By Joseph J. Patchen
The trees are dying in the stiff brown grass. The air is still and dry. Each step I take reduces what is underneath to powder and dust.
A small patch of moisture mournfully hangs on a stone and mortar wall. The stain just lingers. For some reason and I cannot explain why, the slick just lingers amidst the intense heat and constant sunshine. It’s been that way for almost a month.
It will be the last ghost of a dying planet.
Johanssen blew his brains out in front of that spot when he heard; when it was confirmed the sun was coming for us all. The amoebic outline of his blood and matter glistens against the rock. It entices and it captivates.
No matter how much I wish, I dare not touch it.
I’m in a bubble and alone.
I have to stay here.
I’m the last in every sense.
I flew missions from these pads over twenty years ago. And while I would love to say nothing has changed; it all has. Sure the people were friendly and respectful. But it was a matter of their pre-occupation with this assembly line rescue.
My colleagues and I were supposed to be saviors of this earth. We were supposed to shuttle survivors to larger crafts waiting above the atmosphere. The evacuation plan was rational and calculated. The re-occupation to a farther star was daring and necessary but we underestimated the time and the radiation generated from the flares.
Now these hallways and walkways are empty save for the bleached bones and leathery patches of skin that are seared and melted onto the terminal planet.
Everyone is dead. I’ve tried to find others. They are all dead. It seems…
Ironically it is incompetence that breathes life into me. My lack of ability to grasp the technological and scientific innovations of this age has allowed me to stand last. My lack to comprehend has forced me to study and train longer hours. I should have stepped aside. I have been training overtime. I have lived in this suit as a daily routine simply to understand it…
And because of it, the radiation hasn’t completely poisoned me.
The lie I live that I am a professional, that I am a so-called hero has shackled me and assigned others to death. I should have never accepted this command. I wasn’t worthy to handle this mission; years of depression and self destruction following my heyday have whittled away my abilities and intellect.
I am a hot-shot gone cold.
But what weighs heaviest on my soul is that any penance I can devise for my folly will have no redemption. I have truly sinned. I have delayed the mission and my pride has forced me to live in this Hell.
Following my first day, I couldn’t sleep. Food didn’t hold any fascination or importance. I just trained. I just worked. The excuse was I was just ‘rusty’. The truth is I had just lost ‘it’.
Bureaucratically I fell through the cracks while my colleagues began formulating the mission even taking survivors to the rescue ships above.
My work ethic was erroneously praised. I was stumbling between fear and confusion and the erosion age brings to one’s mind and heart. But as soon as death kicked down the door I wished I was in its wake.
But I am too much of a coward to die that way; to die slowly and painfully.
Oh I want to die. I see no reason to continue. For days I have wandered these launch pads and prayed for God’s vengeance to touch me. But my own obsessions and short comings have blocked the smallest caress. God doesn’t want me. He’s forcing me to plummet further.
The emptiness I feel cannot be filled by tears. I know now it can only be satiated by my blood.
So all is at the ready; my mission is clear. My mission will be done. I will fly today. I will fly my rocket toward the star that hungers so. I will fly my craft into the light and demand entry into the kingdom to come.
- - -
I am a writer of weird stories.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
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