The spaceship swam through the endless darkness in total silence. It had been a lifetime ago since space had first welcomed the commander. It had folded itself around him like a mother’s embrace, welcoming a lost child. He loved the velvety darkness of space, the stars and planets lightening up that darkness. All of it welcomed him home like Earth never had.
His crew was dreaming now, tucked away in their sleep chambers. Taken care of through machinery and kept alive and at peace until their arrival on the home planet in fifteen years’ time.
The commander had programmed his artificial caretaker to wake him. He was too aware that the decision not to dream away the journey but to wake and watch the silence of space was risking his life. He was shortening his life but he could not resist, he felt the pull and he gave into it and he was ageing before his time.
What was time anyway other than a collection of seconds, hours, days, and years? Now, at the end of time he felt only old bones, he wanted to lose himself in the endless beauty of the stars.
He thought about these things after he had woken up. He left his chamber, got dressed and floated in zero gravity through the empty ship to the observation platform. His doctor had prescribed tablets to stop his body giving up on life. In fact, he had recommended retirement but the commander had only smiled and left with the prescription in his hand.
The tablets were back in his locker, untouched. He had reached the observation chamber, feeling like he had reached the end of time. He entered and there it was outside the vast windows, his home. He smiled and started to undress, he wanted to meet the gentle darkness of space like a new-born. He drank in the celestial lights and smiled. His heartbeat slowing in his chest.
With his last breath, the commander let himself float up and space welcomed him like a lost son. His time was over.
When the ship arrived, the commander was nowhere to be found.
He had gone home.