Intercosmic - Chapter 11 - Going Away

I read the email over and over again, each time my heart sinking a little lower. During the time I’ve been here I’ve wanted nothing more than to get out of here, and back to some level of normalcy. Now the time has finally come and I’m paralyzed, not sure how to move forward, not even sure if I want to move forward. I’m not in love with this depressed and unkempt face of mine. The food is terrible, some people scream out in the middle of the night, and there isn’t any good music here. Still, it is the first time I’ve stayed in the same place for more than a few weeks without shipping out.

“What’s it say,” Taffy asks.

Taffy, he’s good kid, young man. He just wanted to fly fast ships, had no idea what he was really signing up for. Now he may never be able to fly again, at least not in the armed forces. After realizing Charlie and Shaheed just enjoyed messing with him he’s decided to stick to me like glue. It’s good to have some company, and I don’t dislike him. I’ve even gone to some of his rehab sessions to cheer on his progress. He’s not as wobbly on his legs anymore and doesn’t have a problem standing for long periods of time. He’s come a long way in a short period of time.

“Sector 7G to Efrem,” Taffy pokes my normal arm.

“Hey.”

“What’s the message say? It’s got you looking twisted.”

“I’m fit for duty. I need to be ready to ship out tomorrow.”

“That’s great,” Taffy seems legit excited.

“Sure is.”

“I’m going to go tell everyone. We have to do something for your last day,” he rushes out into the hall, “and make sure we exchange contact info before you go.”

I didn’t even try to feign excitement, his own joy carried him off into the hallways in a way I’d only seen children move before. I guess I should start packing the few items I have here. A toothbrush, some deodorant, a pair of sneakers and the personal items I had in my hotel room when they brought me in. It doesn’t take long to stuff it all into a holdall. A significant part of my life, and it all fits in one bag.  

Before I noticed Taffy had started pulling strings and putting things together. He leaves me to get murdered by Charlie and Shaheed on the ping pong table again for the last time. Every now and then someone will come up and tell me goodbye. I was most excited to see Sasha even if he was only concerned with seeing his artwork on a person, and making sure I had taken care of it. We exchanged contact information and he promised when I got an upgrade eventually, he’d paint it as well.

I got a slice of cake with dinner. I didn’t expect much, and there wasn’t much. It was short notice and we’re in a hospital where most of us don’t get to leave much. It isn’t like we could leave anyway, we’re on Space Station Prisme. Most space stations have a lot of entertainment or shopping facilities, since they used to be science labs or military outposts. Still, I’m touched that they would go through the effort. I’ve got a few more things to add to my bag. This is the closest thing I’ve had to a birthday party since I was nine years old and it actually feels good.

Most of the older patients start heading off to bed, even if they don’t have to. Soon, Taffy and I are left alone in the rec room with just a few other young people. A woman I haven’t spoken to that seems to love puzzles, two guys who are way into holo games and the two of us looking out the wall sized window into the emptiness of space.  

“I’m going to miss you,” Taffy wraps his arms around me.

“I’m afraid. I don’t want to go back.”

“What are you afraid of,” Taffy lets me go.

“Getting blown up again, getting shot again, dying, being a double amputee. No offense.”

“None taken.”

“I don’t know what I want to do with my life anymore, but fighting shadow wars isn’t it.”

“Then get a transfer. Running away is stupid. You’ve got a second chance at a life some people dream about. I wanted to fly my entire career, and I got set on transport duty. It was incredible, everything I had dreamt of even if it was the lowest level. Then I got blown up because some dunce stored the wrong chemicals together. I would give anything for another chance to fly, and the most I’ll get now is maybe a passenger seat. You’re lucky and you don’t even know it,” I don’t know how to put my response in words. “Call me, if you’re going to suck it up. Don’t call me if you’re going to run away, because some of us don’t have that option anymore.”

Double entendre since he can’t run and was honorably discharged, I’m going to miss the smart ass. But he's right, it is the dream of some people. It isn’t my dream. I never wanted to do this, especially not for the rest of my life. I’d give my spot to anyone who wants it. I know a ship is coming to pick me up in the morning then drop me at the transport station. I’ll be ready. I don’t have any other choice, but I won’t like it. It isn’t wrong for me to dread it. I’ve been through enough that I shouldn’t have to do this anymore. There’re trillions of people out there, and not a lot can say they lost an arm in a battle that doesn’t officially exist. Not many can say they came back from either. I’m just trying to hype myself up, but the simple fact is that I’m afraid.

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