Author's note: NaNoWriMo 2011, it was won!
I spit the syllable through my teeth and attempt to resist the urge to kick something very hard as I walk away.
We are moving. Again. Just when I’ve convinced myself I can survive here, make some friends, somewhat succeed in life.
Moving from Australia to England…that was okay. I was only two years old then, and any friends I’d had then- if I had any- well, it’s not like any of us remember each other,
Moving from city to city…that was okay. Although, I’d had no idea we were even moving and my parents had just sprung it on me upon the innocent age of six. But I hadn’t really fit in at the school anyway, so it wasn’t that bad.
And now, I’ve only just actually started completely settling in and only just learnt how to look after myself. Despite my lack of social skills, I’ve made friends. Good friends. Something I’m quite amazed at; friends that actually want to talk to me. And I have to move now.
I have to admit, I could have been a little more prepared for my dad’s speech just now. He’s mentioned this ‘idea’ of his a few times over the past few months, but I assumed it was just a weird phase he was going through. He’s always talking about moving somewhere, somewhere else, anywhere but where he is right now. I’ve learnt to tune out when he begins sobbing about the torture of having to live in the wonderful land of Great Britain, so I can’t be blamed too much for ignoring his recent ideas. In fact, I tend to ignore most things he says.
However, it may have been a little excessive of him to drop this baby bombshell over Christmas dinner. Or perhaps that’s just typical of him.
Although, it’s very sweet of my father to realise that I’m very willingly to leave people I actually like, people I can turn to at any time and people who make me, me. Thanks, dad, I love you too.
Yes, I’ve always been interested in the astronomy part of physics, but I never intended to waste ten years of my life travelling to a potentially non-existent planet. Really? Leaving this planet? Leaving this galaxy? This is not okay.
What an interesting Christmas I’ve had this year. And it’s likely to be the last Christmas I have on this planet. Jo’s last Christmas on Earth-2999.
The next few days walk by quickly, consisting of me mainly avoiding revision for the tests my teachers are so graceful to provide after the holidays.
“You can’t leave!” My best friend’s huge brown eyes try to bury themselves into my eyes, digging for any sign that this is just a bad joke. I wish.
I only have time to shrug my shoulders apologetically at Amy before everyone in the town hall begins counting down the seconds until the year 3000. Or the apocalypse, for those who are afraid of suspicious-looking numbers for years. People just don’t learn; they went through the same apocalyptic phase even way back in the year 2012.
Nope. We are still kicking. All stupid predictions, of course, which includes this one about the world ending tonight. And television was so strange. During both decades, programmes were two-dimensional…and computer screens.
Anyway, the world will not end tonight. This is a pity, because I would rather die here than die on the way to an unknown planet. Of course, I do not want to die; it is how I want to die, even if I did want to die, a few months ago. This is my last New Year’s Eve, though. And the year two thousand and nine is-was, the last full year of my life on Earth.
I do not know how most will manage to survive on the ship. With no internet, gadgets and robots, I am sure many will suffer. I am used by now to taking my mobile phone with me to most places, and ordering it to complete tasks for me using voice command. I will not have that luxury on the ship. Have my parents even considered this point?!
I still have to have an education on the ship, of course, which I am quite glad about, because although I do not like school (who does?), I know that it is important for me. I am not really sure what an education is for anymore, though. On Earth, education gives you a job, money, a life. I will be in education for another four years on the ship, and then I will have to wait another six years before I can do anything with that, and then what? By the time we might have settled into the planet, I shall be dead.
Well, I should probably make the most of this final New Year’s Eve. There are ten minutes left until the year three thousand, and many in my town are in the square, as am I, all anticipating the fun that is about to begin in ten minutes. I will make the most of this; midnight will strike the start of the biggest change in my entire life.
“No way are any of us going to let go of you that easily!” I notice some of my friends looking down uncomfortably as Sarah says this. “I’m going to do a petition, and make sure a lot of people sign it,” she declares proudly.
“Sarah, maybe we should just leave it…I don’t think a petition will make much difference…” Lois says hesitantly. No one in my group of friends has ever felt absolutely comfortable when it comes to me, apart from Sarah. Quite right. I can act as if I have just had a high dose of ecstasy one minute, and then become depressed the next minute-they probably think I am bipolar. They never know what to expect of me, and seem pleased that I am going.
It was only ever because of Sarah that I was in this group of friends in the first place, or quite a few groups of friends; Sarah is very popular. So many boys dream to be Toby, her boyfriend. I do not mind-she’s pretty and one of the nicest people on the planet-I often wonder why she likes to be friends with me, or if she likes me at all.
“No! I want us to be able to tell Jo that at least we tried.” I mentally roll my eyes. Sarah has always been a bit of a drama queen.
I am unsure of whether to distance myself from my friends in the next few months in order to avoid a damaged heart or to make the most of the time I have left. But it sounds like Sarah is not ready to let go yet.
I let the difficult months drag and yank me ahead, and I open my eyes to see that it is the night before the ship sets off. I have tried so hard to accept it and look forward to it, but I cannot!
I am viewing it the practical way-something I never used to do. That was before I met that person, obviously. Still, something will go wrong.
First, they have not sent astronauts out to the place ahead of us, which is ridiculous. Sometimes the government was too careful, now this? This is beyond stupidity. It took millions of years before the human race decided to visit the moon, and another hundred years before the human race decided to use the moon as a holiday resort for the rich.
Then they discovered this planet, the planet of Hestia. It is the goddess of home, which lies ten light years away, three decades ago and looking at information that is ten years old (the fastest speed the human race has got technology to so far is the speed of light, finally), they decide that it is suitable for ordinary humans to suddenly go. They are getting careless, getting excited when they suddenly have technology that is as fast as light, and a new planet. They take the first chance possible and suddenly decide to move there!
Who knows what has happened in those ten years. It could have blown up, or been flooded, or the conditions could have become too hot, too cold, or just generally unsuitable for humans. It could have even been sucked up by a black hole.
Maybe I will change my mind. Maybe I will not want to be an explorer. Also, what if our ship gets sucked too near a black hole? What if our ship travels too near a star and gets melted or incinerated? What if the ship runs out of food and drink? How do we get rid of bodies of people who commit suicide, die of old age or someone who is killed by another? How will we deal with criminals? Either way, we will probably all die. Okay, that might sound ever so slightly cruel and harsh but it is true.
How stupid. If there is only one fifteen year old girl on the planet thinking rationally, I think we need to question society. I do not want to die yet.
However, what if there is an off chance that we do not die? Maybe it will be fun watching the stars and other planets. Scientists would find out more than they ever have about the universe. Maybe the zero gravity will be fun, though. It might almost become natural to us. The one thing that humans could never do on their own: fly, and all of a sudden we would not need to wonder how it feels. Maybe Hestia will exist when we arrive and it will not have been already invaded by aliens. In fact, we are the aliens invading Hestia.
I should probably at least try to enjoy it and believe that it will be good. No one believes me when I tell them of my suspicions. If I try to enjoy it now, when our ship blows up or runs out of food, or when the planet or Hestia ceases to exist, then I can laugh at the human race and say ‘I told you so!’ just as I die…
Anyway, my friends threw a surprise party for me today. It was quite good, considering the fact that I hate surprises. As well as the fact, that I do not like parties very much. But they knew that and kept it simple; not too party-like with pink decorations flying everywhere.
They all got me nice, suitable presents. They all know that no one is permitted more than forty kilograms of luggage (the luggage limits are calculated according to age). I have packed almost to the limit. My room is completely bare, apart from a single mattress on the carpet with a sleeping bag on, which I will have to pack in the morning. All the furniture has been sold, including the beds, which are being sent away in the morning. We need every scrap of money we have, as money will still be used on the ship.
Sarah has made me a beautifully carved wooden bracelet. On one side, it said ‘Don’t forget me’, and on the other side, it said in very small writing, ‘Best friends conquer everything’. It was cheesy and soppy, and Sarah was terrified that I would not like it, but to my intense surprise, I loved it. Usually I do not like happy things; I prefer dark, miserable things. Some might call me a ‘Goth’, but I do not think I am. The bracelet made me very nearly cry. I never cry though, so it was an unusual experience trying to shield my glassy eyes from the eager faces of my friends.
I have said my goodbyes to others over Skype. I wrote my last Facebook status and my last tweet, and bade my last farewell to the internet.
I have even carried out the most painful goodbye now. I did not cry, but it really hurt. But this is a new life, so I must leave everything behind, even if it hurts.
The spaceship is rather interesting, though. It is not disk shaped, as you see in films, but it is in the shape of an oblong. The exterior is simple, sleek and white. There are tiny windows dotted everywhere on this massive ship. There are tiny squares next to each row of windows-these must be emergency exits, although how anyone can escape. This ship must have taken at least a decade to be built. There are one hundred floors on this ship. Seventy-five floors are used for rooms, and there are twenty rooms on each floor. Two floors are entirely entertainment and leisure, from a swimming pool, to a cinema. Each person is only allowed to use the entertainment facility five times a week, though, which is a slight disadvantage if one is bored easily. Ten floors are for the production of food, which is farming, and even animals. Two floors are for the kitchen and dining area, and then another floor is made up of a nursery area, a small school, even a basic university. There is also room for kids and teenagers to hang out. Another two floors is for shops, laundry facilities. It seems that everything has been thought of here. Three floors are for storage rooms, at the moment stuffed full of resources, but one of them has been built in in case they need a prison. Which is practical, I suppose. Some people who want to start a new life used to be quite hard living. This part is written in the ‘small print’ of the huge package of information each person was given, so I doubt a lot of people have actually read it.
Two more floors consist of a hospital facility. Let us just hope that not all two thousand become ill at the same time. The next three floors are the most important; where the scientists and the captain works; laboratories and the control rooms.
The bottom floor is for producing artificial gravity, which is only used at certain times in the day.
My father is into politics, so he is acting as one of the ‘advisors’ of the captain (which is why he knows that the storage rooms could be converted into a prison); the captain will be our ‘leader’ for this journey. The captain is called Tim Waites. He is an ex-soldier who went into politics and then decided he wanted to be an astronaut. Quite fitting as the captain for the next ten years. For some reason, his name immediately rings some sort of a bell in my head. It seems so familiar, and yet I cannot remember.
Maybe it will not be too bad to die. I would die where humanity has never died before. To some this could seem depressing, but I am often a little like that. My family and friends say that I am pessimistic. I actually quite like the sound of that, though.
We have just boarded the ship. It is really vast, and it took hours before everyone was settled into their rooms and strapped into chairs that could morph into chairs. I had to get up really early to come here, and now it is just seven o’clock in the morning. A few people-staff I presume are walking around the ship with clipboards, checking that everyone is in their seat. No one will be able to get out of their seat until the captain presses the button.
It took me a while forcing me to enter the front door of the ship. By then I was getting odd looks from the audience (the public are watching us set off into space). My parents still do not believe that we shall all die on this journey.
We are on the twenty-first floor, in the seventh room-room G. There are not really any corridors on the floors. One whole floor is a circle of rooms, but the space in the middle of these rooms is quite small. While everyone arrived, I took a look at my neighbours-to-be for the next ten years. It seems that a few on this floor are staff of some sort-my father is an advisor for the captain, and other rooms seem to consist of boring people. An approximately thirty year old female chef is on the left of our room, named Katrina. Opposite our room is a fifty year old woman called Tessa who is the head seamstress. Well, at least they thought of what we might need on the ship. Anna, the entertainment organiser is two rooms to the left of ours.
Tina and David, her partner, are two rooms on the right of ours. They are one of the many scientists. All the other rooms are full apart from the room on the right of ours. It was empty, but I did not have time to wait and see who would arrive, as the bell rang for us to be strapped and pinned to our seats.
There is a loudspeaker somewhere outside in the hallway, and because all doors have been locked open (they slide into the wall to open), so everyone can hear it. The date is announced, as if we do not know, 28 March, the year three thousand. The spokesperson is calling a sixty-second countdown. That is sort of stupid. What is the point? Only small children do these kinds of things. It is ridiculous.
What worse way to die could there be? Your own parents, killing you for a ‘good cause’?
They are down to the last five seconds now. Finally. Not that I am looking forward to this. T is really childish, though, counting sixty seconds out loud as if you do not have a watch. This is NASA, for goodness sake! I am sure they have a clock!
There is a loud rumbling when the spokesperson counts to zero. Except instead of zero, he says ‘Blast off!’ Wow. When I was little, I used to think that grown-ups only said this for fun. It keeps rumbling. Five minutes later, it is still rumbling. Everyone looks confused, nervous and scared. “We apologise for the technical difficulties, please do not worry, everything will be running smoothly shortly.” The spokesperson forgets that he is still on loudspeaker, and his professional voice immediately disappears. “Hurry up and check on the captain! Oh-” He yells angrily, then realising what he forgot to do. His first mistake on day one of the job.
See? Already! First sixty seconds and we are dead. And we have not even left Earth yet. Fantastic. The world should honour me after I die and express how right I was. The human race should decide not to send the general public to another unless they have planned it very carefully and sent astronauts ahead of us, like they should have. I can see my father avoiding my eye, and my mother tries to reassure us that everything will be fine. I do not want to die, but like to try to accept my fate. I open my mouth to say ‘I told you so,’ when there is a judder in the ship, and I can feel the ship defeating gravity. Now it is my turn to avoid my parents’ eyes.
Oh well. It is only a matter of time. Until we die, that is. Not that I am looking forward to it.
We are being strapped into these seats for the next hour or two, which is self-explanatory I suppose, but slightly annoying. I do not want to move to another planet, yes, but I want to be able to press my face against the window and watch as our ship rips through the atmosphere and leaves Earth.
While I sit here, let us thank these scientists and daydreaming governments who allowed the death of two thousand people a single, careless mistake.
Why was I born human? I am ashamed of myself. I am ashamed of the human race. I do try to like humans, but it is really hard! Almost impossible! Although I do wish that sometimes I was more ‘normal’. I have never met anyone who understood me, apart from him, but I have always been different. Some would say that it is good. And then they meet me. For example, Sarah, my best friend, neither of us always fully get along. Even my father worries about me. I heard him talking to my mother about me once, when I was thirteen years old. “You know, they say that the teenage years are bad, but that has got to be better than what she is being. Is she normal?” My mother criticised him and scolded him for saying that, but neither of them knew that I had heard. From then on, I distanced myself from my father, angry and upset with him. He thought for a while that I was finally acting like a teenager, and acted quite relieved.
However, he realised that I was acting just the same as before, except I seemed to be acting particularly hostile to him. He did not seem to notice very much and he seemed not to care, so gradually dislike developed into hatred. I do not feel guilty for hating my father, anyway. He does not care for me and refuses to accept me as I am, so why should I? My own father?
Why do I think these thoughts when Earth is racing away, outside? I watch through the small window, the clouds speeding downwards and then the atmosphere appearing to set alight. “Say your farewells to this planet of Earth, everyone!” The spokesperson calls. It is beautiful, although I am feeling uncomfortable in my seat. Then I see Earth from outside, with my own eyes, for the first time in my life. I see how green and blue it really is, and I marvel at its beauty. Then darkness. There are tiny white dots, which I presume are stars. I expected more variety, to be honest. If that is all we are going to be seeing for the next ten years, then I am bored already.
For an hour I watch the dark sky-no, it is not a sky, it is space. I ignore my parents and do not try to continue a conversation with them if they start one. We are finally released from our seats. I ignore my parents and immediately walk to the window, trying to see if I can find Earth again, my home, even though it is filled with horrific things.
I hear a set of doors shut behind me. I turn my head and see that my parents have left the room. They have probably gone to see the captain. Something twists inside me. They could have mentioned where they were going, and act as if they would be there if I needed them. Sometimes it hurts to look at them and know that they do not love me. I suppose it has made me the person I am today. What am I thinking? I am glad they have left! I do not need them. I turn to find the planets.
Maybe there is a silver lining to every cloud. Vaguely, I hear the loudspeaker calling the names of the planets. Although the speed this ship is travelling at is very fast, it is amazing to realise we are travelling at the speed of light, and it feels as if the speed of light is not as fast as we all thought. From this angle, I can see the moon orbiting my home planet, as well as other planets in this solar system. We are heading towards Mars. I see the two moons of Mars; Phobos and Deimos. And then Jupiter comes into full view; a huge, vast planet with an exterior that looks so beautiful, as if it has been painted to appear to have such a texture.
I can see Venus and Mercury from this angle, and then the bright, blistering sun burning away at the centre of this galaxy. It is such a beautiful sight. Did I pack a camera? I must take some photos of these planets. I run to my handbag in the cupboard and pick the smaller one, taking it out and rifling through it as quickly as possible, as I know it only takes about three minutes to travel to Mars, from Earth. Thankfully, I quickly find my camera, and I run back to the window, snapping some quick shots before Mercury, Venus and Earth disappear from sight. I do not care that the photos are not very good quality, as these photos are just for me to remember. I snap Mars as it flies past. The ship slows down slightly as we pass through the asteroid belt and zoom on towards Jupiter. The ship slows down even more, for the benefit of its passengers. This part of the long trip is not a journey; it is a tour of the solar system.
Jupiter has sixty-three moons. I try to find the four largest moons which are the Galilean satellites called Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Oddly, all the planets are more or less in line with each other For once, they have made a good decision. Who would not be amazed, seeing planets for the first time with their very own eyes? Who would not want to show this to everyone else, to demonstrate what beauty really is?
Then my favourite planet from childhood. Saturn. I remember being disappointed when I learnt at the age of eleven, that the ring around Saturn was not a solid, flat disk. In fact, it is made us of chunks of ice, ranging in size, from the size of a car, to the size of the head of a pin.
After a few minutes, Neptune and Uranus come into sight. All this time I take photos, this time better and clearer photos.
After another ten minutes we reach the final ‘planet’ of the solar system; the dwarf planet of Pluto.
And then we approach the white band-the Milky Way. The ship turns around in order so that we do not end up dying through being sucked up by this black hole, of course. And then we face darkness.
After all that beauty, now I have to face ten years of darkness, unless we bump into the Andromeda Galaxy.
Should I start unpacking? This is to be my residence for the next ten years, right? I suppose this ‘residence’ should be called an apartment, not a room, if it has five ‘sub-rooms’. I already miss Earth and I am only about twenty minutes away from it. That makes it even worse, I suppose, knowing that I am so close to it, yet so far away. I sit in a chair, and drowsiness takes hold of me. Reality clouds over me as sleep snatches me away.
They have clocks here, set to the English hour so we can still organise days and night, but it is strange and disorientating when you wake up. You expect to look out of the window and see a street, or a back garden, least of all a light sky. On this ship, you wake up and look out of the window, seeing plain blackness. It suits my mood most of the time, I suppose.
In Earth, on England, today would be Saturday, which means I do not really have school today. Then I realise that I fell asleep at about ten o’clock in the morning, so it is not Saturday yet. It is Friday evening now, about six o’clock.
I decide to start unpacking inside my room. I take both of my suitcases out of the cupboard that had been locked during take-off, and my bag which I had been rifling through before, and I take all my belongings into my room.
The apartments are basically furnished, and there is a mattress in place, on the floor. Many opposed the idea of having their mattress on the floor, but I quite like it. I unpack the big suitcase first. I fold all of my jeans and trousers and then place them onto a shelf inside the tiny wardrobe. There is not much space for hanging either; there is a tiny gap big enough so both my hands loosely fit in when I place them against each other as if I am praying and slide them into this poor excuse of a wardrobe. No space has been spared. Five thin wire hangers have been provided for this wardrobe, but I fail to see how all five will fit in when clothes are put on them. I, however, do not mind too much. I only have a coat, jacket and a dress that I should hang up.
I do not like dresses very much; they restrict me from moving freely-I am surprised I even decided to take the dress with me. No, I correct myself. I would have never gotten rid of the dress even if I had to. I fold the rest of my clothes and place them on different shelves, and then I place my underwear in a drawer.
Next, I begin to unpack my smaller suitcase. I take my books, notebooks and stationery out, placing them in my bedside drawers. I have also brought a few schoolbooks; I do not want to forget everything from my previous life. I also place some photos on top of the bedside drawers, and I lie them face down for the moment in case it makes me feel emotional. I think I shall leave the emotions for later, when I am in bed again. I place the last few things in their places, and then put the smaller suitcase inside the bigger one and place it inside the wardrobe. Finally, I place my few pairs of shoes on top of the suitcase.
I usually have a messy room, but sometimes I feel sudden urges to tidy everything up and make it look neater. That is how I feel right now. There is no doubt that this room will become messy within a day.
Everything is slight unorganised at the moment. Everyone is supposed to have a rota of chores in order to maintain the ship.
And just as I am thinking about this, the captain starts talking over the loudspeaker.
“Hello, everyone! I hope you have all just about settled in by now. Dinner starts in thirty minutes, but I would like to all bring something to your attention. In order to ensure comfort for the next ten years of your life on this ship, everyone apart from children under the age of twelve must contribute to the maintenance of this ship. There is a timetable on the door of each apartment, for each person. I know some will be thinking this is will be hard work, but it really will not if there are two thousand all helping to look after this ship, and each other. Hah. I would like to see fellow humans performing selfless acts. None of the tasks are difficult, no one should really worry. They consist of cleaning, washing up in the kitchens, setting up in the dining area. With your help, the next ten years will be an easy one. See you later, Captain Tim.”
I glance at the three timetables on the door in horror. I study the one that bears the name, Josephine Walker. My name. Although I hate the name Josephine. I much prefer Jo. On a ‘Monday’, I have to wash up in the kitchen at dinner, and on a Wednesday, I must help with cleaning in the entertainment facility. Well, it is not as bad as I expected.
My parents are still not back yet. That is okay; I shall just go to dinner on my own. I leave my room, ensuring that it is locked properly (the doors have fingerprint locks, of which I am glad there is the luxury of; I had been afraid that we would be made to steep to old-fashioned traditions of using a key.). I enter the lift and press a series of digits; zero, seven and six, which will take me to the lower dining area. I have always loved lifts. I enjoy the way they zoom down so fast, and the electronic voice, which announces your arrival on your intended floor.
As soon as the lift doors open and warm smells envelope me, I realise how hungry I am; I have not eaten for twenty-four hours. I hope that this ‘space-food’ will not disappoint.
The food is not baked beans and tinned sandwiches, thank goodness. Due to farming spaces taking up ten floors of the ship, there is not a shortage of food. Yet. They are quite normal meals, though. Available options are Spaghetti Bolognese, or vegetarian rice and curry. I choose the curry.