Monday, August 19, 2013
1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Mayberry Rev 2
Name: Martha Mayberry
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Romance
Title: Gone Wild
Limestone Air Force Base, Maine
I squinted past the thin clusters of trees, with their withered branches and curled leaves, to the ships perched like raptors on the runway. Demeter and Hestia loomed in the distance, their hulls a dark, ominous gray in the muted sunlight.
Within an hour, my brother Joe and I would sleep inside Demeter, our goddess of the skies, cruising across the galaxy to a planet called Stellar 3.
I pictured us pinned inside our cramped little pods, lids locked tight, puffs of gas swirling around our faces, medication searing through our veins until our will to resist dulled and faded away. Blast chillers kicking in, morphing us into space-icles.
I was doomed.
“You have your pack?” Auntie Minerva asked.
My lips stretched in a grimace. Gesturing to the bags at my feet, I peeked at my watch. 11:20. Forty minutes until they call my name. I could swear my feet were crystallizing on the grate.
“I wish you didn’t have to go,” she said. Skin puckered around her lips in white creases and tiny, clear pearls of sweat rested on her upper lip. “If you stayed, I’d find a way to take care of you,” she said.
Joe tugged her shirt. “I can take care of myself.”
She gave him a long look and her lips tightened as she held back a grin.
“I can take care of myself. I’m almost nine. A man.” He puffed his chest, looking anything but manly to me. He was lean and small for his age. Shortness ran in our family but I hoped he’d grow tall in our new world. Like a transplanted tree. His thick auburn hair was askew and his brown eyes were fierce. Maybe a thorn tree. . .
“What’s this?” Auntie reached inside his shirt and plucked a mouse out by the tail. Maurice squeaked as he joined the jumbled contents of her purse. “I told you I’d take care of your pets.”
“Please, can’t I take a little one?” he pleaded and his bravery slid. I recognized the little brother who’d crawled into my bed every night since our parents had left.
“No.” She smoothed his hair, her hands lingering on the nape of his neck. “No pets allowed in stasis. I’ll sure miss having you around, little man.”
“Joe, that makes no sense,” I said. “Why would anyone bring a mouse on a star ship? It wouldn't have anything to eat.”
“It could eat you,” the little creep said. “It could gnaw on you, the whole year in space.”
“Jeez, Joe, thanks. Love you too.” So much for playing nice. Brat.
“What were your parents thinking? Abandoning their children for a dream in the stars.” Auntie worried a nail as she stared at the ships. “Chemicals and cryogenics-it’s all so dangerous.”
I bit back a wince. “We’ll be fine.” And hated the quiver in my voice. “Mom and Dad made it. Besides, I want to go. It’s an adventure.” I just had to keep telling myself that.
President Marand cleared his throat. The harsh sound blasted through the loud speakers, picking the fresh scab on my nerves. He spoke from inside a glass structure, suspended in front of us, savoring his piped-in, pristine air. A sharp contrast to the sludge the rest of us enjoyed.
“Today’s a historic day for Earth,” he said. “Our children go forth to propagate a new world!”
Ugh. Did he really just say that? Other kids on the platform around me grimaced. Please, I just turned seventeen. I’m not a brood mare.
I glanced at my watch. 11:30. The knot in my stomach expanded until my belly threatened to burst.
My legs were numb, as if I'd suddenly developed a bizarre neurological disorder. Psychosomatic. That was the word for it. Chill, Lia, it’s all in your head.
Auntie’s gaze slid from my watch to my face.
“None of that.” She shook a finger at me but her look was kind.
“It’s eleven thirty.” As if she couldn't tell the time by my expression.
A whimper slipped past her lips, a forlorn sound in the bustle that surrounded us. “It can’t be time. It’s too soon.”
I pulled her into my arms, holding her gently because she was so frail and I was still strong. We patted each other’s backs. Pats were the backbone of my family, doled out with every hug, and I needed my fill.
As we pulled apart, my eyes stung but I held back my tears. The last thing she needed was the memory of me breaking down. I plastered bravery on my face, a façade for the person she hoped I’d become.
She studied me before giving me a slow nod. “That’s my girl. I’m proud of you.” She grabbed both our hands, the pads of her fingertips digging into my palm. “I’m so proud of you both.”
Joe gave in to what I held back and buried his face in her side. She stooped down, wrapped him up and buried her face in his shoulder. Wiping my eyes, I patted their backs, soothing their pain with my hands.
I kept picturing her in her tiny kitchen, table set for one.
Auntie’s eyes were bleak, their soft brown color washed away by grief. “You’re all I have left.”
And that was the crux of the matter. She couldn’t go with us. Decaying genome and all that. And we couldn’t stay on Earth. Failing planet and all that.
Helping her stand, I gave her a long, lingering hug. She tweaked Joe’s chin, gave us a bright smile that never moved past her lips, and started down the stairs. I traced her image in my mind as she moved away, watching until she joined the other relatives in the secure area behind the gate.
My eyes flew past her, to the thousands of spectators crowded beyond the fence, faces peering through the slats. Protestors had signs hoisted above their heads with the slogans-
Everyone belongs on Earth
Don’t abandon us
Earth’s Children. At least they were locked beyond the gate. Security had been high since the onset, but groups like theirs had infiltrated our project. Once our liftoff had been delayed for weeks, and another time someone had assassinated our lead scientist.
But launch day was here. No more running past their picket lines and shrill screams to get to orientation.
President Marand paused and in the lull, everyone cheered. He continued, speaking of honor and duty, and how we were ambassadors for mankind.
I could make it. I could. As long as I didn’t dwell on what came next, leap off the platform and shove through the crowd, screaming about turning into a space popsicle.
Scanning the platform next to ours, I studied each face waiting to board Hestia. Where in the world was he?
Catching myself nibbling a nail, I yanked my hand away.
Joe fidgeted beside me with the energy of a two-year old and I longed to wiggle along with him. I itched from smog dust and barely resisted the urge to yank my durasuit sleeve up and scratch.
After he’d stomped on my foot for the thousandth time, I finally snapped. “You’re not a baby, Joe. Pay attention. It’s almost time to board.”
He threw me a sulky look, so I grabbed his arm and held him still. Yanking away, he snarled like the little beast he was and settled onto the platform. He picked up a stick and dragged it across the grate.