This is a prologue I had written a while back for the ‘Michael Phoenix’ canon (working title). There are more to come. I’m working on a new section for Quinby Street dedicated solely to the development of Phoenix, his world and the eventual epic that will focus on his life and trials.
The room was white. Everywhere he looked–the small booth in which he sat, the door that stood at the other end of the room, the walls and floor–was shimmering white; gleaming under the bright ceiling light that made the entire room appear as though it were the last realm of time and space, a dimension that suggested that he had skipped life entirely. The only sound he could hear was the spinning of the fan above him.
The only outlet into a world with any hint of color was the glass window upon which Michael Phoenix was currently resting his head; a window revealing the distant, burning stars that surrounded planet Earth, along with the five or six specks of white he could see moving to and from it. They were spacecrafts, either carrying passengers like himself, or supplies to one of the other hundred or so worlds that existed within the vast reaches of the universe.
Michael had once heard that long ago, Earth was the only planet in which human beings had lived. He laughed inside, beaming with a strange sort of pride at the blue and green globe. He was indeed born in what was often rumored to be, crazy at it sounded, the cradle of human civilization. Either way, he wouldn’t miss it. He had never known his parents, and he had no family to speak of. The only adventure he had ever really experienced was in the stories he had heard. They were stories told and retold of distant lands and treacherous waters, fierce animals and majestic skies. After nineteen years of waiting and yearning, his dreams had been answered.
He heard a voice coming from the other side of the white door. Michael’s heart beat faster, as he rubbed his palms against his lap. From the door came a hissing sound, before it vanished into the ceiling, revealing a man in blue uniform. He looked at Michael, giving a light smile before sitting on the opposite side of the booth.
“Michael Phoenix?” he asked, preoccupied by the folder he was now reading through.
The man looked up at him. “I’m first officer Warren Harding. I’ll be honest, when we received your application we were somewhat surprised. We usually don’t get a whole lot of attention from Earth.”
“Yea, I can imagine.”
“Can I ask you something? If you don’t mind? It’s just that, well, the reason I’m so surprised is that…we have never before received an application from planet Earth before. Ever. In fact, it’s funny, but this is my first time ever seeing the planet. Well, at least with my own eyes.” He looked out the window, beaming down at the planet. “And you know, despite everything that I’ve ever heard about it, it really is…quite beautiful.”
Michael laughed. “Yea, well, maybe from way up here. Back on the ground it’s another story. Trust me on that.”
The man smiled back. “Right. Well, anyways, my question was. How did you…what made you want to leave exactly?”
Michael thought about the question for a second. Given the small possibility that this could be the first of several screening questions, he wanted to answer it right. Applying for the program had, after all, been unusually easy; certainly much easier than he had imagined during the eternity he had lived before reaching the appropriate age just two months ago.
“I can’t really say, sir, to be totally honest with you.” Damn. It was the truth, but probably not what Harding was looking for. Was it his dream to be an explorer ever since he was a boy? Yes and no. No doubt that would make a good answer. The truth was that since he had been a kid, he knew he was meant for something that one day his home would no longer be able to provide. Was his lack of identity rooted in the absence of a family; or did it have more to do with his presence in a world where people had lost all ambition and spirit, where they had chosen to become zombies to the technology they so greatly prized? There was something, he knew, that lie out in the world–a cause and reason that was worth fighting for, worth living for. Everywhere he looked, and in every person back home he had ever really known, there was something missing. Something lost long ago. How could a people, who are surrounded by a universe of such mystery and wonder, remain so comfortable and established in the routines of their technologically abundant world? Perhaps that was the answer. In his people he saw no feeling, no dreams, no ambition or daring. For now, it was time for him to see what else lie out there. And there was a lot–of that he was certain.
“I guess I’m just a guy looking for his way,” he finally added. “And I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to find it back home. Basically, I know there’s something out there, and…” he thought slowly about how he wanted to say it. “Well sir, I want in.”
Harding smiled back. “You know kid, for being born on Earth, you sure got a lot of heart. I’ve heard this place is more of a computer than a planet; that it’s just some big, round, green and blue machine that floats out here in the middle of nowhere, in the outskirts of existence.” Harding stared at him for a second or too longer, as if begging for some final response, allowing Michael for one last chance to drop out.
“Well Phoenix, you might find that you’re in for way more than you bargained for, but know this, you’re not gonna regret it. That I can promise you.”
“Sounds good to me.” He looked at the window and down at his home world one last time, not knowing that it would be his last. “So when do we get outta here?”
At this point Harding was fiddling with a watch-like device around his wrist before it began blinking red and green. “Oh…I’d say in about…,” he suddenly looked back at Michael, “five seconds.”
Before the words could process, he felt the entire craft rumble before hearing the unmistakable sound of the ship’s thrusters blast to life.
“You might want to hold on,” said Harding. The floor began to quake almost uncontrollably. The view of Earth was suddenly concealed by a steel window cover, which seemed to appear out of nowhere. Michael looked up at the ceiling light. It was nearly blinding. It was encompassing everything in the room. He looked back in front of him, there was nothing–no Harding, no white wall or table. All around the room he searched and found nothing but the overwhelming bright light consuming his vision. His entire body grew lighter as his mind stretched by limitless proportions, expanding beyond the infinite. He was passing into an uncharted world, a different time, a young era and a new, long-awaiting life.