This story was sort of written for a competition on a Facebook group, though I submitted it late with no intention of winning, I just wanted to take part but was too busy before the deadline. The theme for this competition was simply “street children” and it was written in June.
Ghosts in Space
The luxurious shuttle was waiting, suspended out in orbit of the space station, waiting for the signal to dock. Docking always takes a long time on busy stations, especially those with high immigration levels, even for government funded visits. The docking procedure itself would take no longer than a few minutes as these overcrowded stations had poor security, they were unlikely to even check for illegals, which is half the problem. Stepping off of the shuttle into one of the many corridors of the station brought tears to my eyes; I’d worked so hard to get away from this place and had finally returned. I had a purpose, I had to be here, I had to be back on the “streets” as we called them. The corridors were wide enough to fit a standard family vehicle, flanked on either side by residential cabins and offices. I’d entered in one of the upmarket areas, parts with which I was unfamiliar, but it all had the same sort of look to it – the same walls, the same doors, the same viewing ports directed at either the stars or the uninhabitable planet. That planet: the source of our problems.
The planet we were orbiting was meant to be made fit for human life, one of many in this solar system which was supposed to be used for habitation but failed the procedures, leaving thousands stranded on a cramped station stuck in orbit. I made my way to the slums, the run-down areas where market stalls line the streets, make-shift shelters are common, and adult beggars ask for money wherever they can find space, but I was looking for the ghosts. We called ourselves Ghosts in Space, it took the edge off of the harshness of life, made it sound more fun, like something out of the science fiction shows we sometimes watched through a shop window. We were nothing but children, the ones that went unseen, without food, without homes, without an education. Thankfully on a space station there is no bad weather to contend with, no harsh winters, just the cruelty of those who control the thermostat and like to play God. Fortunately I only lost one friend to the occasional cold.
As a ghost I would get my food any way I could, stealing from market stalls, rummaging through bins, playing on the sympathies of restaurant owners, it was all fair game. I found shelter in the air vents, when I wasn’t muscled out by some of the homeless men. They scared me. As ghosts we often felt invisible, until one of our friends went missing. We found some of his belongings in the makeshift bed of a young homeless man, with what might have been his bones, but for all we knew it could have been a stray dog. I wanted desperately to get away from that place; I never thought I would return. But there I was, crawling into an air vent twenty years later, looking for ghosts.
Nobody cared about me when I was a child. I was truly a ghost walking the streets of space. The station was overcrowded and more families arrived each year. We were forgotten, or perhaps we were a solution. Ignore us and we might perish, leaving fewer mouths to feed. We had nobody to help us, but that was about to change. When I escaped the space station I promised that I would do everything I could so that others would not have to go through the life that I had. I was one of the fortunate few, I found a way out, and if I didn’t do my part then children in the future might be living in the streets as well. I could not bear that thought.