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All That's Left

Last Views of a Broken World

By Ellen StedfeldPublished about a year ago 4 min read
Whats we've got is a window -- but that's more than anyon' else can say.

The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room.

Small and round, with nothing of a view, buried between the building structures and sand piles. Glass grimy with age and the wear of weather, there wasn't much to see per se, but to her it glowed. The greatest treasure. A shard of sunshine, handfuls of dust blown in the air. A piece of sky so blue it hurt to stare, like a cracked tile you could imagine came from a vast and beautiful courtyard. She had heard that back in the day, when people could survive to stand outside, the sky stretched all the way across your field of vision. Surrounded you with its eternity. The simulators could replicate it, emulate the experience of a memory of a resemblance of what once was in a near-forgotten time. But this, as small as it was, this was real.

There was no such thing as windows anymore. But when he showed her what he had tucked away, she fell in love. With his ramshackle homey apartment with a window, and, probably, with him.

She spent every moment she could sitting in the window's circle. She watched how the patch of light hit the floorboards. Tried to memorize it, for the someday when she couldn't see it anymore except in memory. Never rained anymore, but sometimes the wind kicked up swirls of sand that gathered in hills outside the windowpane. Even when water did still fall from the sky, it had sizzled with acid. At least it was a change in weather, and the steady thunks of raindrops remined her of the times she had heard of long ago. When you could touch it, dance in it. She dreamt of that once.

He said he would be back soon. Again, she wondered again how much he actually liked her, or how much he just didn't want to be alone in this desolate existence. It was better to face the eminent end-of-the-world with a warm body to wrap your arms around. And there weren't many left... Everyone else had chosen the only paths left to them: migrating into the darkness of the Underground, or escaping into the darkness of outer space. She wondered how much she liked him, and how much she needed to make this sliver of sunlit hope her own. A foolish wish for the world to recover, that it could still be restored. Even as it was dying.

It was the last place to look upon what was, and could have been, a last gasp of what is, and wonder if only the people of long before had known truly what this world would come to... if they had a glimpse for just a moment... if something might have been different?

Usually, she tried to ignore the reflections in the window, that looked like fleeting human figures, like watching eyes. In the pane of glass, she imagined but knew that it was entirely possible she too was being observed from other planes of reality. That was how glass worked, it reflected both ways. It wasn't just the dangerous elements that made windows obsolete. Superstitious folks had started covering their windows on purpose, fearing that was a contributing cause to their unraveling reality. In her version of the planet, they had lost control of the resources, the use and misuse of time itself, the environment that was provided to them, the innovations and warnings of science. Squandered, until there was almost nothing left to cultivate or be refreshed by. Just the memories, the loss, the painful desperation. Like a home left unrepaired for so long, the caretakers scattered, lost, and dismissed, that it now crumbled beneath their feet.

That was the other reason she stayed with him. While everyone else left, abandoned ship or sailed for brighter shores, he tried to keep the engines turning, the air just barely breathable, but they were alive another day. Even though he'd left her yesterday morning with only an absent-minded goodbye, she hugged him extra tight when she got home. If she couldn't find another way to further the cause, if she couldn't get herself out of bed some days, she would do what she could. She woke up, and she watched, and sometimes the sunlight gave her the determination to do more. Or at least to face the day, and face the future before her, whatever that holds.

Sometimes she wondered why the secret spectators would take such an interest in her, but perhaps she was the only view they had from their window. Or maybe, as simple and small as it may be, she truly was the last person who would ever see the face of the Earth. Maybe that alone made her worth remembering. Like a silent interview. What would you say to those watching, what do you want your viewers to know?

And yet, this time, perhaps the last time, she looked directly at the shadows. She dared them to look back, to understand. Maybe, just maybe, they could enjoy the sunshine they still had, and take care to preserve their ecosystem before it was too late. Their future could be brighter.

Short StoryYoung AdultSci Fi

About the Creator

Ellen Stedfeld

Perpetually immersed in drawing, illustration, and creative experiments, at live events and

Community arts in NYC/Queens -- LIC Arts Open festival May 15-19th 2024

Love participating in challenges to motivate new work!

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