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By Kate Weissenfeld

In a new frontier, a daughter must press forward in her new duties for the good of humanity, despite the crushing weight of her situation.

My first sensation was a rush of dry chilled air coursing through my body. I attempted to open my eyes but found they were stuck together, blinking to slowly unglue eyelashes from skin. Finally, my eyes opened, my vision was clouded over but I realised I was staring up at frosted glass. I tried to move, discovering my limbs were cumbersome with disuse, barely able to lift my arm to claw at the glass with the tips of my fingers. The air was thin and heavy as I struggled to even out my erratic breathing. Panic took hold.

Suddenly, the glass lifted away, and a blurry figure appeared to place an oxygen mask over my face.

‘Hey just relax. Deep breaths. Your body needs time to readjust after cryo-sleep,’ a woman dressed in a white lab coat said. My body shivered violently, the chill causing my teeth to chatter. She said, ‘Let’s get you warmed up.’

The woman helped me up and guided my numb body over to a hospital bed. I lay down, immediately smothered with blankets to regulate my body temperature. The oxygen mask was replaced, and an IV drip inserted into my arm.

My eyes began to adjust, the blurriness dissipated as I gazed around my surroundings. There were half a dozen beds, medical supplies and instruments but it strangely didn’t have that white clinical feel of a hospital. The walls were constructed of metal alongside sturdy bolts and supports with dull yellow lighting. It was more like being on a ship, maybe a military base.

Dad was a scientist in the Air Force, so it wasn’t that outlandish. My eyes landed on the chamber I awoke in, a cryogenic pod. I didn’t recall ever seeing one in the flesh, let alone being placed in one. My mind was foggy as I tried to piece together the last thing I remembered.

The woman reappeared, medical chart in hand, scribbling notes. She appeared to be in her early forties, small in stature with glasses hanging off the tip of her nose. She smiled and said, ‘Good to see you back with us Aurora. My name is Dr Sharma and welcome to the Osiris.’

‘The what? Where am I?’ I asked.

‘What’s the last thing you remember?’ Dr Sharma asked. I tried to think back again, forcing myself to recall but all that came to mind was Dad’s face, then nothing. It was a fog, persisting to cloud my memory, even as the sun was trying to poke through. I saw only flashes that didn’t make sense.

I pulled the oxygen mask down and replied, ‘I don’t know. I was with my dad and then…I think we were arguing about something…’

‘Don’t worry. It’s probably just some disorientation from being in cryo, completely normal reaction,’ she said.

‘How long?’

‘We can discuss it later but first – ‘

‘How long have I been asleep?’ I pressed.

There was a pause, Dr Sharma relented, ‘Five years.’

‘Five years?’

‘Your body doesn’t need to be over stressed. Trust me, all your questions will be answered but you must rest, take it slow,’ Dr Sharma instructed. She adjusted my IV, placed the chart at the end of the bed and gave me a reassuring smile before exiting the room. I stared at the steel ceiling in shock wondering how five years of my life could just vanish. My mind was a bundle of nerves firing like crazy with boundless questions but my body had other plans. How could I be so exhausted after being asleep for so long? It was pointless to fight against my eyes closing and the darkness sweeping me away once more.

I awoke to find the med bay empty, no doctors, or patients. It was completely silent other than the gentle humming of the lights and beeping of machines. I needed answers. I ripped the oxygen mask off, swung my legs to the side of the bed, bare feet hitting the floor. I attempted to regain sensation, but my legs were shaky. I grabbed hold of the IV pole for support, willing myself up. I took it one step at a time and walked towards the door. I stepped out into a narrow corridor, touching the cool metal wall for balance and to guide me.

As I reached the end of the passageway, a door slid open, and I was greeted with a sight I could only dream of. I entered a circular room with glass windows giving a 180-degree view of the black depths of space. I sat down marvelling at the impossible. I was gazing out at the stars, beyond the abyss of our existence. I was in outer space. This technology shouldn’t even be viable yet, science was constantly evolving but multi-year space travel had seemed inconceivable. The evidence was staring me in the face. Dad had been a top-level engineer, always on the cusp of scientific discovery, working on advanced classified projects with the military. He would never talk about his work, no matter how I pestered him. Maybe, this was a joint initiative with NASA. It was the only explanation my mind could muster.

Then it crashed on me like a tidal wave, the argument. He wanted me to take his place here and when I refused, not wanting to leave him behind, he had drugged me. I recalled the last moment with him, the bite of the needle but then the feeling of his arms wrapped around me, safe in his embrace.

Now I was on a spaceship and Dad was gone. I vaguely heard the door open. Dr Sharma sat down on the bench beside me.

‘I remember. My Dad took the choice out of my hands. Is it all really gone, earth I mean?’ I asked while staring out into the void.

‘The project launched just days before the meteors hit. We watched from orbit, the planet, billions of people, all life gone in a matter of minutes. Now, just tiny particles scattered in space.’ Dr Sharma replied. I wiped a stray tear from my eye and nodded before she continued, ‘We are the last. 300 people in cryo-sleep and 30 crew to ensure it all runs smoothly until we discover a viable planet to establish New Earth. Osiris, this ship, represents the death and rebirth of the human race.’

I allowed the gravity of her words to sink in. I was alone, everyone, everything I have ever known, obliterated. I felt a sudden emptiness, somehow, I thought I would feel more, more upset, more distraught, anything but all that overcame me was this sombre acceptance.

‘So, why am I awake?’ I questioned.

‘There was an accident. We tragically lost two engineers. Frankly, we needed replacements.’ ‘I’ve never worked on anything this advanced, I can’t…’

‘You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t capable and from my understanding you learnt from the best. You’ll do just fine,’ Dr Sharma said and left.

I sat there, I couldn’t say for how long, my thoughts dominated by thinking about dad. My whole life, he had always been a man of purpose, vision and above all else duty. I couldn’t hope to live up to that legacy. I never had that type of purpose or drive. Sure, I had done well at school, then university and held a respectable job but I always had this sensation of merely going through the motions, doing what was expected. Like most kids I had gone through that stage of dreaming of being an astronaut but look at me now… a mechanical engineer on an actual spaceship on a journey into the unknown. Maybe, there was such a thing as fate, perhaps this was my purpose in the grand design. After all, dad would want me to play my part in this space opera.

I went back to the med bay when I heard a commotion. I entered the room to witness a patient thrashing about in distress, surrounded by medical personal.

‘Kit, I need you to calm down. We’re trying to help you,’ Dr Sharma said, while her colleagues held down their patient as a sedative was administered.

Dr Sharma noticed me standing in the doorway and guided me back to bed. She said, ‘Sorry you had to see that, Aurora. Mr Johnson had an adverse reaction to reawakening. He’ll be right as rain in no time.’

I didn’t believe the blatant lie but replied, ‘I get it.’

A few days passed, full of tests from basic blood samples to more general physical and mental exams to ensure all my systems were operating as normal. During this time, my fellow patient Kit Johnson was awake but hadn’t spoken a word. He was not much older than me and I attempted to make conversation, but never got a response. He had that look in his eye, as if the life had been drained from his soul and proceeded to shut down, perhaps refusing to accept our new existence. I felt in many ways Dad had prepared me for this moment, always talking about travelling to the stars and the endless possibilities of science. Perhaps that’s why I was more accepting of my new reality, not everyone was that fortunate.

I was given the all clear to start orientation and learn my new duties. I was given a jumpsuit, my name in blazing letters embroidered on the front pocket. I was then introduced to the head engineer, my new supervisor. He was a gruff and blunt man named Frank. He was about to give me the grand tour when red lights began flashing and alarms sounded loudly, bouncing off the walls. A voice rang out over the loudspeaker, ‘Code White. Airlock 6. Medical team please respond.’

I turned to my new boss and asked, ‘What’s a code white?’

‘Some suicidal bastard wanting to space themselves. Not everyone is cut out for this,’ Frank said.

‘Where’s airlock 6?’

‘You can’t help ’em kid. The docs will try to talk ’em down but it’s just a waste of time. They always end up going through with it anyway.’

I had this sinking feeling it was Kit. I said, ‘I have to try.’

‘Down the hall, take a left. You can’t miss it. Just come and see me when you actually want to get to work.’

I ignored Frank’s cynicism and took off. I pushed past the doctors to stand outside the sealed airlock. I slammed my hand on the reinforced glass. Kit had locked himself inside, hand gripping the eject lever, ready to pull it at any second.

‘Hey, you don’t want to do this,’ I said.

‘You know nothing. I didn’t want – I should never have let my family talk me into this. I should have stayed, I should have been with them at the end,’ Kit said.

‘I know better than you think. My Dad drugged me against my will to get me on this god damn ship. I literally didn’t sign up for any of this. Look around, we are all that’s left and like it or not we gotta make the best of this messed up situation. Earth’s gone; we have a duty to do better for those we left behind.’

‘Bullshit! There’s nothing out there. This is a suicide mission, nothing more. I’m just getting off early.’

‘My Dad always talked about how we all have our part to play. I always brushed it off as him being full of shit, his military propaganda but then I woke up here and realised he was right. If we don’t try, no one will. Your family, my dad, they wouldn’t want us to give up or throw away the chance to create a new future. If the day comes where there is no hope and nothing left to fight for, I’ll pull that eject lever with you,’ I said.

I held my breath until finally Kit let go, releasing the door before sinking to his knees. I stepped inside, kneeling in front of him wrapping my arms around his shaking frame. I broke down with him, tears running down my cheeks, sharing in his pain. We were strangers yet shared a connection, the ones left behind, to live on even in the absence of those we loved most. After a few minutes I pulled away from him and stood up slowly.

‘We’re in this together now. What do you say, want to get to work, partner?’ I said, my hand outstretched and he took it.

I helped him to his feet and formally introduced myself, ‘I’m Aurora.’


‘Nice to meet you, Kit.’

We walked out of the airlock and past all the dumbfounded doctors. I led Kit to the observation deck. We sat and stared out at the stars. I rambled on about the possible planets we might discover and what our lives could be while we laughed and made lame engineering jokes only a fellow engineer could understand. It’s what we needed, to remind us that even in the darkest moments, in the vast nothingness of the galaxy that just by clinging to even the tiniest morsel of hope, humanity would endure, we would survive.


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