Tara Anegada, Alex Graham, and Alex Tyndall
Welcome to Impact’s latest showcase of creative writing! These three beautiful pieces were submitted by our writers over the summer.
The Immortal Astronaut
Betwixt the stars and oceans black
Of never-ending space,
A single astronaut looked out
Far past the moon’s grey face.
His eyes gazed out upon the Earth,
On nature’s majesty,
But so too did his eyes befall
And though invisible from where
The astronaut did float –
Surveying all from up above,
Drifting like a dust mote –
He saw the whole expanse of life,
As humans roamed the globe,
The impact from their constant search
For a place to call their home.
His rocket was his only home
Pockmarked with bumps and dents,
But safe inside he could still fly
And review its decadence;
Trinket troves that marked his time
From when he walked the Earth,
Rocks from Mars and dust from stars,
In which lay infinite worth;
Pictures and books that made memories,
Of which he had but few,
A small window that out from which
He saw black, and green, and blue.
He grew not old, but kept not young,
Too aged by what he’d seen:
The swirling storms and vicious wars
That hid his blues and greens.
And though he tried to chase the sun,
He could not outrun the night;
For every dawn must have its dusk –
And shadows follow the light.
The boundless depths of the beyond
Gave him good company;
The hum and strum of his metal
Became his symphony.
The passing time knew him by name
Just as it knew them all;
The ticking clock was Death’s refrain,
The tune to haunt his halls.
Yet up in space, Death could not reach
Nor wrap his hands around
The craft in which the poor man lived,
So high above the ground.
This was his choice, his cunning plan,
To watch, observe, to see,
A trade – a life on Earth exchanged
For a chance at immortality.
And, cheating death, he stayed away,
Yet a voice still plagued his mind:
“You will return, dear astronaut,
Do not forget, dear astronaut
Memento mori, astronaut
Remember you, and all, must die.”
I remember the first time someone called me half-caste
I was eleven
that age where you’re suddenly catapulted from the comfort of your tiny primary school into the big bad world of high school and there’s more strangers around you than you’ve ever known before and in the corridors you hear new swear words every day and you learn very quickly what stale smoke smells like from the way it sticks to the graffitied walls of the girls bathroom
I went to a pretty much all white high school
it’s just the demographic where I’m from
it’s not something that’s ever bothered me much
I knew I was brown
I’d been called names before
silly names though children’s names usually comparing my skin tone to chocolate in a friendly way a joking way in the sort of way that expressed jealousy as opposed to racial hatred
I never really minded
it’s just a fact isn’t it?
I can’t remember this girl’s name
but we were in a PE class and she asked me where my parents were from and it’s a question I got asked all the time and I thought it was silly that people cared but mum said it was just because they were interested and I think at this point I kind of liked that my skin tone made me individual so I answered her very politely and she said
oh you’re half-caste
and she walked away and the pit of my stomach fell through the floor and I felt really shaky and I didn’t know why and I didn’t quite know what that word meant but there was a horrible feeling that came with it and that word stuck in my head
and the next day
and all of the following week
and the next week
and on into the next month
and the month after that
and on and on and on and on and –
I didn’t feel like a half anything
I didn’t feel less than anyone else
I couldn’t point to the other half of me
the half that’s missing
I googled half-caste
caste comes from the Latin word castus
castus means pure
I am half-pure and half-what?
Brown is the colour of dirt of mud of rotten fruit of refuse of impurity
White is the colour of purity of holiness of cleanliness of superiority
I still think about that word
it pops into my head a couple of times a week just to remind me not to get too confident that I am seen as half as pure as the girl standing next to me because my skin is a handful of shades darker than hers and other people around me probably think like that and say that word in their head when they pass me in the street
I have to look in the mirror every time
to remind myself that I’ve got two arms and two legs and two eyes and two ears and two hands with ten fingers and two feet with ten toes
to remind myself
that I am everything a person needs to be
and that word doesn’t make me
any less whole.
The space between stars is often called Deep Space, a realm of absolute nothingness. There is not really anything there for us, besides the occasional asteroid field or dust cloud. Everything we have ever really wanted, ever really needed, can be found in the warm light of a star.
There is nothing of matter between the stars. No heavy metals, no interesting radio signals, no potential alien civilisations. There is no capacity for adventure between the stars, certainly not more than on a remote planet with strange and fascinating new life.
We tend to skip that space. We built engines that could carry us faster than light, and we used them to pass the vast obstacle of distance between the stars. We paid it no heed, setting our sights on the places where life and society could flourish. We dismissed the vastness of the rest of the universe because we had no need for it, no desire to conquer it, and no thought for what it could offer us. It was dead space which nobody wanted.
All of this is what we used to say about the oceans.
And then we built submarines.
We descended into the black depths.
We switched on our lamps.
We illuminated nothing.
Nothing save the empty water.
Until something would swim briefly into view.
We began to see things in the crushing, airless, lightless world of the deep oceans.
Things that emitted faint glows. Things that twisted in contorting and unearthly shapes. Things that looked like protoplasmic jelly or solid matter, but which were alive.
And then we hit the sea floor.
The oceans were alive in ways we could never have guesses with creatures that our darkest imaginations could never have imagine, feasting and writhing and fighting and breeding in an ecosystem where nothing should have been able to flourish.
The oceans were not empty. The oceans did not have nothing to reveal to us. The oceans held secrets.
Occasionally, a spacecraft will go missing. It is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Usually some design flaw is blamed, occasionally mutiny is suspected, and always the crew are presumed dead. It is a tragedy, but life goes on.
Even though it should not.
I think about those early days of exploring the oceans, hundreds of years ago. I think about the descent towards the alien unknown. I think about the things we saw in the dark. How sailors once saw things that they had no way to explain.
And then I think about how we have never found a civilisation as advanced as our own, and I cannot help but wonder why.
The gulfs of space that lie between the stars frighten me. We have not explored them, and perhaps this is because we know so little about them. In the past, this turned out to be a mistake.
I wonder what could be hiding in those gulfs, obscured by some twist of space or some other physical improbability. I wonder whether it can observe us. I wonder if it can understand what it observes. I wonder if it knows what I suspect.
Sometimes, when I am feeling really alone and the rest of the world is carrying on around me, I wonder about the gulfs between the galaxies.
Many thanks to the University of Nottingham Creative Writing Society for their support in creating this collection.
Images courtesy of Chiara Crompton. For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.