I wrote this a few years ago after doing some research for a different story, and shared it recently on the Two Sisters Writing Podcast. It was inspired by commentary in one of the books I read regarding the characteristics of Jupiter’s moons and a fairly popular thought experiment: would it be possible for a person to escape the gravity of a planetoid just by jumping?

Impleo wasn’t much of a moon. For one thing, it looked flatish and lumpy, even the planetside view, not the pleasing spherical shapes of the other moons in the system. For another, if you took a good running start and leapt, there was a good chance that you’d enter a low orbit and be stuck circling the little rock until someone got you down. Allie had tried it once, while Mira watched in morbid fascination, but before she had jumped even as high as the house, their father came soaring out of nowhere and snatched her out of the air, and brought her back down to Impleo’s surface.

Gazing out the kitchen window, Allie recalled, with a grimace, the harsh reprimand, the long banishment to her room, and the threats to never let her outside without a tether holding her to the house’s foundations. She hadn’t tried entering Impleo’s orbit since then. But she hadn’t stopped thinking about springing up from the ground, sailing away from the grayish soil and the bare, always-dying grass, into the starry sky. Now she had her chance.

Her bag was packed. It lay at her feet like an obedient dog, ready to move as soon as she did. The mug of coffee in front of her sent curls of fragrant steam into the air, and she wrapped her hands around it absentmindedly. The kitchen, usually stretching the meaning of “cozy” to the point of “cramped”, felt strangely empty and lonely. Allie pictured her mother, out in the barn tending to the livestock, muttering to herself about ungrateful, lazy daughters while a tear or two escaped the corner of her eye and dripped down her long nose. At least her mother was showing some emotion, Allie thought, staring into the depths of her cup. Her father and sister hadn’t spoken to her since she announced her intention to take the university scholarship planetside.

“I won’t even be that far away!” she had protested, addressing the back of Mira’s head. In their tiny shared bedroom, Mira had faced the wall every night for three weeks rather than look her sister in the eye. 

“I’ll be back to visit all the time.”

Mira didn’t even move.

At first Allie had been angry, but the anger had soon faded to bewilderment. They had all nagged her about her studies, finally appeased when she had earned her distinctions for Compulsory Level Education at a rank that even earned her some merit recognition from the governor’s board. They had been completely astonished when the scholarship offers started.

Her mother had immediately started bragging to their few neighbors and sending messages to their family members. Her father, while impressed, was quick to point out that it was a bit of a waste since Allie had no intention of leaving Impleo. She would, of course, be gaining her advanced degree through distance courses, just like Mira.

And Allie’s heart, which had been rather apathetic through the entire ordeal, sank like a stone when her mother and sister nodded along. Their farming community was an important part of making the terraforming process permanent. Everyone needed to pitch in; no hand could possibly be spared. 

Impleo had never been where Allie pictured her future self- not forever. Her parents, scientists who had given up their labs and their prestige to advance the science of adapting environments for human habitation, were the ones who chose Impleo before Mira or Allie had ever been born. Allie wanted… something else. She had a dream for her life that hadn’t been inherited from her family.

Staring at the kitchen, imagining the way their family had always gathered together in the chilly evenings, cooking, eating, laughing together. Three weeks she had endured her mother’s never ending stream of vitriol and the icy silence from the rest of her family. No one was even waiting with her. No one was going to see her off. A chime sounded from the comm station wedged into the corner by the stove. The shuttle was arriving.

With no signs of life from the rest of the house, Allie washed her mug, picked up her bag, and left. She was halfway to the docking station when she heard someone yelling her name. She turned to see Mira, long black braid flying behind her, tears streaking her round, brown cheeks, running to catch her.

Allie remembered then what Mira had whispered to her late that night, way back when their father had snatched Allie from floating away into the stars.

“I signalled for Dad on my comm when you weren’t looking. I was scared I might never see you again.”

Pride still smarting, Allie turned away from her sister in the dark.

“What would you have done if you had jumped high enough? What would I have done? I never would have seen you again!” Mira had sniffled.

“Stupid!” Allie had burst out impatiently, “I would have been in orbit. I’d be circling Impleo, not floating away from it. You would see me every time I came back around.”

For some reason, this caused Mira’s tears to dissolve into giggles. Allie laughed whenever her sister laughed, and soon they were snuggled into the same bed, hands entwined, smiling in their sleep.

Mira caught up to her on the road, almost knocking Allie down as she flung her arms around her. Allie’s shoulder was quickly wet with tears.

“I thought you weren’t talking to me,” Allie teased gently.

“Stupid,” Mira stuttered through her tears, “What am I supposed to do without you?”

“You’ll be in my orbit,” Allie said, wiping the tears from her face, “I’ll see you every time you come back around.”

On the shuttle, Allie looked out the window as they began to undock. As they moved ever up through the atmosphere, she was almost sure she could see her sister standing on the grayish loam, watching wide-eyed as Allie sailed away into the stars.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close Bitnami banner