Author: Shon-Lueiss Harris

The dining hall offered the best view. All the brushed steel and matte finishes throughout the rest of the ship stopped at the door. Entering the kitchen felt like stepping into a new world replete with delightful aromas, vibrant colors, and sleek furniture. So much consideration for comfort and style juxtaposed by an uninterrupted view of the endless, dark expanse outside.

Samuel pressed a hand against the glass. Warmth spread into his skin in a way that felt impossibly familiar. Between his fingers shined a massive, yellow sphere in the distance.

“I heard they called it Sun.”

Samuel rolled his eyes and glanced over his shoulder. Merrick sipped his coffee, a little dribbling down onto his oil-stained jumpsuit. “When things got tough they begged a big ball of gas for help. Can you imagine?”

“Maybe the engineer was a drunk,” sighed Samuel as he traced the outline of the star with his finger. “You know a lot about Sun?”

“Ol’ Earthen legends, mostly.” Merrick grinned and took a seat next to the window. “One story goes Sun gave its only moon to protect the Earth. Only the idiots destroyed the moon treating it like some mine instead of an asteroid shield. Surprised that wasn’t the end of’em then and there.”

“I think I heard that somewhere. You know any other stories?”

A big bushy eyebrow bent into an arch high on Merrick’s forehead. “Since when do we talk? This some trick?”

“I’m interested, okay?” Samuel turned toward the window. “So, you know any or not?”

“Yeah, I know another. Actually, it’s an Ol’ Earthen saying,” Merrick teased, pausing to take another drink. “Never look at Sun. I guess people stared at Sun long enough they’d start to see things. Strange things nobody should know. Sun show’em so much that after there really wasn’t nothing left to see.”

“And then what?”

Merrick stood and shrugged. “Paradise, I suppose. Anyway, I gotta get back to it. I’ll catch you later and we can talk more.”

“Yeah, catch you later,” Samuel repeated.

His eyes flicked to Sun the moment Merrick was gone. The thick, radiation dampening glass muted the intense brightness just enough to be bearable. Once more, he laid a hand against the window. Flames danced across Sun’s surface, swirling and coiling until what looked like an open hand leaped off the surface. Samuel rubbed his eyes. He caught a glimpse of the fire dissipating in space, but that was enough. He’d seen it.

Samuel ran out of the dining hall. He heard the questions and the shouts as he bumped into all manner of the crew, be they human or droid, but he didn’t care. Didn’t apologize or so much as acknowledge them.

The airlock was empty when Samuel arrived. He slipped into the nearest suit, attached the safety line, then began work on the door. Soon enough Samuel stood in the middle of the chamber, red lights flashing, the reinforced blast door lurching aside as specs of dust and moisture from the air shot into the void and glistened like diamonds in Sun’s light. With one hand gripping the line, Samuel walked through the door into empty space.

Samuel felt warmth like never before. Vague memories of childhood, of loving arms holding him tight, of gentle whispers in his ear and soft fingers rubbing his back. Memories he could neither recall nor place in his own life. All of it rushing in as Samuel turned toward Sun. His eyes watered and one voice raised above all the whispers.

“Welcome home.”