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From the Divide

Nathan Tavares is a recent graduate of Lesley University's MFA in Creative Writing. When he's not writing, he enjoys traveling, photography, and hours-long Wikipedia benders. He likes to write about thieves, love, and the end of the world. You can find more of his work at nathantavares.com.

You'll get to see the sky, they said.
We see the sky all the time, we said. Hello. Look out the windows.
No, they said. You don't see how it's supposed to be. What you see outside is blackness. Empty. The sky back home is really blue.
But this is home, we said.
It wasn't always, they said.
They told stories us about other things. Big oceans and ships that floated on them, taking people to other shores. They had to explain shores, too. Then land. Continents.
We boarded our ship with our parents, when we were about your age, they said. But we remember home so well because we miss it so much. We'll get to show it to you soon.
When we were alone, our parents back in the bridge with their screens and maps, we laughed. Oceans. Birds in the air. We rolled our eyes. Right.
We were alone a lot. Our parents were busy. Exploring, they said. Mapping stars. Pointing things from the ship out into the blackness, while the rest of us hung out. Look at me, I'm a cat, we'd say, crouched on all fours. We could barely talk because we were laughing so hard.
Look, we're not making this up, they said. They flicked movies onto one of the walls of home. Mountains that reached into the air. Cliffs that broke into the ocean. Dried river beds. Bones of huge things in the earth.
We didn't laugh much during the movies. After, we went to bed, dizzy. Heads full. Dreaming of weird things beyond the gray walls, the tall windows, and the darkness outside of home.
When will we get there?
It's still far away, they said. But, soon. The ship moves fast. Faster than light.
When we looked confused, they said, it's complicated.
This is what they say when they don't want to explain things. It's complicated.
Sometimes, when we have to travel really far away, we'll sleep. Rows of small rooms. Our parents seal us inside.
Just like taking a nap, they said. Only when you wake, we'll be far away. The stars will look different.
We woke up. The stars looked the same.
Almost there, they said. You'll be able to see everything we talked about. The sun. The sky. The water.
What does it feel like? The sun? We asked.
Our parents waited for a while. They were quiet. We expected them to say, It's complicated.They rubbed the backs of their arms. For a while, their eyes looked gone.
We can't really describe it, they said. You'll have to wait and feel it for yourself.
When we land, we climb down a ladder into the dirt. The dirt feels too soft. The sun doesn't feel good on our skin, like they said it would. Too bright.
Some of us are scared. Where's the top of the sky?
The sky is open, they say. See, it's blue. Like we said.
We huddle close together. They bring us to the edge of the water. This is the beach, they say. That's sand. You can play here. It's fun.
When the wind blows sand, it hits our skin and feels sharp. The water licks sand, then skitters back to the ocean. The water makes dirty foam on the rocks.
Go on, they say, pushing us. Play.
The water is too cold. It stings. Chunks of things hit our legs. (seaweed, they say). We want to get out of the water, to get back on the ship, but we stay, for them.
We turn back to them. They're standing away, arms crossed. We hear one of them ask another, Is this how you remembered it?
We dip in the water for a while. The sun on the water reflects like bits of stars. Afterwards, we get out. They bring us towels and dry us off.
When we are warm again, they tell us that we're staying. That we're finally home.
All of us spend the night on the ship. Night is when the sun isn't out, which is when they said we should sleep. We feel better at night because we can see a few stars. This place is too still. Mostly, we miss the hum of engines. The ship's airlocks are wide open, letting in air that smells weird.
The next day, they start to make a shelter.
We have to build, they say, because everything and everyone else is long gone.
We stay for a few days. It feels like a while. Until they tell us that we're leaving again.
We're happy. They don't look happy. All of us close the bay doors and the airlocks against the air outside. Our parents go off to the bridge with their screens, with their charts, quieter.
When we're tired, we sleep. When we're awake, we explore the corners of the ship. Sometimes, we make up stories about the stars we see and the planets that might be around them. Blue skies. Beaches with clear, warm water. Stories are good, but we're glad we're back. We're home.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 24th, 2012

Author Comments

Before writing this story, I was thinking a lot about what it would be like to travel through space for long periods of time--whole generations. What would that feel like? Sure, travelers would miss Earth, but what about the kids born in space? They couldn't miss a place they'd never been to. Home would be what they know--a spaceship. From there, I became fixated on what it would be like to grow up in space. How it would affect language and a sense of community. I imagine the kids as happy, but they just wouldn't have the same kind of childhood that we know of. Kickball in the park. Trips to the zoo. So we have two dividing spaces: space itself, and the rift between generations.

- Nathan Tavares
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