FICTION: WISHING YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM HYPERSPACE!
It was up to us to choose individually whether we wanted to be woken for Christmas or not.
Naturally, it would take some days from our lives and there had to be at least twelve of us agreeing to it before it could be arranged. Happily, fifteen of us chose the option. To spend each successive Christmas in hyperspace.
We would have three days each year to celebrate for the next 166 years on our half light-speed journey to Mizar 5 and its Earth-like planet Vashistha I. Approximately one and a third year’s less life for those of us sentimental souls who had taken the option. But it seemed worth it to us, very worth it... we were determined to keep our link to the old world and have a whale of a time while we did it!
Of course, it added serious burdens to the back office people with all the software amendments and other procedures that were add-ons to cater to our determined wish. But they understood why. Many of them were sentimental fools also.
The Seed Ship was the pinnacle of all the combined efforts of every space-going nation and many others besides. She was the ultimate voyager, a true Starship, the type told of in many a tale from the Forties and Fifties on up within the sci-fi genre.
We were not boldly going, however. There were many tears along the way. We knew exactly what we were leaving and what we would never return to. No amount of holoscreen real-TV images could ever replicate them, not even with full sensory inputs beamed in. There was only so much illusion you could take and nothing could stop your mind from repeating that it was all fake.
We could all have refused the trip of course. Mankind had a good two or even possibly three generations of life still viable on the good Earth. It was clear though that these lives to come would have an increasingly hard time of it. The pandemics had reduced our collective spirit of optimism to almost zero. Everyone suffered from background anxiety now. The first in 2020 had set much of that anxiety in place. The second in 2025 made it ever-present and the third in 2031 had set the seal on the remaining population’s gloom.
In many ways we would be glad to be out of it, free of that black cloud that now hung over everyone and penetrated even the widest smile sooner or later. Oh, we had some of the same joys every now and then, don’t get me wrong. But those of us of a certain age saw how just how much reduced in spirit, especially regarding hopes, dreams and optimism humanity now was. It pained the heart. Leaving it all behind was now an option that called us with its one main element that each of us felt a great need for again... hope.
So it was that on the 3rd of January 2040 we finally lifted off from John F. Kennedy, after our very last and very tearful Christmas and New Years celebration on Planet Earth.
She was very gentle. Her programming had been honed to perfection. As I blinked my way to full consciousness her voice was a soothing burr of encouragement. Behind that voice giving me reassurance that all was well I heard an incongruous sound. It was very faint and my waking mind struggled at first to make it out. Then it came to me. It was that heart-stopping sound that every child loved to hear that heralded that very special time of year... it was the sound of ‘Jingle Bells’.
I felt the massaging of my limbs and lower back working on me. Then softly my shoulders and neck. It generated a very pleasant tingling sensation throughout my body. The soft voice resumed after a few minutes passed. “When you are ready captain, your ship awaits you.”
Seed Ship ‘Starlight’ was equipped with every facility, albeit in as micro a form as the combined technical expertise of NASA-ROSCOSMOS-CNSA (NRC). She was sleek, silver and every time I looked at the holos of her I felt immensely proud. After the end of the bad years, she could arguably be called the greatest achievement of the united world which had been born out of all that useless strife.
On the brink of catastrophe and in the face of imminent disaster as personified by the three plagues that had hit mankind we had finally come together in unity, forced finally to recognize that we were truly brothers and sisters under the skin despite all that separated us and that had kept us warring with each other for so long.
The poignancy of the realization of how late we had left this newfound unity, of all the lost and wasted years of division, misunderstanding, aggression and even at times, hatred, was not lost on us. Our tears were not only of joy, therefore.
The first thing I did on rising was to move as quickly as my muscle-weary legs would carry me to the aft screen. When I reached that curved wall to curved wall panorama I could not help myself. The tears came in a flood. There she was, still visible, a gleaming blue, white, brown ball. The place of our birth, repository of all our memories, where loved ones gazed toward us, Earth… Home.
I made no attempt to halt the tears streaming down my face. Others joined me and neither did they. We knew this was a very necessary catharsis, the letting out of all the bitter and sweet emotions, many of them nameless but nonetheless powerful, others well known concerning all we had loved down there. It all poured out and we let it, understanding in this moment there were no captains, no officers, no crew, no future seedcorn volunteers or recruits... simply humans grieving the loss of their home.
We had by ones and twos then turned reluctantly to find our quarters or attend to initial duties.
But we would return several times over the next few days and in the years to come as long as there was even a small silver speck of home to be seen, and then of course to the aft ‘scope again and again as she slowly disappeared from human sight.
For now, it was time to readjust to wakefulness, to take it slow, bring ourselves into greater mental control, anaesthetize some of those emotions newly awakened and most importantly, organize this, our first of 166 Christmases in hyperspace.