Departure by Christina Jablonski
Imak and I rush towards a brightly lit ship on the Australis Pier. We know that everyone else has been on board for quite a while and we notice that they have already started pulling away from the shore. We run as quickly as we can but the ship is disappearing into the darkening space towards the ocean with an amazing speed. Our only chance to catch up with them before the lift-off is to resort to flying.
It is late and undoubtedly people have gone to their little houses for the night, so we can fly without a fear of being spotted. Imak, who is well ahead of me, begins to move his armlings faster. I hesitate for a moment and wonder whether I am still able to become airborne. If not, it means that I will have to stay on this planet to the end. Then, I swiftly rise in the air, soaring above the colourful city illuminated by the remaining rays of the sun sinking behind the mountain. The red roofs and white walls of the houses on both sides of the river below look picturesque from here. But there is no time for any reflections and I have to move quickly. Finally, I am able to achieve the proper thrust. Our space liner emits a strong beam of light, which allows us to find our way quickly and, a few moments later we are safely on board.
The ship is gathering speed as it comes closer to the mouth of the river. I stand on the landing platform, trying to commit to memory the familiar ribbon of the bridge, a tower of their casino and the whole innocent city that we have just left behind. I hear Imak saying to the captain that he still wants to do something before the departure and a disagreement follows. I don’t pay much attention, these things happen sometimes. Slowly, I make my way to the top deck. The sun is down and dusk quickly envelops the ship and the immense stretch of the ocean ahead.
She, our keeper, revolves slowly within her special space, embraces us with her all-seeing eyes, watches over, decides, takes responsibilities and, like a good mother, gathers the whole flock under her wings. She expresses her pleasure that we, her obedient children, have completed the task according to her will.
The quarrel intensifies and Imak jumps into the water. From that height! A few of us, who witness his action, wonder whether he is still alive. But Imak emerges from the depth and, delighted, shouts that everything is all right. The ship slows down because we cannot leave him there. Imak splashes, swims close to the edge of the ship’s light beam and yells that water is very warm and so refreshing that it makes him dizzy. He wants to feel its pleasant moisture on his skin, perhaps for the last time.
I think that Imak does not really want to leave this place. Those who are dear to him will stay on this small blue planet; this is the place where he was born and lived the best years of his life. How can he now leave all of this behind and just go? Under this masquerade of happy frolicking I sense his boundless sadness.
Something is happening down below. Suddenly the water is teeming with multitudes of sea creatures and the captain shouts: ‘Sharks! Attention! Sharks!’ I recognize those large dark shadows, which are making circles around Imak and I wonder whether he remembers there are sharks in these waters. Immediately, I can feel that he is frightened; he desperately moves his armlings when one of those creatures materializes near the surface and starts to pull him into the depths. The ship throws a lifebeam, which is unable to reach Imak and I soon notice the reason for such a strange occurrence. I can clearly see Imak pushes away the very thing that could bring him back as if he is determined to alter the course of his destiny. Before he finally disappears under the surface, before that horrible slippery shape takes him to the bottom of the ocean, I receive his last thoughts.
‘Don’t worry, don’t despair, l want it to end this way. I want to stay here and am prepared to pay any price. Don’t feel sorry for me. I prefer this to the future chosen for us. And always try to remember that finally, I am making decisions and finally, my wish comes true.’
The ship accelerates and will soon lift off into space. We are no longer needed here but I am left with some very mixed feelings. I am not sure any more whether it was Imak who decided to remain under the surface of the ocean … or was it me?
The ocean is quiet again, its surface rising and falling like the breast of a sleeping child. The sky is dark and full of stars as we prepare to leave this galaxy. The Way as our people call it. It swirls and with unimaginable speed vanishes behind when our ship breaches the space-time continuum. We accelerate into the future.