Sunday, January 25, 2015


'And how the Hell are they going to get you to Mars honey?' asked Jenny's mom who sounded like an angry American but wasn't angry or American.
'Gee Mom, I don't know, a rocket or something,' was Jenny's weak and equally Americanised reply.

'They don't use rockets anymore. They use shuttles,' snapped Jenny's mom.

'Well a shuttle then. I just want to go to Mars. What's the big deal?'

Jenny's mom's eyes flared.

'The big deal is that my seventeen year old daughter wants to go to a distant planet, has little chance of getting there, none of getting back, doesn't even know if she's going in a rocket or a shuttle and wants me to give her three thousand dollars to pay the Goddamn fare.'

'Rocket, shuttle, what's the difference? It's a spaceship. A spaceship is a spaceship. And I won't be leaving for ten years or something. I'll be like twenty seven. I'll have to train and stuff first and I'll pay you back the money and anyways, you spend thousands of dollars on stuff all the time.'

'What do I spend thousands of dollars on all the time?' demanded Jenny's mom. (Euros were not mentioned but were probably the currency under discussion.)

'I don't know. You got a fancy car and go to the stores in it. I want to go to Mars. Going to Mars is better than going to stores.'

Jenny had a good point and her mom knew it.

'Well if you want to die in outer space you can earn the frikkin fare yourself. The whole thing is a scam anyway. You won't be going anywhere. These guys are just going to vanish. It's the modelling school all over again.'

'I didn't want to go to that modelling school, you wanted me to go to that.'

Knowing that this point was also a good one, Jenny's mom said nothing. After a pause, Jenny stood up and spoke with the best approximation of steely determination she could muster. She declared that she would earn the Mars money herself and that she would leave the planet. She told her mom that there was nothing for her here. She said that no one friended her on Facebook or would even notice she was gone. Tears welled in Jenny's eyes as she declared, 'I'm not staying in this place!' and then she stormed out of the room.


Ten years later, Jenny found herself recalling that conversation. She'd since found fame as one of two females on a seven member crew, the first to leave Earth as part of a Kickstarter funded exploration of Mars. They wouldn't be doing much exploring though. They'd just be trying to stay alive, keeping the refrigerators working and staying underground to avoid the radiation and the dust. Jenny wondered if they'd brought enough toilet paper.

Despite a couple of hundred trolls plaguing her Twitter account, Jenny had enjoyed the fame of the last few years. She liked the attention and the compliments, the interviews and the photo shoots. Modelling school wouldn't have got her into so many magazines. And she actually had fans. Jenny never thought she would have fans. She still didn't have any real friends but she did have fans and they were crazy for her, waving her off and wishing her the best. They threw so many flowers as she boarded the Vanguard – that was the name of the shuttle. Jenny thought her mom would be pleased too but she wasn't. Jenny's mom was just quiet. She didn't speak a word in the weeks leading to Jenny's departure except to ask Jenny if she would be able to Skype. 'There's no internet in space mom,' Jenny answered. Her mom nodded.

So here was Jenny, looking at a blue ball getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller and then vanishing, forever. She panicked momentarily or could feel herself beginning to panic but then she did the breathing exercise thing they showed her. She did it hard. She looked at the rest of the crew and no one was saying anything. Jenny didn't wonder what anyone else was thinking. She rarely wondered what other people thought. She didn't even wonder why she never wondered, she just never wondered. She lacked a sense of wonder. Even here, in outer space, she was not struck by wonder. She was just wondering about herself, the only thing she ever wondered about. She wondered if she'd be happy now that she'd finally gotten away from that blue ball and its confusing inhabitants. The rest of the crew didn't bother her. They had their own stuff going on. If anything, they were just like her. People who wanted off the Earth and away from humanity. The crew rarely made eye contact with each other and their conversation was utilitarian – 'pass me this,' 'activate that,' 'engaging thrusters,' that sort of thing.

Remembering the rest of the crew, Jenny decided to take a conversational plunge. She was more tense about it than she was about leaving her home planet. She raised her voice, kind of half looked at another of the astronauts and asked – 'do you think we're going to die?'
A murmured 'dunno,' and a shrug was the response.
'It would really suck to come all this way and just, like, die,' said Jenny.
Then Jenny looked out at space again. She didn't even see any stars as the Vanguard shot on through the darkness, oblivious to the cosmos and escaping life.

'I'm going to Mars,' Jenny muttered to herself.
'I'm going to Mars and I'm in outer space.'
Jenny clenched her fists and her nails sank into her palms like vicious teeth.
'I'm in outer space.'
'I'm in outer space.'
'I'm in outer space.'
'I'm in outer fucking space.'

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