“A Marathon to the Future!” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2017 written by Zahra Vakil, UAE.
A Marathon to the Future!
The preparations were complete; the rocket was fueled; the last security check (and there had been plenty) had now been finished. Fastened into my plush, leather seat, nervousness hit me; the reality of what I was about to do gripped me and wasn’t letting go... In a few short minutes, I would be leaving Earth, probably never to return. My new home - the Red Planet: Mars - patiently waiting to welcome me.
Glancing out of the transparent window, I thought about all of the things I would be leaving behind. My parents - waiting in the holding room twenty metres away, which felt more like twenty thousand miles...the image of my beloved mother; tears meandering rapidly down her pale white cheeks, while my eyes glistened like mist. Would I ever see them again? Probably not.
To distract myself from this melancholic thought, I focused again on what it would be like there. I had seen a great multitude of models and videos, and was convinced that this brand new world of the future would be a million times better than my stale existence here on Earth. Huge malls, theme parks, parks and rivers, and beautiful apartments all covered by a massive glass dome. Surely crime would be left behind on Earth; this miserable planet that was once my home. I closed my eyes; a wave of ecstasy washing over me, like the artificial sea at the end of the dome.
With a jolt, the engines roared into life. This was it. A marathon journey to my dream world. From an innocuous speaker on the wall, a robotic voice began the countdown: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six...my heart was pounding like an African drum, five, four, three...beads of perspiration trickling down from my forehead; two, one. I held my breath as the engines screamed (I imagined flames like dragons). Then upwards we moved, slowly at first, then faster and faster.
Glancing out of the window, I watched the Earth become smaller and smaller as we moved further and further away...buildings now looked like my little brother’s lego set (that I would unfortunately never see again). Passing through wispy white clouds, I wondered what colour the sky on Mars would be. Would it be the sapphire blue so close to me now?
Abruptly, we came to the end of the Earth’s atmosphere. Flames licked the side of our rocket, while the soft hissing noise reminded me of a snake. Then nothing. Black; pitch black; like coal for a fire. This vast blanket of blackness would be my loyal companion for the rest of the journey (seven long months...a marathon).
From a small screen on one of the magnolia white walls, images of our new home were displayed along with some relaxing music. I was transfixed by the images of robots completing a new skyscraper, while a train seemed to move around without rails. A world of the future; the Earth left behind...seven months until my next chapter… No more, no less...