Written August 2011
I don’t live to embody my dreams. They live to embody me. There was never a time where I did not wish to travel the stars. My friends always told me to follow my dreams. I never understood them. They aren’t my dreams. I don’t possess them. I am a tool of the universe. It is not my choice whether or not I follow these dreams.
I knew that sacrifice was necessary when striving to achieve the improbable. I did well. I sacrificed a social life for my studies. I sacrificed my body to surpass every goal ever placed in front of me. I sacrificed my sense of self to become another moving part in Starfleet. By the age of twenty, I was ready for anything that could be thrown my way.
Except Miriam. We were never told to keep our distance from the civilian populations. Our observations were enough. Some of the best members in Starfleet have left all of their dreams behind for a damsel from the city. It’s easy enough to understand why they do it. We’ve trained for more than half of our young lives. When a beautiful girl tells you that she loves you, flashes of a normal life are impossible to ignore.
I stayed away until I graduated. I found Miriam while celebrating with the other cadets. I spent my entire leave with her. For a moment, I believed I could just walk away from it all. But I was too late. As a graduate, I became property of Starfleet Command. After only three months with Miriam, I was given my orders.
One hundred light-years isn’t the longest trip on the books, but it is up there. The moment I saw the orders, I knew what it meant. With technology nearing its peak, we can now travel at nearly immeasurable levels behind the speed of light. For me, but a week will pass. For everyone I leave behind, a century will pass.
I spent my final few days with Miriam. It barely felt real. We both could see those three months together expand into a lifetime. We both understood that nothing could make that a reality. A fog came over me. I knew what was happening, but I could not accept it. It was painful to be with her, but I never left her side. Then, in our final hours, her confidence stuttered and her secret slipped out. I was leaving behind more than just her.
I told her to send me a new picture every single day. I told her I would never forget her. Then, I left. I boarded and settled into my quarters. As pilots, there was little to be done in the weeklong journey. All of our training consisted of what needed to be done when we got to our destination.
We entered lightspeed without delay. 17 seconds later, a picture presented itself. It was a picture of Miriam without her shirt on. Her stomach shows no signs of gestation. 17 seconds later, a new picture replaced it. Miriam wore a new bra. It was her subtle way of whispering seductive secrets in my ear. 17 seconds later, yet another picture arrived.
Three days had passed for Miriam. Not even a full minute passed for me. The gift of instantaneous communication felt like a curse. I sat at in my quarters for little more than an hour. The pictures continued to refresh. Miriam’s focus slowly shifted from showing off her assets to showing off her stomach. I watched the bulge grow.
My body went stiff when the picture came. Miriam in a hospital bed, holding a tiny baby girl. Four letters accompanied the picture—LUCY. For me, slightly more than an hour had passed. For her, forty weeks were behind her. I couldn’t tear myself away from the feed. My little baby girl transformed into a toddler far too quickly. I watched the pictures continue to stream in as I drifted off to sleep.
When I shook myself awake the next morning, I felt like I was hit by a train. The latest picture on my feed was one of my precious Miriam. She was nearly thirty years old. She had her arm around a seven year old girl with radiant blue eyes. I cried for nearly half an hour before turning off the feed and forcing on my morning duties.
The day went by in a blur. I fell asleep watching the feed again. Two pictures came in every 17 seconds. Miriam, suddenly 40, had married but never failed to send a picture each day. I tried not to think how she explained that to her husband. The other picture destroyed my perception of reality. Lucy, unexpectedly twenty years old, lived on her own and continued to send pictures of herself. When I woke up the next morning, she stood next to her husband and two baby boys.
I watched the feed every spare moment. I watched Mariam age into a woman and wither away. She died on my fifth day of travel. I watched Lucy raise her two sons until they started sending feeds of their own. She died on my sixth day of travel. I watched as my family multiplied through the generations. Miriam must have been a wonderful matriarch. Not a single descendent failed to send me a picture every single day.
I was blown away in the final hours of my trip. I cried when one of my grandsons died of old age. But the rest continued. Before coming out of lightspeed, I had one living grandson, five great grandchildren, nine great-great grandchildren, and 15 great-great-great grandchildren. A few of them even found their way into Starfleet.
I couldn’t help but wonder if I would meet them someday. I hope not. They may know how to sacrifice their body and their mind. But nobody should understand what it is like to sacrifice your soul.