You probably already learned most of these from school, but just in case here are a few basic facts about Ocasta:
- A day here is 27 hours long.
- The planet goes through seasons, just like Earth, but they last a lot longer. Ocasta takes 708 days to complete a year, so each season lasts about 6 Earth months.
- Speaking of months, ours are 59 days each.
- There is no sentient life on this planet. None. The early scouting crews scanned every scrap of the surface for signs of intelligent life and found nothing.
- Same goes for underground.
- That isn’t stopping us from having dreams about tall strangers with six eyes glowing like headlights on a truck.
Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I went for a walk around the outpost. I was approaching the 27th hour—midnight, we called it on Earth. No one calls it anything that romantic here, yet.
I was walking along the perimeter fence, staring at the soft purple glow around the ancient pines towering over me and thinking how safe and peaceful it felt to have them standing around us like that. Whoever named it Wardenswood did a good job. We do feel a bit like wards of the forest sometimes.
So I was walking along the fence and suddenly it wasn’t just me out for a walk. I saw a figure approaching from one of the housing pods. I flashed the green light hanging from the pocket of my robe to signal friendly person walking here and the figure stopped in their tracks some distance away from me.
They did not flash a light in response.
So my heart was racing, my palms were starting to sweat, and I didn’t know what to do. Yell for help? What if it was just another civilian like me and they forgot their safety light? Yell at them? What if they meant me harm and were waiting to see what my first move would be? Keep walking? Turn and run the other way? No option seemed great.
We stood there for what seemed like hours, each of us silently assessing the shadowy figure before us.
In the end, I didn’t make any noise at all. My heart was pounding in my throat but my curiosity got the better of me. I veered away from the fence and walked straight towards the mystery person.
To my surprise, they didn’t move—not to run away, not to come closer. They just stood there until I got close enough and I could shine my safety light on their face to discover… Ames. It was Ames!
He must have been sleep-walking, because his eyes were closed and he did not seem to register that I was standing in front of him shining a light in his face at all. I know you’re not supposed to wake up or startle a sleepwalker, and I wasn’t sure which housing pod was his, so I gently took his hand and guided him back to my place.
He didn’t wake up until we stepped into the pod lobby and a warm blast of softly scented air kissed our skin.
“Harper?” He said blearily. “What am I doing here?”
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s get you some tea and something to eat and I’ll explain.”
While I fixed us a midnight breakfast, I told Ames how I had found him sleepwalking out by the perimeter and what I was doing out there.
“You can’t sleep either, huh?” He asked.
“You seemed to be sleeping just fine,” I countered.
“Yeah, but not usually. Every night it seems harder to get some sleep and when I do, I wake up feeling like—”
“Like you haven’t slept in days?” I finished.
We leaned against my kitchen counter together in companionable silence as we contemplated this new mystery. Why couldn’t we get a good night’s rest? How many others were affected? Was it a syndrome, maybe? Did the other outposts go through the same thing in their early settlement days?
“Are these… English muffins?”
“I guess so. I found the recipe in a file of recipe collections I downloaded from my dad’s network before I left home.”
“They’re really freaking good.”
Sourdough English Muffins (That Sadly Do Not Glow Purple Once You Cook the Dough) | Makes 12-14
- 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup powdered milk
- 1/2 cup (115 grams) ripe sourdough starter
- 3 1/2 cups (422 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (29 grams) butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon citric acid (aka sour salt) for enhanced sour flavor
- Cornmeal or semolina for dusting
The night before:
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for the cornmeal.
- Mix & knead until you achieve a smooth dough. It should be soft & elastic but not too sticky. Add additional flour if needed.
- Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and place in the fridge to chill for 24 hours. (This develops the best sourdough flavor. If you are in a hurry, skip the chilling and simply let it rise, covered, for 1 1/2 hours or until noticeably puffy.)
In the morning:
- Gently deflate the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover it and let it rest for a few minutes.
- While you're waiting, cover a baking sheet with plastic wrap or wax paper and dust generously with cornmeal or semolina.
- Roll out dough 1/2" thick and use a 3" cutter to cut into rounds. Re-roll any remaining scraps and repeat. Place each round on the cornmeal cookie sheet, spaced evenly apart.
- Sprinkle the rounds with more cornmeal on top, lightly cover & place in a warm, draft-free area to rise for about two hours if you rested the dough overnight in the fridge, one hour if not.
- Heat a griddle to 350 or medium-low (I use just under the 3 on my gas range). Carefully transfer the rounds to the griddle (do not overcrowd).
- Cook muffins about 10 minutes on each side, smooshing down gently with the back of a spatula when you flip them to retain an even shape.
- Cool on a rack for a few minutes & enjoy.