Creative

The Ahavah Uncertainty

“Yea, you gotta try for something, bend your knee and fight for something. Learn how to die for something, so you ain’t living life for nothing, no.”
– Ruston Kelly, “Jericho”

Read Part One here.

1

From orbit, the Earth had always looked to me like a magnificent, sapphire-colored celestial sphere. Now it was ugly and fearsome. Now it was trying to kill me.

Well, that was not exactly true. Only its gaseous protective shell was trying to kill me. I was attempting to penetrate its defenses and reach the place I had called home before The Sickness struck and stranded me in orbit on the Israeli long-range Space Voyager, the Ahavah. Suddenly, the Earth’s atmosphere had become an angry ocean of fire, its waves of flame breaking over my ship as it fought to keep me from going back home.

It was almost as if it was trying to prevent me from leaving Brett, the American astronaut marooned on the lunar surface who had become my whole world. We were the last two people in existence, as far as we knew, and I had left him, alone. I couldn’t say I begrudged the atmosphere for trying to turn me back. Or for trying to kill me.

I had to try, though. For both of our sakes. Our survival depended on it, and any chance we had of being together relied on me making it back to Earth, and somehow then making it back to the moon, and to Brett.

My name is Yara Harel. At the time, I was sure I was one of the handful of living humans left in the galaxy.

2

My intended landing zone was the spaceport at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan. It was the destination already preprogrammed in the onboard navigation computer, and it seemed as good a place as any to try to land the Ahavah. I didn’t know what to expect on Earth, whether there would be any sort of ground support at Baikonur, or what I would do when I landed. But it was one step at a time. I needed to survive re-entry first.

I was low on fuel and needed everything to go just right. I had waited until the last minute to try for it, as Brett and I tried to come up with workable plans to save each other. We never settled on anything better than my attempted return to Earth. All other options ended up stranding him on the moon, and consigning me to burning up in the atmosphere or floating away into deep space.

So, I didn’t really have a choice, did I?

Still, that was not preventing the feelings of deep regret and fear from wracking me from the inside. I regretted leaving Brett alone. I feared for my own life and the prospect of making it back to an Earth populated by the dead, sick, and dying. The Sickness had likely killed 99.9 percent of the Earth’s population, from our best estimates. That still left millions of people possibly still alive, and among them could be some who could help lead a rescue mission for Brett.

Among them could also be my family.

Years had passed since I left Earth, and since The Sickness started killing indiscriminately. I had no idea whether my children and husband still lived. I wanted to believe they did, of course, but I was frightened to let myself believe it. They had become like a distant dream, or a memory of a dream. It was almost too painful to keep allowing myself to believe they were alive. So I imagined they weren’t. I hated myself for it, but I had no other choice. I simply couldn’t function believing otherwise.

I had explained all of this to Brett over the course of the thousands of messages we had exchanged between finding each other and my leaving him. In the course of those exchanges, I had also fallen in love with Brett. I supposed it was inevitable, since we only had each other, but I knew I would have loved him in normal times too. He was a kind, generous, compassionate, caring, and funny man. He had saved my life, and I knew he felt I had saved his.

So, there it was. I was burning through the atmosphere wracked with guilt, pain, fear, and sadness, not sure what I would find on Earth, whether my family was alive in Tel Aviv, fully 3,000 miles from where I hoped to land in Baikonur, and whether I would even survive this re-entry.

It was getting much hotter inside the Ahavah.

3

Well, Yara is gone. That was about all my numbed consciousness was capable of thinking for the first few days after she left to return to Earth. I imagined her floating through orbit on the Ahavah, passing me by one last time, and then floating away from me forever. I pictured her re-entering the atmosphere and the compressed gasses burning away the only thing left in my life that was worth staying alive for. I slept fitfully and dreamed that I was the king of a deserted land, a dying kingdom on a barren rock.

As the weeks passed, I felt certain that I would die alone on the moon and part of me wished I would. I gave into my melancholy, and imagined myself a cold, dark star in a collapsing galaxy. Part of me — a part I hated — was angry with her for leaving me. Why couldn’t she have just said no, she’d never leave me? I resented her for that, and I resented myself even more for the thinking of it.

The better part of me knew that she needed to go back, to save herself, and maybe find a way to save me. It was our only shot. She had to do it. I knew that. But I still fought the other part of me that spawned the darker thoughts. It was a daily struggle, the two sides battling constantly for supremacy.

I grew to suspect that Yara had held back a part of herself from me over the months we spent communicating, probably because she could not allow herself to give herself fully to me. Maybe it was because the pain of losing me would have been unbearable? As if it was some sort of self-protective measure. Maybe it was the thought that her family was still alive? As if guilt and the hope of returning to them prevented her from fully loving me.

As more than a month passed, I really wasn’t sure of anything anymore. I sank deeper into a dangerous and destructive depression. I looked out at the Earth and the few remaining lights appeared dim and faded. They mocked me. They symbolized all I would never again see. The embrace of other humans. Simple human contact. I even doubted that Yara had ever truly loved me. I was sure I’d never see her again.

I went through my daily routines. I read the same books for the third, fourth, and in some cases, fifth times. I listened to the same music day in and day out. I took the remaining synthetic opioids on the station, rationing them so that I had one to take each night. It was all that would allow me to fade into the blissful oblivion of sleep. I debated with myself taking all of them at once, sure that I had been abandoned, that Yara hadn’t made it, and that I would die alone up there. It would have been so much easier than living with the daily pain and loneliness.

4

And then one day, over the voice comms, I heard it: “Brett, it’s Yara. Do you copy?”

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Joni Smith
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Joni Smith

Arghhh! You left us hanging again! And I’m certain you took great joy in it. Now I’m really going to have to find someone to punch you in the arm. Haha. It’s a great story, Fru. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and I’m hooked.. Taking us through all the emotions of love, abandonment, duty, honor, and fear. Looking forward to the next installment. Please tell me there is one.

Mason
Member
Mason

Okay, now I am hooked, don’t leave me hanging. The pacing is awesome, just like those Saturday morning sequels that answered one question, but ended with another. Great piece man, you have to finish, I will be crushed if you don’t.

susanh
Member
susanh

Thanks, Fru! Now, when can we expert the next excerpt? Today? Please? Don’t keep us in suspense!

Miche
Member
Miche

The human mind is capable of dizzying shifts in interpretation when left on its own for too long. I’m super curious what happened on earth. 🌏

Susan B
Member

Great story, Fru. Flowing well. Looking forward to your next installment. I’m caring for your characters. 🙂

rynosbucket
Member
rynosbucket

“Do you copy?”
Brett dies of a heart attack…
Fru leaves us hanging for eternity. 😛

susanh
Member
susanh

Nooooo!

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