Short Story Contest Winners!
Organized by Lucy Rogers, Reporter
Vashon High School students were given the opportunity to submit stories to The Riptide’s short story contest. The prompt reads as follows:
Here are the winners, as well as their fabulous stories:
First Place: Mary Krouse
I had been in space for decades, but I was just getting the hang of my new ability to travel in a way I was too young to fully understand. I was free of all limitations. When I stood up, I could look down at my whole world in a four-dimensional picture. When I took my first steps, I found myself light-years away in an instant. I stumbled a few times and appeared in places I could not begin to comprehend, but somebody was always there to gently pick me back up. When I was ready, I was allowed to wander off and explore the universe on my own.
I soon found you: a planet identical to my Earth in a past I remember. You were advanced, but still primitive and limited. Your people still had an instinct, like their ancestors, to make tribes and divide against each other in the absence of a common enemy. Nations united in war against each other, but in times of peace, countries fell apart and turned against themselves. It looked so ridiculous from outer space. The existential dangers of the universe were somehow not enough to bring a tiny planet together. So, I used my abilities to bring it to their attention.
I sent an asteroid into their sun’s orbit so it would impact their Earth in about 50 years with enough force to cause a sixth mass extinction. Your people noticed, and they panicked. They began a frantic escape plan to bring everyone to Mars by the time of impact. Still, most became distracted by their lives’ trivias again before long.
Every few years the orbit of the asteroid would pass near Earth, reminding those who looked of their fate. Within several orbits, the Mars evacuation plans had good momentum and regained attention. So did the asteroid, now visible in the sky. Your people came together for the first of a global festival of the passing asteroid, to celebrate and mourn their history and identity with Earth. Meanwhile, the Mars colonization efforts were recruiting help from more and more people of all nationalities, races, beliefs, and political leanings, and Earth was thinking as one unified mind.
The asteroid grew larger in the sky. The festivals continued with its every passing until they blended into normal times. People were sent to Mars in growing waves. However, a new concern arose. The impact would occur when Earth’s orbit was closest to Mars. It was unclear whether the debris would reach them.
By the final passing of the asteroid, your people had been in space for decades. Everyone who wanted to had emigrated. All of humanity was so connected by fear of something other than each other.
Sadly, the impact’s debris did reach Mars. However, your people’s unity protected them, and allowed me to turn them into you. You are now free of all human limitations and ready to take your first steps. I will pick you up if you stumble.
Second Place: Giacomo Moody
It has been the one hundred and thirteenth year since we left the universe. I can still remember the day when the twinkling specks of light from far off stars finally left my sight, I was twelve at that time. Mama, Papa, and in fact all of humanity seemed to reassure me that wandering forever was the best use of our time. I walked up the stark and lifeless marble steps up to our families glassy observatory, reminiscing about the days pinpricks of light were still flickering invitingly at me from above. The heat of our sun gently shone down on my neighborhood, all houses with the same identical glass domes and obtuse telescopes. I brought my eye to the viewing glass and clicked the ultraviolet filter into place. Through the spyglass the mighty stellar engine filled my view, the same engine my textbooks told me was built many thousands of millenia ago. Constructed around the sun, this ancient behemoth has been pushing the star and the whole solar system along with it out into space.
I wonder if all this travel has actually achieved anything, it seems we have been aimless hobos wandering the universe just for the sake of it. None of my peers shared this view, my thoughts seemed taboo and illicit to many people. My bare feet felt colder than normal walking back down the steps to the kitchen, where our meager lot of food sat. The governments cared little for the people of earth, opting to use most of their resources to keep this maniacal dream of exploration alive. I sat down at the table, worn smooth from use, and began to write a letter. The government got millions of electronic messages per minute these days and sending a hard copy of one’s thoughts was the only way to get their attention. The words ‘Enough is enough’ resonated through my brain as I wrote. I was writing with more and more vigor as my feelings grew, about how we should finish this insane journey and stop somewhere to rest, rest and gather our thoughts as a species, to rest and be satisfied with our place in the cosmos. My pen flashed my signature across the page, and I collapsed my head on the wood of the table.
A sound pierced painfully from my earpiece into my head, and then a frenzied fellow spoke in a contagiously fervent voice: “A system has just been spotted amidst the abyss at coordinates 07° 24′ 25.426!”. My feet slapped the marble stairs as I fled to the observatory, and as soon as I got to the glass dome I saw hundreds of others all turning their own massive metal instruments skyward. When I slipped my eye over the piece and filled in the coordinates, a system mirroring our own absorbed my presence. Eight neglected planets orbiting an enslaved star, and thirteen billion misguided souls on a blue-green rock I swear I could see peering back at me.
Third Place: Daalny Meyer
I have been to many planets in my time. I have seen galaxies that shimmer like silk from afar, but are dangerous to fly into, and rocky, barren planets where the air is barely breathable. I have repaired my suits and my ship, eaten enough tasteless food for a lifetime, and listened to the same four CD’s for the past three decades.
And I suppose people would ask why. I don’t know what they mean by that. Calvin and Hobbes explained it perfectly: “Because it’s man’s indomitable nature to scare himself silly for no good reason.”
I left my earth far behind and decided to travel as far as I could out into the universe because I was bored.
Have I regretted it?
Perhaps for a second or two, when I remember the yellow sun on the emerald grass, and the single moon a sliver in the velvet blue sky. Or when I think of my little house, where nothing floated aimlessly like it does on the ship, and the soap bottle on the kitchen sink sent tiny bubbles into the air, reminding me of worlds without gravity like earth’s.
But if I hadn’t gone, I would have regretted it more.
My parents always told me, long ago, that everyone comes home in the end. I don’t know if they were right, but looking out the slightly foggy port window, at my newest planetary discovery, and seeing the green and brown of the terrain and the violent blue of the ocean, I gave them more credit for that wisdom.
I tore off another piece of sticky duct tape and finished wrapping the crack in the control console. Duct tape was, in my humble opinion, the greatest invention ever. That was saying something after the contraptions and architectural marvels I’d seen on planets in my travels, not exempting the little mining bots that carved their way into the asteroids around CF5, mining for ores and precious metals, though not the ones other earthlings knew about.
I pressed a few worn buttons, on autopilot as I watched the planet before me, and prepared to descend. You’d think tearing through atmospheres would get old…and it does, let me tell you, but not old enough that I could finish my rather rubbery lunch as we lurched and tumbled through that familiar blue sky.
I buckled myself into my chair, watching the lighted buttons blink on and flicker a little as the planet grew before me until it enveloped the entire port window.
My teeth rattled as we entered the atmosphere, familiar to me now and irritating.
Finally, I felt the ship lurch as the thrusters slowed me down. We landed rather ungracefully in a wide, wondrously green field.
I opened the port and stepped out onto the grass, where delicate, curling ferns poked out of the rich brown earth. I stood with my hands on my hips and breathed in the summer-sweet smell of the air.
Perhaps earth isn’t so boring after all.
Honorable mention: Ty Radford