Astronauts Don't Wear Pink
A Queer, Feminist Spin on Dystopia
Melancholic slivers of sunlight break through a heavy, moody mist to reveal the desolate city below. A capital almost lost under the layers of nuclear snow. The wind still viciously swirling the remains of eight billion souls. I could almost smell the pungent odour of burning and death. The picture on the tablet began to pixelate. The screen froze on an image of a palace reduced to rubble. Peeking out of its white coffin was a gilded bronze statue, strewn in the snow and long forgotten. All that remains visible of the goddess Victory is her extended arm, forever frozen in one final plea.
My hands became clammy, and I felt my heart rate pick up. I focused on my breathing. I had a job to do. Not today trauma, not today. I pushed my circular, gold glasses up my nose and ran a sweaty palm through my wavy, midnight hair that fell past my ears. I preoccupied my hands by fiddling with the label on the breast of my blue overalls which read 'Bellamy'. The uniform indicated that I was a scientist-in-training. My training was far from complete, but time was running out. At nineteen, I was the youngest male staff member on board. I was also the only adult, over the age of eighteen, to have a space on the evacuation pod.
The SS-Hope is a spaceship owned by the eccentric billionaire, Edmund Hampton-Trompeur. He named the vessel after his nineteen-year-old daughter. The pair have survived on the ship alongside other members of the elite for over a decade. Aboard the ship also resides a team of exceptional scientists. Our duty is to increase the passengers' odds of survival. This motionless, pink vessel contains the only humans to survive The Rain, a series of nuclear attacks like no other. The attacks targeted major cities across every continent. We have lived for years in peaceful exile, floating above Earth's atmosphere. Until now. Incapable of living within their means, the passengers soon depleted our resources. Our reserves of food, water and oxygen are dangerously low. Last month, our team of experts had a hard decision to make. That decision involved me.
The dishevelled hand holding the tablet flipped the images out of view. Relief pooled over every inch of my skin. The trauma of my childhood washed away, back into the depths of my subconscious. We rushed down a well-lit corridor, heading towards a pod loaded with children. I tried to memorize everything the white-coated Professor Circinus was frantically listing out.
'We have the passengers boarded. There are thirty-two children that you will be responsible for. As we speak, the remnants of the food and water are being loaded, which should last you the journey. When the doors seal, we will siphon the last of our air into the pod. According to our calculations, there should be enough to last you a couple of weeks. We have run all the tests, but we have no idea if the planet is survivable. Food, water, and air on the ground is your responsibility. That is if you even get that far. You are humanity’s last chance. Do you understand?'
I muster up something that I hope sounds like courage and nod, 'Yes, sir'.
The billionaire stood in the hall, dressed from head to toe in a purple velvet suit. He beckoned us to him. Once by his side, a manicured hand strayed to my shoulder. His fingers donned several silver rings which created a stern contrast to his dark skin. I had never seen the man look so worn. His unshaven face with hollow eyes glanced over us. He spoke with the professor, giving an 'imperative order' to assist with the loading. I attempt to follow but his hand clamps me in place. The professor begins to walk away, but not before he glances back one last time.
'I hope I was right about you boy', the billionaire mumbles.
We rush through a maze of unfamiliar corridors until we come to a halt by a large, silver door. The billionaire taps his foot with impatience, his breathing audibly deep. Soon, a maintenance man in a green jumpsuit materializes at the end of the corridor. Trotting behind him was the billionaire’s only daughter, Hope. She donned a ridiculous, hot pink spacesuit and a look of hopelessness. Coming to a stop next to her father, she allowed a quick flick of her amber eyes in my direction. Fuchsia coated her lips and the balls of her dark brown cheeks. Four pearlescent rectangles controlled her silky chestnut bangs. As she began to fidget, I noticed the word 'GUCCI' emblazoned across the back of her suit. I rolled my eyes at the visual atrocity. This was not unusual attire for the billionaire's daughter. A standard spacesuit was thrust into my chest by the maintenance man. I pulled the suit over my clothes.
'No disrespect, sir, but shouldn’t I be at the pod?' I asked.
He spoke to the bumbling man on his left. The man flew into action, his large fingers zigzagging across the control panel on the wall. The door flew open to reveal a stack of metal boxes in a dark hallway.
'The last of the medical supplies', he responds, gesturing towards the pile.
I sigh, moving towards the boxes.
'Hope, what did I talk to you about this morning', he spat. 'The boy needs help with the boxes.'
Seeing her hesitate, the billionaire's voice raises to a shout.
'When a man asks you to do something, you do it!'
He grabs her arm and thrusts her towards the boxes. I throw a sympathetic glance in her direction, but she does not meet my gaze. I may not have my parents, but that is a hell of a lot better than having abusive ones. What a way to spend the last minutes with your daughter? I bend down to pick up the first box when I notice the peculiar, sickly pink stars decorating the floor. I heave the box up into my arms. It was light. Too light. A thunderous bang echoes out. A whoosh of stolen air. Disorientating hues of bubble gum surround me. The empty box tumbles from my arms.
Oh, god. Four boots clamber to the door. Oh, god. Palms drum against the circular pane. Oh, god. A chorus of deafening shouts. Oh, god. Hope’s hands slap desperately at the disconnected panel. Oh, god. Bodies slam against a wall of steel. Oh, god. I glance upon my mirror of distress. Tears streak across her face. Oh, god. A furrowed brow. A face full of rivers. He peers back at us. Oh, god. He places a hand on the glass, using the last of his breath to mouth his sweet sorrows. Oh, god. Oh, god. Oh, god. The pod has disconnected.
The pod begins to float away. We can only stare in horror as the billionaire chokes and gasps, clambering for oxygen. His face takes on a deadly hue and he collapses out of sight. Every passenger, every child on the escape pod, everyone but us. Hope clutches at her heart. Silent screams erupt from her chest. Bile forces its way up my oesophagus. Hands clammy and shaking. Breathing raggedly. Memories of fire, screaming, ash and thunder penetrate my body. Then, for a moment, I feel nothing.
Until the real panic set in.
I was still huddled by the door when Hope returned over an hour later. Stood in front of me was a different woman, extending out an arm. She wore black, from the smudges of eyeliner down to her obsidian combat boots. Silver chains dangled from her crumpled cargo pants and her lips were the colour of charcoal. Small braids of forest green had replaced her long chestnut waves.
'Your hair is green', I splutter, unsure if it was a question or a statement.
'Well, at least there’ll be something that’s f**king green where we’re going.'
She smirks, waggling her hand at me, encouraging me to take it.
A smile etches across my face, and I take her hand. We walk through into a vibrant cockpit. She plunks herself down in a flamingo-coated chair, legs dangling over the armrest. A dog-eared book manifests in front of her, falling open in the middle. Her other hand holds a questionable protein bar to her lips. I guess she found the food supplies.
I try to mimic Hope’s sense of ease, sliding into the other cockpit chair, but the panic returns. We are literally the last humans alive. I shouldn’t be here. We shouldn’t be here.
'Yo, shaky Joe', Hope calls, snapping her fingers at me. 'Pull it together. It looks like we are stuck together forever, and I do not need the extra aggro.'
'I have a name', I growl.
She glances down to the name stitched into the breast of my overalls.
'Fine. "Bella-my". If I am forced to spend eternity playing house in this death trap with you, living out my father’s twisted fantasy of a perfect daughter and the last woman on earth, you better pull it together and make it interesting.'
Her voice reeked of sarcasm.
'So, what’s the deal with the book', I say, changing the topic.
'Nothing', she says, tossing it aside.
'The state of that book and the trademark pink bookmark begs to differ. It must be important if you carry it with you?' I say, raising a challenging brow.
'Fine. I like the story. Happy now, Sherlock?' she quips.
I study her reaction, then the ocean blue cover. A man and a tiger perch in a stark white boat, riding the wave-like creases of a well-worn cover. Then, it dawns on me.
'You think you’re the tiger!' I smile triumphantly.
Before she has the chance to protest, the pod begins to shake. We strap ourselves in and brace for turbulence. The shaking intensifies and alarms begin to sound. We prepare for death.
A hand reaches out and grabs mine.
We emerge from the pod, donning our spacesuits. Hope has crossed out ‘GUCCI’ with black nail polish and instead scrawled ‘F**k People’. Decontamination machines hum in the background as I look around the underground bunker. It is eerily quiet. Our footsteps continue to bounce around the walls. The sudden smell of fresh paint hits us and a glimmer of hope fuels us forward. As we walk further into the lifeless space, lights flicker on at our presence.
In front of us lies a perfectly preserved, baby pink mansion. Outside ‘Barbie's Dreamhouse’ lies a white-picket fence, a lustrous green garden, and two child-sized bicycles.
'It was his plan all along', she croaks.
I glance around at the house in disbelief until my eyes fall upon a little white box perched upon a table in the garden. I drag Hope over to it. She opens it up to find a large diamond-encrusted, heart-shaped locket wrapped in a piece of yellowed paper.
To my princess, I give you the last diamond on earth. I offer you a chance at the life I always wished for you.
Her face darkens. She snatches the locket and throws it to the ground. Shattering it into stardust beneath her boot.
'I’m not your princess anymore', she screams. 'It’s my life and I live it how I want to, not how you tell me to! F**k you! F**k this house! F**k your expectations!'
I stare in horror. Finally, Hope looks up at me, her face riddled with sadness. We slump down onto the grass in defeat.
'So, no marriage proposals for you then?' I joke.
She chuckles, 'Well, being a lesbian may affect that'.
I sigh in relief. We cuddle in close, a lesbian and an asexual enby, taking in what lies ahead. We are all alone on this desolate little planet. The last humans to roam the earth. Free at last.
Turning to my new friend, I remark 'You know, Bellamy is my last name, right?'
About the author
I write non-fiction, fantasy, science fiction and poetry, as well as review literature. Follow me on instagram at @undertherowantree and for just writing related posts @writingwithundertherowantree.