Somewhere Beyond the Stars
“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.” - Van Gogh
Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Honestly, I'm counting on it.
The people on this ship are on their way to new lives. They've sold all their earthly possessions to afford a ticket, and they're full of promise at what is what waiting for them off of our world. The naïve electricity in the air is unmissable. Ever since Cruizes announced the first one-way trips a few years ago, I'd reveled in the absurdity of how ready people were to abandon everything they had known; ready to abandon the very soil that once fed them, the foundation of their homes--as if Earth had been the problem all along.
Too fat? It's all the damn gravity.
Hate your job? Hate your family, your spouse, your spoiled children? It's probably the atmosphere.
Now, here we are. Once again succumbing to the idea that somehow a fresh start on another world is all we need to be the best version of ourselves. Finally.
They're selling a vision of running toward your future, but we all know, deep down, that we're only running away.
I am running, not because I think a new world holds any real promise, because I know that our earthly problems will all root in our new home, and quickly, too, but I am running because I will be alone. Truly alone. Without a single human tie.
When my estranged mother died last August, leaving me an unfathomable estate, I knew that I would buy a ticket and leave it all behind, without looking back and without saying goodbye.
My nausea has finally started to wane, but I think if I move too quickly, I'll throw up. I still really have to pee; in fact, my full bladder screaming at me to open my eyes woke me in the first place. My head is still throbbing, and my vision is not fully clear yet, but it's better than it was when I woke up a few minutes ago.
The man sitting across from me is still avoiding all contact with me, and the little girl sitting next to him is craning her neck to see out the small porthole just above her shoulder as she clutches her small, dingy teddy bear. She can't be more than four years old, but the way she is cradling that bear makes her look like a mother clinging to her newborn, prepared to protect it as they run from some unseen danger.
I swallow the last of the painkillers from my purse, which I find sitting on my lap, its straps wrapped tightly around my left arm. Without any water, I feel the pills stuck in my throat. I try gently to ease them down by massaging my throat with my fingers, but as I feel the stubborn pills barely inching down, a wave of urgency rushes to my hands as I massage my throat more earnestly. This man doesn't look like he'd bat an eye to save my life if I choke on these pills.
What a way to go, I think to myself. Would they just kick my body out into space? Do they have a morgue on board? I'm sure they must. It's a long journey, and surely everyone doesn't make it to deep sleep. I guess I'd better get used to this feeling. It's what I'm hurdling toward on this air train anyway, isn't it? Solitude?
I muster some extra saliva, and with persistent coaxing from my tongue and fingers, I manage to get the pills down before the worst happens.
I must have shown panic at my imminent demise because both the man and the girl are staring at me now, but not quite with concern. More a sort of curiosity. Or reverence. Or fear. A combination of all three, I suppose.
They don't look happy to be here, but that may just be the wariness of their mess of a cabinmate. I had initially, and quite selfishly as Adriana had put it, purchased the entire cabin. Adriana, an old friend from childhood, who was now working for Cruizes, had heard of my great fortune after my mother's passing and contacted me a few days ago.
"I was so sorry to hear of your mother's passing, Alma," her syrupy voice coated the earpiece.
"It's fine. We hadn't spoken in years anyway."
"Oh," she said with a deep sadness that felt inappropriate for someone I hadn't spoken to since 8th grade. "Well, Alma, I have a favor to ask you. As you know, I am working for Cruizes, and I see that you have a journey with us in a few days."
She paused here as if waiting for me to add something to the conversation.
"Well, you have an entire cabin to yourself, and I'm wondering if you'd be willing to sell two of your three extra seats. He's a friend of mine, and he's really desperate to get on a cruise, but they're sold out for months..."
She seemed to trail off, pausing again as though she expected my curiosity to peek through like I'm still 13-year-old Alma.
Alma the curious, Alma the gracious. Alma, the friend.
"He'll pay the initial cost plus a 20% fee on top of it."
"Alma? Are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here. Listen, it's not a money thing. I just want the room to myself. I want to be alone."
Another pause, another inappropriate sadness. "I see."
"Ok, well, if that'll be all, Ade, I need to get going. "
Before I can hang up, she says, "Alma, I'm going to have to call in my favor."
"Your favor?" I ask, repressing the bond we forged years ago in the basement of that old house. "Oh," I manage to squeak out as the memory surfaces.
"So, that's a yes, I take it?" Her voice tinged with a hint of satisfaction.
"Yeah, I'll do it."
"Great. I'll have him wire you the fee."
"No, Ade. He can save his money." I hesitate before speaking the following words, but I figure this will likely be my last chance to say them to her. "Thanks, Ade. I'm glad I could finally pay you back."
She didn't wait a beat before saying, "Take care of yourself. I hope you find what you're looking for out there," and before I could say anything further, she was gone.
I had fallen asleep before they boarded. My last Earth bender had lulled me into a deep sleep.
We stare at each other for a few moments before I see the man's lips begin to move. His voice is somehow delayed from his mouth. Is that something they said could happen on these trains? Or am I still just drunk? It's hard to say, but the sound manages to catch up.
"I'm Ken, and this is my daughter, Louisa." He says cautiously, as if unsure whether he's allowed to speak.
"Hi. I'm Alma."
I wave at Louisa, but she turns her eyes away, gripping her little bear.
"I wasn't sure you were going to wake up." He says, cracking an almost imperceptible smile. I guess he's making a little joke that he thought I had died. The smile quickly vanishes from his face as he sees my reaction. He quickly corrects, "I mean, you were asleep when we got on here over 16 hours ago. I thought maybe they'd put you into the deep sleep early."
The little girl pokes the man's shoulders, and he turns to whisper in her ear. She exclaims something undiscernible before nodding her head politely when he taps her knee gently yet admonishingly.
I can't help but stare at Louisa. She is beautiful. She has her father's blue eyes and crooked smile. As I watch the two interact, I feel a smile creep onto my face. For a brief moment, I'm transported back to my own childhood playing outside in the yard with dad.
He must see my smile because I see his shoulders start to release the tension that's been holding them nearly to his ears as long as I've been awake.
"Not a lot of children on board, are there?" And with that, his shoulders raise right back up.
"No, I guess not," he manages to say after too long a pause.
"Is this the door to the restroom?" I point, getting up from my seat.
He says, "Yes, but be quick. They'll be doing cabin checks any minute, and they don't like people walking about unnecessarily."
"Unnecessarily?" I ask, "This is very necessary, trust me," I say.
But his face causes me to pause again, and I ask, "What do you mean? It's our cabin, right? I mean, we're paying customers. Do they really get to dictate if we use the restroom?" I ask the question with playful rebellion in my voice, trying to cut the sudden tension in the cabin.
Louisa's face is buried in her bear as Ken looks at me apologetically like I'm a poor child who just found out there's no Santa Claus. "Just be quick."
And now I have so many more questions. But first, I have to pee.
About the Creator
Writing for fun and as an escape from the everyday. After all, what is life for if not to create?
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Oh I am curious what's happening next! Will there be a next part?
Great job! You should keep going with this one... I want to know what happens