The Failure of a Generation

Through the translucent circular scuttle, my gaze escapes from the solemn astronautical reality, into the stars. I used to yearn at them, back when I called Earth my home. Now Sol, the life-source of an entire pantheon of species, is but one of the stars fixated in the immortal night’s firmament. Without Earth’s obstructing atmosphere in the way, I can see way more of them than I ever could have dreamt of back when I was shackled by gravity.

But the glimpse through the scuttle wakes not just these memories. A conflicted thought I’ve felt all too commonly creeps out of its hiding place. Yes, I took the step into this spaceship. Yes, I have left behind everything to bring humanity to a new frontier. No, I would be long dead when the first human would set foot on solid ground again.

Once again, I peruse the book I was given three years ago. A tiny section — it seems that this thought was too unsettling to be shown more prominently — covers what to do in case of doubts about the decision. What to do when the primal want for Parent’s embrace takes over, and despair that it can never be felt again sets in:

“Please assume a comfortable position in a calm place. Close your eyes if you wish to. Your thoughts will race, but like a gazette, they will tire; with their fatigue, you may draw strength. Your purpose in this very moment is to sit — or lay — and exist. Your purpose, and your destiny, is to prevail.”

It’s just a bunch of doolally nonsense! No, at this moment I regret deeply the day I entered this thrice-cursed vehicle, and I know now that it is regret without remedy.

I will die in space, and my death will be so meaningless as to not even cover a footnote in the annals of cosmic exploration. All eyes will be on those landing on Sirius’s exoplanets, while I will remain overseen.

Or will I?

Aye, this leads me to thoughts I should not have. But it is no use to suppress them, for they will not and cannot leave! Again and again I have meditated upon it, but again and again, I found myself incapable of committing!

But today is different. No longer... I have seen the path to freedom, and I will go it.

It was a month ago that I monitored the statistics, as is usual for a boring ‘Friday’ afternoon. All seemed well, and I thought about slacking off, when one peculiar sight made me stumble in thought. It was a rather inconspicuous table shown in alternation with the current oxygen levels of the plant-house, switching between the two about every 30 seconds. At this moment, I posit, fate wanted to demonstrate its existence by putting me there to see.

This meter, more a simple jest than serious measurement, showed the distance to nearby celestial bodies. Indeed, had there been a steady radio connection to Earth at the time of this discovery, the base would have had the final experimental proof for the existence of wormholes.

This meter showed me the distance from our puny spaceship to Earth. And this distance was way smaller than anything a sane mathematician could reasonably compute. Indeed, I ran some maniacal calculations in my chamber, and ascertained that, somewhere within close vicinity of the spaceship, a wormhole exists that will bring me just outside of the solar system.

My heart yearns for thee, Sol, my celestial mother! If time dilation has killed my biological parents, you might be a fit replacement. I would be lying about my very nature, were I to deny my calling to you!

Sol... or perhaps...?

Einstein has taught me that at the fast speeds of our modern spacecraft, a massive time gap between the accelerating object — me — and the terrestrial observers rendered it exceptionally unlikely — impossible, so to speak — that any of the crewmates would ever see their loved ones again. Creative minds solved this issue by taking their friends and family with them, others no longer had anyone to mourn. I belong to the third group, people who had living family and friends and left them to board a multi-generation spaceship. To be fair, it was within all of our best interests to be as far away from each other as possible, but I shouldn’t have thrown out any and all possibility of reconciliation, forever.

Though, in some way, I was closer to them right now than I have been for the past three years; more like three-hundred years for my fellows on Earth.

But..., the sceptic little voice in my head says, what if this is all wrong? What if time really does flow the same for everyone? It would mean that, as three years had passed here, three years had passed on Earth as well.

Three years. The perfect time span when it comes to reconciling yourself with those you have fallen away from. If they have missed me but a tiny bit during this time, my odds would stand great; they might be able to forgive me.

... What I am about to do is unscientific, unfair, unempathic, and egotistical, but that’s me, I suppose. I simply cannot go on potentially missing this only chance I might have left. To save my life. To fix my mistakes and become a better person. Or one at all.

This ship has three emergency capsules. So far, there has never been a true emergency, but is this not one? As far as I can tell, this is the most grave emergency, akin to a thousand famines and three hundred epidemics!

No, this truly is an emergency. I need to head home.

I will head home.

I’m coming home, Mum. Have you missed me?