Ad Astra

Erin was sitting on her porch, poking at new scabs and bruises, wincing every time her fingers pressed down too hard. The small purple dots were littered all over her arms and legs, proof of her adventures with John in the dry, others proof of how cruel some people could be.

She sighed and wiped her short and smooth hair from her face and past her forehead, where she felt sweat and dirt coat her skin. The moon shone brightly in the distance and passed the trees of the dry woods, and shone just enough for Erin to see exactly how many bruises she had. As she watched the last few clouds disappear and be replaced by stairs she heard a voice. "Erin!" It was John, a boy, or who she liked to think of as a boy, run up the stairs of the porch which emitted a terrible squeaking sound from them before plopping down on the top step next to her. "Hey, Erin!" he whispered. Erin looked up from her dirty toes and again pushed the small curtain of hair from her face. She blinked her eyes and peered up at John, with a questioning look. "What is it," she whispered back, and scooted closer to him to better hear his response. John quickly scooped up her hand and pulled her even closer. He held it tight and looked at her with shining eyes. "Guess what?" he practically squealed, as much as you could squeal in his deep voice. Erin sighed and looked down again at her toes, wondering what exactly John could be thinking. She looked up again with wide eyes and whispered "What?" with confusion, apprehension, and excitement. "An astronaut," he whispered with eyes full of amazement. Erin tipped her head to the side, causing her hair to fall to the side and cover her face. "What?" she said as she blew on the strands out of the corner of her mouth. John chuckled then beamed. "An astronaut, I'm gonna be an astronaut! Travel to the moon, yah now?" Erin was confused. "How will you get there?" Erin was so hopelessly confused because she had just been enrolled in school. Even though she was nine years old, her father insisted on home schooling her, but then officers came and forced her Pa' to take her to a proper school house. She didn't have a radio or expensive TV either so she had never heard of astronauts or going into space.

John laughed and tweaked her nose. "Clueless, we'll go in rockets!" Erin didn't know what they were so John launched into a detailed explanation on rockets and astronauts and space. "-then they're trained and put on rockets and sent inta' space! Ain't it cool?" Erin was wide eyed with wonderment at that point and shook her head yes vigorously. "That reminds me of a movie mamma," Erin got real quiet at that moment, "when mamma was alive… a movie mamma took me to at the cinema. In it, this crazy man promised he would lasso the moon for his girl. I've always wanted to see the moon, up close I mean," Erin whispered to herself. She pulled her hand out of John's grasp. Reaching out to the part of the sky where the glowing moon was located she stretched her fingers then closed them into a fist. She pulled her hand back and opened it, but it was empty. "I've always wanted to just grab it, and see if it was actually made out of cheese." She looked down at her small and empty hand, then back at the moon. "Is it John?" John looked down at her head, covered in a sloppy dirty mane of blond hair, and asked, "Is what?" Erin peered up at him, "The moon, is it really made out of cheese?" John chuckled slightly, before belting out in laughter. Erin flushed red and pushed him to the side. Causing him to stumble and fall off the porch, down the steps, and onto the plush wet and green grass below. "It's not funny," Erin snapped, huffing and crossing her arms. John stopped laughing and stared at Erin intently, which caused her confusion. "I don't know," he answered truthfully, "But when I become an astronaut, I'll find out for you." He looked down at his worn boots before looking back up and staring into Erin's eyes. "I can bring it back for you, and we could taste it." Erin stared at John in wonder. "How'll you get it down here if it's so big?" John looked away and up at the darkened sky. "I promise I'll get you the moon. Then we can find out if it's really made outta' cheese. I promise," He said, "I promise I'll get you the moon." With that he blushed and popped his knuckles out of nervous habit before smirking at Erin and taking off. Erin watched his retreating form as she recited, over and over in her head, 'he promised me the moon.'

10 years later

Erin listened in on the home radio she had bought especially for today. Her ear was pressed tightly against its small speakers in an attempt to hear over the static. Her hair constantly stuck to the side of her head and blocked her ears, which made her stick her face even closer. She was chewing on her lip and jumping anxiously while gripping the small radio until her knuckles turned white. She nearly fainted when the announcer began announcing. She couldn't stop grinning from what she heard the woman report. "Today the launching of Ad Astra, we are here live at the scene with the actual astronauts. These men have trained for years to get to where they are now. Billy McElroy, Kent Bweckham, and Johnny Kim are our brave heroes, flying into space straight to the moon, the first human life to have ever gotten that far. Even more unbelievable is Johnny Kim. At the age of 24 not only does he become one of the first men on the moon, but also the youngest astronaut. He quickly passed through the qualifying exam with flying colors and went through all the training." There was a pause as the sound of the reporter's foot steps running on gravel could be heard, then another voice. "We have Johnny here right now, any parting words you would like to share with us." Erin could practically see the reporter swooning over John. She knew why though. Johnny was just a person everyone would love. Her breath caught as his voice caught in her ears, spiking her heart and bringing tears to her eyes. "I promised someone something before I became an astronaut. It's actually because of her I became an astronaut. She always talked about the moon and the stars, how they looked so close but yet she couldn't grasp them. I wanted to make her happy. I want her to know I still remember the promise, and I intend to see it through." The reporter woman began to speak again, but Erin didn't listen. She was crying. Her hands pressed to her eyes and her nose reddening and running. She was sniveling mess of joy. Her eyes shown by the glistened tears. They were smiling and smiling and smiling was how she would always describe it when she saw someone happy. That's how she was now. Slowly she wiped her nose and wet hands on her shirt. Her fingers wrapped tightly around the fallen radio and she again set it against her ear. "- astronauts are set up in the Ad Astra and in ten minutes or so will begin the countdown. Folks at home take this time for a break or pop some popcorn for all the excitement, we'll be back." Erin set down the radio, still smiling and laid back staring at her peach colored sealing. She sighed at least ten times while hugging herself tightly enough to wrinkle her shirts for a week. "Uh," she sighed again, a lovely grin on her face. Then she heard it, coming from the radio. She quickly lifted it from the coffee table. "TEN, NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN, SIX, FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE!" A loud exploding-like noise erupted from the fizzy speakers and Erin was worried, was that how it was suppose to sound. Cheers stopped the frantic beating of her heart as she heard the reporter shout, "It was a success!" over and over. Erin smiled thinking about how excited John must be, going to space and all. She was practically glowing from happiness, but there was still that nagging worry piercing her heart and making her halt every time she spent too much time thinking about it. 'He'll be okay,' was here mantra for the next few days, that was, until she tuned into the radio on the Day of Brightness.

Erin had been eating lunch at Selena's diner when she saw it, everyone did. She sat in her red leather booth chewing on a ham and cheese and slurping root bear a day after the launching. Suddenly, light exploded through the windows, blinding everyone and coating everything in white. People began to scream as a sudden heat intensity burned there skin. Erin jumped under her booths table and covered her face with her arms. There was a kabooming sound, but distant, as if it were very big but hundreds of miles away. People screamed, children cried, Erin too shocked for any reaction. Finally the light faded as if it had run out. Someone helped Erin from under the table. Her eyes adjusted to see the table and the rest of the diner had been scorched. Black burns covered the seats, tables, even the glass of the windows were slightly red and melty. People were passed out, covered in burns and crying hysterically. Someone finally managed to grab a radio. They tuned into a static filled news station. "This is EMERGENCY BROADCAST NEWS! WE REPEAT THIS IS EBN! What is now being confirmed by our best scientists we have a new star has just suddenly opened up, but it was gone as soon as it came! We are now referring to this as the number one scientific phenomenon in the world! This star, only lasting approximately fifteen seconds, opened almost directly behind Venus, in the path of the Earth. The star swallowed anything near it at the time, which happened to be Ad Astra, the US launched rocket carrying our astronauts Billy McElroy, Brent Beckham, and our nations young and outstanding gentleman John- Johnny Kim. They will be missed. Ad Astra and its astronauts imploded with the star causing a mass explosion that could be heard for miles. Our brave heroes will be missed. Scientists are forever naming this day the Day of Brightness. Citizens are required, to reduce the risk of any other injury, to proceed to local hurricane shelters where any burns will be treated to and authorities provide further information."

Sirens could be heard everywhere, but Erin was numb. She fell to her knees, her face pressed into the ground. "No- no- you- y-y-you c-can't l-leave me." Never before had she felt such pain. It cloaked her heart and brought bile to her mouth. "NO! Please don't leave me J-john, you c-c-c-can't, you can't," she was choking out whatever could come out. She remembered how John had volunteered to take her to the highschool dance she had wanted to go to, even though she didn't even go to school. How he had always pushed her so hard on her swing she felt like she could almost reach the clouds. How he promised he would always be there, when everyone else wasn't. How he promised her the moon. Now he was gone. "No, John, no, you promised, John, you promised… you c-can't leave me now John." Behind, Selena, the owner of the diner could be heard crying with Erin. Selena had been like a Grandma to Erin, had known everything about her, even John. She had never before heard anyone in such anguish, she never wanted to. It spread like an icy fire, a fire you couldn't extinguish, the kind that hurt the most. She covered her mouth with her hand, trying to cover the sobs of grief as she watched Erin roll into a ball. "Please don't leave me John," Erin whispered, before fainting with the grimmest look anyone had ever seen plastered on her now pasty face. Selena fell to the ground next to Erin and let the salty tears free fall from her face onto Erin's pale pink shirt and began to hug her. Erin would never be the same.

'He promised me the moon…'

Ad Astra