Cracks in the Glass
When second chances aren't enough
“The sky is falling!”
Shouts from the street below dragged me away from my desk. Peeling back the curtains, I peered through the railing at the crowds scurrying around like frazzled dune rats.
What on Earth?? As the news spread, more inhabitants poured out of their abodes, faces lifted to scan the artificial dome for cracks or damage.
With the wave of my hand, the balcony doors slid aside to allow my chair, with me attached to it, to manoeuvre out onto the barricaded surface.
Normally happy to hide away from the rest of society, curiosity tugged at me to figure out what had drawn my entire neighbourhood out into the open in the mid-day heat. A sigh escaped as my limited lower body function impaired my ability to see the sky. Instead, I angled my shoulders and neck to peer at the space above the housing complex across the street from mine. Nothing appeared to be amiss, yet the reaction of the rest of the inhabitants picked at my inquiring mind.
I rarely ventured beyond the tempered glass of my home, particularly out to the balcony. The memory of my suicide attempt was still fresh enough to shoot phantom pains in my damaged left leg. Sentenced to live out my remaining years as a victim of my own ineptitude, I was confronted by a frustrating limitation. My spine is supported by a fancy external rib cage, a metal framework I can anchor to my chair. And the straps, while supportive, are not very supple when you are trying to look skyward from under a slab of elevated concrete substitute.
A series of beeps from my computer carried a sense of urgency. I find it strange that we assign human traits to inanimate objects, but the message was clear. Rolling back into the room, the doors whooshed shut gently, repelling the heat. Beads of sweat glistened on my forehead, and not simply from the exertion. Even the climate control system of the dome struggled when the rays of the sun were at their peak.
Back in front of my communication screen, words were streaming across the backdrop, seemingly a blend of English, Arabic, and the space-based shorthand created within our community. The phrases scrolled by too quickly to decipher, but the gist seemed to be that our colony was under attack.
If this was true, then the “sky” really was falling, and feeling trapped in this wheeled chair would be the least of my problems. Anger at being required to react to forces beyond my control flared and my brow puckered in frustration. I shoved my hand through my hair, the tangles a further irritant. The beginnings of a nova-scale tantrum were brewing and I didn't have time for that. The 'world' could be ending. I punched the arm of my chair in a weak attempt to dispel the internal storm.
More than just my attitude was altered when I dove off my balcony. At one point in my life, I had been an even-tempered, rational, logical human being. I had to be. Only the most sane were chosen to set up and monitor the moon base. It was our stepping stone to the Universe, a protected rock from which to send our remaining populace in search of suitable planets to live on. Why we bothered, I never asked. We had screwed up our own atmosphere to the point of poisoning the masses with ground-level carbon dioxide. Moving off planet had been a no-brainer. The best and brightest hopped on the transports, bound for the closest interstellar body. Between the moon and the three orbiting space stations, there was still hope for the human race.
But not everyone left Earth. Some believed the planetary destruction could be reversed. And they were right. But it would take the right people and the right mindset to make it happen. That was not in line with the rulers of the day. From our perch in the darkness, we watched the fires rage across the surface, the oceans ripple with the heat. A true world war waged beneath us.
When the news of my daughter's death in the Resettlement Uprising finally found me, I lost my grip on reality. There were no second thoughts. No time to question myself or my decision. In the 1.11 seconds it took my body to fall to the solidified surface of our moon base, I felt only the briefest rush of air. Impact brought pain. Then the blessedness of nothing.
The nothingness was punctuated by the screams of my neighbors, the wailing reached into the depths of my brain and forced me into consciousness. And then it wished for oblivion. My grief was all I remember of that day. And of the months that followed. The rehab, the muscle training, the work. All so I could live again. What the doctors forgot to do was ask me if I wanted to. Apparently, when you are the leading bio-chemist still alive in the wretched colony, your desires are secondary.
So here I sit (Ha Ha) and think about what I have lost. And wonder if I have the strength to do it again. My survival in this outpost city required grit. And now, if we truly were being invaded, I would need to rewrite my own ending.
The volume in the street amplified as the crowd grew. Sirens cried in the distance, the unsteady pitch and timing made them impossible to ignore. I don't know what they thought would be accomplished by running about using up precious oxygen.
Overshadowing the ruckus, thunder rolled across the artificial sky. Not good.
I spun around and sped for the bedroom, knocking over my cane in the process. Damn it. No time to find my gripping tool. I would have to make do without it. Hoping my skills were not too rusty, I fell into old training habits. Despite my physical impairments, I had to get to the pod. That 'thunder' was not an approaching storm. We didn't have those in our make-believe environment.
Screams penetrated my sanctuary. Panic was escalating.
Pushing the button to open the storage compartment in the ceiling, honour prompted my return to the computer. I could not in good conscience think only of myself. I didn't know how many lives I might save, but even one would be blessed. If this was my last act on this wretched moon, to encourage the base inhabitants to seek transport, it wouldn't be enough. Many would miss the message as they ran about, lost in their own terror. Not everyone had a pod of their own. And the planetary level stations would be the first targets of any invasion force.
A solid thump from the other room indicated the landing of my personal pod hitting the floor. Rapidly punching the last keys, my directive streamed out to join the frantic ramblings of the others. For a moment I considered letting the sudden loss of oxygen be my death sentence. When the dome cracked, and it would, the air would rush out, dragging any loose item into the blackness of space. How easy it would be to sit on the balcony and watch the end of our civilization speed towards me, to let someone else be responsible for my termination. Heaven knows I hadn't done a good job the last time.
My hand slithered up to hold Emily's heart-shaped locket where it hangs about my neck, a constant reminder of the price paid for freedom. She died protecting the last colonies on Earth. She fought to save everyone who still lived on our ravaged planet. Reaching for my air pack, I strapped in, checking my ammunition capacity before closing the hatch. For her, I will live. For her, I will save humanity—again.
About the author
I am a panster by nature, discovering my characters as they reveal themselves. To date, my novel writing has involved the paranormal or magick within a more familiar setting, blending it with mysteries, police procedurals, or thrillers.