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The Astronaut of the Shalott

By Wendy Nikel
1,858 words · 7-minute reading time
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From the author: A woman isolated in space longs for a way to connect with humanity.


I've never known anything outside the silver-tinged hull of the Shalott.

It floats freely in the darkness, drifting, always in gentle, steady motion. Through its thick-paned window, I watch the contents of the universe spill out before me: the moon, the stars, the sun, and far down below, with swirls of blue and white, a planet which — according to my books — must be Earth.

When I was a child, the Shalott would read these books to me in a crystalline voice I called "mother." A part of me knew, even then, that the voice couldn't hold me like a real mother could, but it was the closest I had in my egg-like capsule. The voice would read about creatures with fur and clever demeanors, about princesses trapped in tall towers, about friendship and seasons and love. I listened to the voice day and night, imagining the stories were my own, until overuse wore out the mechanisms of the recording and the voice painfully, slowly died.

I still think of "mother." She's not really gone. I read to...

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Wendy Nikel

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