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Into the Expanse

Who can truly grasp what's beyond our world?

By Kat ThornePublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 5 min read
2
Into the Expanse
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Not that one would even have a chance to scream if they were to ever find themselves thrust into the expanse of overwhelming emptiness. The pressure differential would cause your entire body to explode before you even had time to register where you were, your scream reduced to a billion floating particles of what used to be you.

The shimmering stars and swirling galaxies have long held a sort of romantic fascination for poets and dreamers around the world; the soft pinpricks of light in the sky holding promise of untold wonders yet to be discovered. Who could deny the beauty of the never-ending dance between the sun and the moon, or the fascination of the regal rings looping Saturn?

Really, that beauty is a matter of perspective. A portrait as seen from a viewpoint too distant to make out the reality of the expanse. The equivalent of a small polaroid judged from across a field, a mess of colors, with no true understanding of what you are looking at.

Scientists can spew facts all they want in their efforts to help us understand, about the lightyears separating the planets from the stars, but who could truly grasp a concept like that? The most a person has ever been able to see is a few miles at a time, how could they have even a basic comprehension of how much distance six trillion miles is?

Carter chewed idly on the granola bar he had swiped from their rations stores, staring out at the endless nothingness ahead of him. The throttle stick rested loosely in his hands. Captain of the ship was how his compatriots addressed him, but the title rang false to him these days. Being a pilot implied having a destination in mind to pilot to.

He alone knew the severity of the predicament they were in. To the other passengers of the airship, they were on their way to the new world. The lucky lottery winners who made it off the planet as chaos consumed the home they had known.

A randomly selected fifty people, chosen to board the only ship equipped to leave the dying planet. Carter was the only one who wasn’t random. Astronauts were scarce by the time the lottery was held, and he was quickly recognized as the best candidate to guide the elected survivors to their new home.

The others would be dead by now. Drowned in the relentless infernos that spread across the planet. It had started off as a small wildfire here and there. A product of climate change, the scientists said. The unlucky result of unusually dry weather, insisted others.

Gradually, the fires grew larger. More and more sprung up, across all different continents. The more flames that raged, the more unequipped their resources were to stop them. The spreading grew faster at an exponential rate, until not a spot was left where the orange glow wasn’t visible in the sky.

The poetry of the sky replaced by the never-ending haze of impending doom.

In the end, the reasoning behind the fires really didn’t matter. The blazes killed them all, without remorse, regardless of the belief systems they held.

And now the lucky fifty pushed forward, careening through time and space towards a new utopia to call their own, where they could create the population of mankind anew.

The scientists had showered them with promises as they boarded the aircraft, of all the wonders the new world had to offer. Tales of untamed wilderness to conquer, exotic fruits to sample and lakes so pure they appeared golden beneath the reflection of the sunlight took some of the sting out of their bittersweet goodbyes to loved ones left behind, and their mourning of the only home they had ever known.

Only Carter knew that such a place didn’t exist.

The scientists sent them up into the expanse in the hopes that if they wandered long enough, they would be able to find a planet with habitable conditions that they could turn into their new home. In truth, in all their relentless studies of the celestial bodies surrounding the Earth, no such place had ever been discovered.

Exploring for new worlds was all well and good in a place as small as earth, where a simple month’s boat ride could have the early settlers bumping into new lands, but Carter didn’t think anyone could really grasp the fruitlessness of attempting to mimic those early pioneers in the vastness of space. The eerie darkness stretched relentlessly in all directions, a metaphorical web silently encasing their ship, waiting for them to stop struggling so the spider could pounce.

The pinpricks of light dotting the edges of their vision held their only chance of surviving this voyage, but Carter alone saw these for what they really were. Traps of unstable atmospheres, extreme temperatures, and generally unlivable conditions were likely what truly waited for them at the end of their journey.

The soft beacons of hope belied the predatory nature of the galaxy they sailed through. By the time they realized the star or planet they had set course towards was unable to meet even their most basic needs for a new life, it would be too late to make the journey to another. The gaping maw of space had already closed around their ship, the passengers simply didn’t realize it yet. Time and distance would be their downfall, in the end.

Still, he couldn’t bring himself to tell the other passengers of the ship that there was no real end destination in mind. It seemed needlessly cruel to take away the hope that had only recently been returned to those on board.

It felt far more humane to allow the others to enjoy the time they had left, free from the horrors that had befallen Earth. The truth of their circumstances would remain his burden alone to shoulder.

After all, what was this but another matter of perspective?

Best allow the dreamers room to enjoy their idealized reality, to live out their remaining days in blissful ignorance with their warped perspective on their vision of their lives. No good could come from bringing that snapshot into focus.

His fingers grazed over the small silver switch to his left. The one that when flipped, would allow the doors of the aircraft to spring open, exposing all occupants to the vacuum that surrounded them. They wouldn’t even have time to scream.

542 days of fuel remaining.

Sci Fi
2

About the Creator

Kat Thorne

Just muddling through life, trying to be the good sort of chaotic energy.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  • Jori T. Sheppard2 years ago

    I always get excited with these “survivors going to a new world” stories. This one sounds pretty good and you have the chops to pull it off. Although you might want to start with the “eating a granola” part of the story if you want to turn this into a real book. You almost lost me with the preachy first part. And the rest of the chapter is perfect.

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