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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "A One-Way Trip"

This poem is from the January 8, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from rix_scaedu and Dreamwidth user Primeideal.  It also fills the "time travel" square on m Trope Bingo card.  This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  You can find other poems in the series Tripping into the Future via my Serial Poetry page.

Format: Poetry
Title: "A One-Way Trip"
Fandom: Original (Tripping into the Future)
Summary:  Time is the ultimate weapon.  A futuristic soldier uses it accordingly.
Required Warnings: No standard warnings apply.  However, there is megadeath in this poem, just not the main character or visible in graphic point-blank detail from that perspective.  Also it's written in second person, so that character is "you."  Horrific psychological damage is done to everyone who doesn't die.  If you don't like downerfic, you may want to skip this.  If you like to be reminded that your life could suck so much more than it does, this ought to do the trick.

A One-Way Trip

Death is a given:
not the enemy's death or your own
but the death of everyone and everything
that you ever knew.

It is better to become death
than to become a destroyer of worlds
like those on the battleships slaying innocent biospheres,
better to become entropy's airman
than to become another sad cripple on the streets
like those who survive the infantry battles.

It is better, you tell yourself,
that this should happen to you
instead of other soldiers who might still have
parents, siblings, children left alive
to miss them if they never come home.
Someone should get to enjoy those things,
the sweet things that make home worth defending.

Death is a given:
life is always a long glide
from emergence to annihilation.
Only the form it will take is new
and uniquely terrible.

You at least know what will happen;
you can brace yourself for it
like setting your shoulder behind a shield
before meeting the enemy's charge.
You volunteered for this duty
knowing it would be a one-way trip.

The enemy fleet is caught completely unaware,
falling into the trap like an elephant into a pit.
The first tap of their tractor beam
against the hull of your solitary ship
is enough to trigger the time machine.

Suddenly space is on fast-forward.
You watch the war flicker past,
so easily won as whole enemy battalions wink out,
sucked into different timestreams.

Star systems drift away,
streaking bright as the taillights of skimmers
disappearing into a rainy night.
Nebulas blossom in the strange flower gardens
of space where now and then, rogue planets
pass like lost bumblebees.

Spacedust moves in curtains, in veils,
now hiding and now revealing
the scenery between swirls of smoke.
Supernovas flare like fireworks,
brilliant and brief.

You watch it all whirl past
because you cannot do anything else,
cannot help but see
what you are helpless to stop.

It takes a long time, subjectively,
for the time machine's battery to run out.
It takes eons, objectively,
for the damn thing to run down

and spit you all back into ordinary time
like flies smashed from the amber
by a ruthless hammer.

It takes a long time, subjectively,
for the enemy to start screaming.
It takes only minutes, objectively,
for them to sweep their sensors
across the empty space and confirm
what they had observed:

nothing and no one is left
of all they had known.

Perhaps not even humanity remains,
although that will take time to determine
whether or not.

You flick your sensors along the bands
and pick up alien signals, bright with life,
and you heave a sigh in sheer relief
that something  has survived, however unfamiliar.

The enemy is devastated, demoralized
by the sudden shock of loss.
Their ships drift ever so slightly
out of alignment as the crews panic.

You turn on the stardrive
and your ship slinks quietly away
from this, your last battleground.

You turn to the nearest sun
and jettison the time machine
into the fiery clasp of the corona,
banishing the devilish device

back to the hell from whence it came.

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9 comments or Leave a comment
From: technoshaman Date: January 13th, 2013 12:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Wow. That one's gonna take some processing.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 13th, 2013 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you found this thoughtworthy.
From: chordatesrock Date: January 13th, 2013 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I've written you a fanfic, After, about the pilot.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 13th, 2013 08:24 am (UTC) (Link)


Thank you so much! I found it haunting and beautiful.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 24th, 2017 03:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: One Way Trip, and "After"

The poem was excellent! The brief postscript, "After", was evocative and profoundly sad.

Kudos to both writers! -- Callibr8
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 24th, 2017 03:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: One Way Trip, and "After"

Thank you. I'm glad you found this so moving.
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: January 15th, 2013 09:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I like this. I don't really see it as tragic at all; the Willing Sacrifice is part of many traditions, and this is one more iteration of it. And the Others will at least have each other and not die alone.

From: vexed_wench Date: June 28th, 2014 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh this is nice. Really deep and though provoking.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 28th, 2014 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you found this so moving.
9 comments or Leave a comment