The prologue to Uncharted Stars.
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As Flora stepped into the auditorium, she felt like she’d been in it a thousand times before. Auditoriums always looked strikingly similar, no matter where she went, and she found them boring. Life was boring. Her career was boring. After her husband had died, she felt like she’d lost an important part of her life; there was no longer the support her husband would be giving as she drafted new speeches or talked about new ideas to put into her inspirational speeches. Flora smiled sadly at her own thoughts. She was supposed to be a professional inspirational speechmaker, but it seems like while she could force smiles into the face of hundreds of depressed people at the same time, she could not force one onto her own face. Actually, she could; she always gave cheerful smiles whenever making speeches, but they were not real. They were only there for show.
Flora knew that her son Pete would be in the crowd somewhere. She hadn’t had time to leave him with anyone that weekend, and so she’d been forced to take him with her and leave him in the care of her sister, who happened to be in the area on that day and wanted to come in to see Flora speak. She hoped that Pete was fine; her five year old son had never enjoyed being in the presence of large crowds, and the crowd that was waiting for her to come to speak was large indeed.
She sighed as she first sat along the front row of the crowd, waiting for the host MC to finish speaking. She could not say that she enjoyed her job as an inspirational speaker. Early in her career, she had delighted in changing the lives of her listeners, but after the death of her husband, she no longer felt that spark of delight. She knew she was a good speaker- if not, she wouldn’t have been requested so often to make speeches. But she had not wanted to come here to make a speech today. In other times it would have been fine, but she knew that news had recently leaked out that a mad terrorist was lurking around the area still yet to be arrested- and she could only hope that the mad terrorist would miss out news that a huge crowd had gathered for an inspirational speech today. Flora always mentioned in her speeches that people should stop worrying, but she could never cease her own. Finally, when she heard her name called, she walked up to the stage, introduced herself briefly, and went right into her speech.
“We have all been through hard times in our lives.” She said. “Some of us may feel that they are in the hardest time of their lives right now. During these hard times, we often get depressed, and of course, as a reaction: we wonder about how to get past what we are feeling. This is a human reaction; none of us want to be stuck in a difficult situation for long.
“Some people try to change the environment around them. Some people try to make other people act differently. However, they are overlooking the easiest thing they can change: themselves. Other people, our environment, the weather, anything outside us are all external forces that we have no control over. The only thing that we do have ultimate control over, however, is ourselves. While we cannot force a boss to change his attitude, we can change our attitude towards our boss. We could change our perception for the boss. We could decide to try to bend to the boss and do what he wants. Or we could quit working for the boss. These are all things under our power. It’s amazing how much people overlook this.” Privately, Flora grimaced. She knew that she was not enthusiastic at all about making this speech, and it showed in the low amount of energy present in her speaking. She cursed herself for not having rehearsed enough over the past few days; this was a new speech that she had never used before and she should’ve known better than to try to wing it. She was too professional than to allow herself to let slip of the words from her memory, of course, but she had not gave any thought to where she would stress her words, or what would be the climax of her speech.
“Changing ourselves, although relatively easy when compared to changing external factors, is still not an easy task. Allowing change to happen on ourself takes courage- it’s like becoming a whole new ‘you’ that you’ve never tried out before. And change is exactly what a lot of us are scared of- we’re scared that a change would bring our stable lives crashing down. We don’t want instability. While we all want a better life, we’re scared that we could be brought down to a worse life, and no one wants to risk that.” She looked around the audience. They all looked very still. She was obviously not entertaining them.
“But without change, how can we move on? How can we push ourselves from desperate situations? The answer is that we cannot. We need to be daring and allow ourselves to walk out of our comfort zones. In fact, Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ I can’t stress enough that you need to walk out of your comfort zone every once in a while.
“You need to allow yourself to dream big. Dreams are what will push you forward. Dream whatever you want- just make sure you have goals, that you have a vision of what you want to be. Here’s a poem by Langston Hughes that I want to read out for you today: ‘Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/Life is a broken-winged bird/That cannot fly.’ It is true. Without a dream, you have no direction in your life.” Flora felt for the first time since she left school that she was messing up her speech, but she had to keep going.
‘How you want to get towards achieving your dream will determine what you need to do- what steps out of your comfort zone you need to take. Take little steps-” She paused as she saw the doors open and a man running down. Her eyesight was not very good and she tried to squint to see what he was carrying-
Was it a gun he was carrying?
She opened her mouth to scream, but her voice was shut off by two bullets that went straight through her chest. She fell down immediately, and in her last moment of consciousness the last question she had was whether or not Pete was fine. She never heard the sound of the guard’s gun that took the terrorist’s life, nor the sound of her son breaking into tears as he failed to understand why his mother was lying on the stage with blood covering the floor.