Forever into the Unknown
By Drew Avera
“Forever into the unknown,” that was our battle cry.
I suppose I cannot say “our” anymore considering the fact I am the only member of our team still alive, but those four little words keep fluttering through my mind like some kind of winged thing, finding its way into my splintering thoughts. I typed in a few more commands into the ship’s control console before sitting back in the pilot’s chair. I guess it was actually just my chair now, this one and those four behind me. I turned to survey the bridge of the spacecraft, once alive and teeming with the chattering of my friends, but those days were no more.
“Destination, Earth. Arrival time, approximately twenty-five years, nine months, three days, and seventeen hours,” the computer said, her voice none-too-comforting.
The time would be spent mostly in hyper-sleep, but knowing that did little to take the edge off my feeling of loneliness, or my sense of feeling like a traitor for leaving my friends behind. I stared at the computer monitor, the slow ticking down of time as the spacecraft drifted towards the planet I used to call home. But that was a long time ago and I knew I had nothing to go back to.
“Computer?” I summoned the artificial intelligence, needing to speak my thoughts out loud.
I craned my neck to the sides, shrugging out the stiffness of stress coursing through my body. “I no longer wish to return to Earth. Is there a suitable planet within range where I can go to die?” my question was simple, finite.
“I do not understand your desire to expire on a planet that is not your home, Commander, but there are approximately seven planets capable of hosting human life for a considerable period of time.”
Seven new destinations to find my end, I thought to myself. “Which are inhabited by similar forms of life to my own?”
“There is one, not charted or previously named, it only came into view before our landing on VX-937, before the loss of the crew,” she finished, her recount of the previous mission digging deeper into my shame, my guilt.
I brushed my hair back with my hand and closed my eyes, trying to hide the images of my friends dying all around me, but I could not hide from the things I had seen. “Take me there,” I ordered.
“As you desire, Commander. Do you wish to name this planet for charting purposes?” the computer asked.
I gave it some thought, really just wishing I would expire while in hyper-sleep, not knowing that death was coming, not fearing it, just experiencing it and fading into nothingness. “Call it Oblivion,” I whispered, but the computer had no problem understanding what I had said.
“Destination, Oblivion. Arrival time, approximately forty-two years, three months, nine days, and six hours based on Earth time.”
“Thank you, Computer,” I said as I stood up from the chair and moved slowly to my chamber to go into hyper-sleep. It was cold, but my body would not experience it once I was asleep, dead to the universe as the spacecraft hurdled through space towards Oblivion. I did not care if my body survived the journey, I just did not want to go home, to face the descendants of the people I had lost. I made my decision, to continue the mission, to carry on forever into the unknown. My life was forfeit now, for science, for discovery. Nothing else mattered, at least for now.
Perhaps I would find a new purpose on Oblivion; or maybe not. That was the problem with the unknown.
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Drew Avera, author of The Dead Planet Series, is an active duty Navy veteran and self-published science fiction writer. Originally from Mississippi, he now lives in Virginia with his wife and two children. You can find more about Drew Avera at his website and even get a free copy of his book Exodus.