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"This is Aurora, leave a message and I'll get back to you."
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All written correspondence for Aurora Lane can be left here.
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I know before I even open my eyes. There's the overwhelming nausea, like awakening from anaesthesia which I guess this isn't too far removed from. 

I don't want to open my eyes. I don't want for this to be happening again. Two times in less than two years that I've been forced into a reality I wasn't prepared for, never to reach my intended destination. Once, it was a man's fault. The other, I'm still trying to figure out. Or I was. I know I'm not in Darrow anymore, the hard back of my pod enough to bring me back to the moment I thought we were only four months away from Homestead II.

When I do open my eyes, the light is almost blinding. I'm reaching to cover them as a voice asks me how I'm feeling, tells it's normal to feel confused. I don't think she has the slightest clue. I'm told, then, that I've just spent 120 years in suspended animation and I almost want to laugh but then my hands cover my mouth instead and I try not to cry. I don't know what I've done to deserve this, and I'm scared to move and see if Jim is going to be waiting somewhere, pretending that he had no part in it.

The propaganda spiel never comes, though, and instead the voice falls silent as the pod's door opens. There's no mention of my cabin. There's no warning of the side effects of travel sickness. I stand on my own and look around, unsurprised to see no one but me seems to be awake. I'm surprised, though, to realize I don't struggle to walk like I did the first time. I don't know how long I've been asleep. Just moments ago I thought I was in bed in Darrow. 

Something's gone wrong all over again and I don't even seem to have a second-rate mechanic with a guilt complex to help me this time.
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I wind up carrying the stupid thing home. 

The biggest part of me had wanted to leave it behind, give it the same regard as what Jim had for my life, but I can't bring myself to. Even if he made it, it's the only piece I have of that part of my life – the part of my life before it all fell to pieces. After all, when I'd received it, I'd been elated. Flattered. It might have been the sweetest thing a person had ever done for me since I was a little girl and my father would dedicate books to me, thanking me for simply being me.

Now, it's not so sweet. I can see the parts of the metal that are still jagged, that could cut me if I wasn't careful. I should have looked more closely to begin with. Instead I live in hindsight, focusing on all the places things went wrong. I still can't decide if it began when I met Jim or if it began when I agreed to cross the stars aboard the Avalon.

I could have lived out my life with my mother, my friends, on an overcrowded Earth. I could have fallen in love with someone there. Instead, somehow, I'm here. And somehow still reminded of what I've left behind – up in the sky.

I barely remember the trip home by the time I arrive. I feel like I'm in the same fog I'd been in when I awoke from my thirty-year-sleep. I can't figure out if I'm angry or sad. Or both. I can't tell if the grief I feel is for Jim or for myself. I find myself wishing that love were less complex. That it were easier to dive into indifference, as easy as I dive into the pool. I wish that I could swim away my grief. Or run. God knows I tried on the ship. I've tried here, too, immersing myself in Darrow's lack of history and practically begging for jobs. Fucking Hawkeye. Talking to strangers.

But my mind floats back to Jim and I'm doing myself no favors at all by carrying his work up to my apartment, setting it across the room on my vanity. The setting sun hits it and the glare hurts my eyes until I shift to sit on my bed, staring at it. I can't count how many hours I looked up at the Chrysler Building as I wrote. It's a monument to New York, the first and maybe only city I ever loved. A city I'll never see again (except when I let myself pretend.)

I start to cry. In the park, I hadn't had a chance to really let myself go. To give in to the grief. Help was there too soon. That's the thing about Darrow. There's always somewhere there for you. But right now, all I need is myself and more than just a moment to reflect on the reality of what's happening. I'd convinced myself that in leaving Jim behind, I'd left my feelings for Jim behind, but of course it doesn't work that way.

Just like you can't cross the stars and expect to find happiness on the other side – if you even manage to get there in the first place.

After a while I feel my legs starting to grow heavy with exhaustion and I force myself to turn away from the model. Curling up on my side, I shut my eyes, pushing away a want for someone else to be there. I keep my eyes closed and just for a few minutes I imagine I'm in my hibernation pod, awaiting a sleep that will carry me into the future and away from the hurt.
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This isn't the story I thought I'd be writing, but maybe it's not as different as I'd first thought.

Darrow's new arrivals haven't necessarily chosen to start over, to begin a new life, but the outcome is more or less the same. They've been thrust into a new world and they've had even less preparation than we'd had for Homestead II. I have to remind myself of that when I think of Jim, when I think of life on the Avalon and I get mad. I had made the choice to get into that hibernation pod. I had chosen change.

It just turned out that change looked nothing like I'd told myself it would. 

Ever since I last closed my eyes on Earth, nothing has. But there's also nothing I can do about that. And it's not like Darrow hasn't granted me some good. I've met incredible people. I've been given a chance to reinvent myself as a writer.

To be Aurora and not a ghost of my father.

It's not until one day I'm into my thirteenth lap of my gym's pool, writing paragraphs in my head that I'm sure to forget, that I realize how the hell I'm going to go about that. 

Whatever I have with Hawkeye is casual and natural and I'm in no rush to change that, but he's still the first person I rush to with my epiphany. I'm damp from the pool, hair stringy with chlorine, when I find him not far from his apartment. He's certainly seen me looking worse.

"A book," I tell him before he can say anything. "About... everybody here. That's what I'm going to write."
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It's my birthday apparently.

It's hard to treat it as such when I've only just arrived and it wasn't April according to the calendar on the Avalon. The last birthday I'd celebrated hadn't really been a birthday, either, but instead a celebration of my awakening on the ship which turned out to be anything but worth celebrating. It's hard not to think about that day today and how if Arthur hadn't let it slip, I could have spent a lifetime believing what happened to Jim and I was fate.

I don't know how I feel about fate and I don't know how I feel about birthdays. I don't feel any older and I certainly don't feel any wiser. At least I feel stronger. My hands have all but healed and the pain in my arm is gone. Soon, I think I'll start running. I've only bought a few supplies so far, some shirts and dresses. I still need something for exercise.

And a bathing suit. 

Maybe I'll treat myself to that today – even if it's an arbitrary date and I don't know how much impact it has on my biological age.

I'm thinking just that, about treating myself, when I pass a bakery and spot a cupcake. In my head, I can hear the robots singing.

Happy Birthday, dear Aurora...

I shake my head as if I can shake the memory away with it and go in.

[Dated 27/4, find her shopping, at the bakery or just eating a cupcake. Open.]
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I can't figure out what the hell I'm doing in this place. I ask so many questions but wind up back where I've started, my arrival here not any one person's fault like my awakening on the Avalon but rather something magical, mysterious.

I could spend my whole life here trying to figure out why I'm here, but I know there has to be more than that. At least, that's the conclusion I reached when I was on the ship and I don't see why it should be any different now.

So I start swimming again, and then running. I run until my chest hurts and I swim until my arms go weak. I wake up early for sunrises because it's been so long since I've seen them from an Earth-like sky. I drink coffee. I try to write.

But I don't know what to write about. When I thought I'd never meet another person again, I started to write about myself. My life and my struggle. My fury. Here, it's not so easy. There are so many other things, so many other people and they've all led much more meaningful lives. I want to write about them but I don't know where or how to start.

Nobody knows who Aurora Lane is here. Nobody's heard of my father. It's terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I get to start again – and wasn't that the idea of going to Homestead II, anyway? 

There are a few publishers in town that I put in calls with and hear nothing from. That's nothing new. Writing is rejection, over and over again. If I gave up every time someone didn't want to read my writing or put it out there for the masses, well. 

I wouldn't have been writing for the New Yorker.

I decide on a new approach. Face to face. It's still overwhelming conversing with so many people and being surrounded by the chaos of crowds, but it's getting easier. I make my way to a local newspaper with my resume in hand though it hasn't gotten me very far, speaking briefly with a receptionist who says she can't guarantee a meeting but she'll see what she can do.

I find a seat and wait. That's one thing I've gotten good at.
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The heat should be overwhelming but I can't feel anything. Jim's gone, shot out into space and I've just pulled the trigger. I shouldn't feel guilt, I know, given that he'd all but sealed my fate when he woke me up. I should hold onto the anger that's been inside me for months, let it stop the sadness that's sure to come.

But I can't.

Maybe that makes me weak. Maybe that's all I've ever been and I'll ever be. But the one person I held dear for over a year has disappeared into the darkness of the sky, and I don't know how to get to him.

I say his name over and over, and he doesn't respond. I don't even know if he's alive. All I know is that I was the one that did this, that I should have searched for another solution. I close my eyes, grit my teeth. I shouldn't have opened the vent. I shouldn't have

"Aurora?"

My eyes open and widen, and I search for the source of the voice. He's out there, somewhere, he's still alive. I can fix this, I

I
 have no idea where I am. There's no metal beneath my feet. It's ground. Earth. Grass. I gasp. I haven't felt grass in over a year. Longer, maybe. I think of the rose Jim brought me and that's what makes me try to stand up, start looking for him.

But I forget for a moment about the wound in my arm and when I try to push myself up with it, I scream. The pain's so intense that for a moment my vision goes dark again and I can feel hot tears filling my eyes under their lids.

I inhale sharply and realize it's cold, here. I think for the second time in my life I'm waking up where I can't possibly be.