One

” Hi Hun,

Just checking in. How did the flight go? Did they serve peanuts? I miss you terribly, but am so proud of you and what you’re doing. Write back soon.

Love,

Kate”

The moon is a lonely place to live. After 6 months, it’s a really lonely place to live. The man was trained to be an astronaut, but they never trained him how to deal with being the only living thing for 750 million miles in every direction.

At least on Earth’s moon, you had a view of home. Out by Saturn, the man was truly alone.

He would occasionally receive messages from Kate. They were only text but better than nothing. If you thought the delay over Skype was frustrating, this would be torture. Because of the distance and interference, it would take approximately ten days or so for their messages to reach one another. While he would never tell his superiors, the man would gladly sacrifice the mission and all of humanity for just a one-minute live conversation with Kate. But he could not.

“Hey Babe,

I miss you so much. Hope moon life is all it’s cracked up to be. Life is as normal as it can be here. It’s getting a little crazy in the city, so I’ve been staying home. The news keeps saying NASA’s plan is working and we’ll be ok. Anyway, hope it’s not too cold up there, I bought you a jacket today… not sure how that helps you there… but thinking of you!

Love,

Kate”

The man’s ship had been sent to collect samples and determine if his moon could be habitable for mankind. For you see Earth was a condemned place.  At first, it was a scientific wonder. Then, as news came that it would make a near-Earth pass, people became uneasy. It wasn’t until the Alaska-sized rock was cresting our galaxy that NASA confirmed its trajectory for the South Pacific. In reality, it didn’t matter where it hit.

The man’s mission was just one of many desperate expeditions to find a new home for the people of Earth. He was told he had a full two years before the asteroid came anywhere near our solar system.

So you can imagine his panic when he stepped outside for another routine expedition and saw an Alaska-sized asteroid hurdling past his moon and a week and a half later, stopped hearing from Kate all together.

Two

The man stumbled into the airlock, ripping the helmet from his head almost before the chamber was sealed. The door to the ship takes about ten seconds to open as a safety delay, but it now was wasting precious seconds. The man nervously smacked his hand on the door. “Come on!”, he slammed his helmet against the window. The door finally released and the man made a mad sprint for his computer to open up the messenger.

Outside, the man had wasted valuable time. As the colossal asteroid made its pass right before his eyes, he couldn’t help but stare. Until you see something that massive that close up, you are not prepared for it. Most people’s frame of reference for gigantic passing objects is a large tanker passing you in a small rowboat or perhaps a cargo plane flying too low to the ground.

The size of what the man had been looking at was beyond words. It completely filled the sky, from horizon to horizon. Though hurtling through space at over 50,000 miles per hour, the mammoth rock seemed to float by at an almost leisurely pace, drifting with a slight rotation on its axis. The man couldn’t make out any details of the rock, but it was dark in color and far more irregular in shape than he would’ve expected. It wasn’t the rounded, enlarged “garden rock” he was used to seeing in disaster movies. The object in front of him was elongated and jagged. Spires protruded like barbed mountains in seemingly random directions. It did not look natural.

The man felt himself  become swept by a wave of chills, as the serrated profile gave the asteroid a far more sinister presence. It wasn’t until the megalith began to block sunlight from his moon that the man snapped out of his trance and made his way back to the ship.

He now furiously waited as the computer booted up. He peered out the window but could see nothing. No light meant it was still making its pass over his moon. The computer finally booted up and he opened up a draft for a new message to Kate. He put his hands on the keyboard, ready to type, then froze.

What do you say? It was in this moment the reality hit him that he would never see Kate again. That he had already heard her voice for the last time. That the daydream he had everyday about landing back on Earth and finally embracing her again would never come true. He swatted away tears with a shaking hand.

His initial reaction was to tell her everything. Tell her NASA was wrong or more likely, had lied. Tell her to try and get a warning out. Tell her to… what? Hop in a space shuttle and leave? What could she possibly do? There was nowhere to run and no way to stop it. He knew she deserved to know but what good would delivering news of an impending death sentence to the person you loved most do?

She had told him the news was reporting positive progress on the mission. To avoid panic, he inferred. The man sunk his head to the desk, he never had felt more helpless in his life. All he could think about was speaking with Kate, hearing her voice. The man then remembered the time delay. It would take about ten days for any message to reach her. If he didn’t hit send soon, his message would never reach her eyes in time, regardless of what he typed. The man snapped his head up, it was time to make a decision. A decision no one should ever have to make.

Though she deserved to know the truth, Kate deserved to live her last days in happiness more. The man wanted to tell her how he felt, even though she already knew. He wanted to pour his heart out onto the keyboard, but there was no time. His mind raced and he finally settled on four words, the only four he could think of at the moment. He typed them in and hit send. The man buried his head in his hands, clenching his jaw. The tears were now being squeezed out of him. He felt physically ill, like the pit in his stomach was eating him from the inside out. The man heaved into the waste can by the desk. He could not stop shaking.

Light began to spill into the window to his ship. The man looked up to catch the notched tail of the asteroid purposefully pushing on towards his home. Towards Kate. He knew by its proximity, the asteroid wouldn’t take more than two weeks to reach Earth. Would his message get there first? In the past he’d had messages reach her in as quick as a week. He also had a few take upwards of 15 days.

He was never a religious man, but as he watched the tool of Earth’s extinction advance towards its destined collision, the man prayed. He prayed that it would be quick. He prayed that she wouldn’t see it coming. That the looting and rioting back home would be minimal and she would be safe in her last hours. But most of all, he prayed that she would get his message before it happened. That maybe she’d be able to get out a response in time. So that he could at least read her reaction. He knew she would say yes but he wanted to see her words.

He wanted to know for certain that she would be his wife.

Three

“I see you.” The man gave the snow globe a gentle shake, watching the flecks of glitter dance around the miniature planet Earth. It had become his morning routine. He rolled out of his cot, set the snow globe on the edge of the counter and walked into the common area. The sun was just starting to filter through Saturn’s rings and into the small, circular window of his ship. Despite the light, it was cold. But, it was always cold.

The man prepared his pre-rationed breakfast and sat back down on his bed, accidentally bumping the counter and sending the snow globe clanging to the floor. He dropped his food, “Shit!”. The man fell to his knees, frantically searching for it. He began to panic. Did he hear glass breaking? What if it cracked? “No, no, no…” The man felt dizzy, he gulped shallow breaths, desperately reaching between the wall of the counter and the cot. His hand finally found the glass sphere. He fished it out and held it against his chest, still sitting on the floor. The man wiped tears away from his eyes and crawled back onto his cot, handling the globe as if it was a newborn baby.

It had been 9 years and 182 days since the man had watched the asteroid pass. Which, according to his calendar, would make it Christmas time again. He stopped celebrating last year. It was his and Kate’s best tradition. Every December they would cover their house in lights. White, blue, multi-colored, whatever they could get their hands on. The electric bill soared and it was probably a fire hazard of some sort, but they didn’t care. The lights he had brought with him on his trip were now packed away in the storage of the ship. He took them down when they started bringing him sad memories rather than happy ones. The only things he had left of Kate was the backlog of messages she had sent him during those first months on the moon.

Hi Hun,

Just checking in with my favorite spaceman! I went out to dinner with your parents yesterday, we had Italian… your favorite. We all miss you tons. Your mom told the story (again) of how you broke your arm climbing the backyard fence when you were little because you thought you were Spider-Man. Never gets old. Anyways, we’re definitely going to order an extra large pizza when you get back. Hurry home!

Love,

Your Spacewoman Kate

The man closed the message on the computer and tilted the snow globe over in his hand, studying it. His pristine, tiny home planet glistened in the water. “So you can see me wherever you are!” she said, slipping it into his hands the day he left their house for the last time.

He brought it everywhere with him. He was afraid that if he left it with the ship it would be lost, should a dust storm decide to rear its ugly head. It has happened maybe a dozen times during his stay on the moon and twice the ship rolled. He knew deep down the real reason he kept it was because it was the closest thing he had and would ever have to Kate. During breaks from his excavations, he would plop down on nearby rock overlooking a canyon and sit with the snow globe, enjoying the view.

The man could only assume she never got his message. He checked the computer for months, long after the debris from what used to be Earth floated by his moon. But he never got a response back. His proposal must not have gotten to her in time, outran by the rock that would end mankind.

It took him a while to grasp the scope of what had happened, for in the moment he was only thinking of Kate. However, the human race, his entire species was now gone. Not just his whole family, not his entire city. Every single person, billions, gone. He would never see or talk to another human. The man knew there were other astronauts sent to other moons on similar missions to his own, but he never received any kind of signal from them. He could only assume he was alone. The last of his kind. The depression lasted 3 years.

It had been a decade since his landing that the man was unable to leave. At least, according to the his rudimentary calendar system, which only delivered half-certain accuracy. Now all those movies of prison inmates scrawling the passing days on their cell wall made so much more sense. Without a reference of time, every second is an eternity and days would endlessly blend together.

He gave the snow globe one more shake, “I see you”, then gently stowed it in his tool case. The man fastened his gear, grabbed his helmet and headed to the airlock. The ship was small, but provided a cozy space for the man to live. Mostly cozy because it was literally the only place on the planet with oxygen.

The man sealed his helmet and made sure his gloves were fastened correctly. This had become as habitual as brushing his teeth in the morning. The airlock hissed as the oxygen was sucked from the chamber. After receiving the green light, the man pushed the lever to the outer door and stepped outside.

He took a deep breath of stale air from his oxygen tank and studied his all too familiar surroundings. Still the same. Rocks and dust. There was a precarious stack of rocks he had built almost 4 years ago, still standing undisturbed. One day he’d knock it down, it was starting to bug him.

One thing that never got old was the view above. Because of the moon’s proximity to Saturn, the man was treated to a spectacular view of Saturn’s rings, depending on the time of year. Sometime’s he’d stand their gawking at the sky until his neck hurt.

He pulled the snow globe out of his bag and held it high, so Kate could see too. Though it was breathtaking, the man needed every one he could manage. Out here, Oxygen was a precious commodity. He put the globe away and began loading up the rover for yet another expedition. If he was destined to spend the rest of his days on this colorless rock, he mine as well learn more about it.

Just then, a bright light streaked emphatically across the sky. As it entered the atmosphere, it changed from blue to green to orange. After a decade on the moon, the man had become accustomed to seeing falling meteors impact the surface. This looked to be a big one. He finished loading the rover, periodically checking the sky. As he was about to hop in, he stole one last look at the streaking meteor.

The streak of light had now died down and he could just barely make out a shape and texture. The man squinted as sunlight was reflected directly into his eyes, as if the object was metallic. Suddenly, a parachute deployed from the object, guiding it to the ground not a couple miles from where the man was standing. This was not a meteor.

Four

The rover bounded over hills and powered through valleys. The man frantically struggled to keep one eye on the rough terrain and one eye on the falling object, its parachute bringing it closer and closer to the ground. His mind raced. After 10 years living on a human-less rock, the implications of discovering something man-made was making his head spin. The man took a hill going a little too fast and the lack of gravity sent the rover airborne. As it glided through air, it began to list to the left. The man leaned hard, throwing all his weight to the right. He held his breath as the brown dirt raced up to meet him and the rover landed hard, but thankfully on all four wheels.

He instinctively reached up to wipe the sweat from his brow and clumsily bumped his glove into the visor of his helmet. The falling object had now landed maybe 100 yards in front of him. He slowed the rover, as he approached the plume of dust left from the object’s impact. He made his way closer and closer, just as the parachute began to ruffle silently to the ground. The man could now make out something printed on the chute, a logo. NASA.

The man’s heart nearly jumped out of his chest. He unbuckled himself from the rover, falling out in a scramble. NASA?! He rushed around to the back of the rover and grabbed the snow globe. He held it with him as he circled the object with uncertainty. The man gave the globe a nervous shake, Kate would be so excited. What did this mean? Was this a rogue satellite blasted randomly out into space by the impact of the asteroid? A probe from long ago? Chills shot up his spine. Could this be a beacon from one of the other astronauts tasked with the same mission he had? Confirming habitable life on another planet somewhere? There was only one way to find out. He had to get whatever control panel that was on this probe back to his ship to decode any message that may be waiting.

The man gently set the snow globe down on the dash of the rover. “Wait here honey”. He approached the probe cautiously. It was about the size of an ice cream truck and still steaming from its entry into the atmosphere. The nose was glowing red, even burrowed into the dirt. He strained to read the engraving on the side of the hull. This probe looked to be fairly recent. The man located the hatch housing the control panel and gingerly swatted at the latch holding it shut, the hot metal hissing at every touch of his glove. At the risk of burning through his suit, he opted for the toolbox back in the rover.

As he rummaged through the toolbox,  a short but powerful gust of wind moved through the man, temporarily setting him off balance. He looked up. Cresting over the hilltops not 3 miles away, a dust storm ominously rolled in his direction. The man found a hammer and trotted back to the probe. He began whacking at the latch, but it wouldn’t budge. The wind picked up. He swung the hammer harder, missing the latch a couple times, denting the hull. The parachute, once resting motionless on the dirt, now billowed to life in the gusts of the impending storm. The man looked behind him. “Oh no.” The storm was a mile away at most and much, much larger than he had earlier surmised.

He turned back to the probe, and with a grunt, furiously hammered the latch until it finally gave way, instantly blowing away into the now dirt-filled air. Dust and small rocks screamed by the man as he tore the control panel form the probe and stomped his way back to the rover. He parked it only 15 yards away, but he could barely make out its silhouette. He fumbled with his hands for the edge of the rover and climbed inside.

The man raced back across the valley, death gripping the wheel. He was struggling to see what lay ahead of him and constantly had to slow down to avoid large craters or jagged boulders. The storm was overtaking him now. He glanced nervously to the dash, where he had left the snow globe. It shook violently with every bump, sending snow jittering around the miniature Earth. “Hold on, baby.” Howling wind, battering rocks, and the groaning metal of the rover surrounded the man. If you’ve ever been in an airplane during severe turbulence, you know the feeling. The man had little to no control over his trajectory at this point. He could only press forward and hope he didn’t slam head on into a rock face with his name on it.

Finally, the rover shot out into clear air as he broke free of the whirlwind of dirt. The man exhaled and began laughing. It was only out of sheer terror but he was hysterical. He could see the ship from here. He’d make it back. The man was reminded of the control panel that sat on the seat next to him. He couldn’t help but think whatever message contained inside was meant for his eyes. The idea that someone else was out there at all, let alone trying to communicate with him made the man giddy, it was all he could think about.

He pounded the dash with his hand and laughed again. The man couldn’t wait to get back to the ship and decode whatever message was waiting for him inside. He stomped the pedal further to the floor, weaving confidently between hills and valleys, following his tracks back.

The man’s smile was abruptly wiped from his face as he swerved to narrowly avoid a boulder. The rover began to lose traction. As the man pulled the wheel in the other direction, he over-corrected, sending the rover off a ledge, off-kilter and rolling hard onto its roof, grinding to a halt in the dirt. The man dangled upside down, still strapped into his seat. Just as the rover’s wheels began to stop spinning, they began to spin in the opposite direction. The dust storm he had previously thought to have outran reclaimed its prize as it swept over the rover, burying it in sand.

Five

The man smiled politely and tipped the cashier. She smiled back at him. He made no effort to hide his glances while he was waiting for his coffee, yet made no effort to pursue the venture any further. The man accepted his coffee, said thank you a little too enthusiastically, then headed for the door. He had only just moved to Orlando, there would be plenty of other baristas 5 years too young and 5 points out of his league to court.

As he made his way through the coffee shop, the man fished a pen out of his pocket and began scribbling on his cup. He opened the door to leave, holding it for a couple people. Then a couple more. The man was engrossed in writing on the coffee cup. He finally realized he was holding the door for no one at this point and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Looking back down at the cup, he immediately collided with a woman who was walking at a pace that only someone from the east coast would walk at. An explosion of scalding hot coffee was sent straight into the man’s chest and down his shirt.

“For fucks sake!”, the woman threw her hands in the air. “What’s the matter with you? Look where you’re going!”. She didn’t even notice the coffee. The man winced as he pinched his now soaking shirt away from his body. The woman angrily scooped her bag off the cement and looked to the man expecting an apology. “Hello?”, she was wide eyed, pissed off and beautiful. The man attempted to brush himself off before giving up. He sighed, “I never liked this shirt anyway”.

The woman was caught off guard. She stifled a smile and rolled her eyes before bending down to help pick up the man’s things, “I’m sorry. It’s just I’m late for this…thing, and when I’m late for things I get all…I’m sorry”. She seemed genuine this time. She stood back up, leaving the man on one knee. The man stood up, and for the first time got a decent look at the woman. Someone you would’ve missed if you weren’t paying attention and apparently someone you’d run into if you were busy doodling on your coffee cup. She was a little stand-offish, but the man, for whatever reason, wasn’t nearly as intimidated as he was with the innocent girl back in the coffee shop.

The woman picked up the now-empty coffee cup in her hand, reading it. “Benjamin.” The man was snapped from his trance, “Uh, Yea. Ben.”. She continued to turn the cup over in her hand studying the rather juvenile drawings of rocket ships and planets scrawled along the side. The woman raised her eyebrows, “Well Ben, I hope you work with numbers because I hate to break it to you, but the gallery isn’t currently taking submissions for…” She squinted at what looked to be a poorly drawn satellite, “…The Jetsons”. The man scoffed, “You’re not too far off, I’m going to school to be an astronaut.”

“An astronaut…”, she raised her eyebrows again. He liked it. She looked at the latte-soaked man and smirked. “Alright. Ben the astronaut.” She nodded slowly, taking him in. He could only shrug. The woman retrieved a pen out of her purse and began scribbling on the cup. The man cocked his head “What is that?”. She turned the cup to show him a cartoonish alien with big eyes next to one of the rocket ships. “Company”. She started scribbling on the cup again, “And my phone number”.

The man looked like someone just walked up to him and handed him a hundred dollar bill. “…your phone number?”

She looked at him nonchalantly, extending the cup his way. “The way I see it, I owe you a cup of coffee.” For the first time, she let a smile slip. She checked her watch. “I am late though, I gotta go. Sorry again about…” She motioned to the man’s ruined outfit. “See you around rocket man”.

The man slowly opened his eyes, but saw nothing. He tried to move his neck, but couldn’t. Was he dead? A momentary wave of panic swept over him and he jolted. He could move, but barely. The man desperately wiggled his head around, it seemed to create space… as if he was in a pocket. His memory started to flood back to him. The probe, the sandstorm, the rover. He was buried. Rather, half-buried in sand. The man struggled with his hands to find his harness latch. After 5 minutes of blindly reaching, he finally was able to get himself loose. Now free from his seat, but still upside down and looking more like an ostrich face-down in the dirt than an astronaut, the man dug his way free.

He crawled through the roll cage the best he could and tumbled out onto the ground outside. He felt all along his suit and helmet for a breach. Either the crash wasn’t as bad as it felt or he was the luckiest man alive. The man knew it was the latter.

He stared up at the alien sky. It was the clearest he’d seen it in a while, like the weather back home after a heavy rain. The extreme emotional pendulum he had been on recently finally started to swing back. He felt helpless again. He wanted to talk to someone, anyone. But most of all, he wanted to talk to Kate. The man sprung up to his knees. The snow globe. 

He stumbled back to the rover, peering inside, but it was far too dark in its buried state. The man began to dig furiously at the mountain of sand that surrounded the roof. He had never moved so fast in his life. In his mind, she was down there. He dug faster and faster, exposing more of the cockpit. Gritting his teeth and grunting with pain, he must’ve dug for upwards of 20 minutes before he was finally able to get half his body inside. He couldn’t see, but he could feel. The man ran his hands over every surface within arm’s length. The steering wheel, the toolbox, some broken debris and then something familiar… the base of the snow globe. The man let out a sigh and brought it out of the sand and into the light.

The man stared dumbfounded at what he held in his hand. The base and only the base of the snow globe rest in his shaking palm. No glass, no snow, no globe. It had shattered instantly when the rover flipped.

The man shook his head and stammered. “Kate…Kate. Kate…”, he was beyond the point of tears. He had been taught the symptoms of shock but did not currently know he was experiencing them. As day turned to night, the man sat by the crashed rover, cradling what was left of the snow globe and stared straight ahead, as motionless as the everything else covering the moon on which he lived.

For the first time she let a smile slip. She checked her watch. “I am late though, I gotta go. Sorry again about…” She motioned to the man’s ruined outfit. “See you around rocket man”.

She turned to leave and the man stepped forward. “I never got your name.”

The woman paused, then quickly snatched the coffee cup back and scribbled on it once more. She handed it back to him and walked away at the same blistering pace she had met him at. The man caught one last view as he watched her disappear around the corner.

He looked down at the coffee cup and turned it around in his hands. Under his name was a phone number and another name.

Kate.

Six

The man heard seagulls. Distant laughter and…water? He breathed in the fresh ocean air. It was warm and salty. He curled his toes, displacing powder-soft sand. To his left was Kate, wearing that blue bikini she loved so much. She smiled at him, “I see you.” He closed his eyes and smiled as she ran her hand through his hair.

The man slowly opened his eyes. It was dark. All he could make out was the overturned rover, half-buried in the distance. As his reality began to cloud back over him, the man squeezed his eyes shut, trying to recapture the dream, but it was gone. He was awake. The man wasn’t upset anymore, he wasn’t scared, he wasn’t anything. It wasn’t until now that he realized the only reason he bothered surviving was because of that damn snow globe. She was gone. Long ago she had died, along with everyone else. Now, the only remaining thing she had given him, that she had touched with her own hands, was destroyed. He felt nothing.

The man shuffled back to the flipped rover, fished out the control panel from the probe and the tiny Earth from the snow globe, then headed back to the ship on foot.

Once inside, the man changed out of his suit, still in a daze. He plugged in the control panel to begin the decoding process. He didn’t have to. The man had made up his mind sitting out there by the rover all night. No matter what message was on that probe, he wasn’t going anywhere. This is where he’d spent every day of the last 10 years of his life and it would be where he spent his final one. There was no point in pretending for another decade, it was no longer worth it. The man had made his peace. It was time.

He walked over to the ship control center. Without hesitating, he lowered all oxygen levels throughout the ship until they read 0%. He had thought about it long and hard over the years. About ending it. He eventually settled on oxygen depletion. He figured it would be the most soothing way to do it. Like falling asleep.

He retreated back to his bed and opened his laptop. “Oxygen level 80%”, the ship chirped at him. The man started scrolling through all of Kate’s old messages.

“Hi Babe,

Thinking about ya. Went to the mall today and you’ll never guess who I ran into-“

“Hey There Spaceman,

The toilet got clogged today. You’d be so proud of me, I fixed it by myself! Ha!-“

“Hi Sweetie,

I had a really tough day today. I miss you. Please come home soon-“

“Oxygen level 60%”. The man stared deep into the screen. He’d be with her again soon.

“Guess What?

Happy Birthday to youuuu… happy birthday to youuu. Happy BIRTHDAYYY dear Bennyyyy-“

“Hi Love,

Today, I am committed to making you laugh. Why do mice have small balls? Because not many of them can dance!-“

“Oxygen level 50%, please check pressure gauge”. Starting to feel light-headed, the man couldn’t help but laugh, tears running down his face. He missed her so much. Then he got to the message he was all too familiar with. The one that haunted him for almost 10 years. No matter how much he read it would never get easier. He had received it shortly after arriving on the moon. “Oxygen level 30%”

“Ben,

Just got back from Dr. Johanson’s office. She had to tell me twice, because I was hysterical. Sweetie… it’s a girl! I know you said you wanted it to be a surprise but I couldn’t wait. I’m beside myself right now and can’t stop crying. We’re gonna have a little girl! There is no one I want to start a family more with than you. I am so happy for us, but please, please come home soon baby. Please come-“

The man shut the laptop. He was getting dizzy and couldn’t bear to read the rest anyways. “Oxygen level 15%” The man closed his eyes.

Just then, the control panel at his desk started beeping. The decoding process was finished. The message could be read. The man tried to tune it out. The panel continued to beep persistently, he knew it wasn’t getting louder but it sounded like it was. He opened his eyes. Goddamn curiosity.

The man stumbled out of bed, almost passing out from the blood rush. He fell into his seat at the desk and hit the play button. A female voice projected from his speakers.

“This is Katheryn Hernandez, reporting from Europa, orbiting Jupiter. I am broadcasting this message to-“

The man couldn’t even hear the words. Between the lack of oxygen and hearing a human voice for the first time in a decade, the man’s head was a mess. His vision was blurry and he was feeling weak. He reached out and touched the speaker, feeling the vibrations. The man buried his head in his arms and began uncontrollably sobbing. “Oxygen level 10%”.

“…there is anyone out there, please establish contact. My settlement is stable and the atmosphere here is habitable. However, I have limited supplies remaining, please establish contact. I will be broadcasting my coordinates for the next several weeks.”

The message ended there. The man finally lifted his head. Sun was just starting to pour in through the ship’s front window. He was not alone.

“Oxygen level-”

The man reached out, scrolling the oxygen sliders back up to 100%.

Seven

The man scrambled around the ship’s cabin, flipping switches and adjusting levels. It had taken him a good half hour to regain his composure after being oxygen deprived to an almost fatal degree. But he was now feeling stronger than ever. For the first time in years the ship was adorned with dazzling Christmas lights. Blue, white, multi-colored, he unpacked the entire box. Kate would be beaming.

He wasn’t sure the ship would fire up after all these years of neglect, but today, he finally had a reason to try. He took a seat at the command console and exhaled a deep breath. All the pre-flight checks were done, this was the moment of truth. He fired the ignition switch. Nothing happened. He fired it once more.

The ship violently shook as it roared to life. The man grasped the control console, as if it would fall apart in his hands. He slowly let go his grip. The ship settled into a steady rumble. “Alright!!!” He was in business.

The man walked back to his living quarters. He spotted the tiny Earth he had salvaged from the rover wreck. Snatching it in his hand, he suited up for last last excursion.

The man walked to a clearing nearby the ship, then stopped. He must’ve stood for a couple minutes before moving a muscle. He sighed, looking back down at the tiny Earth in his palm. Kate’s last gift to him. The man gently set the tiny Earth at his feet, in the dirt. The tears where coming, but he could not wipe them away behind his helmet visor. His voice wavered with every word but he tried to his best to speak them aloud.

“My Kate. I don’t know what to say. I…there are no words to explain how much…” He paused and tried to collect himself, but it wasn’t working. His voice shook with grief. “I miss you so much. I have never stopped missing you. You were the best company a man could ask for. I thought about you every single day and I have to believe you were here with me. I have to. But… I have to go now.” He stopped trying to hold back the tears, as his voice cracked. “I have to leave. But please know, I was only alive when I was with you and the only reason I am still alive, is you.” He stared down to the tiny Earth, the last time he would ever see it. The man exhaled, nodded, then returned to the ship.

Sitting back at the control console, the man initiated the launch sequence. He stole one last glance through the deck window over the orange, dusty horizon as he buckled himself in. This place that had been his home for the last 10 years. But it wasn’t. It was never his home. It was about time to go find a real one.

The ship shuddered as the rockets began to ignite. Pushed forcefully into the back of his seat, the man gripped the controls and centered his focus on the sky. As the ship lifted off the ground, the precarious pile of rocks he had once built was swiftly knocked over and blown away by the whirlwind of the ship’s rockets. A half buried, tiny Earth saw the man off, heading star-ward.

As the ship reached orbit and began pushing into space, the man input the coordinates for Europa, the smallest of Jupiter’s moons. As the ship turned to face what lies beyond, he could just barely make it out. He narrowed his eyes and pushed the ship towards his new home, just a small dot on the infinite horizon of space.

“I see you.”

 

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