The Space Between
– Fierce Fiction by Rebecca Wickens – August 12, 2018 –
Staring up at a velvet black sky, we watch millions of stars spark and swirl. On a quilt, soft and worn with years of washing and dreaming, we speak of the fate of humanity, the future of planet Earth and the inevitability of space colonization. The thought of living out in that black infinite sends a thrill down my spine.
“But where would we live?” I ask.
You explain the progression of human colonization from the International Space Station, to bases on the moon, biospheres on Mars and then small settlements in the asteroid belt. Like children, we plan our private club-house in the sky – we would hollow out an asteroid and set it spinning. You say this would create gravity, of a sort, but that we would have to stay inside the asteroid once it started spinning to avoid motion sickness.
We find this funny for some reason. Laughing, we turn to one another, our hands touch and then our lips. I close my eyes and my blood burns with the thought of adventuring with you.
Reading in the hammock, surrounded by the buzz and zing of insects, the sun warms my toes and the tops of my feet. You are cutting the grass; the push mower goes shush, shush, shush. The grass falls softly and it smells so green.
“I was reading that humans need trees and birds and nature to be happy,” I say. “How will we survive without those things?”
“Virtual reality,” you reply. “We’ll be able to see trees and birds anytime we want.”
You continue up the slope of the lawn. Shush, shush, shush. I watch the birds dart through the branches of the weeping willow into the blue sky and wonder whether virtual birds would dance the same way.
Lying in bed on a Sunday afternoon, rain on the window, cotton sheets cool against our still sweating bodies, I asked breathlessly, “But what about THIS? Would we have THIS in space?”
“I hear that they’re designing space suits for sex. So don’t worry, babe. You won’t miss out on this,” you say with a drowsy grin and gesture to your groin.
I don’t think you quite understand that I mean ALL of THIS.
As you drift off to sleep with heavy sighs, I draw the blankets around me and place my hands on your glowing skin, thinking about what it would be like to touch you only through a spacesuit, to hear nothing but the sound of my own breath.
We sit on the deck out back staring into the night sky. The hairs rise on my arm as I rest them on the cold metal of the deck chair. I am tired and fuzzy from too much wine.
“Another drink?” You ask.
“Sure,” I say, not really wanting one, but not knowing what else to say.
As the screen door snaps shut, I look up at the sky and wonder, would it be better to die on Earth – from whatever man-made disaster was coming – or to live a virtual life, trapped inside a space suit, inside a hollow rock, in the cold dark of space? Could I adapt or would I always be wanting what my physical self was missing? Did the wanting make me weak? Or was it the wanting that made me human? And what about you? Did you ever want? For the first time, I wasn’t certain – for the first time, I had no idea whether you truly felt or wanted anything at all.
I am startled when you place the glass in my hand. It is slick from condensation and I drop it. Rising from my chair, I stare without really seeing the pieces of glass and wine on the deck. I go to bed that night alone and shivering.
About the Author – Rebecca Wickens
Rebecca Wickens is a corporate governance professional and mother of two young children, based in Waterloo, Ontario. After a series of major professional and personal life changes over the past two years, Rebecca is seeking to (re)discover who she is and where she wants to go in life. Writing fiction and creative non-fiction is one of the tools in this journey.
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