The Space Station
the new life
Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. But I swore I heard her. In my dreams I still hear her.
Living on this space station my whole life, I didn't know anything else. Classes were taught in small rooms with windows to the only view I have ever known. Sleeping under the stars wasn't just an expression but a way of life. You could tell the ones who knew differently right away. Their faces had this look of disconnect and hopelessness at the same time. I loved to hear my parents talk of their life on Earth before Earth became uninhabitable. I would sit and hang on every word, every description, picturing one day being able to feel grass underneath my feet, smell the breeze of an ocean. I would waver between begging for a story of their prior life or biting my tongue, as I knew talking about it was never easy for them. I could tell the days when it hit the most, missing who they were before the carbon warmed the planet up by 8 degrees causing a domino effect, ending all livable life on Earth. They would sit and stare out the small cabin window, ghosts of their prior selves. Sometimes I would hear mom's silent cry and dad would console her the best he knew how, but it was too hard on him. He would often pretend he wasn't tired and fall asleep on the small futon, trying to save mom the pain of knowing she was making it more difficult for all.
My sister and I were both selected to help in the greenhouse when we were old enough, growing and picking fruits and vegetables. We knew from the moment we could walk that this task was not assigned to just anyone. Rumors of what happened to those who had snuck in to get more then their prescribed portion caused my sister to have nightmares, which made my mom's hate for this place stronger. She could never show it though, until locked in our cabin at night. The guards would catch on to anything out of the ordinary and they would take it to the Moderator.
I could tell mom was getting bad. She wouldn't leave the cabin, dad had to make excuses as she was unable to complete her assigned tasks, something the guards took very seriously. Each day she missed work, they would subtract a fruit from her dinner plate, rationalizing that since she wasn't expending energy she didn't need her whole portion. The 4 of us shared and saved as much food as we could anyway so there was always a vegetable or 2 to spare. I could hear dad beg her to get up and get to her assignment after 3 days. She refused, not caring what would happen to her, this wasn't the life she chose. He told her to do it for the kids, that we needed her.
What do they need from me? They will be stuck here their whole lives, no future ahead of them, their lives planned out aboard this station.
Please Mary, think of how hard it was for us to make it here, we were some of the only ones who got this chance, so many others were lost but we made it. Please think of that.
We're only here because they need to use your medical skills in the infirmary, that's the only reason we were selected and allowed on board. They are using us.
It doesn't matter! We are here and alive, that's what counts.
Sometimes I wonder who had it worse.
How can you even say that?
I had plans of becoming a guard when I was older and maybe even the Moderator one day. I could never understand why mom couldn't be happy here. It angered me that she couldn't see the wonders of living in space. But what did I know, I was only a kid. By the time I turned 18 I was able to apply and pass with flying colors all the tests of becoming a guard. My ceremony was one of the proudest moments I've had, and being sworn in was something I dreamed about since I was a boy. I saw mom watching from the pocket door, her red curls framing the small window. She wouldn't come in because she thought I was making a mistake. I refused to let her negativity ruin this for me. My sister became one of the managers of the Greenhouse; we were both considered valuable members of the station, something not every gets. Dad was there, I think he was proud that we made something of ourselves up here. I know he missed Earth but he at least tried to move forward for us.
On the day it happened I had been a guard for about a year. I was at the top of my class, I made sure boundaries were kept, rules were upheld. Mom would leave when I would talk about my day and eventually I was able to move into a room with one other guard. I know this was upsetting for her but at the same time I felt I didn't even know her anymore, she would always be whispering behind my back, complaining of something or other and I did not want to be caught around that.
I had picked up an extra shift that night. If I wanted to be promoted I would take all the extra work I could get. As I walked by the greenhouse I saw her, bright red hair impossible to miss. She looked up at me with a sad smile.
Please don't do this Mom, please.
She reached down and wrapped her hand around a beautifully ripe tomato, one that would be picked tomorrow and used for lunch. I could see my sister's key in her hand, most likely stolen from her room while she was sleeping.
Mom please, you don't have to do this, I can help you.
She plucked the tomato and inhaled the scent.
You know, I use to have my own garden back home. I would spend hours digging and planting. I dreamed of showing my own kids how to grow and utilize nature in a way were it would be therapeutic and healing. I wish you could have felt the sun on your face, experience food the way it was meant to be, not grown in some scientific laboratory state.
She opened her mouth and I willed her not to bite it.
You still have time mom, please put it down, don't make me do this.
As she closed her eyes and bit into the tomato, I could see the pleasure on her face as her mind was flooded with memories of her former life.
I froze and had to contain myself. My shaking hand picked up the radio, Code Green.
It was a blur, I saw the other guards come in and take her. She smiled as they put her hands behind her back. As she passed me she gave me a peaceful nod, and I had to follow them to the Moderator's office where her fate would be sealed. Taking food is one of the worst offenses you can make, it meant you can no longer be trusted and you were not considered a team player, one of the stations' biggest rules.
Dad and Sarah were quietly told and able to come say their goodbyes. We walked, the 4 guards and the Moderator, to the airlock doors. For the first time she seemed at peace. She looked me in the eyes, Thank you.
The doors opened and she went fast. I had to stand their, neutral, as part of the job was putting the station above all others. I couldn't show emotion or that would be seen as a weakness. This was the first time I had witnessed the sliding of someone into space. It was such a rare occurrence because the onboarders knew what to do to stay here.
When I see Dad and Sarah now the silence is deafening. Between our words the despair feels unimaginable. They will never forgive me but we are all each other has aboard this station. At night I wake up to her screams, the image trapped inside my mind. The anger gets greater over time, that she left me with that last vision of her.
Now 10 years later, I am up for Moderator, it is my turn to make the rules on this station. It's been enough time that Earth may be back to normal and I have to decide if we can land. This is the biggest decision of my life and if mom just waited she would be able to witness this. I pushed aside all the thoughts of her that came over the years, sometimes it takes me a minute to remember if what happened to her was a dream or if it was real. Maybe this is my one way to repay dad for what I did, bring him back to the only place that brought him peace. Now it's my turn to visit Earth.