When I was a kid, the world died.
Climate change had sprinted past the point of no return, spurred on by capitalism and delusional politicians. My parents were scientists, they tried to help, tried to get people to fix things. This could all have been avoided if humanity had just gotten its crap together a few decades earlier. But too many people didn’t listen.
When I was born, it was already too late. Even if the entire planet had stopped polluting the day I was born (which, spoiler alert, didn’t happen) the planet would still have been uninhabitable in fifty years. Mother nature had already begun to take her revenge. Massive storms ripped cities apart. Devastating droughts choked all agriculture. The sea swallowed coastlines and islands whole.
My family was lucky. We were affluent people in an affluent country, who avoided being personally affected by the devastation at first. My parents used their privilege and resources to build an arc.
They loaded it up with a digital archive of all recorded history and the genetic material of every species they could find, as well as instructions on how to resurrect them when we got to another planet.
When civilization was on the brink of collapsing, they loaded it up with children.
The plan was to save the kids, and the species, by sending us to colonize another planet in a fully automated spaceship.
On launch day, I remember looking down at my parents through a tiny window. They waved at me through pouring rain. I cried. I didn’t fully understand what was happening, but I knew something momentous was happening, and I was terrified.
The ship took off and I really lost it.
The odd thing was, it wasn’t the roaring of the engine or the shaking of the spacecraft that scared me. It was how quickly the ground fell away, farther and farther until it wasn’t the ground anymore. It was a globe, suspended in darkness.
From up so high, you couldn’t see the devastation. The Earth, from space, looked idyllic.
The other kids joined in.
The engine made a crunching sound, then outdid us all. My ears bled. The ship twisted and turned like a rollercoaster or a car crash.
Everything went still.
There was an awful silence.
The Earth still hung outside my window.
We’d made it into orbit. We’d go no farther.
The engine took all the communications systems with it. Maybe that was for the best. If anyone was even still alive down there, they wouldn’t be able to reach us. No hope is better than false hope.
Solar power kept life support running for almost a decade, but something broke yesterday. We don’t know what or why. We don’t know how to fix it. We have a couple hours of power left, and then… well, life stops being supported.
Outside my window, the Earth no longer looks idyllic. It’s all brown and gray, smothered in a murky atmosphere. If anything’s still alive down there, I doubt it’s human.
I’m adding this to the archive, in the unlikely event anyone ever finds it. Human history deserves a conclusion, not a cliff hanger.
So, this is how the story ends; ten people in a broken spaceship, orbiting a dead planet, waiting for the lights to go out.
Grace Jenkins is a writer, lover of stories, and a student at the University of British Columbia. Her short story “The Ones Who Never Were” has been published on the UBC AMS Writer’s Guild website as the runner-up for their March contest.