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The Colonists--A Short Story

He had the lean, gaunt face and body that may or may not have been a result of his being the life long vegetarian that he was. He was unshaven and his thick beard was flecked with gray. He moved about the confined quarters of the ship in the splayed legged, plodding gait peculiar to the ship and it's crew.

Sidling up to one of the portholes, he took note that the ship and its small crew were now traveling through the darkness of the void with the nose pointing away from the direction of travel.

Not that it made a bit of difference out here. Nevertheless, he found the prospect somewhat disconcerting and headed back to his quarters and his waiting wife on deck two. He took his time getting there. It was the three-month anniversary of the launch. They had all the time in the world.

Neither he nor his crew were volunteers. They, married couples all, had been specially selected to man this ship. It was a craft unlike any other that had ever been seen on earth. The ship itself had been designed, engineered and constructed to exacting standards.

It had not only been designed to carry its crew safely over a great distance and through the cold, black hostile environment through which they traveled, but it literally carried everything they would need to make a new life on a brave new world.

The period prior to the launch had been marked by controversy and recrimination. The construction of the great ship had gone on for many years. Many people ridiculed the project-thought it unneccesary, foolhardy. Out here however, the controversy and all those people wrapped up in it no longer mattered. It seemed as though a million years and a million miles had passed.

Their old lives on earth now seemed almost like a dream. Since the day of that launch, seemingly so long ago, the wisdom behind the planning, preparation and launch of the ship and its journey had become evident to all the people of earth.

The launch itself had gone off without a hitch. Inevitably it would be a one-way trip. Now, outside of maintaining basic functions, there was little to do but wait until they touched down on the planet’s surface.

By the fourth month, the crew rarely even bothered to look out the portholes any more. All that could be seen in the black void were occasional stars and they were not the same familiar alignments that they recognized from home.

They hadn’t been prepared for the lack of sound, the meaninglessness of the concepts of day and night, nor the insignificance of passing time. He was sitting hunched over at a table with his head on his arms, eyes closed, in the living quarters on deck two. His wife had departed over an hour ago to take care of some problem on deck three, leaving him alone here with his thoughts. There frequently was a problem of some sort on deck three, he thought. A barely perceptible smile passed over his face.

After a time, he got up and again went over to the porthole. Gazing at the stars for what seemed the millionth time, he again vainly tried to pick out a recognizable constellation. These were not the stars he had watched as a child! Well, certainly they were but he had a new and continually changing vantage point.

Eventually, he gave up his vigil and just stared vacantly off into space. He considered going after his son since he needed to finish their conversation but decided to give him a few minutes more.

He sighed and sat down again at the table, making an adjustment to the lamp. Pulling on his shoes, he headed down to deck three. That’s when he heard the sound that made his blood run cold.

Something had collided violently against the hull of the ship. Everyone stopped breathing. He paused for a moment of silent prayer and quickly joined the rest of the crew. They all huddled together for several hours and gradually drifted off together into separate conversations or to take care of duties elsewhere.

A survey of the ship for damage to the hull by the crew had turned out to be negative. They all breathed a deep sigh of relief, gave thanks to God and went back to their routines.

Touch Down

With a long shuddering thud, the ship came to rest on the surface. The journey had ended, a new journey would soon begin—and this one would last them a lifetime.

He was excited and a frankly, afraid as well. He forced himself to think of it as a great adventure rather than a last desperate hope for mankind. The launch and the landing had both gone off flawlessly, just as advertised. A religious man, He had led them all in a prayer of thanks for their safe landing.

He and his small crew, -- had been anxious about the inevitable, coming day and had both looked forward to and dreaded it. Soon, they would disembark, leaving the safety and security of the ship, their home for more than a year, to step out into a totally alien world.

They could not possibly know fully what to expect and yet they were totally committed. They could not go back even if they chose to do so. The world they had left no longer even existed.

The tension had grown intolerably aboard ship as each day passed. They had been briefed on the environment of this new world. They could expect that there would be no intelligent life on the surface of the planet, though the oceans were a different matter.

Later events would prove this to be true, nevertheless, on more than one occasion as they waited for the probes they had sent out to return, one or another of them had thought they had heard someone knocking on the hull.

Brave New World

Finally, the day had come. They had received their final instructions aboard ship. It was now safe for them to leave the ship. It had been more than a year since they set out and they had come a great distance.

The crew began to quickly and efficiently make final preparations to leave the ship as they had rehearsed over these last few weeks. They were all strangely quiet. When they were ready he had the crew assembled on deck one and after a short prayer, they began lowering the ramp on the side of the ship. As he blinked and struggled to adjust his eyes to the strange light streaming in from the opening in the side of the ship he could see that they were all quite pale from lack of sunlight. They were all overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, including fear.

It took some time to get used to walking on the surface. At first, they did not wander very far from the ship. They seemed ready to hurry back aboard at the slightest provocation. This new world was totally alien to them.

They gazed at a landscape unlike any that had ever been seen on earth. It was a harsh terrain with virtually no plants or trees or growth of any kind. It was entirely too quiet. It was daunting, strange, frightening and yet—eerily familiar.

He gazed up at a sky such as he had never seen before —beautiful bands of vibrant color pierced the thinning clouds under a pale blue sky. And the strange sky seemed lower than it had any right to be. They had been totally unprepared for it—and unprepared as well for the overwhelming certainty that they were totally, irrevocably—alone!

His wife came up behind him and wrapped her arm around his waist. She met his eyes, looking for reassurance. He smiled back, trying to show more confidence than he felt at that moment.

They turned to see the last of the animals they had brought with them and the equipment being off loaded. The men were examining the hull of the ship. He went and joined them. It had come thru the journey and the landing remarkably well, virtually unscathed.

Later, wandering off by himself, he found himself wondering about the world to come. Would this new earth also be destroyed by the Godlessness and violence of men as the old earth had? God forbid! He wondered what would become of them.

Would he and his family thrive or would they barely survive? Would he and his family be remembered though all time—or would they be soon forgotten?

Would they name the new cities after the old cities of earth or would this new world follow a new pattern? He thought to himself. “here we go”, -- "be fruitful and multiply".

They were in for another bumpy ride, he knew. Certainly bumpier than the journey they had just completed. He bent down and taking some soil, he rubbed it between his fingers. Good for growing, he thought-- and he knew what he was talking about because he was a farmer by training. With God’s help, they would do well.

Later that day, they all paused and looked back for perhaps the final time at the magnificent ship which had brought them here safely and in one piece, already fading in the distance and the failing light. They had built a tiny altar to the Lord nearby.

After a prayer with his entire assembled crew, he waved, as if to say goodbye and then Noah and his family turned away from the ark for perhaps the final time, and headed down the mountain towards the valley below.

Copyright 2001 By Sharon James

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