AdministratorJune 11, 2021 at 3:56 pm
TITLE: Extended Stay at the Time Inn
STORY: Buddy Scalera
ART: Andy Seabert
WORDCOUNT (unedited draft): 1038
I lose track of time waiting for the world to end. You might think that I would be good at keeping track of the years, but no. Not really.
Years and centuries have blurred together for me. Except for a few all-too-brief interactions with a few thoughtful and creative travellers, I’m by myself up here. Just waiting for the world to end.
The human population has long since fled Earth. If my aging equipment is correct, they’ve probably already left this entire galaxy. I haven’t seen as much of a flicker of light from colonies on Mars or even Venus. No radio waves, no photon-light trails. Nothing but cold darkness and the remnants of a 150-year intergalactic war. Fun stuff.
The view isn’t bad from the Time Inn, my little home away from home. In continuous double-refractory low-orbit around Earth, I have a decent view of the planet. Most of my external tech is working, including my telescopes and navigation, so it’s not so bad.
I should say that this is the third Time Inn space satellite since I started this mission. The first was a claustrophobic death trap with dangerously primitive technology. I’m surprised they even let me launch the damn thing, but I suppose they had no choice. By the year 2047, anyone with enough cash could launch into low orbit for a few years. And I certainly had enough cash.
When you’re immortal, and there’s only a few of us, money is easy. You buy a few stocks and some plots of land, hold for a few hundred years, and that’s it. Slow, steady wealth that normal humans can’t achieve.
Of the 10 original immortals, only five of us survived the wars. I’m pretty sure that I am the only one left in this galaxy, which may or may not make me the last living immortal. As long as I am not struck by a fatal blow, I’ll more or less live forever.
This is my gift and my curse.
The original idea was to just stay on Earth until the eventual and inevitable end. Eventually, Earth would die, and I figured someone should be there to see it. When we learned in 2035 that the Earth was -- like all of the planets -- a living thing, we also were discovering that it was dying. Like, really, honestly, truly, can’t-believe-it, dying.
We focused on getting to Mars, Venus, and then out of the galaxy. It turned out to be somewhat easier than we’d expected. We finally got all of the countries to work together on the technology to get us off the Earth. That was nice.
For a while there, it was kind of fun making light jumps between planets. After a while, it became obvious that we needed to get out of the galaxy, since “the end is nigh…” as they say.
The immortals agreed that at least one of us would stay behind to bear witness to the end of the Earth. I volunteered to stay behind to be the one.
As life on Earth declined, it became obvious that I was not going to be comfortable on any of the drowning continents. The endless storms and boiling oceans made it...how do I describe it...uncomfortable. Hot, wet, and uncomfortable.
I bought the first Time Inn satellite, launched into orbit, and waited.
Fortunately, (I can’t say enough how lucky I was) my fellow immortals returned not once, but twice with upgraded satellites. The original had long since fallen into disrepair. The second was much better, but kind of small. This one is probably going to be the one that sees me to the end.
No, I don’t need to eat or drink. I will feel some hunger and thirst for a while, but that passes pretty fast. To be honest, I miss eating, even if I don’t actually need it to survive.
Yes, I feel hot and cold. No, I will not die from radiation exposure. A bullet to the head or a knife to the heart? Yes. Those would kill me, and have killed a few of my immortal brothers and sisters.
I wonder a lot about the remaining immortals. Did they survive? Are they also staked out as final witnesses to something? Is someone just outside the edges of this galaxy waiting for it to end? It makes me wish they had left me with some better communications equipment.
The Earth boils and burps far below me. I have nothing for documentation, other than my own memory. I stop trying to keep track of years. I count time in centuries and watch as this poor round creature slowly wheezes toward death.
I keep a cursory watch on the other planets, as well as the sun. They interest me less, but provide for an occasional light show or other distraction. Earth is my mission, so I will remain focused on being vigilant.
Earth will die and I will bear witness.
You know what I miss? Music. The parts in my music players have long since disintegrated. I would prefer a single song over a complete meal.
Other than the patter of space junk and solar storms on the hull of my ship, there’s not much to listen to. I can’t even make music anymore, since my instruments have also fallen to pieces. Glue, rubber, and plastic may seem to last a long time compared to a typical lifetime, but to me, nothing lasts long enough.
I could have left long ago. The satellite will travel and eventually I will leave. But humanity owes the Earth too much to leave. It is dying. I am here to hold its hand.
I’ve committed myself to this mission. I will bear witness to the death of the Earth. It does not know I am here. I am small and insignificant to a living planet.
But this is what I have sworn myself to do, so I will do it. I will bear witness to the end of the Earth. Then I will do something else. Go somewhere. Maybe even, hopefully, listen to music again.
Until then, I just wait.
ModeratorJune 16, 2021 at 2:43 am
I love the high concept here, and I commend you for packing a lot into your 1000 words. I also like the way you weave the backstory in throughout rather than just dumping all the info at once
I think there are some points where you fall into the trap of over-explaining. You don’t need to anticipate every possible question the reader might have. Some of that (for me) gets repetitive. I think just a couple of key points would establish the credibility of the speaker, and that eliminating some of them might help you focus in on and expand some of the other parts.
There are places where your writing really sings, such as the paragraph that starts “the earth boils and burps.” And the line “I am here to hold its hand.” On the second pass, I hope you consciously add more of that type of creative imagery.
The idea of music being what the speaker misses is interesting. I wonder if you can weave musical or sound language throughout (it seems to be more prevalent in the second half of the story. Using consistent imagery would foreshadow the end and help to shape the piece.
Overall, a really great draft. Great last paragraph too. You really end with a bang.