Today’s prompt asked for world building. Like yesterday, this could have been much longer, but here is something for my novel’s backstory, specifically the religion in the novel’s universe. Kind of weird to start a religion! Ha!
In any event, thanks for reading!
Octavia Day was the seventh astronaut on the seventh mission and the first to return to Earth. She never talked about what happened to the others. “The recordings speak for themselves,” she said in interviews.
“How did you live?” they asked.
“I prayed.” Octavia also thought and reacted faster than the others. She’d contemplated every potential disaster, having studied the previous tragedies and judged their failures. But she didn’t want anyone to think she was showing off. The deaths had been hard enough to witness, and saying anything about them felt like gossiping. Her fellow astronauts were her friends. One was her sister.
She wouldn’t gossip, but she would remember.
The first day Octavia opened her eyes after being rescued, she discovered a crowd under her hospital window. The doctors, the nurses, and the security detail refused entry to anyone for those early days, which gave her plenty of time to think between sedative induced dreams.
“Why are they at my window?” Octavia watched the nurse check her pulse and take a vial of blood. Her blood had been deeper in space than anyone living. She’d walked on another planet. They were determined to learn from her.
The nurse took her notes. “You’ve traveled faster and farther than anyone. You’ve seen things no one else has seen, sweetie.”
Octavia played with the hem of her sheet. “I’d like to meet one of them.”
“Against orders,” the nurse reminded her, dropping her pin into her white pocket.
“But I don’t have anyone,” Octavia replied. “Everyone’s dead. For me it’s been only a few years, but for you it’s been a generation. Were you even born when I left?”
The nurse patted Ocatvia on the arm. “Oh, my mam wasn’t even born. But you’ll do all right. You’ll get out of here and make new friends. Don’t you fret.”
Octavia nodded. “Maybe one of the people out there in the parking lot. They’ve been there all day and night for weeks. I just want to make a friend.” This was true and yet it wasn’t. Octavia didn’t know what she wanted. “The stars are beautiful,” she added. “I wish I could see them from here.”
“Nobody sees the stars from here.” The nurse looked at the window and then at the clock. “The sky hasn’t been clear since I was a schoolgirl. Tell you what, sweetie. I’ll see if I can’t get you a friend, okay?”
It took three days for the nurse to appear with a woman from the waiting crowd. “I did some sweet talking and got permission to bring you some company.”
The young woman stared wide eyed at Octavia. Once the nurse was gone, the girl finally unclenched her hands which she’d had tight to her chest. “I’m so honored, ma’am. So honored.”
Octavia straightened up in her bed. “No, don’t do that. I’m just me.” Octavia didn’t believe she was ordinary. She remembered how hard she worked to be selected for the mission and how hard she’d worked to survive. She wasn’t ordinary at all. But the adoring gaze unsettled and confused her. Didn’t people have more to believe in than a woman who’d navigated a starship and came back with a dead crew.
The young woman moved quickly to the side of Octavia’s bed. “We’ve read all your communications. Did you know they released them? There are forums and groups deciphering them. We know what you’ve seen and we want to listen.”
“My communications?” She couldn’t remember most of them now.
The woman sat on the edge of the bed. “You’ve been gone. You don’t know what it’s like. We need something to believe in and they told us you were dead. But then those communications kept coming and they had to admit you were alive. Only you. And you were coming back. Your trip is going to change everything, and we’re here for you.”
Octavia looked into the young woman’s eyes. Her astronaut training fought with her loneliness. Someone wanted to listen to her, not test her like an experiment.
The young woman smiled broadly. “What was it like?” she asked Octavia. “What was it like to see the stars, the Pleiades?”
For the first time since waking back on Earth, Octavia relaxed. She relaxed in a way the sedatives hadn’t allowed. “Like seeing angels,” she replied.
“You tell me and I’ll tell the others. We’ll spread the word. And everyone will believe.”