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When All the Stars Have Names

It’s been so long I think I’ve forgotten what the surface of Earth looks like; that great
spinning marble doesn’t belong to me anymore. Despite all the data I process and information I
record I don’t like to keep track of the date or how much time has elapsed since we’ve been
away. Since I’ve been away.
Actually, the only thing I record manually with any regularity is this journal. The ship is
simply a giant super-computer that can record information and process the cure if we should find
it. I’m just the backup; thousands of years ago I believe these roles were reversed.
I wonder how many are still alive. I know my family, friends and colleagues are certainly
all dead, their grandchildren and great grandchildren as well. The disease causes rapid aging in
most, but can do strange things in some. I only hope my family died of old age. I can’t say I
entirely regret volunteering for this mission; my wife and I were able to see terrifyingly beautiful
things. We’ve seen the hot blue glowing remnants left over by the Seven Sisters; the dispersing
star clusters that once lit up the night sky on Earth. We’ve seen other research ships far off their
course, abandoned with no trace of the doctors, scientists, and researchers inside. Beyond the
Kuiper belt, we watched and held each other as a dwarf planet exploded into a luminous dust of
frozen elements and compounds. The ship took pictures and recorded all these events classifying
them as space anomalies, not important to our primary objective. We simply watched and at the
time they felt pretty important enough for us to remember.
Everything is controlled by this ship and it pisses me off more often than I care to show.
I’m a psychiatrist and I can’t even medicate myself. The ship gives me small doses of
antidepressants—it might as well not give me anything. I think it knows, or suspects at least. I
forget how long Lea has been gone, ten or maybe twenty years, I’m not really sure anymore. I do

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remember clearly the day we met in medical school. She was all dark hair and intensity staring
through a microscope in the lab. She looked up beaming with ideas and laughed at nothing in
particular. I thought maybe she was a little insane as I thought all epidemiologists were. In the
field, they happily hold hands with every disease imaginable for lengths at a time like little kids
in a school playground. That seemed pretty insane at the time. I sat next to her because she may
have been insane or insanely happy but she was also the smartest student there and one of the
prettiest.
Before we were engaged she told me she couldn’t have children and because of her job
she couldn’t promise to live till she was a wrinkly mass of skin. She could promise laughter and
endless corny jokes. I told her I was chronically morose and I may not always laugh at her jokes
but I could prescribe an endless array of medication to even us out. The year we married we
decided to throw our names into the pool of scientist and doctors willing to leave Earth behind
forever to find a cure for the epidemic rapidly destroying half the population. The secondary
mission would be to identify planets that could sustain the remaining population as a worst case
scenario. Out of thousands of qualified applicants we were chosen because we were married and
had a better chance of survival and success than unmarried teams. She was microbiologist in the
lab and an epidemiologist in the field—the top of her class and both her parents were dead.
Being a psychiatrist they thought I would be able to keep us both emotionally stable in the void
of space and a bonus for them was that my parents were both dying from the disease. We had
nothing to leave behind.
In our eleventh year in space we found a previously undiscovered planet. Lea was beyond
excited and returned to the ship with endless samples. A month later she was pregnant. We had

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no idea how or what cured her infertility at the time we believed it was something on that planet
she carried back with her.
We named her Cassiopeia after the constellation and queen of Greek myth, but Cassie
was more of a comet than a star. She dashed all over the ship and every inch and corner is
marked by her. On the walls she drew colorful planets and space objects. In crayon she asked
questions: “Do all stars have names?” and “What are people?”
We had so many good years until Lea became sick. We knew so little about the disease on
earth. She thought it must have been dormant until she became pregnant. We all had different
stages of the disease, but Lea’s was more advanced. At least she was able to see Cassie grow into
a beautiful and headstrong teenager; smarter than both her parents. As Cassie learned to walk,
Lea could no longer hold herself up. As Cassie learned to speak, Lea could no longer remember
her name. Lea’s dark hair now hung in white strands as she sat slouched over watching her
daughter grow. Lea tried to teach Cassie what she knew before she died. Cassie absorbed
everything. It seems Cassie was a better doctor and scientist than both her parents. It was Cassie
who finally found the cure, the ship confirmed it and now we’re on the way back. I’m finally
taking both my girls home, but I’m so tired and wonder what’s left to save.
The ship gave me extra doses of medication to help me cope, I managed to save some and
have a large enough stash. First, I think I’ll sit here in the observation room and name some stars,
there are so many of them and so little time.

By Daniela Lao