Fortune Teller By D.I. Jolly
Life aboard a starship takes you on so much more than just a physical journey. Living alone constantly moving away from civilisation and everything you’ve ever known, you get to experience the personal journey of self. Spending 6 years locked in a 35 square meter rectangle alone always changes a person. For Jarod, the original choice hadn’t been a hard one. Having lived mostly alone since university, he had achieved wondrous things without having to deal with other people. So, when offered the opportunity to head off-world and join one of the distant space colonies, the choice was simple. He agreed on the spot giving him the air of a man who can make important decisions quickly and with confidence. What the review board wasn’t aware of though was that he also had no one else to consider. No parents who’d miss him, no significant other to weigh important decisions off of, not even a pet or a plant to get a sitter for. But because of all of that, he didn’t think he needed to think about it. The next day he signed on the dotted line and mentally the 3-week timer of his life on earth started.
His first, last weekend was spent at the beach, listening to the sound of crashing waves, and hiding from someone who looked suspiciously like a guy from his first-year physics class who had really wanted to be his friend. The second weekend he found himself walking through the city that had been his home for most of his adult life, taking turns down streets he’d always seen but never had a reason to go down. He stopped at that place he always wanted to try, and in a strange moment had a drink at the bar he’d lived above but had never been to. Over the course of his beer, he engaged in some light chat with the barmaid, Melony. She was in her late 60s with long grey hair, kind eyes, and a face built by a lifetime of smiles. By the end of his drink, she offered him another and despite himself, he declined and took himself home.
His plan was to spend his last week studying up on launch procedure and isolation survival methods. But his mind kept returning to Melony, was she working? Would she remember him? To put his mind to rest he returned to the bar and was greeted by the same smile.
“Hey, Jarod right? How are you?”
He smiled in reply and was able to take the same seat he’d had before. A beer and a half later he found himself being summed up by Melony. The bar was quiet enough that she could take a moment to look him up and down and draw some conclusions.
“You know, I have actually seen you walking past the door the last couple years, but you never seem to be with anyone.”
Jarod shifted in his seat, unsure how he felt about having been noticed.
She smiled at his obvious unease.
“You always looked busy, so it didn’t bother me. But the other day when you came in, I thought you looked a bit lonely. I’m really glad you came back.”
He smiled and blushed but his face quickly turned grave.
“I… I think I should tell you, I’m going away next week.”
“Oh! Travel is always good for the soul, where are you going? You know I could see you in an old European city, something with history and culture. Paris maybe, or … hmmm… Trier?”
Melony stared at him for a while and he couldn’t work out if she was judging him for being an Abandoner, sad that he was going to disappear, or just indifferent.
“Now that makes sense, of course, you’re going there.’
She reached out a comforting hand and gave his forearm a quick squeeze.
‘That’s so exciting. Pity you didn’t think to come in here sooner but I’m still glad you did.”
Jarod smiled and they continued their conversation until he finished his drink, then he took himself off home.
He went back twice more before leaving but was disappointed to find Melony not there, so never stayed. It wasn’t until the morning he was leaving his flat for good that he saw her again, sitting patiently outside the bar waiting for him.
“Hey, glad I caught you, I wanted to get you a going-away present.”
She held out her hand with a small wrapped present.
“Well, it struck me that you’re about to embark on this massive life-changing event and you were spending your last days with me. And no one should go on an adventure without something to remind them of home. It’s just a little thing, but it’s for you.”
She wiggled her hand shaking the present to indicate that he hadn’t taken it yet, and realising himself grabbed it. She then stepped forward and gave him an awkward hug.
‘and have fun, and make us proud. Oh also, don’t open the present until you get there. Or try at least.”
Jarod opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before he managed to find the words.
She smiled at him and unsure of what to do, he slipped the package into his backpack, got into his taxi and left. The rest of the day passed in a blur of handshakes, medical tests, and long lectures about things he already knew. Then he was given a final meal of his choice and prepared for launch.
Then, and for every day since, his whole life consisted of waking up, checking his vitals, the ships vitals, and wondering what was in the package. He wondered about Melony and what had possessed her to take pity on him. He wondered if it was pity at all or just a random act of kindness. He wondered if it was a trap of some kind, which sent him on a three month spiral of potentially bringing dangerous contraband onto the ship.
Three and a half years later Jarod finally broke down and on what he thought might be his birthday, opened the present. In it he found a letter which read:
I knew you wouldn’t make it all the way to Titan before you opened it. That’s ok. I miss you, even though we didn’t really know each other but I worry that no one else was allowed to, so I decided I would. I’ve done some long travels alone myself in my past, and although nothing like what you’re doing I wanted to give you the thing I wished someone had given me.
Jarod turned the letter over a few times then looked at the box and found two books. One a book on mental self-care, and the other a blank notebook and pen. He turned them over in his hands a few times and flipped the pages and clicked the pen. He then opened the notebook to the first page and wrote.