I Wander the Stars: Part 2

    

    

     I opened my eyes to a tingling semi-darkness. The soft twilight was not painful for my eyes as normal lighting would have been. I wondered where I was and how long I had been asleep. Then suddenly everything that had happened came rushing back into my memory, and I tried to sit up. But I fell back with a gasp as pain shot through my body. The world swam in lazy green circles around me, and I squeezed my eyes tightly shut. Slowly the pain subsided. I tentatively opened my eyes, and a face came into focus above me. It was a man, unfamiliar but kind looking; he smiled as he saw me notice him. 

     “Hello,” he said calmly. “As you just found out, I wouldn’t recommend trying to sit up just yet.” I stared back at him. 

     “Ow,” I replied. “And who are you?” 

     “Oh, no one important, just a doctor. My name is David. I’ve been taking care of you since we found you out in space.” 

     “What happened?” I asked. He smiled wryly. 

     “I was rather hoping you could tell me. When we found you, you were nearly dead. Burned, bloody, battered to bits. I didn’t think you’d make it. But somehow you pulled through, and here you are! Now, how on earth did a young girl wind up so seriously injured and floating alone in deep space, surrounded by the energy signatures of a nuclear explosion?” 

     “I don’t—I’m not really sure, exactly. It’s pretty confusing. But I’ll tell you what I remember.” 

     “That’s a start.” 

     So I told David everything that had happened. It was helpful for me to describe it to someone else as it enabled me to talk myself through what had happened as well. I tried to make sense of it but ended up just giving myself a headache. When I finished, David leaned back and stared hard into space, frowning slightly. 

     “That,” he said, “is very odd. I think we should take things very slowly until we know for sure what we’re dealing with.” 

     “What do you think happened?” I asked. 

     “I don’t know anything for certain—“ 

     “Then make an educated guess!” I interrupted. My headache made me slightly cranky. 

     He sighed. “Remember how they said you were compatible? Well, I think it might have something to do with your mind.”

     “My mind? What about my mind?” 

     “While you were unconscious, I made sure that you hadn’t sustained any serious brain damage. But when I was checking, I found some things that were, well…unusual.” 

     “What?” 

     “Before I explain, you need to know that I’m not human. I’m close, but we’re different species. Slight discrepancies. But one of them is that I have mild telepathic abilities. So do all others of my race.” 

     “But…I don’t…what do you mean?” David looked at me for a moment; he appeared to be concentrating. Suddenly I heard his voice in my mind. 

     Like this, he said. I gave a strangled yelp. 

     “Oh, my gosh, you went in my mind?”I exclaimed. “That is extremely not cool!” 

     “Well, I had to make sure you would be all right! I didn’t poke around or anything; I just made sure everything was working properly. I would never pry! Look, do you want to know what I found or not?” 

     “Yes,” I said immediately. 

     “All right then. For one thing, your brain is—how do I put it? —quite extraordinary. Your mind is incredibly talented and powerful. I believe you have the mind of a super genius, as well as the ability to communicate mind to mind somehow, possibly if you’re touching someone.” 

     “WHAT?” 

     “I also believe you had no idea about it.” 

     “No kidding!” I said, shaking my head. “I don’t believe you. How can I have an ability like that and not know?” 

     “Because—if I’m correct, and I usually am—there’s something keeping you from accessing your mind’s full potential. A barrier of some sort. Unless…” 

     “What? Unless what?” 

     “What is twenty-eight million, seven hundred thirty-five thousand, one hundred and six to the one-thirteenth power?” David asked suddenly. 

     “Three point seven four seven three four eight three zero nine,” I shot back immediately, surprised at how easy it had been. 

     “What is the driving force behind the power systems in your old human starships?” 

     “The Tokamak Circular Engine Systems. A donut-like sealed container holding plasma is continually magnetized into a polar state while atoms within the plasma are split through use of nuclear fission reactions, releasing the same energy which fueled the sun of our original solar system in the Milky Way.” I was shocked. How did I know all that? I had just watched the entire mechanical process play out in my mind like a movie in mere seconds. “I don’t get it,” I said to David, dumbfounded. “How—” 

     “That’s you,” he said, looking satisfied. “It’s all you.” 

     “What do you mean?” 

     “Don’t you get it? You just used the hidden capabilities of your brain. That is you, the real you. You just don’t know how to access it yet. You can only do it when you’re not consciously attempting to use your mind for a particular purpose.” 

     “But how come I can’t tell that all that is there? All that stuff in my head, and I don’t know about it! How is that even possible? It’s my own brain!” 

     “Tell me, Minnie,” David said, leaning back in his chair, “how long have you been working on that ship?” 

     “A year. I was hired at fifteen, and I’m sixteen now.” 

     “How about before that?” 

     “I was protecting children. That was my duty.” 

     “You are a child.” 

     “No.”I said. “I am not a child. I haven’t been a child for years. When you’re engaged in constant warfare and your planet is dying around you, you don’t have the time to be a child. Childhood was a luxury I couldn’t afford. On Earth, you either grew up or got left behind. It wasn’t a difficult choice to make.” 

     “If all the children had to grow up so fast, how were there any to protect?” 

     “Some didn’t. Some didn’t have to because of who their families were—the ones who had rich or powerful parents got shipped off-world before they could even walk. And some just couldn’t, like the ones who had mental illnesses. But me, I came from an ordinary family. We were at war; our planet was crumbling; we watched people die around us every day. We never stopped fighting and moving around. Until…” No! I shouted at myself. You will not go there. Never. That’s the past, and it’s behind you now. There’s no point in making yourself go through it a second time. I slammed the door shut that led to my memories of that time and steered the conversation back to its original topic. “Anyway, what does it matter?” 

     David gave me a long look as though he knew I was hiding something, but he didn’t pry. “You never had a formal education, correct?” I shook my head. “Never been involved in military strategy or rescue mission planning, things like that?” 

     My mouth suddenly went dry. It was as if he’d known, somehow, what I’d just been trying not to think about. Now that he’d brought it up, the floodgates in my mind were opened and everything came pouring back like a tidal wave, all the pain and the loss, all the fear and guilt and rage. I felt my eyes grow hot. 

     “I—I did, a bit, after—” I choked and couldn’t continue. 

     “It’s all right, Minnie. It’s okay. Tell me what’s wrong.” I took a deep breath. 

     “When I was back on Earth, like I said before, I protected the children. My family members had other tasks, so we didn’t see each other often, but we were extremely close. Our community had gone through a lot of attacks and natural disasters and managed to keep coming back strong, but one day when we were experiencing another disaster things went terribly wrong. There had been an earthquake that morning, and the whole compound was flooded by the river. We had just started turning on the pumps and trying to regain access to the buildings when they came…we were attacked right at our most helpless, when we were incapable of defending ourselves. 

     “We tried to get all the children out; I was ferrying the babies and toddlers out of the compound to a nearby forest. But when I was running back into the compound on my second trip, they breached the walls. There were fires everywhere; people were screaming and crying. We knew it was the end. I was about to get killed when one of our best soldiers took out the man who was aiming at me. I was just about to thank him when we were roughly separated and dragged over to join the others. 

     “The enemy had everyone cornered, and my community surrendered. We were thrown into the meeting hall and lined up against the walls. They went through our records and then started executing people. My family was one of the most active in the defense of our community, and so we were punished. They saved me for last because I was the only one who could keep one of the newly-orphaned babies quiet. They made me stand there and watch as they murdered everyone I loved, from the newest nephew to my grandparents. 

     “I couldn’t believe what was happening. Right before they were going to kill me, too, several people created a disturbance and a riot broke out. In the chaos, a couple of men who had been friends of my parents got me out of the building and told me to run. They threw me a device and then ran back inside. I didn’t know what else to do, so I took off and joined the little kids I’d hidden earlier. They were hungry and cold and tired, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them what was going on. I had turned on the device that had been given to me, which was a distress beacon, and had just gotten back from getting berries for the kids to eat when I heard an explosion and the sound of engines. 

     “The enemy aircrafts disappeared silently into the night as my home erupted in flames. At the same time, a rescue crew landed in a clearing right by us and got us onboard. They had been on duty patrolling our sector when they got my signal. The kids were all right, just upset and confused. But I had been broken that night. Something in me snapped, and I didn’t recover for quite a while. Another settlement took us in, gave us homes. They made sure I was all right but left me alone. I was depressed. I knew something had to change and fast, or I would end up going mad. 

     “One day I woke up and discovered that all my grief had found a channel. I was out for revenge, and nothing was going to get in my way. For months I helped plan attacks and lead missions until one night when I looked in the mirror and realized that I didn’t recognize myself. I had grown twisted, dark. I had turned into everything I hated and looked upon as wrong. I swore then and there to never get involved in fighting or war like that ever again and signed up to work on the first ship I could find—which just happened to be a colonization ship. I figured I would be nice and safe there since we had peace treaties with all the races we would encounter.” 

     “Unfortunately, the universe loves to ruin our best-laid plans.” 

     “Yes.” 

     “When you were planning attacks and leading missions…well, I suppose I’m just wondering why they let a fifteen-year-old do that.” 

     “Fourteen.” 

     “Only fourteen? Why would they allow that? I mean, other than the not-many-people-left-in-the-first-place factor.” 

     I felt a tear slip down my cheek. “Because I was good at it,” I whispered in shame. “I was very, very good. And I hate myself for it.” 

     “So that’s why you were on the voyage. You were running from your past, trying to get far enough away from it that you could forget it and start over.” 

     I nodded. 

     “Minnie,” David said quietly. “I know it hurts. I know you never want to think about it ever again. But please believe me when I say that the longer you force the pain and guilt away, the worse it will be when you have to finally face them. I know you’re not ready or willing to yet, but remember that when it’s time. Promise me that someday you’ll let someone help you so you don’t have to go through the pain alone. Please.” 

     “I promise.” 

     “Good. Now, when you were planning those things, you were uncommonly skilled at it, am I correct?” 

     “Yes. But how do you know that?” 

     “Because your mind was being challenged. You had to work and reason and discover, and you mind loved it. That’s what you need: to be challenged. You need something that will force you to use your mind to its limits all the time.” 

     “Like what?” 

     “I have no idea.” 

     “That’s helpful.” 

     “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out. But do you understand a bit better now?” 

     “Yeah. Ow,” I said, rubbing my forehead. “I’ve given myself a headache.” 

     “Sorry about that. I forgot you only just woke up. You still need time to heal.” 

     “Yeah, I can tell,” I said wryly. I winced in pain as I shifted into a more comfortable position. 

     “You should sleep now,” David said, standing. “I have to leave for a bit, but when you wake up again, I’ll come back and see how you’re doing. If you’ve recovered enough, we can start exploring that magnificent mind of yours.” 

     “Sounds good to me.” I settled into the pillows as David was walking out the doorway. “‘Night,” I called. 

     “Goodnight, Minnie. Sleep well.” David replied. Then he was gone. 

     I was exhausted, and despite how many thoughts were tumbling through my mind, I was able to fall asleep fairly quickly. But rest didn’t come to me then. It wasn’t long before I realized what a mistake I had just made—I had forgotten what made all of my nights torture up until just a few months ago when I’d finally begun to relax in my new life. I’d forgotten about the nightmares. And now they were back with a vengeance.

 —

Stormy Nights is a rather eccentric high schooler with a wide range of interests. On an average day she can be found buried in a book, writing various stories and poems, or (by far the most likely) drowning in schoolwork —which inevitably leads to her daydreaming in a fantasy world while procrastinating. Books are her favorite companions, and she positively adores the library. Public speaking is her greatest enemy, she owns an unhealthy amount of half-used notebooks, and she is petrified by large cities. Her idea of a perfect evening involves curling up in a cozy recliner in a room full of bookshelves, a kitten and fuzzy blanket on her lap, The Lord of the Rings in her hand, a mug of hot chocolate by her elbow, and a thunderstorm raging outside her window.

 

 

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