From Here to Infinity
A second chance, out there, beyond the stars.
Walter stood silent as he watched the plume of smoke and fire rising into the horizon. His eyes were fixed on a colony ship, carrying the hopes and dreams of the human race. Carrying the lucky souls who earned a second chance on another world.
The bright dot entered the thick layer of ash that had replaced the night sky and Walter dropped his gaze to the barren ground below. If there was one thing he missed, it was the sight of the stars in the night sky.
Ever since the Yellowstone Caldera erupted, day and night had become nothing more than shades of gray.
Walter fastened the straps on his gas mask and spun around. Sitting in front of him was a repurposed low-orbit ship, created by some billionaire to take rich folks into space for a brief moment before they came back to terra firma. It was a symbol of decadence, a type of tourism reserved only for the elite.
Now, it was his daughter and her unborn child’s only hope.
“Dad, we don’t need to do this! We didn’t make the cut, it’s not worth killing ourselves over!” Rebecca said, cradling the round bump protruding from beneath her flowing sunflower dress.
The sight would have been heartwarming, were it not for the makeshift gas mask strapped to her face, shielding her from the endless dust storms.
Walter shook his head, sending ash and dust that had accumulated on his mask flying into the wind.
“Rebecca, we’re not discussing this anymore. Earth is finished, and you’re getting on that colony ship, one way or another.”
“Will this thing even fly?” Rebecca asked.
Walter regarded the ship sitting on the landing strip with an uncertain level of confidence. Its silver sheen, sharp wings, and massive single jet engine made it look like something from a 1950s pulp science fiction novel.
The years since the eruption had stripped away much of the exterior paint, which made it look more like someone’s abandoned project than a functioning aircraft.
“Yes! I mean, probably, but it’s our only shot. Get inside, we have to intercept the colony ship before it breaks orbit!”
Walter climbed into the cockpit as his daughter settled into one of the passenger seats behind him.
Walter had been a pilot for thirty years before the eruption. He assumed that flying the billionaire’s space jet would be like riding a bike, and it was, if the bike was a prototype vessel designed to break through the Earth’s atmosphere that had barely, if ever, been used for its intended purpose.
“Here we go, fasten your seatbelts!” Walter shouted.
The roar of the jet engine shook the very air around him as Walter laid down the throttle. He could barely see through the thick sea of airborne debris, but he felt the familiar pull of gravity trying desperately to hold its grasp on them.
Walter pulled back on the Yoke with both hands and braced for anything. The aircraft groaned, as it lifted from the ground and into the sky. The vibrations shot through Walter’s arms and legs, and he struggled to maintain his bearing against the sheer force of the storms that ravaged the Earth.
Walter roared with laughter. “It’s working! It’s working Rebecca!”
“I’ll be happy when it’s over!” Rebecca shouted back.
Walter squinted to see past the tainted sky, but soon the ship punched through and gravity mercilessly let go. His body lifted slightly off the chair, weightless in the space between the sky and the heavens.
Walter felt tears building up in his eyes.
The stars. He hadn’t seen them in years. He was convinced he would never see them again.
“What a sight,” he whispered, wishing his wife was here with him to see it.
The ship continued rocketing towards the massive colony vessel that had been launched just minutes before. It was composed of rotating white rings along a central pillar, providing habits and artificial gravity for its inhabitants, which numbered in the millions.
Walter reached down and plucked the headset as it floated in the air, connected only by a thin cable to the console in front of him. He placed it on his head and punched in the frequency that had been given to him during his last correspondence with the powers that be aboard the colony ship.
“This is Walter Randal, I am approaching your ship with my daughter and her unborn child. We’re expected.”
The headset crackled before a voice came through.
“Hello, old friend. Didn’t think you’d actually be dumb enough to fly that thing, let alone take it into space.”
Walter chuckled. “You should know me better than that. I’m here for our deal.”
The voice on the other end sighed. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Continue on your current course, We’ll intercept you in 90 seconds.”
Walter stayed on course as the colony ship loomed large in the distance. A mechanical arm extended from the tip of the central pillar, moving its metal claw toward the ship with incredible precision. Walter cut the engines and let the ship drift as the claw locked down and held the ship in place.
“What’s happening?” Rebecca shouted from the back.
Walter took off the headset and let it dangle in mid-air. “All good sweetie, they’ve intercepted the ship just like I planned. They’ll be boarding us any minute.”
Walter watched as a small ship flew out and docked against his own. The muffled rush of air came from their airlock just before a group of soldiers stepped through the cabin door. Walter unbuckled his seatbelt and drifted through the doorway of the cabin to greet them.
The soldiers sported round glass helmets and white suits with magnetic boots that held them to the ground below. At the front of them was the man that Walter had spoken to on the headset, though his face was obscured by the glare of his helmet. He’d recognize that voice anywhere.
“He stays. The girl comes with us. That was the deal,” he said through an intercom on the suit.
The soldiers moved to grab Rebecca who was immediately protesting.
“Hey! What the fuck? Dad! Don’t let them take me without you!” she shouted.
“I’m sorry sweetie, but that was the deal. They’re already over capacity.”
“You both deserve a second chance, somewhere out there, beyond the stars. I love you baby.”
Walter waved goodbye to his daughter as the soldiers carried her back through the airlock. His old friend stood silently regarding him from behind his helmet.
“This makes us even,” he said.
“Don’t count on it. I’m not dead yet,” Walter replied.
Walter could hear the man’s muted laugh through the speaker on his suit.
“Safe travels old friend.”
Walter waited for them to depart before floating back to the cockpit. He strapped himself back into the pilot’s chair and watched as the colony ship drifted slowly further and further away.
Rebecca was safe. Her child was safe. That’s all that mattered.
Walter looked down to the dashboard in front of him. The low oxygen light was already flashing. Despite this, Walter leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes with a smile on his face.
His final thoughts as he drifted through infinity were of his wife.
I’m coming home baby…
About the author
Lover of dogs, gaming, and long walks on the beach. Content Marketing Manager by day, aspiring writer by night. Long time ghostwriter, finally stepping into the light. Alone, we cannot change this world, but we can create better ones.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content