Her eyes stare blankly ahead.
It's best not to look around much. Put it all behind you. Everything worth having you already have. Holding on to what was will hold you back.
The straps hold her tight to the chair, and her neck couldn't have swiveled to take a look around even if she wanted to.
That's all she knew. Kepler-452b.
Don't think about your mother. Don't think about Kevin. Don't think about Bobby. Don't think. Don't.
She didn't know how much time passed as the stars drifted around. A minute, a day, an hour? They'd warned her time was flexible. They warned her that was part of the plan. "They." They were all dead, now. There wasn't time for explanation. They said it was all relative.
Relatives. Like her mom. Like Kev. Like Bobby.
DON'T THINK. STOP THINKING. NOTHING HAPPENS NOW. LET THE NOTHING HAPPEN.
It felt like night. It gets cold at night, and it was very cold. That is what she told herself. The needles, cannulas, and catheters were a part of her now. She couldn't feel them. She couldn't feel anything, like the cold night itself.
Choose not to move. These straps will hold you whether you fight them or not.
She'd done nothing wrong. It was so unfair, when they dragged her in front of the council. No one was okay with this, it was against all the rules, yet it happened anyways.
A ring of crusted blood formed around the perimeter of the needle.
GODDAMNIT CAROLINE PARKER, GET YOUR HEAD TOGETHER!!!!
How was she not supposed to be mad? She had a right. She'd lost so much.
When they came to lock her up, they said it was for her own good. She'd seen the fires, the riots, but she survived, keeping her head down, acting like nothing was wrong. It was all so stupid and wasteful, she didn't want to be involved. She'd kept the faith, like a fool.
She must have spent a year locked in that cell, only allowed to contact the outside world through a computer screen. No trial, no crime, her food sterilized and pumped through a spigot in the wall, without the dignity of a tray slid under the door. There might not even BE a door. They told her they were worried about her mental stability. HER MENTAL STABILITY. Police were dropping napalm on kindergartens, but SHE WAS MENTALLY UNSTABLE.
Clench your jaw. Don't scream. You'll deafen yourself screaming in this coffin.
They never told her they were limiting what she could see. They just put something bitter in the stuff they were feeding her and one by one, the websites quit working.
The reality she knew was crazier than her blank expression.
It was an automated message. There was no one alive left to give it. There was a lot of math, but the gist of it was physics, propulsion, and a little golden congratulations text that she'd be traveling faster than any human ever had.
Distance is velocity multiplied by time, in the same way E=MC^2. Mass is energy. Time is space. It's all Relative.
The destination. Because there was nothing left of the other place. You know, "earth."
Fertilized frozen embryos sat in row after row behind her, each one with a tiny pink or blue light. Not her babies, but babies all the same.
Occasionally a buzzer would sound, a warning that one of the predictions had gone wrong, and the course was correcting itself.
She wasn't crazy. She was on a spaceship to Kepler452b. She was the last uninfected human from a plague that not only wiped out the human race, but every form of life right down to the lichens growing in Antarctica. They said it was a mutated virus brought in from an asteroid. The closer she got, the more corrections came: the planet was smaller than predicted, which was good. It wasn't supposed to be earth. She blinked when she saw the global images. The continents and oceans were eerily familiar. Maybe she was insane. She counted the rocks from the sun. The destination planet was the third rock from what turned out to be a single star after all.
More buzzers rang.
You know, like she could do something about that.
The crazy started to set in. Surely this is a nightmare. I'll wake up. I'll wake up and little Bobby will jump on my lap and Kev will give me one of those sweet good-morning kisses and we'll pull the covers wrapped around me off....
But when her eyes opened, the blankets turned into straps, and the little blue blob had doubled in size.
Why is there a continent that looks like Australia on Kepler452b?
Or a frozen content to the south? Or...
That's Africa. Nothing looks like Africa but Africa. And South America.
She blinked, hard. If her arms weren't strapped to her chair and jacked full of needles, she'd be rubbing her knuckles into her eyes in disbelief.
Relativity, they said. Infinite monkeys, infinite typewriters, infinite time... but this ain't Shakespeare.
Alarms she'd been learning to ignore for an eternity were throwing a rave in the control surfaces around her.
Hitting the atmosphere was like getting slapped by the Hand of God.
It got hot quick after that.
The controls said the landing gear had melted off. Some of the disco lights went dark. Her breath became stifling.
Half the embryo lights had gone dark when the ship exploded. She found herself floating from a chair, the hope for rebuilding now molten slag slamming into the ocean. The needles retracted from her flesh like cat's claws, but not before injecting her with a powerful dose of amphetamines.
She watched a metric ton of molten slag crash into the ocean under her feet, still miles from the shore, her parachute slowly guiding itself to the shore like a paramotor wing. Now that she could reach around, she found the release button, only to realize it was jammed.
DON'T THINK. YOU'LL GO INSANE IF YOU THINK.
She had plenty of time dangling from the strings in her chair to get bored, still powered by that frantic injected amphetamine energy.
Time multiplied by velocity is distance, and sure enough the distance closed meter by meter, between her and shore, and between her and the water. It was a race to a terminal collision, one way or another.
The water was winning.
It was when the polystyrene pellets filling the buoyancy tanks keeping her chair afloat starting drifting off into the waves that she began to worry.
Still, she waited right until the water was up to her neck to start frantically banging on the the seatbelt release. She ran her hands across her armrests in frustration before she felt the handle of the emergency strap knife. She could have been carried to the shore by the tide, but no, those bastards had to betray her at every turn, didn't they?
She slashed the straps from her arms, wearing nothing now but the same shorts and t-shirt she was stuck wearing all those months locked in the hole. Her ejection seat sank beneath the waves as if it had never existed at all.
Maybe it never did.
She swam until she was exhausted, and with the amphetamines coursing through her veins that was ten long hours. She felt the waves drag her across the sand.
"OI!" screamed the first unfiltered voice she'd heard in what felt like years.
"OI!!! ARE YOU OLRIGHT?! OI!!!"
Kepler452b apparently was populated by beings that spoke modern english. But maybe it didn't.
She coughed. They won't believe you. Everyone thinks you're insane. Keep your mouth shut.
Salty seawater and phlegm gushed from her stomach as she wretched into the balmy sand.
"OI!" The inhabitant of Kepler452b ran on what for all purposes seems to be human legs, with human feet, shod with brand name human shoes. He waved his arms, gathering others to surround her.
"You okay miss? Looks like you nearly drowned! Somebody get this woman a towel! YOU THERE!!! CALL TRIPLE 0!"
Caroline coughed again, a speck of blood landing in her palm as the amphetamines wore off.
Just like the blood coughed up by the people wiped out on Earth.
She woke up in a hospital bed, an oddly familiar squat nurse with a bad skin complexion standing over her. Looks like my mother....
Her name badge says Caroline Parker. My name. But she looks 20 years older than me....
The nurse pulls the trigger without looking.