“You understand that there will be absolutely no chance of return?”
“And that communication on our part beyond the Threshold will not be possible—that we won’t be able to respond to the information you send us?”
“Do you feel that you have been adequately trained to take on and complete this mission?”
“This document bears the signatures of all twelve members of the board. If you would do us the honor of adding your own…”
Silas let the pen flow across the empty line, scratching his name at the bottom of the list of signatures. There was light applause as the members of the board stood and took turns shaking his hand, offering their gratitude and most desperate hopes for a successful mission. The voices passed over him as a silent wave. For the past few days, his mind had been backing away, distancing itself from a world he had long been preparing to leave. Now the final steps were laid before him and his thoughts seemed already to be out among the stars.
Silas spent his last night on Earth in an isolated wing of the barracks. It was what he wanted—to be alone. The quarters given him stood in the shadow of the launchpad. He could feel the weight of the rocket that loomed just outside the walls, a monolithic beast waiting for its passenger.
Falling through a paper floor, grasping at the edges that tore away in his aching hands, his eyes hungry for one last look at the woman floating in the room above him, her arm around a little girl that watched him fall with fear in her eyes. Always the same nightmare, and tonight was no different. Always the morning came with a desire to forget, to carve out the memory of that day when Earth became no longer a home to him, but a prison without the two points of light that had guided him forward.
When Silas awoke to muted gray light streaming dusty and cold through the barracks window, all he felt was a desperate yearning to be aboard the rocket. The final separation from the torment he’d been living in, hidden from the eyes of the world. There was no apprehension, no second guesses, only a need to escape, once and for all, the pain of planet Earth.
A crowd of smiling faces stared at him from across the launchpad as he walked toward the ship. They stood behind chain-link fences in the distance, holding poster boards with final messages for him. “Goodbye Space Ranger.” “See you on the Other Side.” “We’ll miss you, Silas.” Silas looked down at his feet, tears beginning to sting his eyes, a lump risen suddenly in his throat, and beneath it all he wished that no one had come. How much easier to leave a planet that had no thought to spare for him? Instead there would always be these faces at his back, holding up cardboard signs to remind him that out there in space he still would not find the refuge he sought. That he had a responsibility: explore the Threshold.
The massive engines roared to life beneath him, and Silas forgot for a moment all of the black thoughts that had urged him to this point. There was only awe in his heart, and every physical sensation was melting together with the engine, his whole body joining with the metal monster in its great leap toward the sky. It lasted an eternity, and was followed by a soothing silence save for the rush of air beyond the hull. Even this soon faded as the ship escaped the reach of Earth’s hand and slipped silently into space.
There was a clank as his command vessel separated from the fuel tank that had brought him to the edge, and Silas was free to take control. He checked his coordinates, his heading, his speed, made a minor adjustment, and locked in the settings that would carry him to his destination. Unable to help himself, he undid his restraint and slipped out of his chair, floating gently into the rear of the ship. At the back, he flipped a switch and the opaque viewport became transparent. There, spinning below him, was Earth. He gazed into its blue depths, a final goodbye, and when he turned back to the controls he felt a piece of him slipping away, out of his body, out of the ship, to return to Earth. His heart felt lighter than it ever had as the last hold that his home planet had on him was released.
Back at the helm, Silas stared out into space. Far ahead of him, through the star-studded expanse of blackest night, the Threshold waited for his arrival. As he sped toward it and the mission that lay ahead, he felt for the first time in years that he was on his way home.
I had the idea for this story and just kind of spilled it out onto paper. Now that this intro is complete, I’m thinking about expanding on it, but I’m not quite sure in what direction to take the story. I’d love to know if you have any thoughts!