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“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.”

8 Comments

  1. This is an amazingly written piece. Every short little piece you write makes me that much more eager to read something bigger, and I really can’t wait. I could totally fall into this guy’s head, and I met him for not even a page’s worth of writing. You write people’s thoughts so accurately that I find myself thinking them alongside, wondering how I’d choose and basically allowing myself to fall right into the story with no effort needed.

    • Thanks! It was kind of hastily written, but I had to get it out of my head and onto paper (or into a Word document, whatever). I wrote this in about thirty minutes, and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out!

  2. Ooo! One of your best yet, I’d say. Like the bookending dialouge.

    • Thank you! I had a lot of fun writing it. It turned out a little longer than I’d initially thought it would, but I didn’t have a word limit on this one, since it was just written for the hell of it. I’m glad you liked it. This may end up being something that I submit to a sci-fi magazine, or something. I dunno.

      • Do it. When it comes to those career-altering chances—even minor ones—ALWAYS shoot first and think later.

        Unrelated, I can now do em dashes on my own!

  3. Thanks! I plan to do so. Also, congratulations! 😀 I love em dashes.

  4. Very cool!


3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By Mulligan! « The Swords of the Ancients on 18 Oct 2011 at 11:31 am

    […] For anyone unfamiliar with it, it’s a weekly online sci-fi magazine. I sent them a copy of Trans-Planetary Express, and now I’m waiting to hear back from them. If they accept it, it would be my greatest […]

  2. By Stray Dog Strut « The Swords of the Ancients on 12 Apr 2012 at 2:03 pm

    […] set in the same universe as the other story in this series, Asteroid Blues, and my earlier piece, Trans-Planetary Express. Reading any of the other stories is non-critical to understanding, but you will see further […]

  3. By Honky Tonk Women « The Swords of the Ancients on 01 May 2012 at 12:20 pm

    […] they’ve offered us relocation expenses, including a ride on the TPE next week. Our stuff will be sent along as freight, so we don’t have to worry about having […]

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