Finding new stars
I asked people to tweet me a word for writing inspiration. I used all 19 that people tweeted at me before I began writing this. Thanks, for the experiment friends!
I watched her kick a seashell away from the wreckage. Smoke still softly poured out of the damaged fuselage. Our ship had crash-landed into what The Agency hypothesized was the closest hospitable exoplanet, lightyears away from Earth.
After three successful attempts at transporting matter from the space station to the planet and back again, Q and I volunteered for the first womanned mission to explore it ourselves.
As we tore through the galaxy and timespace in ways no human had before, a seismic event in the outskirts of space sent gravitational waves directly into our path, and instead of the soft landing we had anticipated, the ship veered off course, eventually cutting through the atmosphere at a speed I assumed would kill us.
The ship took the brunt of the hit, and ruptured into a thousand pieces. We were sent flying into silken, purple sand. I dislocated my shoulder and broke my left leg in three places—Q stood up and brushed tiny purple particles off of her once pearly-white suit.
I watched a creature scuttle across the sand, spitting a biological ooze into its claws and making tiny balls with the sand between them. The creature reminded me of the hermit crabs I saw at a beach back in college; the last time I saw the ocean before seeing it from space. I poked it and it tried to pinch me.
The blaster gun still nestled snugly in my boot, and I pondered shooting the mystery animal for fun, taking my rage out on an odd creature that carried a porous rock on its back and clawed at strangers. Instead I picked up a handful of sand and let it fall through my fingers.
Q walked over and pulled out her comms tablet that somehow miraculously worked.
“According to The Agency’s data, we’re only 2,000 kilometers off course,” she said. I glared at her brazen pronouncement, as if our shipwreck was just a solvable problem like any of the algorithms she built for the AI, which, sadly, had disintegrated along with the rest of the vehicle.
Sensing my frustration, she plopped down next to me, sending the creature flying into its hole.
“We can either sit here and figure out how to grow potatoes on a beach in an unfamiliar climate, or we can attempt to reach the rendezvous and signal The Agency to find us.” Q oozed the confidence of a woman who had never gardened before.
“You can’t possibly expect me to subsist on spuds,” I told her.
We pulled ourselves up and walked toward the pile of remaining gear we collected from the wreckage. I grimaced with every step, leg screaming in pain I refused to listen to.
The air on the planet was heavy and moist; gravity felt lighter, and despite walking tens of kilometers per day, we didn’t sweat and were rarely hungry. Each evening we forced three sporkfuls of dried meat and plant protein down our throats.
Days passed, which we counted by hours on our wristwatches, since the sun, though far away, did not appear to set.
Q told me about her brother back on Earth, and his discovery of a floating eskimo village whose inhabitants adapted to climate change by melting into the sea. I told her I was all alone, but when I looked down at Earth I felt connected to every person on it.
We perched beneath a tree, its knotted trunk and twisted branches doing little to hide the dull sunshine that refused to let us fall apart in the dark.
I ran my hands through crumbling clay, and my hand suddenly collided with a sharp, metallic object. I picked it up and held it between my fingers; an artifact of a previous reconnaissance mission The Agency failed decades ago.
“Do you think we were meant to find this planet?” I asked Q, as a group of unrecognizable avians flitted in the distorted limbs above.
“If you were to ask The Agency, they would tell you it’s our century’s Manifest Destiny.”
“But I am asking you.”
“It is our duty to look beyond the worlds we know to find another to love or destroy.”
Each day we grew closer, falling asleep in each other’s arms. Q splinted my leg the best she could, and although the pain had dulled, I knew my gait was forever ruined.
In pools of clear blue water, we bathed together, trying not to disturb the colorful bodies living beneath the surface for fear of them resenting the intrusion. When our rations ran out, we took small bites of plants that looked edible, hoping they weren’t poison.
Perhaps it was serendipitous we found ourselves on this world together, for neither of us were very happy on the one we left behind.
One day, the sun set. A brilliant orange, then pink, then purple engulfed the horizon. It faded into a dark, deep navy. New constellations dotted the sky.
Q took out the telescope she had carried since leaving the ship, waiting for this moment. We sat silently together on the top of a hill, eyes turned toward a sky we didn’t recognize.
“I’ve spent my whole life trying to find someone to look at the stars with,” I said, turning to face her.
“Well you found someone to live in them with you instead.”