my teeth are rattling inside my head. that's all i can feel. it's hard to breathe, and there is no light. i am pressed backward into my metal seat, we push through gravity, violently, upward. i could only collect enough money to put myself on a budget ship. i had heard of how    terrible they were, but i did not expect this. it seems to be one giant mass of metal, chairs and all. it shakes me unconscious during the take-off, before we even pierce the atmosphere.

i wake up, with my head against the porthole. at least i got a window seat. the ship's engine resonates deeply, making conversation with the strangers seated around me impossible. i feel it in my sinuses more than i do my ears. it's dark, no lights on the budget flights.

i decide to keep my eyes closed. for the time being, i can control reality by not letting it in. i contemplate leaving my planet. i never really left my city, these days not many people did. it's not like it was the apocalypse, but i didn't see any solution to the overpopulation, other than leaving the planet, so i took up the discounted rates that were partially subsidized by my government.

i left my family. was i close to them? yes. but they wanted me to go, to have a chance at something better, in their words. so i went. i start to think about their faces behind my closed eyes, just before i left for the loading dock. i wonder if i'll ever see them again - they know the settlement location i'm headed for, and i will stay there for five years.

i think about the awful fight i had with my girlfriend when i told her that i was leaving. but i knew that i had to go.

i think about grass, and going to my grandpa's house as a child, laying in the 'grass room'. it was a makeshift greenhouse, and he used it just to grow a small indoor lawn. it was the only grass i have ever felt. i was the envy of my friends.

i think about the earth, my earth, growing smaller behind me. i want to see it, if i can, out of my porthole, which is relatively big. i open my eyes, look to my right inside the ship, and it's too dark to make out anything beyond mirrored silhouettes, people either sitting rigidly upright like me, or crumpled, still unconscious, like i was. i turn to my left to look out of the porthole, and i have no idea if we're travelling in any distinctive direction. we rumble with velocity, but nothing seems to move, inside or out. my eyes have to adjust to the utter darkness outside, littered with stationary punctures of light. as my eyes adjust, i feel a sense of dread from a depth i've never before felt.

when i look out of the porthole, what i see freezes me. i am locked in wonder and sorrow. i can't distinguish individual stars because there are so many, they all just burn phantom patterns into my retinas, and i look ever deeper. i don't know what this means. i have nothing else in any experience that i can use as a comparison to try to understand what it is i'm seeing. i don't know what this means. i am not filled with joy at the beauty of the stars; they are not beautiful. the blackness between the stars is impossible, it feels sinister, it pulls heavily on my eyes.

it is cold. the metal of the ship is clutching the cold in from outside, from space. i shake from the ship's resonance, and i shake from the cold. it feels like even my bones are cold, almost wet beneath my skin. how can i survive this for fifteen days? i blink once and it makes me realize i haven't blinked since i started looking out of the porthole. how long has it been? i am amongst nothing. there is nothing here that will support emotion. i feel that i am becoming part of the ship. turbulence hits, i bite my tongue, it bleeds, and i do not break my gaze through the porthole. i taste not my blood in my mouth but the blood of the ship, metallic, cold, sharply vital. i feel my bones seize into steel bars, extensions of my seat.

i cannot recall names or faces of friends, and i haven't blinked again. i'm lost, and i cannot remember my name.

page two

words: hool     illustrations: jeeff

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