People go by as shooting stars

The ever turbulent yet silent sea was caressing each of Riley’s fingers as the boat was following the now fading sun. They were as quiet as their surroundings on that day, no wind, no waves not even the slightest seagull to perturb the tranquility of that moment, and they relished each second of it. They could day dream like this for hours, thoughts drifting slowly in the mind as the ship does on the ocean, restless and beautiful. But they should eventually go back inside, staying in the outdoor could be dangerous, especially when night comes, nothing was sure at night anymore. Before they left media told everyone not to go out when darkness falls, that things lurked where the eyes couldn’t reach out and light wouldn’t dare to venture. And now without the safety of the city’s big reassuring walls, they couldn’t afford to risk anything after the day passed. With the last red rays of light vanishing as obscurity rose like if it was coming from the deep abyss down below, they shut the wooden door behind them, descending under the sea level yet protected by four inches of solid diverse waterproof materials. They were taking every step without thinking, getting closer and closer to their room, and then throwing themselves onto the bed, still thinking about what was outside, they would have wanted to see the stars again, even just once, they thought as tiredness was taking its toll.

-You could see them you know, a little feminine voice mumbled.

Riley wasn’t sure if it came from the exhaustion, maybe the loneliness, or if they started dreaming, maybe they were really turning mad so they didn’t respond or really acknowledged it, trying to get some rest before sunrise.

-I am sure you will see them soon, I promise you will, the voice uttered a second time as Riley was falling asleep.

Another day was beginning for lonely Riley, they didn’t mind it at all, loneliness, they were used to it by now, it was hard when they were just fleeing from society, when they left everyone behind them to live this life, a life they choose, a life they fit in. When was it exactly? They had lost track of time by now, weeks? Months? Maybe even a year or even more. It didn’t matter, at this point there was no turning back. Just keeping the pace throughout the endless blue, with no goal, no direction, no purpose, no dream and the head in the stars while unable to watch them. Riley were happy with their current situation, it was much better than before they left. The last past years had been difficult, leaving in this toxic society that mankind built on a little more every year, back in the 21th century, people thought future was going to be all about technology, but they forgot to think about the social aspects, now centuries later most people don’t remember those times. When Riley lived in this mess they call civilization, people lost their individuality, to make the government’s work easier people were gathered into groups they choose, family, friends, loved ones, and took decision all together, for some it was a great step forward, people lived with people they liked, far from loneliness, but for people like Riley, feeling disconnected from the rest, different, and most of all more alone than ever surrounded by those they would be forced to stay with for the rest of their life, it was a hellhole. Arguments where more and more frequent, people didn’t understand why they felt like that, why they kept being anxious and dehumanized, day by day, little by little, they would crumble if they didn’t do anything about it. So Riley fled, they fled as far as possible leaving behind nothing but a note to a now long forgotten fried, the only one they felt close to, but those memories were now gone, the howling wind and thundering clouds took them on their way towards nothing. Now all they would want would be to see the stars. The beautiful night sky immense and full of tiny lights in this deep black tapestry they called space.

-I told you, you can see them again Riley, said the same voice Riley heard the day before, more confident this time.

Riley stopped halfway through the stairs.

-Who’s there? They shouted with a mix of fear and doubt, still unsure if the sound came from their imagination or if someone was on the boat with them.

Time seemed to stop, for seconds then minutes, what felt like an eternity, a stressful eternity.

-You know me right? Don’t remember my voice? Or did it changed that much…

Riley couldn’t figure out from where the voice was coming, it was like if the sound came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

-I don’t know anyone, please show yourself, this is my ship and I wish to be left alone.

-Well to some extent, you are. I am not physically anywhere on your stupid raft, answered mockingly the unknown being, obviously trying to resist nervous laughter.

There was a moment of confusing, Riley were moving their head left and right, searching for a manifestation or something, anything. But it was true, they were alone, as alone as they were since they put their foot on the floating transport. Fear started growing inside of them like, feeding on every tiny thoughts that they might be crazy.

-No you’re not, I assure you, you’re not crazy by any means, affirmed the voice firmly and in a more serious and compassionate tone.

-Oh yeah right, I am talking to a voice in my head, sure I am perfectly sane, as sane as any person without social interaction for weeks or months and lost in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to go. I am quite in the norm of this specific demographics’ sanity level, for sure.

-You’re quite sassy, talking to your best friend like that, replicated the voice with subtle hints of anger starting to show up.

-S- Sarah?

-You’re a slow one aren’t you? You haven’t changed a bit Riley, she responded seemingly relieved.

Riley was confused, Sarah was the only person they left a message to when they left everyone behind, how would she be able to contact them, and why now. They needed some time to think and breathe.

-I can give you time if you need to but I can explain If you want me to… She mumbled.

-What?! Are you reading my mind too? Stop messing with me you creep! They lashed out of stress and anger toward the situation they couldn’t figure out how to deal with.

-It’s okay Riley, calm down, she was more and more soft, almost fading away, I can let you think for a while…

Seconds passed, and slowly fear grappled Riley, something they hadn’t felt for so long.

-No, no, no, no, no, don’t go… please…

-Hey, I’m still here little Riley, and even if they couldn’t see her, Riley could sense her smiling, and it was soothing.

-Why… How? I mean where are you right now?

-I am somewhere lost in the ocean like you…

-You are out there? Are you insane? It’s dangerous and… and…

-So why did YOU flee huh? Don’t you think I would care for you? I was dead worried!

-I… I am sorry… I just couldn’t stay anymore, but you shouldn’t have went all this way just for me, you can go back I’m fine…

-To be honest I didn’t really flee only to find you, you kinda inspired me in a way, I read your letter and it made me thought, and the courage you showed to go on your own was impressive. Don’t get me wrong I was mad at you when it happened, and you should have talked to me about it… But I this system was getting to me on a personal level, all this ideology about putting people together in boxes to lessen the difficulty of political decision or whatever else. In 14 year we have dealt with this, I’ve never felt myself, I never felt like I was belonging, having to mimic people ideas and erasing your own for the greater good, I can’t judge if it’s a good or bad thing overall. But even if it was great for society, society wasn’t great for me…

-Maybe some of us weren’t made to be part of it anyway, I am sure some people enjoy it, nobody is ever truly alone. People try to help each other in the groups, but in the end it’s just in order for the group to work, there is even mental health support, but it just tries to make you fit in a box that is part of the system. I would have fallen into depression if it kept being that way.

A deep silence began to take place, the kind of silence that get so noisy you don’t hear your thoughts.

-You know when I stole a boat to sail into the seas, I didn’t know If I really wanted to continue at all, so I stayed up all night long, staring at the stars, maybe I was wishing that what they told us about the night was true, that I could end it right there, peacefully go out like a shooting star… But hey I am still here, there is nothing out there when the sun is gone, you can look at the skies above all you want!

Still unsure what to think about all of this, they walked toward the door leading outside, their hand grabbing the handle. All doubt suddenly lifted, determination filling every part of their body as the open sky was now lying before their eyes. All the stars, tiny dots of light covering up the dark empty space like dust on an old painting. It was beautiful, just as they remembered it, no, even better, the cold warmth of the gentle night was now surrounding them. Feet by feet, step by step, advancing on the deck. Riley too, out their sketch book, and began to draw under the moon glow. Sarah didn’t want to interrupt them, and everything remained calm for a few hours until she finely spoke up.

-They are beautiful, aren’t they?

-Every time I see a shooting star, it reminds me of people that just came into our life, sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes more, in the end they all disappear far away, and we never know where they went, I always remember this brightness, but in the end they just disappear don’t they ? You’re just left with nothing but memories…

-They don’t have to be…

-Yeah… Riley marked a pause, and took an inspiration before continuing. Anyway where are you, you shouldn’t be all alone on a ship, we should meet!

-I don’t know all I see is constellations and the water reflecting them…

-Hey that’s great, could you describe what you see? Or show me I don’t know what we can tell or send with… what is this thing anyway? The one that made you able to contact me? How are we even talking?

-Well, I don’t really know, I really wanted to talk to you and I watch the stars moving around the sky and I saw you, and heard you so I responded to your thoughts and here we are…

-That’s… really messed up…

-Yeah… But maybe if I wish to show you what I see you’ll be able to see it, I don’t know, I’ll try wait a second.

Minutes past but nothing happened, and Sarah came back.

-Did it work?

-No, I guess not I don’t feel anything, can you describe me what is above your head? Said Riley taking out their pencil and opening a page of their sketch book, I am going to chart the sky and thus I’ll navigate towards you, if my astronomy skills are not too rusted…

The next few days Riley concentrated themselves on charting the stars onto a map, gathering what they remembered of the knowledge they had before all this, drawing and sketching every little light dot in space, searching to compare them from their point of view, deducing positions and distance. Some days it felt impossible, that the task was too hard, but having someone to talk to and to look forward to kept them working all night long. Little sketches became detailed maps in a matter of days, adjusting the direction of their transport, absorbed by the sensation of freedom, of purpose.

-At this rate we will be on the same position in about 3 days, are you anxious about it?

-Honestly I feel lost, it seems like a dream, I didn’t expect to see you so soon, I don’t know how to feel about all this…

-I understand, I feel the same but I really want to see you again…

-You know, I heard of a militant group that wanted to change the society, to change its basis, I wonder, would you want to join them?

-I mean I did get out of this place for a reason, I kinda like how life has been these last few months…

-But you seem excited to see me right? I mean loneliness is fine but you don’t have to cut yourself from everyone because of past experiences… Maybe you have a place somewhere if you give it a chance, if you don’t try you’ll never find out…

-I don’t know about that, yeah I want to have a friend, but being part of a group again scares me… rebuilding relationships is scary… but do not change the subject, if you are stress out about our meeting I can delay it for a few days more…

-Nah it’s okay, I’ll get over it.

-Are you sure?

-Yeah!

The next day was quiet, no trace of Sarah, she didn’t respond to their thoughts, she was always the one starting the conversations, it was like a link they felt coming up to their head, but now it wasn’t there anymore. So they waited, they waited all day the sun coming up and down, the stars rising with the moon and disappear as they flee the sunlight. But nobody came, nothing came around, they just checked constantly and anxiously the map they charted, praying for their calculation to be right and for Sarah to be fine. They had time to think about the recent events, how strange it was, and how all this talking had affected them, when they felt so dissociated from all the rest of humanity. Riley thought about the militants she talked about, how their fight was more meaningful than theirs. In the end they were just a drifting mess floating on the water, that didn’t find themselves with this journey… Maybe they could have change the things back then, maybe they could have risen up with the others like them, creating deep friendships with people who would not let their identities crush by the rest of the world. They dreamt about how life could have been different and how it was right now. And then they realized that Sarah was not at the rendezvous point, they were alone, maybe she wasn’t even there to begin with, no boat in sights. Was it just insanity covering their minds? Everything they’ve done led to this, to nothing, no hope, no quest, no goal, no friend, no one came. And then they saw it, emerging from the horizon, a tiny flag on a tiny deck. That’s it that was Sarah! But as they came closer and closer, it was no ship, it was a harbor, it was not a welcoming flag, it was a sign, and it was not Sarah, it was the rebels she spoke of. Riley had the opportunity to go back, to this new life the experienced and welcomed. They took a deep breath, and kept the pace, coming as near as they could of the coast. They looked at this crowd of people, of proud people, of unique people, people that didn’t bend to what people would impose on them. So Riley jumped out of the boat, leaving it behind, and began advancing towards them, with confidence and determination. This time there would be no running away, nobody to be rejected nor to be dehumanized. This time they would create links with people that cared. And this time, they thought as they walked into the marching mass and becoming one with it, this time people would not go by as shooting stars…