2 Wish Upon the Brighest Star

Wish Upon the Brightest Star

Rachel Mueller

Only five. Two of us already died. The other seven, we haven’t heard from them in weeks. Billions of others millions of lightyears away, dead. We were astronauts pushing the boundaries of exploration. We discovered a solar system like our own. Fourteen of us against the universe. Three months after we were catapulted into the vastness of deep space, war had broken out on Earth. Nuclear war. As far as our data shows, one bomb essentially lit the atmosphere on fire. The supercomputers that had piloted our ship were destroyed, but the coding was already in place to land us on different planets for exploration. Seven of us, including me, on the planet Mercurion, and the other seven on the planet Hetaphi. And now there are only five of us left stranded in a strange galaxy that we were supposed to explore. Now we can only pray that we will make out alive for the next few minutes.

I can still see my son, Jason. A crystal clear image floating around constantly in my mind. I can’t get rid of it. I have to remind myself, “Lauren, none of this was your fault. You couldn’t have ever imagined he would die. You went to explore because you had to.” Although something in his last glance he ever took of me told me something. A part of him died when I had gone. His eyes dulled, his face turned ashen, and he started to drown in a pit of melancholy that I had hurled him into. Now, standing on a white sandy beach that could have been on the front of a magazine, I tried to forget it all. Focus on the calm breeze, the deceptively frigid, murky sky-blue water, the poisonous palm fronds waving above my head, but still, there he was. Giving me the exact look he had given me that infamous day I left.

I pushed into the forest with Dan, the lead biologist, to try to study a group of animals moving in from the mainland. The sticks and leaves all tried their very best to hit or scratch me. I clumsily stepped over roots that attempted to trip me, getting their hopes of getting a taste of a new kind of prey up. The suns beat down on our backs, sweat dripped down our faces, and dizziness and faintness were just starting to set in. Everything on Mercurion was trying to kill you. Just then, a dark cloud covered up the suns’ stares, and we looked at each other and communicated almost telepathically. Shelter. Now. We dove under a craggy overhang near a cliff and just in time, we were safe.

Just seconds later, frozen chunks of trees, rocks, and ice the size of basketballs bombarded the area. Trees snapped like twigs. Lightning split open the sky, and thunder crashed and banged. Rain pounded relentlessly all around us. Just then, the overhang started to crumble. A few rocks started to fall, and then it was like an avalanche. Boulders flew from the ceiling, sand poured down, and everything started to collapse. We screamed and fought to keep rocks from piling too high and from hitting us. Blood was streaming out of scratches that had just opened. And suddenly, everything went black.

* * *


I opened my eyes and immediately sand flew into them. I rubbed them in a desperate attempt to get rid of the sand, and was suddenly shook by a fit of thunderous coughs. Rocks covered my entire body, and pain was shooting in waves all over.

“Lauren, are you okay? We have to dig our way out of here!” I heard Dan say.

“I think I’m okay, but a bit shaken up,” I managed.

“Come over this way, I think I found a weak spot in the rocks that we can use as an exit, but we have to dig through quite a bit.”

I felt my way over to Dan, and eventually I followed his voice. It was pitch black, but I could still faintly hear the wind howling just outside.

“I hope the others are okay. They probably had as much time to take shelter as we did,” I said.

“Well, last time I saw them, they were all inside of the hut. I don’t know how well it held up, though…we haven’t had a storm that bad yet,” he replied.

“I wonder how big the swells got near the beach. If the icefall was that bad here, it bothers me to think that there might have been multiple tsunamis that swept through near the hut,” I wondered aloud. Dan sighed.

“We have to get out of here quickly. I don’t think there is much oxygen in this little bubble.”

And with that, we set ourselves to the grueling task. Moving the heavy, sharp boulders in complete darkness made my body ache and my eyes strain.

“We must be getting close,” Dan declared after what felt like hours. “I can hear the wind much louder than before.”

We dug for a few more minutes, and all of a sudden, a small ray of light shone through the darkness. With renewed hope, we scrambled to remove the last of the rocks. Then, we opened a hole big enough for both of us to get through, and next thing we knew, we were free!

We made quick work of the hike back to the hut, but when our feet hit the sand of the beach, a horrible scene came into view. We both gasped at the site. The hut was torn to shreds, and pieces of equipment and supplies were drifting farther and farther into the ocean. The hut had been reduced to nothing. The trees and surrounding scenery were crushed beneath the ice. Just then, we heard a voice screaming above the wind.

“Help! Somebody help me!” someone cried.

Me and Dan took off sprinting over to the collapsed hut. We carefully stepped over the remains, until I saw an arm sticking out of the rubble. The voice sounded yet again.

“Help! Somebody! I’m stuck, and I can’t get out!”

I hoisted the person out of the pile. Grace, the team nurse, was covered from head to toe in dirt and grime, and blood trickled from her forehead. She had a crazed look in her eyes, and was so pale that I was worried that she’d lost too much blood.

“What happened to John and Dean?” I asked her. As I did, I ushered her to sit down on a rock.

“I…I don’t know. They were right next to me, and then a huge chunk of ice fell, and then…and then…” Tears quickly overcame her.

“Lauren!” Dan yelled, and shook his head. He had a look on his face that immediately told me what happened.

“They’re gone,” I whispered. I closed my eyes and lowered my head. Only three. Only three of us left.

* * *

Grace died. She lived to see the sunrise of the day after the storm. Dead from what I think was a loss of too much blood. Maybe of a broken heart. Only two. Only two of us left.

* * *

We buried Grace that day, said a few words, and forced ourselves to move on. We have to build a new shelter farther inland to keep the tides from sweeping away the shelter again. Me and Dan gathered the remaining supplies left, and turned to the rainforest. We hiked for two days with the suns glaring down at us. We ate almost all of the meager food that we had left, and we only had a few more sips worth of water to replenish us. We walked through forest, desert, and grassland. We decided to make our hut in the middle of a field surrounded by jungle.

Wild hog-like creatures with big, floppy ears and spotted, furry backs roamed the grasslands, and birds of all kinds zoomed overhead. We sawed down trees, wove the palm fronds together, and thatched a roof out of dead grass. Eventually, we found a spring to get fresh water from.

Soon, the hut was complete. We had a little garden riddled with seeds that we brought. Wheat, corn, melon, and plenty of other fruits and vegetables to sustain ourselves on. We hunted the wild hogs with sharpened sticks, and even captured and raised some to be domesticated.

One day when I was fixing dinner, Dan walked in with some little pink berries in hand.

“I found these when foraging. I believe they are a type of berry similar to raspberries. Not poisonous if I am correct.”

“If you are correct? I feel like that’s a risk that we shouldn’t take,” I replied nervously.

“I already ate some, and I feel perfectly fine. Just try one…they are mighty tasty!” he coxed.

“I…I don’t know. I’ll pass on them for now. I just started making roast hog, so it’ll be a big feast!” I answered cautiously. For some reason, the berries looked like a variation of nightwing berries. Nightwings were highly poisonous, and could come in a variety of colors; including light pink like the ones Dan held in his palm. Side effects from eating them included hallucinating, extreme pain, and unfortunately, death. Dan said he already ate some, but they definitely looked like nightwings.

“Dan, do you feel okay?” I asked.

“Umm, well…I…oh!”

Dan collapsed on the floor of the hut.

“Dan!” I screamed. I rushed to the ground to help him, but soon realized that I couldn’t do anything to help. He already ate some, how many, I don’t know. He had almost convinced me to eat them too.

Then Dan stopped moaning. Then he stopped moving. And then he stopped breathing. I stood there in horror and shock until I came to the conclusion that I was the only human left in the universe.

* * *

“Darn it, Momma, you found me!”

“Jason? Is that you?”

“Yeah…why wouldn’t it be?”

“Where am I?”

“In the house? We are playing hide and seek…and you found me. Why are you so confused?”

“Well…I just thought that maybe…”


* * *

Just another dream, Lauren. Your son is dead.

Why do you think he is alive? Why is he in your dreams, even though you left him 63 years ago? You left him. That’s why he is dead.

No. No, no, no. It’s not your fault.

But it is–.

No it isn’t. No. No. No.

Then why did you leave?

Because I had to.

No. You didn’t have to. You knew the war would happen. You knew you could have protected him for longer than you thought. But you still left.

I didn’t know it would happen like that. I–

How could you defend yourself after you murdered your son?

I didn’t murder him. The evil world did.

You’re just finding someone to blame.

I am. And I’m glad that despicable world burned.

* * *

All I can do now is tend to the garden and hogs. That’s all. I’m 92 years old. I buried my friends. But I never got the chance to bury my family. I’m going to be with my son soon. Maybe this will be my last meal. I’ll make it extra special. Hog chops and maybe some corn and strawberries. It’ll be a feast! The same one I was fixing the night Dan died. Maybe that will honor his legacy or something. Maybe I should take a hike. Wander amongst the sun-dappled trees. Or I could sit with the great creatures of the land one last time. Or maybe I could stand by the spring and hear it gurgle and sputter with energy and delight. I could clean up around here! I’ve been living like the hogs in the barn lately. I could sweep and organize and –oh, I could even harvest the garden now. Not just picking the individual sprouts for recipes, but I could operate the machinery again! I sure haven’t done that for a while!

But maybe I should stargaze. I could see our sun once more. I could count the constellations. Or maybe I could wish upon the brightest star.


Anoka County Library Write On! 2023 Short Story Contest Winners Copyright © 2023 by Avrie Siedschlag; Ella Howard; Greta Graham; Renad Taher; Rachel Mueller; Daniel Gbati; Julia McBride; Audrey High; Lucia Floan; Rhett LeBeau; Anna Moline; Hannah Jemming; Valomi Lewis; Fen Hendren; Kathryn Downs; Megan Nguyen; Lizzie Elsenpeter; Sophia Accord; and Sophia Acord. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book