Posted in 2021 short story challenge, story

January Story: Home Away From Home

The cold months of winter. The countryside was covered in a blanket of white. Children and adults alike seemed to enjoy the snow.

In the main city, the Space Agency was buzzing with people. The main entrance was blocked by people from news agencies, while preparations for a major announcement were in place in the conference hall. There was an equal chance of the news being terribly good or terribly bad.

Mr. Capps rushed towards the Control Centre. He didn’t quite believe in God, but for the first time ever, he actually clasped his hands together and muttered a quick prayer while he stepped out of the elevator. He dashed through the doors and stopped before a large screen surrounded by hundreds of people.

“What is it, Maria?” he asked the Head.

She looked at him, almost teary eyed, and nodded her head in denial. A striking silence spread in the room. This couldn’t be good.

Millions of miles away from Earth, was the spacecraft of the highly ambitious manned mission. The mission was going well since two years, until now at least. But as it turns out, all wasn’t good inside the craft.

“So you are just going to do what you want, huh?”

“I am the Captain. And it’s my duty to lead us the right way,” Anne said.

“Captain?” Rob smirked. “More like a dictator.”

“Stop it you two!” Zack said.

“She started it. Ms. Anne ‘know-it-all’.”

“Rob, please,” Zack sighed. “Can you at least try behaving like an adult?”

“Oh sure. Why not. It’s all my fault anyway, right?”

“Zack, please take control of the craft. I need some rest,” Anne said, pretending to ignore Rob.

While Zack seated himself in front of the control panel, Anne drifted towards one of the inner compartments. For a while, there seemed to be peace at last. It didn’t last long though.

“Zack! I thought I told you to not touch my belongings,” Anne came screaming.

“And I didn’t,” he said.

“Don’t lie. My whole stuff is scattered. And you did it.”

“Did I now? Fine. I was searching for my books.”

“And what would your books be doing in my stuff!”

“I don’t know! I was just searching in all possible places.”

“Possible places? My space is a possible place for finding your belongings?”

“Could be,” he shrugged. “Might have drifted off.”

“Or she might have taken it,” Rob said. “After all, we all know where she comes from.”

A silence overtook the craft. This had gone too far. Anne stood there stunned, then drifted back into her compartment.

“You shouldn’t have said that,” Zack said.

“It’s funny how you always have to take her side, no?”

Zack sighed. It was no use talking to him.

For a brief while, there was silence again. It too didn’t last long though. This time it was Zack who spoke up.

“Something’s wrong,” he said. “Hey Rob, take a look.”

Rob peered into the screen and stared, wide eyed. “This can’t be possible.”

“Anne,” Zack called. “Anne!”

A moment later, there was a tense air in the craft. Anne kept looking at the controllers and then at the readings on the pad. She pushed buttons and sent messages to the Control Centre. “No, no, no, this can’t be happening,” she kept saying.

“What’s happening, Anne? What’s wrong?”

They had never seen Anne panicking. If she was, it meant something was definitely wrong.

She looked at the two of them and struggled for words. She gulped and firmed herself.

 “We have lost contact with the Earth.”

A painful silence followed. Anne tried her best to act brave and opened a manual and kept doing her work.

“We have to land,” she said.

“What? Are you crazy!” Rob said.

“That’s the only chance we have. If we don’t do it now, we might miss it and end up wandering in space forever.”

“But where are we going to land?” Zack asked.

“I don’t know what this place is. But I’m positive it’s safe to land,” Anne said.

“This woman’s going mad,” Rob said.

“Look, we’re going to die either way,” she said. “But if we land, there’s a greater chance of us being saved.”

***

They landed safely in a strange place. It wasn’t a good enough reason to celebrate though. They were alive, but weren’t sure how long they would be. They sat in the common compartment, going through their stuff. For the first time ever in two years, they weren’t quarrelling.

Anne sat in a corner with a picture in her hand.

“Your daughter’s beautiful,” Zack said.

Anne smiled. “She must be six now.”

Rob sat down beside them.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Rob said. “I said too much back then.”

“It’s fine,” Anne said, wiping a tear. “I’ll have to endure you for the rest of my life now, anyway.”

Rob chuckled. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Hey, I just found my music player,” Zack said and played Summer Flowers.

“That song,” Rob said.

“Yeah, that’s my favorite song,” Zack said.

“Wow. My brother used to love that song too,” Rob said. “I miss my brother.”

“I miss my home,” Zack said.

“Hey,” Anne said. “I might not have taken your book, but I did peek into it once. And I came across something wonderful.”

“And what’s that?”

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling,” she said.

“True that, Captain!” Rob chuckled.

“We’re gonna be together till we die,” Anne said. “Or until we find a way back.”

“And I feel more at home than ever.”

***

Mr. Capps made the long-awaited announcement. He informed that they had lost all contact with the spacecraft. “Although we are trying our best to bring them back home, there seems not much hope.”

There was an unforeseen weather change in the countryside. Winter was wearing off in its peak months. Spring was approaching.

(When Katie posted about the short story challenge, I was absolutely excited and my brain was literally flooding with ideas. But then I had to take a while off (I had to complete my notes) and by the time I came back, all ideas had disappeared. I had to start all over again… and this is my story for January! I hope to continue with this challenge all through the year!)