I only had an hour left.
I put my watch down to my side.
“How is it up there, Clara?”
I looked at the speaker in front of me as I sat in the chair before the control panel. The great glass window towered over me. The black abyss looked as if it engulfed me. The stars twinkled, they seemed so close. So close that I felt that I could touch them with my finger.
I pressed the yellow button near the lever that turned on the headlights.
“I’m doing alright here, Commander.” I said, nearing my lips to the speaker next to the button I just pressed.
“You know what to do soldier, correct?”
“Yes. It’s clear.”
“We’re going to leave you for a bit, but if you need to say something, just press the yellow button.”
It’s my tenth mission. I was the best the International Union had. It was something I had to do skillfully.
Something I had to do alone.
This whole ship had only me in it. I couldn’t show the Commanders one drop of nervousness. They already had their doubts. It was because of one reason.
I was a woman.
I was going to show them that we were equals.
I have trained for this mission for one year. One year of zero gravity training. One year of eating horrible food. One year of criticism that, I just couldn’t do it. They said I was small, but I knew what the real reason was. The mission was simple.
Release an atomic bomb that would destroy the Zawth.
The world had entrusted me with the crime of genocide. Something I would be pardoned for. They would tell the public that the Alien League took care of the problem. World Leader did not accept the fact that a woman will save the world from their alien lasers and human appetite.
Our world, so full of incorrect thoughts and prejudiced statements.
I didn’t mind that they weren’t going to put credit to my name. It was only one step to the appreciation of women. I am going to work for the better future, not for the betterment of myself.
I looked out of the window. Earth was a tiny speck in the darkness. It got smaller and smaller. It makes me think about how small I am compared to everything else.
I missed them. I remembered I was able to do Video-Connection.
I spun around, got out of my chair, and went to the huge screen in the back of the control station. My eyes wandered into the door in the back of the room. The other room was dark, but I saw the outline of a rectangular hole that led to stairs. I knew they led to the giant weapon.
I turned the giant black mirror on, pressing the tiny button on the side of it. The bright white screen greeted me.
“Hello, Clara. What is your command?” The soft toned voice beckoned to me.
“Sarah, call home.” I said to the screen, as I stood in front of it crossing my arms.
“As you wish. Calling home.” Immediately, the familiar buzzing I knew started. It buzzed for about three seconds and a face appeared.
“Hey Honey!” The masculine voice said. My face softened. My heart still flutters for the man I met in seventh grade. His eyes were hazel and they seemed to always say that everything was alright. A beard grew on his brown skin.
“I miss you Oliver.” I said, with a sadness in my tone. I tilted my head to try and get a better view of him.
“Clara, it’s only been a couple of days.” He said, and he laughed. I wanted to melt into that laugh. He ruffled his black hair. It was one of his quirks that entertained me no matter what mood I was in.
“How’s Anna?” I said, putting my finger to my bottom lip. It was also my first mission away from her.
“Hon, don’t worry about our little Anna Banana. She’s right here, look! Anna! Say hi to Momma.” The camera turned towards a little girl in a pink tutu. She sat on a high chair and had banana all over her face. She smiled and showed her one tooth. Pure bliss was written all over her expression. To me, her smile was brighter than any star I’ve seen.
“Hi Momma! I miss you!” Anna said, her fingers dripping in unknown liquid. Her brown hair was all over her face and her warm blue eyes greeted me. She had Oliver’s eyes. She put her hands out, like she wanted to touch me. She started to giggle like a maniac, her tiny legs swung against the high chair.
“I miss you too, dear.” I wanted to squeeze her and take her with me. I hated being away from my family. The camera shifted back to Oliver.
“Clara, when are you coming back?” Oliver said, his voice lined with curiosity.
“It’ll be over soon. The ride back is another week, though.”
He knew I was on a mission, but he didn’t know the crime I was going to commit. I would’ve been taken out if I told him. Somethings just cannot be said.
“Well, Honey be safe.” There was a sternness in his voice that didn’t come out much. It surprised me a bit.
“Alright, Honey. Don’t be so serious about this. It’s just another mission.” I tried to lighten up the gloomy mood he put out.
“Just...just promise me.”
“Promise you what, Oliver?”
“That you’re going to come back.”
“I promise.” I meant it with all my being could allow.
“Well then. See you soon.” He said, changing his expression to a lighter one.
“Goodbye.” I said, putting my hand out with a wave.
“Don’t say that. Say ‘see you soon.’ It’s happier.”
“See you soon.” I then smiled at his childish remarks. He was a thirty year old man, but I thought it was sweet that he cared.
He nodded and the screen went to the bright white once more. I sighed. If I could only reach out and feel their presence. I haven’t felt any human sensation for days. It’s lonely up here. It was only the stars that were with me.
“Sarah, turn off.”
“As you wish.” The screen went black and I stared at myself in the blackness. My short hair was to my shoulders and the gray space suit they made me wear was quite reflective. It helped me keep my body temperatures on the right level. Without this suit, I would be freezing. The vacuum of space was a dangerous place.
I stared into my eyes. I got older every time I did these missions. Twenty-five is the new thirty, I guess.
I went in the door in the back of the control room. There were technically only three rooms in this ship. The control room, the storage room that included the kitchen, the bathroom, and the stairs, and the room at the bottom of the ship. The place where the bomb was kept.
I decided to check on it. I turned on the light switch near the door. Cabinets were all over the wall. There was a tiny stall where I could only use the toilet. I haven’t taken a full shower in a week. I dared not smell myself.
There was a quietness attached to the walls. An eerie feeling.
The cabinets were full of food that was enough for twelve people. The water though, well, I’d rather not think of where I get my water.
I went into the stairs that went into the floor of the room. It was right there.
It was round and had a triangular tail on the back of it. It was about as big as a small room. The destruction this one thing could cause left me without words, only left in simple thought. One life lost was a tragedy, imagine millions.
I was not allowed to touch it. They had built a glass chamber around it. The only thing below it was the openable hatch that was controlled by me. I was to press a button and that was the end of it.
Goodbye Zawth, and great job to the Alien League.
I get to go back home to my family, and I would see the whole thing on the news.
The citizens hated the Zawth. Their visits to earth would be erratic. No one knew when we would be visited. They picked one of the Three Territories, and took as many people as they could. Then, they were gone. No one was safe.
Earth was their favorite to-go restaurant.
We found out they liked to eat us when we had encountered a survivor. He had explained his whole ordeal. He had been taken from his home in Berlin, in Eurofica. He had lived in a small farm in the middle of nowhere. It was somewhere that had miles and miles of green grass.
A perfect place for an abduction.
The Zawth cut off the human pieces, one by one. It was a torture method, but they also wanted to save ‘food’ in a way. The man that survived only had an arm eaten and he took one of their ships to go back. It took a year of his life to return and tell his tale.
They went to Asitralia the most. Billions lived there. It was the most diverse. They did go to Acirema and Eurofica, but the ‘tastes’ weren’t to their liking it seemed.
Being eaten is a horrible thought, but it’s the way of life. We were so interested in finding other life species, but in the end we saw something that made us prey. Something we would have nightmares about. Something we are so deathly afraid of, it keeps us up at night. It makes us shut our doors with two locks instead of one.
They are the boogeymen brought to life from our childhoods.
Although the Territorial Armies are always ready to go into battle, we still have yet to find out how to make lasers that go through flesh and bone. Guns are helpful, but not as effective as a bomb.
I looked through the clear glass. I was in quiet thought. I went through the procedures I was to do soon.
I was going to wipe from the face of the universe these things that we know little to nothing about. It was only human nature that led us to attack. You attack us, and we’ll come back at you.
That was the vision of the citizens. Someone always had to be greater in the end. We have never tried to understand these otherworldly creatures. They must have lives as complex as ours. They have children. They have families.
Is it our right to take their lives away from them?
Are these predators something we need?
These questions race through my mind, but then I think of my family. I think of Oliver’s body being eaten like a piece of meat. Blood splattering. The smell of raw flesh and bone.
A sick feeling brewed in my stomach.
In everyone’s life there's always a side you have to be on. I choose the side that will keep my family safe. The side that will keep my people safe.
I choose my side.
Humanity must stand at the top of the food chain.
I turned around. I sighed. I walked back upstairs to the storage room, my eyes didn’t leave the circular weapon until it was out of sight. I went through the door and entered the control room. I checked my watch.
There was only ten minutes now.
I walked up to the great window. There it was. The great monster.
The red and black swirls of Zawth.
It was a giant sphere that sat in the middle of blackness and the innocent stars terrified of it. The red looked at me menacingly as if something evil was coming. You’re wrong, I said.
I’m the evil coming for you.
There was a slight peacefulness to the planet. It had had an ecosystem of its own. Species of its own. The black swirls of clouds begged me not to commit this murder.
I ignored them.
I pressed the yellow button.
“I’m almost there, Commander.” I put my lips close to the speaker.
“Clara, we --”
Confusion struck me.
“Yes, Commander. I’m here. I’m here. Tell me. What’s wrong?”
“Commander, I am alone in space right now. The best thing we have going for us is to tell me the problem.” I put my finger to my bottom lip. There was a sternness to my voice. Something wasn’t right.
“We can’t go through with this.” The tension was heavy in his voice.
“What are you talking about?” My stomach dropped.
“World Leader visited the station today. He… he didn’t know you were...”
“He didn’t know I was what? Tell me!” My voice started to crack. A problem was something this mission definitely did not need. I was so close. So close.
There was a silence. A deafening silence.
I stood there for a while. I stared at the stars, because they were the only ones that seemed to understand me. They listened to my smallest thoughts.
I backed away and sat in my black chair behind the control panel. I stared at my fingers and realized I was shaking. I didn’t notice the anger and betrayal that began to boil within me.
He’s going to stop this, because I’m a woman?
“He didn’t know you were a woman, Clara.” Commander said. There it was.
“How did you not tell him?” I pressed the yellow button once more.
“We thought he knew.”
“I’m already here.” I was trying to keep my calm. I was strong.
I am strong.
There was five minutes on my watch.
“You can’t release that bomb. He said --”
“What? What did he say?”
“If you hurt one Zawth, the station will be shut down. There’s…There’s thousands of people that work here.”
“I need to… We need to do this, Commander.”
“I have a family, Clara. I can’t lose my job.”
“It’s.... it’s not about you, Commander. The people need this. The world… Our world can’t live in constant fear of these monsters roaming our skies, fearing that they will be their next meal. You could be next, Commander.” His selfishness rang through my ears. He wasn’t capable of understanding the heaviness of this moment.
“Don’t release that bomb.”
“You don’t understand, Commander.” I said, a determination was beginning to rise within me.
“Clara.” This was another voice. A deeper one.
“Who are you?” I said.
“This is Lindon Thornsberry.”
“What is it, sir?” An impatient tone to my voice. My anger was towards him.
“Now, sweetheart. I know you’re trying to be brave, but I just can’t have you saving our world. That’s a man’s job, you see. Just come back over, and everything will be fine. You will be sent back home. Isn’t that great? Right back to where you belong. Well, now if you don’t do this, and you release the bomb…”
“You will not be allowed to come back.”
His words echoed through my brain. Every word. Every syllable. Ran through my mind a thousand times, in this one moment. In only eight words, someone was capable of ruining my life.
I couldn’t come back?
I had promised.
I had… I had to go back. The memories I have yet to make with Anna. The ripe old age I’ve never experienced. The life I need to live with Oliver. I couldn’t let that escape my grasp.
I want to see that girl grow into a beautiful woman. I want to see Oliver grow gray hairs. I want to give Anna the opportunities that I’ve never had. I wanted to change her world.
I didn’t want them to die, because of my selfish needs either. I want them to live good fulfilling lives. I want them to live happily.
I want them to be alive.
Even if it’s not with me.
I released the yellow button from my hand. I had kept it there during my deep thought.
“Clara? Clara? What do you say Clara?” His voice growing impatient. It was different from the voice that was always heard on the TV. More angry, hateful. We always knew that, that was what he was. Nothing more than a monster, just like a Zawth. He didn’t eat people, but he ate hopes and dreams.
“I’ve made my choice.”
“Well spit it out, Dear.”
“A woman can do anything a man can.”
“How dare you --”
I smashed the mute button.
He cannot define me.
He will not define me.
“Sarah! Turn on.” I said as I looked into the stars through the giant window. I kept my chair turned around from the giant screen.
“What is your command?” Her feminine voice filled the control room.
“Call...call home.” I said, the back of my finger was pressed to my lips.
“As you wish.” The buzzing sound started.
The time on my watch said one minute.
A lump formed in my throat. My eyes started to water. I couldn’t keep them in during this moment. No one can, I think.
“Hey Honey!” Oliver’s voice greeted me.
“Oliver, I love you.” The tears started to fall, one by one. They pitter-pattered onto my reflective jacket.
“Clara? I love you too. Why are you turned around honey?”
“Tell Anna I love her very much.”
“You’re scaring me. Tell me what’s wrong, Clara.”
“It’s just that… I don’t think…”
“You don’t think what?”
“Oh, nevermind. I just wanted to see the stars. They’re… they’re beautiful up here.” I let out a small laugh, to cover my voice. I grabbed my mouth and my chin. My hard breaths begged to come out. I couldn’t show him that I was sobbing behind this chair. A weak barrier between us that dared to show my feeble emotions pouring out of me.
I couldn’t show him that this was the last time.
“Oh well, Alright Honey. Enjoy the view. I’m leaving for work now and I’m leaving Anna with the babysitter.”
“Alright, Honey.” I was wiping my tears and my nose with my hands. My shoulders wouldn’t stop shaking and the empty feeling in my heart grew larger.
“Also, remember your promise!”
“O...okay. I’ll remember.” A looked down at my hands wet with tears. I let out a harsh breath. I couldn’t take it.
I heard the call drop.
The tears kept falling. I was scared they weren’t going to stop. I wiped them away. They kept falling.
I looked at the stars. They were the only ones with me now. The giant planet before me laughed at my pain. I stared back at it, glared at it.
I stood up. I looked at the only red button on the control panel.
I stared at my watch. It was almost done.
I slammed my hand onto the red button with a grunt.
The ship shook with a mighty force. I held on. I looked out the window. The bomb dropped into the red and black swirls.
It was done.
There was silence.
Then, the explosion. The sound was a mighty roar escaping from the monster that planet was. It had been defeated by me. A huge cloud rose from the ground and made ripples through the land.
The whole planet shook.
Great cracks on the land emerged. Some parts of the ground separated from the giant planet.
I saw one in full view. It was a giant red rock. It tumbled and turned.
It hurdled toward me.
The piece of rock was bigger than the ship. I backed away and sat in my chair. I gave a sigh. I put my hands on my lap and just waited. I shut my eyes. I tried to find that last sense of sanity in me. I reached inside and tried to find it. I wanted it to be the last thing I held onto.
I heard the loud crash of the great glass window being broken.
The last thing I saw were the stars.
They took me deeper.
Into the black abyss that awaited me.
I had won this battle.
The Stars That Guided Me
I only had an hour left.