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Goodbye, Broken Planet

Leaving nothing behind and floating into the unknown

By Marina FortuñoPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 7 min read
Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Not that anyone would hear me anyway. I can barely speak after The Blackout. It was the toxic fumes. Now, my voice cracks just above the volume of a whisper. However, most of the time it does not sadden me that I cannot speak as before. Maybe it is because I have nothing to say. Maybe I am at a permanent loss for words. The world ending can have that effect.

I dearly miss singing, though. Especially with my family.

Moving through space, cramped in a compartment smaller than a coffin and surrounded by scraps of metal, I think of my life on Earth. With my eyes closed, I see my mother laying on the couch and cuddling our two cats, Nacho and Minnie. My father sits at the table drinking orange juice, half-reading the newspaper and half-following the news on TV. In the kitchen, my sister is dancing and singing along to “Despacito”. I am about to join her, but the sting in my heart brings me back to the present. I miss them.

As a teenager, I would stare in shock at the screen when my father watched the news -passively taking in the stories of migrants trying to cross the border to the United States as if they came straight out of a novel. A long, dangerous journey, with vicious smugglers charging thousands of dollars for passage, robbers on the highway, kidnappings, police violence and dozens of bodies at the riverbank after failed attempts to cross. Tales of normal people with real lives and families, who were willing to risk everything and face unimaginable dangers for the opportunity of a better future. Or any future, for that matter.

Now, I understand.

It all happened so quickly. Researchers and climate experts had warned that extreme measures had to be taken if we wanted to save the planet -and ourselves- but we would have never expected what happened. Well, at least not all of us. As it was revealed later, the magnates and billionaires of the world had been building a space station on a nearby, semi-habitable planet in secret. For years, they knew.

The New War exploded at the same time as the plant in Ukraine when it was damaged by heavy fire during the occupation. It was the first, but not the last nuclear crisis. After that, countries closed their frontiers and retreated inward to attack outward. Young men and women were sent to fight the war of rich people and power-hungry autocrats. The agenda for climate change fell aside and the war economy grew. Manufacturing plants and military bases were constructed as civilian and natural areas were destroyed. At an alarming speed, deposits of plastic, metal and toxic waste invaded every corner of the world. In a few years, radiation, smoke and chemicals contaminated the air, the remaining sources of water, crops and other natural resources. Hunger, war, disease and death covered the Earth.

Early on, when the political conflicts began, there were rumors of probes and specialized crews travelling to space to begin building a "new home". Today, we call it The First Landing. At the time, it all sounded like science fiction and conspiracy theories. We were oblivious to the reality and the magnitude of the circumstances. After all, aside from economic inflation, harsh weather conditions and distant wars, nothing seemed so different.

As the global war progressed and the environment swiftly deteriorated, news of more landings in space plagued broadcast communications. But, it was neither scientific experts nor astronauts who were travelling at that point. It was high-profile, public figures who were venturing into space. There were billionaire entrepreneurs, members of royalty, Nobel award-winners, rock stars, Hollywood actors, top-level government officials and politicians. They all left. Many news outlets first regarded it only as space tourism, but rumors later confirmed the truth: it was a one-way ticket to this "mysterious" new station. We know this time as The Elite Shift.

From that moment, panic crept into the minds and hearts of everyone on Earth. It was only the beginning.

I once had the opportunity to leave during The Big Migration, with the massive wave of crowded space transporters that were supposed to take "regular" people to the new station. However, the efforts were focused on rescuing only those who had "essential" abilities and professions needed on the new planet. These involved recruiting "high-skilled" individuals, who had sharp minds and expert knowledge, or "low-skilled" workers, who were physically fit to endure the harsh conditions of manual labor. All of this, of course, only if one could "cover the operational costs for space travel". In other words, if one was able to pay for a ticket. High-skilled professionals could cover the six-figure sum with money or even an equivalent asset like gold or technology. Low-skilled workers, however, bargained with the strength of their backs, the sweat on their heads, and the commitment to life-long work with minimal pay in this "new home".

My life savings and my recent promotion to associate professor of Anthropology were enough to buy a mid-class ticket and to be worthy of work as a "record keeper" at Eikkon 7. I was allowed to bring one person with me. But I refused to go. My sister, Lara, went missing two days before take-off and there was not a chance -even in that burning hell- of me leaving my only family behind. I went to the departure platform, waiting for her to show. It was the last call for boarding. The last available shuttle in my country, ready to leave the world, never to return. The chance to find my way to safety and a new future. And yet, I found myself giving my ticket to a young couple. The woman looked like me. It would not have worked otherwise. They were both desperate to get on the transporter, but their professions were not on the sanctioned list. He was a bartender. She was a kindergarten teacher. Not essential enough to be saved. So, I gave her my ID. She could take my identity and start a new life with her loved one.

Then, the long search for mine began. Until it ended, two weeks ago.

During The Rescue stage, space transporters were supposed to come back and retrieve the rest of the population. We called ourselves the Leftovers -about to be eaten by scavengers. The reality was that our planet was almost completely broken when they arrived. By then, darkness had descended unto the skies because of the smoke and debris. This made it difficult for the shuttles to land safely. Somehow, however, power and electricity still worked in some areas. But food and water were scarce. Nothing was safe. People had turned angry, desperate and were terrified out of their minds. With reason. We all had little choice, but to revert to our most primeval selves. Some of us, still holding on to our empathy in spite of our survival instincts. Others, thriving in the chaos and taking anything and everything in their path. It was during that time, that hundreds of space transporters were hijacked by new gangs, who then became space traffickers. After that, the rescue shuttles stopped coming. A few weeks later, The Blackout began.

I do not believe this, but some among the most cynical survivors are certain that it was the world leaders, already safely established on their new planet, who gave the order to black out all communications and electricity on Earth. Therefore, leading nuclear plants to explode and radiation to expand across the vestiges of the world. Leaving the last of civilization to crumble. Their motivation: to exterminate the Earth's survivors before all of us died of poisoning or famine.

It was during the explosions that I lost my voice. In a way, it was a strange sort of gift. It has led me to have more profound conversations with myself. To discover my inner voice. To admire my thoughts without the constant impulse to share the contents of my mind. I am able to think deeply before speaking, and that somehow slows down the world. It is easier to observe and analyze my surroundings. To calculate. Being silent has also sharpened my senses. One can hear the most minimal sounds if one learns to pay attention.

And there it is. The distant grinding of gears shifting, the low hum of engines slowing down and the clang of a heavy, airtight door opening. Maybe it is one of the smugglers. Or worse. As I take in a breath of dense, metallic air, the panic starts creeping in again.

Someone is coming.

Climateshort storyHumanity

About the Creator

Marina Fortuño

I'm a work in progress! I love writing for fun (mainly short stories, informative bits and heartfelt pieces to make people happy).

This is my personal writing page.

Find me:

TW: @marina_writing

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (2)

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  • Ashley McGee2 years ago

    We’re not too far away from this. I hope our elites are too weak for space travel. Great start to what I hope is a longer work?

  • This is just so scary because in the near future, this might actually happen. I just couldn't stop reading, your story was so interesting. You did a fantastic job on this story and I loved it!

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