Beyond Lonely

Sometimes, at the heart of night while the rest of the world slumbered, Ada stepped out of her house to listen to the emptiness.

The adults thought that she didn’t notice, didn’t pay attention to their hushed talk when they met for coffee or wine. She’d play in the living room as they gathered around the kitchen table, using foreboding tones to make predictions about how the world would look if the exodus continued, whether they were making the right choice for raising their kid. And indeed, most of the time, Ada kept her eyes on her dolls, not looking up or paying much attention.

But children are sponges, and Ada absorbed, if not the exact words spoken by her parents and the other adults of the neighborhood, their general gist. She felt that vague sense of foreboding, settling in at the back of her mind and making itself at home.

And it was that sense of foreboding that drove her, some nights, to step out of the house and climb to the top of the hill in the middle of their street, up to stand in the center of the road and gaze out at the world beyond their neighborhood.

Their little village sat in a bowl, a depression in the midst of mountains. “Like the Earth decided to build us a fence,” her dad told her at one point, smiling as he pointed to the snow-capped peaks. “And isn’t it pretty?”

Ada supposed that yes, the mountains were pretty, although such thoughts of beauty are largely beyond an eight-year-old child. Her eyes, however, always tracked to the peak that her parents did their best to avoid, to never acknowledge.

She could see it, she’d found, if she stood on the little hill in the middle of their street. From that point, she could gaze down the road, the houses falling away on either side, and look at the glow coming from that peak, the radiance that shone up into the night sky.

The Exodus – that was the name given to it by her parents, stolen unapologetically from some long-dead science fiction writer by the media pundits on television, by the headlines on the newspapers. Abandoning their home that had served them for so long, heading out into the great unknown. It was a Wild West with a thousand frontiers, every enterprising adventurer looking to stake their claim and discover a better life. Some of the papers spoke about it with optimistic fervor; others made dire doomsday predictions.

Ada didn’t understand much of the motivation, the history, the technology. She knew nothing of the mag-driver systems that eliminated the need for costly rockets in order to escape the Earth’s gravitational well. She didn’t know about the fuel shortages, the looming population crises, the rich history of always pushing back the boundaries of civilization.

All she knew is that sometimes, when the rest of the world had gone to sleep, she felt invisible strings tugging her to put on her coat and step outside. Her footsteps muffled by virgin snow, she’d walk to the center of the road, would gaze out at that glowing peak.

Ada watched the points of light darting up, climbing into the sky to vanish among the stars. She watched the Exodus, and although she soon grew cold and headed back to the warmth of her bed, her mind raced away, up the mountain and into the sky aboard those brightly shining points of light.

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