Pandora (A Short Story)

Note: This is more of flash fiction. It was based off the following prompt: “In the future, the dying earth manages to build and launch a single interstellar ship, towards the one distant planet that could support human life. Years later when the ship has passed the no-return point, it becomes clear it’ll never reach the planet, due to disrepair and failing equipment.

***

I have lived my whole life on this scrap of failing metal, watching it leave its trail of dust and rust across the cosmos from before I was even old enough to know what the word “hope” meant.

Hope.

What is that?

A pipe dream of a name given by parents who truly thought their daughter might grow up to have a future? Some half-baked abstract concept that we fancied could fuel our engines in place of rocket propellant? The last shitty card in one last shitty hand, to play when you’re too stubborn to fold but too stupid to have backed out sooner?

The black void that stretches out overhead as I lie under the observation deck does not deign to answer my quandary. Still, truths do not always need to be spoken to be understood. In this chasm of space, there is only one, singular fact, and it radiates all around me and poisons my every thought, my every word, my every moment—waking or not.

Nothing matters.

Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. Nothing matters.

Two days of oxygen left. Three, maybe, if more people decide to end it now, rather than wait a handful more hours just to painfully suffocate to death in one mass suicide. It makes me laugh—call it gallows humour, but it is one of the few things I can still cling on to—how pointless this all is, was, how stupid. All this effort, all those decades of research and development and world governments finally united under one cause, the best and brightest of the human race putting their heads together, trillions poured into a “bleeding edge” interstellar ship that ended up being just a little bit too bleeding. Full capacity of thirty thousand—“too small,” but in reality, too large for it to do anything else but fail.

But those “too small” decriers, the unlucky waitlisted who would have killed for a spot on this ship—they were damned lucky, and they’ll never know it. No matter how noxious Earth is now, at least they get to live half a lifetime or so. At least they get to live believing that the human race will live on. At least they get to still have hope.

I am writing this final journal entry in the hope—God, that word again—that my life might have more significance than to be born and to die on this cold, broken machine. Despite the truth of the emptiness that echoes in my bone and through these steel walls, I am only human. I have already seen every possible evil and horror splashed out across humanity, and with nothing else to cling on to, hope is all I have at the bottom of this wretched Pandora’s box. Maybe one day, this journal will be found, these words read; maybe one day, I, Hope, will be something more than a speck of dust floating in an infinitude.

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