"The Sleeper"


2475 After Evac—Fourteen years until Earth flyby.


Six-year old Gareth dragged his feet as he entered the Sony Mesmerizer room with the rest of his classmates. Ten boys. Tow-headed, brown-eyed. Strong and tall for their six years. Identical in every physical way, but as different in personality as the planets in the solar system.


The dorm chaperone led them to the center of the room and instructed them to sit on the ground. The high black bulkhead of the Starship Destiny curved above them. Gareth had heard the older boys talk about this room. It would show him what Earth looked like before the End.


“Boys, close your eyes while the Mesmerizer starts.” 


Gareth did as he was told and felt the floor move beneath him. He opened his eyes and found himself sitting on a sloped surface covered with something soft and green. Other boys cried out in surprise or delight, but Gareth remained silent. He moved his hands through the pointy spears and marveled when they bent beneath his weight.


A slight puff of air ruffled his hair and an orange glow appeared above him. His face warmed as he looked up. The fiery orb hurt his eyes

and he turned away only to become fascinated with the changing ceiling. The black gave way to a new color that he didn’t have a name for, but something about it made him feel happy.


The ship’s automated voice sounded all around the boys, “This is the planet Earth. Below you is a plant we call grass. Above you the sky is filled with the light of Sol. You will learn more about these things in future classes.”


Gareth lay down in the soft grass and watched a new thing in the sky. White and fluffy, it drifted slowly toward him.

The voice continued, “Today is Princess Amelia’s birthday. You will learn her story...”


2484 AE—Five years until Earth flyby


The image of the Princess hovered in the sky. Her dark hair curled over her shoulders covering her smooth amber skin. No one on board the ship had skin that looked so warm.


“One day, the Earth will be habitable again. Then the chosen one will find and wake the Princess. She will teach us how to live on the planet’s surface like we did before the End.” The automated voice echoed around Gareth and his classmates.


He had heard the same story for the last nine years on Amelia’s birthday. Now fifteen, Gareth had it memorized and barely paid attention. It was a child’s story, empty of any real meaning. Even if it were true, he didn’t know if he would be the one chosen to go to earth.

Other questions drowned out the ship’s voice.


Did women really look so different from men? Not that he minded the softer angles in front of him. It was a relief to look at someone who didn’t look like him. He was faced with younger or older versions of himself everywhere he turned on the ship.


It hadn’t always been like that, but a hundred years after Destiny started its endless circling of the solar system disease wiped out eighty percent of the crew. Only two women had survived. Humanity needed a new plan to avoid extinction. He was that solution perfected.

Why didn’t they clone women too? No one would answer that question or allow it to be asked. Thinking about it always gave him a headache. Gareth focused on the one that had always calmed him.


Why can’t we duplicate this color blue anywhere but inside the Mesmerizer? He lay back and counted the clouds as the voice rambled on.


“Every seventy-five years, a man is sent down to find the Princess. The mission has failed in each of the previous hundred cycles and the planet has grown wild. One of you will get to try again.”


The lesson ended and the breeze stopped. Blue sky darkened to black metal bulkheads. With the ambient noise gone, he could hear the hum of the starship’s engines. The other students chatted as they left, but Gareth stayed and wished for a real sky over his head.


He yearned for blue. 


You can read the rest of the story

A taste from STELLAR CLOUD

© 2012-2019 by Charity Bradford


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