A Short Science Fiction Story
The first time it happened she was only 8. It was the middle of Downtime. Everyone else was reenergising in their personal preservation pods. The viewing portals were switched to black-out, concealing the constantly burning light outside. The overhead generators whizzed hypnotically as they blew frosted air through every compartment of the enclosed compound, containing an entire civilisation that hovered next to a burning planet. It was the 1st day of the 6th sighting of the 2 new moons in the year 2615AE. After Earth, she used to think to herself, what a funny expression. Was there also a Before or During Earth too?
The second time it happened, she was in the observation deck of wing 153D in the outer quadrant, alone. She was 16. She had learned all about Before and During Earth by then. Monthly identity and history injections thought her all about it. A tiny needle inserted below the right ear had replaced the need for what planet Earth had called school. Earth had become an unsustainable planet, a drained dot in the universe, once home a race somewhat like her own but less advanced, less aware of their personal effect on the world around them.
When it happened the third time, she was 24 and knew exactly what it meant and this time knew how to fear it. Fear had been a recent injection, one of the few traits from earthbound humans that her own race now injected into their civilisation in order to keep communities in check. Originally, they had irradiated all forms of weakness but it had lead to an uprising without the balance of weak and strong. Without the consideration of what could happen. Therefore certain characteristics, once thought to be essential to removal, had been reintroduced. Shame, guilt and finally fear.
The legend had been hinted at, briefly, in one of the injections, but it was believed to be nothing more than a distant dream; a trait of the human heritage they had yet to shed. It foretold how one day someone would embody the power of their own planet which would in turn reinvigorate life on Earth, a world so destroyed by its own people that, after it had exhausted its own resources, the planet itself had turned on them; the seas reclaimed the land, temperatures fell and ice once again reigned triumphant as it had done in millenniums past. Many of their leaders still believed that one of their own would one day burn with the heat of the sun, a heat which would melt the frozen surface of the planet of their past.
When she was 8, it has been a slight sensation that had awoken her, a tinkling along her right hand and up her arm that had felt alien to her. Temperatures in the sealed compound were kept at a firm minus 32 degrees. Their body temperatures had changed dramatically over the 500 years they had spent adapting to the heat of the sun around which they now lived, surviving inside a secluded floating system that prevented them from ever stepping outside or feeling the pressure of the planet they now called home even though they could never step foot on it. Water had trickled along her skin, a situation she was normally accustomed to, but this time it was not cold water, it was water generated from heat, a word she did not yet know at the time. When she was 16, standing on the deck, looking out into a terrain of volcanic fire and flames, she felt the sensation on her face. Her cheeks suddenly igniting with steam which hit the windows and crystallised with the frosted glass and fell and smashed on the floor by her feet.
At 24, she wasn’t alone when the flames shot from her hands like flared talons that flickered with every single movement of her fingers. They were all gathered in the canteen, queueing up for their daily nutrient injections. Everything was injections; knowledge, skills, nutrients and fear too. Some people cowered, others ran, children screamed but the majority watched in awe as legend became life on front of them. Gradually they fell to the ground and bowed before 24 year old Agatha who now held the light and heat of their fate in her hands.
No injection had ever mentioned the transporter that had been built 300 years earlier, that had been hidden and hushed but motored just in case fate returned. No knowledge giving needle had prepared Agatha for the faces of her family as they held her one final time to say goodbye. No understanding of love readied her for letting go of Paul’s heart so soon after she had found it, cherished it and felt it beating like her own.
At 24, when the seal slammed shut, the engines challenged the very flames of the sun itself, she had barely begun to understand the secluded, cold cradled compound in which she had lived her entire life. She had no idea what air was like, what a breeze felt like when it brushed your skin, how the sun felt, from a distance, when you swan beneath it in warm waters. She had no understanding of the simple beauty a flower could offer or how it felt to walk upon a field of grass. No one was alive anymore who remembered such things. Now all that promise lay in the heat that had taken over her body, a body now worshiped like a god, a body now hurtling to a distant planet once filled with lush mountains, deep valleys and heated homes that housed warmth and life. She had no idea what would happen when she landed on the frozen planet but hoped that the heat now radiating from her heart was enough to ignite a whole new world.
All Words and Drawing by Damien B. Donnelly