I have trouble with my science fiction. I don’t know what it is, really. That said, here is a little flash piece I wrote the other night. I truly doubt it’s something I will ever try to publish beyond this page so have a look. Hope you enjoy.
“Incredible, isn’t it?” The voice whispered softly from the seat beside me as we stared at the inky blackness outside the window. There was nothing outside, no points of light or landmarks other than a bit of white metal and a blinking beacon attached to the wing directly under the window.
“It’s just black,” I said, offering a shrug of my shoulders and a bit of contempt. Did he expect me to be in awe, to fall to my knees with tears in my eyes at the wonder of space? The universe was infinite, mostly empty and the places where something filled that temporary gap in the void, barren and dead. I’d have been more impressed looking at a skeleton in a museum but that’s the way most kids are. I know that now.
My father sighed heavily and put his hand on my shoulder. He was a big man, much bigger than his father with skin that was tanned brown from a life working outside. He’d spent his whole life working in fields, farming and toiling while his brothers went to colleges and universities, became doctors with degrees and huge bank accounts. He chose to dig ditches, plant corn and play his guitar. The fact that we were even here was only because of my uncles and their promise to my grandfather whose ashes were safely stored in a box in the compartment above us. His hands, rough and calloused, were soft now as he gripped me.
“My grandfather watched the Cold War end,” he said. “He saw the space program almost die once the Soviets had been beaten and there was no one left to challenge on our way into the stars. He filled my dad’s head full of dreams about other worlds and being a great explorer. My dad did a lot of the same with my brothers and I but the difference was, he knew we’d get here one day. All you’re seeing out that window right now is nothing but what you’re missing is the fact that everything, every single particle in existence right now that makes your or me or anyone that ever will be is right out there in front of you. You know why I became a farmer?”
I shook my head.
“Because I saw the bigger picture,” he continued. “Everything has to start somewhere. My grandfather saw it. My dad saw it. Just because you can’t see it now, doesn’t mean that someone can’t see it later. I plant my field, I care for it, I tend it and I reap everything I sew. You know what happens next? I send it off. I don’t know how to make it into fuel. I can’t turn it into medicine. If it wasn’t for your mom, I wouldn’t be able to put it on a plate in front of you and keep you fed. I know how to start it and I know that, eventually, someone will make it into something that will change the world.”
“Time to launch, sir,” the pilot’s voice interrupted over the speaker above us.
“Thank you,” my father replied softly.
There was a thump, metal hitting metal and then a shake. Suddenly, there was a tiny metal box flying away slowly over the wing and the light into all the blackness and nothing.
“One great leap, pop,” he said, choking on the words.
Slowly, it drifted away into nothing. The end of my grandfather, just another speck of dust swallowed by the blackness outside. We were quiet for a few minutes after that, just watching, never feeling as if we were moving anywhere as dark rolled on into more darkness. We might have been traveling a million miles an hour but there was nothing to see, nothing to suggest we’d done anything other than sit in the same place. Finally, he cleared his throat and tapped on the glass.
“My baby brother discovered the chemical that takes a half inch of glass and makes it lightweight and almost unbreakable. My other brother, he worked with the engineers that made these birds. Makes the whole lunar run possible in three days. You know what I did?”
I shook my head.
“I fed ‘em and put ‘em both through school along with my old man. This is their gift to him, to give him the chance to travel in the stars even if he isn’t really able to enjoy it the way we are. This was his gift to me, that I be the one to bring him that last mile. And this,” he said, pointing again to the window. “This is my gift to you.
The blackness was getting a bit lighter now, turning a bit blue as the ship turned over on it’s side, rotating to prepare for reentry. Suddenly, the night was gone, replaced by the dark blue curve of the earth, the lesser grey slope of the moon and the infinite twinkles of light in the atmosphere from satellites and observatories in orbit.
“My grandfather’s grandfather grew up as a boy without electricity or running water. He walked barefoot to school. He never could have imagined the two of us sitting here right now, looking at all the world and everyone in it but he worked to make sure that we would end up right here in the end. A farmer, a carpenter, a cop, a doctor and, eventually, a farmer again… all to show a boy that the universe is for him and his sons and daughters when the time is right.”
“It’s incredible,” I whispered, taking his hand.
“That it is, son. That it is.”