Doing this fiction challenge. Below is my 500-word submission. Enjoy!
“I’d like to go to space,” Katarina told her friend Tomas, tentative but confident. She turned the phrase over in her mind, testing the shape of the words in her mouth.
People laughed at her when she talked about going, but it felt more and more right each time. Even Tomas doubted her, writing it off as one of ‘Kat’s weird, wishy-washy ideas’ that would never pan out.
To be honest, Katarina even laughed at herself. Every time she thought about space travel as a real thing–not just a Heinlein-Asimov-Bradbury fuelled frenzy of excitement–after the awed giggles bubbled up through her tight chest and out of her upturned lips, she would shake her head just like her friends and tell herself why she’d never go.
“You’re too fat,” she’d say to the pink, blobby girl who lived in the mirror. She envisioned her reflection trying to squeeze into a spacesuit, coaxing and yanking an imaginary helmet over her chubby cheeks in the idle hope those cheeks wouldn’t trip up this one small step for Kat-kind.
“You’re too stupid,” she’d trace in the dust on her dresser while getting ready for bed. Even at night when she dreamed it was about her unsuitability for space travel. She’d find herself in a classroom, deep in a maze somewhere in NASA, and the man at the whiteboard would tell her she could fly whenever she wanted…after she solved the math problem on the page in front of her. Lost in space even in her dream, she doodled and doodled until the hand was just a skeleton and the paper had long since disintegrated.
Katarina knew she’d never go. She was nothing, no one, completely unworthy of these dreams. She was the night shift girl, the alcoholic’s daughter, not the Bondar-Lightyear-infinity-and-beyond type. Katarina Yosefa was tied irreparably to the gravid Earth, forever unable to ascend. She was not made of the right, light stuff.
But her heart was there anyway, buoyant beyond all sagacity, beyond the sky, beyond atmosphere and into the deep, vast nothingness–the emptiness that should have terrified her but reassured her instead.
Up there in the vast black space, she left here behind, left her behind. No heavy, cold blue-water world with all of its fluid, flexing pain. Up there she could lose herself in the searing-hot sun and empty darkness. She could drift in nothingness, alone and apart from everything she had ever known about life, about humanity, about feeling.
In space, there was nothing, her few friends told her, but for Katarina there was everything. Anything. The black, vast emptiness was potential, creation; she could build her own world and a life that came from within her.
Tomas, who never laughed at her, rang her doorbell one night for coffee. He hadn’t heard from her in more than a week, and while this was not unusual, it suddenly made him uneasy. There was no answer so he went in. The empty house chilled his skin.