Exclusive Fiction Feature: “Refill Your Cosmic Bucket List” by Rikki Vinyard

…….Refill Your Cosmic Bucket List. 

…….I tilt my head as I read my mail. The shiny, metallic slip of paper glimmers with the engraved curly font. Last I checked, my list wasn’t empty yet. I still haven’t visited Earth’s oldest moon. It was the one that drifted off in a fit some eight billion years ago after hearing about the comet that was ordered to wipe out the dinosaurs. Rumors say it happily circles a newer planet now, with even stranger, dinosaur-like creatures. I hope to see that moon sometime before I transcend to the next life realm. 

…….I’m currently in my fourth life. The third ended just over fifty-seven earth years ago, but my race doesn’t age like that of a human. My people, the Erids, keep the same agility and appearance throughout their lives, however many that may be, and can only die if killed by some kind of outside source. It’s not often that an Erid death is reported, but when there is, it’s usually by an awful explanation. We do not fall ill or die of old age. We simply pass on to another life realm, whenever time tells us. It’s easy to get lost in the never-ending orbital time, especially when the universe expects star scavengers like me to only send reports of newly-found solar systems once every ten years. Today, like most days, is my day off, and I won’t be doing anything. I’m sure I haven’t let the time slip by me though. I still have time to refill my bucket list. There are more things I haven’t even crossed off yet. 

…….I’ve never seen Venus’s secret crater either. Every time the planet orbits its star, the crater grows a little bit deeper, like an invisible drill digging closer to its core. Not a soul knows why. It was first noticed in the Earth year 2428, about 200 years after the rise of Cthulhu. They say now, after one thousand years of continuous sinking, the crater is about 756 miles deep. The tour the Venetians offer stops at around ten miles, but I’ve heard that you can feel the warm air emitting from the center at that depth. There’s no way I need to refill the bucket list yet. I also have never been on a star hunt. An old neighbor, who has since moved from G. Eridani’s planetary system, once told me that he and a friend took their SkyJet to a nebula right outside the belt of dust disks and waited for a shooting meteoroid to zoom past. Once the object was in sight, they lassoed the rocketing debris clump with a galactic whip and soared off with it. I’ll never forget that look he had when he would stare up at the sky and relay the story to me. He reveled in the wonder and awe of it all. I want to experience that speed and sparkle. Once I ride with the stars, that feeling will stay with me forever. It’s been six lives since he went. However, he said his bones tingle from it every so often, reminding him of how unexplainable the tension was. How he thought he heard music play, like the star was singing as they glided along with it. God, how I want that. 

…….I flip the card over. Cthulhu Will Catch You In The Fifth Life. I roll my eyes. The Astral Watch thinks they can wave around Cthulhu’s name like it will make something happen. Sure he is the ruler of the Milky Way, but the Astral Watch praises him like his decrees are gospel. He’s not a real god. He’s a fourth-dimensional jackass, but the biased galactic police force treats him as such. Even the imagined standard of time is measured by the cycle of the planet on which He slept. Only a few celestial citizens have seen this Old One since he rose from Earth’s ocean some thousand Earth years ago. He’s nonetheless been oppressing people with his law ever since. 

…….The very idea of refilling a bucket list to be allowed to transcend to your next life is ridiculous. It was once automatic. You didn’t need to travel to your system’s capital, register with the Astral Watch for your next life, and submit your bucket list plans for approval. You automatically transcended and went on your way. I grieve for those who do not have the privilege of traveling easily to their capital space city. In the smaller, less fortunate solar systems, they have limited transportation and some systems don’t even have a capital. I’ve heard that the Astral Watch comes for the people who don’t refill their bucket list, and a handful of people claim to have seen the almighty Cthulhu himself appear at individuals’ households for failing to refill their buckets. Out of their fear caused by laying eyes on the galaxy’s king, they become some of his most loyal followers. I’m sure many citizens in various parts of the galaxy harbor the same thoughts as I, but we are all too afraid to say it. 

…….H.P. Lovecraft’s description of the Old One is fairly accurate, or so I’ve heard. Posed as fiction to Earthlings during their ancient days, Lovecraft’s work describes the nightmares Cthulhu communicated with him through. It’s said that Lovecraft himself was chosen as a prophet to announce Cthulhu’s return from his oceanic slumber. From his face pour long tentacles writhing down to his chest like a castaway’s unruly beard, the cephalopod entanglement hiding where a mouth would be. He stands upright like most mentally-elevated beings in the galaxy and similarly shares the physique of a masculine human while standing five hundred times their typical height. Large leathery wings sprout from his back like a dragon, his wingspan blocking sun rays from small moons.

…….I’ll check my list again, but I know it’s not empty. I’m almost certain none of my items have expired. Carefully, I tiptoe over the ropes securing my rocking chair to the porch rails. When I’m slumped in the chair, I untie one of the ropes, so I’ll float around. Sifting through the rest of my mail (mostly junk), I glance up at the sky of my planet. Beyond the pink night clouds, spirals, and swirls of lavender stars dance, making constellations that differ every night. My neighborhood is primarily pink rock and dusty roads carved by the wheels of my Saturn Moon Rover 26. My nearest neighbors are at least six miles away. 

…….I like the solitude. The cities of Planet XB-129 are too busy for my liking. Out here in the barren rocks, I can sit and dream of other worlds beyond my own. I can plan to finish my bucket list without the Astral Watch constantly banging down my door. They cause so many problems.

…….Just last week I heard on the news that the Astral Watch startled a citizen so badly that they flipped their entire language. I’m sure they’re still in the hospital for Chronic Backwards Dialogue Syndrome. Of course, the news then stated that the citizen was already suffering from the illness and that the Astral Watch had nothing to do with their flareup. I’m not into conspiracies, but it’s common knowledge that the Astral Watch controls the media. They hide behind the name of Cthulhu, the almighty being of our galaxy, and think they hold an ounce of power that can be loomed over the rest of us. 

…….I shake my head and decide to change my internal subject. Watching the ever-changing rainbow of a sky, I’m reminded of what the Earthlings call “Trix Yogurt.” The strange delicacy made from the colors of clouds was apparently discontinued at one point in Earth’s past and resurrected by popular demand. To me, it tasted sweet and sour simultaneously while having a goop-like texture. I’ve never eaten anything wilder. That was on my bucket list trip of my second life. Visiting planet Earth and seeing how the Earthlings destroyed it was absolutely bewildering. I took my trip right before the items on my last list expired. They throw things into space like no one lives there, just like they did to their own oceans. Friends told me that Earthlings are the reason the “replacement happenings” started.  

…….Refill Your Cosmic Bucket List. 

…….I close my eyes and watch the words float in my mind as I rock in my drifting chair. I miss feeling the waves of the sea. I haven’t been near any bodies of water since they were spontaneously replaced by lakes of acid on this planet. We get our water from trading with other planets now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to empty my bucket list and refill it before more of our galaxy is destroyed by other similar replacement happenings. If Cthulhu doesn’t start giving a care about the wellbeing of the Milky Way and put a stop to the pollution problems, soon everything good in the galaxy will be replaced with its antithesis. I want to continue to experience the other pleasures of my planet, like the swirling sky, the soft pink ground dust and the floral fields of plants that only need the light of the sun to survive.

…….Taking in one long breath and exhaling, I tether my chair back to my porch. I walk back inside my house with my bucket list notice along with my other mail. In my observatory room on the top floor of my home lies my silver bucket. There is dust around the rim that indicates that I haven’t looked at the bucket as recently as I thought. Inside lies three notes, each stating a place I have yet to see or a thing I still wish to do. Picking up the cards, I review my scribbled handwriting. The backs of the pages are stamped with the official Astral Watch seal. I see the dates have expired… The dates have expired?

…….“Oh no,” I whisper in disbelief. It is too late now. Falling to the floor, the bucket clutched in my shaking hands, I check the clock built into the side. “No no no!” I shout as I bring the bucket closer to my face. “It can’t be!” 

…….The clock hand ticks, getting closer to the end of its fourth circle. My fourth life. I have only a few seconds before they come for me.


Rikki Vinyard is an emerging author from Maryland and an active fiction editor for Towson University’s literary magazine, Grub Street. She is working towards her Bachelor’s degree in English at Towson University and hopes to continue to edit for other literary magazines and publishing companies. When she’s not writing wacky things she hears in her dreams, she enjoys playing Minecraft and being a mental health advocate. You can also find her on Twitter at @RikkiTikkiSavvi and on Instagram at @merridian.official.