Growing up, Noah had always possessed an intoxicating, nearly obsessive zeal for exploration. Yearning for the great promises that the unknown beckoned, he often set out on adventures around his neighbourhood with his friends. Arm-in-arm, they would go on to explore every nook and cranny their small town offered. The destination did not matter; it was the journey bearing the sweet pangs of dopamine that they sought daily.
Noah was ambitious, even more so than his contemporaries. Whilst his friends had their sights on finding the next big neighbourhood adventure, Noah dared to gaze further. Beguiled by the sweet allure of eminence, his ambition spurred him towards a dream much more grandiose; to walk a path many have dreamed of yet only a select few have had the prestige of doing so. His resolute eyes gazed beyond the empyrean, past the azure veil, and onto the vast darkness that tantalisingly laid beyond: Space—a black canvas filled with myriad wonders just waiting to be discovered. Indeed, what greater thrill would there be for an adventure than to uncover the secrets of the universe? An excitement fitting to be his dream, his goal, his raison d’être.
Thus, from age 9, Noah would set his sights on being an astronaut, or as he affectionately calls it: ‘Star Sailor.’ How great would it be to sail the uncharted sea of stars that so effulgently adorn our night skies just like opulent golden beads on a jet-black dress?
“Life is filled with endless possibilities; the world is only as big as you want it to be.” It was unknown where he first came across this dictum, but it deeply resonated with him, so much so that it had become deeply ingrained in him as his personal mantra for life.
Noah would pour countless hours devouring any materials related to science and astronomy: textbooks, novels, articles; he would devour all the fruits of knowledge nested within. Soon, seas of books would engulf his bedroom floor as the space on his bookshelves rapidly grew dearth.
Once back home, he would hastily greet his parents as he ascended the stairs to the second floor, where his room was. Then, he would spend countless hours ploughing through the pages of his favourite books front and back.
Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky…
According to the Fermi paradox, chances of extraterrestrial life remain…
When a massive supergiant star collapses, a neutron star…
All familiar words; words that had penetrated his ocular receptors innumerable times yet still brought the same level of comfort they always did. As Noah steadily sailed across numerous pages and books, he could feel a deep sense of tranquillity suffused throughout his entirety; he was in his own world. Isolated yet idyllic, even the echoes of time and worries of the world seemed trifling in comparison. Nothing mattered more to him than this moment.
“Life is filled with endless possibilities; the world is only as big as you want it to be.” Yes, he was home; it was a moment of repose.
Yet, this peace was anything but ephemeral as the oil and gas industry suddenly took a plunge and the economy scrambled to recoup its main source of revenue. Suddenly, tides of lay-offs deluged the entire nation. Like a violent squall, the locals were thrown in for a tempestuous passage, untold of the fate that awaited them. The inhabitants’ livelihood crumbled as waves of anxiety and dread rippled across the town. People were losing their jobs, and Noah’s parents were no exception.
Once a warm and cheerful abode, the place quickly turned frigid as scornful words increasingly filled much of the inhabitants’ discourse; like icy daggers, they were devoid of any warmth they used to embody.
Noah could hardly recognise his parents anymore; like devilish silhouettes that thrived off berating one another, what remained were mere incarnations of ego, hellbent on diffusing the blame to the other party and coming out as the righteous one.
“Life is filled with endless possibilities. One can only go as far as their dreams persist.” Noah recited in his head before solemnly retreating to his room. Immediately, he would shove his bag aside and head straight for his bookshelf, a collection that had only grown exponentially. With each turn of the page, he could feel his stress cutting away with it. Soon, a cloak of comfort slowly enveloped his body. Yes, he was home; it was a moment of repose.
Everything would be alright.
“It was an unfortunate accident.”
That was what they had told him when Noah came home from school one day.
It was just five words, yet their weight seemed to supersede all forces of nature known to man.
Not long after, he started living with his uncle who was residing in the next town over.
“These were the only things we could recover from the ruins.” His uncle uttered to him one day as he solemnly passed a large cardboard box to Noah before leaving.
Stacks of books filled the corners of the cardboard box to the brim.
Yet something felt different about them.
The blaze had consumed his livelihood, goals, and peace all that day, yet embers of pain remained within him, burning ever so brightly. Once living tenderly on his bookshelves, the books no longer instilled the profound sense of wonder they once did; instead, all that was left were the vestiges of hope they used to represent.
The presence of these books only seemed to amplify his pain even more as they symbolised a stark reminder of their parting that day. And soon the feelings of agony within him grew stronger and more violent until he could no longer contain it anymore.
In a flurry of rage, Noah began mangling the books in a desperate plea to recover what had been forcibly taken from him. But that would never happen.
“Perhaps star sailors aren’t even real. It was never possible in the first place.” He was convinced that he could never have become an astronaut. Such a dream was only a privilege granted to a handful in this world, a number that did not include him. It was utterly foolish for him to have even thought so, and now he was just reaping what he sowed.
Amidst a trail of white, the boy would eventually stop in his path of destruction once he came across a dark blue rectangular device hidden beneath the piles of books. It was a Nintendo DS, a game console his parents had bought him just recently before they left. For a moment, the air stilled as the boy gently blew the dust off the device and booted the system. Then, the screen flashed brightly with a cheerful chime to greet the boy as he slowly sat down on the cold wooden floor. Soon, the weeping ceased completely as the boy became engrossed, bereft of the anguish that saturated him moments ago.
Such was the power of the virtual world, a world set on a predestined fate, where all sorts of happy endings can be achieved. Things would never go awry ever again. The vast library of video games granted him an avenue into the different worlds limited only by the confines of the human imagination. Such games would provide him a rift into the different worlds one could explore perpetually. With endless stories and worlds to explore, one could role-play whatever one wishes to be, even becoming an astronaut. No longer would he be subjected to participate in the mad carnival that life was forcing him to play. He was safe here in his home. Fate would no longer slip out of his hand; once again, he felt in control of his actions and fate.
“Games are filled with endless possibilities; the world is only as big as I need it to be.” He had regained his moment of repose.
Noah never became an astronaut. In fact, he did not even graduate high school. Shortly after moving in with his uncle, Noah became less and less interested in the outside world, instead opting to shut himself completely within the four corners of his room and the virtual world. He came to fear the outside world, where the unknown terrified him greatly. Who knew when things could go awry, taking his hard-fought peace with it?
At first, his uncle was quite adamant about him finishing school, but Noah would constantly lock himself in his room until his uncle eventually relented to his wishes. This cycle would repeat itself countless times until his uncle eventually gave up. Nonetheless, he knew that Noah was still trying to come to terms with his parent’s death and resolved to wait patiently for Noah until that day came.
Seasons came and went.
Then, years passed.
Noah still showed no such initiative to look back and face his past. Why would he? He enjoyed just dwindling his time away playing video games on his DS; it brought him happiness and peace, and what was wrong with that?
“It’s not like anyone expects anything out of me anyways. Even uncle has given up on me after realising how much of a failure I am. So why not just play games where I don’t have to deal with such things.” Noah justified whenever his guilt became overbearing.
He had stopped talking to his uncle for years now; at most, they would only greet one another whenever they passed each other in the house. But since Noah had fully adapted to being a night owl, those moments were very few and far between. Nonetheless, he was content with his way of life. Yes, this life was most suited for someone like him.
“It was actually my friend’s dream to become an astronaut.”
“He was super smart, easily the smartest of us all yet his enthusiasm for space shined the brightest out of us all.”
It was a random news channel Noah had opened, fully intending to use it as just background noise. But strangely, he found himself drawn into the soothing yet familiar voice of the person on screen who was talking to an interviewer.
“We never saw him again after his house burned down together with his parents. But I heard he’s been living with his uncle ever since.”
Sweats trickled down his temple as his heartbeat thumped faster, anticipating what the person on screen would say.
He languished at the fact that his friend would laugh at his failure and misery and expose his foolishness to the whole world.
But, as he braced himself for the laughter that was to come, the guy on screen suddenly turned towards Noah.
“Noah, I don’t know if you’re watching, but thanks to you, I was inspired to be a Star Sailor, too.” the guy proudly declared as a wide smile beamed across his face, ear-to-ear.
“I’m dying to meet you again after all these years, so let’s catch up, alright? But not here.”
The astronaut suddenly pointed his index finger towards the sky.
“Let’s meet again together with the stars. I’ll be waiting.”
Immediately after, Noah slowly closed his DS.
Fighting against the storm in his eyes, he reached his hand into the dilapidated cardboard box to retrieve a book. Although a thick blanket of dust covered the surface, a gorgeous illustration of Jupiter and its moons could still be seen beneath it. As his hand trembled to flip the pages, his tears came gushing down.
He felt happy.
The happiest he had felt since a long time ago.
Indeed, sometimes life can throw you massive curveballs. You may struggle to get back up, but that’s alright, for life is filled with endless possibilities; the world is only as big as you want it to be. Yes, Noah was finally home; it was a moment of repose.
Written by: Yun Jing