“Basically all the citizens of Candyport agreed with the president, except for two people, who happened to be, unfortunately, my parents, Jane and Michael Buttercup. They were literally addicted to candy; they had to eat at least twelve packs of gummy bears or Skittles every week, or they would have diarrhea for the rest of their lives.”
Part One: Before
“We must leave Candyport!” The president said on the TV. “The broccoli monsters have been roaming for almost a decade, and gummy bear dust has been blinding us for five months. We simply cannot survive these conditions, and if we do survive, a supernova will kill us instantly. If someone really wants to stay, then fine. However, I do not recommend staying.”
Basically all the citizens of Candyport agreed with the president, except for two people, who happened to be, unfortunately, my parents, Jane and Michael Buttercup. They were literally addicted to candy; they had to eat at least twelve packs of gummy bears or Skittles every week, or they would have diarrhea for the rest of their lives. Somehow I got lucky and I didn’t get addicted to candy. My mom and dad also wanted to stay because “we’ve never lived anywhere outside the planet,” or “I’ve never even been on an airplane. I could be nauseous and barf the rest of my life with diarrhea,” or “the President said it was our choice to go. We’re choosing not to go.”
So, in other words, my parents didn’t want to go, didn’t have to go, and didn’t go.
But it was also my choice if I would go or not. I wasn’t required to stay with my parents, since now that I was thirteen, I was no longer a minor. That’s how it worked in Candyport. Anyway, conditions were terrible on my home planet. Ninety-foot tall broccoli monsters were killing people with just swats of their deadly florettes, and they were stomping over our beautiful, scenic, prized candy mountains, creating candy dust storms that blocked out the sun, which made it even harder to predict when the sun would turn into a supernova! Ugh!
One day, I met up with my best friend Vera.
“My parents are so annoying,” I complained. “They refuse to leave. That’s fine with me, but I want to leave, and they want me to stay! They treat me like I’m still a baby.”
“Well, maybe my mom could talk with your mom. You could board the spaceship with us. Oh! Gummy bear incoming! Duck, Emily!” Vera says.
“Thank you so much!” I say, as the gummy bear lands harmlessly behind us.
Later at dinner I bring up our conversation with my mom. “Oh, yes. Vera’s mom called me. I’ll have to think it over. You know, I will worry about you. I can’t just leave you with someone.”
“But Vera and her mom aren’t just someone! We know them!” I protest. My mother just stares at me with that penetrating glance that makes you shut up.
The next day, my mom tells me that yes, I can go with Vera and her mom.
“Thanks for letting me go, Mom. I know that was a hard decision for you and Dad to make.” I hug her.
“When are you leaving, sweetie?” she asks me.
“In three days. Thursday afternoon.”
The days flew by. I mostly spent them eating (considering that not a lot of good food would be available on the spaceship), reading, staying at home (since the candy storms were getting even worse, it was a good thing that I was leaving the planet soon), sleeping, and worrying that the flight would be delayed, or even canceled.
Well, the flight was delayed. Not even the President knows how long we will have to wait. I think that we should just go. Conditions are steadily getting worse and today’s part of the storm will be better than next week’s part of the storm. I sigh, and turn on the TV.
“Breaking news!” A news reporter appears on the screen. “President Gumstein has a message for us. This is him live!”
“I announce that the Escaper Express will start boarding at exactly 5:15 am tomorrow, and will take off at exactly 6:00 am tomorrow. The Escaper Express II will start boarding at exactly 6:15 AM tomorrow and will take off at exactly 7:00 AM tomorrow. This will go on and on until two weeks have passed. In total, there will be three hundred thirty-six Escaper Expresses, if the plan succeeds. Each Escaper Express will have enough room for eight thousand, nine hundred and thirty people, perfectly fitting Candyport’s population of approximately three million people. Each spaceship will be equipped with a high-tech machine that provides infinite food. It has not been 100% approved, more like 98% approved. Our time here is short, as we all know, so we must make do with what we have. That’s it. I know that was a lot of information coming at you, so I will repeat myself…”
I jump up. “Oh my molasses! Dad, did you hear that? I’m leaving in two weeks!”
“Yes, sweetie,” he says. “Stay strong, Emma. I love you.”
That night, I call Vera. “Which Escape Express are our tickets for?” I ask.
“One sec,” she says. I hear some rummaging. “Escape Express XXXVII. Next Monday, starts boarding at 6:15 PM, takes off at 7:00 PM,” Vera reports.
“Well, it could be worse,” I say. “See you Monday!”
I go to the living room. “Hey, Mom. I’m leaving tomorrow evening.”
“Okay, Emmie.” She hasn’t called me that since I was eight. But I have a feeling she just wants to spend time with me. So I let her be thirty-three, pretend I’m still six, and just spend time with her baby, taking in my smell, how I look, everything about me, for the last time.
Monday afternoon comes all too soon. I hug my parents goodbye and head to the square with a single suitcase of clothes and books, Vera, and her mom. President Gumstein wasn’t kidding—there are probably almost nine thousand people here, and the Escaper Express XXXVII is huge, it barely fits in the main square. And our main square is gigantic, like, two square miles gigantic. I look at the spaceship in awe. The front has a huge, round window surrounded by smaller windows on the circumference of the round window, and the rest of the spaceship is covered in a thick layer of square glass panels that seem unbreakable; I sure hope they are! Suddenly I spot President Gumstein himself!
He shouts into his megaphone, “Okay, everyone! Quiet down!” A hush falls over the crowd. “This is the Escaper Express XXXVII! Not the Escaper Express XXXVI or the Escaper Express XXXVIII! Check your tickets. Okay, everyone’s good? Great. Now, divide yourself into twenty-six sections. Each of your tickets has a letter of the alphabet. Section A to my right, your left. Section B to my left; you’re right of Section A…”
“Looks like we’re Section H,” Vera’s mom says. We walk to Section H. There were still around three hundred fifty people in each group, now I understand why the spaceship had to be so big. It appears that there are twenty-six doors (one for each group, I presume). The president lets each group board the Escaper Express one by one. It’s a good thing that H is towards the beginning of the alphabet, because even just standing outside for fifteen minutes, plus waiting to board in the square, is grueling. One minute, it’s cold, another minute hot. One minute the air is clean, the next minute fruit tape starts to bounce off people’s heads.
Finally, President Gumstein calls Section H to board. I take my last look at the city where I was born, with its oceans of blue raspberry Airheads, its dark chocolate soil, and its trees of rainbow Fruit Roll-Up leaves. I take probably my last deep breath of fresh clean air with the scent of candy. There is no going back now. I step onto the spacecrafts. Yes, plural spacecrafts—one the physical, one the spacecraft of emotions I am feeling. And finally the spacecraft of possibilities that was awaiting me on the other side of the door.
Part Two: The First Weeks
The first week is definitely rough. I’m not used to so many people living in one place and every day I think about the stuff I left at my former home. For me it’s my bed. Of course all the Escaper Expresses have real beds, but they are never exactly the most comfortable since the planet’s United Council had to manufacture three million of them, plus sheets, blankets, pillows, pillowcases, mattresses, etc. And don’t forget all three hundred thirty-six Escaper Expresses. Enough of that.
When I wake up, I listen for the alarm clock, but it isn’t an alarm clock waking me up. It’s the Breakfast Bell, which always rings at exactly 7:00 AM. All twenty-six sections go to the Main Dining Hall, in the center of the spaceship, where there’s a huge buffet. Well, very occasionally I wake up to an alarm clock, waking up at around 5:00 AM if it’s my turn to help cook food for the day. But this rarely happens to me, since there are almost nine thousand people on one ship, and only about one hundred people needed to cook food. That seems like a lot, but when you think about it, one hundred is tiny compared to nine thousand.
I miss a lot of stuff from Candyport, but there’s still a lot of unique things that you can only experience on a spaceship, like zero gravity. It takes some getting used to, but since I got used to it, I can float and fly around with just a kick of my feet. Plus, you know that huge window surrounded by smaller windows that I talked about earlier? It’s called the Rotunda, and the view from it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I can see the stars, and galaxies, and it feels like I am a mere grain of sand in the dense, endless ocean.
Once, I think I see a supernova in the distance, millions of light years away. It is shades of blue and violet and there are some splashes of yellow, and in the center there is a speck of white, but just for a second. I know it can’t be the supernova that will swallow up Candyport—it has been four days since we took off and Candyport is already fifty light years away—but for that short second, I feel a twinge of pain. I know my parents will be stranded, the only ones on my former home planet. Why didn’t I urge them to go with me? They were there when I was watching TV, and the president said there was an infinite food machine… they probably weren’t listening that closely, but still! They could have had infinite candy and not have diarrhea for the rest of their lives.
I forcefully push those thoughts out of my mind. If I think about my parents for too long, a balloon already inflated from living on a spacecraft (possibly eternally) will pop. And everything will come out.
The food is better than I expected. If you don’t think about the fact that it was made from a machine with who knows what, it tastes pretty decent. I guess in every hundred people, you’re bound to find a good cook. Every Friday, there is even pizza—but not like bad school lunch personal pizzas—real pizza. Sometimes for lunch there’s hamburgers with fries, or maybe a hot dog. For breakfast there is usually waffles or cereal. For some reason, 20% of the food produced by the machine is cereal. Lucky Charms, Froot Loops, every kind of sugary cereal you can think of. For dinner, it’s like lunch, but every once in a while the cooks throw in some pasta.
Within a week I have mostly adjusted to living on a spaceship. And by mostly I mean, mostly. I still think about my parents every once in a while, but I’ve gotten better at ignoring my thoughts. A little part of me tells me that it’s wrong, but I ignore that too. Also, about every other day I just get a little nauseous. It isn’t too unpleasant—I don’t barf—but it’s just a little unexpected. Like, one moment, it’s been two days since the last time I got nauseous, and I think I’m no longer in the nausea phase. The next moment, I get dizzy.
One day I’m in the Rotunda, just looking out. And Vera comes. We silently talk to each other. And we just hug. I know it sounds kind of stupid, but we just know what each other is thinking. We stare at the stars. And we stay there for fifteen minutes, just thinking about everything, about our old life, and Vera’s dad (his brother murdered him, only three people know it), and my parents. And when our next cooking shift will be, and trying to picture Candyport when the Escaper Express XXXVII blasted off. Were Candyport’s rings turquoise or lavender? Oh, right, they were turquoise with indigo speckles. What color was the planet? Red or gold? Oh right, it was a rainbow…so pretty. My dad had glasses, wait no he had contacts. I can’t remember… isn’t living on a spaceship for a long time bad for your brain? And the radiation is ten times stronger than on Candyport, right? I should have stayed… no I shouldn’t have. I’ll live longer on the Escaper Express…or will I?
Every once in a while, someone gets called to the Candyport Connections Room. If you get called, it’s usually not a good thing. I’ve seen people come out of there, red faced, puffy eyed and teary. The CCR will probably only be in use until the Escaper Express CCCXXXVI blasts off, unless there’s an urgent message from someone staying on Candyport, like my parents. Then it will be converted to a museum dedicated to the future generations of Candyport, so they can learn about their ancestors’ home planet.
When I was a kid, I thought Candyport was perfect. When a candy storm happened, I thought it was a blessing from the candy gods. When I played Candyland, I thought that it actually was just a small country in Candyport.
When I was a kid, more importantly, I heard fairy tales. I had no idea what a fairy was, or why people called these tales “fairy” tales. One fairy tale Vera and I heard was called “A Planet Called Earth.” It was about this fascinating planet with blue oceans, green and brown continents, flashing lights, and no rings! Plus, the humans of Earth didn’t have any natural candy landforms, and had to make candy in factories! Imagine that! Crazy stuff! There were strange creatures called “animals,” who were every other living thing besides the humans. Whoever came up with that fairy tale certainly had a crazy imagination. The humans of Earth were so big-headed, and all they were doing was just destroying their planet little by little. Amazing to think that the people of Candyport and the people of Earth were the same species. We were beyond being from different planets. It was like we were from different universes.
Part Three: Miracles
It’s a typical day on the spaceship when I hear the announcement: “Emma Buttercup, Section H, please report to the Candyport Connections Room immediately.” What? Did they just say my name? Or did I hear that wrong?
“I repeat, Emma Buttercup, from Section H, please report to the Candyport Connections Room. You have a message.” The announcer says calmly and clearly, as if I wasn’t just about to explode into sadness.
I take a deep breath, and walk to the Candyport Connections Room.
“Hello, Emma. I am Diana.” A middle-aged woman greets me as I enter the CCR. “I know you are very concerned, and you have reason to be. Here, listen to the message.” She hands me a phone, and I take it with trembling hands, and hold it up to my ear, terrified of what I’m about to hear. My chest gets tight.
“Emma Butterworth, I regret to say that your candy addicted parents almost escaped death; they boarded the Escaper Express CCCXXXVI, but there was a malfunction with the spacecraft during blastoff that we can’t fix ourselves. If it hadn’t been the last Escaper Express, then we could have gotten help. Unfortunately, the Escaper Express CCCXXXV was long gone. I’m sorry, Emily. I’m calling you as the ship commander of the Escaper Express CCCXXXVII. Goodbye.”
Static. 336 will forever be my unlucky number. A tear falls down my cheek and splatters on the checkered tile of the CCR. I sob. Why did I leave them behind? Why did I ignore the bad feeling in my gut? Why? I knew they were going to die soon. Why did this hit me so unexpectedly? I run back to Section H, back to my bunk, with my head in my hands, and just cry.
My balloon has popped.
I wake up the next day with a spongy pillow and a groggy head. How long did I sleep? I look at my watch. It says 8:47 AM, Monday, December 4th, 1173. I try to do the math. “So I fell asleep after lunch on Sunday, and slept through dinner. Breakfast is ending around now…wow.”
The first thing I need to do is get a new pillow and pillowcase. My current ones are tear soaked. I throw them into the huge hamper outside my dorm. Next, get some food. I’m starving! I go down to the Dining Hall and put a muffin and some eggs into a napkin.
When I come back to the dorm, everyone’s come back up from breakfast.
“You okay?” Vera says.
“Not really,” I admit.
“My parents boarded the last Escaper Express, but something went wrong with the spaceship and everyone died, including them.”
Vera puts a hand on my shoulder. “You’re handling it better than I did when my dad died.” She gives me a knowing glance. I nod.
I go to the Rotunda. I look at the stars and galaxies. Happiness used to be mine for over a decade. I thought it would stay mine. Now I’m not so sure.
But when I look through the Rotunda, see space, all my thoughts disappear. Even as my life changes, the view is always the same. It’s comforting knowing that even when major things happen, some things have to stay the same.
Life goes on. The spaceship goes on. The food machine goes on.
But I am starting to feel homesick. Not necessarily for Candyport, but just for a home somewhere, to stay in one place and just be there. But every single day is the same here. It should be comforting, but I seek variety in my days now. “I don’t want to live on a spaceship. I—”
Vera interrupts me. “I know it’s hard, Emma. But you have to push through. You can’t let the death of your parents eat you up. I hate to be so candid, but either way you probably wouldn’t have seen your parents for the rest of your life. So I know it’ll be hard, but once you’re done grieving, you have to move along. Or else you’ll feel like this for your entire life. Think about that.”
This is one of the reasons why I love and hate Vera. She sometimes has to be frank to get to me. I know I need it sometimes, but I hate that I’m not strong enough to push through, to banish the bad thoughts from my head.
Vera continues her speech. “I know what you’re thinking, Emma. But this is what friends are for. This is why destiny chose us to be friends. This is why. So don’t worry. We have each other.”
Ten years later…
Part Four: Blue Marble
The year is 1183. I turned twenty-three two months ago. I have finally gotten over the deaths of my parents. I am looking through the Rotunda with Vera, something we’ve done every Saturday since we boarded the Escaper Express. Suddenly, I see a cool-looking blue planet. It has little greenish brown patches, and a bunch of beautiful white swirls. It looks different than any other planet I’ve seen. It looks…habitable. Other people think that too, I believe.
Suddenly, the loudspeaker cracks to life. “We are now approaching planet… um, unnamed. It appears that people want us to land on this planet. My data claims that the temperature and oxygen level is suitable for us humans. This Planet X is mostly uninhabited, so yes! Everyone, I am giving you five minutes to get to the dorms. Prepare for turbulence. We are going to land!’’ Everyone on board cheers, then rushes to their dorms.
Once Vera and I are in our bunks, I say, “I never thought we’d make it this far.”
“Well, let’s get ready for landing.”
“Welcome to Planet X, everyone. Please put your oxygen masks on. Though there is a suitable amount in the air, we just want to be cautious. Now, if you can just listen to my instructions. When exiting, Section Z will go first, followed by Y, X and so on. I will notify you when your Section exits,” the ship commander says.
Finally, Section H is called. When we go outside from the spacecraft, I at first laugh. 0.3% of the population of my (former) planet is walking around, astounded by a crazy, new world (to be fair, I was one of them) wearing black gas masks, peering around Planet X.
When everyone is off the ship, the ship commander takes a very forward-thinking looking radio out of his pocket and broadcasts all the other spaceships that we’ve landed on Planet X. Fortunately, since we’re Escaper Express XXXVII, there are only thirty-six ships ahead. And all of them have landed on Planet X, too. The remaining spaceships will try to find Planet X and land. For now we will try to communicate with the passengers of Escaper Expresses I-XXXVI to see where they are on this planet.
“Now it seems like we’re in a corner of a landmass. Pretty hot here, there is a blue mass of liquid close to us, and across from the liquid is another land mass.” This place is the Great Rift Valley of what is now Africa, near what is now Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, according to Google Maps. It is supposedly the cradle of humanity.
“I know it’s very vague but sorry,” the ship commander says. Then suddenly I see a bunch of people out in the distance. I report to the commander. And eventually we all start trekking toward the other people, toward life and a new home and hope, with our few belongings and food on our backs. At least we don’t have to wear our hot gas masks anymore.
For about five hours, we walk to the mass of people in the sweltering heat. It is now clear that we are among fellow Candyport citizens.
“Hello!!!” We yell.
“Hello!!!” They yell.
Once we are united, we take a food break, and then decide to find shelter. Unfortunately, this part of Planet X is very dry and barren, except for desert shrubs that appear here and there. We decide that for the first day we will all set up camp under the shrubs and try to get some sleep. But then something very strange to us happens.
The entire world goes dark. No, I am not kidding. It’s crazy! No one expects it, and you know that bright thing in the sky that you only notice if you look for it that’s so ordinary (the sun)? Well Planet X’s sun slowly falls down in the water like a ball. And it changes the color of the sky until everything goes black! And it gets really cold too! It’s crazy, we worry the light won’t ever come back. We decide to go to sleep, and then we will plan things.
The next morning…
I wake up to a bright blue sky. Where am I? What is this shrub-like thing hovering above me? Suddenly, I remember yesterday’s events. We finally got off the spaceship, and we met up with our fellow Candyport citizens. Now, we must find the others. Also, we have to somehow get to our infinite food machines so that we have enough to feed everyone. That’s going to be hard. If we get lucky, then maybe an Escaper Express will land close to here. You see, when an Escaper Express lands, it can’t take off again, unless the fuel is completely recharged. While we wait for an Escaper Express to land, we eat a breakfast of energy bars, candy of course, and instant oatmeal.
At about noon, we see a giant spaceship shadowing the land we are living on. We all cheer for life and hope and love in a new place, the song of humanity. The spaceship lands, and the mass of people slowly exits the ship that is now basically a large piece of junk machinery but an hour ago carried 0.3% of an entire planet’s population across our universe.
Isn’t that amazing? Anything is possible. Even us humans living on Planet X (you probably know it as our currently own—but perhaps not original—planet, Earth!) have lived here almost a whole millenium (recall that in this story, at least, we landed in the year 1183 AD) or more depending on when you read this! It could mean that we were once strangers to our own planet(s), and not just to Earth. It could be anywhere, with anyone, anytime.
This story was translated from Tamic (first human language) to Modern English in 2019.
I am not requesting the reader to believe anything in this story, including what they just read. But you are allowed to, because that’s what stories are for. A little something to brighten up your day, even if it’s not needed. Even if the title is cheesy. If you are living in a prison cell, or a mansion, it doesn’t matter. Because books are, and should be, for everyone. Because everyone sometimes needs a little enjoyment in their life. That is why I wrote this.