Only the Important Things

Submitted into Contest #47 in response to: Suitcase in hand, you head to the station.... view prompt


Adventure Science Fiction

The package you have been waiting for arrived today. Fingers trembling and heart racing, you open it to find a letter and an extremely small piece of luggage. You sit down to read the letter.

Project Ares


28 April 2021

Ms. Cynthia Kilpecker, 31245800-0WF

1752 Rocky Mountain Road

Denver, CO 80202

Dear Ms. Kilpecker,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to participate in Project Ares. Please report to Ares Headquarters, 4520 East Camelback Way, Phoenix, AZ 85018 on Monday, 15 May 2021 at 08:00 Arizona Time. Please read the enclosed information. Pack your suitcase thoughtfully, following the directions provided.


{official signature}

Austin Colombo, PhD

Project Manager

You pick up the 10 X 14 X 3 hard shell black case with a label maker label designating it as a suitcase, slide the locking latches to release the top and open it to find the directions.

1 Remove all jewelry before arriving at headquarters

2 Uniforms will be issued at Headquarters after your arrival

3 Toiletries will be provided

4 Electronics will be provided

5 We have a vast digital library so please leave your books home

6 Please limit your personal belongings to items which will fit inside the suitcase.

You stare in disbelief at the tiny space. It’s 420 cubic inches! Four hundred twenty freakin’ inches! What are you supposed to put in there?

You sit down and turn on the television set. Obviously, your brand new flat screen is too big to fit into the suitcase. They did say that they have a vast digital library so you can part with the TV.

A talking head program is playing on PBS, “The World on the Move: the Challenges of Migration Throughout History.” A perky blonde and a balding older man in a three piece suit were talking.

Blondie: “As civilization spread across the planet, each generation faced the same dilemma: adapting to new places.”

Baldy: “People were limited by space, transportation, money and other factors in what they could take of their old lives.”

Blondie: “What they could take was different for each group. The Mayflower Pilgrims had extensive lists of provisions they were expected to bring while later immigrants came to Ellis Island with their personal belongings wrapped in a shawl.”

Baldy: “Some (he is making air quotes with his fingers) immigrants didn’t get a chance to choose what to bring. Slaves arrived with nothing.”

Blondie: “Don’t forget about the native peoples who were forced to leave their homes without their belongings.”

Baldy: “My grandmother told stories of her grandmother who walked across the plains barefoot because she lost the one and only pair of shoes she could bring.”

Blondie: “And in the Great Depression, families moved across the country with all their belongings strapped to their cars. If the car broke down, they had to leave their stuff behind.”

Baldy: “We moved a lot when I was a kid. I never knew if my favorite toys were going to make it through the move. My mom would spend hours deciding what to take and what to leave. Every time we moved, something got lost.

Blondie: “I heard an experience mover say, ‘three moves equal a fire.’ I guess that’s true.”

Baldy: “Now, here in the 21st century, we have a group of pioneers having to make the same hard decisions – what to take and what to leave.”

Blondie: (holding up a package like the one you received today) “If you received a package like this in your mail today, you’ll soon have to make those decisions. Participants in Project Ares, due to take off to the Mars Colony on May 20th, were informed today. Keep an eye on your neighborhoods, folks. There are going to be some pretty big garage sales and curb pickups.”

You turn the TV off and start making a list.

Dishes – give to Martha.

Copper pots – give to Sally and George

Fish tank and fish – give to Howard. You look more closely at the fish tank, then cross fish off the list. They are already gone.

Grandma’s quilt – You’d like to take it, but there’s no way it will fit into 420 cubic inches – give to Quilters guild

Beer can collection – toss

Coin collection – sell

Stamp collection – sell

Car - sell

Furniture – donate to Goodwill

You become more and more depressed as you list your earthly belongings and make decisions about them. You pour a glass of wine and look up a place to buy boxes. Why should you pay to give your stuff away? Why should you pack things you’ll never use again so they don’t break? Why not just throw them off the balcony? Finally, exhausted, you fall asleep.

In the morning, you start again.

Make up case from last Christmas – give to Heather

Love letters from Matt – burn

Wedding ring - sell

Wedding dress – donate to Angel Gowns

Prom dress – donate to Angel Gowns

Bible – give to Martha, Project Ares has digitized the Bible

Collection of novels – give to Women’s shelter

Garth Brooks Autographed CD – give to Sally and George

Kitty Boy’s cat tree – put on curb

Kitty Boy’s ashes – Scatter in the park

Clothes – give to Women’s shelter

Bedding – give to Women’s shelter

TV – give to Mr. Balducci

Wine – drink what I can, pour the rest out

For the next few days, you put items on the curb. You take the wedding ring and your collections to the pawn shop. You take donations to Goodwill, the Women’s shelter and Angel Gowns. You call friends to come and pick up their share. You empty the refrigerator and put bags of edible food in front of neighbors’ doors.

You burn the love letters and scatter the ashes along with Kitty Boy’s ashes. You sweep and mop the kitchen floor. You water the flowers in the window box and wash the windows. You buy a bus ticket to Phoenix.

You drink the rest of the wine and give the TV and your apartment keys to Mr. Balducci. You call a taxi and ask the driver to drive you around Denver, then take you to the bus station. Before you get out of the cab, you open the suitcase to make sure it is empty. You give the driver a generous tip, then exit the cab. Suitcase in hand, you head to the station. Time to start over.

June 20, 2020 05:29

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Selene Sweck
22:24 Jun 30, 2020

I enjoyed your story. Interesting way to start over.


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B.T Beauregard
20:17 Jun 29, 2020

I loved your story, really cool spin on the prompt. Interesting subject to explore, I wonder what most people would bring with them.


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Mehak Aneja
06:26 Jun 29, 2020

Brilliant!! Literally loved your story. Very nicely written. Would you mind reading my story and giving it a like and sharing your opinions on it?? :D


Julia Gibson
18:30 Jun 29, 2020

Thank you for reading and commenting. I'd be interested in what you have to say about my other stories.


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Praveen Jagwani
02:25 Jun 25, 2020

Very interesting take on the prompt. Resonates with my own new found interest in frugalism. The mere listing of earthly possessions reveals so much about the life. Very clever. Poor Matt and Garth Brooks CD :)


Julia Gibson
15:34 Jun 25, 2020

You got rid of Garth? In my neck of the woods, that's akin to blasphemy! :) Seriously, thanks for your comments. The story was inspired by a journal entry from an American pioneer, traveling from the east coast to the mountain west. They were limited for space and could only take three personal things. This caused me to think about what I would take on a similar journey. As it turns out, if you don't have to consider life-sustaining things (food, water, clothing, etc), nothing is really important after all.


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