It’s been twenty-four months since the lottery. It’s been twenty-four months since the destruction of Tokyo. And it’s been twenty-four months since I last saw you.
You were left behind. I made the cut. You didn’t.
We all saw it coming. The threat of nuclear fallout had been looming over us for decades. Hiroshima. Nagasaki. We all know how that story goes. Nuclear weapons were suddenly in the public eye, and military groups scrambled to perfect them.
After creating the world’s most powerful nuclear bomb, years before we were born, a group known as the Renovators announced their intentions: to eradicate the world’s largest cities. Soon, they would rebuild the world how it was intended to be.
Filtered. Uncontaminated. Pure.
Those who just wanted to save their hides fled to designated regions of the world, where the Renovators put them to work. For people with a conscience, there was nowhere to go.
They started with Beijing. The city was dying anyway- overpopulation had taken a toll. Plague, famine, pollution. It was only a matter of time. The bomb put them out of their misery, really.
Delhi was a shame. Full of millionaires and billionaires, their legacies obliterated in the blink of an eye. Not to mention the immense casualties.
Cairo shook everyone. It was before we were born, but my grandfather told me about the day he heard the news. They say there used to be pyramids, built thousands of years ago. Some thought they were built by aliens, but I know better. There are no aliens in space. There’s nothing but a hollow emptiness that sucks your soul out in its gaping maw.
Mumbai was destroyed the year we were born. Would that be thirty years ago already? I’ve lost track of time. It seems to pass differently up here, suspended among the stars and dust and broken dreams.
I remember the destruction of São Paulo. They broadcast it live on the screens, straight into our homes. It was exhilarating in a horrifying sort of way until they showed the bodies. Strewn about, twisted, charred; they were no longer recognizable as human. I’d spent the better half of the evening losing my dinner over the bathroom toilet.
Shanghai was destroyed the following summer. Bombings were getting closer and closer together, the stakes were growing higher, but the news no longer surprised us. Another city reduced to rubble, another memorial to the millions of people murdered. They burned down the memorials anyway.
Mexico City came and went in the blink of an eye. Hardly got any news coverage. Partially because the Dictator couldn’t give less of a shit about them, but partially because of how close it was- they didn’t want to risk panic. The nukes were approaching, and it would only be a moment before they came to the United States.
Then New York City. We’d all expected it, but it didn’t make it any less terrifying. Dropped the bombs straight on Times Square. It was a beautiful place, full of lights and life and buildings that scraped against the sky itself. But it doesn’t look like that anymore. I remember hunkering down in the basement with you as we listened to the transistor radio- a relic, really. It was the first time I’d felt the panic. They were so close, and there was nothing we could do about it.
Tokyo was the last to fall. Or so we thought. Slowly, but surely, the Renovators’ presence faded into the background. We knew we didn’t have long before they returned with a stronger plan. For those of us who refused to pledge our allegiance, Earth wasn’t safe anymore.
So as the Renovators schemed, we turned our sights to the stars.
It was meant to be a secret, but word got out before long. Rumblings and mutterings of a trip to space spread, rumors of a lottery that would save us all. So, naturally, when the project was announced, I entered my name.
I didn’t expect to win. Out of the billions of people that remained, why should my name be chosen? But it was.
And yours wasn’t.
I tried to reason with them. Tried to barter to bring you along. But they said no, and you said no. Live, you said. And keep on living. For me.
Twenty-four months ago, they came to our house. I pulled you close and breathed your floral scent. Tears wet my shirt and your shirt and for but a moment, there were no boundaries between us, nothing holding us back, just two bodies intertwined for what would be the last time.
And then I left you.
Twenty-one months ago, after three months of grueling training, I boarded one of the seven ships that would carry us into space. It was to be a staggered takeoff, with one week in between each launch, and I was on the first ship to leave. There were enough provisions for five people on each ship. Five people in seven ships, one on each of seven continents. Thirty-five people to survive.
Billions to die.
They called it a lottery, but it wasn’t. They’d picked us for a reason. We were the healthy ones, the mentally sound ones, the young ones, the spry ones, the clever ones. Left behind were the weak ones, the elderly ones, the disabled ones, the ill ones, the injured ones, the children, the parents, and the rest of the world.
And we were going to create a new life. A new generation. A new world. Mars awaited us, ready to be shaped by human touch.
I was ready.
The crew was interesting, to say the least. We’d grown close over the two-year journey; as close as you could grow when you spoke different languages. But they never could have replaced you.
My first crewmate Harin was from Greenland, and they’d left their life as a pharmaceutical tech behind. They’d lived alone, with only their dog for company. They thought they were inconspicuous, but I often caught them with tears in their eyes whenever they mentioned that dog. I never worked up the courage to ask what had become of it.
Alejandra had lived in Mexico City as a child, but her parents had smuggled her into the United States before their home was destroyed. Her mother had escaped with her, but her father had stayed behind in the city. He died along with it. She’d had to say goodbye to her mother before leaving on the trip.
Yaniel was from Cuba, a country not unfamiliar with nuclear weapons. Born into poverty, he and his younger brother had lived on the streets. He often wondered aloud how his brother was doing without him.
Last but not least, Maddox was Canadian, and she’d been one of the engineers who worked on both the biosphere and the ships. The scientists had sent one up with each of us. She was a truly brilliant mind, and the only one keeping us sane.
God, it was a horrid trip. Pissing in bags and then drinking it, eating nothing but dehydrated dust that they called food, cramped in tight quarters in a giant metal bullet that split through the sky. Spending twenty-one months with four other people in a room the size of a broom closet is the definition of hell.
But we were the strong ones. We could survive anything.
Hours turned into days turned into weeks turned into months turned into nearly two years before we’d entered Mars’s atmosphere.
And now it’s been one week since we landed on Mars. It’s been one week since I stepped foot into the biodome. It’s been one week since they threw me into this room.
There are no windows. Only a solid titanium door, locked from the outside. Me. My suit. The chair. The sounds of my breath. The screen. The clock.
And the button.
It’s mounted to the wall in front of where I’m strapped into the chair. Small, blue, inconspicuous.
They’ve explained to me over and over what the button will do.
My companions’ screams tear through the insulated walls. That means they haven’t given in either. Yet.
But it’s over.
Because while the Renovators were silent, they’d been devising a plan.
A plan to go to Mars.
A plan to cultivate the best specimens from Earth, to test them, to grow and repopulate, and eventually take us back when the weaklings on Earth were gone.
And we had fallen for it.
Maddox comes into my room sometimes. She shows me your battered face upon the screen. Sometimes you say my name in your fevered sleep. It leaves a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Or maybe that’s just the blood.
They’re killing you.
She says I have a choice. If I push the button, they’ll spare you. They’ll bring you here.
If I push the button, the bombs go off.
The bombs will go off anyway, she says. Points at the clock on the wall. It’s steadily ticking down. Now, it reads 00:34:02. Thirty-four minutes until the bombs detonate. Thirty-four minutes until the entirety of Earth is destroyed.
This is the seventh time she’s done this; the seventh time she’s given me this speech. The clock started at 168 hours. Now, we’re down to half an hour.
The second ship was supposed to arrive today. I hope they’re treated better than us- after all, they won’t have any family members to use as leverage. The world will be dead.
Maddox says you sit in a cell in their facility, not unlike the one I’m in. She says the ships are ready. She says the button is on a delay. She says there will be enough time to evacuate you from the planet before the bombs go off.
She says I’ll see you again.
The world’s blowing up anyway. There’s nothing I can do about it. If I don’t press the button, you die along with it.
If I press the button, you are saved. But I will be the one responsible for the world’s destruction.
I can guess who’s on my companions’ screens. Harin’s dog. Alejandra’s mother. Yaniel’s brother.
Only one of us can press the button. If I press it, I kill them all. If they press it, they kill you. It’s a cruel test, a test to discover the strongest among us.
Are you strong? Maddox asks me. Or are you weak?
I wish she would shut up.
Are you strong? Or are you weak?
I miss you.
Strong? Or weak?
Your face flashes in my mind. Your honeycomb skin, the sparkle in your eyes, the smile
dancing across your lips.
What are you?
That same face is now bruised. Bloodied. Missing teeth. Fingernails ripped from your
hands. Sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. A skeleton of your former self.
For you, I am weak.
You told me to live for you.
But I cannot live without you.
I press the button.
An Exile’s Bargain
Visions of dust drove us into the rocket; grey, omnipresent dust. The missiles would fly, I did not know when. I knew only that we could no longer bear the dread, the knowledge that our homes and monuments and children’s schools could become rubble before the next morning’s bagel.
We exchanged Earth’s impending ash for the certainty of Martian sand. I hear it this moment, battering our domicile. It is the sound of madness; it is the sound of freedom.
″There will be a new heaven and a new earth.” The pastor begins his sermon with the same repeated quote of bible verse and applies it to our life here on Mars, praising the fulfillment of scripture.
I sit among our gathered few, our small congregation of believers, nodding in unison, listening to the same Sunday sermon we’ve heard from our youth on Earth. Five years ago, we all made the grand journey, the trip of faith, following the brave , God-appointed entrepreneurs and scientists who left for life on new frontiers, for life on Mars. For five, long , hard years , we have tried to turn this dusty desert into our own utopia, our own promised paradise in the heavens but it’s taking longer than anyone could have envisioned.
The Earth is doomed the pastor continues, judgement day is sure to arrive!
We respond with well-timed and obligatory amens.
War, crime, violence, hatred.....the pastor denounces earthly sins, but life on Mars will be different he says as we are the blessed few.
I gaze out of the small cubed window our of church cubicle, into the inky blackness of our planet and I remember a different Earth. I think of the turquoise of the sea , the lush green of the forests, I remember lazy days on the beach, the beach parties, the sunsets,the music, the art, the aromas
of wonderful foods, the varied cultures, the celebrations. I remember it all ;the good and the bad.
My heart pulls deep inside me, a swell of deep-tissue yearning and I gasp for breath to suppress it.
Every day I look out from the observation deck and every day Earth remains a serene globe of swirling colours fixed in the black void of space.
We’ve all heard rumours, whispered talk in dark corridors, that the war to end all wars on Earth was actually averted. Peace talks prevailed and now all countries around the
world are signing new peace accords, new pledges with a bright outlook on future relations. A new era, they say, a new era of cooperation and global change.
I want to raise my hand and ask the pastor about it but of course there is no Q & A portion to this sermon. We take what we are given.
He drones on with dire warnings of doom and destruction and we nod and we amen.
Suddenly another scripture flashes to my mind, a verse from Psalms. ”The meek shall inherit the Earth. ” And as I watch the pastor talk himself into a red-faced fury of divine vindication , I wonder....what have we inherited ?
Red Sunken Dream
I blame David Bowie. If not for him maybe I wouldn't have stormed up to my room that night and clicked the link to secure my non refundable seat. My mom was listening to Life On Mars when I got home. My acceptance letter was open on my phone. I'd read it three times. I was gonna walk up to her and hand her the phone let her read it over and then I'd ask her what she thought I should do.
It had been her and her brothers idea that I apply in the first place. They were drunk and elbowing me on the couch whenever the "apply now" adds came on during NCIS episodes. It was during the second break in the third episode that they finally got me to open the application and fill it out. They didn't even suggest that I replace Rose with Fart when it required a middle name.
I was looking at her a moment in the doorway when David Bowie ruined everything. She was working in the kitchen. I took in the sight, the idea of being on a different planet then where she licked the spoon after each time she stired whatever sauce or soup was cooking making me suddenly greatful for her.
Then she opened her mouth. "Close the door would you! Ever since that stupid green bill or deal or whatever we pay double for our heat!"
I started to open my mouth to explain that the 'stupid green deal' was a conceptual piece of legislation that had been sitting on Mitch Miconell's desk for fifteen years and as such could not possibly be effecting what we payed for heat in a typically warm december and that in fact the cause of the increase in price was due to de regulated utility companies having the power to charge whatever they pleased, but she was already singing. She launched right into the chorus.
I closed the door softly, feeling sick at the words. Words written ten years before she was born about a world that was already falling apart. Falling apart in a way that my mother had happilly voted for and cheered when other's were prevented from voting against. Suddenly I wanted out. I wanted to be as far away from her as I could possibly be and never see her again. I looked at my phone and realized I could. I could put 54 million miles between us and I could look out at a different sky only sometimes seeing a light that was a planet that she was a small insignificant part of.
I rushed to my room before she could sing about Mickey Mouse or Lennon. I clicked the link to accept and clicked the box for the terms and conditions and clicked one last button and it was done.
There were austronaut classes and terriforming classes and fitness trainings in the next few months. I told my mom I had joined a buisness club. She liked the sound of that, thought it meant I had learned some good values.
The day of the launch I slept a few hours after supper and then snuck out at two in the morning. The house was silent and dark, I took my one allowed memento, a small frog keychain I won at a fair for my dad and took back after the funeral. I thought about leaving a note. I even started one, but as soon as I'd written the words "dear Mom" I realized I had nothing to say to her.
The launch was scheduled for 5 AM. I sat in the waiting room with the other 23 choosen travelers. We were all silent and nervous. Some were still crying from their tearful goodbyes to their families. Others wore my bitter expression that tried to say fuck you to a whole planet. I pittied the criers until 4:30. It was then that we made the walk out to the shuttle. The families were in a glass walled room to watch they waved and blew kisses at their favorite children. It was then that I began thinking that the ball in my stomach might be partially made of doubt and regret not just nervousness at being launched into space.
As soon as I had been securely fastened into my launch seat I knew for sure it was regret I was feeling. I knew for sure that I had to see my mom at least one more time I had to talk to her, thank her for all she'd done for me maybe, or tell her how stupid she is sometimes. I was just getting the courage to tell one of the technicians that when the sedatives kicked in.
I woke up in my new room a few minutes ago. I don't remember what tecnical marvel got me all the way without waking up. It hadn't seemed that important in the classes and it seems even less important now. I have a window in my room, a clear view into the red desert that leads to an empty sky and beyond that somewhere is earth. Earth which I'll never go back to. I wish I knew what I would say to my mom if I could go back. I wish I could scream those words into this desert, to get it out of me, but there aren't any specific words. What I want is the chance to be near her again. To have a chance to fight that bitter hatred that rises up my throat at the thought of her, and show her with some empty words barely released that there is love to go along with them.
I won't have the chance. I'm stuck here in my Red Sunken dream.
From 50 million miles away it more resembles a clear, LED light bulb plugged in amongst strings of yellowish, incandescent ones than it does a blue planet, but that clear tint is unique in the night sky, and therefore beautiful. The eye is drawn to it, and lingers upon it wistfully, as a moth does a flame. The light looks inviting to an alien creature. Alien creatures desire a place to call home above all else. I know this, because I am now an alien. No wonder then that human life somehow found its way to that light so many millions of years ago. You would bend to pick up a golden rock at your feet, and you would strive to reach a silver light in the darkness. It is impossible to look up at Earth from this distance without gasping, as you would gasp if the rug of life were suddenly pulled out from under your feet.
From our module on Mars the night sky is astonishingly brilliant. There is little in the way of atmosphere to distort the strange constellations that are visible from this different site angle, nor are there city lights to degrade their brilliance, only the tritium reds and greens glowing from the monitors and guages of the many consoles inside the module.
High overhead, much higher than Earth’s golden, dream-stirring moon, a weak Martian moon blushes pale pink, like candlelight seen through cotton candy. Soon will come another moon, this one smaller and much closer than Earth’s. This one is frighteningly close as it trails by at a discernible, unlunar-like speed. This moon is not round, but is only “roundish.” It was clearly once a meteorite that is now as trapped as we are inside the tub-drain vortex of Mars’ gravitational pull. This moon is so close that you can distinguish it‘s bulges, and it’s crags without the aid of a glass as it snail crawls past you three times a day.
The nighttime landscape seen through the pinkish moonlight is the same as the daytime landscape in that it is desert-like, and barren. Somehow, even at night, there is the rusted, pinkish tint to go with the metallic odor that poisons the air, and the iron ore flavor that bites at your tongue, even in the recycled oxygen of the module.
In our bunk my partner sleeps. She is not whom I would have chosen, but she is my partner, and she is a good, sensible one. I am likely not the one she would have chosen either, but we have, over these two years, travelled together, feared together, worked together, cried together, and now we have also loved together, as the scientists said that we would. Those scientists seem to know everything, except what might come next. Should we ever get back to Earth, I wonder if she and I would part? Is it love we feel toward one another, or is it need? Does it even matter? Regardless, I am happy to have her, as she is a woman, and she makes it feel like love.
She wakes, and climbs up beside me. Together we watch the Earth glow among the lesser stars as we think our thoughts. Ours are different thoughts, surely, but also the same... as we are both humans, and alone, but we are at least alone together.
Beautiful Disaster, Horrible Masterpiece
We’re so uniform. So obsessed with lines, with symmetry, with perfection. I often wonder if the gods meant it to be this way. If when they placed the particles of an atom together they knew it would grow into the square lines of property, mowed in straight, differing greens. “This one’s mine, this one’s yours.” It’s ambiguous, and then it isn’t, and then it is again when I ascend further into the black of the universe. Suddenly the symmetry is gone, blurred into the white and green and blue of that little marble. The rules, the regulations, the science that has always strapped me to the floor of the earth like a seatbelt has dissolved into nothing. Nothing but the arbitrary life of what I thought I was existing for.
I’m leaving. I’m going to ask the gods if they really knew what they were doing when they introduced a proton to a neutron, if they can break down all the parts of a cell, if they can explain to me this disaster, this masterpiece. Even if they did, I doubt I’d understand. Maybe they just threw everything into a giant croc-pot like my mother’s chilli recipe. Always hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
I want to sit at the dinner table and ask if it turned out how they thought it would. If the January wind that blow by frosty windows was part of the plan. If the smell of wet sidewalks, stamped with the paws of stray dogs and wandering children was in the divine. I want to ask if it looks, if it smells, if it tastes the way they thought it would. If it was worth all the trouble. This beautiful disaster, this horrible masterpiece.
That Which Survives
I reach out into the dark and let Earth settle on the tip of my finger. I do this a lot, probably more than I should; too much time staring at that speck, an ember that once burned with Shakespeare and Springsteen, blue whales and redwoods, pizza, Curie and Christ. It’s a strange cocktail of homesickness and survivor’s guilt and a longing for something more than endless red dust.
We’ve been here a while now, long enough for the novelty and some of the fear to wear off, and even the strangeness of an extra moon has given way to routine. Our leaders used to spend a crazy amount of time and speeches trying to convince us that this is a new start, that we’re the #NewMartians, but it didn’t take long for us to recognise that really we’re refugees. We may have travelled a lot further than those who once fled the drowning of Miami and London, Osaka and Dhaka, but all the same we landed in a hostile environment with nothing but that we carried, no-one to welcome us, no-one really cheering us from the chaos back home, other than the prayers of desperate parents. Our Exhibition Lead still calls us pioneers, insisting that we left behind relics such as borders and flags, but all our clothes have a logo neatly stitched onto them, and it’s hard to feel pride in that when you know that the textile factory and the branding company that created them are both now underwater.
Still, we survived and that’s no small thing, and as a history teacher I carried the memories of civilisations here with me, some of them at least. For all my heartache, I’m grateful to be here; doubly so, given that I was on the last ship out (the wave of techno-utopianism that flew us here very nearly swept away those of us with specialities in the arts and the humanities, but the Percival Lowell was finished with days to go before that final launch window). But still, I’m nervous; that tiny ember is still there and I hear its echoes every day. This isn’t something I often say out loud, but it’s noticeable that our mistakes stowed away with us; some quarters are substantially larger than others, and the algorithms that help maintain the Habitat seem to have inherited the sins of their fathers, with security cameras resting a little too long on some of us, and decades of data on each colonist being among the first cargo loaded onto the first ship to leave. The promise of a fresh start only extends so far.
But the other day I noticed a rude joke scrawled on the door of a toilet stall. I know that one of the botanists has a homemade still hidden away in her quarters, and only yesterday someone rebelliously threw an old blanket over the solar array powering the mission’s cryptocurrency. On a short term mission, these would be acts of dangerous incompetence, but now we’re here to stay, it feels like something vital has survived despite the glossy brochures and the elitism, the drive to tinker, to hack, to laugh and create in the face of desperate circumstances. And so I smile and let the ember continue on her way as the remnants of humanity gather in the observation lounge, as the last musicians in the universe play their instruments and programmers make drones dance against the Martian sky.
The Earth Always Rises In The East
I always thought sunrises would look different on Mars. I expected a spectacle I’d never seen before, but instead I got an ’80s dystopian Hollywood movie. There is no colorful light show, just a bland evaporation and shades of endless ochre. The Ochre Planet, they should have called it. But I guess things look different from afar, just like the Earth, hanging carelessly in the distance, as if it wasn’t actually rotting away, slowly, but surely. Light takes 182 seconds to reach us, so if home would go away forever, we wouldn’t know for three minutes and a heartbeat. A few of us have fled the doom, thinking we could cheat our destinies, but time is merciless and drags us all into the abyss that feeds on our greed. We haven’t escaped, we just extended the leash. It’s ironic, we look for hope on this barren planet that bears the name of the god on the altar of which we have sacrificed our home. But in spite of all this, when I think about tomorrow in the hazy twilight of the martian dawn, the Earth always rises in the East.
1. I think I might be in heaven.
I. The first thing I noticed was the smell. How to describe it? It consisted of three
a. Water, the fresh kind you can only get straight from the purifier. I had some for
my birthday last year, I couldn’t believe my parents would splurge like that.
b. Fresh plants, rarer still. This smell particularly reminded me of the carrot that I
was allowed to try once, many years ago. But carrots need too much water, so we
never grew them again.
c. Life. It smelled exactly like the forest I once found around a stream. There were
armed guards around the stream so I didn’t get too close, but from where I was
hiding I could smell the pine trees and it was the best thing I ever experienced.
(Except maybe the carrot)
II. The second thing I noticed was when I opened my eyes. Green. I had never seen
that much green before.
a. Fluffy little cushiony things covered the ground, interspersed with square bits of
dark brown, moist dirt
(I have never seen dirt like this before)
b. The square bits of dirt had other green things in them which looked like they
used more water than even carrots had.
c. A couple green leafy things had other colored items hanging from them,
impossibly large and impossibly bright.
(There is a round red one lying in the dirt, broken open. Inside is so much water
I could die).
III. The third thing I noticed was something that had been in the background the
entire time, and that I only then became aware of.
a. A buzzing, humming sound which appeared to emanate from several dozen small
b. As I watched, one landed on a leafy green thing and stopped buzzing.
(I’m starting to thing the green things must be plants, although I didn’t know
they could be that color)
2. The fourth thing I noticed was the enclosure. This told me that I was not in heaven.
I. It surrounded us and the greenery, about thirty meters in diameter.
a. Gray walls arced high over our heads and back down to the ground behind us.
b. It seemed to be made of metal, although how someone got that much metal is
beyond me. And why use it on a building?
(Strange that a material so necessary on the Dead Planet should be in so much
II. I hadn’t noticed it at first because many strange glowing things were attached to it
and they created the illusion of sky.
Dialogue: “What- what’s up there? On the round metal thing?”
“Hm? Oh, the lights. They just create light on the inside of this dome.
Without them the crops don’t grow. They use electricity - too
complicated to explain right now. I promise we’ll discuss it some other
a. The ‘lights’ were large and round, and looked a bit like the moon but instead of a
large thing a long way off, they were small things close up.
b. I asked whether they reflected the light of the sun, but no one said anything.
III. I turned around slowly to look at the interior of the dome. As I did so I noticed
a. There was an opening where I had entered. It was made of the same smooth metal
as the dome but folded outwards. As I watched, it slowly folded inwards once again.
(The smooth, unhurried movements of inanimate objects here remind me of the
sinuous darting of what few fish are left back on the Dead Planet)
b. There were two other patches on the wall which appeared similar to the entrance.
I surmised that these must be other doors, although to what I had not the slightest
c. Based on when I was able to see through the door I entered by, the walls were at
least a metre thick. No natural light shone in from anywhere.
3. As we walked towards it, the door in the other side of the dome opened. We entered.
I. I was standing in a small, cramped space with several things in it.
a. Near the wall a tiny bed was set up. It had no covers and a single, black sheet.
Dialogue: “Don’t we need covers? I hear it can get freezing here.”
“You don’t think we’ve managed to survive without learning to regulate
temparatures inside the domes, do you? Don’t worry, the nights are hot
to help the plants grow.”
b. Besides the bed there was a small chest of drawers, which was the only other piece
(Between them the bed and the chest cover about seventy percent of the space
in the room)
Dialogue: “This is your room. Sorry it’s cramped - you won’t have to spend much
time in it. Tending the plants is the main requirement of your job, but there is
plenty of other work that we would be more than happy to give you.”
“You don’t like it?”
“No, it’s so beautiful. I think I might cry.”
4. Three months later, I went to the infirmary.
I. My head hurt and I’d been feeling weak for days, but I couldn’t just stop working.
a. If I stopped, they might send me back to the Dead Planet.
b. If I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to smell the plants.
II. I started vomiting after two months of work, but it wasn’t until I
began to see blood that I signed myself up for a check-in.
a. There was a slow turnaround - it was a month before they could see me.
III. By the time I arrived I could barely breathe, I was choking on blood and my vision
was blurring. My hair had been coming out by the fistfuls for days.
IV. The nurse took one look and got a syringe. I felt it enter my arm.
a. I didn’t feel anything else.
b. I think I was wrong.
c. I think this is heaven.
This is home now, red and round. Winds constantly blow the amber sand across the flat landscape sometimes creating swirling whirling circles of dirt ghosts holding hands like children playing games in a red schoolyard. The monotony of the landscape is sometimes interrupted by crevasses like veins twisting their way along the smooth flat ground. I wonder who once stood on these ruddy riverbanks ready to dive into cool refreshing water, but I know it will never be me. These cracks are long since dried up, never again to provide refreshment or recreation.
I am one of the lucky ones. My neighbors who live not so close by are also lucky ones. We were chosen and given a second chance. Some suspected the earth would never survive the abuse we humans had inflicted upon it. It had once been beautiful and lush with green rain forests and soft powdery deserts. Tall trees reached for the sky holding their branches out and waving gracefully as gusts of clean clear air wafted past. Blue rivers flowed to wild green oceans that rolled upon sandy shores leaving foam and sea creatures scurrying to make it back to the water. Now, the earth cried out in pain with overpopulation, overabundance, and a lack of caring. Soon it started to fight back with hurricanes, wild fires, and earthquakes that left destruction and devastation in their paths. From the ashes rose new viruses that led to plagues. Much of the population died out, leaving only those strong enough and ruthless enough to fight for their needs. Humans were now motivated by hunger and need much like animals. Humans survived, but humanity itself became endangered.
The government hired scientists and researchers who worked day and night and filled the airwaves with promises of relief and remedy, but none came. Politicians poured out propaganda promising better. It only got worse. Soon, it seemed the earth would not survive this ill-fated infirmity, leaving the dwellers of the big blue planet homeless. One day, the resolute researchers announced the successful colonization of Mars. They patted themselves on the back for saving our species, but never took into account the cost of the venture. Soon the fortunate few of the planet came forward with large donations to secure their manors on Mars. They were convinced of their vital importance to the project, but were smart enough to realize they didn’t want to even attempt to make it on Mars on their own. They had become accustomed to certain comforts, even midst all the recent suffering of the world’s population. So, they began to gather service people from all around the big blue ball. Doctors, nurses, teachers, cooks, plummers, and electricians were just a few of the neccessary needed personnel. They were interviewed extensively and tested for their intelligence as well as their physical and mental health.
Those of us who passed the examinations are called the lucky ones. We were piled onto great ships and transported to our new home. We were given our own home in a red flat land. We were told the earth would soon be gone. We were lucky. We were saved by the elite of the earth, to serve them. So we served them gladly. We were their nurses and nannies. We cooked their meals and unclogged their drains. We built them new homes and sewed them new clothes. We were lucky. They saved us from destruction and elimination. They saved us from the end... that never came.