Author: Katlina Sommerberg

Kye rolled an unlit joint between her fingers. Miserably pining for a long-gone sky in the middle of Golden Gate Park, she couldn’t relax with tomorrow looming on the horizon. Next morning, she’d wake up to the same monotonous life. The world turned without noticing the presence of ants. Without noticing humans, either.

Kye shivered, staring up at the empty night sky. Wind ripped through her scarf, racing over her skin. Past the neon laser shows, the pine trees swayed. Their tops twinkled blue, back to green, then hazy navy. Huh, she hadn’t seen a rave with lights on the trees before.

Years ago, stars hung in tree branches like Christmas ornaments; she loved to pour over old pictures, searching through her mother’s camping trips to glimpse the cosmos.

Now nothing came through the light pollution. Not the stars. Not comets. Not even satellites. Not even at the highest mountain. The only way to look above now rested in NASA’s hands, but those hands rotted away.

How could space travel find funding, when everyday people never tilted their chin up; instead they stared blankly at whatever thirty-year-old technology masqueraded as trendy. When had humanity fallen out of love with space?
Kye never did, and for what? To stare up at the black sky, surrounded by empty cans and single-use plastics? Every step on the trail crunched one underfoot.

She stared at her joint against a backdrop of fluorescent lasers flickering in tune with bass heavy enough to vibrate the brain. The one night she wanted to brood coincided with the largest outdoor rave on the planet. The air stank of flavored vaporizers layered over human sweat. Even standing well away from the various stadiums, the wind still carried the stink.

Especially when a gaggle of ravers passed by, their voices turned up to maximum volume. They dressed according to the unwritten rules of rave culture, slathered in neon and showing off chrome-painted wearables shimmering under the fireworks. A choice few wore LED implants under their skin, shifting hue and intensity in time with the beat. Piquant weed smoke rolled off them, a punch to the nose only a designer strand could throw.
“What the hell,” Kye grumbled to herself, thumbing her lighter. The flame folded in the wind like grass, missing the joint and singing her skin.

Four tries later, and she took a hit.

The wind kicked up, this time it rose to a roar drowning out all sound. Even the biggest stereos couldn’t compete, and the black boxes crashed to the ground in defeat. The people scattered, running back to their cars and away from the dangerously swaying trees.

One oak crashed down to Kye’s right, so close a leaf cut her face. But she didn’t turn to see it. Disbelieving, she watched a giant ship shimmer like a mirage right before her. When it landed, the joint in her hand burned down to her fingers.

Kye snapped out of the daze.

“Take me with you!” she screamed, sprinting towards the blinking saucer. Stumbling, her hand grazed the shimmering metal, but nothing pressed back against her flesh.

She fell through the wall, into a dark vat of boiling water. Rainbows swirled in her eyes, and fuzzy figures blurred into the hues. “Take me with you,” she pleaded again, the air bubbling out of her mouth, and incomprehensible to the aliens.

Kye died in there, but not before the ship shot back into the depths of space. She was humanity’s only interstellar astronaut.