Echo the Past

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A girl reflects on her life in limbo.

The black expanse extends far beyond what the naked eye can see. Any light that dares venture into its depths is swallowed in an instant. On occasion, pinpricks of light gleam in the distance like distant memories, too faint and hazy to be seen clearly. Other times, great shapes appear out of the darkness. They fade into view like watchful guardians watching over our passage through the dark.

Stories from the Ancestors tell of one of these great shapes that we once habituated. They tell of ground covered in a substance called dirt, brown, dusty, and had to be washed off everything. They tell of green plants that thrived in this dirt growing wherever they chose without restraint. Forests and meadows and scrublands and marshes were created from these plants and the dirt and water. Oh, water was everywhere on this fertile planet. It lounged in crooks and crannies or lapped on so called “shores”, the edges where water met dirt.

This planet of dirt and plants and water is lost to us now. Generations have passed till it became more fantasy than reality. The stark metal walls of this machine we call home feels far more real than the thought of dirt smudged fingertips, plants given free reign, and water extending far into the distance.

When the blackness grows lonely outside my window, I dream we are traveling through water. I see those flowing movements of currents and bubbles of gas floating through the darkness. I imagine great creatures that are told to reside in the largest bodies of water to be traveling with us, silent guardians following our quest.

Once, I made the mistake of telling another of my dreams. “Crazy, Relle,” Mother chastised me. “No living thing could survive in space. Focus your creativity on more practical matters.”

Now, whispered rumors cling like dirt to my skin.

“Wild imagination she has.”

“Did you hear the stories she tells?’

“Impractical that one.”

“How her family must be ashamed.”

I duck my head and walk faster, but the words stay with me. Echoes skitter across my mind till reality and memory feel one in the same.

Most of my time is spent staring out the dark window of the pod I call mine away from judging looks and cruel remarks. My eyes strain for glimpses of something, anything other than the darkness I’ve grown up with.

They say that the journey will take many more decades before a planet like the one in the stories is found. The Navigators who steer the ship tell that space is vast and in comparison, planets are mere specks. They must find these specks, but even if they do, most specks don’t contain the necessary components to life.

In class, we were taught that food, water, and oxygen are vital to the survival of our species. On our ship, we have air circulators exchanging gas molecules we exhale for molecules we inhale. The Cultivators grow the plants we eat in uniform rows in the Agriculture Wing. Water is reused or drawn from the air circulators. Our teacher would explain with the help of a diagram of the ship.  

I never cared for that part of class. The only time I paid any attention was when she told stories of the past. Nothing else mattered for my life.

Those generations between the Ancestors who lived on their mythical planet and the Descendants who will discover the next hospitable speck are the Limbo generations. We will know nothing but the inside of the ship from the day we are born till the day we grow useless to existence and take our final breath.

In my dreams, I am an explorer looking for a new species of animal or a warrior fighting the tides of evil or a wave the water makes against the air or a microscopic creature living deep in the dirt.

In waking moments, I’m reminded of who I am. I am a bridge from past to future. I am a girl lost in space, in her own mind. I am nothing but a speck.

We live only so long as we are useful to this ship we call home. When we lose our worth and begin to take valuable resources from productive members of our static society, our breaths grow numbered.

Idleness is a crime that knows no limit on the ship. We must be helpful, or we must be gone.

Mother and Father have protected me for years. Hidden me from view claiming that yes, I am an active member of society, but they protect me no longer.

Thoughts are liquid in my mind. They slip through my grasp like water droplets dancing just out of reach. I stretch to grab them and find only metal walls. I am in my pod but not for long. The Council summons and I am dragged to their presence.

I should be cowed by their imperialness, yet all I can think is that we could create far more energy from the refracted light shining off the metal collars of the Council.

“Aurelle Cripps, you have committed an unspeakable crime in our society. How do you plead?” The man in the center glares down at me with beady eyes and a cold scowl.

I blink and tilt my head. His beard comes to a perfect point at the end of his chin. Is any part of him not precisely measured?

“Speak, child,” he rumbles.

Speak? For what? I continue to watch the man puzzled. Doesn’t he already know why I am here? Will he tell me?

“I—“ my voice croaks. How long has it been since I last used it? Time is fickle faced with the depths of darkness. “I don’t know.”

The man frowns. “Do you know who you are?”

I press my eyes shut. Who am I? I see water dancing through my fingers as I wash them. I see animals swimming through the water out my window. No, they are imagined shapes in the dark. Yet, they feel so real.

“I am liquid.” The whisper escapes my lips. “I am nothing but a shadow in time.”

I open my eyes to see the Council looking down at me. Is that pity in their expressions or anger? I cry out as a guard grabs my arm and tugs me down a hall. Where am I going?

The guard’s face is stoic and blank and carefully focused on the end of the hall, away from me.

“Where am I going?” The words stutter from my mouth as I try in vain to escape his grasp.

He says nothing. We are faced with a metal door at the end of the hall. It is the same as any other door on the ship, but I can’t help feeling like this door is different.

Fear burbles in my chest and I let out a sob as the guard unlatched the door and shoves me in. The room is empty. Metal walls crowd in and the ceiling presses down till I slide to the floor with my arms thrown over my head certain that I am about to be crushed under the weight of all that metal.

“Prepare the gas,” a voice says muffled by a speaker.

I pull myself from a crouch. The wall behind me is reflective, a mirror. The girl staring back has chapped lips and shaking hands. Her hair hangs limp on her shoulders and her pale skin is nearly glowing in the fluorescent lighting. Her clothes are rumpled and could use a good wash. But her eyes haunt me. They’re bloodshot and empty. This soulless girl stares back at me. A cold smile stretches her lips back into a gruesome grimace.

“You’re next,” she whispers but the words explode in the silence of the empty room.

A scream ricochets around the room. Did I make that awful sound? Or did the girl in the mirror?

“Ready,” a different voice comes through the speaker.

“Release the gas,” the first voice says.

I huddle against the wall away from the girl in the mirror and squeeze my eyes shut with my hands firmly planted over my ears. The girl’s screeching laugh reverberates in my mind and the darkness spins around me. I’m sinking, but I’m sitting on the metal floor. Water flows around me as sickly sweet air makes its way into my lungs. I gasp and choke on the taste.

“Oxygen is vital to an organism’s existence,” our teacher once told us. “Without it, an organism cannot survive for no longer than a few minutes before going unconscious and then dying.”

How long have I been sitting against the wall? Are my minutes coming to a close? I struggle for another breath. I’m drifting now. Water buffets me side to side, and I let it direct me. The animals I’ve watched out my window for years circle my crumpled body. Are they still guarding me now?

Distantly, I feel my lungs stopping their valiant attempts at keeping me alive. You did your best, I think, but thoughts are drifting away faster now. And I’m so tired. My chest burns as my body sinks through the water.

I am a girl lost in the dark. I am a stone sinking through the water. I am an air bubble struggling to reach the surface. I am fading. And I am no longer.

Submitted: August 11, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Greythereadaholic. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Oleg Roschin

It seems that your writing just keeps improving. I think this is your best story so far, of those I've read. You really know how to portray dark sci-fi within the format of a very short tale. And the ending paragraphs are just masterful. Great work, no doubt about that!

Fri, August 25th, 2017 6:45pm


Thank you! I'm so glad that you liked it!

Sat, August 26th, 2017 6:29am


This was really great again, I loved the descriptions and how it set the scene so well. I thought it was great how it started with describing earth and the ancestors and it really showed a lot more about their current scenario.
I think that the transition between the descriptions and the action came across a little off. It almost flowed into it too smoothly that I had to do a double-take to make sure that something was happening instead of being described. maybe because of that also it took awhile for me to see her as confused, because until then she seemed like a very assured girl, at least in her thoughts.
It did really pick up though at the end, I loved how it came back to water and it was a clever way to tie the whole thing together. You managed to create a really insteresying and vivid situation, in a reasonably short space. I was so surprised by how much you managed to get into this story. It was really enjoyable to read, the descriptions were amazing and the continual idea of water worked so well in this story.

Wed, September 20th, 2017 12:39pm


Thanks! I'm glad you noticed the tie to water. I wanted to make the reader aware of her loss of sanity gradually, so it probably isn't so clear at first.

Wed, September 20th, 2017 9:18am

RJ Willis

Very compelling read! Well written, I liked how smoothly you made the transitions in your story. I liked the flow, and found it easy to read! Keep it up.

Sat, May 19th, 2018 1:30am


Thanks! Will do!

Sat, May 19th, 2018 2:44pm


I agree with what everyone else said. It's such an amazing story. I could feel the hopelessness of the girl, and I could feel what she felt. I was absolutely absorbed in the story. I loved the ending. It was amazing. Almost a year ago, you submitted this to my literary magazine. After reading this, I'd love to include this in the magazine! Thank you so much for submitting this. For updates on the literary magazine, check out my news on my profile. Have a nice day, and keep up the awesome stories!

Wed, March 13th, 2019 6:10am


Thank you! I honestly forgot I did that, but I'm glad you picked m story! I'll be sure to stay updated.

Wed, March 13th, 2019 4:14pm

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