Author: Fariel Shafee
It always was the dazzling stars — always, since he was a toddler. They flashed like beckoning lighthouses. “This is your destiny,” John utters the words in a room with no other souls. But the words feed into his own head. He likes the sound and the enticement.
John remembers how he had prepared to reach this point. He had given up his summer vacations for extra science classes, had taken up mountaineering to strengthen his muscles. He had imagined at night that he was in a placid rugged land fraught with beasts and with little air, and he had tried to hold his breath. He could survive the flight.
When training began, he worked almost like a machine — made up a little notebook where he meticulously jotted down each day’s activities — the minutes divided up neatly. He ate the tasteless powdered dissolved in what in reality would transform into recycled urine. It was all fine. Nothing compared to the gain.
The phone rings. He had been waiting for it forever. This would be the moment. “I am ready,” John whispered to himself.
In his small stark room, John feels solidly prepared. “Yes, thank you. I would be happy to serve,” he rehearses the words.
The voice though is more anxious on the other side. He had asked her not to call.
“Don’t, don’t slam it down,” the voice is almost full of tears. John does not wish to imagine the slender girl with her curly lips and her whimsical escapades. They should not have crossed the border. They should not have gone to that dingy town. They should never have gone into that little hut with the hag who brewed them dark thick alcohol that almost looked like a witch’s potion.
“You have it, John. Like I do. I am so really sorry. It was infected.”
John freezes — does not know what to say or to think. The transition is too quick.
“But I am going to the star,” he whispers almost to himself.
“What?” Jenna shouts. A siren drowns her.
“We have three days to get it. The antidote,” Jenna starts crying, her voice breaking into hysteria.
“Or else we are both dead.”
After the phone goes silent, as though Jenna had been gagged, John stands silently by the table.
“Three days,” he murmurs. “But I wanted to go to the stars.”
One hour later, the phone rings yet again.
“Mr, Miller, congratulations,” the voice is deep and assuring. There is no meddling siren in that bunker. ” We shoot off tonight at ten.”
John does not think of the world, or of Jenna, or the life that is too short.
“I will be happy to serve, sir,” he utters as he had prepared for almost an hour.
After the phone is silent again, he walks back to the other end of his room, opens up a suitcase, and puts in his bare necessities. Those were not the worldly ones but the few new technologies that would last him in the sky, with flashing light passing by the window of a darting encasement that would surround him — throughout the last three days of his life.
Nb: This piece is an edited version of a creative writing project assigned by Coursera. I would like to thank the instructor for the problem.