It was like any other day on the dying planet of earth. Orange dust twirled in the open, at a constant clash with the wind. The sun had just started to peak over the horizon, its rays shimmering on a silent piece of machinery. The year was 2066, many years of abusing the planet’s natural resources has caused the planet to slowly die. The endless pursuit of technology was a double edged sword, whose only benefit was a way to leave the planet we humans had destroyed. March 25 was the scheduled day of departure. Because of the distance only kids were going were going on this journey, save for a few adults who would help educated them on the ship until they passed. The years leading up to this day had been brutal, as the planet started to slowly die it lost the ability to sustain such large populations. Not even the efficiencies of technology could keep up with growing population and the constant fight for resources. As the planet destroyed itself most of the technology that it had worked so hard to create became caught in the crossfire and was lost. With the planet dying and the reduction of capital disease struck the planet wiping out even more. With only a few safe havens left, it was time for them to leave this planet behind and start again. Escape was their last chance.
March 20th the last Saturday before the departure. The sun always rose early, its orange rays stirring the sleeping folk of the small town Roseburry. The first ones up were always the adults, life had become hard since the incidents. Most towns including that of Roseburry were focused on growing and butchering their own food. It had become especially difficult since the planet started dying. With the amount of dust that swirled about many crops died almost instantly, and it became a constant fight for the farmers to keep their crops healthy; it was not always a winning battle. Among the adults on this Saturday was a young boy one Alfred Crow. He is one of several children that help the adults early in the morning, however all of those small children except Alfred stay in late on the weekends. Some things haven’t changed since everything started. The days have always been hot since the dust bowl started. Water was supplied from deep in the earth but it was running out. Sweat dripped off Alfred’s brow, without the machines and vehicles to harvest the crops for them they were forced to go back to using basic tools, like they did in barbaric times.
“Don’t work too hard Al” a voice called to Alfred from behind him.
Alfred turned around to see his mother smiling at him. “I know, it’s not my first time being in the heat.” He turned back around to finish watering the series of crops in front of him.
“Take a break in an hour or two, go play with your friends and let us adults handle the crops this time” Alfred’s mom returned to tending her plants a blank expression on her face. All of the adults knew what was coming in 5 days. There was a safe haven not too far away from their town, any town within 50 mile radius was to have their children collected to leave the planet on the 25th. No one had the heart to tell the kids about the 25th, they referred to it as the last day. After that day they would only be waiting. They knew that many of them would fight being taken or hide from the foreign people. When the leaders from the safe haven came to explain their plan, it was agreed upon by the elders of the town that this was their best chance at giving their kids a fulfilling life instead of letting them waste here on the dying planet.
After 3 more hours of working Alfred took a break and went back to his house. The houses were surprising nice, a large amount of room and comfortable furniture. The only problem was that besides having a lot of room and a comfortable couch nothing worked. Alfred walked over to the couch in the center of the room. The cushions were worn, the color fading to a rustic orange from the previous rich red color his parents said that it used to be. “There has to be something more to do than wait here.” Alfred always talked to himself out loud when he was alone. He had trouble making friends, he found the others his age quite annoying and ignorant. Alfred was very mature for his age, being only 13 years old. His father had died 5 years prior and since then he saw things for what they really were. He knew what all the adults were thinking. They were all afraid of their last days on this planet, and they were coming soon. Alfred’s dad had died to starvation. Since that day he stopped being able to make friends and all he could think about was how and when he was going to die himself. He helped his mom every day at the towns crop farms. It kept his mind off things and gave him something to believe in. It was all he could do to keep from going crazy. Alfred never talked about to his mom about any of this. He kept a plain face and just wafted through his days. Alone he couldn’t understand how the other kids could not recognize the state of the planet. They lived their lives without thinking about the future. He hated it.
The next couple days passed until it was the night before the last day. Everything was normal throughout that Wednesday. Alfred went to help his mom in the fields and then spent the rest of the day by himself. It was a pretty normal day for Alfred until his mom came home later in the night crying. The Safe Haven’s troops were coming to collect the kids early in the morning.
Alfred heard his mom crying before he saw her. “Mom is that you?” he called out
“Ye-” His mother tried to call out before she burst even harder into tears knowing this would be the last night she would see her son. She walked over to him in the main room and gave him a silent hug. Alfred said nothing but hugged back.
“What’s wrong?” he asked looking up at her. The room was quite dark save for a few candles flickering around. He could see her eyes were tearing red from crying. He thought long and hard about what it could be about. His mother didn’t answer him when he asked, she just hugged him harder and cried on top of his head.
“I-It’s nothing” she croaked. Alfred mother let go of him and walked upstairs slowly not saying another word. She knew how much Alfred cared for her and feared that if she told him what was happening that he would refuse to go and be stuck here with her dying young. Alfred watch her leave confused but decided to let her go.
“Maybe she just had a rough day” said Alfred aloud before going off to bed bored with nothing else to do.
Alfred awoke quickly the next day much earlier than he normally would. Loud sounds of commotion were coming from outside. Alfred jumped at the loud rasp on the door. He walked over slowly. Without think he opened the door to be confronted by a man in a uniform he’s never seen before. One thing that caught his eye was that of a red sparrow painted on the man left shoulder.
“Are you the only child of this house?” the man asked. His voice was deep and commanding. He stood just over 6 feet tall, a whole foot and a half taller than Alfred. He made Alfred feel small in his shoes, scared even. Alfred stared at him and said nothing. “Well?!” the man barked.
“Yes…” Albert replied weakly. The man roughly grabbed his arm yanking him out the door and toward the first vehicle Albert has ever seen in his life. Meanwhile his mother stayed upstairs knowing there was nothing she could do. Albert tried to pull away screaming and yelling. He didn’t understand what was going on. As he looked around he could see the other children being dragged toward the same vehicle as him. All the children were shoved in the back. Albert couldn’t keep track of who was with him and who was missing, in the back of that vehicle there were only 14 other children with him. There were still 3 more unaccounted for. He didn’t have any time to worry about them he was too focused on his own safety. All the children shared a similar mood, many were upset almost all of them were crying in some form.
“Where are we going?” one asked.
“What’s gonna happen to us?” another cried. Albert tried to pay them as little mind as he could. All he could think about was his mother and what would happen to her. Around 30 minutes later they came to a stop and what Albert could only describe as soldiers started issuing orders to the children sending into a gigantic metal compound. Albert had never seen anything quite like it before, he had heard stories from one of the few elders in town. They spoke of large government facilities where they would chase technologies and create the most mystical inventions.
“Single file line” one soldier yelled. “You’re not in any danger, just try to stay calm” another older gentleman called. He had a full white beard and looked quite healthy for his age, despite how rare that was in the world. He was wearing a different uniform from the rest of the adults. He wore a general’s hat, and was the leader of the compound. As Albert took in his surroundings he noticed the high metal walls with guards sitting facing outward. Large metal disks on top of the building that he had no idea the purpose. Everything was paved or covered, there was not an inch of grass or dirt inside the compound at all. As Alberts head kept turning and talking in his surroundings he noticed that his vehicle was not the only one brought in. Slowly others pulled up and varying amounts of children came out. Albert didn’t get much time to look before being forcibly lead inside. One by one the children were lead into the compound and assigned to different living areas. Each area room had 4 beds. Once in their rooms they were told to change and await instructions. Laid out on each bed was a simple white T-Shirt and a grey pair of pants.
In the room with Albert were 3 other kids. No one said anything. All of them looking down. Any eye contact they had was brief and unwanted. After what felt like an eternity, there was a knock at the door before it was opened almost immediately.
“Follow me” said a women who stood almost 2 feet taller than Albert. No words were said as the kids followed this woman out the door. They noticed other kids being led in the same fashion. A short walk later they arrived in the largest hall Albert had ever seen. In reality it could only fit about 100 men, but Albert he thought this was a most impressive room.
“Today is an important day” the man with the white beard spoke. “Today, marks the first day of something very big, I know you are young and I know you do not yet understand what is happening. You will soon. Today, is the start of your new life, a better life for you, and all of humanity, in this way you will be our saviors.” The man droned out for some time but Albert had lost focus. Still thinking about what had just happened. “You all will be leaving in just a short week.” This caught Albert’s attention, he perked up from looking at his own feet.
“We’re only gonna be here a week?” Albert thought
“After a week your journey will begin, and you will be given advanced guidance on the way.” The man with the beard continued. “So for now we have food for you all. Eat and get some rest.” Without another word they were lead out of the room and to a cafeteria. The food was warm and tasty Albert thought. Yet still no one said a word to one another, they sat silently eating there potatoes and sipping there soup. All the children wore the same blank confused expression.
After they walked back to their rooms. Back again in the same room with 3 other boys, Albert noticed that his old clothing was no longer there. All he had was a dresser full of the same white T-shirt and grey pants. Albert was the first to speak. He said.
“Hey, i’m Albert Crow, what are your guy’s names?” A boy who was only a few inches taller than Albert, with short straight black hair was the first of the three to speak.
“My name’s Joey” one said
“I’m Henry” the last one spoke. Henry and Keith were still in shock and needed more time to comprehend the week’s events, they turned over in their respective beds to go back to sleep. That just left Joey and Albert staring at one another.
“Where are you from?” Albert asked
“They took me from somewhere called Bethlehem, it was really nice…” He trailed off his voice far away.
With a measly “Oh, cool” the boys stopped talking and went back to their bed spreads. A short time later they were both fast asleep. The next day Albert and Joey went off to breakfast, sharing the occasional small talk. They would become friends over the next couple of days. In just a short week they were introduced to exercise plans and given instructions on how their education was going to go over the next couple of years. The whole experience was pretty surreal to Albert, being taken away from his home and forcibly pushed into another life that was completely different from what he had been doing the past 13 years.
On the Monday before departure, they were introduced into the craft that they would be traveling in. Again the general with the white beard stood before the children in that small conference room.
“Today we are going to introduce you to your living quarters for the next 50 years. Your rooms that you have shared with three others were only temporary. Aboard your new home you will be sharing a room with only one other. I hope in these past days you took the time to make at least one friend.” He spoke calmly yet his voice carried weight in the room even for the other adults. For many of the children they had in fact not made a single friend. Many of these children had gone mute since being transferred here, and would struggle with the task ahead of them. After the old man’s speech they were lead outside to the biggest piece of machinery that Albert has seen or would ever see in his life. It was a great metallic spacecraft. Unknown to Albert at the time this was just shuttle to take them to their new home once the 25 hit. Still for Albert this sizeable shuttle was impressive enough.
“Do you want to room with me, Albert?” came a quiet voice from over Albert’s shoulder. He turned to see Joey. Joey wasn’t smiling or frowning, he wore no facial expression and just looked Albert in the eyes. Albert was the only other kid the Joey knew the name of. Without missing a beat Albert replied
“Yeah that sounds good…You can call me Al by the way, a couple of the kids in my old town used to.’ Al was excited he had not had someone to call his friend in quite some time.
With their basic classes going slowly they were giving a good amount of free time. The children were encouraged to stay active and work toward putting their bodies in keen athletic condition. Al and Joey spent the majority of their free time learning and playing the old game of basketball. Al would always win against Joey nine games out of ten, but it was nice to have a friend and he enjoyed the sport.
On the 25th everything was normal. The children all went about their daily morning routines. It wasn’t until just after noon that an announcement came on to proceed to the boarding yard for the shuttle. Al left with Joey to proceed toward the yard. Similarly all the other children were walking with their own roommates.
“I wish you all good luck on your journey, I will not be joining you.” The general spoke with sadness. The mood was gloomy, all that could be heard was the sounds of crows just over the high walls. Two by two they were lead in and seated inside the shuttle craft.
“Do we have to go?” Asked Albert looking at one of the guards helping to sit the other children down.
“Sadly you must, but do not discourage this is for the better and your life will have so much more potential out there than it could of ever had here.” the woman guard gave him a slight smile before helping seat the other children. The seats inside the shuttle had over the shoulder straps, with standard seat belts. Nice and secure. Joey was closing his eyes knuckles white holding on in anticipation. All the adults left the seating area, only one went to the front. The rest exiting out the door they came in. The doors shut and they waited. To Albert it felt like an eternity, he could not tell time at this moment. He waited and waited for something, someone to say what was going to happen next. With large bang Albert felt the shuttle spring off the ground. The next chapter of all their lives was about to begin.
Storr, Anothony. Solitude. Ballantine Books, 1988, New York. Print.
My name is Andrew Potter. I am currently a Sophomore at Wilkes University. I first started writing and reading when I was young. My first favorite author was Christopher Paolini. Reading his fantasy novels is what really got me into that genre.