Highly Commended Story - The Stars Called Out Her Name
“The Stars Called Out Her Name” by Mishal Faraz, The Winchester School, Jebel Ali, UAE, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2020.
Mishal Faraz is a 14-year-old student at The Winchester School, Jebel Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. An identified talented learner, Mishal has been the recipient of Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance, Sharjah Award for Excellence and Sheikha Fatima Award for Educational Excellence. Mishal has loved books ever since she can remember and believes that words are the most potent tools of transformation in the world- they awaken minds and enlighten souls. Besides reading, Mishal is passionate about environmental protection and was conferred with the Diana Award 2020 for her environmental and civic endeavours.
The Stars Called Out Her Name
“An astronaut!” five-year-old Luna would exclaim gleefully every time anybody asked her what she would be when she grew up.
Space had fascinated Luna ever since she could remember – her bookshelf was filled to capacity with encyclopedias about celestial bodies, the walls of her room were adorned with space posters and the ceiling was covered with glow in the dark stickers of stars and planets. During desert camping trips, while everyone sat around the bonfire talking, singing and roasting marshmallows, Luna would lie on the sand, looking up at the resplendent sky, mesmerized by its inexplicable, mysterious beauty. The stars always shone brighter when she observed them from the remote desert, away from the interference of city lights. It was moments like these when Luna felt her soul come alive. She could swear she heard the stars call out her name.
"One day I'll meet you, my friends. I promise you that..." Luna would whisper, the glimmer of the stars making her yearn to reach out to them.
But some dreams cannot be understood by everyone.
10 years had gone by and Luna was fifteen now. One afternoon during an English lesson when everyone was asked to read out essays about their future aspirations, Luna enthusiastically read her write up about her dream to be an astronaut.
Once class was over, Luna was approached by a group of students.
Madison, a red-haired girl with freckles jeered, " Luna, I’ve heard you say you want to be an astronaut ever since we were in kindergarten. Look, it sounded cute when we were little. But now you need to have a more realistic, achievable goal."
Everyone around murmured in affirmation and followed Madison as she walked off, a satisfied look on her face.
Luna chose to ignore Madison, who could be rather rude at times. But Madison's words had sown a seed of doubt in Luna’s mind.
"Am I really being unrealistic? Perhaps Madison was right. How many people really become astronauts?" Luna thought.
Despondent, Luna walked to the school garden and sat down on a bench. As she sat there, she noticed a group of ants carrying an apple core. Observing them with dull curiosity, Luna remembered that ants could lift things thousands of times heavier than their own body weight.
She smiled to herself, “Well, if they let others tell them that they’re too small they probably wouldn’t dream of doing so, despite having the capability.”
It was like those little ants had taught Luna the greatest lesson of her lifetime – that you need to trust yourself and believe in your strength. She promised herself that she would never doubt herself again.
Luna continued to work hard. Her unparalleled dedication led her to getting a full scholarship for a renowned space academy. Years passed by and one day she stood proud as she addressed the audience as the class valedictorian – she was now an aeronautical engineer.
During a day at work, Luna saw a social media post calling for young men and women to register themselves as potential candidates to go on a space trip to the International Space Station. Luna applied with mixed feelings of trepidation and excitement, and after months of facing a multitude of assessment tests, she was the chosen one!
When the launch date arrived, ecstatic beyond measure, Luna settled in the rocket. The countdown reached its end, and the spacecraft took off. Wearing a heavy and bulky spacesuit, Luna was lying with her knees to her chest- the position astronauts take up when in a rocket capsule. As the rocket crossed the Earth’s atmosphere, Luna could feel the excruciating pain of the pressure weighing down on her. At that very moment she was reminded of the ants she saw many years ago, bearing enormous weight. She smiled and closed her eyes, relishing every minute of this journey.
Hours later, standing in the observatory in the ISS, Luna gazed, transfixed, at the sight before her – Earth looked like a small blue marble, and it was almost unbelievable to Luna that she had travelled all the way from there to a gigantic space station. Luna noticed how, from up there, Earth seemed to have no borders. And nothing could have prepared her for the sight of space – an infinite expanse with hues of black, blue and purple, with bits of green and yellow and red and pink. None of the photographs, movies or paintings she had ever seen of space did justice to its quiet, powerful beauty.
Unable to be contained in her heart, Luna’s happiness trickled from her eyes as tears. She looked out at the stars and smiled, "I kept my promise. You called out my name and here I am ..."