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Daily Archives: August 8th, 2011

“Would you consider it?” the stranger asked me.

“Seriously?” I was incredulous.

“Seriously. The offer is being extended to you, and to you alone.”

“Why me?”

“They say that you’re the most suited for this particular task.”

“And it’s just open to me.”

“That is correct.”

“So none of my family or friends would be there.”

“In all likelihood, you wouldn’t see anyone you’ve ever met before for at least the next ten years.”

“Oh…”

“Is that going to be the determining factor? Should I tell my superiors that you’ve rejected our offer?”

“I just…I need some time to think about it.”

“You have 24 hours. I will leave you to your decision.”

“Thank you.” I ended the call. My mind was still racing at the idea of what I’d just been offered. Somehow, they had come up with my name. They wanted me. I had to tell my girlfriend. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and it was being given to me first and foremost, out of all of my peers.

The Mars mission was scheduled to depart Earth in six months time. Six months that would be spent in heavy training, preparing for the duration of the expedition, and I, a civilian writer, had been asked to take part. I told them that I was no journalist, I was a fiction writer. They wanted one of my colleagues, someone in better shape, someone more suited to human interest pieces. I had told them this, and they still persisted.

They said that they wanted someone who was familiar enough with Earth’s earlier fiction about space travel, someone who would be able to break down the barriers between fantasy and reality, and make the space program shine again. I asked them if they’d tried finding a publicist. To me, it sounded an awful lot like propaganda work. That was when they’d mentioned my dreams.

They knew all about the childhood fantasies of space travel, dreams I’d dismissed when I didn’t even manage to keep myself in the condition I’d need to play on the 7th grade football team. They knew that I longed to experience the kind of travel and exploration that had ceased to exist on our home planet, the kind that could only be found somewhere beyond Earth and the moon.

It would be a long trip, all of it spent in real-time. There was no way that any kind of stasis was viable. That technology was years, decades away. I didn’t care. We would have near-real-time transmission contact with Earth, so I would be able to send back stories from the ship on a weekly basis. It would be an all-expenses-paid trip to another planet. I would be one of the first humans to set foot on Mars.

I’d asked them why they picked me. They told me it was all about the dreams. They knew that mentally, I was more prepared for this trip than any other candidate that they had considered. I was more than intrigued, but still…leaving my family and friends behind for ten years, only able to communicate with brief messages back and forth.

I thought long and hard about my decision. I called my girlfriend and asked her for her advice. I consulted my father, and my closest friends. Everyone told me the same thing.

“It’s a chance to realize your greatest aspirations.”

“You can write the first piece of Martian literature!”

“We’ll miss you…”

Could I really do it? Could I leave them all behind, knowing full well that some of them might not be alive by the time I could return to Earth? My sleep that night was restless. When I finally managed to reach REM sleep, I dreamed of a small, secluded cabin, reminiscent of an old train compartment. Through a small porthole, I could see the Earth, far distant. In the cabin, a small desk sat with a computer terminal built into it. On the screen was a flashing cursor, preceded by the words “Greetings from the Trans-Planetary Express!” I saw myself, a wistful smile on my face, as I glanced through pictures from home.

When I awoke, I knew that my decision had been made. I picked up my phone, dialing the number that the man from the agency had given me.

“Have you made your choice?” a voice asked.

“I have,” I said calmly. “How much time do I have to say my goodbyes?”

“As much time as you need.”