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Dream in a Planetarium


Dream in a Planetarium

Azusa Kiryu

I was a fifth-year elementary school student. I belonged to the astronomy club organized by the Nagoya City Science Museum, which offered free access to its planetarium once a month. There I became acquainted with Akiko-chan, who happened to be seated next to me. Then, I began to meet Akiko-chan every month.
After I reclined my seat, a star-studded sky would expand above my head. I really loved that moment. When giving a commentary, a staff member would point to the relevant stars with arrow lines drawn with a ruler, as Greek people in the past had drawn lines between stars and applied myths to the shapes formed by those lines.
“This is Antares, a big star that glows very brightly in Scorpio. The name is easy to remember, as its pronunciation is similar to ‘Anta-dare-desu?’” (meaning “Who are you?”).
The show always went on like that. Time flew really fast in the planetarium.
“I will join NASA!” Akiko-chan suddenly blurted out one day.
I had no idea what she was saying. According to her, NASA was a U.S. space research institute. She was so crazy about the planetarium that she had conducted various research, until she finally found out about the institute.
“Why not go somewhere in Japan?”
“Because the U.S. is more advanced in research. Also, the U.S. has made it to the moon.”
I see.
“What do you need to do to join NASA?”
There, Akiko-chan was lost for words.
“I don’t know. I’ve got to study, which is perhaps the only way,”
she replied without confidence.

Even after the astronomy club activities ended a year later, I continued to join the planetarium’s monthly event together with Akiko-chan. She loved watching reruns of the American SF series Star Trek, which depicts mankind’s voyages to various planets in a spacecraft in the distant future.
“There are many people in space. I want to see them.”
 Akiko-chan was fascinated by space. She bought a lot of astronomy books, and when she entered junior high school, she even got an astronomical telescope. I assume there was nothing she could learn from the planetarium anymore. Still, her admiration for the starry sky in the planetarium did not waver.

In the summer vacation of her third year at junior high school, Akiko-chan’s father died of cancer. I attended his funeral together with my mother. I saw Akiko-chan and her mother shedding tears. Partly because we needed to prepare for entrance examinations for high school, Akiko-chan no longer invited me to go to the planetarium with her. I corresponded with her, but now I know that her father’s funeral was my last opportunity to see her.
After a while, even our correspondence faded away, and we only exchanged New Year’s greeting cards. I sometime looked up at the starry sky and remembered Akiko-chan. I imagined that she was still studying in order to work at NASA.

When I was preparing for my university entrance examinations, I expected that Akiko-chan would surely study in a science course at university to join NASA. In reality, however, she got a job right after graduation from high school. My mother said that it might be difficult for her to go to university because she had lost her father. After all, she did not join NASA. A few years later, she got married as many other women did. I learned about all these things only from the New Years’ greeting cards from her. However, she looked very happy in the picture on the postcard telling me that she had got married, so she was probably happy even though she did not go to NASA.

In November of the year that I turned 50, I received a mourning-notification postcard saying that Akiko-chan had passed away in May. The card was from her husband.
“No way!” I yelled without realizing it.
You’re still 50. You’re too young to die. Akiko-chan, what’s happened to you? You told me that you would go to NASA. If you had lived longer, you might have been able to enjoy a space trip. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. I did not see her for long, but she was still my oldest friend. I hesitated a little while, but I finally called Akiko-chan’s husband by smartphone. She had suffered from cancer. He said that it was too late when the disease was detected.

I went outside, gripping my smartphone tightly. Almost no stars were visible in the urban area. Still, one star was glowing extremely brightly. It was Akiko-chan! She could not go to NASA, but she had become a star. She had nowhere to go other than to space.
“Hey! Akiko-chan!”
I waved my hand at the night sky.


桐生 梓







スマホを握りしめたまま外に出る。都会では星はほとんど見られない。でも、ひときわ明るさを放つ星が一つあった。明子ちゃんだ! 明子ちゃんはNASAには行けなかったけれど、自分自身がお星様になったんだ。明子ちゃんが行くところは、宇宙しかないもの。