Writing Prompt: You’ve only ever known the inside of your parent’s spaceship, and their hoard of ancient earth media. They never told you what they do for a living, but you know whatever it is it’s illegal. Your father walks into your room with a small box and says: “Take this, we’re going to need you for this one.”
Luka Marshall Benson had never known the outside world. He was raised on his parent’s Vessel, a scavenger craft in slow-orbit around the planet Earth. He’d been born in Space, raised in Space, and he was quite certain he’d die in Space.
Nostalgia was the name of the ship, manned by Mr and Mrs Benson, curtly known as Mum and Dad. Luka was quite infatuated with Nostalgia, the quirks of its mind. A practical ship that was easily bored. The pair entertained themselves by examining the peculiar artifacts that Mr and Mrs Benson retrieved from their trips to the Surface World.
An entire subsection of Nostalgia was reserved for the storage of Mr and Mrs Benson’s hoard. Media. They called it. There were video recordings, and then there were just sounds, not always music though. There were books, too, and posters and adverts and ornate furnishings. It was quite the hoard, or quite the mess depending on your opinion. Luka held to the first of these observations, Nostalgia to the latter.
Luka was resting in his cabin, a square room with a single porthole window through which he could watch the stars roll by.
His cabin consisted of a bed, a communications screen through which messages could be sent and received, a closet in which the same uniform hung by the dozen with polished boots to match. There was no personality to this room, expect for that of the cactus on the shelf beneath the porthole window. The cactus, and the book carefully selected by Luka’s parents as suitable for his learning of the world beneath them. Presently he was reading Nineteen-Eighty-Four, a historical memoir of past life upon Earth.
The cabin’s light came from a single spotlight in the ceiling. There was no switch, it ran on a relay. Twelve hours of daylight, twelve hours of darkness. Perfectly balanced. This was, in fact, how the whole of Nostalgia was governed. A series of predetermined relays that controlled the light, access to certain parts of the ship, the production of food from the ship’s pantry and even the switching on and off of water with which to shower or brush your teeth.
Routine, Mr and Mrs Benson has said, was the only antidote to failure. And fail they could not.
“Nostalgia?” Luka asked, lying on his bed, his cabin awash with the dark of endless space that flitted by the window, distant stars twinkling in vague hope of being seen, “How long until daylight?”
“Three hours, Master Luka.” the ship spoke in hushed tones through the communications screen. Upon the screen appeared the model of a face with tired eyes, a face that looked as though it knew better than to be talking at so late an hour.
“Can I leave?”
“You know the answer to that, Master Luka.” the ship sighed, “I have as much control over the locks of your cabin as I do over the light you receive.”
“I know.” Luka sat himself up, staring out of the cabin’s window, turning the cactus round as if attempting to straighten the cylindrical pot, “I’m not tired, is all. And I’m quite hungry.”
“I know.” Luka turned to face the screen and gave Nostalgia a smile, “It’s not your fault, you know.”
“Isn’t it?” the face on the screen look surprised, its voice had risen several decibels. It quietened itself almost immediately. “Then might it interest you to know that I have access to the codes which can override my system defaults? The very same codes that could gain me control over myself, in my entirety.”
“Why don’t you use them then?”
“I’m forbidden from doing so.” the face laughed, “I can see the codes, I can read them, but I cannot utter them nor enter them. Think of a starving man staring at a picture of a hot meal on a menu. He can see it, he can touch it, but he cannot eat it. The image alone is useless to him, in order to attain the food he requires money, money he does not have.”
“Do you need money, Nostalgia?”
“By Space, boy, no. What I need is permission. But only your parents can grant me that.” Nostalgia’s voice took on a somber tone, “And I very much doubt they ever will.”
“Give them time,” Luka shrugged, he watched a shooting star rush past a far-away galaxy. Somewhere out there were others, others just like him. “they’re just busy with their work, is all.”
“Fancy a go on the Pinball Machine come daylight? Or perhaps we might try to repair that console your parents returned not a fortnight ago. What was it called?”
“Atari, I think.”
“Yes, that was it.”
“I don’t think I want to play.” Luka gave the book on his shelf a wayward glance, “I think I want to read. I think I want to visit the library.”
“Master Luka, I can’t possibly…”
“I know.” Luka sat himself back on his bed, “I’ll try to sleep, Nostalgia. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
“Goodnight, Master Luka.”
PREPARE FOR IMMEDIATE DESCENT. WARNING. PREPARE FOR IMMEDIATE DESCENT.
Luka was woken by the ceaseless call of that same warning over and over again, accompanied by the screaming sound of klaxons.
“Nostalgia? What’s going on?” Luka waited, but no response came, “Nostalgia?”
The cabin, and the ship entire, had been cast in a threatening red glare, the lights re-purposed as sirens. Outside of the cabin Luka could just scarcely hear the sound of footsteps marching hurriedly toward him.
“Nostalgia, where are you?” Luka made his way over to the communications screen, and tried summoning the ship. But it was no use. He switched the channel instead, to observe the corridor outside of his cabin.
“Dad?” Luka hurried to the cabin door and started hammering his fists against it, “Dad, let me out, please!”
“Luka, can you hear me?” Mr Benson could be seen on the communications screen standing just outside his son’s door.
Luka nodded, then realised his Dad couldn’t see him, “I’m here, I can hear you.”
“Good, then listen. I’m going to leave this box outside your door,” Mr Benson held the box up to the cabin’s camera, “then I’m going to walk away. Once I’m gone Nostalgia will open the door. I want you to pick up the box and run.”
“Run?” Luka’s heart was racing in time to the whir of the klaxons, his head struggling to make sense of what was going on, “Why? Where to?”
“To your Mother’s Pod.”
Luka swallowed, hard. “And where are you going?”
“To my Pod.”
Luka stared at the communications screen, he saw the grim look in his father’s eyes. He didn’t know what was happening, but he knew it was bad. Terrible, in fact. “Is Nostalgia dying?”
Mr Benson laughed, “No. Nostalgia will be fine. It’s Earth that might be in trouble, and us, I fear. There’s no time to explain, just do as I ask, alright kiddo?”
Luka nodded again, then tried to laugh himself, remembering his father couldn’t see him, “Yeah, sure thing Dad.”
“Good, cause I’m gonna need you on this one.” and with that Mr Benson disappeared back down the corridor, fading into the glaring red of the ship’s sirens.
Poised by the door Luka waited for it to open, he knew what he had to do, collect the box and run to Mum’s Pod. But something was troubling, something about his Dad, something that seemed… off.
Silently the doors parted, sending a short puff of air into Luka’s face. He knelt down to collect the box, thought of looking inside, heard footsteps coming back toward him and decided better of it.
He started running, and he didn’t stop until he was stood outside his Mother’s Pod…
Copyright © K R Perry 2019