Voices by Justin Cantelo

“If I cannot fly, let me sing.”
~~ Stephen Sondheim

“Daddy tell us a story,” Martin Sr. heard from across the table. Looking up he saw Sarah, his youngest beaming at him with an impossible smile.

“Yeah daddy a story,” Martin Jr. echoed, the chorus repeated around the table as all of his children joined in. All except his oldest William.

“Let’s finish our dinner and then we’ll go into the den and choose a story,” he offered as a wave of cheers crashes around him, again without the oldest. “Is everything alright William?”

“What was that Dad?” Startled out of his train of thought William looked up.

“I was just wondering if everything was alright?”

“Yeah, everything is fine,” William replied, “Just a little nervous about tomorrow.”

Martin shook his head, not forgetting for a moment that sixteen-year-old William was about to take on his first assignment. “You are going to do just fine Willy.” William scrunched his face at the nickname Martin knew drove him nuts.

“Yeah William, I’m sure you won’t crash us into any stars or anything.” Rebecca the next oldest said with a wicked grin on her face.

“Very funny,” William retorted as he smacked her across the arm. “You just wait two more years and they will have you cleaning out the public restrooms,” he said, an echo of laughter following.

As the family settled into their nightly routine, Martin Sr. noticed things slowly changing. He settled his gaze on his four children and couldn’t believe how much time had passed.

When dinner was done and all the children’s chores were finished they migrate towards the sitting area. The room was a snug fit for all five of them but it was the perfect room to reflect and share stories. The huge picturesque window allowed them one of the most beautiful views, as the HHC Elizabeth traveled

across the great expanse. The space allowed them to be illuminated by the colors and lights of the stars.

Martin Sr. walked over towards the window and sat there quietly as the rest of the family settled down. He pressed his hand against the window so he could feel the harmonics and vibrations and life that their home emanated. He turned around to see Sarah and Martin Jr. on the two seater, and William and Rebecca sat cross-legged in front of them, before he could say anything they were issuing demands for which story they get to hear.

“Ok everyone settle down,” he moved forward to take his place with his family. “I figured that since tonight is Williams last night with us we should allow him the chance to choose what story to share.” He looked towards his oldest, knowing exactly what story William would want to hear.

It was quiet and somber as reality settled in again that William was about to leave their nest and begin his own life. “So William?”

William lowered his head a bit . “I want you to tell us about Mom,” his breath caught in his throat as he said it. “I want you to tell us about the day she left us.”

“Ok,” Martin Sr. said.

“You all know that the HHC Elizabeth was christened after your mother. I’ve told you a million times,” he laughed a little, nervously realizing it was going to be the first time he told them the entire story about their mother.

“Before that the ship’s name was something quite different. It wasn’t until your mother, and what she did, that we started to give ships names again. It used to be come for ships to have names back on earth, many years ago. Your mother was a hero,” he pushed forward. “She was also one of the smartest people I have ever known.”

“She was a specialist, she specialized in the harmonics chambers that help to propel our ships through space,” he paused, “She could tell by the vibrations and pitch of the ship just how fast we were going, or if any adjustments were needed to keep her running smoothly.”

“In a way, to her this ship was like one of her children,” he continued. “She just knew when something was wrong, she knew just how to take care of it. A gift I think only a mother has.”

He continued to explain and entertain his family with the wonders of their mother and how she kept their ship together with her brilliance. They sat in silence awed, as they learned about this secret life they were all a part of but never knew fully.

“It wasn’t long after Sarah was born,” he paused to collect his thoughts. “Your mother came to visit me on the main bridge, at the time I was one of the navigators. She came to see if I would like to join you all for a picnic.”

“We were hit with tiny micro comets, I’m sure you have all read about them in school,” the children nodded. “Unfortunately unlike most times the damage was dealt to our engines, specifically harmonics chambers, causing the ship to lose forward propulsion. I’m not sure if you know this but the harmonics chambers and the power they provide isn’t just used to move the ship but it also helps to keep the gravity generators powered and most of our basic functions running.”

He continued to tell them about how, their mother was off on leave to heal from her pregnancy with Sarah. She refused to sit on the sidelines, especially when it was so time sensitive. The ship had enough power in reserve to keep the oxygen and life support running but they would have to stop and repair her at the risk of falling behind the other ships they accompanied. Martin Sr. looked out the window to see the HHC Marshall push by them.

“Your mother was so very smart,” he continued. “In the end it was her brains and her stubbornness that saved us.”

“The captain at the time was preparing to have all the civilians transported to the other ships in order to prevent them from being lost in case there was nothing we could do to get the ship running again. Your mother challenged him, she told him that there was a way to fix this problem, they just needed to pool all of their resources.”

“The captain relented but only gave her a small window to come up with a solution. She thrived on challenges, the harder the problem the more she relished in the chance to come up with a solution.”

He told his children that while their mother was working with her people to come up with a solution, efforts continued in case she couldn’t come up with one on time. The captain slowly grew restless in the few days they had to implement anything. He started to become impatient, and demanded the crew to begin preparations to abandon the ship.

“As is often the case, it came down to the last minute,” Martin Sr. continued. “Or as they say down to the 9th hour, don’t ask me what that means, I haven’t a clue.”

“Did I ever tell you your mother was a singer as well as an engineer? I met her at a bar when I was stationed on Titan,” he smiled and pushed on. “She was just recently stationed there as well, but yeah her voice, she was on stage performing with her band, she had a voice on her. After the captain refused to listen to her, your mother was left with no options but to unleash her plan and her voice.”

“She let out a high pitch tone so piercing that it started to put cracks in the glass covering the computer consoles. When we all looked at her she had a small device placed over her mouth that amplified her already powerful vocal cords.”

He told them how their mother explained to their stunned Captain that with the amplifications she had made to the harmonics chamber that they could reignite the vibrations coils and in turn reset the ship’s harmonics. The physical damage from the micro comets was minimal it just caused an imbalance within the chamber itself.

“There was something she wasn’t telling us right away, something that would change everything,” he said soulfully. “In order for her to use the amplification device to re-power the harmonics chamber she would have to go inside, and once she went inside,” he paused turning from the window to look at his family. “She couldn’t come back out. The sheer power of the vibrations, the sheer power of her voice would take her away.”

He told them that he didn’t want her to do it. He would have rather abandoned the ship in order to keep his family. He so desperately wanted to leave, but as he told his children before, this ship was one of her children and she couldn’t abandon her anymore then she could abandon them; In the end he sided with her, they didn’t have much time. The Captain allowed them to be a family one last time.

“You know how each year on your mother’s birthday we go to the hydroponics bay and we have a picnic?” they all nod, “That was the last thing we ever did as a ‘family’ with your mother,” he paused to let that sink in. “We went on a picnic as a family.”

“After the picnic, your mother and I spent sometime together. She wanted to leave me with all the wisdom a mother can leave for her children,” he continued. “That night her last moments with each of you was watching you all sleep peacefully. She kissed each of you, said she loved you and would always love you.”

“Your mother was so strong,” Martin Sr. issued. “Not once did she waver from her path, not once did she stumble. I know that if she could have had one more moment with each of you, if she could have done it any other way she would have,” he continued to push nearing the final pieces of the story. “You know what your mother said to me just before she entered the harmonics chamber? She said; This isn’t goodbye, I will always be here with you, just listen to the harmony of my children, just feel their vibrations and know that I am still with you,” he paused, “I knew that in that moment she was not only referring to ‘you’, but also ‘her’,” he says gesturing at the ship around them.

“Your mother entered the chamber and the door sealed her in, she turned to face me ‘I love you’ she whispered as she placed her hand upon the glass. I placed mine facing her, and it was at that moment your mother transformed right in front of my eyes, from a beautiful woman, the mother of my children, she became sound, light and love.”

After the story they sat in silence as he let it all sink in. Each of his children said goodnight and went to their own living quarters, leaving Martin Sr. to reflect. Moving from room to room Martin Sr. watched over his three youngest children wishing they would stop growing. After he shared that particular story he started to realize just how fast time passed. He finally settled on William’s room though the door was closed. He hesitantly knocked. “It’s open,” he heard from the other side.

“William? I just wanted to see how you were doing?” he said as he slowly pushed forward.

“I’m fine,” his son replied. “Still a little nervous.”

Martin Sr. nodded, “Are you going to be here for breakfast?” Smiling William smiled assuring him that while things were bound to change, some things were going to stay the same, at least for the time being. “Good.”

“Going to see mom?” William asked.

“How long have you known,” surprised by this Martin Sr. inquired.

“I’ve known for a long time.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I know you miss her,” William shrugged. “I know you need some time for yourself.”

“Thank you son,” Martin Sr said as he hugged his son tightly. “She would have been so proud of you seeing you follow in her footsteps. You are going to do great.”

“I love you dad.”

“I love you too William, please try to get some rest,” he smiled knowingly at his son as he left the room and then the cabin.

Walking down the quiet corridors Martin Sr. can heard the humming of the ship around him, he headed down towards the harmonics chamber.

“Captain,” a crew member called out as they approached one another.

“Oh hello Charity,” he replied informally. “How are you this evening?”

“Well Sir,” she responded in passing knowing exactly where he was heading. “The area is all clear for you Sir.”

Not surprised that his crew knew his routine, as he had been doing it for many years, he proceeded to into the harmonics chamber, as he did each night placing his hand on the glass that separated him from the music that pushed them forward, “Hi Elizabeth,” he whispers feeling the emotional pulse of the ship pass through his body.

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2 comments

  1. Hurray! Another story from Justin. It’s always great to see another sensibility on this blog. You always write things I would never think of. I love the juxtaposition you have with the tender story and the harshness of the ship. I felt like the family was in an old cabin in one paragraph and in the future in another. Very cool.

    1. Ben, first thank you for your continued support it really does help. I love that each person who contributes to this blog brings something different to the table and yet they all seem to fit together in some way or another. I love that word ‘juxtaposition’ and I love that you have found that within my story makes me wish I set out to do that lol 🙂

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