Jun had spent of the morning wide eye-eyed, staring at the ceiling and thinking. Her stomach felt queasy from the four-year journey across space. She could hear Martha moving quietly in the other room and the T.V. humming, and faintly heard the neighbors downstairs and the loud rumble of cars in the street. She had never heard any of these sounds before. They seemed to echo in the room, coming from everywhere and just starting up where they had finished; they were cacophonous, angry sounds that she did not understand. She felt very ill at ease.
Besides what she could hear, she could sense much. Throughout the night she could hear Martha’s little thoughts mumbling in the other room, although they were not distinct and Jun blocked them out. As the hours stretched on the thoughts grew more active and clear, and then burst through Jun’s mind like a knife. She scrambled to place up her mental barriers out of respect, but Martha’s thoughts screamed as an insistent child. Jun burned with embarrassment as pictures of Martha’s inner mind flashed inside her, thoughts she could not avoid.
Martha thought about what to do about Jun, and every thought cut Jun to the heart, for Martha radiated distaste and discomfort and Jun realized how inconvenient she was. She did not like the sound of human thought. It was like a bad accent riddled with fallacies and grammar mistakes; they were unfocused and indecisive, like brute animals despite the intelligence they showed on the outside. Martha’s thoughts came in foggy pictures where only what Martha remembered stood out, and she seemed to remember precious little. Jun saw a picture of herself, appearing and reappearing in the kitchen pantry, and felt Martha’s confusion and distaste radiating like a hot wave. Then Jun saw a picture of men in blue uniforms entering this house with weapons and shouts; they broke down the doors and pointed their weapons into the rooms, until they found Jun hidden away. Martha feared these men, she held them to be in some authority, but Jun couldn’t understand who they were. Martha thought of Jun attacking her while she slept, or robbing her. She thought of Jun as a spy or a murderer, and thought of endless scenarios of evil crimes Jun had committed in the past, both alien and earthly. Jun listened to these thoughts in torment, knowing there was no way to dispel them and knowing that the truth was much worse than Martha’s tiny, unimaginative mind could think of. Martha could not decide what to believe. All of her ideas were so foreign to her normal experience she had no gage of truth, and she floated from one fantastical idea to another, searching for some familiar answer. She could find none.
After what felt like ages Martha’s mind returned to quiet little thoughts that Jun could not hear. She had other discomforts. The air reeked; she could taste something bitter in her lungs and she struggled to breathe in the thick air that felt so heavy in her chest. Although the spacesuit did its best to counteract the light gravity she felt dizzy and lightheaded, and the spacesuit itself, though she had traveled with it for four years through the universe, fit very tightly and jabbed her in the neck and shoulders. She had traveled across three galaxies to feel miserable.
If she was in her comfortable little home on Eyesta, she would hear the wind tearing through rock and whistling in the windows, and if the wind stayed still she would hear the water rushing over the rocks outside.
Her brother would be eight seasons old by now, if nothing had gone wrong in her travels, and he would be sixteen by the time she had returned, a young man who could hardly recognize her. Perhaps he would die; many children died now in Eyesta nowadays. Perhaps the war would be over, although Jun doubted it. And even now, after she had gone this far, perhaps Rum would still reach her and take her freedom from her. She had no reason to think of the possibilities, since by now she knew them by heart, but so far none of them had stopped her and none of them would make her go back now. Too much had been sacrificed.