The first day clean is like being reborn; even though you’re still sick, you feel your options are wide open. You can do anything. I now know what recovering addicts mean when they talk about ‘one day at a time.’ That’s me now – never get ahead of myself.
This freighter isn’t so bad. We’re about to go to sleep for the fifty-six year ride to New Pluto. Massive pays for those who ride a lifetime or two. I’d never see my family again, and I didn’t even need the money. My father had begged me on hands and knees not to go.
The dark outside is still a mystery to me. Why would anybody want to chase down its secrets when everyone knows the only reward it has to offer for this pursuit – no matter the effort – is an unending loneliness that settles deep in the heart. We’ve not even passed Mars and I’ve already felt it at moments just walking around the stainless steel corridors of the ship, this strange tenderness just beneath my breast. Every creak or groan that reports upwards from the otherwise silent hull of the ship below. Imagine how the flight deck and mess hall will look once we are all asleep.
I catch a glimpse of a curve of the sun from outside as the freighter turns onto the line of its course through hyper-space. It is beautiful; magnificent golden light. It is the light of life; an agent against the loneliness. It delights a final time in a warm shower and then it is gone, left behind to keep its glow over the home to which we have just said goodbye. Barely perceptibly, the freighter has begun to accelerate.
I only walk another few minutes along the sterile corridor before a core directive comes over the ship’s PA system. All personnel are to make their way to the medical deck for sleep. Well, this is it. It’ll be fifty-six years before I have to wonder about whether I want to take another pill; fifty-six years of guaranteed sobriety – and my tolerance will have been re-set to zero. Fifty-six years before I have to feel the true loneliness of being without a family, no light of the sun to hold me gently, rock me, soothing. Finally, in fifty-six years, a new life. And with it, new decisions to be made.