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E-78

by Heather Allison 11 months ago in Sci Fi
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300 years after humans have left Earth and settled on the planet E-78.

"164 days." I whispered. 164 days since I woke up and everyone on E-78 disappeared.

164 days. Alone.

My hand instinctively reached for the switch beside me. The dim light above me flickered before steadying and filling the room with a pale yellow. I sat up and glanced at the thermometer. 89°. This will be the hottest day so far.

Fantastic.

A new bead of sweat formed on my forehead as if to reinforce the fact that today was going to be hell. Being 40 feet underground didn't make a difference on E-78. The heat is unforgiving , just like the planet itself. I know I have to go up today. If I don't, whatever I've trapped will be inedible by noon. I stood up and headed toward the bathroom. A faint smell of dirt and old pee filled my nostrils as I opened the door. I looked up toward the mirror and grimaced. The scar is just as ugly as it is every morning.

If only I had just moved two seconds faster.

I peed and threw the sweat drenched underwear into the tub. Saving the shower until I'm back, that's when I'll really want it. I dressed and reluctantly walked toward the heavy steel door.

As I climbed the ladder and reached the platform, the heat enveloped me. I looked down at my watch. 10° difference.

Shit.

It was another 15 feet to the latch door that stood between me and what was now a world of my own. I slipped into the suit that would be my only protection from the heat and climbed up the ladder.

Even though I couldn't feel it, I knew it was at least 115°. The foliage surrounding me was thriving. E-78's plants loved the heat and humidity. Some of them reminded me of Earth's. Short, wide trees with low hanging branches and moss like growth on the forest floor. Although I grew up here, Earth was something I thought about daily. 300 years since the last some-odd 30,000 humans left, but pictures and stories have been drilled into my head since I can remember. Mainly the bad stuff. It was a daily reminder of what we did and why we worked so hard everyday to live differently than our ancestors.

The forest around me was quiet and solitary. I missed noise and company and bodies, other than my own. The only life around me consisted of plants and the small reptilian inhabitants of the land. We had names for the ones we've discovered, simple letter and number combinations. We never personalized them, as they were our main food source. I approached my trap and instantly knew it was an A-3. It's long, black, scaly body lay flat against the ground. It was a male. Short feather-like structures stuck out of his arched spine and it's wide flat head. It was fresh, dead for a couple of hours or so. My stomach gurgled. Last year, I would have taken one look and walked away disgusted, but now I could feel my body anticipate food. Saliva pooled in my mouth, and my stomach gurgled again.

I packed up the creature into my bag and headed towards the closest source of water. Niagara, we called it. Some Earth reference that I vaguely remember from 4th year class years ago. The water flowed forcefully over the edge of a 40 foot cliff and pooled at the bottom before flowing 50 miles to one of E-78's many seas, the Renea. I had only been there once, the day I almost lost my eye. The water dwellers were not as small, nor as placid as the creatures who roamed the land.

I could smell the water faintly through my suit and could hear the roar of Niagara as I approached the edge of the overhang facing the cliff. The pool of water below was blanketed with steam and mist from the falls. I turned and began the downhill trek to the bottom. The twisting branches around me abruptly ended where I had cut them two weeks ago. New growth began on their ends with small leaves pointing outwards from each small stem. Another two weeks and they would be extending far into the three foot clearance I had made. The spongy, moist ground gave under my feet with each step. I could feel sweat begin to form on my back and knew I had to hurry, the suit was reaching the temperature max. It was probably now 125° out here. I reached the pool and pulled out the A-3 and the de-scaling solution. I poured it over the creature and watched as it's dark scales began to fall and reveal thin purple skin. I grabbed its tail and dipped the body into the water, and pulled it back up. A few scales left, but I could take care of that back at the bunker.

After putting the A-3 and the solution back into the bag, I hurried back up the trail and to the top of the overhang. The humidity was building up in my suit and a small voice came through my earpiece.

"Maximum temperature will be attained in estimated: 25 minutes."

It was only 10 back to the hatch, plenty of time. I rushed anyway. The heat was becoming unbearable.

The hatch handle was so hot I could feel it through the suit. I entered in the code and waited for the light to pop on and the handle to raise. Three seconds passed and the light stayed dull. My heart rate increased and I could feel blood rush to my extremities. Panic began to set in. It was never longer than three seconds. I shakily entered the code again, nothing. Again, nothing. My body began to tremble.

I'm going to die.

My mind raced to the cave ½ mile west of the hatch. I turned my head towards the tree line and tried to push through the shock my body was in. My legs wouldn't move.

I'm going to die.

I moved one foot and tripped, sliding about 4 feet down the slope. Four seconds later, I was racing through the trees. Branches and leaves hitting each arm, sweat pooling in my shoes and sploshing with each stride.

A small voice in my earpiece again, " maximum temperature attained: suit temperature 100°."

The beat of my heart was deafening in each ear. My head became heavy, and my muscles burned. The cave came into my view and my lips began to tingle.

I'm going to pass out.

I could feel my muscles pull me faster towards the mouth of the cave. Adrenaline rushed through me as I pulled myself into the opening of the rock. I turned my body and shakily began to climb down, slipping with almost every placement of my feet.

At least I'll get there faster.

I could hear the rushing water and my movements became more focused.

I'm almost there.

I reached the opening. My vision was blurry and I could hardly see the pool of water. Blue and brown colors raced across my eyes and I fell onto the rocky floor of the cave. I reached for the side of the suit and pulled the zipper.

I have to get into the water.

I pulled myself toward the blue. My legs were jelly and my arms almost there. I could feel water surround the fabric of the suit and pulled myself into the shallow pool. I completely submerged myself into the warm water and reached for the zipper again and pulled hard. My leg escaped the suit and the water reached my exposed skin. A wave of relief washed over my body and I haphazardly pulled myself out of the suit, fighting the urge to pass out. My heart felt like it was going to explode out of my body. I pushed myself back over to the rock and pulled myself up enough to lay on the small pebble shore and closed my eyes.

After what seemed like hours of floating in and out of consciousness, my mind began to clear. I opened my eyes and the roof of the cave was illuminated by the several lights I had placed there months ago. Brown and tan rock came into view. I shakily raised my arm and looked at my watch, 89°.

It's been at least four hours.

I attempted to pull myself up further out of the water and my muscles screamed at me. I managed to pull my body out up to my hips and a fetid smell instantly reached my nostrils

Something was dead down here.

I waited a few minutes before pulling myself to a sitting position. My body swayed a bit before steadying and the pain began to set in, an all over ache and burning in my leg. The stench of the dead creature grew and I knew I needed to move away from the water.

I pulled myself completely out of the water and crawled toward the opening of the tunnel. A flash of green caught my eye and I turned my head back towards the water. It looked like a pile of large leaves under an outcrop of rock. As I looked closer, I saw whitish-pink flesh and instantly my whole body froze.

It's a human.

I crawled as fast as I could over to the rock and the smell hit my face like a wall. He/she was definitely dead. I covered my nose and moved closer, my body shaking with anticipation.

A human. Dead, but a human.

The body came into view and I turned my head away and gagged. It was a female. Her hair was dark and her veins visible and dark purple. My heart began to beat faster.

A human.

I stood slowly and shakily and peered over at her again, my body leaning against the rock. Light reflected off her hand where a small piece of jewelry laid. A necklace with a curved shape pendant on the end.

A love heart.

An old earth shape. There was a small clasp on the side of the pendant and the top of it was slightly ajar. I couldn't see what was inside and didn't look longer to find out. Thoughts bounced through my brain.

What in the hell is going on?

I hobbled back to the opening of the tunnel, mind racing, body in pain. I knew I needed to get back to the hatch. It was cool enough outside to safely go back, but the weight of my thoughts kept me here for a few more seconds.

164 days alone. Yesterday I was the only human here, presumably. Now there's two. One dead, one in rough shape, but alive.

I needed to know more. I HAD to know.

My body swayed a bit and the exhaustion hit me like a ton of bricks. I grabbed the rock wall beside me.

I need food. And sleep.

I pushed through the opening of the tunnel. I quickly glanced back towards the water, before beginning the climb back up.

I'll come back tomorrow.

Sci Fi

About the author

Heather Allison

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