Photo by click on Morgue File.
You are the first astronaut to arrive on a new, uncharted planet. Write the note that you leave to those who come after you.
Zedd felt winded. The past couple of hours had been intense; even more intense than any of the previous hundreds of hours. He felt the stress in his temples. He pushed back in his chair and rubbed the sides of his head with both hands. As he squeezed, shards of white light floated in the black space of his clenched eyelids.
A thud sound caused him to jolt upright. He looked around him, but saw nothing. The noises were still hard to get use to.
He saw the old faded picture of a little girl with red hair and blue eyes smiling up at him. He reached for the picture, tracing the outline of her face and remembering the last time he saw her. It seemed even longer ago than it had been. The memory was once fresh and alive, it was real and helped him keep his bearings and sanity. Now, it had eclipsed him almost, it was ethereal; like a dream, or a dream of a dream he had when he was young and innocent.
He strained his mind to recall every detail. His mind was tired, even more so than his body. He felt that familiar dull pain wreck his nerves. His right hand shook, slowly working its way up his arm. He clutched his arm with his left hand; it almost felt like a tug-of-war, as if some unseen force were trying to rip his arm right out of its socket.
The shaking subsided and he crumpled back into his chair. On the verge of sleep, but unable to allow his mind to rest long enough to find it.
As he sat motionless, thinking of the red-headed little girl, the time alone, the mission and a million other things at once, he felt exhaustion deep in his bones.
His mind turned to a sunny day with bright blue skies overhead. He was pointing up at the cloud forms and laughing. A wisp of red hair tickled his cheek, he reached out to embrace her . . . the ship darted suddenly to the left, slamming him onto the floor. Zedd rubbed his eyes and was once again aware of the present.
A red warning light was flashing. The blaring startled his senses, as he jumped up and ran to the controls. The autopilot had made a certain, unexpected detour. The artificial intelligence was calculating an estimated arrival to an unknown object.
Juniper 256, report findings, Zedd shouted in a panicked voice.
Data retrieved and ready to be reported to 24601. Target destination confirmed in the left quadrant, approximate distance is 2 A.U., estimated time of arrival 48 to 72 hours.
The end was in sight. It would be soon.
The time passed as all the time passed for Zedd. It was like floating on open air with your senses timed-out, just floating with no starting point, with no destination; just floating. It was numbing and it weighed on his mind.
He busied himself with upkeep of the electronics. He cleaned the quarters and the instrument panel. He tried to keep his mind active, to do something to stay in touch with reality.
Then he heard it. The ship had arrived to the planet. This was his destination. This was the whole purpose of his mission. It had come at long last.
He prepped the ship for its entrance into the alien atmosphere. All the precautions had been followed. It was time to enter the unknown.
Juniper 256, Zedd said in a commanding, sure voice, prepare spacecraft for decent. Chart course and scan surface for a suitable landing site.
Scanning now, the AI responded, Suitable site found and confirmed. Estimated touchdown less than twenty minutes. Prepare landing maneuvers.
Zedd strapped himself into the command chair. The ship nosed down at a sharp angle and began its plunge into the outer atmosphere. The ship shook and moaned through the upper gases. The pull of the planet clutched the sides of the ship, as if long tentacles wrapped its hull, pulling it down to the abyss.
The atmosphere was dense and blinding. Then, the denseness broke and Zedd saw it. He had been told what to expect before he left on his mission. But words could not describe the sight.
The colors were like none he had known back on Earth. There were shades of the colors, but only that, these were vibrant, almost living he thought.
The craft slowly touched down on the alien soil and settled to a stop. Zedd sat there for several minutes, trying to convince himself he was really, finally here. He felt as though he had awakened from a long, restless sleep.
Zedd spent much time exploring and collecting samples. His mission called for him to remain on the planet for thirty days. The days were filled with work and wonder. Zedd felt alive. It was vindication for his decision to volunteer for this mission. It was vindication for his sacrifice and all he had to leave behind. Tears welled up in the corners of his eyes as he felt the accomplishment stir over him.
The last day had arrived. Zedd wanted to leave something of himself behind. It was not protocol. It was not part of the defined mission. But, he felt he deserved to do it. He went to his chambers, sat down at the desk and wrote a note.
He would tell whomever may one day find it, all about the mission, its purpose. He would tell of his sacrifice, of the wonder he felt at being at this place. He would tell of his former life and what led him to be here now. Most of all, he would enshrine his love for a little red-headed girl for time immemorial. It would be his ode to her. He would tell of her bright blue eyes and broad, contagious smile. He would tell of her pain that caused him unbearable torture. He would remember her. Here the two of them would live in the memory and commemoration of his note.
He remembered it all. He felt it all. As tears streamed down his weathered face, his right hand shaking, he placed the note in the capsule and placed it beside a massive boulder. He had nicknamed the boulder Gigantis.
Zedd turned, one last time to survey his surroundings. He peeked back at the capsule he had left behind. Without no thought on his part, he felt his right hand raise and wave good-bye to it . . . to a piece of him, to her.
He entered the ship. Within minutes it roared to life, rising from the surface and hovering over it. One last salute to the specimen beneath him and the ship blasted toward space.
As he broke through the atmosphere, back into the quiet and infinity of space, he quoted his favorite poet from his favorite poem: The woods are lovely,dark and deep, but I have miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep.
Zedd hurtled through space, somewhere between dream and reality.