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Green Paper

by Heidi Shepherd 4 months ago in space / science fiction / humanity / future / extraterrestrial
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Life After Humans

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. But then again no one can comprehend the deafening sound of the silence here either. I long to hear any screams fill the skies of this desolate planet. I placate myself with a continual inner dialog.

There are twelve Earths that we have found in the galaxies so far. All of them are filled with animals and lush vegetation. I am standing on Earth Eleven, the only planet of humanity's first conception. The only earth inhabited by the human species. They say that Earth Eleven was its own Utopia; resplendent and robust vegetation once filled the land of this now stagnant ball rotating around the blackened sun. I have seen pictures of this planet from ancient artifacts, showcasing the splendid swirls of blues and greens of a flourishing planet. Pictures of the most radiant sun sparkling off magnificent ocean beaches and lush green forests that flowed over the mountainous terrain. That was over 8,000,000 years ago, it takes a long time to destroy life, it takes even longer to birth it as well.

That’s my job here, on earth. I am here to see if we can heal this planet. If we can remove the toxins which have been buried in the soil, sunk in the oceans, and filtered through the skies. If we can really bring life back to this planet.

What scientists believe happened is that the melting of the ice in Greenland caused this Earth’s spin to change, decreasing monsoons in the Northern Hemisphere, and causing the Sahara to grow. This caused the weather systems and the climate to change. The vegetation then died very swiftly creating the perfect climate for the desert to continue to take over the Earth, turning it into one giant beach without a sea, where nothing grew and the sun along with human toxins bleached the nutrients from the soil and eventually, the sun turned black, and all life died off.

No one really knows when the last humans on this earth died off. Scientists have been debating it for centuries. Some even argue that they are still here, living in cavernous caves beneath the earth. Some claim that there is a middle earth sun within the center of the extravagant cave system that runs throughout the innards of this earth. They believe that this sun may have created livable conditions underground. I don’t know if all that’s true but what I do know is that nothing has roamed over this earth for a really long time. I kicked at the red burnt sand beneath my space boots. My parched lips and throat scream for living water. My suit pumps saline solution in place of water into my system, along with the nutrients and supplements I need to live. This does nothing for my overwhelming need for water to give relief to my palate, to rush down my throat and into my belly. I have been here eight years and have found no evidence of any life on this planet. Eight years without water, without drinking or eating of any kind. It can make you a little cranky. What I wouldn’t give for a quiet stream, or to see the strange and magnificent grey beast with the giant flapping ears pound across the living deserts I once saw in an ancient artifact called a video.

Back in training, we watched many of these vintage videos of the animals that once roamed here and I am amazed that such carelessness was taken in preserving the miracles which grew, foraged, and had their lives here. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised after all, they did the same thing to themselves. A species that annihilated itself is a pretty stupid species if you ask me. If we can find out why humans ignored the signs that they were destroying their planet, we might be able to prevent it from happening again. I was told by one of our historians that it was greed, but greed for what?

Green paper they said. Green paper; when you had such abundant green vegetation growing all around? I can’t get it through my head. There were nso many warning signs that were ignored. They kept pushing back the timeframe to heal their planet. Knowing that time was limited but pretending that time was plentiful. They would get around to it “someday”. Well, their someday never came.

Part of me wants to walk away from this job. Leave this planet the way they left it. Humans don’t deserve such purity of life, they corrupt everything. No one would blame me, eight years, alone on this desolate planet. It’s true with technology today everyone is just a click away, it’s not loneliness or even the silence that causes me to pause and reflect if it’s all worth it. I know it’s worth it for the planet. But to bring Earth back to life in hopes of sustaining human life, to provide a natural human habitat for the few that are scattered throughout our galaxies…doesn’t feel right. Part of me wants to “throw in the towel”, an old human expression meaning to “give up”. Giving up feels like justice in the face of what humans allowed to happen to this planet. I could easily tell them there is nothing out here.

It's not like I would be lying either, I haven’t seen a lick of plant life, edible vegetation, or human life. When they destroyed this planet, they really destroyed it. There are still many ignorant humans out there saying the planet just got too hot, burned everyone and everything up. They don’t get that their ancestors killed the ozone that was keeping their planet, themselves alive.

They’re not worth it. I kicked at the dust again as I hiked across another giant mass of dead mountains. Just giant lifeless dirt mounds. I have been traveling across this planet since they beamed me down here searching for any sign of a miracle and I have lost hope of finding anything. This last grouping of mountains is the end for me as well. If I can’t find anything here, we will abandon this project titled, “Project Earth”. The sun burns so hot I cannot take off this coolant suit. I haven’t felt my own skin in the entire eight years I have been here, there are breezes here, but I have yet to feel them. Taking off my suit for even a second would kill me. I’d burn up like a freshly lit match.

I saw an ancient photograph of a family camping up here on this mountain once. The skies were blue back then, not this brick and mortar burnt red that fills the skies now. The sun was brilliant yellow, a ball of glorious golden light, now a dark ball of black fire.

I have decided to “camp” here as well for my last night. I will be leaving tomorrow, back to the loving arms of my people, to feel my skin, to feel fresh breezes. To tell you the truth, if I found a little sprout or seedling here, I don’t know if I would even report it, it’s so late in the game and I am emotionally, physically, and spiritually depleted. And honestly, I don’t think humans are worth it.

The last sunset, I watch as the burning black mass sets behind this massive dirt pile I am on. Not even the dark of night deters the life-killing heat that beats over this planet like a warning drum. It’s bittersweet, I came here to make a difference, but the signs of the trauma humans did to this planet are everywhere. Plastic, that was one of the worst inventions, you think a race so smart to create an indestructible material would be smart enough to know the consequences. Even the new human babies born on other planets have plastic in their DNA. I kick a melted mass of what may have been an orange plastic container. What could have been so important to continue to use this material? What was so important that they needed plastic to hold it? I wonder.

Plastic, it was in the water, it was in the plants that grew, they used it in fertilizer. It still sits like old shipwrecks at the bottom of dried-up ocean beds. Tiny clumps of it float in the air even now.

This morning's sun is blistering as it sails over the mountain filling the skies with its flames of death. It’s hot, even in my coolant suit. Hotter today than ever. I note it in my journal. The technology I use here is all wrapped in coolant silver sheets of material, material that had to be specially made to have sustainability in such a hostile place. I am thankful for any way of communication between me and my people. I am homesick. I once again kicked at the dry waste of this planet. I watched as a tiny ball of plastic rolled into a small hole in the ground.

I walked over to the hole and took a closer look. Something about this is new. The way sand slid into the hole like a tidal wave one moment then came to a stop only to begin again with any kind of movement. I have seen holes and caves and searched them all but the earthquakes that shook this land caved in every one of them. I watched a small amount of dust blow away from this hole. My first sign of anything happening on this planet. My heart skips a beat and begins to pound excitedly in my chest. I turn off my mic. I turn off my monitors. I stand tall and put my hands on my hips, I stare out across the red sands, contemplative. I don’t know if I want to make this find. If I want to be the one reporting possibility for life.

I squat down to watch the loose soil gently glide into the hole. I stick my fingers into the hole and pull-out clods of dirt. The dry dirt is easily manipulated. I dig as if it is sand on an ocean beach. I create a pretty good size opening into what appears to be a cave. My heart is erratic. My breathing is labored. My chest feels tight. I long to be released from this coolant prison. I stop and rest back on my knees. Breathing in slow deliberate breaths. I fog up my face screen. I look into the mouth of the cave again. It is big enough for me to climb down.

This is why I love my job, the excitement of the find. I stand up and grab my pack, full of the climbing equipment I have been using to scale the various mountain tops. I pull on my harness and adjust my leg loops, check my rappel device and pulley. I tie off my descending rope to a giant boulder nearby, wrap another part of it around my waist and secure it into the rigging. I then pull on and tighten my crampons, metal teeth that go over my boots which grab onto the sides of cave walls when climbing. I throw my descending rope down the shaft. It is the longest rope I have…I don’t hear it land. That’s a great sign. I begin my descent into the opening, my suit reads the cave temperature as 20 degrees cooler. It’s still hot but I can feel the difference in my suit immediately.

The hole just keeps descending into the middle of this mountain. I slowly slide down my rope, passing cutouts and openings on both sides of me. Like natural uninhabited rooms. I have been at this a long time. I feel my suit dispense my iv of nutrients. I’ll be glad to eat again, I think as I descend into a wide pit. I leave my rope hanging and follow a pebbled pathway through a thin crack in the cave walls. My excitement builds as I can feel the air blow past my suit and the temperature drops to 65 degrees. I feel cold for the first time. The crack opens up into a wide opening. The mouth of this cave crescendos into a wide-open expanse. I can hear before I see water lapping across the cave floor like ocean waves. I cannot believe my eyes, my ears, as the thunderous applause of the ocean welcome’s me here. Water. I can’t believe it. It laps at this underground shore as if it’s been doing this for hundreds of years.

I take a quick but thorough reading of the elements in the air. My suit confirms my suspicions. I can breathe here. I can live without my suit in here.

With trepidation and excitement, I begin unlocking my helmet, my gloves, my boots. Anxiety-sweat beads upon my forehead and above my lip. Suddenly, I remember a home video we saw in class. A young human child of about 8 years old was standing on a peer outside an old farmhouse on a cool summer evening at dusk. He suddenly dived into the water and screamed for its coolness, the video ended in a static of black and white spots.

I remove my helmet and breath in the cool air deeply. It stings my throat and lungs with its coolness. I toss my gloves and kick off my boots. Leaving my suit in a crumpled mound of material I make my way barefoot for the first time in eight years. I can feel the coolness of the stone floor beneath my feet. It sends shivers of excitement up my calves and throughout my body. I can feel the softness of the cool dirt between my toes. I can smell. The cool dampness of earth, of stone, of fresh water.

At first, I walk slowly up to the edge of the shore. I touch gently the foam left behind by the waves. The water returns with a force and flows over my feet. It’s cold. Really cold. I can’t wait any longer. I dive in. My skin tingles and thrills shoot through me as water glides across my reptilian skin.

Completely submerged I can see a light source from far off that illuminates the side of the cave walls. The light descends to an eternity beneath the water. I follow the light upwards. Still, no visible life is seen but the feeling of this living water is enough. Enough to spring forth anew. Enough for me to forget my previous misgivings about hoping for sustainable life here. I swim in and out of the light’s rays. My soul sings as if freed from a thousand burdens.

The light brings me to the surface of another cave. I am completely flabbergasted as I see with my own eyes another sun. A bright white illuminated ball. I pull myself up from this water wonderland onto a hard stone-type island. I stand in this new sun's warmth. My being feels delight for the first time in eight years. For the first time, I understand the reason for saving this planet, not for the sake of humanity, but for the sake of the planet as a whole.

And then I see it. At first, I can’t believe my eyes. A tiny green shoot has beckoned from the ground. I walk over to it encased in a sunbeam. I squat down beside it. A tear slides from my right eye, down my cheek. I can’t believe it.

Life, after all.

spacescience fictionhumanityfutureextraterrestrial

About the author

Heidi Shepherd

I believe in the importance of writing about one's true life experiences. I also find value in the fact that one can teach through fiction. I enjoy writing about topics that evoke emotion, imagination, and adventure. Enjoy!

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