Going Home, by K.R. Smith
It requires a great deal of fortitude to embark upon a journey that lasts more than ten years, especially to a place you’ve never been, a place you’ve only read about. Yet this was precisely what Lucas Phelan endeavored to do. He was going home, as it were, to Earth, and he was nearly there.
Although Earth was where all of Gamma Epsilon’s colonists had originated, Lucas recalled that few ever mentioned the planet. Even when asked, any reply tended to be short and rather cryptic. Lucas, of course, had no direct knowledge of Earth, nor did his parents, nor even his grandparents, all having been born on the colony or in transit to their future home. It was only through a few brief writings left by his great grandparents that any link could be made between himself and his familial home.
There were occasions when he had overheard talk of the “dark times,” but most of what was said he didn’t understand. There were whispers about imprisonments and inquisitions, but he had no idea how they applied to his situation. The long and the short of it was that his forebears, along with a number of others, set off for Epsilon Eridani, a relatively nearby star, as part of what was ostensibly a scientific expedition, although it was never explained by whom the voyage was sponsored, or why, or precisely what they were supposed to study. And not knowing exactly what they might find, were prepared to spend the rest of their lives aboard ship, if necessary, the vessel acting as permanent space station.
Fortunately, however, there were planets orbiting the star, one of which was able to sustain life on a permanent, though not particularly comfortable, basis. Agriculture was limited in the hot, dry environment, but was capable of supporting a limited population. There were other useful resources available on the planet, most importantly enough precious metals and rare ores to make trade possible, or as much as could be possible with the distances involved. Eventually, the colony grew a bit, and was considered reasonably successful.
But all that had transpired nearly a hundred years ago. What news came through now from Earth was much brighter, or so it seemed. Lucas had made a tidy sum through his hard labor in the mines, plus a bit more with some luck in speculating, so he was relatively well off. He had, however, grown tired of the incessant dust, heat, and his otherwise dreary existence, so when the opportunity presented itself for him to leave, he jumped at the chance.
Even though this ship was much faster and provided a more refined travelling experience than the one his family had embarked upon all those years ago, it wasn’t what one might call a pleasant journey. Tedious might be the best word to describe it, locked for so long inside the dull gray walls and dimly lighted passages of the huge transport. And although he had a better idea of what awaited him upon arrival than did those on the dreadful pilgrimage of his ancestors, deep within something still felt eerily similar.
There was little to do on such a long journey except to indulge one’s mind. There were, of course, games such as chess, poker, and backgammon, usually played against a computer or service android as there were seldom enough humans on board these transports to find an interested, or interesting, partner. In addition, the ship’s library was quite extensive and available via access terminals in each passenger cabin and various designated recreational areas. This was not only for entertainment, but part of the virtual educational opportunities on board. This was rather fortunate for Lucas, as he, succumbing to boredom of the seemingly endless unchanging days, chose to immerse himself in academics, obtaining a degree in the medieval history of Earth, one of the few subjects he found truly fascinating.
He first became interested in the topic by reading the works of his favorite Earth author, Bennett, a popular writer in her time, who wrote whimsical tales of fantasy, often drawing upon her own extensive knowledge of the period. She told of castles and kings, of great battles, of wizards and magical creatures, and of lush, colorful landscapes so different and appealing when compared to dry, flat plains of Gamma Epsilon.
Most of all, it was the description of the moon in her sagas, something none of the three planets in the Epsilon Eridani system had, that captured his imagination. Her words, telling of its pure, hypnotic light, caused his to pulse race. She made it sound so beautiful, so powerful –something you could not only see, but feel; a power so irresistible it could even lead to madness. It was beyond the abilities of his mind to comprehend how this could be.
Soon, however, he would know. The huge ship was being placed into lunar orbit allowing cargo destined for the satellite to be transferred and travel-weary passengers to disembark. It would also be the transfer point for the shuttles to Earth. More importantly, so far as Lucas was concerned, was that the observation deck would finally be accessible, providing passengers like himself with their first glimpse of Earth’s moon.
Lucas made his way toward the observation deck, located near the rear of the ship, anticipating the view. As the transport slowly rotated, the moon would become visible for short periods of time every few hours. As he approached, he could see the glow coming through the window in the airtight security door leading to the observation area.
As he entered the room, the brightness was more than his eyes could take, almost painful, with his vision, used to the internal twilight of the ship’s inner recesses, only slowly adjusting. The assigned orbit was closer to the moon than he had expected, and though he needed to squint a bit, the view was exquisite. Lucas sat back in one of the chairs, immersing himself in the opalescent radiance. That was all he needed in order to understand, to know, why it had captured the imagination of poets, singers, and romantics over the ages. It was beautiful, pure and luminous, a color unlike any he had ever known. He closed his eyes, absorbing the cool whiteness that penetrated not only his eyelids, but his mind. It was as if he could feel the gentle fingers of light entering his body, giving it an energy he could barely contain.
Lucas opened his eyes to the fading glow as the last part of the moon passed behind the edge of the window. He was exhausted, sweaty, even slightly groggy from his experience, but immensely pleased. There would be at least two more chances to view the moon up close before he departed on the shuttle to Earth, and he knew he would be back.
Until then, he had time to clean up before his transfer to Earth. He ran his fingers through his hair, surprised at how long it was, longer than he expected. Apparently, he’d allowed himself to become slightly unkempt during his migration. There really wasn’t much reason to spend too much effort primping for the few on board, but this was just too much. And his nails certainly needed trimming, and, upon inspection, decided a shave might be in order, feeling the heavy stubble as he rubbed his hand over his face. A trip to the grooming salon would be appropriate, where one of the service androids could attend to him, perhaps with enough time to take a shower before the moon again became visible.
Once properly freshened, he again made his way back to the rear of the ship and headed directly toward the observation deck. As he approached the entrance, Lucas spotted one of the crew near the door. It was Jenkins, a steward, there to perform whatever general duties for which the androids might not be suitable. Lucas had always felt uneasy around Jenkins, as he did about many of the crew. It was nothing he could pin down. There was just something different about them, perhaps nothing more than they were all from Earth. Whatever the reason, Lucas constantly felt the need to have his guard up, and he seldom spent time with them, even with the dearth of human faces aboard. Lucas walked up and nodded as he reached towards the switch for the door, the radiant white light building within the room beyond. Jenkins seemed to stare back at him, though he obviously recognized him immediately, being there were so few on board to remember.
“Sorry, Lucas, but no one’s allowed onto the observation deck while we’re docking. It’s not a safe area should an accident occur. You’ll have to stay behind the security doors – they’re a lot stronger than the windows on the observation deck.”
“What?” Lucas replied, his eyes narrowing as he turned toward Jenkins.
“You’ll have to come back later.”
“I don’t want to come back later.”
“Are you all right, Lucas? You don’t look – all right,” Jenkins said nervously.
“I need to see the moon,” Lucas grumbled, pacing back and forth in front of Jenkins. “I need to see it now.”
“Look, I’m trying to be nice about this, but I have a job to do. The moon will be visible again in a couple of hours, and you can come back after we’ve safely docked.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Lucas said tersely, moving closer. “I don’t just want to see the moon, I need to see the moon, to feel that light upon my skin. I have to go in,” he growled, placing his hand over the communicator on the Jenkins’ chest, his fingers digging into his uniform. “I’d kill to get in there.”
Jenkins stood transfixed by the pressure of the hand on his chest and the glare of the darkening eyes into which he stared. Lucas could feel his heart racing, his breathing become erratic. A spot of blood grew on the shirt where the nails from Lucas’ hand had pierced the skin, a hand that rose further up Jenkins’ chest until it rested just below his neck. The two stood nose to nose for a moment, Lucas’ hot breath spilling onto Jenkins’ face, stinging eyes too terrified to close. As the ship continued its slow rotation, a beam of pure white light shot through the thick glass of the security door leading to the observation deck.
“Yes,” Lucas said in a raspy voice, tightening the claws of his hairy hand around Jenkins’ throat.
K. R. Smith is a full-time Information Technology Specialist and a part-time writer, frustrated by his inability to get any meaningful programming code to rhyme and still function properly. While mainly interested in writing short stories of the horror genre, he occasionally delves into poetry, songwriting, and the visual arts. His escapades may be followed by reading his blog atwww.theworldofkrsmith.com.
Posted on December 28, 2012, in Issue 6: Big Bad Wolf in a Big Bad Universe and tagged e-zine, genre blender, horror, science fiction, short stories, The Were-Traveler, werewolves. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.