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Creative Writing: Crossing the Echoes, Chapter 1

New this semester: Student creative writing!

Each issue, Joshua Prokash will publish the next installment of his story “Crossing the Echoes”

Prologue

For generations, people stood under the moonlight, staring up at the midnight sky, questioning if the stars truly had a say in the fate of humanity. For years, the pursuers of truth and knowledge have hunted tirelessly for a chance or even a mere fragment of what the stars may hold undisclosed to many. Both philosophers and scientists try their best to figure out what hides in the endless expanse of space. Be it a curse or a gift, fate or avarice, we have a ceaseless amount of distance to traverse, to submerge our homes and our hearts into discovering. That is why we were sent to learn the unknown.

Once we obtained the approval from our respective nations, the space program in Quebec, Canada, launched one, and only one spacecraft outfitted with an exploration crew. More like a skeleton crew by this point. Originally we were given twenty hands to maintain and support our ship, but as debates raged like a wildfire among the political parties, pointing fingers at one another, the number dropped to a dreary and lifeless three. Three individuals. Three dedicated souls, ready to face a mystery even the most developed minds couldn’t comprehend, let alone unravel.

Alas, our story doesn’t start with a rocky tremor within our shuttle, shaking the contents inside, testing our limits of both physical endurance and mental stability, but with the deepest thought of a traveler within the submersion of space. Would we be able to sustain ourselves until we reach the destination? Could the ship hold it together? Curious as it may have been, we were ready to plunge ourselves deep into the pulsing frigid heart of space, soaring alongside the stars. Discovering this new planet had the potential to save millions, if not billions, of lives were we to be successful. For months we trained with the best of them, sacrificed so much to attain such a position. I personally had to let go of some things I held dear, one of the most taxing being my deployment to a location where I couldn’t see nor talk to my wife and kids. And for so long, I dreamt about seeing them again, standing on the front porch with a setting sun hiding just over the horizon. It was only when we had the initial combustion of fuel, building up a significant quantity of velocity that I wanted to stay. Me and the other two, Joric and Angel, none of the three of us had the opportunity to say our farewells to our families, our friends… our home. To those who sent us up in this tin can, we were viewed as merely an obscured trio of astronauts, men and women who have taken a pledge to see a new future for the next age. A new beginning. Only if that were true.

 

Chapter 1: Pure Momentum

“Contact. I have made contact with the radar.”

My voice boomed over the communication system within our helmets. A soft layer of fog concealed the lower portion of my visor.Our nearest star, Sol, reflected a variety of hues off of the tinted mask. Small shards of debris, both rock and ice alike twinkled around the octagonal dish.

“Copy that ‘Ice Cream,’ contact made,” another announcer articulated to us, his pitch remaining in a professional tongue.

Joric didn’t like it when I stole his dried ice cream.Since then, that’s all I’ve been referred to as.

“Cut the chatter, you two…”

Like her name suggested as her figure swam past me, Angel tread through the airless vacuum, a toolbox in hand.

“… Let’s just get this over with. I don’t like being out here longer than I have to be.”

She said with concern in her tone, somewhat vacant of life as she spoke. Although she only saw the problems that could arise in this hazardous environment, Angel also didn’t notice the pristine solitude that one experienced out here. There were no screaming children begging for candy, no sirens following the echoes of a bank robbery, no exchanging of brass casings over one trench to another. There was only me and her, a vast field of harmless debris, and a cord attaching us to the ‘USS Riptide’ and Joric.

“Affirmative, let’s do our job and have some coffee. I could go for one right about now,” I replied, resting the soles of my boots along the slanted surface.

A benefit in being within the confines of space was that an everyday person could do the impossible without much resistance. My character stood upside down on the top half of the curving dome. A faint sigh could be traced through the com system, moments later Angel would set her sights on a busted leg connecting to the radar dish. She knelt down, retrieving and arming herself in one hand, a screwdriver and three screws. Seeing I had a part to play, I kicked the dish where I stood, propelling me toward my companion.

Lining up the screws with the holes, Angel began rotating her wrist with the screw, plunging it deeper into the premade socket. I stood towering above her with the toolbox in hand.

“And just about… there. I think this is easier than I had expected.”

She stated with a tone fixed with exuberance. Angel let go of the leg and wrapped her disclosed fingers around the second leg. Swinging the rest of her body around the bowl, I calmly hobbled my way over to her.

“So… Angel, what do you miss most about home?”

Finding the situation as more than awkward by just standing around in utter silence, I ceased all forms of isolation and directed an inquiry to her. For a moment, she turned her head and looked straight at my obscured features from behind the helmet. With a small huff over the com, I could only imagine that what hid on the other side was either a scowl or a smirk. Knowing her, maybe a combination of both.

“I don’t know, honestly. France had a spectacular view over the range of beaches. If I must answer, it would have to be long walks on the beach as the sun died just over the ocean, my hand folded around my husband’s.”

She continued to work, rotating her hand without a second response. Her response had a hint of melancholy in it, something that was rarely seen on our ship. Bringing up home usually allowed us something to converse about, but now, I think by reminiscing on what we could be doing back home, I only added salt to the already exposed flesh. My natural instinct now would be to further the conversation, deplete any remaining sense of solitude between us, but that ship had already sunk. It was up to her crew to pull themselves up from the open waters.

 

“And… one… more… there! Joric, how’s it looking inside?”

Angel jumped up with excitement, tossing… er, letting go of her tools as they fluttered into the box. Static arose over the link between us three. My guess was Joric is playing with us, making it seem like something wrong was occurring. Angel and I simply looked at one another, waiting for a response. Even after about thirty seconds, that never happened. I reached for my communications switch on the right side of my helmet, my finger tapping it allowing for me to speak to them.

“Hey Joric, this isn’t funny. Is it working or not? Quit playing.”

Authority impacted the comms like a hammer to a wall, though it was rather unusual to speak in such a serious tone. I could tell Angel was getting impatient with him, and so was I. She looked at me, turning her gaze from the distant ball of infinite combustion.

“Hey, I think something is seriously wrong. Let’s head in,” she suggested, but disregarded protocol.

We were supposed to receive an ‘okay’ from whoever operated the communication systems, thus allowing us immediate feedback on whether we need to recheck something or not. Something was wrong, and it was up to us to investigate it ourselves.

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