Space

A young woman on a one way trip out of our solar system.

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1. Space : A Short Story

As Earth becomes an ever more distant dot, my thoughts linger on the dream that space was, is, always has been - not just for me but for the whole human race. I can’t take my eyes off that spot of blue, now so tiny I am straining to see it. Every moment of my existence; every road I have walked on; every bed I’ve slept in; every run down cafe I’ve stumbled into in a rainstorm; all of them gone. Everything I’ve ever known is fading from view, faster and faster as each second passes.

 

I am reminded of the first time I moved house, twisted round in my seat, staring out the car’s rear window as we drove further and further away and the only home I’d ever known slowly disappeared from sight. Of course, at the time I swore to myself I would go back to that town, see those friends again, that no amount of distance could make me forget. And - of course - I never went back. The names and faces of those friends are long gone from my memory. In the end, distance can conquer anything.

 

Out the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of Pluto as we glide past. The twenty quid train ticket I never forked out for to go and visit those old friends seems ridiculously insignificant.

 

I wonder how many times further away I am from earth than those towns were far away from each other. Maybe I’ll work that out some time.

 

I’ve loved maths for as long as I can remember. Maths is how I ended up on this ship, on this “pioneering voyage”. We’re going the furthest anyone has gone, ever, and the calculations that got us here were down to me. Most of humanity remains on the Mars base, awaiting our news. One day, if we find somewhere better, somewhere a little more Earth, we will contact them and hopefully, somehow, they’ll come to join us. Until then, it’s just me and the crew and the final frontier.

 

A smirk escapes my lips. That phrase always makes me smile.

 

One Christmas my grandfather turned up on our doorstep with a sack full of Star Trek themed stuff - decorations, selection boxes, you name it - but hands down the best thing he brought was the crackers. There was just the same joke repeated in each one. Every time me and my cousins would feign innocence, act like we hadn’t heard it already being read by each person around the table.

 

“How many ears does Mr Spock have?”, he would say.

 

“I don’t know, Grandpa”, we would chant, in sickening unison.

 

“Three. A left ear, a right ear and the final front ear.”

 

None of us even got it, I don’t think. We’d erupt in laughter regardless.

 

That was the last Christmas I spent with my grandfather, but it was by far the best. I still have the piece of paper from a cracker with the joke written on it stuck in my scrapbook - a glowing memory amidst pages of cheap birthday cards and silly magazine cutouts.

 

My scrapbooks are the only things from home on board the ship with me. Most stuff had to be left behind but this was an exception. I was given my first scrapbook on the very day I was born and although I wasn’t let loose on it with a Pritt stick myself for another few years, my mother made sure to document everything in it for me. I’ve never been one for keeping a diary or journal and I’m no good with photo albums. Those books are all the remnants I have of my life before this. I will take them with me wherever I go and whatever I do.

 

Flicking through the pages is always a strange sensation, years of my life passing by in a blur of rustling paper.

 

At fourteen, I had my first kiss.

 

At fifteen, I attempted suicide.

 

At sixteen, I was the happiest I’d ever been.

 

And at seventeen, while I was busy wasting money and drinking too much, astronauts landed on Europa, one of Jupiter’s sixty-odd moons, a lump of rock less than a quarter the size of our own home planet. Suddenly, what had once seemed nothing but the distant fantasy of astrophysicists was everybody’s reality. They had discovered oceans of liquid water locked under the ice on its surface. More than that, they had found life. Not life that could communicate with us. Not complex life. Not a civilisation, but enough to change everything.

 

“WE ARE NOT ALONE”

 

The only headline covering newspapers and news channels and news websites for weeks.The only phrase whirring round and round in my head.

 

Not a month later, doctors found a tumour, bigger, in fact, than any discovered Europan life-form, in my mother’s brain. Dreams of spaceships and aliens disappeared from my thoughts completely, until I was nineteen and the first evacuations took place.

 

I picture Mum’s grave now. A slab of rock sitting alone on an abandoned Earth, the flowers I laid there fading and wilting until there is nothing left. Earth will crumble unseen. In but a few billion years, the dying red Sun will consume it whole. There will be no families left there to be afraid.

 

Starting a family of my own was always something on the to-do list - go to university, fall in love, travel the world, go into space, get married, have kids.

 

Turned out that plan was thwarted before I could even complete university. Climate change got slightly out of hand, to put it mildly. I was nearing the end of my first year when they started shipping people off to Europa. I wonder now if we, the human race, ran away too fast - if maybe there was a way to reverse all the damage our own species caused. Maybe I, like so many others, gave up on our planet too easy.

 

Before the doubts and the guilt that sit at the back of my mind can eat their way to the front, a voice projects loudly into the empty room around me

 

“Can all crew please report to Cabin 42. That’s all crew to report to Cabin 42”

 

Without thinking, I react to the noise, looking away from the window to the intercom speakers above me.


By the time I have realised and return my gaze to where I was staring at Earth just moments ago, the planet has become an indistinguishable speck, completely and irrevocably engulfed in the vast expanse of space.

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