This short short was inspired by a terribleminds.com prompt which used a website to generate a random phrase, which is the title. I also combined it with the Word of the Week Prompt, Sidereal, which means “of or relating to the stars.” I first had half a story cooked up that I couldn’t wrangle together so I scrapped it and wrote this.
During the day, the engineer managed the station that orbited the planet and the machines that worked down on the surface.
The machines drilled, refined and packaged rare metals before sending them in pods up into space. The pods docked with the station, the goods were off-loaded and the pod sent back to the planet.
The system was almost entirely automated, machines able to mine resources on a planet that had become too radioactive for humans to live on, but the company in charge still wanted a human to oversee it all.
The engineer didn’t mind. He’d jumped at the chance to come back to earth, even if he lived alone on the station. He’d felt alone for awhile, anyways, with her gone.
Her dreams were sidereal. She loved the stars and space. She was an explorer.
He often received messages from her, from some new place they’d discovered, her face flushed, her voice excited as she explained the new galaxy they’d discovered, the new planets they’d come across. She show the fantastic view of the universe she saw. It was pretty, he thought, but nothing compared with her smile. She’d sign off, looking wistful. Sometimes she’d apologize for leaving.
He always told her not to.
She deserved the stars.
He showed her views of earth and talk of home, of the old days, of distant memories.
Then, no more messages came.
He learned through the Galaxsphere New Net that her ship, The Santa Maria, had an accident. No survivors.
He spent the next day in bed. He did not get up. He did not check on the statuses of the station or the drilling machines. He did not eat. He did not drink.
“At least you got your wish, my daughter,” he whispered, his eyes closed. “You lived and died in the stars.”
The next morning, he got up. He grabbed a HAZMAT suit and went into one of the emergency escape pods. He set the coordinates for earth and locked himself into the seat. He wasn’t supposed to go to earth, nobody was, not even to fix a machine that had broken down.
The voice of the station spoke up from the screen of the pod. “Engineer, DrillCore is requesting a report since they did not receive one in the last 24 hours. They are worried something is wrong. You are currently in emergency pod 012 but the station is not in a state of emergency.”
“I’m going home.” He pressed the launch button. His body, old and weak, pressed against the seat cushion. His bones rattled in his skin. He moaned in pain.
The pod shot off from the station.
The rocking lessened.
He was able to open his eyes. He saw the blue planet and wept.