Don’t get me wrong, she thought I like Emily Dickinson as much as the next person. But hope is no thing with feathers, and the last thing it does is perch in the soul. 

Two years in, Tam had stopped speaking aloud to herself, again, and for the final time. That–saying full sentences aloud to herself, asking herself questions, answering–had begun about a year into the trip. The first few months alone, she had been comfortable in the quiet. Then she had stumped her toe and said “Ouch!” but it had come out more like “Hruowf!” She had told herself it was from phlegm, but she started talking to herself out loud soon after. Someone in flight school had grown up as a military kid and told her that you knew you were really getting the hang of a new language when you started dreaming in that language. Tam’s dreams had been neon-blue, black, bright, and silent.

Emily Dickinson just knows something I don’t, I guess, Tam thought, as she went through her daily checks: support systems–still online and operating; filters–cleaned; comms–still down and no responses. Hope definitely doesn’t sing. No singing ‘…the tune without the words.’ There’s no wordless song, just wordlessness. 

Even though she had undergone all the tests and been pronounced “exceptionally psychologically sound: a prime candidate for a three year solo space mission,” and been through the entire year of seclusion on Earth, Tam could never have been completely prepared for where she was now. Firstly, the test on Earth–a year of encapsulation on a simulation-space craft underground–was just not the same as actually being alone in space for three years. On Tam’s ship Elpis, there was no big red ALERT button that would open the hatch in the ceiling to reveal sunlight and palm trees and a psychiatrist holding a sedative syringe.

Also, while on the underground simulation, emails and voice messages had always operated perfectly. Other mechanisms had failed, causing their appropriate amount of anxiety. The oxygen filter had gone out one night, sending the entire system into panic-mode. Red emergency lighting; a bone-shaking, guttural, MEEP MEEP MEEP had begun and not stopped until Tam had fixed the twisted blue line that she found in the second repair hatch she checked.

When communications went down in the Elpis, Tam had spent 32 hours awake checking and re-checking every hatch, line, power grid, switch, button, and process in the entire ship. Without communications, she not only was left completely alone mentally and emotionally, but also navigationally and mechanically. Any solar flare or debris impact came completely unexpected and affected her and her alone. Six months into the trip, when she had to change course to make way for that asteroid belt, she realized how little she and her command center had really known about her trajectory. They knew she wouldn’t hit a planet or star. That was about it. Everything else was too small to detect from Earth. At the time. Were all of the commanding officers in the space program Dickinson fans? They had been anticipating access to better and better technology as Tam’s mission had progressed. They were supposed to be able to help her in the future with problems they couldn’t understand at her launch by using uninvented tech that they knew was simply inevitable.

“Yet – never – in Extremity, [Hope] asked a crumb – of me.”  Fucking Dickinson. This was the part that really got to Tam. Well aren’t you just a lucky bitch, just little Miss Lucky-Luck Emily. The sun just smiles down on you. Maybe because you never got out from under it. Tam didn’t think Emily Dickinson had ever experienced an Extremity like being completely alone in the hostile vacuum of space. The comms had gone down four months into the three year flight. Tam still could have turned around.

It had been three years and four days since Tam had launched. This is Extremity, Emily, and it sure feels like Hope has been asking a hell of a lot out of me. 






via Daily Prompt: Hopeful


Discover: Something New Today

We all lined up, white and fluffy like marshmallows waiting to be skewered for s’mores. The Director marched past, eyes forward as he handed out our clipboards. I looked down at mine. Tidy sheets of stark white paper; a small, brown pencil under the metal clamp at the top. As usual, my assignment began with Archive. The full title read Archive: History Of Macomb, Illinois As Recorded By John Sterling In 1832.

The next day, we all lined up and received our clipboards. Mine read Archive: History Of Macomb, Illinois As Recorded By Andrew Schell In 1835.

I traverse the centuries with Macomb under my arm all the way up to Archive: History Of Macomb, Illinois As Recorded By Paula Rivers In 2087.

It took almost two months to archive the history of Macomb. This little town in Illinois, though it had been around since 1829, only had a population of 21,516 in 2014 when it began it’s slow decline into devastation, along with the rest of what used to be the United States of America. Macomb was unremarkable. But some people had written about it. My fellow marshmallows and myself are archivers, so we collect and keep every history ever written by anyone about anything. Paula Rivers was a local Macomb girl who wrote about her town a few times in her diary when she was eight years old. This is history and it must be kept, they tell us.

Though I didn’t choose it, I like my job. Looking back in time gives me a strange comfort, like the feeling you get when you come to graduation: standing on that stage watching the Director get closer and closer as he comes down the line. We weren’t marshmallows then, we wore sober black. His hands are full of documents. There’s no “I hope I can make enough money to support my family someday” or “I hope I can get a job I love with this degree” like the stories I read about in the archival material. As you stand there, you find comfort knowing that the scroll the Director is handing to you will assure you a job, money, a home, and a purpose until you die.

Archive: The History Of Pillows As Recorded By Agnär In 2 AD.

Then, one day, the Director with his dead-fish forward-facing stare hands me a clipboard. The heading is Discover: Something New. I look around. My fellow ‘mallows are starting to disperse. No one looks concerned or confused. They must have all received their normal “Archive:_____” clipboards.

Did this clipboard get lost and end up in my hands? This is surely someone else’s who works in some other department. This clipboard was certainly meant for someone who is trained to explore: an adventurer. Someone who wonders about what’s outside those doors; or under our skin; or deep in the darkest corners of our minds, the places that we’ve been conditioned to put mental vaults around with chains and bars and codes that no safe-cracker could ever figure. Someone who tries putting things together to see what they will do. Someone who likes to taste strange colored or textured foods from far away places. Someone who gets to listen to music.

I shouldn’t keep it.







via Daily Prompt: Discover