This story is by Emilia Cuevas and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I try not to think about it as I climb my way into the wreckage of the crashed ship. I ignore it as I sort out the pieces that can be salvaged from those that can’t. I attempt not to acknowledge it on my way back to the camp as I watch the sunset over the red surface of the planet. But try as I might I can’t fully escape the fact that today marks a year since it happened. A year since Earth blew up.
I walk as the sun disappears over the horizon and the moons appear in the sky. I still can’t get used to how small the sun looks from here, or to the fact that there are two moons instead of one. The gravity difference was also a problem the first few months, but I’ve adjusted by now.
I get to the two-story buildings we built from the scraps of the ship that brought us here. There are two buildings facing each other, three rooms on the first story and two in the second. Between the buildings is an empty yard with only a holographic screen and a couple of chairs.
I make my way up the stairs of the left side building, dragging a bag of parts that I collected today. I’m a scavenger. We all are. Mars wasn’t prepared to absorb us into society when Earth blew up. They were too busy defending themselves from the remains of our planet to pay us any attention, so we’re outcasts: living on the edge of society, ignored by everyone, struggling every day. The last survivors of earth, collecting trash just to survive. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
I get to my room. It’s a small space with only a mattress on the floor, a desk and a chair. I sit on the old mattress and I start sorting the metal pieces. I have gotten really good at knowing which ones will be worth something over the past year.
Everything is silent around me. I’m the first one back. This is unusual, but I’m not surprised. None of us really wanted to talk today. Everyone left before sunrise this morning. We are all too absorbed in our own pain to pay attention to each other’s. We have formed a family of sorts since we got here, but that doesn’t change the fact that, until one year ago, we were all strangers to each other. The lottery that got us onto the ship that saved us from the meteorite pretty much ensured we all left our family and friends behind. It doesn’t really help that out of the hundred ships that were supposed to take off from Earth, only ours made it. We’re all mourning someone. Most days we try to ignore the pain and the guilt we have, but today it was just too much. Today it was everywhere.
I hear noises from outside. The others must be coming back from their day of foraging. Under normal circumstances, I’d go out and greet them, but today seeing them is just too difficult. I stay in my room until the shuffling dies down. I open the only drawer I have and I take out the set of keys that sits next to a couple of folded T-Shirts. I sit against the door as I hold the keys, the only keepsake I have from my life on Earth.
I start crying, thinking of my family, my friends, and the life I lost. I hold onto the keys as hard as I can, as if they could bring me back in time to my life before Mars. As if holding them could somehow erase the past year. Make everything alright.
Suddenly I hear a noise from outside. Someone is moving something heavy. Intrigued I peek out my door. I’m not the only one to do so. I see what provoked the noise: Jannah is dragging a table across the yard and putting down ten plates, one for each of us. She looks up and without her saying a word, somehow we all know we are being invited to have dinner together. Slowly, we all go get whatever food we have and take a seat at the table.
We share our food but eat in silence. Some people cry, others only stare at their plates. We sit like this for two hours, all finding some sort of comfort in the company of the others. We all share the same pain, whether we talk about it or not.
By now we’ve all finished eating, but no one seems to want to get up and leave the company of others. To my right, I notice that Delilah is holding something with the same intensity I had holding my keys earlier. My curiosity gets the best of me and I become the first person in our group to break the day-long silence.
“What do you have there?” I ask her in a whisper. Everyone turns to look at us. My question catches her by surprise, and it takes a moment before she reacts. As an answer, she extends her hand to me and shows me the silver bracelet resting there.
“It was my sister’s” she simply says. All I can do in response is show her the set of keys that I put in my pocket. Slowly, everyone around us gets something out of their pockets and shows it to the group. We all have a memento to remind us of our previous life and all we lost.
Some impulse I can’t identify makes me place my keys at the center of the table. Delilah follows my lead and does the same with her bracelet. Then all the others, one by one, do the same: Jannah puts down a golden ring; Mick, an empty lip gloss; Carter, a drivers license; Hellen, an old watch; Charlie, a small USB memory stick; Elizabeth, a green thread; Gerard, a used eraser; and Beth, a rubber duck.
I look at the weird collection of items we assembled and I smile for the first time today. Even though I have no personal connection to the items, they bring back memories: my sister playing in the bathtub, getting my driver’s license, my first kiss, my parents’ wedding rings, old class assignments… From the looks of it, I’m not the only one overwhelmed by memories. All around me my newfound family is crying and smiling at the same time, just like me.
We all snap back to the present when a huge blast of light illuminates the night sky. We all stand up and move closer together to see another blast of light pass. I am taken back to the last moments of Earth as I see these flashes zoom past Mars, ever so similar to the light of the meteorite that destroyed my planet. It takes me a while to realize that these flashes are not rocks floating through space, but ships passing us by on their way to their destination. Mick, who seems to have come to the same conclusion as me, tells the others not to worry.
More ships are flying over Mars when the holographic screen we have turns on and I finally understand where the ships are headed: Earth. Or rather the empty space where Earth was a year ago. I see through the hologram that the ships all stop in different places, making a circle. Once all the ships are there, they launch strings of light towards the center, forming an Earth made out of light: a tribute to the lost planet.
An image of Earth forms where my home planet used to be. I hear Beth catch her breath. I offer her my hand to hold and she takes it. She offers her other hand to Hellen, who offers it to Gerard, and before I know it we are all holding hands. The last survivors of Earth looking out to where our planet should’ve been, united in our pain and memories.
Marcela Priego Orueta says
Marisol Llanos says
José Manuel Cuevad says
Interesante visión del futuro apocalíptico.
Maru Lozano says
I love ir!
La imaginación no tiene límites!!! Felicitaciones Emi!
Cristina Pacheco says
Thaina Forsman says
Congratulations Emi !
Ma.carmen Quintana says
Excelente. Me encanto
Rocío González says
Me encantó. Súper Emilia.
Samira Fernández Chiu says
Emi, I really liked your story. I see that you are a girl who appreciates your belongings and take care of your surroundings. I am glad to have known another phase of your life (writer). Congratulations!
Linda Barrows says
Great story!! Had me engrossed from start to finish!
María Ahumada says
Emi, excelente historia, me atrapó desde el principio. Muchas felicidades