A Kitchen With an Island
by Alexandra Grunberg

“I WANT TO SEE the Earth.”
The screen in front of Mariella lit up with pictures of the blue-green sphere. She saw the pyramids, she saw the Eiffel Tower, she saw the Empire State Building. She saw it get smaller and smaller, as it did when she first sailed away into the sky, but when she first sailed away, she saw the Earth through a window. She kept the shade down on the window now.
“I want to see The Plan.”
Mariella saw the blueprints for her new home on Mars. She saw the 3D imaging create her home from the ground up, and fill it with furniture of her own design. She always wanted an island in her kitchen, like the ones she saw on the old TV shows. There was no room on Earth for a kitchen that was large enough to have an island in it. Her apartment on Earth only had one living space for the kitchen, living room, and bedroom. On Mars, they would be three separate rooms, and she would even have a private bathroom, instead of having to share one with the whole floor of an apartment building.
“I want to see Mars.”
Mariella saw the big red planet, covered with computer renderings of their settlement. There was the grocery store. There was the park. Yes, there was even going to be a park, a National Park of Mars, maybe to make up for the fact that there were no national parks left on Earth. They were all gone long before she was born, and Mariella was excited to walk through a park for the first time. The screen changed, and she saw the big red planet, without the computer rendering now, coming closer and closer, the way it looked through her window as they approached. The image turned sideways suddenly, and went dark. Mariella could almost feel the jerk, the impact that happened then, right before they reached Mars, that sent them flying into the darkness. She could almost hear the sirens that blared, could almost see the flashing lights, could almost smell the smoke and burning metal and burning flesh. She could almost hear the screaming, her own screams for help, but the only help she got was from her screen, big black words encouraging her to stay calm, asking what it could show her so she would stay calm.
“I want to see Evie.”
She did not mean to say it again now, but the image on the screen was the same. She could almost convince herself that Evie was sleeping in her own pod, dreaming of Mars. But if she looked too long, she would know better, and she would not be calm.
The course was set years ago. Years ago for a trip that should have taken a few weeks. They told them everything was all right, that all they had to do was sit back and enjoy the trip, that there was no need to know spaceflight at all because the autopilot would take care of everything for them. So there was no way to correct a sudden impact that drove them off course.
Mariella’s breathing was too loud in her little pod. The little pod was too small. She tried to think of her kitchen, her kitchen with an island, and all the room she could need in her new life on Mars. She tried not to think of the darkness. She tried not to think of the breathing. She tried not to count, because the counting would never end, and she would still be floating, ever onward, toward a destination she was sure the autopilot did not know how to reach. Every day she moved further away from the red planet and the little apartment that waited for her. Every day she counted, an endless parade of numbers that lost meaning until her head started swimming and she could not tell if she was holding her breath or gasping for air as the pod seemed to close in on her, closer and closer until she thought she might pop.
She still received her nutrient pills every morning and night. The words on the screen reassured her that she was going to be fine. That she needed to remain in her pod until the trip to Mars was complete. That she needed to stay calm. The words on the screen asked what it could show her to make her stay calm.
Mariella reached for the screen on her window and slid it open. Outside, there was only darkness. Mariella could not even see a star.
“I want to see Mars.”
From the corner of her eye, she could see the images of the big red planet flashing on the screen, but outside the window, there was still only darkness.
“I want to see Mars.”
There were words on the screen now, probably asking her to clarify, wanting to help, but Mariella did not turn away from the window.
“I want to see Mars.” 🔺

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