"This isn't how it was supposed to be."
I didn't look up.
"This isn't how it was supposed to be," he repeated.
I didn't need to look up. I had already memorized his graying features and his fraying brand of sanity. Not like there was much else to do besides watch the rockets go off and up and away into a space that I could never enter.
I was sixteen then. Of the age when governmental separation could be legally enacted.
It's funny how the most important day of your life (excluding birth and
death, I don't think anyone really remembers either of those) could still
remain a little fuzzy in your memory. I tried, believe me. The gods know
how hard I'd tried. But once the government decides something is for the
benefit of the people it's hard to convince them otherwise.
It's not like they didn't give you a warning. That's the part that is
supposed to make it acceptable I think. My parents got a full year of
warning and they were luckier than most from what I hear or heard, as
it seems more appropriate for the current time.
But they only got the warning because it came on the day of my fifteenth
birthday. Most people don't get pulled until their kids are at least eighteen.
They claim this is beneficial for the parents as well as the child.
"By eighteen, one should already be settled comfortably into a career
and prepared to live on one's own."
My parents were, are, more intelligent than most. That is why they were
taken so early. The Suit-Men knocked on the door and my father answered.
From my seat at the table I could see him turn pale as they talked but
I couldn't hear what they were saying over the voices of my friends' singing.
My father came back to the table just as they finished and very quietly,
without looking away from his hands that sit clenched in his lap he spoke.
"You haven't made a wish yet, son?"
I shook my head, teasing hair into my eyes and down my forehead. I too
stared at my knees. He sensed rather than saw and remaining motionless
he spoke one more time.
"Make it a doosie, will you, boy?"
I blew out all fifteen candles. My friends cheered and my mother, cementing
a smile onto her face, began to cut and serve the cake.
I slipped out of my seat and trudged quietly out of the door and into
the stagnant night air. It seemed darker than I remembered it to be. I
could almost close my eyes without the lights of the city shining neon
orange through them. I could almost close my eyes without the tears making
their way through the cracks.
A year later it was a different scene. No friends. No cake. No cheer.
We were at the R-Station waiting for clearance to pass I hugged my mother
and father goodbye, my dad handed me the i-Codes I would need to access
the safe and bank account, then they walked up the ramp and into the cylindrical
titanium-kevlar weave copper-platted EZ Launch. (The term "rocket"
was considered outdated and dangerous sounding.) I was brought back into
the security area "for my own safety" (there was an incident
a few years back involving a maladjusted child and a viberKnife) and I
watched the shuttle launch behind two separate four-inch thick bulletproof
glass windows with Suit-Men fingering their holsters.
Eight years later it was a much different scene. The Organization had done an excellent job of keeping the population boom of the past twenty-five years out of the media. Officially deeming it "Classified," the
Organization began preparing for the inevitable. An Earth with all resources
depleted. The rationing of food was masterfully done under the guise of
"Ending World Hunger." The EWH movement was so powerful that
it became fashionable to refuse food in order to better serve "those
in need." Of course the Organization couldn't have been more delighted,
and this allowed their plans to stretch another three years, effectively
gathering up ALL of the remaining resources from their respective containment
It had been so long since people had seen trees or felt rain or seen
a cloud that they did not miss them, and before people could begin to
question "why," let alone "how," all of the remaining
resources were in orbit to keep them out of the hands of the Unchosen.
We weren't so much as "Unchosen" as we were "Unworthy."
We, as a collective, simply did not have the intelligence which justified
taking us into space. We would effectively be a drain upon the already
limited resources. Physical labor had long since been replaced by the
vastly superior, union-less, pseudo-sentient mechanical workforce. We
were completely unnecessary in the development of the New Human Race.
One thing was for certain: This isn't how it was supposed to be. Morally
or imaginatively. 17% (technically slightly lower, but who wants to remember
decimals?) of the world's population was taken- chosen as the elite, the
ones needed to recreate Earth.
He whimpered softly.
He looked up. I could feel his blue eyes on me.
"How long do you think they'll last." It wasn't a question.
I didn't expect a response. I continued,
"How long until they find a planet that they can settle on with all the resources? They'll be dead before they even make it to the nearest one. How long before they rape that planet too? A lot less time than it took to make this hell we're living in now. Sure everything they have up there is at the peak of human efficiency.
But it's always been easier
to apologize than it is to ask for permission, isn't it."
I spoke in flat tones. This was my obituary. I hoped he could hear it
out there, wherever he was. Let him know I'm not bitter. Just disappointed.
"They'll forget what they did to this planet. It'll take a century or two, but they'll forget. They'll go back to creating plastics with no half-lives, combustible fuels, the works. Efficiency is hard. Things'll change for the worse.
You'll see. Earth is just gonna be a fairy tale in one-hundred-and-fifty years, even though it should be more of a fable. We'll be a legend just like how we were told as kids that you could see the stars at night 'once upon a time.'
They're blasting away but they're not going anywhere."
Forget the terminology of the age. I had given up on hope a long time ago. I was born into the wrong era.
The oxygen had already started to
I could see the rockets struggling to blast off, their thin flames burning
a million breaths as they shone red against the black-smog sky.
The planetary power had been cut off. The glow of rocket engines for
the past two weeks had been constant, and the only source of light. It's
strange how beautiful fire is when it's going away from you. Beautiful
Soon the rockets launched fewer and fewer. The sky no longer roared and sputtered. Instead it sounded like the ocean simulator my father had created when I was a boy. A constant and gentle fuzz in the background of my eyes.
I could still feel the rumbling in my stomach, intensified by hunger,
but I no longer felt the constant trembling of the Earth.
The rockets sputter began to fade, and one last rocket whisked away through
the sky in the distance completely silent as it slid through the thick
atmosphere and smog.
And then it was dark. For the first time in a millennium it was naturally
and wholly dark and perfectly quiet. I stared at the ground for hours,
fumbling in the darkness with my hands. The silence was broken by a wail
released from the Unchosen. It went on for hours.
My night-vision finally arrived and I looked at my hands and realized
I had dug my nails into my palms, drawing blood. How silly of me not to
notice. Now that I realized them they were quite painful.
The air was gone now. All around me sleeping bodies panted for breath, simply remaining conscious became a laborious and difficult effort.
I leaned back against a crate, and as I put weight onto my shoulders
I noticed a light. I glanced up, surprised that a rocket could be this
late in its departure and the light was gone. As my chin began to make
it's final journey into my chest I saw another light. I wept.
I hadn't shed a tear since my fifteenth birthday, but here I was on my
deathbed, so to speak, weeping with joy. The ships, in their fiery haste,
had blown through the sky at such a speed that they had unintentionally
cleared paths through the smog. Now, in near-perfect darkness the stars
shone through the thinly-veiled spots in the sky where the rockets had
torn through the pollution.
I turned my head to the side and stared at the man whose graying features were already turning sepia in my memory. His lifeless face was stuck in an upward position, mouth open, staring at the sky. With my gaze fixed on his features I could more clearly see the stars through the corners of my eyes. At least legends are remembered, I suppose.
I'm not bitter, just disappointed I wasn't enough to come with you.