Story: New Year's Luck

Language English – A story for learners of English
Level B2 (4 of 6) – Intermediate (Confident) What's this?

“Right now, on Earth, it’s New Year’s Eve,” said Alex. “My family is eating a hot, delicious dinner. Instead, I’m here on this awful spaceship, eating nothing.”

“I know we’re in a bad situation,” said the Chief Engineer. “But hey – look at the stars! No one on Earth has that view.”

Alex looked out the window. All he could see was black. He imagined the fireworks outside his family’s window, on Earth.

“When I was chosen for this mission,” Alex said, “I felt lucky.”

“It wasn’t luck,” said the Captain, while continuing to work at her computer. “I chose you because you were the best.”

“I wish you hadn’t.”

Three months ago, there had been an accident. Now, their spaceship’s batteries were almost empty. Without energy, they couldn’t call for help, and they couldn’t go home. They were floating in space. Their food and water had almost run out.

Someone came and stood beside Alex. It was the Chief Scientist.

“This time last year,” she said, “my father made a traditional cake.” The Scientist smiled, thinking about the taste. “He makes it with oranges, vanilla and almonds. And there’s a coin hidden inside. Whoever finds it will have good luck.”

“Did you find the coin?” Alex asked.

“I did.”

Alex smiled and turned to her. “Maybe there’s hope then.”

There was only one thing that could save them. If they found an asteroid containing the right metals, they could make new batteries. It was a one in a hundred chance.

“New Year’s Eve has always been my favourite day,” said the Engineer, who had come to stand with them. “We used to eat seven, nine, sometimes twelve different dishes! Fresh fish, roast pork, potato salad…”

“That sounds good,” said Alex. “What else?”

“Oh… traditional soup with herbs… hot gingerbread from the oven…”

“Hot gingerbread!” Alex could almost taste it.

“What about you, Captain?” asked the Scientist. “What are your traditions?”

The Captain looked up. “Catch,” she said. She took something from her pocket, and threw it to Alex. It was a spiky piece of metal.

“We melt the metal and drop it into cold water,” she said. “Each shape is unique. Some people believe that the shape predicts the future.”

“Unfortunately Captain,” said Alex laughing, “I think it looks like an explosion!”

They all laughed. Then, suddenly, the entire spaceship shook. Alarms began to ring. Everyone jumped and ran to their computers.

“Report!” shouted the Captain.

“We have detected –” cried the Scientist.

Then the spaceship filled with light. The light was coming through the windows, from space.

“Raise the solar panels!” cried the Captain.

It was a supernova – a huge burst of energy from a nearby star. It was a one in a billion chance.

A little while later, the whole crew was standing together, looking out the window. The supernova was more beautiful than any fireworks they could imagine, and it was a hundred trillion kilometres in size. They were all silent for a long time.

“You know,” said Alex at last, smiling at the crew, “I do feel lucky.”

“A supernova close enough to charge our batteries, but far enough not to be dangerous? Yeah, that’s lucky!” laughed the Scientist.

“I wasn’t thinking of that.”