Star Gazer (Excerpt)

By Isra Qadri, age 11
Star Gazer (Excerpt) Isra Qadri is an 11-year-old that loves reading, writing, and anything to do with Harry Potter. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but currently lives in Maryland.

“’Day One, complete. Over,’ I said into the radio. I was about to lay down in bed when Ainsley came over. I bet it wasn’t to wish me goodnight.
‘You’re looking… lovely,’ she said with distaste.”

  

Chapter Two

“Day One, complete. Over,” I said into the radio. I was about to lay down in bed when Ainsley came over. I bet it wasn’t to wish me goodnight.

“You’re looking… lovely,” she said with distaste.

I was looking terrible, my eyes tired and my usually stick-straight auburn hair jutting up in odd places.

Of course she, the queen of beauty, was looking as magnificent as ever. Her silky hair was combed to perfection and her face was bright, despite the hour and condition of the living space in the ship.

“I just wanted you to know that just because your daddy is a great astronaut, does not mean you are too. So stop trying to pretend you know everything,” Ainsley snapped.

I expected this from a brat like her, so I had something to say back.

“Well, I just want you to know, that I have no intention of being like my ‘daddy’ at all, but I’m sure that you’ll turn out to be the exact same jerk he was.”

I was very proud with my response; I had always planned to say something like that in case someone insulted me. I lay down and turned to the other side of the bed, hiding my smirk from her boiling face. When I heard the sound of her retreating footsteps, I turned back to watch her hobbling body strained with muscle pains.

I groaned. She even managed to make that look graceful.

. . .

In my dreams, I saw my father. He was living another life, with his new wife and kids. I already knew this, but for some reason, I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. I was feeling the weight of his betrayal all over again.

When I was little, I was my father’s favorite. He was convinced that I would turn out just like him. I guess he didn’t know how he would turn out.

He faced me, unsurprised, almost as if he was the one who summoned me in the first place.

“I-”

“Don’t start, Alex,” my father said.

His voice had gotten lighter since the last time I saw him, like he didn’t have the burden he had when he was with our family.

I don’t know why I listened to him. I shouldn’t have listened to him, but something made me stop myself from grabbing him and screaming in his face.

His face had also changed since the last time. He had lines near his eyes, not worry lines, but lines you get when you smile a lot.

I knew that this was what he looked like. One summer, I did an internship at NASA, and they had a reunion with all their former astronauts. My dad was there. I saw him. But before he could see me, I ran and hid in the bathroom until the party was over. I wasn’t brave enough to face him yet.

He took a deep breath and started to talk. “I-I can’t think of any way to say this but, I’m leaving.”

This was his confrontation to me all over again. This was the exact same way he told me that he was leaving my mother. That he was leaving our family.

Of course this wasn’t what had really happened. He didn’t have his new wife and kids by then.

“I know,” I said solemnly. “I know.” This wasn’t even that emotional for me because I had experienced this before, and I didn’t care much for my father now.

I finally decided to ask him why he left, even though he wasn’t real.

“Why?”

He opened his mouth to answer, but before he could make a sound, I was shaken awake.

Guess who it was. Ainsley.

“It’s your turn to man the controls, and you might want to brush your teeth while you’re at it,” she said curtly.

I moaned. “Can’t we just put it on autopilot?”

“It is, but we need to keep watch so everything goes smoothly. I thought you knew everything.”

I got up so she could sleep and asked, “Butch is going after me, right?”

”Yeah,” she answered through a yawn.

I wobbled to the main area of the ship and sat at the main control desk watching the autopilot steer us on course.

It would take another two hundred and ninety-nine days to reach our Martian destination. After spending four hundred Earth-days there, we would go back to Earth within three hundred days.

Again.

The only thing besides Ainsley I wasn’t compatible with on this journey was being away from my family for so long. With what little money we had left, they could easily starve or go bankrupt while I was in space. But when SCAT told me they would pay my family monthly during my mission, I decided that no harm could be done.

The autopilot showed no signs of malfunction, so I decided to doze off a little. After all, we had the most advanced technology for this trip than any other organization on Earth.

A beeping alarm informed me that the gas pipe down in the engines was loose. Apparently the engineers didn’t connect it tight enough to the boiler in all their rush to finish the ship.

I went down to the chilly engine room after grabbing a hoodie from my living space.

I took a gas mask from a  hook on the wall and strung it over my head while floating (due to the zero gravity below the main spaces in the ship) to the leaking gas pipe.

I took a look at the cracked metal of the pipe and turned away from the spraying fuel. There had to be a toolbox somewhere. Searching, I found it under a table in the middle of the maze-like engine room with a half-finished project on top.

When I found my way back to the leaking pipe (after getting lost) I managed to make a somewhat convincing plaster to patch the pipe until I could get Butch to look at it.

On my way back up I noticed that a few drops of gasoline had managed to get on my hoodie before I had patched up the crack in the pipe, but I ignored it as I made my way to the library of the ship, which was by far, the warmest room, thanks to the fireplace.

While the fire dried the gasoline off my sweatshirt, I decided to take a book or two back to the controls with me in case I got bored.

After roaming the endless shelves I went back to the controls with two of my favorite novels in hand. Before I knew it, Butch was coming to take his turn on watch. He was always prepared.

“You might want to take those back to your room,” he said as he swaggered over to the control panel and sat down at the other seat.

“Oh, I was, umm… just about to leave,” I explained. I dog-eared my page, closed my novel, and hurriedly got up from the seat.

“Knowing you, I bet you were planning to stay in that book world of yours,” he said jokingly.

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