Fiction Fragment Friday
In 2016 I attended WorldCon 74 hosted that year in Kansas City. This was my first writing and fiction convention and I found myself incredibly inspired. I came up with the idea for a book series about a generation ship with each book focusing on a different generation. The first book would have been about those that chose to leave Earth and why they did so. It would focus on the struggles of adjusting to a life in space and giving up everything you had ever known. This is a series I am still working on from an outlining and research standpoint. The final version I’m sure will be very different than what I present here.
“Mom the mail is on the counter. There’s a big envelope from something called the Mayflower Project.” My oldest son had no idea that with these words he was announcing that our entire lives were about to change. Jeremy continued upstairs like it was any other day and probably didn’t even notice me rushing to the kitchen.
I grabbed the packet off the counter and stood there with my hands shaking. The pile of bills under it taunted me, but for the first time they couldn’t bother me. The big yellow envelope was indeed from the Mayflower Project and I knew that a simple rejection letter would not be nearly that thick. I could feel my stomach twisting and turning with nervousness as I pealed open the envelope.
Pain shot through my finger as I sliced it on the flap and I dropped the packet to the floor spilling its contents. Blood pooled on my index finger and I instinctively sucked on it to stop the bleeding. The coppery taste filled my mouth, but my eyes were focused on the floor. A white folder filled with forms was laying spread open. Next to it was a letter and I could clearly read the first sentence. “Congratulations you have been accepted into The Mayflower Project.” I dropped to the floor and grabbed the letter. As I read I could feel the first tears start rolling down over my cheeks.
I don’t know how long I sat there crying, but the letter had splotches all over it. I looked up and saw Jeremy standing there asking me something. He looked worried, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. He looked so much like his father and I could feel the pain in my chest at that realization. I missed Henry so much. He trusted me to take care of everything after he was gone and I had failed so badly. In less than a month we were going to lose the house. What hope did a 17 year old and his 14 year old brother have with me as a mom?
“Mom what’s wrong?” How was I going to tell him that in about a year I would be joining approximately 25,000 other people on a top secret spacecraft and he would never see me again? How was I going to tell his younger brother? I was no good for them, but I could give them one last gift. A fully paid for college education and a real chance at a future here on Earth. What more could a mother ask for?
**** Six Month’s Later****
“Ahhh, I just don’t get it.” I slammed the book on the table in frustration. I had been studying for the Engineers certification test and just didn’t understand the underlying math. Ten years experience with secretarial work had not prepared me for this. If I didn’t figure something out I was going to be stuck in Janitorial because that was the only certification test I had passed.
“Then stop trying. Mom you don’t have to do this, we can figure something out.” Jeremy started the same speech that he gave me every few days.
“No we can’t. We would be on the streets right now if I hadn’t gotten accepted. At this point even if I wanted to back out I couldn’t without breaching my contract.” I watched as he lowered his head. “Jeremy look me in the eye. I started this for you and your brother, but now I’m doing it for me. I can rest easy knowing your futures are taken care of and while I’m at it I can really do something for humanity. There is nothing left for me to accomplish here, but out there I can be a part of something so much bigger.”
“Yeah I can see how dusting and laundry are more important than being here for our graduations or weddings.”
“That’s enough Jeremy. This is hard enough as it is without you continuing to remind me of what I’m going to be missing. You don’t think I know that I’ll never see any grandkids I may have? You have a house and a guaranteed education ahead of you so you can provide for those grandkids.” I reached out and opened the book again. “Now either help me study or get out. I’ll be damned if my contribution to the future of humanity is going to be laundry.” I glanced up and I could have sworn I saw Jeremy smile for a moment, but as soon as he saw I was looking the expression vanished.
“Fine, I’ll be in my room.” As he went upstairs I noticed that he didn’t stomp this time. I couldn’t help but hope that he was finally accepting my decision.
****3 months later****
“What the hell do you mean you are going with me?” I stood there staring at Jeremy holding the results to a successfully passed food services rank two certification test. “How did this even happen?”
“I got the address from your paperwork and applied as soon as I turned 18. I’ve been studying just as hard as you the last nine months and I’ve earned my place. You can’t stop me any more than I can stop you.”
“Jeremy why in the world would you do this? What about your brother? Who is going to look after him if you aren’t here? What about your future? Are you really ready to live the rest of your life on a spaceship?”
“Are you? I know what I’m getting myself into.” He let out a loud sigh and for the first time I looked at my son and saw him not as a child. He had to grow up so fast after his father died. I wasn’t there for him so he had to raise his brother. “Sam’s going to be fine. Uncle Jeff has volunteered to move in until he turns 18. With both of our sign on bonuses the house is going to be paid off completely.”
“No but mom, I know you think I’m throwing my life away but I’m not. This in an opportunity for me to really make something out of myself. Why does it matter if it is on Earth or on a space ship? It’s my life and I want to spend it among the stars. Maybe this was about you in the beginning, but it’s not anymore. Please mom, this is what I want.”
It was my turn to let out a sigh. “Alright, I don’t like this one bit, but if this is what you really want.”
I pulled out my own certification test and set it on the counter. “Well I guess my rank one engineering certification isn’t quite as impressive to a rank two food services.” I almost fell as my oldest son grabbed me into a tight hug. I could feel my eyes watering up, but was determined I would not cry. “Ok not so tight.” I chuckled a bit. “Now how are we going to tell your brother?”