Eternity’s Liftoff (3/7)

Interlude 1

Some events in the course of history are so pivotal that, no matter who you are, you can recall with exact clarity what you were doing when it happened, what you were thinking when you found out.

The Announcement had been one of those moments. Twenty-six-year-old Henry had been at home when he’d learned about the news, and his wife Skye had just returned from work. He’d called her over to where he had sat, watching the news, mouth gaping in total shock.

A year had passed since then, and the lottery registration was due in five days. Skye was expecting a son. Henry was on the line with the care home, where his mother now lived.

“Mom,” he insisted, “Skye and I want you with us.”

“Henry,” she sighed. “You can’t really want to leave the Earth!”

“It’s not up to us,” he said. “We’re just registering for the lottery.”

“And if you win, would you leave? Forever? You would spend your lives and your children’s lives on a metal ship until it falls apart in space?”

Henry had always wanted to be on a spaceship, but that seemed like the wrong tactic with his mother. “Only if our family is selected. Mom, look at the planet,” he pleaded. “Earth is livable for now, if you happen to be born in the right place and get lucky. But for our grandchildren? The food, Mom, the fighting, it’s real, the—”

“The Reaper,” Billa said, with disgust. “Don’t tell me you’re following that line too.”

“Mom,” Henry pleaded.

“You’re still listening to those high-collar politicians, the guys who got us here in the first place. It’s because of them I had to work my ass off to feed us every day. But this? A bunch of spaceships supposed to just blast away from the world’s problems? Son, it doesn’t work like that. I’ll tell you, this is the most crazy, godforsaken thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Mom, Reaper is real. I know you don’t like hearing it, but the world won’t last another century. It’s not the politicians anymore, it’s the scientists. It’s a death sentence to stay.”

“You want to talk about a death sentence? Try—try getting on a spaceship without even a destination.”

Henry looked over at Skye, their unborn son in her growing womb. “We have to,” he whispered, and he heard his mother weep.