By Amy Winter, Contributor
As soon as the doors open, the eager crowd shuffles into the gleaming white marble and glass lobby of Starscape Industries. Employees in crisp blue uniforms usher the crowd past display cases with brightly-lit artefacts of the old space race: An old NASA spacesuit, a piece of moon rock on a rotating pedestal, a scale model of the Space Shuttle Discovery, a mission badge celebrating the first crewed launch of a private company’s heavy rocket.
The people gasp and stare at these treasures as they make their way across the lobby toward the stage set up at the far end, a large banner hung above it proclaims STAR LOTTERY 2103. A man in a suit steps on to the stage and the faces of the diverse group all turn with excitement. With increased earnestness, the crowd pushes forward, everyone hoping for a spot toward the front, everyone thinking that maybe today, maybe this time, maybe their stars would finally be aligned…
Left behind in the rush is an elderly woman, taking careful, determined steps toward the stage, her cane making a gentle tapping sound with each step on the white marble floor. One of the employees approaches her and extends an arm to help her.
“Back again, Alice?” the employee asks.
“Always,” she says, her voice strong, clearly determined.
The employee shakes his head, but smiles. “Maybe this year.”
The man on the stage waits patiently as the crowd settles, taking their seats in the rows of chairs or choosing instead to pace anxiously in the aisles. The employee helps Alice into a seat toward the back and she sits down slowly, every movement an effort.
“You know,” she says to the employee conspiratorially, “I was here at the first launch. I’ve been here for every launch.”
“You’ve told me,” the employee replies gently. “Every year.”
Alice waves a hand dismissively. “But did I tell you about the time I met the first human to walk on Mars? It was at the party celebrating the third landing…”
“Yes Alice,” the employee says. “And you danced with the new prime minister of the Martian territories.”
Alice closes her eyes, remembering. “It was such a lovely evening. I just wish I could see it now, with my own eyes…”
On the stage, the man in the suit taps a mic. “Attention, please.”
“It’s time,” the employee whispers to Alice. “I need to take my place-”
“Would you sit with me?” Alice asks. “Just until we know.”
The employee hesitates for a moment, then smiles. “Okay.”
A hush falls over the crowd as the man on the stage grins and spreads his hands toward the waiting audience. “Welcome, everyone, to the 35th annual Star Lottery! I see a number of familiar faces here—maybe today’s your lucky day!”
“Has it really been 35?” Alice breathes. “35 tries…”
The employee glances at her, worried.
“First, a thank you to our sponsors…” the man in the suit rambles for several minutes, listing off the benefactors and corporate entities involved in making the lottery possible, and queuing promotional videos on the screen behind him.
“Moon-dust Cola, trusted by explorers throughout the solar system!”
“Visit Mars and stay at the Hilton Schiaparelli, with astounding views of the territory’s most famous crater!”
Alice stares, transfixed by the views of that distant red planet.
“Now, the event you’ve all been waiting for—it’s time to draw this year’s lucky winners of a slingshot tour to Mars! Just a reminder to everyone that now is a good time to review Starscape Industries’ disclaimers regarding personal safety and trip guarantees…” The man in the suit gestures behind him at the screen, which now displays scrolling text.
“Are you sure you could even… make the trip, if you win?” the employee says quietly to Alice.
“Whatever do you mean?” Alice replies, then laughs. “Don’t you worry—even if my heart stops the second I exit Earth’s atmosphere, it will still be worth it.”
“Alright everyone, please remain calm as I call out the winners,” the man in the suit nods to an employee off-stage, who steps forward holding a large black box. The man lifts the lid off the box and turns away, digging inside and shuffling the papers until he finally pulls one out. “Our first winner is… Narinder Johal!”
Gasps ripple through the crowd as a man leaps to his feet, grinning widely, and begins to make his way toward the stage. Alice sighs, closing her eyes.
“The second winner is… Grace Blake!”
A young woman puts her hands to her face in shock, then hugs the person sitting beside her before getting to her feet.
Alice takes a deep breath, and the employees takes her hand, giving it a slight squeeze of support.
“The last winner of this year’s draw…”
The tension in the room is thick as everyone holds their breath, praying, hoping, desperate to hear their name called.
Alice’s eyes flash open, and she turns to the employee beside her. “Did he…? Did he really say it? Did he call my name?”
“He did, he did! You’re finally going to space, Alice!” the employee smiles broadly.
“After all these years, I’m really going.” The revelation is quiet, nearly voiceless, a gentle wonder in the words.
Alice takes a deep breath and rises from her seat, standing more steadily than before. When she speaks next, her voice rings out with a strong, self-assured cheer.
“Well then. Let’s get to it, shall we?”