Week 09 - Homeward (Part Four)

This is the conclusion of the four part series, Homeward. It's been great working on a more serialised, longer form piece, but I've still written instinctually week to week, with a very loose outline prepared before hand. This also marks the beginning of artist David Keen's contribution to the Catharsis project - he's illustrated all four parts of Homeward.


A single moment.

Somehow, it all seemed like a single moment.

The rush, the smile, the greeting, the farewell.

All of it, twisted and tangled. As soon as each drop passed, it became nothing and everything. Completely reshaped by colour. A memory, misinterpreted by time.

And, if that was true, did it mean anything at all?

He had realised what he had to do.

Experience, he realised, was a game, repurposed for the soul. A trick, a useful tool for pinching coherence. And none of it mattered. Which is why all of it, all of it, mattered so very, very much.

Up here, out here, out there. Blood on his knuckles. Mostly his own. Only mostly. For that, he had some regret. But it was the only answer. Up here. Out here.

Out there.

The ship he’d commandeered had only a low-powered interstellar drive. But it also had a small stasis pod, and that meant that it was enough. He’d keyed in co-ordinates, distances. Not thought too much about them, as long as they were stranger and farther than he had ever known. And he had gone to sleep.

Two-hundred and seventy-three years is a long time. Back home, his old home, he was long forgotten. His legacy wiped clean. His friends and family dead or, worse, waiting in their own stasis pods for his overdue return. A return that would never come.

Two-hundred and seventy-three years is a long time. But, as it turned out, not long enough for the dried blood on his knuckles to fade away.

And now, he waited.


Emptiness ahead. Emptiness behind him, truth be told. A beautiful, pregnant emptiness. He had somewhere he needed to be.

He’d been awake for days. There was a little food. It came in a tube, and it kept him alive. And not once, not once in that cold quiet, did he doubt his decision.

And slowly, slowly, he had realised what he had to do.

Would they come for him? Surely, he wouldn’t be able to find them himself. There was too much of it, too much of everything, and last time it had been only luck that had pulled their strange, blue ship near his.

But was it luck, really? That explosion, the one that had ripped through The Launceston, had been very hot, he remembered. Was that what luck felt like? He supposed he would never know.

It hadn’t occurred to him, not once while wresting command of this craft from its confused occupants, not once while setting the coordinates, not once while climbing into the stasis pod, not once while leaving Ray wordlessly in the muggy night, that his search might fail. That his journey homeward might end in quiet solitude.

He had so many questions, questions he was sure only they could answer. And he had travelled so very far in order to ask them.

He had realised what he had to do.

It had been a small mining crew, making their way to the moon. The moon was picked clean, of course, but if you were willing to work hard enough there was a living to be made there. He had snuck aboard a larger vessel, left the Earth behind. That was the first step, and it had smacked him like a cool wrench. And then he was gone. Another moment, slipping past. He was becoming these moments.

He had waited for the tiny, old mining craft that would become his chariot to leave the larger vessel’s docking bay. Silently, it drifted out into the night. And he had stepped out of his hiding place and politely asked the miners for their ship.

He had someone he had to go and meet.

The crew hadn’t taken too kindly to this gesture, and there’d been a scuffle. He used force he didn’t know he possessed, and soon these simple people saw who they were really dealing with. A man who didn’t know where he was, but knew exactly where he was going.

They put on their suits and headed back for the larger ship, leaving him to his own devices. He had felt pangs of remorse, a fleeting guilt escaping through the airlock.

But that was a long time ago, now.

And he had realised what he had to do.

What if I told you that I couldn’t remember things from my own life, but I could remember things from the lives of supergiants, of swirling patches of gravity, of endlessly bending light?

It would be a joke, to you, I suspect. And yet, somewhere, you would know what I meant.

When everyone on the ship died, I thought I would never see you again. See anyone again, in fact. I am so very glad that I did.

But the only reason that I did, that I could get back to you, is because I saw what else is out here. There are things that cannot be described, waiting in the darkness, looking for someone to talk to. I want to hear what they have to say. See it, with my own eyes, before time takes me too far.

There are a series of ideas that you gave me, fragments of time that I will never, ever forget. I will hold them close, keep them warm, and never know if they are real or not. That, in the end, is the magic of it all. And also the quiet, unassuming tragedy of it.

But, out here, I’ll find something I can grip onto with my fists.

Or, at the very least, learn what it means when something slips through your fingers.


He pushed send. Fired the words out back behind him, travelling through the long, dark night.

A trick.

He had realised what he had to do.

He pulled the manual override on the airlock, felt the light craft’s tepid atmosphere blow past him.

He stood quietly, considering the black.

And Fredriks stepped out. Tumbling.

A single moment.


Words copyright Matt Vesely. Image copyright David Keen.