(IP) To the Stars
Mara Carmichael, biologist, stood between the two buildings that made up her outpost,
eyes lifted to the sky as if she were waiting for something. Something in her
gaze was sharp and watchful, turned toward the sun.
had never bothered her; in fact, that was the reason she’d leaped at this job. She’d
always felt more at home within a lab, among samples and data, variables and hypotheses.
Even when she’d been a child, her goal had been to go to the unexplored territory
of space. Her wonder had been so bigger than her fear, even back then. Her
mother and father had tried to help her as best they could. At first, they
thought that it was heights and thrills that she was after. But what she’d
really wanted was the sky, and everything that filled it.
when the opportunity to be one of the first graduates in space opened up, Mara knew
she had to do it. She was closer to achieving her dream than ever before. She
hadn’t even told her parents about it. She’d just sent out the application and
waited for the letter. She’d stood by the door every day, waiting for the real
paper letter. The email came in about a month later, but she wanted real,
actual proof in her hands.
night that the letter came, Mara packed up all of her bags; she’d broken the
news of her gamble over dinner. Her parents were surprised, but supportive.
happy that you’re about to achieve your dreams,” Her mother said, pulling her
in close for a hug. Her father was beaming, his eyes shiny and wet. “Our only daughter,
going up in space all by herself! You’re amazing, kiddo!”
months that followed were training: how to isolate herself in a room, drills on
the numerous ways that things could go wrong in space, how to log her
observations and research. Mara fell back into this familiar, brisk routine.
Learning had always been her favorite thing, trying to cram her brain with so
many different things.
didn’t tell her until after her training was completed that she would be in
space alone, but she’d never been a big people person anyway. Her talents were
best used elsewhere. Science was the creed she lived her life by, and it was too
engrained at this point.
didn’t know how long she’d been on this planet; time was impossible to measure,
flung this far out in space. Her watch had stopped long ago, but it hardly
mattered. This planet, dry and dusty and strange, left new wonders for her to
follow. She might die here, but she’d gotten what she wanted. She’d left Earth
and chased her dreams, wherever they led. Some people didn’t get what they
were worse ways to confront death, Mara thought, and a strange sort of peace
washed over her. She only hoped that whatever came after, they would find what
was left of her. But perhaps she would be lost to all but the stars and the
vast, sparkling dark.