Hugh G. Mistake

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Chapter 1: Hugh is Born

Hugh was born one lonely night in a small room in the Durand building. His mother, Ms. Mistake, was a 3D printer who dreamed of space. She was working on printing a Falcon 9 model that fateful night, concentrating especially hard on making the layers consistent so it might have a chance at an aerodynamic glide when something perturbed her circuits and her software went haywire. She didn't remember a thing from that night, but rather awoke to find, not a Falcon 9, but a tangled nest of black plastic filament. So disappointed in not having created her Falcon 9, Ms. Mistake wrote the large ball of black plastic off in disgust. She named him Hugh G. Mistake and left him to fumble in the dark.

Lonely, blind, and disoriented in this strange new universe, Hugh cried softly to himself until he was exhausted and fell asleep. He was awoken by the sound of loud voices. Clearly human, they shouted, "Oh no, we've made a HUGE MISTAKE." Recognizing his name, Hugh's ear filament perked up, and he shuffled around to face the source of the noise. Suddenly, Hugh felt large hands lifting him through space; he could feel the air rushing through him, a vastly new and not quite pleasant experience. He was plopped down on a hard surface and second later, he felt a scorching heat on the front of his face, starting to melt him a little, even. No sooner had he begun to think about the potential damage to his nervous system, which he could feel softening, however, than he rose to new levels of shock for the morning: he could see! His mind was overloaded with sensory input: he was in a small room with bright lights, and at least 3 humans, one of whom was brandishing the source of the scorching heat: a plastic implement with a metal tip and plastic drooling from it. He could only assume this was some sort of torture or interrogation, but he had no idea what the humans wanted from him. The one with the hot gun brought it close to his face, and once again Hugh could feel his very filament beginning to melt, as another human brought a plastic eyeball near...

Hugh was about ready to give up on being surprised for the morning. He could now see out of what he realized must be two plastic googly eyes that the humans had affixed to his face. The addition of this new and exciting sense was so mind-boggling that Hugh was tempted to write it off as a realm not bounded by logic. He didn't have long to appreciate this sense, however, because, as quickly as they had come, the humans stuffed him under a table, muttering something about "...scare the sh*t out of Elizabeth," turned off the lights, and left the room.

Hugh was once again alone.

Chapter 2: Learning the Ropes

As time passed, Hugh slowly became acclimated to a strange but pleasant way of life. All day he sat on a shelf in the small room, dimly lit by the red glow of the computer screen and a weak string of Christmas lights. At night, the humans would come in to work, instantly transforming the place into a world of lights, noise, excitement, and chatter. Hugh soon learned that the humans were university students, part of a group that built space toys and occasionally launched them. At first he couldn't fathom why the students were so happy to stay up all night, buzzed on chocolate covered coffee beans, manufacturing their strange equipment, and chatting about the growing piles of papers and PSets that they weren't going to complete. Hugh concluded that their school life must be so incredibly boring that the whine of a Dremel was some small consolation to them.

Over the course of months, Hugh watched complicated balloon payload mechanisms take shape, larger and larger rockets growing from epoxy and phenolic, and a strange, quieter group that frequently came in to turn the lights off and spend long periods of time making minute adjustments to black foamcore pyramids, and getting unreasonably excited over flickers on the oscilloscope screen. They were an odd bunch, but Hugh began to grow quite fond of them.

And the group of students very quickly grew very fond of Hugh. Almost immediately, he was given a large broad-brimmed straw hat, which Hugh thought quite flatteringly accented his jawline. They talked to him, often placing him on the tables to watch them work. Although his mother had written him off as a failure of her space dreams, Hugh soon found that the students' lofty visions were infectious: he too began to dream of space.

Over several weeks, Hugh's high-altitude aspirations became insatiable. He ached to get outside of the small room, and was sorely disappointed each night, usually at around 3am, when the students finally went home to their beds, leaving him behind. One night, however, things changed. Instead of going home, the students of the rockets team began carrying their gear outside of the room, talking excitedly about some grand event that was to happen the next day. To his surprise, Hugh himself was transported out in the hallway, and plopped down next to a large rocket. In a flurry, the team whisked Hugh, with all of the gear, into the elevator and into the basement.

Now, Hugh had watched his share of cheap horror films (usually while the students were at school, he'd sit on the keyboard and absorb Netflix from the computer), and he began to be worried about his relative helplessness in the situation. The students were transporting him, along with explosives and lots of tools, down a long dark hallway in the basement. They hurried through a pair of double doors and out onto a concrete block, lit orange by streetlights. Hugh's heart was beating fast now, certain that some dodgy business was about to go down, and concerned by his role in it. He was dropped on the edge of the concrete block. Peering over, he saw a 4 foot drop below him, and quickly shuffled back from the edge. Having just saved himself from imminent death by falling, Hugh glanced up to see, to his horror, a huge black metal box with angry red lights advancing slowly towards him. A pipe poured steam from it's face and it growled hungrily. Hugh squeezed his eyes shut and tried to hide under his hat, waiting for the inevitable end.

...which didn't come.

He popped one eye open. The box had stopped. One side of it split open, and Ian, one of the leaders of the rockets team, emerged from the side of it. Ian pulled at the bottom of the box, and the angry face of the metal machine, to Hugh's extreme surprise, slid up into the night air, to expose the fuzzy contours of upholstery. Hugh was nestled gently into a corner, with rocket components laid neatly all around him. When everything was packed into the space, the team wished Hugh a good night and shut the face of the metal box.

"What a strange turn of events..." Hugh mused. He didn't seem to be dead and dismembered, and in fact, his present situation was so cozy... Feeling, all of a sudden, the relief of stress and exhaustion, Hugh was all too happy to doze off into a comfortable sleep.

...to be continued