine, I kept assuring myself as I climbed into the escape pod and put in the coordinates for the park near Shelby’s apartment. My mind is consumed with logistics. Could we rob a blood bank for her? Or should we buy a bunch of hamsters? Would I even be able to go home after this?
Even as I landed back in Elver’s park, I didn’t have time to reminisce on important locations. All of the long night rambling strolls in the moonlight. Instead, I was building a case. This was the most logical decision. No emotions involved. It’s just a courtesy.
“What are you doing here?” her voice rang through the quiet night. One look at Shelby’s face told me that I overestimated how happy she’d be to see me.
“Hey,” I managed. “Taking a walk through the park I guess?”
I could kill her. I might actually kill her. We had an agreement. I got Earth. She got the colonies. I got the dog. She got… well she didn’t really want anything.
“You’re so full of shit,” I said. I know I’m being cruel, but I can’t help it. My friends all warned me when we started dating to not date a star sucker.
“Okay, yeah. I need you to listen to me though. I know it’s going to sound totally insane, but you have to leave with me. To go back to the colonies,” something was wrong. She was panicked.
“Not a chance.”
“But if you hear why—”
“Even if the world was ending, I wouldn’t—”
“Are you sure about that?”
I am pretty sure about that. I think.
“This is sad, Scarlett. Even for you.”
The silence grew deeper between us. It was a kind of silence I actually missed sometimes, but not a lot.
“Can I walk with you then? Just for a little while?” she asked. She couldn’t even look at me.
“Sure,” I hardly said. Walks in Elver’s park had become a necessity for feeding, but this wasn’t a desperate night. And there was something about Scarlett’s company that felt appropriate, maybe something about the moonlight hitting just right. It’s hard to say. But we walked in a comfortable silence, and in that silence, the pieces started coming together.
“You’re here for the—”
“Why’d you dump me?”
“What? …You’re not here to destroy the sun out of spite for me, right?”
“No! If I was, I wouldn’t have warned you.”
It’d be okay if that was the reason. Even if it wasn’t her reason, it’d be okay if that was the colonies’ reasoning. It’s hard to argue with it. The star suckers hate us for good reason.
“You should go. Do your job, and get out of here,” I said. “Do not try to convince me to go with you again.”
“You’re being really stupid. I’m offering you a way out—”
“It’s not a way out though. I’d be alive, but I’d be on those ships. That’s not a life. It’s prison, and I’m not going there.”
It felt the same. All of it felt the same, and it was the same argument.
“How many times do we have to have the same fight before you get it?”
“But what if I stay?”
Any minute, there would be a new excavator here. They probably were pinging the ship, trying to remind me of my secret mission. Instead, I was sitting near a lake, enjoying the last moments of the dark before Shelby would have to retreat into her apartment.
She had spent half of the night reminding me that this didn’t mean we were back together. That it wasn’t too late to change my mind. That I was being stubborn and stupid, and that I should go back to my life on the colonies. And for once, I didn’t say anything back.
There is something beautiful about Earth that reminds me of home. I can’t remember the last time I heard anything outside of the mechanical noise of the colonies, except maybe the stunning silence outside of the excavator.
We both know the sun should have risen by now, but the lake is too beautiful and the air too crisp, for a small detail like that to ruin this moment.
Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 33 years, as a determined vintner on the streets of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, reading all of Shakespeare online with the 14th Night Players, and—of course—here at Gateways. She is grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these stories, and to receive the meaning that stories give voices.
Coco Kasperowicz is a multidisciplinary nerd performer; the brains behind #chaotichighfemme her social media and YouTube persona, she is also known as THE BODY POSITIVE NERD PRINCESS of Chicago; Lottie a la West. she graduated with a degree in musical theatre from Columbia College Chicago, and has performed in professional theatres across the Chicagoland area