Kent October 2034:
“Happy Morning!!” the alarm chirped like every day. Snoozing the hummingbird for the fifth time, I snuggled under the peacock blue quilt. The golden streaks of the cosy winter sun, peeking through the tiny fissures of the curtains awakened me.
Outdoors, the giggles and chuckles of a few kids grabbed my attention. Stroking my sleepy eyes gently with mitten wrapped fingers, I witness the magnificent creamy wonderland. Few of the kids, dressed in their furs were busy framing and adorning the white Eskimo while a few of them were involved in grabbing a sliver or two of heaven’s kiss with their tongues. “This fantasy land is temporary… Soon this will…” my heart ached at the thought.
The robust mixture of cinnamon and cocoa clouded the neighbourhood arousing my craving. There is no trace of browns or greens but only whites. The gleaming white dust individually looks fragile but together they create magic on earth. “Whipped cream wrapped fantasy land”, I thought smiling. Fluffy cotton balls poured from heaven and no two flakes were similar. I never realised when the alluring bright earth brought me out in the open until a wafting winter’s butterfly kissed me on my frostbitten cheeks.
Underneath my boots, lay the snowy soil glistening under the misty sun. The crystal draped branches whispered, ” Grandpa Santa is on his way, but is this our last Christmas….” But then…
The unexpected voice “Myra… Myra,” continued in a rugged rhythm,” Mr Richardson is on the line. What should I say?”
Shrugging shoulders, I replied, “Mom, ask him to meet me at the Bakery, 4 o’clock.”
The small screen has been busy educating about the much-anticipated asteroid strike on 20th September 2035. This is the news that has taken away the sleep of the space scientists from around the globe. Astronomers, researchers, scientists are up all day, investigating and surveying the path of these gigantic objects, even formulating defence measures. I still remember the date, 25th September 2034 when the alarming announcement from NASA suddenly brought life to a halt. Fear, panic gripped every soul. They predicted that a catastrophic asteroid is hurtling towards the earth and the unavoidable collision will perish our flourishing blue planet.
The newsreader articulated through her brown-tinged lips as images of previous collisions played in the backdrop. My vision was stagnant on the screen but my mind was wandering across ISRO’s corridors. The invigorating smell of hot cocoa brought me back to my senses.
“Ma, I will book the tickets today once the deal gets finalised.”
Sceptical with my proposal yet she nodded in affirmation. Her eyes spoke tons but I chose not to read them, rather finishing my favourite drink and clutching my car keys, I marched towards the door.
It’s been around 6years, that we have settled in this enthralling architectural seaside town of Kent. After resigning from ISRO this was my aim, to live and unwind amidst nature and thankfully I am blessed with one. The bakery shop that I own at Piccadilly Priyan Circus is a popular hangout for most of the townies. The aromatic flavours of a variety of coffee beans and the galaxy of baked goodies create an irresistible aroma from morning till night.
But today is the deciding day… Suddenly the western fringe of the sky appears smoky. The universe is warning us, something unnatural is about to happen…
NASA, Space Station, October 2034:
“This is inevitable but at least we can try. As the massive asteroid makes its interstellar journey and strikes the white star its speed will be reduced and then…” interrupting his words, Mr Issac Herbert continued, “I don’t agree with your thoughts, Mr Amir Ahmed. We cannot defend this way. It’s racing towards us at an alarming speed. We are living in a decade where technology certainly holds a clue and solution to a few damn problems, I repeat certain damn problems but not all…” Fastening his tie, he continued, “I reject your proposal…”
“What the heck is going on? It’s about taking advantage of the natural energy. It’s about experimenting…This is an awful situation, do or die… Do you get it, Mr Newton…” The sarcasm in Amir’s voice resonated in the conference room long after he stormed his way out.
Next day, Amir’s immediate supervisor is welcomed at the space station with his resignation letter and a personal note.
“Apologies, time to spend the last few months attempting to save our mother. I hope our new age Newton chalks out something in time to resist the apocalypse.”
Kent, October 2034:
“Why did you leave the high profile job there at ISRO and settle here? From a senior scientist to a baker… huh! Evolution. And now after so many years of goodwill and fame, we’ll have to again shift to Bangalore. We have just a week to pack before we completely leave this place?”
Moms complaining eyes welled but I know what is actually bothering her. It’s not the pain of travelling and settling again but it is the agony of my fate that bothers her. It was because of that old job that I cut all ties from India and now again I will be flying to that miserable locale, to share a space amidst those traumatic memories. As a single mother, she has seen both sunny and grey days and has seen me suffer too. Dinner is unusually silent, except for a few deliberate cutlery sounds, expressing her anxiety.
20th October ISRO, India:
” Myra!! What an unexpected surprise?” My crazy best friend Hemanshi bumped in at the coffee counter. “How the hell are you at ISRO? Where have you been all this while? After that incident, you simply vanished… no calls…no emails…even he disappeared. And now suddenly we meet here?” As she kept blabbering I comforted myself in the nearby couch.
“Nothing much. Moved to Kent. Opened my own bakery shop. Now sold it and shifted here, forever… NASA news shocked me rather inspired me. This was my theme of the project I was working on before quitting. To yield the kinetic force from full moon cycles, thermal energy etc and using them to operate space crafts. But left it midway.” Sipping coffee, I continued,” Called up Srinivasan sir yesterday. He scheduled a meeting today with few old and new directors of ISRO. Let’s see how it progresses…”
The conference room appears the same old, except for a few more electronic gadgets. Like me, there are new faces who want to fight until the end. Everybody knows the universe’s verdict yet they have hope in their eyes and fear in their hearts. And then, amongst all, I notice him, again. His tall, lean stature, wrapped by an English blue shirt complimented his brown-tinted hair on a pale creamy complexion and was enough to sweep me off my feet, again. The richness in his voice struck me like an arrow for the second time. “No! Focus on your dreams.” Screamed my head but the gushing emotions down my veins conveyed a distinct message to my stupid heart.
200 days back, ISRO:
After securing my lost files from the storeroom I begin my unfinished research and analysis. Thanks to the technological advancements, that helped me retrieve old data in no time and quite easily I configure an abstract structure of my thoughts and visions, with the help of Amir Ahmed. Yes the Amir Ahmed who stormed out of NASA’s conference room abandoning his high collared job, mocked one of the leading brains of NASA as Newton and swooned me in the conference room, is now a supervising scientist at ISRO.
It was 6years back when I was the senior scientist in one of the space missions here and he, Amir had joined as an assistant. His subtle nature and clever wit coupled with a handsome contour were enough to create tremors in my heart. Our arguments and discussions of work were not limited to the research station. We quarrelled even at social gatherings or over telephonic conversations but the innocence and sweetness of his gestures compelled me to bow.
I never understood when my casual fondness for him was overpowered by deep, true love. His inclinations to start a conversation on grounds of work were mistaken by me for love. And when one day at the office party, little intoxicated, I expressed my true emotions to him, he dismissed it as friendship. It was the unfortunate date, 13th October and for the next few days, there was no sign of him. I still blame myself for committing the crime of accepting my real feelings to someone who never deserved it. Two weeks passed by without any information on his whereabouts and then unexpectedly, one day I received his email, asking for a relieving letter as he had joined the prestigious space organization, NASA. That was the last reply, I made.
“Myra, calculations complete? The sensors have new data… updated ones will be shared to you soon.” The panicked voice of my head, Mr.Srinivasan perturbed me.
“Yes, Sir. The day asteroid Giga-40 hits the earth is a full moon day and the gravitational pull of these stars and the earth will be maximum. The good news is before hitting us it will collide with the moon’s surface thereby losing some of its speed…”
Such discussions and planning missions were a regular occurrence here.
180 days back:
The world appears multifaceted; some busy with their daily life reluctant to ponder over the apocalypse while some fearing the destruction of the planet thronged each and every temple. Even the remotest religious spot has loads of coconut strewn. People were bathing various deities with milk and honey, hoping and praying for some miracle. Ignoring religious constraints people flocked every religious site.
Marriages were solemnised, newborn across the world delivered every minute; life just flowed…
120 days back:
Srinivasan sir and my team are busy monitoring the graphical responses and chalking plans when he barges in. “We can either delay or destroy it. Sir, you can’t reject my plan. Just listen to my proposal once, Sir we need to implement our thoughts.” Ahmed sounded confident and I know his strategies are always top-notch. “Ahmed, I am ready to listen, carry on, show me the possibilities of your proposal.” I ascertained, smiling.
“The impact of these NEO’s(near earth objects) could be averted and destructive events can be prevented. There are two possibilities, destruction and delay. Fragments of these impactors on destruction by a kinetic spacecraft get scattered in the universe and burn up in the atmosphere, causing no or less devastation.”
The energy in his voice and the sparkle in his eyes are undoubtedly captivating. His exuberance and inclination for this mission made him look more desirable than ever before…
“Delay exploits the fact that both Earth and the impactor are in orbit. The impact happens when both Earth and impactor intersect each other at the same point in space at the same time i.e. Earth’s surface confronts impactor’s orbit…”
Interrupting his speech, I uttered hastily, “Sir, here we can also deploy the science of gravity tractor. For all these years we have been generating various energies(thermal, nuclear, solar, electromagnetic blah blah). Now utilizing this energy if we send a theoretical spacecraft that will deflect the direction of the asteroid without physically touching it rather only using its gravitational field to transmit it’s required impulse…Then… we can be hopeful on lessening its effect.”
“The aim is to nudge the asteroid into a slightly different orbit…”
Finally, the launch was a success.
Every news channel aired, the newspapers published, fear-stricken people discussed, and documentaries enacted etc were all focussed on this catastrophic space event…” NASA’s planning a nuclear explosion over the space rock that will cause its surface to vaporize recoiling the remaining rock. China’s solar …”
80 days back:
“How’s the progress?” Ahmed asked hesitantly.
“Ya… monitoring is on. The travel is as per the expected rate, 10/25km per sec…” I tried to avoid any eye contact with him, else the emotional version of me will fall weak in the knees. “Let’s hope our computations don’t disappoint us.”
“Your estimations were always apt. I’ve realised that while…”
“I know my abilities. I don’t need any approval.” I replied sternly but felt an ache swelling inside me. I had never behaved rudely with Amir but then, why now. Pain from olden days moistened the corners of my eyes.
“Still annoyed with me.” He spoke apologetically.
“No” rolling eyes I replied. “By the way, if you don’t have any important updates, then can you excuse me?” Underneath the table, I was clenching my clammy fists tightly.
I wish he refused to leave but his hardheadedness is evident as he left the room with sauntered steps.
5 days back:
The monitor beeped with a green signal flickering at regular intervals.
“Gosh! It reached. Hope everything will work as planned.” Agitated I sank into the chair. “May, the joint attempts by a few nations see daylight.” A close look at the monitor and my heart raced faster than the speeding asteroid.
The sudden alarm from the monitoring cubicle grabbed everybody’s attention. The large screen in front is showing two significant paths. Green indicating our spacecraft while the other red line showed the other nation’s missions. The countries involved in this CountDown mission were simultaneously tracking each other’s progress for accurate confirmation.
“Whoa! Are we heading towards another incredible achievement in India’s history? After the successful landing of Chandrayan-3 on the south pole of the moon, I feel this is our one of the most triumphant victory.” Ahmed is in full praise of the mission but my emotions are helter-skelter, like the fragments of the space rock.
The night sky looks glittering. Bright, twinkling stars shimmer against the calm boundless silhouette. To de-stress from the hovering tensions I preferred to unwind with some drink on the terrace of the space station. The CountDown has begun…
“What an enthralling view! Sparkling stars on the ground complimenting the illuminated sky.” Amir said passionately as he seated himself beside me.
“Aren’t you scared?”
“What for?” came the cold reply.
“No… Don’t want to repeat the mistake of damaging my present by speculating over the future.”
Next few moments… our hearts spoke as we sit tight-lipped…
His warm breath tickled my bare neck. As he bent to pick the bottle his stubble brushed against my cheeks. Some unspoken resentments that were buried deep within us succumbed to the erupting magma. His gentle peck is enough to blow the crater.
Numerous glittering meteor-like objects enveloped our atmosphere traversing in a blink. The celestial play has commenced and within minutes ruptured all electrical and telecommunication networks rendering the earth in darkness…
21st September 2035:
The golden star rose whispering, “Life is as inevitable as Death.”
Author’s note: The story draws inspiration from various scientific and astronomical probabilities that are in the future thoughts of space scientists.
Photo By: Pixabay
This is an entry for #Countdown, a Beaks and Claws club exclusive event. Check out the event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/room8/countdown/
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