In today's story, Resolutions, space travelers pursue a legendary ghost ship called the Resolute.
Happy New Year! Today's prompt is a seasonal nod to new year resolutions. Note: As we move into 2023, Freely Written will now have new stories every two weeks, skipping the commentary episodes that used to be included every 5th episode.
More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 80 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Resolutions.
Happy New Year! If you’re a long-time listener, you may be surprised to hear a new story for the 80th episode. When I started Freely Written, I decided every fifth episode would have commentary on the previous 4 stories, instead of a new story of its own.
That’s gone fairly well. It looks like people are listening to those commentary episodes, but I’m finding that I don’t have as much to say in hindsight as I thought I would. Starting in 2023, I’m letting the commentary episodes go and sticking with a new story every two weeks. I may add a few brief thoughts at the end of each story instead.
For today’s story, I decided to lean into the new year theme with Resolutions, a very seasonal prompt.
Here’s how the story came out:
G-Rock studied the blip on the radar skeptically. It was in the right place. It was the right size. It even had the pulse frequencies they’d expect to find. But G-Rock didn’t believe they’d found the ghost ship Resolute.
For one thing, she didn’t think there was such a thing as a ghost ship. Sure, there were catastrophes out in space. Sometimes crews didn’t survive, and they’d drift until someone found their ship. It was sad. But those ships were not haunted.
Not in the sense of non-corporeal spirits floating through their corridors. And definitely not like the myth of the Resolute: an ancient ship that had supposedly flown through a cloud of mysterious radiation that turned the whole crew into ghosts that could grant wishes to any mortal who found their ship.
In truth, there had once been a ship called the Resolute. And it had disappeared. Those were the only facts anyone knew. And while the Resolute had become a famous bit of space lore, it certainly wasn’t the only ship to launch into the inky black and never come back. Especially in those early days of space travel.
“Are we really doing this?”
G-Rock turned to see her friend Ether clomping onto the deck. Despite his airy name, Ether was a big man with a broad, musclebound frame and nerves of granite. He favored clunky boots and tactical clothes with enough pockets to hold nasty surprises for anyone who got in his way.
Ether came from a family of mercenaries and his mother had named him in the hopes of softening his self-image. Instead, he ignored her lighter ideas about the name in favor of its historic roots as a gas that could knock anyone out.
“Captains, orders.” G-Rock shrugged. She knew Ether shared her disdain for this mission but they both respected the Captain.
Looking at the expanse of distant stars, G-Rock wondered if anyone else on the ship was awake. They’d spotted the blip hours ago and been steadily closing in. Then, the Captain said they’d need sleep before boarding and left G-Rock to take the first shift, knowing she’d keep them on course even if she didn’t believe.
Ether stood by her side silently studying the void. It was peaceful with no ships in sight.
“Strange to know it’s out there,” Ether said gruffly.
G-Rock cast him a side glance and tried not to audibly sigh. “Don’t tell me you think it’s the Resolute, too.”
“No.” Ether scowled, offended by the suggestion. “I don’t mean that. I mean that there’s a ship—any ship—that we know is out there because of these machines, but we won’t be able to see it with our eyes for hours.”
G-Rock nodded agreement, though it wasn’t the kind of thing she’d thought about much. Their ship had sensors that warned them about their far-out surroundings. She largely took that for granted, unless there was a problem that knocked the sensors out. And then she cared more about getting them back online pronto.
“What about the things out there that aren’t picked up?” Ether asked, keeping his eyes on the distant stars.
“Cloaked ships?” G-Rock countered skeptically. It was unlikely any cloak would get by their top-of-the-line sensors.
“No,” Ether began, then changed his mind. “I mean, yeah, maybe. But other things. Maybe not even ships or planets or asteroids. Just things. Things we don’t know anything about.”
G-Rock turned to face him, hands on her hips and surprise in her voice.
“You do think it’s the Resolute!”
“I didn’t say that,” Ether corrected, calmly but bristling under the surface. “The Resolute is a man-made story. A fantasy to avoid doing real work. Think about it. The legend says if you board the ghost ship, the crew of the Resolute—”
“Called the resolutions,” G-Rock added contemptuously.
“Right, the crew ghosts, now called the resolutions, grant you wishes. And the wishes are always things like getting rich, strong, smart, or whatever. Things people can get for themselves if they put in the work, but they want to believe in ghosts that magically make it happen.”
“That’s kinda harsh,” G-Rock said after a stretch of silence.
Ether turned with a stare so menacing G-Rock took a step back and raised her hands in defense.
“Wait, I mean, it’s a good point. Definitely.”
Ether continued to stare, waiting to hear what was so harsh about his outlook.
G-Rock explained carefully. “It’s just that, maybe, people aren’t avoiding work when searching for the resolutions. Maybe they just don’t know how to get what they want, so they wish they had some help with it. We all need help sometimes.”
Ether’s expression softened, slightly. He didn’t need help. G-Rock could see that thought clearly etched in every bulging muscle of his tense body. In Ether’s world, help was only for the very young. Yet he had learned more skills since joining this crew. G-Rock could see that thought moving over his face as well.
“They don’t need ghost resolutions,” Ether decided. “They need their own resolutions. Inside.”
The blip on the radar blinked rapidly. It was adjusting its course.
G-Rock looked at the screen, knowing she could match their adjustments or let the ship go.
“Their own resolutions?” she asked distractedly.
“Yeah, like resolving to get the thing they want, then making a plan and following it.”
The blip on the radar moved gradually out of frame. The system beeped to ask if they should stay locked on.
“The intergalactic new year is coming up,” G-Rock mused, her hand hovering over the controls. “What if everyone set a resolution to get something they want during the new year? Like a new tradition.”
Ether shrugged, his eyes moving from the radar screen to the star-flecked black of space.
“It’s better than chasing magical ghosts.”
With a few keystrokes, G-Rock let the mysterious blip on the radar disappear. It would be easy enough to tell the Captain the ship had shifted into hyperspace—something a ghost ship would never do—and he’d accept it hadn’t been the Resolute.
“So, New Year resolutions?” G-Rock asked casually, standing by Ether’s side. “You think people will buy into that?”
“Maybe.” Ether shrugged. “At least for a month or so.”
Thanks for listening. I started today’s story in space with the vague idea of chasing a ghost ship named the Resolute. I didn’t know how I would work that toward resolutions, but I think it came together pretty well.
If you enjoyed this story, or Freely Written in general, please tell your friends and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.
Remember, you can learn about my novels on my website: SusanQuilty.com. Links are in the show notes.
Happy New Year! And… as always… Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]