Hey there, this is Terrie. There’s a short commentary about how I wrote this story after the outro if you’d like to stick around and listen to that.
The story is called "Singer Boy and the Trip to the Moon."
The Saddest Clown
I woke up the saddest clown in this painted world. The teardrops on my face felt real. Somewhere along the way those colors dyed into my skin, that ruffled collar and those two floppy red-rubber shoes defined me. But that wasn’t right. That’s not who I was. What I needed was an adventure, a little danger. A healthy dose of super-sadness and melancholy to lighten the burden. Maybe I could start a new kind of circus, where sadness ran away with the elephants. There would be a juggling act called The Swooning Fainting Ladies With A Touch Of Schadenfreude. We could call ourselves the Fainting Ladies, or maybe The Sighing Angels. The possibilities were endless.
But when you can’t roll your weary funny bones out of bed in the morning…
Yesterday someone shouted at me from a clown car. Said I looked like I’d been attacked by a dirty laundry fairy and left in an alley.
And then my boss came at me during work. You know the ringmaster who likes to wear a suit made from his own hair? He's got this huge beard that looks like it's made from rusty razor blades and he always wears the same three pairs of pants: one green, one blue, one brown. Well, he took out his tiger whip and started swinging it around.
"Get up! You lazy clown! Get up! You know what you are? You're a sad sack of clownish misery!” He just kept yelling and waving that whip above his head. I tried to stand up straight but my knees buckled. Then the crowd booed. And even though my boss had a good point, I still wanted to go home.
But that was yesterday and all the days before. But right now I needed to act. Do something. Anything.
Time for a Change
I kicked off the itchy wool blanket and checked the sky through my window. It looked like it had been dipped in neon, but it still bore deep-purple bruises from the sun’s vigorous midnight bath. And there was something else there, hanging in the air. The moon. But different.
It was huge and bright and looked like it had been dusted with a thin layer of gold. It was also much too close. I could see the details of all the craters and mountains on its surface. I could see where long-disappeared oceans had once lapped against silver shores. My heart pounded and my mouth felt dry as dirt.
This was a sign. Today I would do it. I would take my best friend, a friendly rat named Singer Boy, and we would build a rocket ship out of parts I’d been collecting along the riverbank. Today we would fly to that moon, a place with no sadness and no clowns.
I got a lot of silly ideas when life got sad.
But first, I had to find my wee buddy and wake him up. He usually sleeps in a hidey-hole somewhere inside my head. My mind was very crowded with all the lengthened shadows and streams that whistle and rush. The faint drip of water over stones and the creaking and crackling of trees.
Meet Singer Boy
“Singer!” I conjured him.
He was already awake, all grinning teeth and whiskers and tiny paws curled tight. Today he was wearing an apple-green silk tie and gnawing on an old cigar stub.
“Hey, cut that out,” I said, taking the offending nicotine away from him. I couldn’t stay mad. You can never argue with cute.
I explained to him my plan for beating the blues and he loved it and immediately wanted to change into his flying suit. He has a collection of these things and they're all bright colors, the better to get shot out of a cannon or flung out of a rocket on fiery wings.
“Sure, why not wear the one that sparkles.”
“Good choice, brother. That’ll make things more dramatic.”
He was right. I have always known that everything was brighter, clearer, and easier to understand when you have something pretty glittering near you.
I pulled on my frilly collar, my unruly blue wig with corkscrew curls, and fastened my squirting daisy to my lapel. I grabbed my tattered suitcase full of parts and shoved the rubber chicken that honks when you squeeze it into my back pocket.
“Hey! Where are you two think you’re going?” It was the unicyclists. They were a rotten bunch, always stealing the best bits from my pockets. And mean.
“Jump, Singer Boy!” I said offering my shoulder.
Singer Boy jumped and together we ran.
Abandoned circus props clumped under my feet: the big metal spiderweb, the spinning sawdust wheel and used up seltzer bottles, tripping us up. The unicyclists were fast, but never underestimate a depressed clown and his rat. We cut left and darted across a bumpy field. That foiled them. Bounced them right off their wheels.
Building The Rocket Ship
In front of us the ground fell away into forest. And soon after that, a clearing. We were alone. We stopped to rest. Above us the moon hummed and the sound of the song made my brain feel hibbly inside.
“Where’s the spaceship?” Singer Boy asked, kicking up a small rock.
I told him we needed to build it first. I opened my suitcase and shook out the contents. Inside was every tool you could possibly imagine – wrenches and pliers, chisels and hammers and screwdrivers, even some ugly gluey-looking fasteners.
We didn’t speak. Our breaths steamed the cold air as we worked on piecing our ship together.
Sometimes you forgot to feel sad when you're working on a puzzle, when you have a sparkly jump-suited rat holding an Allen wrench in two paws for you. I could see the moon in my mind: the silver sea, craggy peaks of lava rock and a vast gray crater filled with snow. Not a circus tent in sight.
Before long it was done. A small rocket ship with one giant balloon on top.
I climbed in. Singer Boy dangled off the side and inflated the rest of the balloon. He had been so eager to launch this contraption that he had rigged all the controls by himself.
Ten, nine, eight, seven, Singer Boy scurried inside and shut the window, six, five, four, all the way down. Blast off!
I climbed into the pilot's seat while Singer Boy rolled up his sparkly sleeves and started to work on the console with great concentration.
“I’ve got a good feeling about this,” I said.
“Me, too, brother.”
As I watched the clouds stream past, I felt as light as a feather. This was how it should always be. It reminded me of how the circus used to feel after the sun had gone down and everything got very quiet. And then someone came out to show you a magic trick, just what you needed. I thought of the time the Great Dandini had pulled off his mustache and replaced it with a rubber snake. It was so amazing, my jaw hit the ground. Too bad what happened to him.
We shot through the atmosphere and then popped out into outer space. We were headed to the moon.
Everything was going great until that first meteor hit. The unexpected bump sent me flying from my seat. My head bounced against the ceiling and knocked off my big red nose. It floated ridiculously around the cabin. I was reaching for it when I saw the crack in the window. In an instant the nose was sucked out and alarms and bells began to flash red and wail.
Singer Boy was already at work repairing the damage. He picked up some metal wire, twisted it into a tight spiral, and ran it across the glass until it held the crack together again.
Another hit to the hull. This time it sounded like a gunshot. The whole ship shook and groaned.
"Hold on!" Singer Boy shouted. "This is going to get rough."
Just then the rocket began to spin out of control and fall. I tried to steady it by waving my arms in the air. But it wasn't working.
“Singer! We’re going to crash!” I watched as the metal of the hull peeled open andmy hobo suitcase flew out into blackness. Gone.
Singer Boy worked feverishly at the controls.
“ Hold on! Don’t give up on me now!”
We were headed straight at the moon at an incredible speed. There was nothing we could do to stop ourselves. In less than three seconds, we would slam into the surface and break apart. Then we'd go splat!
And that's exactly what happened.
A Hard Landing
When I opened my eyes my ears were ringing. I noticed I’d been thrown from the ship. Burning wreckage was everywhere. Where was my friend? I leapt to my feet and began searching. I thought I heard a pitiful squeak somewhere. I kept looking until I found him lying in the rubble, not moving. His sparkly spacesuit was on fire. There was no water on the moon. What could I do? Soon he’d be a tiny heap of ash.
Then I remembered. I knelt down and used my daisy squirter to douse the flames. The cold water also snapped him out of his faint. He blinked and sputtered in his smoking clothes and looked around.
“I’m going to need another suit.”
“That’s the least of our worries,” I said, motioning to the pieces of rocket ship strewn everywhere.
“We busted up pretty bad, huh?”
Singer Boy got to his feet and peeled off his mostly disintegrated outfit. Underneath, though, he was wearing a shiny silver form fitting bodysuit that glowed in the dark.
“Wow! That’s cool!”
“No,” Singer Boy said, turning in a slow circle, eyes wide. “That’s cool.”
The Wonders of the Moon
For the first time I, too, looked around at where we had landed. It was stunning. I had never imagined anything like it before: the sharp angles, the jutting rocks, an empty valley ringed with craters, each rim lined with blue ice crystals and frozen rivers.
Singer Boy took off his gloves and held his hands out in front of me. His fingers were glowing. His face was lit up by the silvery shine from his suit and his fingers, all the way up to his ears. They twitched.
“What are those?” I asked quietly, looking at the sparks dancing on his paws.
He didn't answer. He put both hands on my face and kissed my cheek.
“There you go. It's all good, brother."
I suddenly felt nervous, like my words were tangling up in my throat. I had almost lost my best friend. That’s something I had never thought could possibly happen. The relief was overwhelming. But instead of being happy, I tried not to cry.
The stars were beautiful, I thought. That must mean there's no sadness among them. All we needed was a little more glitter.
A spark. That was how I could beat these feelings and start a new life. A shiny one that wasn't full of loneliness or despair or clowns or ringmasters, all of which were particularly sad and difficult to deal with. I just needed my friend.
“You know what I want to do, Singer?”
“I wanna fly!”
“Let’s get out of this mess and make some memories.”
We hopped on one foot, then the other, as if we were dancing the mambo. Soon we were lifted up and gliding over the white terrain with sparks flying every which way from our bodies. We left our broken ship behind in favor of soaring in the moonlight, with our hair blowing back and our hearts pounding full steam ahead.
"Fly!" I shouted. "Up and up!"
We zoomed past volcanoes erupting smoke that smelled like burning cinnamon and zipped over a giant bowl full of stars. It wasn’t long before we were going so fast, both my rubber shoes fell off. I felt so much lighter.
"I'm a rocket! I'm a spark in the night!" Singer Boy, four limbs splayed, did a little flip in the air.
“That’s the way,” I said and did my own awkward midair flip.
My cheeks hurt from smiling so hard.
Finally, we landed next to the great lunar crater. The inside was filled with thousands of what looked like round or nearly round colorful objects. We ran down to investigate. Everywhere there were starry sky sapphires, and dazzling diamonds, blue topaz stones that shimmered like a deep still lake, and emeralds so clear you could see the fireflies inside.
“Catch!” Singer Boy said and threw me a green-yellow jade that had flecks of gold swirling inside.
I caught it.
“Heads up!” Next he tossed over a black onyx with fiery lantern red veins running through it.
I caught that one, too.
In came an opal that sang like a bonfire at dusk. In order to catch that one I had to throw the other two up in the air. Soon I was juggling. Singer Boy laughed and snatching up some smaller stones began juggling himself.
Once we were comfortable he gave a hup! and tossed his stones over to me one at a time which I added to the others. Then we started juggling back and forth in complicated patterns.
We did this for hours, evolving it into a pretty fancy routine. My crazy wig kept getting in the way, so I pulled it off and added it to the mix. Singer Boy giggled at that. I loved seeing his laughing mug so much that I pulled out the honking chicken from my pocket and I threw it in, too. Every time it came around in the juggle lineup I gave it a little squeeze. Honk. Singer dropped his own spheres and collapsed, rolling on the ground, he was laughing so hard.
I stopped and let the moonstones, my wig, and the rubber chicken float away in zero gravity and sat down beside my friend.
“You have no idea how tiring juggling can be, especially when your hands are as small as mine."
“But you’re really good. I never knew.”
“Hey, listen. I’m sorry for everything down on Earth..”
"There's nothing to be sorry about." Singer Boy petted my head with his tiny sparking paws. "You were always doing the best you could do.”
“Yeah, maybe I was.”
“Sometimes what you need isn't the circus."
“I think you’re right.” I said.
"No," he said in his little voice. He touched me with those glowing grabbies right in the center of my chest.
“What I mean is the circus is you."
I don't know exactly when the sadness went away, but it very well might have been at that moment. Suddenly there wasn't room for it anymore in my life. Maybe it was just too small in that big moonlit, starlit sky. All I know is that I looked out at the Earth, tiny and blue, and everything had changed.
Back to Earth
I was ready to go back.
"Let's go home. Let's tell everyone we got lost."
Then I remembered the crash and I’d lost my suitcase, too.
“But we can’t go back.”
“Sure we can, brother.” Singer was pointing over my shoulder. There floating lazily along the blue ice crystal rim of the crater was the giant balloon. It had landed, safe and unscathed.
“What do you say we take just a couple souvenirs? I got an idea.”
Singer Boy knew exactly what I was talking about. We filled the balloon’s basket with a couple dozen precious stones, we picked our favorites. The ones that felt lucky. The ones that would work best for our new act. Maybe we’d call ourselves The Fainting Ladies or the Falling Stars. We’d break out on our own, travel around the world in our balloon making other sad people smile a little bit, forget about all the things they couldn't change. That would make them happy, too. And if they were happy then I bet their hearts would stop hurting so much.
We untied the basket and climbed aboard. We set off toward the Earth.
“Just remember, It's not always where you go, it's who you're going with. You've always been my lucky star."
He grabbed my hand. His fingers were tiny sparkles that fizzed between my fingertips.
“Thanks, Brother. And you don’t have to hide away in my head anymore either.”
With that we floated off into the stars that swam around us like glittery fish in a giant bowl. We headed back to Earth.
It felt so good. So peaceful. As if the entire world belonged only to us.
And as long as we had each other, that was enough.
Hey hey, this is Terrie. As things are moving fast and furious with AI generating machines and just as quickly things are getting cloudy and confusing, I wanted to explain a little about how I made the story Singer Boy.
The beginning of the first paragraph prompt was mine. Basically, I knew the story I wanted to tell. So the pet rat (I have a pet rat, so that’s only natural), the building a rocket ship to go to the moon, the crash, and the little flying adventure on the moon as well as the the returning home changed was all my story. I had the AI name the rat and run with a bunch of the details and descriptions. I think those are obvious. The ringmaster is AI’s, the unicyclists are mine. The water squirting flower and rubber chicken were my idea because I thought they were funny, but the brilliant line at the end “The circus is you!” that was AI.
The fact a balloon was attached to the rocket ship was AI’s idea. But I left it because after I engineered the crash and destruction of the rocket ship, I thought wouldn’t it be nice to find the balloon later, unharmed, and use that to fly back to Earth.
I like to take the nuggets that AI gives me and elaborate on them, or fit them into the story somehow.
Clothing, descriptions of scenery are also mostly AI. Some of the uncannily wise conversations are as well. When Singer Boy took the clown’s face and kissed it and said, "There you go. It’s all good,” that was a very sweet AI line. I just added “brother” because that’s what Singer Boy called his friend.
And for the whole thing I used NovelAI. I'm sure I don't use it as well as I could. There's a lot to learn and it just keeps getting better and better. But for now I like what it's doing and how I'm using it.
If you want to ask me about what bits and pieces, which are mine versus what was AI-generated, please reach out. I don't know, I think we have to be more transparent when using these tools and I don’t mind answering at all.
Thank you so much for listening. I'll talk to you again soon.