I am thrilled to present this amazing guest post in four parts by author, Jim Denney, of the Timebenders series. I became friends with Jim on Twitter, my son has read (LOVED!) the first book in his series, Battle Before Time, and Jim thinks the world of Judy Blume, and our little #JudyBlumeProject (GAH!). As a MG author himself, he thinks so much of Judy Blume, that among his many projects, he took time out to write and share this riveting story, Martian Girl, with US! GRATEFUL!
I'm certain you'll enjoy this ode to seemingly everyone's favorite, Judy's Margaret. Check out our Facebook page, we now have a PROJECT PAGE, and you'll see that nearly every post to date includes AYTGIMM among the most meaningful and life-affirming of Judy Blume's prolific works for generations of tween girls during the angst-ridden onset of puberty. And rightly so. I hope this shows that any manner of respect you'd like to pay to Judy will be considered, and I hope this will inspire more men (young or young at heart) to contribute their thoughts and memories to our wonderful little project that one day hopes to be published as an anthology to honor our Judy.
Without further ado, I'm thrilled to present...drum roll....
BY JIM DENNEY
Part Two: A Terrible Distraction
Hi, God, it's me, Zandria, again.
I'm sorry I had to stop recording right at the scariest part. I just couldn't keep talking. I hid my face in my arms in case everything exploded.
I know that sounds dumb. But I was so scared. I thought that if I covered my eyes, maybe the explosion wouldn't hurt so bad.
I hope you didn't think I died when I stopped recording. I really thought the ship was going to rattle apart. The noise and shaking got worse and worse for a few minutes--
Then it got quiet. Everybody stopped screaming, even me.
Dad says we're in space now, about three hundred kilometers above the Earth. In ten hours, we'll dock with the Ares, the big ship that runs between Earth and Mars. Twenty other transport ships from Earth will dock with the Ares around the same time, ships from all over the world. The transports will attach themselves to the Ares, making one big mega-ship that will take more than four thousand settlers to Mars.
So we're really going to Mars.
Part of me feels like crying, but mostly, I'm just sleepy. Being shaken around like a rat in a dog's mouth is really tiring.
Oh, and Mom just woke up. She wanted to know how soon till we launch. Dad and I laughed and laughed.
Talk to you later, God. So tired. Gonna nap now . . .
Hello again, God. Well, that was some nap! I slept for ten hours.
A loud clanking noise woke me up. Dad said it was the sound of our transport docking with the Ares. About half the transports from Earth have docked already.
If only there were windows so I could have one last look at Earth!
I wish I had walked around the neighborhood before we left, just taking everything in, what San Pedro looked like and sounded like and smelled like, so I could remember my home town years from now. I'm afraid that when I'm on Mars, living in those tunnels and domes, I'll forget the life I had back on Earth.
The flight attendant said we're "in freefall" now. That means we're weightless and we'd float around like balloons if we weren't strapped in. They won't let any of us passengers out of our seats. They don't want us floating around and crashing into each other.
Oh, I did get out of my seat once, but just to go to the bathroom. A flight attendant had to go with me to make sure I didn't bump into anybody. The bathroom is a tiny little closet that smells awful, like chemicals and poo. The toilet on a spaceship is really complicated to use and the instructions are hard to understand.
There are fifteen steps to using the toilet if you're a boy, sixteen if you're a girl (not fair!). There's one really disgusting thing you have to do if you're going number two—I don't even want to talk about that.
We have to use these tiny, awful bathrooms all the way to Mars—more than two hundred days!
I can't let myself think about it.
It's me again, God—Zandria the reluctant space-girl.
Last time, I told you we were weightless. Well, not anymore.
After all the transports had docked, they started spinning the Ares, like rolling a log on the river. The spinning motion makes artificial gravity.
I wish we could just float around weightless in our spaceship, bouncing around like ping-pong balls. That would be so much fun. But Dad told me the artificial gravity is for my own good. It keeps my bones, muscles, and heart from getting weak.
I've been wondering how spinning the spaceship makes artificial gravity, and I think I figured out how it works. I remember one time in the backyard, I filled a plastic bucket half-full of water and I swung it around and around. Even when the bucket was upside-down, the water didn't fall out of the bucket. Swinging the bucket in a circle presses the water against the bottom of the bucket so it can't spill out.
I think spinning the spaceship works the same way. When the spaceship spins, the motion pushes all the people toward the outer hull, like water pushing against the bottom of the bucket. Instead of floating around weightless, we have artificial gravity to keep our bodies from getting weak and mushy.
The artificial gravity on the Ares isn't as strong as Earth's gravity. Dad says it's about one-third of Earth's gravity—the same as we'll have on Mars. So I feel lighter than I did on Earth, but I can't float around.
That's too bad. I was hoping I could float all the way to Mars.
Oh, wait, there's an announcement--
The Ares is about to leave Earth orbit and head out for Mars. We're supposed to turn off our electronic devices. I guess that includes my Amulet.
I'll talk to you later, God.
Hello, God. Zandria here.
How long has it been since I talked to you? We don't have days and nights on this spaceship, just "waking periods" and "sleeping periods," so I forget how much time has passed. Last time I talked to you, we were leaving orbit around the Earth and setting off for Mars.
They put us in a tiny little cabin that's barely big enough for one person, let alone three. My parents and I can hardly turn around without bumping knees and elbows. And as for privacy—forget it!
I have to take these little white pills every day to protect myself against cosmic rays. I'm not sure what cosmic rays are, but I think they're some kind of invisible death rays. They're all over outer space, and they can go right through spaceship walls, through our organs and bones, and they can make us sick. These white pills protect my body cells from the invisible death rays.
When I was taking my pill this morning, I said, "At least we won't have to take these when we get to Mars."
Dad said, "I'm afraid we will. Mars doesn't have a thick atmosphere and a magnetic field to protect us from cosmic rays like Earth does. We'll have to take these pills for the rest of our lives."
That's just great! What else haven't they told me? The more I find out about Mars, the less I like it.
I try to spend as little time as possible in our tiny cabin. Sometimes I wander around the corridors and explore, but most of the doors are marked "Unauthorized Personnel Keep Out." I've never felt more "unauthorized" in my life.
Talking about this stuff is making me sad. I don't want to talk anymore, God. Maybe later.
It's me again, God. Zandria.
I just found out they have a library on the Ares. Can you believe it? There must be about a zillion books in the computer system. You just order a book from the menu, then lie down on a reading couch and the book appears in the visual display above you. The computer scans your eyes and knows exactly when to turn the page. It's so much easier than reading books on my Amulet.
The library has three reading couches, but no one else has ever come to the library while I've been here. I guess people don't read very much anymore.
I found a new author I really like. Her name is Judy Blume. Well, she's not new, exactly. She wrote most of her books way back in the twentieth century. But she's new to me. Her books make me laugh and cry, and the girls in her stories remind me of me, even if they have weird names like Deenie and Davey.
I'll talk to you later, God. I want to read some more before dinner.
I met a boy today, God.
I was all by myself in the library, reading another book by Judy Blume. You'd like this book, God—it has your name in the title. It's called Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. It's about a girl like me who has to move to a new place, and sometimes she talks to God.
Well, I was reading the first chapter when the door opened and a boy came in. I had never seen him before. He's about my age, and he has long black hair and dark eyes and skin the color of hot chocolate. He looked at me and I looked at him, then we both looked away without saying a word.
He sat down on the reading couch farthest from mine. He tapped on the keypad and picked out a book from the menu. Without being obvious about it, I tried to see what he was reading, but I couldn't read his display from my couch.
So I sat back and tried to read my Judy Blume book—but I couldn't concentrate! I felt so uncomfortable with him right there. At times, I thought he was looking at me—but when I glanced over at him, he was just reading.
Maybe it was my imagination—or maybe he looked away real fast when I glanced at him. I'm not sure. But just having him there was a terrible distraction!
I spent most of the time reading the same sentence over and over again. I'll have to read that whole chapter again tomorrow, because I didn't get anything out of it today.
After an hour or so, the boy got up and walked out of the library. He didn't say a word, he didn't even glance in my direction. It was like I didn't exist.
Is he shy—or just rude?
If I see him again, God, I'm going to ask him his name.
To be continued next Monday in "Part Three: A Boat That Can Carry Two"
Jim Denney is the author of Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly. He has written more than 100 books, including the Timebenders science fantasy adventure series for young readers--Battle Before Time, Doorway to Doom, Invasion of the Time Troopers, and Lost in Cydonia. He is also the co-writer with Pat Williams (co-founder of the Orlando Magic) of Leadership Excellence and The Difference You Make. Jim is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Follow Jim on Twitter at @WriterJimDenney.
Thanks again to author, Jim Denney, for his generous and entertaining contribution to the #JudyBlumeProject. I think it's wonderful that he's delivered this story from the female perspective for our project. Timebenders #1 was an excellent choice for my reluctant 4th grade reader (his first on a tablet, which he was also reluctant about).
Check back next Monday for more!
It also bears mentioning that the #JudyBlumeProject has enjoyed fabulous support from @TigerEyesMovie on Twitter, Judy's and son, Lawrence Blume's first ever MOVIE(!) based on the Judy Blume novel, Tiger Eyes. We are so grateful for their shares, retweets, and the heads up they've given us on some wonderful posts we hope to include in the #JudyBlumeProject. SEE THE MOVIE-->, give them a follow and please help spread the word.
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