Science Fiction Adventure

Dear Cera’M, 

Welcome to Planet Atopia. 

You will need to know that the suns are scarce, and the rain is plenty, and the days stretch on.

Don’t get me wrong-- It’s not an altogether horrible place. Makali and Pakali cared for me as a child, I went to school, and we’re building a great civilization. 

You won’t see the civilization. It’s in the cities, not where we are, between the wispy trees.

I never knew much of our history. I’d heard that we came from a faraway place and decided to start over. I’d heard we were rebuilding what this faraway place had, but I didn’t know anything about it. Only that everyone wanted to forget it.

Once, when I was little, I asked my teacher about it during Arithmantics. She told me, “That’s a question for your mother. Not for school.”

So I asked Makali. She gasped. “How did you know about that?”

I shrugged. “I’ve heard about it. Is it a bad thing, Ma?”

“No,” she said quietly. “But we don’t talk about the Faraway.”

My grandmother knew, though. She sought me out and told me. “You must never, ever tell anyone this… but I remember the Faraway.”

My eyes had widened. She had a distant look in her eyes as she talked. “I was just a little girl when I left. We were supposed to come to Atopia and start anew, no memories of the Faraway or COVID-19.” I wondered what on Atopia that was. “All the adults consented to have their memories erased, but they couldn’t do that to the children. It would be unethical. So, I remember, and so do many others.”

“What was the Faraway like?” I whispered eagerly.

“To me, it wasn’t the Faraway. It was Earth.” 

The unfamiliar word struck me. “What’s an Earth?”

“It’s the name of the planet that I used to live on. The Faraway. It was a mess, but I didn’t want to leave. I begged Mom and Dad--”


Her voice was raspy and ragged, choked with sadness. “Same as Makali and Pakali. But we left.”

“Why was it a mess?” I was dying to know.

“There was racism, sexism, even a pandemic… I don’t know what happened with that,” she said. “None of that exists here. But I still wouldn’t trade this for Earth. I miss it so much… We’re not meant to be here, Lili,” she said. “Earth is our home.”

She told me everything she remembered, and I soaked it all up. Towards the end of her stories, her voice was barely audible. 

“Thank you, Grandmalakai,” I said.

“Call me Grandma. I don’t have time to explain. I don’t have time at all. But Lili, I need you to go around the village. Talk to the elders. Ask about their memories of Earth. Then, write them down, and pass them on.”

I looked her in the eyes. “I will. I promise.”

Then, she died. Right there. She knew she was leaving, and she used her last energy in the hopes that I would pass her story on. You’ll never meet her, but you’ll hear her memories. I did what she said. I wrote down all that she told me, and I went around and collected stories from the village elders. 

That’s what I’m passing to you. A collection of stories about Earth, or the Faraway, and its history. I can feel the sickness creeping over me. I don’t know if I’ll be there when you’re older. But I know that no matter how much we try, we can’t forget our history. It’s up to you to save these stories, pass them down, no matter how long it takes.

I love you, Cera’M. I trust you. 


Makali (Mom)

I let the letter fall out of my hands and onto the leather-bound journal. Turning to Palakai, I ask, “Mom knew about the Faraway?”

He nods slowly. “She wrote everything down in that journal. All the stories of the elders and she wanted you to keep it, pass it on. I never read the journal, but she told me about it. Told me to give it to you when you were eighteen.”

I pick up the journal and trace my hand over the flower imprinted onto the front. It’s worn and tied together by a thin string. I’m almost afraid to open it and see the secrets inside. 

Palakai puts a hand on my shoulder. “I’ll leave you be.”

I smile, my eyes suddenly teary, and hug him before he leaves. As the door closes, I look at the journal again. I untie the string and let the pages fall open. I can feel the magic behind them, the stories, the love, the hope. 

On the first page, the story about Mom’s Grandmakali greets me.

Fifth Sun, Year 30 

I finally found out about the Faraway. 

And she tells the story she told me in the letter. Flipping through the pages, I read about horrible and amazing things.

7th Sun, Year 30

Marrach said that when he was a child, he lived through something called a pandemic. That’s why they left, he said. A deadly virus, whatever that is, called COVID-19 spread through the world. After it was over, some people wanted a fresh start. So they went on something called a rocket and left. 

He talked about the horrors. People had to wear a cloth over their mouth and nose everywhere. So much politics, he said. I don’t know what a politic is, but it didn’t sound like a good thing. He said something about racism. I’m not sure what that is either, but it doesn’t sound good. 

15th Sun, Year 30

I talked to Jannie today. I could feel her heart in the room as she talked and talked. She told me about a smartphone and a virtual school and how her uncle died of the virus. 

60th Sun, Year 30

One of the oldest women in the village today came up to me and told me about nature and animals and things we don’t have here. She told me about how she would never trade Earth for anything. That’s what Grandma said too-- “We’re not meant to be here.” Why did we come here?

I stop. Why are we here? 

If Earth is our home…

I guess people just wanted to forget. 

I jam Mom’s letter into the middle of the journal and tie it shut again. I don’t want to forget. I want to remember. I want to know about Earth. 

I grab a pack, shove a few things into it, and run down the stairs, past Dad, to Kaili’s house. I bang on the wooden door, and she tugs it open with a sigh. 

“Jesus, Cera’M,” she says. “Just break down the door, why don’t ya? What’s up?”

“I’m going to Earth,” I say defiantly. 

She stares at me. “You okay?”

“Yes!” I say, fierce energy inside of me. “I’m going to Earth, but I need your help.”

“Sit down, girl,” Kaili says. She pushes me onto a cushion and calls, “Ma! Cera’M’s making up words and claiming she’s goin’ places. I think she’s sick.”

“I ain’t sick!” I scream. I thrust the journal at Kaili, and she stares at it for a minute before saying, “What’s this?”

“It’s my Mom-- Makali’s. She wrote me a letter, too. I’m not making anything up.”

I give her a look as if daring her to disagree. She doesn’t, but simply reads the letter like I did. 

I’m watching her eyes widen when her mother comes in. “Are you okay, Cera’M?” she asks, her accented voice concerned. 

“I’m fine,” I say. “Right, Kaili?”

“Yup,” Kaili mumbles, still engrossed in the letter. “Fine.”Her mother gives us a look but leaves. 

“So how are you planning to get to Earth?” Kaili asks. “It doesn’t sound like you can just walk. Plus, what if this viru--virus thing, Covid, is still around?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I hadn’t really thought about it. But the virus is probably gone. And in the journal, there’s a thing called a racquet-- I think rocket, actually, but whatever-- that they used to come here. If we find one of those, maybe we can go back!”

“I mean the virus thing is probably good, you right, but this racky thing, I dunno. It sounds risky, and where would we even get one? I think you need to chill,” she says, holding up a hand to silence my protest, “And figure out why you want to go to the Faraway and if it’s worth it.”

I’m quiet. I know she’s right.

But later that night, as I’m lying in the dark, trying to sleep, I know I need to go to Earth. I need to see the place that Mom wrote about. Maybe deep inside, I’m hoping I’ll find a part of her there. A part of me. 

I toss off my covers and slam through the house, then grab a shawl. I walk through the dark night, listening to the crickets and owls. When I reach Kaili’s again, I rap on her window as I’ve done so many times, and she groggily answers.

“What?” she says, sliding open the window. “You better have a good reason for barging into my house twice in one day.”

“I do,” I say. “I’ve decided. I’m going.”

She groans. “You couldn’t have waited until tomorrow to tell me this?”

“I couldn’t sleep,” I say. “And I’m going to pack now. If we wait too long, my Palakai is going to find out.”

“You can pack,” Kaili says. “We are not going anywhere. I’m tired, Cera’M.”

She almost closes the window, but I catch the frame.  “Please? I need you.”


I give her a look. “You’re not going to pass up the chance to go to the Faraway, are you? Seriously? What’s stopping you?”

She starts to say something but stops. After a pause, she quietly says, “I’m scared, okay? I’m scared of the viral thing and rockets and Earth. I don’t want to go.”

When she shuts the window again, I don’t stop her. But I head home, take a woven knapsack, and begin packing my clothes. I remember the bit in the journal about cloth over people’s faces and pack a scarf, just in case. When I go to the kitchen for food, Palakai appears from the dark. I drop an apple. 

“What are you doing?” he demands.

“Getting a snack,” I say.

He gives me a look.

“Okay,” I exhale. “I’m going to Earth, and there’s nothing you can say or do that will stop me.”

He looks at me for a long moment, then sadly smiles. “Your mother wanted to do that.”

I drop my sack. “What?”

“She was going to go to Earth before she died,” he says. “She wanted to see what all those stories were about. She even started planning her voyages, and saved up for years to purchase a rocket.”

“We have a rocket?” I ask.

“Yeah. I’ll show you,” Palakai says. I wonder what all Mom planned out as he leads me to the laundry room. Pushing the washbasin aside, he presses on the wall and it flies open, revealing a dark cabinet. I lean inside and realize it drops away at the bottom, with a bamboo ladder leading the way down. Palakai goes down it first and I follow.

It’s dark in here until Palakai ignites a flickering lantern. Suddenly, a small, sleek white ship appears. My eyes dart from the pod to the wings to the landing pads. “This could take us to Earth?” I breathe.

He nods. “Yes. You won’t have to learn much. It’s all autopilot, run completely on its own, and has artificial gravity.”

“Wow.” I reach out to touch it, and a door pops open. I jump, but notice inside the now lit pod there is a piece of faded paper. I pull it out and unfold it, noticing Mom’s familiar handwriting. It’s a plan of the trip: Itinerary, list of supplies, places to see on Earth. 

“If you want to go, I won’t stop you,” Palakai says. I nod gratefully and finish reading the paper.

At the bottom, I find that she’s written one thing, and I know exactly what it means.

I’m ready to go home. 

Two weeks later, I’m ready. I’m going alone-- there’s no way this pod will hold two people. My supplies are ready, and I have a spacesuit just in case. I won’t need it unless there’s an emergency, but Palakai told me to take it. “It could save your life,” he said. 

I know how to fly the spaceship. I know that no one will know why I’m gone besides Kaili and Palakai. I know that I could die.

But I also know that my life could change if I see Earth.

So I’m not turning back.

I hug Kaili tightly. We’re standing outside my house, in a safe but secluded launch area. A few trees line the grass clearing, and I think of what Mom said about the wispy trees. Kaili brings me back to Atopia by saying, “Don’t get all mushy on me. I’ll see you soon.” She hugs me back anyway.

Palakai and I hug too. He smiles at me. “You’re all grown up now. Going to distant planets.”

I smile at him. “You know I have to do this.”

“I do.”

So I step into the pod, take a deep breath, make sure all the safeties are on, and press the button to launch. The ship’s boosters are in action, and it moves up through the air silently and smoothly. 

So fast I don’t have a chance to wave goodbye. 

I rise to space within seconds, and the glittering stars fill the emptiness around me. The journey to Earth will only take a few hours, but I don’t know how long I’ll want to stay. I don’t even know what to expect. There are no photos, no documentation of Earth, besides the stories Mom wrote down. I instinctively brush the flower on the journal next to me. 

I know I could busy myself with other things on the journey-- after all, the rocket is self-flying-- but I’m too nervous. And besides, the view in space is incredible. Terrifying, but incredible. I look back and see Atopia, and I expect to feel sad or amazed or small or… anything. 

But I don’t. I don’t feel any connection, anything. 

I turn around to the front of the ship, open the journal, and reread everything about Earth. I can almost picture it. The lush green forests, the salty oceans… I don’t know what an ocean is, but it sounds incredible. I read about the horrors too, and I almost want to turn back again.

I don’t, though. It’s like Mom said-- I’m ready to go home.

Earth’s in view. I’m only a few minutes away. I’m seeing it as a mass of colors, blues and greens and white. It’s beautiful.

I’m not sure where I’ll touch down, but the spaceship pilots easily. I fly down to the surface, to a splotch of blue, and it’s closer and closer. I’m almost to Earth, I think. I’m almost home.

The pod hits the surface of the water with a splash, sinking, but the flotation devices pop up and I buoy to the surface. The top pops open. A splash of salty cold water hits my face, and I scream with joy. 

I can see land ahead of me, and the tide pushes me in until I wash up onshore. I pull the spaceship out of the water, so it won’t float away. 

A couple comes over to me, with a vase in their hands. They say something in a language I don’t understand. I shake my head, saying I don’t know, and they nod. The woman gestures to the vase, opening the top. I look inside. There’s a pile of ashes.

I know what they’re doing. 

“I’m sorry,” I say. The woman nods, tears streaking down her face. 

The man touches her shoulder, and they walk to the shore. I watch as the ashes blow away in the wind. 

I don’t know anything about this world-- if the virus exists, what the people are like, anything besides this couple, but I think again about what Mom said in the journal.

I’m home.

March 12, 2021 02:51

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