The empty void of space always looks beautiful when you’re first waking up. The small, circular window in my room provides a fairly nice view of the planets. Sometimes I forget where I am, and the blackness outside of my window sends me into a panic. This morning is definitely one of those times.
My window is facing the sun, so when the gentle rays of light shine into my room, I think for a second that I’m back on Earth.
I’m not, of course.
I quickly get dressed, putting on a skintight onesie under my clothes. To save energy, regulation insists we keep the thermostat low.
I step into the hallway. Mello is sitting at the table, his back to me. He’s typing something on his tablet, but I’m too far away to see it. I creep up behind him before putting my hands on his shoulders. Annoyingly, he doesn’t flinch.
“Guess who?” I ask, a crooked grin spreading across my face.
“Good morning, Rix,” he says, eyes never leaving his tablet.
I spin around, taking a seat next to him. The chair spins from the impact and my elbow slams into the table.
“Good guess, darling. Are you excited for today?”
"I can't wait. It's been years since I've had food that's not crammed into a tube," I say, reminiscing.
Mara stalks into the room. “Rix, come with me to the cockpit,” she says by way of greeting. “Mello, make sure everything on the ship is ready.”
“Of course,” Mello and I say in unison.
“Jinx,” I say, poking him.
Since the moment we set foot on this ship, I’ve been flirting with Mello. I don’t think he’s noticed yet.
A huge window stretches across the wall of the cockpit, with four chairs facing it. There are so many buttons and levers and switches that it would take years to learn all of their purposes. I know, because I had to learn their uses in pilot's training.
Ritch is sitting in the corner, typing away on his laptop. Mara turns to me.
“We have just enough fuel for today’s landing, and it needs to go smoothly. Are you sure you remember everything?”
For years, my companions and I have been on Mars, studying its ecosystem. I’m not sure if we gleaned useful information, but we did prove it’s possible to travel to other planets. There were sacrifices, of course. My hand reaches up, brushing the thin scar on my forehead.
I nod. “Yes, Ma’am.”
Mello pokes his head through the door. “Everything is ready,” he says.
“Good,” Mara says. “We leave in three minutes.”
As I sit down in the pilot’s seat, I think about Rosey, my sister. She's my only family left, and I felt bad about leaving her on Earth.
I lean over to Mello. “Hey, what do you think Earth will be like? We haven’t set foot on it since 2078.”
Mello says, “I am certain it will be different.”
I roll my eyes. "Well, obviously."
I can see Earth easily from the window. It’s huge now, looming ahead of us. Everyone is strapped in, so I flip the controls. The ship instantly speeds up, throwing me back in my seat. Sparks fly across the windshield as we make our descent to Earth.
As soon as we break through the atmosphere, I activate the engine. The ship loses speed until we are hovering half a mile above the ground. As soon as we stop, I know something is wrong. According to the map, we should be above the NASA building, but there’s nothing there. Where the building used to be, along with the rest of the city, there is a large, dusty crater.
Mara gasps next to me, and Ritch reaches for the cross hanging around his neck.
“Is there any chance we’re in the wrong area?” I ask. Mello shakes his head.
My hands shake as I maneuver the ship closer to the wreckage. In the bottom of the crater, there are pieces of stone and plaster. They’re the only remains of what was once a thriving city.
Mello’s voice quivers as he surveys the wreckage. “This level of damage would require an asteroid to accomplish.”
Is that what it was? An asteroid?
I start steering the ship out of the crater.
“What are you doing?” Mara hisses.
“Looking for more people,” I say.
“No," Mello says.
“If it was an asteroid, it could have sent out a wave of destruction big enough to wipe out the entire continent.”
As he says this, our studies on Mars come to mind. We found evidence of ancient civilizations, as well as craters peppering the planet. Could the same thing have happened here? I keep steering, trying to find an end to the crater, but it just keeps going. Finally, I see a visible end to the crevice, but what I see doesn’t comfort me. For miles, all that’s visible is ruins. Clouds of dust sweep across the land.
Exactly like Mars.
Mara’s voice snaps me out of my thoughts. “We need to land.”
“No arguing. If we run out of fuel, it's over for all of us.”
I want to argue, but she’s right. I steer the ship into the dusty ruins of a McDonald's.
Once we’ve landed, no one speaks. No one wants to even consider the possibility that we might be the last humans on Earth.
Ritch finally speaks up. “We need to look for other people.”
“We need fuel for that, darling,” I say. “And we just ran out.”
Mara stands up. “Let’s just set up a shelter. We have enough food and water to cover a few months. In the morning, we can start our search for the rest of humanity.” For the first time since I’ve met her, Mara sounds unsure. “We will find someone.”
I nod, but something in me disagrees.
If we really are the last humans left, how will we survive?