My Plan

From time to time, I post short stories that I have written. Helpful comments about what I've written or suggestions for future stories are most welcome. I also have another blog of stories from my family history

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


This is my first attempt at Flash Friday Fiction (  The story prompt for this week:
Teenagers in Space -
Themed word list: Plutonium, galaxy, robot, photon, and lasers
Genre: Sci-fi, Sci-fi/coming of age or sci-fi/romance
Word Count: 1,300 words
Xelon looked out of the portal at the planet he longed to visit.  Its beautiful blue green surface seemed so inviting compared to the inky blackness of space.  There were stars and galaxies in space that interrupted the black, but they were merely unreachable pin-pricks of light to Xelon. A nearby planet that nearly filled the portal was a much more attractive object.  With his parents busy working and living on the space station that was orbiting the Earth, Xelon had never been down to the planet; he desperately wanted to go there. 
Because gravity was lower in the space station than on Earth, it was generally accepted that if you hadn’t spent substantial time on Earth by the time you were about sixteen, then it would be very detrimental to your health to ever go there.  Gravity was kept low on the station to match Martian gravity, as most people who lived on or passed through the station were more likely to end up in the Martian or Moon bases than on Earth.  Earth people tended to stay on the planet.  Xelon was fourteen and he knew that he had to go to Earth soon if he was ever going to go.  His parents weren’t interested in him going.  They wanted him to take an apprenticeship on Mars in the plutonium mines.  The money was good.  Time spent on Earth adjusting to the gravity there would cause health problems later on Mars.  Xelon didn’t care about money.  He wanted adventure. 
As his parents wouldn’t help him, it would be difficult to get to earth, Xelon realized.  There was a need for passports and permits that required parental approval, which wouldn’t be forthcoming in Xelon’s case.  Some of his school mates have been more fortunate with their parents sending them to Earth for their last years of schooling.  Xelon did have a plan, though.  He would stowaway.  It was simple, really; he would hide in a supply box.  Supply boxes were for food and other organic supplies from the Space Station, the Moon or Mars and they had to be shipped in pressurized and aerated compartments.   With money given to him on his last Birthday, Xelon had paid one of the porters to help him.  It was all arranged that he would go in the next big shipping run, which was due to go the following day.  Xelon was so close to getting to Earth, he could feel it.
The next morning, Xelon skipped school and went to find the porter.  The porter was waiting for him in the store room, as arranged.  It seemed that everything was going to plan.  Xelon climbed into the supply box, which was just big enough that he didn’t feel too cramped.  With him, he had some supplies that would get him through the 10 hour journey to Earth and his backpack containing his most treasure possessions.  Following his arrival on Earth, he had arranged for one of his school colleagues to meet him. 
Xelon felt the supply box move and then a little while later, felt it being strapped into place, presumably in the transporter ship.  Soon, the thrust of the transporter made Xelon feel as heavy as he had ever felt in his life.  It wasn’t very comfortable and for the first time, Xelon wondered what Earth gravity would feel like.  He had never been off the space station so he had only ever experienced the one level of gravity.  Soon, the heaviness disappeared and was replaced by weightlessness. Not long after that, Xelon discovered that weightlessness in a confined space was not very comfortable.  He had been warned about nausea, which he didn’t feel, but not about the awkwardness of trying to avoid his pack and supplies floating around and, occasionally, into him.
Ten hours later, Xelon was desperate to get out of his box.  His torch battery was going flat.  It had been very difficult to eat or drink anything without gravity and relieving himself had been a bit messy as well.  So what had started out as a fun adventure had, within hours, turn rather dark, smelly and uncomfortable.  Then, what must have been Earth gravity kicked in.  Xelon felt pushed into the base of the box and he could hardly move.  When he thought that the movement of the transport had stopped, indicating that they must have landed, instead of feeling excitement, he just felt heavy.
A short time later, Xelon felt the supply box being released from its moorings and being moved.  Every bump was painful and made him feel heavier but the journey didn’t last long.  There were voices and then the lid was opened.  The face looking down on Xelon wasn’t his school mate but a muscular man of uncertain age and very short hair.  Xelon recognized an Agent when he saw one.  No one else had hair like that or the ice hard expression in their eyes.  The Agent had a photon laser in hand.  This meant trouble.
“Do you really think that you could disappear for ten hours from the space station without anyone noticing?” asked the Agent.  “I would ask you to get out of the box, but you’re used to Mars G so I know you can’t move and that you will come along quietly.”
Xelon just looked up at the man, knowing he was right because whatever Xelon might want to do, he was stuck at the bottom of the box and couldn’t move.  Rather than remove Xelon and his pack from the box, the put the box on small hover platform and carried him to the back of a truck.  So far, in his short experience of Earth, it wasn’t looking much different to the Space station.
Three months later, Xelon found himself sitting in a garden attached to the rehabilitation centre, where he had been placed while he adjusted to gravity, pondering his fate.  It turned out that teenage stowaways from the space station and the Moon base were common.  A whole industry had been set up to deal with them.  They weren’t sent back where they came from, as they were viewed as potential trouble makers and having such characters on a space station was deemed too risky.   A single thoughtless act could result in many deaths in space.  Instead, the teenagers went through physical therapy to adjust to Earth gravity and were allowed to finish their education.  Then they were sent out to work in jobs that were considered too menial for anyone to bother making robots to do them.  There they worked until they had paid for their treatment and schooling.
It seemed that it would be some time before Xelon experienced any adventure.  He soon discovered that most Earth cities had been developed in a way that left them looking similar to the Space station, the only difference being gardens and the open sky above.  The novelty of the uninspired city gardens had soon worn off.  There was a very limited variety of trees and flowers grown and no grass at all.  Xelon heard stories about the countryside that had been allowed to go back to its natural state after too many years of human interference.  People were rarely allowed to visit the countryside.
Gradually, it dawned on Xelon that life of Earth was not unlike life on the Space Station.  The only difference was that on the Space Station, he had a family and friends who loved him.  Xelon looked up into the night sky.  He could see one pin-prick of that was much brighter and bigger than the others moving quite fast across the sky.  It was not a star, but the space station.  He longed to go back there to see his family and maybe travel onwards to Mars.  Xelon longed for adventure.


  1. What a predicament. Stuck on earth. I think I might do anything to get back. I guess we'll have to wait and see. Nice Story, Susan. maybe a bit more dialog from Xelon to get a handle on his personality. Good work

  2. I really enjoyed this, great first contribution. I'm one of the flash fiction contributors but couldn't get anything working this week.

  3. I'm very glad you have submitted this for Friday flash fiction. Like Beach Bum I failed to work anything out for this one. An impressive piece of work - look forward to seeing more :-)

  4. Poor Xelon! This is quite the cautionary tale and should prevent any future stowaways from slipping into a shipping box to earth! Nicely done.

  5. Great read! I really loved the progression of the story. This could well be part of a larger story. I would enjoy reading more of Xelon... does he make it back to the station?

    What is old saying... "... be careful what you wish for..."... not quite the adventure young Xelon was hoping for, I would imagine.

    Thank you for sharing, Susan. A well-crafted tale. :)

  6. Hi, Susan! I, too, might be starting flash fiction friday, and have been checking out some of the entries. I hope my first one is as good as yours (:

  7. Really quite a good example of 'the grass is always greener...', although in Xelon's case, unfortunately, it didn't turn out to be the case. I would also like to find out where this goes. This could very well be the beginning of a longer piece.

    Excellent first submission to F3. Welcome! I'm a regular contributor, and I enjoy reading everyone's stories just as much as writing my own. Really looking forward to reading more of your work.

  8. Hi, Susan! like some of the others commenting here, I didn't get around to contributing this week - but well done, you, for achieving just that!

    I liked the way you made the reader empathise with Xelon's longings, first for adventure, then for a return to what had been familiar in his earlier life.

    I agree with Veronica - this would bear further work to create a longer piece!

    Cracking start - hope to read more from you in the coming challenges!

  9. A lot of hard lessons for a teen here--be careful what you wish for, the grass isn't always greener on the other side, etc.

    Loved the ending as well and how it shows that we usually end up right back were we started.

    And I agree with the others that this was a great start! Look forward to reading more.