The prompts for this story were: dark star safari, last call, a moment of yearning.
As usual, the three prompts already suggested a story: Someone is loading for a trip. Dark star safari suggested outer space. Who was yearning? The story unspooled from there.
Oddly enough, given that Orion doesn’t usually enjoy first-person stories, this one demanded to be told from that point of view.
As with other stories lately, we are finding that moving some of the exposition into the narrator’s thoughts strengthens the impact of the story. See, we’re still growing and learning our craft as writers just like everyone else.
As usual, Johnny was up earlier than I was. Logically, my little brother should have made breakfast, but most of the time, I’d find him drinking kaffo, reading a space story, or perusing travel brochures. Today, he sat at a dining room table covered with pamphlets and reference books. His Note-Tab was propped up by a thick book he favored: Dr. Drummond’s All Things Space. Coming up behind him, I saw an info page for ‘Dark Star Safari – Experience the very best the universe has to offer!’
I pointed at the screen. “What’s this? I haven’t heard of them before.”
He turned a shining face up toward me. “They’re new! Sit down. I’ll show you.”
I couldn’t resist his enthusiasm, so I sat and let him gush all over me about all the ports-of-call, the civilizations, natives, and animals he’d encounter.
I didn’t want to, but I had to ask the question that usually killed his fantastical ideas. “And what is this going to cost us?”
His face fell. “Too much. Like always, Shar.”
I thought to myself, I hate always having to be a downer. Why can’t I just be a big sister and encourage him? Traveling in space has been his dream since he first looked up at the stars.
“So, how could we pay for it?”
He blinked, hope rising like dawn in his blue eyes. “Well,” he said with a sigh, “they have several payment plans, according to this.” He held up a brochure and waved it at me.
The expense was huge, about what you’d expect for a trip to the stars. Accommodations, visas, port fees, weight tariffs…the list was endless. Bottom line? Way more than we could afford. Still, I loved him dearly. He was my only family.
Tears welled up in Johnny’s beautiful blue eyes. I could practically see his dreams dying behind them.
I glanced once more at the brochure.
That last option?
Would that be so bad? To give my little brother what he wanted above all else? Could I do it?
For Johnny, I could do anything.
“Last call! Last call for boarding! Dark Star Safari, now boarding!”
The loudspeakers blared their warnings for all to hear, but I wasn’t listening. I watched as Johnny’s green-clad back grew smaller and smaller down the metal boarding tunnel.
Please come back, I wanted to shout. I want to hold you in my arms a few more minutes before my little brother vanishes into that spaceship. Before you leave me for the greatest adventure of your life. Before you’re lost to me forever.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t. His life has moved beyond me.
I looked to the mountains in the distance.
And this place.
In exchange for Johnny’s ticket, I volunteered to participate in their medical longevity study. I know for the rest of my life, I will want for nothing; the government will see to that. I’ll be treated with all the new procedures, even transplants, anything the researchers come up with, in their pursuit of eternal life. It will be difficult, but it’s worth it to give him a chance at his dream.
The funny thing is, with the time distortion, Johnny will return home 112 years from now. I know he’ll be bursting with stories, bubbling over with sights and experiences and wanting to talk about them far into the night.
Maybe I’ll be here to meet him when he returns.