the mission


the mission

“Systems have been triple-checked and are stable, captain,” Hassan, the system engineer, announced. “We are ready to enter deep-sleep mode.”

“You heard the man,” Yoon, the captain said, smiling to the group, “it’s time for us to take a nap.” The rest of the crew smiled back at her.

Amongst the crew, there is the doctor (of medicine as all members have PhDs), Zhang. The mechanical engineer, Cruzas. The astrophysicist, Siregar. And me, the biologist, Linden. We are on an exploration mission.

In 2132, humanity’s hope of settling on Mars was dashed when it was discovered that the artificial global-warming systems had been set up slightly incorrectly and malfunctioning for decades without our knowledge. Ironically, we were destroying our second planet the same way we did the first.

It was calculated that we had about 100 years or so before we reached Earth’s 2075 levels of CO2. The older scientists insisted that we had to find a new home quickly. They had desperation in their eyes. All of us grew up on Mars. We are all in our late twenties, and the first generation of new scientists (since The Collapse). Many of the older scientists have died. It is up to us.

“Hey, don’t snore okay?” Siregar joked with me as we were walking from the bridge. She is always flippant in tense moments like these. I knew that the reality is that she is just as nervous as I am. “Everyone, make sure to empty your bowels before entering the sleeping chambers,” Zhang called out to us. I guess nobody would want to clean that up.

It is now 2145, and this mission is called New Hope. It sounds a bit silly, but the first ship that took scientists to Mars was called Hope. Now, we are moving into the next galaxy. We don’t even have a planet picked out that we are sure we can stay at. We are basically stabbing in the dark.

The sleeping chambers are a little bit bigger than what we saw in the movies, but not much bigger. We are able to move around inside but not stand up. Not that we will be doing much moving. There are simple straps with buckles that we attach to ourselves after closing the lid to help ensure that.

Yoon is going from chamber to chamber to check that everybody is ready. We all check our systems and confirm once again through the radios inside the chambers that we are ready to start.

We hear Yoon climb into her chamber and shut the lid. “Okay everyone, I’m going to set the countdown. Remember, the AI systems may wake you up in the case of an error and then you can just try again. Otherwise, I’ll see you guys in a few years.” “See you guys in my dreams,” Siregar jokes. “I hope not, I’m looking forward to a little bit of a rest from your jokes,” Cruzas teases her.

At that moment, a countdown starts. 10… 9… 8… 7…





Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I feel groggy. All of my dreams quickly dissipate. I try to move my hands to unstrap myself, and I feel noticeably weaker than I did just a few seconds ago. Was it a few seconds ago? No, I start to remember, it was 15 years ago. The preservation systems slowed down muscle atrophy, but nothing is perfect. I feel like I can’t breathe in here.

I open up my chamber. I can barely stand and try to crawl out of it.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I look around. All of the other chambers are closed. I guess I’m the first one up. The beeping continues, but I’m not the systems engineer. I stagger to the main panel and read the output on the screen.


Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I realize now that the AI system must have woken me up. I go to the bridge and check the system. On the panel, it says that the year is 2190. I look at it again. “That’s impossible,” I say. Speaking feels strange.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I tap the screen and stop the alarm. I look up the navigation system data. Yep, we overshot with a shot of anxiety. There is a simple visual which shows that we went past our target years ago. Did the AI system do a detailed scan and find that there was no possibility of life in our initial target? I look again and realize that we are not even in the galaxy that we aimed for.

I tell the AI to open the protection shutters on the windows. Again, speaking feels foreign to me. Looking outside, I see three large planets. One of them looks very close to us, and the other two are off in the distance. It’s possible that one of the other two is a moon. I’m a biologist, not an astrophysicist. I realize I should wake up the others.

I go to Captain Yoon’s chamber first. I press the manual override and start the waking system. It’s strange that it hadn’t started already. After waiting about 5 minutes, I open up the door. She is still not moving. I try to wake her. I check her pulse and realize in horror that she is dead. Her body has been preserved, but her eyes are glazed.

My breathing begins to become more rapid. It’s hard for me to stay calm I I start to panic.

I stagger quickly to the other chambers. I override their systems.

It’s the same for all of them. Every time I open up the door, one of my colleagues that I’ve been training and living with for years is dead. Some of them have foam in their mouths.

The panic is increasing. I hobble as quickly as I can to the bridge. I fall down a couple of times. I’ve never had such weak muscles.

“AI system, I need to set an alert.” The words feel like sandpaper in my mouth.

“AI system, I need to-” like machinery that has been seized by rust.

“Alert activated. The alert has been sent back to Mars. All astronauts have died except for the biologist, Linden. Mars will receive this message in 7 years, 3 months, 14 days, 6 hours and 19 seconds.”

“AI… what happened?” I get a glass of water.

“There was a chamber error 2 hours and 32 seconds ago. Respiratory systems failed. The reason for the failure is unknown. Possible particle buildup in breathing systems.”

I realize that they all suffocated, and I would have suffocated too if I hadn’t woken up. Why did I wake up?

“AI, why weren’t we woken up at the correct time?” I can feel my voice rising.

“The galaxy that we planned to visit showed no signs of life or potential for life. Mars was notified. I was instructed to conserve fuel and keep going.”

“AI, where are we now?” I feel like a child on the verge of tears.

“We are in galaxy 1728. Scans show that there is potential for life and or living beings already.”

“AI, can we turn the ship back?” I feel the panic increasing.

“No. That would go against the mission. Moving the ship back at the same rate that we came here with the fuel that we have left would cause us to arrive after the fall of Mars. Your mission is to find a livable planet and relay that information.”

I knew that that would be the answer. I’m going to die alone. Before that, I alone have to save humanity.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I look at the screen.


“AI, what is happening, what is going on?” I feel a tightening in my chest.

“The rear hull has been breached. The ship is depressurizing. Something ha entered the ship.”

“What, what do you mean?!” I cry with an atavistic dread.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I start to feel like I can’t breathe. It is getting very cold. I know from my training that I likely only have a few minutes to live. I hear a sound. It is something I’ve never heard before. A noise that causes my spine to tingle in a horrible way.

I turn around slowly. I see something… I can’t describe it. There is a shape, moving, but it’s more like a shadow. It moves and jilts and spasms.

I start to scream as the shadow moves towards me. It feels like it is already inside me while being far away at the same time. It enters my mouth as I scream. I can’t scream anymore.





Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I hear the chamber door open. I look up groggily. I see Siregar smiling down at me. “Wake up, sleepy head. Wow, you look like you just had a bad dream. I don’t even want to talk about the dreams that I had,” she said while extending her hand to help me up.

the childhood home


the childhood home

She was only back for a short time. By this time, everyone she knew had moved to other cities and even other states. Her parents were up north in a retirement home. Her siblings were out east or out west. In fact, she had only decided to visit her hometown because she had a 24-hour layover in the big city, and she was reading an article on the plane about how “going home is never the same after a trip away.” She didn’t even bother telling her parents. There was not enough time for a visit.

She rented a car at the airport and drove down. She figured she could go visit, maybe take a picture, feel some nostalgia, then drive up in time for dinner and then settle in at the hotel. As she drove down the highway, she thought about how her family had made the reverse trip many times to go to a museum, see some family, or even just to “visit the big city.”

When her car reached the town limits, a rush of nostalgia overtook her. Here was the small-town diner she never ate at but always passed. Here was the car lot where she would cruise around and look at dream cars. Here was her old elementary school, looking much smaller than she remembered. She remembered her teachers. They must be retired now. Or even gone.

She decided to stop at the old grocery store and get some snacks that she could eat in lieu of lunch. The aisles in this store seemed so small compared to how she remembered them. As she drove out of the parking lot, she saw how the city had been renovated, and decorations were up all along the main street. This made her a little sad.

She was happy to see, however, that many of the houses hadn’t changed. Some had been repainted of course, but overall the same “feel” of her old neighborhood had stayed the same. This gave her a bit of comfort. She found a place along the street and parked her car. It wasn’t busy at all. She got out and walked the few meters it took to get to the front of her house. She took a picture. She could hear the birds and the insects. It sounded the same as before.

She looked up at the house and wondered if she could go in. She thought that this would give her childhood some sort of closure and help her to accept the reality of her adulthood. She walked up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the doorbell. Nobody answered. She waited. She turned around and was about to go down the stairs when she noticed someone was watching her from the window. A friendly face. It disappeared again behind the curtain. In a few seconds, the door opened.

It was a woman in her late 30s or early 40s. “I am so sorry, sometimes weirdos walk through our neighborhood. Can I… um what is the reason you rang the doorbell?” She explained about her layover and how this was her old house. She thought that maybe she could come back and see it for the sake of nostalgia. She apologized for bothering the woman and turned around to leave.

“No!” The woman responded, eyeing her in a way that made it seem she was trying to figure out if she could trust her, “of course, it makes sense. Would you like to… come in? You just want to see the inside of the house? If you like, feel free to have a look around.” The woman seemed like she would be a good neighbor.

She followed the woman inside. The front room was the same. The same small door to the right. The same place for a mat for boots during winter. She saw a man looking with a surprised smile from the kitchen. “Oh! Who is this?” “She used to live here.” “Came back to see the old digs eh? No problem. I hope it doesn’t look too different. You can see we kept the wood floors bare. We moved in a few years ago, but we made no major changes.”

She looked around at the bay windows, the small bathroom, the few rooms on the first floor. It was nice, but she felt like it still wasn’t enough. She had to be thorough. Like how she always kept taking her antibiotics after feeling better, because that is the prescription, and she wanted to do it right in order to not have to repeat it. It’s always better to do things right the first time.

“Would you mind if… I went upstairs?” The couple looked at eachother. “Sure, of course! No problem! I will take you up there.” The woman led her up the old wooden stairs to the second-floor room. It was hotter up there. The door to the attic was closed. The woman noticed her looking. “Oh, you don’t want to go in there, it’s all bats and boxes.” She felt an obsessive need to go through the door. She ignored the woman and went for the door. “Excuse me, what are you doing”? The woman asked.

She pushed the door open and went in. Something felt wrong. Off to the right, she thought saw something. It was a bit dark, and her eyes were still adjusting. It was a body. It looked like it had been there for no more than a few days. This is the first time she saw a corpse, and she wasn’t sure how to react. Her body backed away from it.

She turned around, and saw the door shutting behind her. She ran to the door and tried to push it open, but it was locked from the other side. She banged on the door. She pushed. She called out to the woman. There was no response. She started to feel desperate. She heard the woman walking down the stairs.

She took out her phone and dialed 911. It wouldn’t make a connection. She called again. Still nothing. Only one bar. She called again. “911, what’s your emergency?” Suddenly the door opened. The man was standing there. He was holding a gun. He pulled the trigger. The phone fell to the floor. So did she. She could feel wetness around her.She looked down at herself. Her blood was seeping into the cracks between the floorboards. She looked at the man.

He looked like he was scared and embarrassed. Like he knew that he had made a big mistake. “I am so sorry… I… you don’t understand we aren’t monsters… we aren’t… I’m so sorry! This… he…” he gestured to the body, “We didn’t have a choice. He was… and now you… now we … I am sorry it’s just… of course we can’t… it’s just not fair. I know.” He looked at her as if he really was sorry. With this expression, he slowly backed away to the door, opened it, backed through it, and shut it.

The wetness was growing. The phone… she tried to reach for it. She could hear the operator asking loudly if she was alright. She didn’t have the strength to pick it up. In her old attic, hot from the summer heat, she heard birds and insects outside, and the tree leaves rustling as the summer breeze blew through them, bringing her the sweet scent of summer flowers from her childhood.

the bicycle


the bicycle

The metal is cold, aluminum or steel.
One item, not needed, yet crucial you feel.
This cold thing, not beating, and yet is your heart.
An organ outside you, that needs you to start.
You move with your legs, and this makes a beat.
You guide with your arms, and drive with your feet.

It’s not very heavy, 10 kilos or so.
And yet such a light frame, is needed to go.
A simple design of, weapons engineering.
That cuts away pieces, of all that you’re fearing.
Anxiety, depression, get sliced away.
Once you get going, you know you can’t stay.

Chemicals needed, they flow through your veins.
Chemicals hated, you’re free from their reigns.
Nature and beauty, it demands to be seen.
In kilometers per hour, it’s best at fifteen.
Now see, you can notice, the way life goes by.
Too slowly or quickly, it won’t meet your eye.

This tool is used best, if it helps you see.
This tool does not rest, until you can be.
Pedaling from others, away from it all.
Pedaling towards something, something that calls.
Don’t leave for too long, as you must then come back.
That which you don’t need, will be at your back.

When you return, you aren’t quite the same.
The world is not different, there’s no one you blame.
Cold steel may bring you, to this revelation.
And yet this sustains, with each revolution.
But soon you will have to, use it again.
So it is there waiting, your true metal friend.