Oh look! There’s life in this blog place yet!
Here is another flash fiction, courtesy of Chuck Wendig on Terribleminds.com. This week’s challenge was an extension of last week’s where we were asked to come up with a title. Out of those, Chuck selected ten and asked us to choose one for our story. I was torn between The Blood Lottery, The Blind Tattooist, but eventually ended up with:
Still Turnstiles at Station 6
At its peak, every day, close to fifty thousand people passed through Station 6 on their journey onward to other parts of the solar system and beyond. The other five stations processed just as many people, which made for total of three hundred thousand humans leaving the Earth every day at the high point of the evacuation.
At that rate, it would take nearly sixty-five years to get everyone off the planet’s surface, by which time, of course, it would be too late. So more stations were built, each bigger and capable of taking more passengers until there were a total of twenty-one stations that cut the evacuation time down to just around fifteen years.
Now, even as the planet drew its last gasp and the majority of the population had left the surface either by way of one of the twenty-one space elevators or by private spacecraft, the original six stations were deemed needless, while the new and larger ones continued to lift those few who were left on the planet. It was not just the end of an era, it was the end of a world.
“When are you going up?” Ellis asked, casually leaning back against the counter he was manning, looking out over the nearly empty hall of Station 6. Of the row of twenty turnstiles, only three were still in operation and the queues by them hardly had more than a handful of families in them. It was quiet in the grand entry hall. So much so, that the tired whispers of those still here echoed loudly throughout the large space, making it seem like it was filled with ghosts.
“I’m not,” said Calloway, shrugging her shoulders as she looked out of the huge windows toward the desert landscape that had once been the Amazon jungle. There had been life out there, once, Calloway knew, but now all that was left was a flat and desolate plain that might as well have been on the Moon. If not for the colour of the dirt and the glint of light reflected off pools of brackish water, you could easily be fooled into thinking that you were, indeed, looking at a lunar landscape.
“You’re staying?” he asked, surprise written all over his face. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for an Earther, Cal.” His brow furrowed as he looked at her more carefully, trying to determine if she was joking or not. “Really?”
“Really. And it’s not Earther, it’s Preservationist. Some of us have to stay behind to try to preserve what’s still alive, make sure the Earth doesn’t end up like Mars used to be. In fact, we’re already using some of their terraforming efforts to restart our own ecology here.”
“Right. But…” Ellis had no idea what to say to this new-found knowledge. He’d always just assumed that his colleagues here at Station 6 were all going to join the evacuation, same as he was. The idea of staying behind was, to him, so absurd that it never even crossed his mind. “You’re staying?”
“Yes, really, Karl, I’m staying.”
“But why?” he demanded, still not satisfied with the answer. He’d known Calloway for well over ten years now, and she had never even given a hint that she might be thinking of staying behind on a dead planet. It made no sense at all. Why would anyone stay on a doomed planet, a planet that would surely be hostile to any kind of life within a decade?
“It’s the right thing to do, Karl. We might not succeed, but we at least have to try, don’t you think?” she said, looking at him with an intent expression and a small smile playing at the corner of her mouth. “Besides, I don’t have a family. No parents, no siblings. No children. And my wife agrees with me. We’re staying here. We’re going to do our best to save this world, heal it as best we can. Is that so wrong?”
“No. I guess. No, it’s not,” he said, the echo of closing doors making him look toward the gates that led into the departure hall, where the last of those leaving from Station 6 were waiting for their ride to orbit. It was quiet now, in the entry hall. The turnstiles had stopped clicking, the missing sound of them filling the space and making every one of the attendants fall silent.
Calloway wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand and stood, letting out a light groan as her back protested from having been bent over for so long. She looked around her, letting out a sigh at the dusty landscape around her, her gaze lingering for a moment on the dark line drawn straight up into the air by the space elevator nearby.
It was nearly ten years now, since the facilities at the base of that one had been closed and some seven or eight years since the last of the elevators had been closed down for good. There were still spacecraft coming and going, but even that was a rare event these days. The rest of humanity had given up on Earth, and more and more, it seemed like they were correct in their assessment that the planet was beyond saving.
“Georgia!” Pauline shouted, her voice full of joy and wonderment. “Come here! Look at this!”