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Chapter 1

By Luisa GilliesPublished 10 months ago 10 min read
Photo by Daniel Olah on Unsplash

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Someone could be floating right on the other side of this window, begging me to let them in, and I'd never know about it.

I'm blind, you see. I can't rely on my eyes.

Tick, tock, goes the little bedside clock. It's annoying, but Ma insists it's valuable – she claims it was brought onto the Ship all the way from Earth, by the First Generation. It could just as easily be a cheap replica from that little shop in the North Wing, of course. In any case, it's entirely useless to me – but it keeps her happy.

The sound of morning preparations has started drifting in from the rooms around us. Doors swinging open and slamming shut; people bustling about, chattering and disappearing down the hallways; young children screaming and giggling. I feel Ma gently rolling away from me, out of bed and onto the floor. Today is the day of the Meeting, and she'll be setting off soon. Everyone will be. Everyone, that is, apart from me.

I'm not supposed to exist, you see.

When the Ship left the Earth, it took only the fittest, healthiest human beings with it. The Committee hand-picked them. They wrote into the Constitution that anyone born with any kind of genetic "mistake" – blindness, for instance – would not be permitted to continue their journey to the new planet. That's why all newborns are immediately put through testing. That's why the ones who fail the test are Ejected.

I sometimes wonder how long a newborn stays alive out there, floating around in the emptiness. I wonder how long they continue to cry for, out there where sound doesn't exist.

As one might expect, I was supposed to be Ejected. Ma says that she knew there was something wrong even before I got tested. She says that my eyes were too beautiful to be functional; like swirling ice. She's never told me how exactly she managed to save me. All I know is that it involved some sort of payment, but she insists it's private information that I don't need to know about. Either way, here I am. No one found me – no one ejected me. I'm still alive, despite everything.

Ma noticed that she could open the vent on the ceiling of her room and keep me inside it. She'd leave me up there while she was at work. At the end of each day, she'd return and scoop me back down – feed me and change me and cuddle me and fall asleep with me in her bed. Ma says that I was never discovered because, somehow, I never cried. Ma says a lot of things, and I'm not always sure I believe her.

Ma encouraged me to start exploring when I was about ten years old. She said I'd be perfectly safe, as long as I kept quiet. So I started to crawl very slowly on my hands and knees, mapping out the layout of the vents in my mind so that I could always find my way back to the room. The vents connect the entire Ship, and it's a very big ship. I've been exploring for seven years, and I've still not been everywhere.

I've spent a lot of time sitting above different rooms, lying flat with my ear pressed against the metal of the vent to listen in on the people below. There's the Music Room, where the Orchestra practices for their performances at different ceremonies. And the Cinema, where they play movies that were made all the way back on Earth.

And then there's Nye's room. I try not to think about Nye, but the memory has a way of creeping into my mind from time to time. When I was a child, I used to like sitting above him. He lived with his father, and they would tell each other about their dreams and make jokes and watch movies together. I pretended that I was Nye's friend – that I was part of their fun.

I was about thirteen when I last visited Nye. He was alone in his room, getting dressed, and I was sitting right above him, just listening to him move around. He suddenly sprayed a huge amount of deodorant into the air, and it hit me in a wave as it passed through the vent. Before I had time to think, I coughed.

Nye immediately stopped moving, and I froze. We stayed like that for a while – I have no idea how long – so close together, aware of each other's presence. Eventually, he just started shuffling around again. He finished getting dressed and left for school, and I crawled back to Ma's room. I never told her what happened that morning, and I never went back to Nye's room. I try not to think about it too much.

It's time to get up. I roll out of bed and give Ma her morning hug. She's been bustling about the room, gathering her things.

"Morning, darling," she says. I hear her sling her handbag over her shoulder as she steps away from me. "I'm off now. Can't be late. You'll come, won't you?"

I give her a reluctant nod, and she slips out into the hallway.

I've been listening in on the Meetings for years. They are excruciatingly dull. Pretty much just one long speech by the Captain, explaining things that everyone already knows. How the ancient humans destroyed their original planet – called Earth – and how the Ship left just in time to save humanity. How it has been traveling for thousands of years towards our new home, Planet Domus. And how we are the Last Generation – the one that will actually get off the Ship and build a new world on Domus.

Scientists have been observing Domus since the very beginning of the voyage. It's an almost exact replica of Earth, without any humans on it. Without any intelligent life form, in fact. That was confirmed a few months ago. That's why it's going to make a perfect new home for humanity.

My place on Domus is yet to be figured out. Ma says not to worry – that she's been drawing up a plan, and she'll explain it to me when I'm ready. I'm not sure why she can't just tell me now, but I realized long ago that there's no use arguing with Ma. I have to trust her – she saved me as a baby, and she'll save me again when we land. There's no point in thinking about it.

I reach my arms up and feel around the low ceiling until I find the square hole. My fingers automatically curl around the edges, and I smoothly lift myself up into the vent. It doesn't take me long to crawl my way to the Meeting Room.

"Welcome, welcome," the familiar voice of the Captain is booming as I shuffle into earshot. "Welcome, everyone. Welcome."

A round of applause is echoing through the vents, and I gently pat my own hands together, careful not to actually make a sound. I started doing it as a child – clapping along helped me to feel included – and I never got out of the habit.

"Thank you. Thank you," the Captain is bellowing. "Settle down, now, everyone. Welcome, welcome. Settle down. It's lovely to see you all again. Settle down."

A hush slowly falls over the crowd, and, after a moment of silence, the Captain begins his speech.

"Now, as you all know," he starts, "our clever Navigation Officers have been finalizing their estimations for the Landing Date . . ."

I'm trying to listen, but I'm distracted by a very faint sound that is making its way towards me from another room. It's strange – everyone is supposed to be in the Meeting. Almost subconsciously, I crawl towards it.

As I get closer, I start to make out some voices. Some sort of meeting is being conducted in hushed tones. I crawl along until I can hear it right below me. It's coming from one of the storerooms. Crouching down, I press the side of my face against the cold metal, trying to make out what they're saying.

"Alaric's done his best to leak the documents," a woman's voice is murmuring, "but we don't have an awful lot. All we know is that it's confirmed – Domus is already inhabited by an intelligent life form. They're referring to the species as Sapiens – Extrarius Sapiens. They're planning on destroying it – all traces of it – before the Ship lands."

"The good news," continues a man's voice, "is that they haven't quite figured out how to do that yet. That's why the Ship has been going around in circles. We could have landed months ago. They're buying time."

"Plan A seems to involve a biological weapon of some sort," continues the woman. "Our best guess is that they want to send a series of autopiloted capsules containing the weapon in the form of compressed gas. When the capsules enter Planet Domus's atmosphere, the change in pressure would cause them to explode, releasing the virus or bacteria all over the globe. They're hoping it will be deadly."

"So what are we going to do?" a third voice says. It sounds like a young man – almost a teenager. It almost sounds like – is that Nye? I press my face down harder against the metal, flattening my ear until it feels two-dimensional.

"We're going to do everything in our power to stop them," the woman is saying. "We cannot allow an entire civilization to be eradicated without a just cause. We hope that the Sapiens will allow us humans to co-exist with them on Domus, peacefully."

"And if they won't?"

"Then we stay on the Ship and find another home."

"The Committee will never allow that."

"That's why the Committee has to be taken down."

"Right now, however," the man says, "it's of the utmost importance that we make contact with the Sapiens immediately. We must gain their trust and warn them about the attack. We must try to draw up some sort of peace treaty, some sort of plan. We must figure out, together, if it will be possible to co-exist with the Sapiens on Domus, and . . ."

Suddenly too overwhelmed to listen anymore, I scramble up onto my knees. In my frenzy, I hit my head against the side of the vent. A loud thud. The sound reverberates around me. Oh, no. No, no, no.

I try to scramble my way back towards Ma's room, but I take a wrong turn, and then another one, and suddenly I don't know where I am anymore. My head is throbbing, and I can't tell if I'm imagining the sound of someone else shuffling along the vent, not far behind me.

I suddenly can't move. A pair of arms has grabbed me from behind and something soft and wet is being pressed into my face. I try to scream, but the sound can't escape. I struggle, my heart pounding loudly in my ears, as I'm forced to breathe in the pungent, stinging liquid.

"Sorry, sorry," Nye is whispering in my ear as he holds me still, "I'm sorry."

My head is spinning round and round. I can't keep up. My grip on my own consciousness slips, and then it's gone.

Sci Fi

About the Creator

Luisa Gillies

Hi! I'm Luisa.

I write short stories and poetry.

I'm really keen to hear feedback on my work, so please feel free to share your thoughts!

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (6)

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  • Joanna Knight10 months ago

    very strong entry, well done..and good luck in the competition

  • Emily Futter10 months ago

    Wow, excellent story telling! Character development is excellent. Intrigued to hear what happens next.

  • John Santini10 months ago

    Fantastic! Lots of beautiful little details. More please!

  • Alessandro10 months ago

    Absolutely brilliant! Looking forward to reading the next chapter.

  • Francesca Casci10 months ago

    Beautifully written and intriguing story. Can't wait to read the rest of it! I particularly liked Ma ☺️

  • james mathews10 months ago

    Really enjoyed reading this, would love to have another chapter please!

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