“This is the final boarding call for passengers Jasmine and Fred Galus, booked on flight 459V to Earth City. Please proceed to Gate P09 immediately. The final checks are being completed. The captain will order for the doors of the spacecraft to be shut in ten minutes. I repeat. This is the final boarding call for Jasmine and Fred Galus. Thank you.”
The Intergalactic Transit Port hung between worlds.
A port for all the ships popping and zipping through the universe, ships that needed super solar tubes, supplies, maintenance or even stationary. Travellers with cheap tickets came through too, it was a longer trip, but the money saved was worth it. The port was always in some state of chaos, as if the people working there hadn’t gotten the hang of it just yet.
The port was highly facilitated, it had bedding, washrooms, feeding areas, smoking lounge, and of course its renowned Intergalactic Duty-Free.
Through the hustle and bustle of travellers, running from one gate to the next. Um Jazir leaned on her ProSweep Max732, a stick attached to high tech absorbent material made to clean all sorts of elements, it was essentially a mop. Her skin smelled like detergent, and disinfectant. They smelled that way for so long, she couldn’t remember it any other way.
“Tapok? Gate T09x?” A passerby waved his ticket in her face, she raised a single eyebrow in response, she chose the left one for a maximum inquiry effect. “Tapok? Gate T09x!”
Um Jazir looked to her left, “Go on until you find Gate L09T, through the feeding areas, turn right, then left, then take one of the escalators.”
The man examined her face from a distance.
“You know, you could use TOLIFE Grape, those wrinkles would disappear in a week.” The passerby stood tracing her wrinkles with his bright young eyes.
TOLIFE was a decision one took in their lifetime, it was a pill that made people younger, or older. And it came in many delicious flavours.
Orange would make you tanned, and in your twenties, cherry would make you plump, with rosy cheeks, raspberry gave you a singing voice. Some people saw nothing wrong with it, and others thought it was an offence to humanity. Some people thought that this would mean people would remain immortal, stick around, and wondered when they would die.
But with the vast universe, arguments like where will we all live, were obsolete. People chose how long they lived, how they looked living it, and where. Of course, this confused many people. Especially the people who thought it was offensive, they saw that the main goal of mankind or any creature kind was to serve time in this existence, and then die. And for some, it was a matter of faith, meet your maker.
“It’s unnatural dear, its bad for your health.” Was all she could say.
“But you look unnatural. We are all dying anyway, it just makes you look pretty while dying.” He shrugged.
Um Jazir touched her skin, appalled. It was a symbol of how close she was to death.
“I choose to age with grace!” She retaliated.
“Wishful thinking.” He waved his ticket as a thank you and went on his way.
“Hope he never finds the Gate. Hope he misses his flight!”, Um Jazir heard a familiar rolling, she looked over to find her friend, Sara.
“Those Galus’s are going to miss their flight! They probably lost themselves in the Duty-Free… Oh dear, I really hate when that happens.” Sara always took it upon herself to worry about people missing their flight, as if it was her duty as an employee at The Intergalactic Transit Port.
Sara stopped beside Um Jazir, her bucket sloshing part motion, and the other part was an aquatic creature she had claimed as a pet.
“I don’t understand why people don’t just stay at the Gate.”
“They get restless. Waiting is boring.” Um Jazir suddenly felt the same, waiting is boring, and she was getting restless too.
Two flyers walked between them, with a puff, the smoking lounge door was shut.
The ladies stood outside the smoking lounge, waiting for it to be unoccupied for at least a few minutes to clean the area, but that usually took ages, so they waited and waited. Watching one smoker tag the other as they went in.
“So Um Jazir, I was thinking, maybe on our trip, we can go visit planet Yuenchi, they say the food there is amazing, there are so many things to see! The First Great Colony of The Primal Spaceman…”
Um Jazir was already shaking her head. The shaking started at “So”, when people started their sentences that way, she knew it meant a suggestion, and she never was a fan of those. She would pave the way, and you could choose to follow her, but don’t give suggestions or opinions.
“Well, I’m still leaning towards Earth. They say its nice this time of year, we go to Mecca, and I can finally touch the stone with my hands!” Um Jazir stretched her arm out and closed her eyes, she imagined it so many times she could feel the cold stone touching her back. She dreamed of visiting Mecca in real life and praying, and walking around the Kabbah, she felt strange going around The Baraka Hologram, and wasn’t sure if it counted. With all her sins washed away, she would die a happy woman.
“Sure we will, but we need to wait for the next cycle. When it’s our turn, which is in 10 years!” Sara interrupted her daydream of soul cleanliness.
“I don’t follow.” Um Jazir gave her the most innocent look.
“I mean we can go someplace else, and then in 10 years we can visit Earth!” Sara was getting frustrated.
“I am too old for foreign food, the excitement, the upset stomach. If I should travel it should be for good. I don’t know how many days I have left. What would people say! Look at Um Jazir going off… eating god knows what, and doing dangerous things! What if I died there?” She rambled.
“Since when? We dreamed of travelling all this time!” Before Sara’s eyes, she could see the places they wanted to go, the images, places she and her friend dreamed of, now that they actually had enough money saved, Um Jazir was backing out.
“You think if you died while having a good time, people would just sit and discuss your final cuisine choices?”
“It is the way of the world.”
Um Jazir nodded agreeing with herself, touching her face, feeling its looseness. “You are younger than me, you wouldn’t understand!”
“But Um Jazir, weren’t we born in the same year?”
Um Jazir pretended to calculate, but they were in fact the same age.
“Oh! It’s because you never married.” She retaliated.
Sara loved her friend dearly. They had been through a lot together, they stood by each other when a man tried to hijack the spaceship, they helped a woman give birth in the washrooms, they even took in an odd lost boy for a few days till his parents were reluctantly located. She reminded herself of that, of the good things.
“What happened Um Jazir? Are you and Abu Jazir okay?”
She nodded, they were okay, she was the love of his life, she knew it, and he knew it too.
“It’s not that Sara, I am old, this silliness, it’s not proper.”
A smoker walked out of the smoking lounge, her face grey and calm. She smiled meekly at the women. Um Jazir was pretty sure the smile meant the lady had spilled something inside.
Um Jazir liked the smokers lounge, she felt a type of kinship with the people going in. Smokers were unwanted since the Primal Spaceman created compartments for them in airports, they were smelly, and the smoke was bad for the others health, it was like telling them to die alone. Um Jazir felt that way, she was unwanted, smelled like detergent, which was bad for some people’s health and she would eventually, as one does, die alone.
The lady with the grey calm face stood motionless, looking at Um Jazir and Sara.
“Can we help you?”
“You spilled something, didn’t you? Is it coffee? Is it something else?” Um Jazir’s eyes scanned the lady.
The lady smiled and shook her head. “It is a bold choice, not taking TOLIFE you know.”
Um Jazir’s eyes took a roll, “I choose to age with grace.”
The grey-faced lady looked at her some more, Um Jazir was getting more conscious of her wrinkles.
“You are beautiful.” And she left as a wisp of smoke.
Um Jazir smiled a magnificent smile.
“This is the final boarding call for passenger Maroon McMeenie, booked on flight 666X to Tapok. Please proceed to Gate T09x immediately. The final checks are being completed. The captain will order for the doors of the spacecraft to be shut in ten minutes. I repeat. This is the final boarding call for Maroon McMeenie. Thank you.”
“Oh Dear! I hope he doesn’t miss his flight!”
“No. I hope he does.”
Um Jazir was looking pretty joyful in Sara’s eyes. But, she didn’t know why, and that made her uneasy.
“But we won’t eat anything outrageous, Sara.” Sara smiled in relief, and hugged her dear friend. The trip of a lifetime was back on.