"Bring an extra suitcase," they say.
They all say it, don't they?
Bring an extra suitcase.
Because you'll want souvenirs. You'll want to remember this. When it's all over, you'll want to hold it – rough and solid – in your hands. You'll want to show it to people and say, "See? I was there. I stood there and I picked this up and I brought it back with me."
You'll prove that you're real, if you bring an extra suitcase.
So you lug it around with you, rattling empty. Under one arm as you check in for your flight:
The girl at the counter rolls an Altoid over her tongue. Everyone asks, "How far are you going?"
You could lie; say you're going to Europa or even farther – some backwater colony.
But, "There and back," is all you say. Eyes glaze over, interest dissipated. You sit on the rickety transport, flanked by a tattooed woman with koi fish curling around her knuckles and a man who mouth-breathes sour air into your face, the extra suitcase jammed between your knees.
You disembark, explore before finding your hostel, and you wonder why they didn't tell you how crowded it is. Or how hot. Or how it's all been annexed by Starbucks and Wal-Mart and Disney and how it all feels like a strip mall. Trash bins overflowing. Gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe in front of a garish nail salon called Hand Job. McDonald's employees on break, wilted cigarettes dangling. That extra suitcase banging against your hip.
And you can't believe you spent your life savings on this.
Then you're finally standing there, in the Sea of Tranquility, unable to take a step without kicking a discarded Coke can, when the Earth begins to rise.
It's perfect. Just this blue-green jewel. Totally alone in a sea of black flecked with stars. And it hits you. You are 238,900 miles away from, well, everything.
Here are you, and there is the Earth. It still exists and so do you, and that sensation of belonging and loneliness and destiny hit you all at once.
You are nothing.
And you are everything.
For a moment, everything pulls taut with lines of infinite connection. You could reach out one hand across those lines and strum a chord and the universe would sing.
All you can do is bend down and gather rocks. To prove it. You were here. You were real.
I can't describe it. I really can't.
I dunno, kid.
Just. . . bring an extra suitcase.
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
In the build up to the day we have now launched our Micro-Fiction Competition (stories up to 100 words) and also our annual Anthology (stories up to 500 words). So if you have enjoyed FlashFlood, why not send us your stories?More information about these and the Day itself available at nationalflashfictionday.co.uk.