It was an exercise. A simple way of purging.
Arron – My ‘what I will miss’ list:
- The smell of coffee.
- Morning sunlight.
- The view of the sea from a clifftop. The sound of those breakers.
- Drifting into shops.
- Watching people in a street.
- Park benches, with a snack.
- Restaurants. Being asked to sample wine.
My ‘what I won’t miss’ list:
- Social media.
- Irrational hate.
- Driving for long periods.
- Public toilets.
- Feeling like there is a better view around the corner.
Arron put his notebook down. He hated this but it was part of what he and his wife Eva had agreed to confront.
They had been drifting in space now for one month. When they had emerged from the induced wormhole, it had been a shock to realise Earth was no longer there, missing from its coordinates. Mars, Venus and the asteroid belt, all scanned and in place. Earth was gone.
They were 10 years into their marriage, had no extended family on Earth and so they were at least together, that was a small mercy. It may have been their togetherness, their ability to read each other and the lack of people to miss back home that were factors in their selection as the astronaut team for Earth’s most prestigious space mission. They were the only humans to have set foot on an exoplanet and in truth it had felt lonely. The air was not quite right, the vegetation was sparse and the only creatures were small insects. It had always been about the return trip, the getting back to tell the world they knew and loved.
For the most part of each day, they just sat there in the cockpit, not knowing how to react, looking over the screens and instruments, watching resources deplete daily. Their home planet was not in its orbit around the sun and for the first days of adjusing to the revelation, they were simply speechless and tearful.
That moment of horror, when they knew for sure they were alone, it was a whole four weeks ago but it sat there like a scar on their minds. The moment it all changed forever.
Now, they were playing cards, frequently arguing and experimenting with self-counselling.
Why, how, what could have happened to Earth?
When Eden 2 had ejected from the wormhole, it was obvious something unforseen and catastrophic had occurred.
They had made it to the exoplanet, around Proxima Centauri, without any real hitches, landed the scout ship and taken plant samples, dissected insects and filed a heap of film footage.
They had been so excited about the implications. They had recorded historic speeches on the surface of an alien world, they had seen things noone else had witnessed, put their footprints in landscapes that had never had humans before. They prepared their notes on the return trip, ready to describe the adventure for TV shows, for audiences, for history.
So when they emerged from their space-highway, and Earth had simply vanished, the stark reality of what really mattered, it hit them like a sledgehammer between the eyes.
Their best guess was that the wormhole The United Space Council had constructed, had somehow sucked up Earth into its pull, dragging it through the hole in space-time, all the way back to Proxima, most likely when they were on their return trip.
They may have crossed paths even. The physics of wormholes was still sketchy science, despite the knowledge of how to create and traverse them. Both ends of the wormhole were basically black holes. ‘We can control them’ said the scientists. Control of nature, it was always the overconfident claim of scientists with egos and grants to focus on. Whatever had happened, the one thing they knew for sure was they could not return home. It was clear the wormhole had collapsed and there was no way to reconstruct it without the Council’s resources.
“I’ve shared mine, your turn,” smirked Arron. He had grown something of a beard. It was like an untamed stubble, patchy and rough. More the result of neglect than anything by design.
Eva smoothed her jet-black hair with one hand, looking at him with eyes that had turned from fire to coal, from go-getter to solemn wisdom. She hated this but she guessed it was necessary. Face your thoughts, that is what they were told for keeping your sanity in a glorrified ‘tin can’ surrounded by a void.
“Your list,” she smiled. “You sound in retreat. It’s like… Like you are missing your reitrement. Shops? Restaurants? Really? You are the only man to have stepped foot on another world. Was it really that empty an experience? You could have had anything at all if Earth had been there.”
He held her gaze.
Eva – My ‘what I will miss’ list:
- Meeting new people.
- Running up a new mountain trail.
- Gossip. The worst kind.
- Bar fights, god… I don’t know…”
She exhaled and with real animosity said, “this is ridiculous.”
Outside, the blackness was all consuming. Eden 2 was relatively large for space exploration. It had three domes dedicated to nurturing alien ecosystems. Arron and Eva had managed to uproot and replant a good selection of alien vegetation, many of the samples would bare fruit. They were aware that the samples were now possibly all they had to rely on for food in the time ahead of them. They would need to recycle every little thing, save and grow seeds, conserve, ration and hope – simply hope they could keep going for a little longer, with no real strategy beyond a month at a time.
“You know what I’ll miss the most?” said Eva. “The future.”
They stared out of the cockpit and there was nothing but deep darkness, peppered with impossibly distant stars.