Lit Mag

Mr. Blue Skies

Autumn leaves fell again in shades of red, yellow, and mottled orange, they danced through the air, waltzing past each other before settling on top a thick film of sludge, floating above the murky water. What once were beautiful trees had now lost their lustre, and the clear, gurgling streams that flowed like blood through dappled forests, had become muddled, darker than black. 
This was the home of Jackson Adams. He grew up in the cradle of mother nature; a small town of assorted cottages and dusty houses nestled in dense woodland. Accompanied by the shifting clouds and Mr. Blue Sky, he and a couple of friends found sanctuary at a rundown campsite at the edge of the woods; playacting various scenes with sticks and stones. For Jackson, food came with the seasons, foraging for wild berries in Autumn and catching trout by the waterside in the Spring. Summer was always filled with plenty of adventures, running with his friends through the wilderness, stalking herds of white-tailed Elk, catching fireflies, and swollen with mosquito bites. All he ever wanted was in the forest, all he could ever dream of stood shrouded within the trees, yet to be discovered by his eager exploits.
Suddenly, beasts of metal and monsters of men sent his wooded home into a burning fever. The first tree fell with a sound like thunder, echoing through the hollowed drums of a now barren and lifeless wasteland brought upon by mortal engines. As he slept, the people took him too. They’d taken him far away to forests of industry and clouds of smoke, away from his friends and the comfort of Mr. Bluesky. When he awoke, he too saw the miracles of technology, how people suffering from sickness could be cured instantly, how people could fluently communicate without speech, and how people would cross oceans and mountains on metallic steeds. While his home was set afire, his mind was set alight by the promises of innovation. Jackson Adams grew up again in a different wilderness, a boy who once befriended the azure clouds and pristine skies now fell in love with the enchanting fields of science. 
What especially piqued his interest was the concept of exotic matter in particle physics. While normal matter conducts attraction through gravity, exotic matter has the opposite effect of repulsion. He realized that if applied properly, exotic matter could be a solution to climate change and the global energy crisis. High amounts of exotic matter can tear the space-time continuum; by expertly coordinating two concentrations of exotic matter, he could effectively create a dimensional gate, or a wormhole, bridging billions of lightyears of distance in seconds. Day after day he obsessed over equations scrawled across chalkboards, dedicated himself to understanding interstellar travel, and poured over textbooks about space exploration. His ambition grew like a cancer, spreading as he toiled endlessly day and night. Out the windows the once blue skies now tainted gray, devoid of color, and stained, blackened and ashy clouds covered the sky. He wanted to traverse the galaxies searching for another planet that could sustain life, one where he could see puffs of clouds that surrounded the mountains, and rivers run through cracks of weathered stone.
After significant research, local authorities took notice and began to provide significant funding to commision a vessel and multiple probes that he modified to be withstanding the conditions of a wormhole and maintain exotic matter concentration. He sent out a message for any volunteers and hopefully, a crew, but with no response, had to see the voyage through alone. In place of a crew, artificial intelligence programs manned the ship to control the machinery he’d developed. 
To track his progress, he built a communication circuit with those who funded his project. They would monitor his vital signs, the shuttle, and wormhole conditions. Exotic matter had been very expensive to develop; he had to make sure that this one rare opportunity was worth it. 
“Testing 1-2-3, Jackson. Can you hear us?” A faint voice buzzed in his ear.
“Yeah, uh, could you just turn it up a bit?” The communications were done via radio waves transmitted through the corresponding circuit in his shuttle.  “I’m only checking controls, preparing for launch in five,” Mission control was on the other end doing the same, making sure everything would go according to plan for launch.
“Jackson, we’re all set to go down here, how about you?”
“I’m all set to go too, waiting for launch.”
“Alright, commencing countdown, engines on” A quiet hum slowly built up to a giant roar, and slowly he felt himself rise up. Faster and faster until he couldn’t see anything outside but streaks of colors. He had done it, all his research and experimentation was worth it, boundless ambition, he achieved it, in that moment, Jackson Adams made history a dozen times over.
“Mission Control, we did it!,” He exclaimed, “I’m in the wormhole, it’s incredible,” no response, “Mission Control?”
“Jackson we- ne-, uh , signal isn- you- cu-ing out,” A fading buzz reverberated in his ear, this was not what he wanted to hear. Panicking, he fumbled with the knobs and buttons on the control console, hoping to get some more sound.
“Mission Control! Somebody! Answer me!” He screamed into his console but heard only the sound of silence. He’d celebrated too soon. The vessel began to shake violently as he desperately adjusted the radio frequency. The lights blew out, as sparks rained down on him, he tried to remember, but it was too late, everything went black… 
… He forgot himself in a journey that he no longer remembered; only his name remained, but even that had faded to a barren whisper. Who was he? Why was he here? His hands were glued to the controls of the shuttle that streaked through the void of space, travelling hundreds of thousands of lightyears every minute to a destination he had forgotten. His only reference was the faint flicker of blue and green he painted on the inside of his dusky, frosted shuttle window, Home. He closed his eyes as if to try and remember, remember when the clouds made up the oceans and mountains scraped the Heavens… 
…Wisps of cloud spun together like cotton chugged slowly across a sky bluer than the deepest of seas and more breathtaking than the highest of peaks. Shapes and apparitions swirled to life among the countless peaks of white, set aflame, bright and blazing as if lit alive by the rising sun. Avian figures took to the skies crying out in jubilation at a new day followed by their echoes travelling far as the mountains dared to carry them. Rivers and streams slithered their way through the slopes and crags of the ridges like coiling snakes, circling the bluffs as if constricting the weathered rock. The water blazed briefly under the sunlight before disappearing and cascading, tumbling over the edge of a gaping crevice…
Yet it seemed almost familiar, so close that he could picture it, but buried so deep in his mind. To watch the sun set, to feel the seasons come and go, to hear birds chirp in the mornings gone, and wolves howl the night away, just to be there again was everything he wanted. 
Off the glass panels, for a brief second, his reflection shone, once blue eyes now dulled to a murky ultramarine from his time in isolation, and skin paled like fresh snow in contrast to the cascading inky waves of hair. His ghoulish features jolted him away from paradise, and into the cold, unforgiving, devoid frontier of the cosmos. A sight of the future, but haunted by the past. He drowned in visions that were foreign to him, a world all to foreign yet so familiar, it drove him mad to try and remember. How long had it been since he’d seen the sun come up over the horizon setting the puffs of hazy clouds on fire and the moon rise up as if pulling apart a curtain to reveal an endless expanse of stars? How long had it been since he’d seen or heard anything other than the slow mechanical drone of a dying vehicle? 
Yet after traversing galaxies and staring at nothing but the charcoal void of space and grasping at a fading memory of home, he couldn’t bring himself to separate from this safe contained life. Fear of risking everything, fear of the unknown shackled him in his cage of false security and he shut his eyes to the lie that he’d come so far, the horizon still loomed over him farther than any hand of science could reach.
His body jerked as he felt the shuttle slowed to a gradual descent, the streaks of red, blue, and white, shortened to brief dashes of light through space. Outside the shuttle for the first time, everything was still. He stared through his worn reflection off the dusky window, a brilliant ball of blue and green, swirls of white, and swaths of cloud, this was it. With pale, shaky hands pressed against the cold glass, he laid his eyes upon the most beautiful sight in all the world. After all, life was not without hope, and although he wouldn’t see the future, the auspicious prospect far outweighed any temporary shortcomings. He knew for sure that he’d die out here, alone and forgotten, yet finally set free and satisfied, the very thought cracked his porcelain face into a final smile before he let go of the controls and shut his eyes, if only he could be there again.

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