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Faded

A Short Story

By ReileyPublished 3 months ago 10 min read
Runner-Up in Arid Challenge
5
Faded
Photo by Omar Belattar on Unsplash

Eyes flitted open to the same old interior: metallic walls, noiselessness, dank smells, bitter tastes, and the bizarre feeling of accomplishment, though that accomplishment is unknown.

I knew these sensations for a long time now. The Corporation had told me that I was doing a good thing. I was doing something beneficial for our people and me.

A time that seemed long ago, I had been one of the special few chosen to participate in a mission that would save some sort of celestial body that was dying. I didn't remember the exact details because that wasn't my responsibility. That wasn't part of my mission. All I had to do was follow orders, and all would be well.

The Andromeda galaxy was millions of miles away, but it had been our only hope for a future. With the newest technologies and largest space vessels, the Chosen 100 could make it, and we would be able to report back with what we found. We could all create a new colony—start over.

When I awoke though, silence was the only thing that had greeted me. I stepped out of my bunk and traversed the metallic hallways of the space vessel. If all was going according to plan, I would see only green lights on the dashboard, a refilled engine tank courtesy of the space bots, and a sign telling me to head back to bed.

All of that occurred. I noticed the green lights, I saw that the engine tank was full, and the sign told me to head back to bed, but...

...a box hid beneath one of the cabinets in the steering area.

How had I not noticed that box before? Had it always been there?

I approached the control area, though it had not been in my programmed assignments. I could not understand what sort of force magnetized me to do this. Still, I sat on the former captain's chair and pulled the box out. When I brushed my fingers along it, strange visions entered my mind—visions that I knew I wasn't supposed to have because I had never had them before.

These visions included a dark-haired woman and a smiling child—about six or seven. I winced slightly at the sight, choosing to look into the box so that I could try and suppress what my mind was portraying. Inside were circular materials with bands of...some sort of cellulose? I could not identify what they were, but I glanced about and eventually found something that seemed meant to play whatever it was that I found. When I figured it out, a hologram formed on the wall opposite me. And I saw them.

It puzzled me that at first I did not recognize who these figures were—that dark-haired woman and the child. It also puzzled me that the titles of these boxes were written in my own handwriting. Had these just appeared now? Why had I not written about them before? The last thing I remembered was...was...

Ah, that was not important.

I watched the moving images though. I saw how the woman giggled with a baby and spoke to someone as though they were me. Then...then I saw myself moving into the image and saying something along the lines of, "our first baby girl."

Tom? Was that the name that the woman called me? According to the Corporation, I was Number 20122.

The image of me on the screen: this image held that baby and rocked it, telling the dark-haired woman that this was only the beginning of what they would live together. I saw this image repeat in my mind before it flipped to the hologram of a toddler entering a kiddie pool. That image had been replaced with a little girl asking her father for coins for the vending machine; and that image was taken over with a teenager driving a car and then that teenager visiting with a diploma in hand.

Mariella! Was that... Had that been my little girl? I...I remembered her. But why hadn't I known her before? After all this time, why had she not been on my mind? I recall holding her in my arms, taking her hand, and telling her as an eight-year old that she could do anything. Had she really grown up without me? Had she gone and...?

The next holographic image displayed before me. A woman—about sixty or so—spoke into the...camera?...and sat back in a chair. "Hi...hi, Dad. I know this might...this might be confusing for you...but it's me, Mariella...or as you called me—little Mari. I'm wishing you another happy birthday with another hope that you find...that you find what we all are looking for you. I miss you. Oh, I miss you so much. So does Mom." Tears filled the woman's eyes. "We love you."

So many memories entered me at once—all ranging from holding an infant to teaching a toddler to walk and teaching a child how to ride a bike. At first, it did not make sense to me how I had not even held these memories before.

Then I glanced out the window to my left. The glow caught my attention, and I moved toward it. It was blue...and green...and...

...it was Earth.

Earth? How had I remembered such a name?

Oh yes. With my hand splayed on the window, I started to remember more. This was the planet that we were supposed to save. This was the planet that had once given us all life. The Corporation had once told us that there was no hope...and I took the job because I wanted a better life for my family. I wanted a better opportunity for them. I did not want to see my little girl grow up without hope.

The space vessel approached closer until it landed, and all I had to do was step off and...

Wait a minute. What was this? This was Earth but...there seemed to be so many different types of terrains. I landed in a diamond-like center where to lower right was a desert landscape; to my upper right was a rainforest; to my upper left was a beach; and to my lower left was a frozen wasteland.

Where exactly was I?

I stepped onto the diamond, glancing about at the different terrains. Silence met me. I could have gone back in the ship. I had a mission to complete, didn't I? I had to tell everyone that a planet in Andromeda existed for life. But where was the life here?

As I heard my own questions, an echoing and booming voice spoke. "Why are you here?"

I searched about, not finding anyone yet. But as I searched about, I saw an image of myself holding that infant so happily again. I saw the dark-haired woman, I saw the child, I saw the older woman, and then I saw...the infant again. I saw that infant so many times, and it seemed that being on Earth made me realize exactly what had happened.

"All of them weren't my daughter," I whispered.

How could my Sara and Mariella have survived so many years? Those images of me holding an infant—the first had been my daughter's child. Then her child. And her great-grand-child. And so on and so forth.

I lost count on how many great-grandchildren I had, but I had survived many of them with all of them leaving me beautiful messages of hope. Mariella had made sure that they knew me, that they remembered me, and they knew exactly what it was that I was doing.

Mariella...

She recorded me a video while sitting on a bed and looking not as energetic or as healthy as I had seen her.

"Dad," she said in a croaking voice. "They...know you. I was so glad...to see you again..."

That memory. It popped. I didn't understand what it meant at first, which caused the current booming voice to speak again.

"What do you even hope to find here? Earth is no longer livable."

I glanced about, not seeing anybody, especially not anybody whose voice that might have belonged to. As I stood here in the diamond, Mariella and Sara's voice returned to me. I saw my beautiful Sara with gray hair looking so frail while Mariella also matched her hair yet had a bit more energy. Both of them spent time with me and handed me something—something I tried to remember now as I stood here in this diamond.

"You're the Corporation," I said after some time. "You did this. You sent us all on a mission to find...to find life in Andromeda. But we had rules." As I kept remembering, I felt the salt sting my eyes. "You wanted Earth all for yourself. That's why you were destroying it." As the images of fog entered my head, I released a sigh. "So you created your own obedient life forms—beings that will mindlessly do whatever you tell them."

I looked around at each different terrain. "I..." The previous images kept flashing through me—the images of an infant and a smiling woman. Those images kept flashing and repeating in my mind, which caused me to know that so many generations had passed through my bloodline and...Sara and Mariella left me something—something that I grabbed from that box on the space vessel.

Every life force had a seed. I remembered hearing that somewhere. The Corporation had taken all of the seeds after sending the Chosen 100 into space. They wanted to take over and start their new Earth. I remembered that now. Perhaps Earth's forces held some sort of mystical aura that assisted me in knowing these things.

I could not understand though. Why had I come back? Was I here to tell the Earthlings that hope really did lie in Andromeda? Or...?

"No, Dad," Mariella had said. "You can't just blindly do this."

Sara, my wife, approached me and took my hand—setting a couple items into it. "We're fine here," she told me. "You came for us, and you did. You made it. Now...now go back." Her eyes had swelled with tears. "Go back to the beautiful planet we knew and make us whole again."

Whole again.

My fingers brushed against my palm. In my hand, I held seeds—seeds that defined who my family was. Earth still had a chance. Hope was certainly not lost. But to plant the seeds in the desert quadrant opposite the diamond where I stood...

"You'll never make it," the booming voice told me.

I stared off toward the desert side, seeing its burning sands and mirage-like sun. Nothing grew in such a wasteland...except for what I had in my hand.

So I ran.

I ran as fast as I could across the scorching sands, feeling the searing sensation along my feet. I remembered more as I ran—I remembered happy faces, sad expressions, frustrated gestures—all images throughout a world that had existed on Earth. There were so many people and so many accomplishments—different people with stories that one could tell for centuries. There were cities, countries, and continents—all part of so much beauty that humans had forgotten to see.

And hopefully I could help restart that. As I ran to a sole cactus in the middle of the desert, I could feel my entire form start to engulf in flames. That booming voice had almost been right. I almost did not make it at all. But I had enough strength to remember Mariella my daughter, and all of the generations of families that came after that. I had enough strength to remember the beauty of what we and all the living creatures had made on this Earth: a beauty that the Corporation wanted to erase.

I knelt down and planted the seeds into the sands—seeds that, once before, only the Corporation would have access to. They were seeds that sprouted what they wanted control over...but since I was the one who planted them, who knew what was to come? They had no control over the destinies of whatever sprouted from those seeds.

I did what I had to do, knowing that I did not have much time left. The Corporation was strong enough to do away with whatever threatened their rule; but they were not strong enough to fight my memories. So I planted those seeds, and then I stood amongst the fiery sands. I closed my eyes and felt my essence failing...joining Sara and Mariella in another life...in another time. I felt them. I saw them. I was one of them...and among everyone who was once part of this beauty.

Engulfed in the desert's parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.

Short StorySci FiFantasy
5

About the Creator

Reiley

An eclectic collection of the fictional and nonfictional story ideas that have accumulated in me over the years. They range from all different sorts of genres.

I hope you enjoy diving into the world of my mind's constant creative workings.

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Comments (2)

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  • D.K. Shepard2 months ago

    Congrats! Great sci-fi piece!

  • JBaz3 months ago

    Very interesting take on the challenge. The ending was so well done and left room to grow, giving hope.

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