The world is dying, and there isn't much to do but leave with those who killed it...
Marcus sat hunched in a poorly molded plastic chair. Elbows on his knees, the sound of his tapping feet barely made it over the sound of the PA calling people to board.
SHUTTLE A-12 IS READY FOR BOARDING, PASSENGERS REPORT TO BRIDGE A-12
“Where are you?” Marcus said, voice shaking.
SHUTTLE A-13 IS READY FOR BOARDING, PASSENGERS PLEASE REPORT TO BRIDGE A-13
Rear-end sore, Marcus stood up with his hands pressing into his waist. The dirty white of the port’s walls and tiled floors reflected unbearable sunshine into all corners of his bridge, B-1.
Where is she, he thought as folks began pouring into the bridge and sitting around him.
Where is she Where is she Where is she? Dammit, come on!
SHUTTLE A-14 IS READY FOR BOARDING, ASSIGNED PASSENGERS PLEASE REPORT TO BRIDGE A-14
He didn’t want to pace, but the cold yet hot rush of anxiety pouring across his skin kicked his feet into the semi-soothing activity. He felt the eyes of fellow passengers stick to him, feeling their confusion and unintentional judgements.
Today we can expect a surprisingly cool 103 for this evening, blared some woman’s black tablet, the sound of it only adding to his tension, boiling him like a yet living lobster.
With any luck, folks in the shade may be able to spend a few minutes outdoors unsuited.
SHUTTLE A-15 IS READY FOR BOARDING, PASSENGERS ARE TO REPORT TO BRIDGE A-15
“Mark?” he heard.
A woman, head shaved and carrying several pounds of luggage stood in the archway between the bridge and the main hall looking at him with a frown and lightly wrinkled brow.
“God, Julia!” he blurted, “I told you to come early.”
“Well, I got held up, calm down-calm down. Sit down, do you have water? Drink your water.”
She sat with Marcus, giving him a thorough check over.
“Got your phone, your headphones, sunscreen. Oh, your suit’s unzipped.”
“I’ll zip it inside.”
“You’ll zip it now.”
He zipped it.
“Jul, why did you-"
SHUTTLE B-1 IS READY FOR BOARDING, PASSENGERS PLEASE REPORT TO BRIDGE B-1
Almost in unison, the entire bridge stood and lined up at the docking entrance with Marcus and Julia standing close to the back. An attendant, clothed in a cheaper version of the suits the passengers wore, checked passes from behind a desk.
“Helmet size?” the attendant asked a heavy-set man at the front of the line.
“uhhh, 21 I think.”
“Can I see your Pass, sir?”
“Hmm, yep. Alright, here’s a 30. Just go through the docking tunnel and another attendant will help you to your seat.”
“So,” said Marcus from behind Julia, “What held you up?”
“Dammed asset manager kept me extra long to make sure everything was sorted.”
“What? He can’t do that, if you’d been late, we might as well haven’t filed for compensation.”
“He was just making sure. After all those people lost their pioneer packages when they messed up their asset values? Even if I showed up an hour early, we’d be risking everything. I don’t want to get stranded on the moon.”
“I’d rather that than stranded here… What was the drive like?”
“Earie. Highway was nearly empty.”
“You not looking at your phone? Just about everyone thought the highway would be a mess, so they all took the backroads. Highway ended up empty and the backroads are completely stuck. Looting, shootings, I could hear screams and gunshots through the noise walls.”
“Helmet size?” the attendant asked Julia.
“Pass… please. Alright, here’s your 19. Helmet size, sir?”
“Oh, that’s no problem. Let me just scan your pass… put, in, the, pass,cooode. 21! Here you go.”
The attendant handed Marcus’ pass back to him, unintentionally showing off the picture of his balding head and tired looking face in it’s upper lefthand corner.
Helmet in arm, Marcus followed Julia into the vacuum-ceiled docking tunnel—its walls covered in condensation from the coolant running through the plastic walls’ various veins and bladders. The hissing of the shuttle’s many mechanisms produced a near deafening white noise, only subsiding as Marcus passed through the vehicle’s threshold.
The interior proved extraordinarily spacious, with aisles 6 feet in width and rows at least 3 feet apart with each hosting their one currently covered window. The walls, floor, and chairs stung with a sterile white.
Only a few hours in here anyway. Marcus thought, eyes squinting.
“Right over here ma’am,” said a tall attendant wearing an open helmet, “I can take your bags for you…”
“No,” said a female passenger, failing to jam her bag in a compartment under her seat, “It’ll fit.”
“Well, if you change your mind, I’ll be close by—so please just shout.”
“Won’t have to, but thanks.”
The attendant, eyes rolling, made their way down the aisle, helping both receptive and unreceptive passengers.
“Hello, sir,” said the attendant, “would you like help finding your seat?”
Marcus cleared his throat, “Ah, I think I’ll—”
“Yes, please,” interrupted Julia, “we’re supposed to be seated together, could you point them out for us?”
“Mhm, certainly, ma’am. Right over here.”
The two sat tight in a middling row, Marcus taking the window and Julia sitting next to him. Folks walked past them, some with blank faces, some looking annoyed, and a few actively holding back tears.
“I’m on the shuttle now, sweety,” said the lady with a tablet, “look, I’ve got my helmet on and everything. Is Daddy with you? Don’t cry, sweetheart. Mommy’s gonna be with you on the moon in just a few hours. We’ll all go to the station in the cruiser… all of us, together. They’ve got parks and playgrounds. Hey, in the cruiser, we’ll have our own room! Daddy says they’ve got two queen beds! That means you’ll get your own biiig bed.”
DEPARTURE WILL BEGIN IN 15 MINUTES, said the shuttle’s speakers
“Are you joking?” someone in the back shouted, “the shuttle’s only half full! There’s got to be more people coming!”
“Sir,” said an attendant, “we’re working on strict time limits. Anyone who is late will get the chance to book any of the shuttles—come the next departure.”
“This is the second to last! We should be taking as many as possible, fuck time constraints!”
More attendants started pouring into the shuttle.
“Sir,” said one, “we’re going to have to ask you to go back to the bridge.”
“What?” he said, “you can’t do that! Everything I have is waiting on the damn port!”
“Then we advise you to book a shuttle—come the next departure.”
“No! No-please, I’m sorry. I’ll be quiet!”
Two attendants grabbed the man by the arms.
“This way, sir.”
Thrashing and kicking, the man was dragged back through the docking bridge
“Nononononononono, Please please! WAIT WAIT WAIT—”
“WE’RE SORRY ABOUT THE COMMOTION, FOLKS,” said an attendant over the speaker, “AN ATTENDANT SHOULD BE GOING AROUND TO HELP YOU CONNECT YOUR SUITS AND SEAL YOUR HELMETS.”
Marcus looked to his right. A little window sat in the wall covered with a slidable plastic tray. His gloved hand fumbled with the grip on the slide’s bottom before opening it with a hiss and locking sound. Framed by the windows edges, the outside seemed vast and filled with white and black shuttles laid on their sides with long docking tunnels slowly departing back to port. Hundreds of apparatuses covered the floor, a sea of tubes prepared to launch water onto the shuttles’ imminent fiery emissions. On the hull of every craft sat hundreds of sponsoring logos from GM to Kellogg covering nearly every inch.
YOUR PRESIDENTIAL LAUNCH BRIEFING WILL BEGIN SHORTLY
“Excuse me, ma’am?” said an attendant.
Julia looked her way.
“Hello, if you excuse me, I just need to hook up the man to your right before I help you.”
Julia scrunched herself against her seat, allowing the attendant to lean over her and hook up a series of tubes and wires to the stomach of Marcus’ suit. She then grabbed him by the helmet, pressing it down and twisting it like a childproof pill bottle until he heard it lock into place before strapping the seatbelt on.
“There you go,” sighed the attendant, “Now, let me just help you out, ma’am…”
AND NOW, A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. BROUGHT TO YOU BY BOEING, SPACE-X, AND CHEVRON-DISNEY.
“My fellow Americans,” said an elderly voice over the speaker, “You are yet another proud collection of people, boldly going beyond the blue vail to escape assured destruction.”
A collective groan could be heard in the back seats of the shuttle.
“This world we’ve inherited has done much for those before us, but now… has simply run its course. As passengers of the Exodus… 24¬—mass launch, you are among the few left yet to touch the stars. Though I reside in a remote station, my heart is with you.”
“Lying ass,” whispered a voice in the seat just behind Marcus.
“Know that your government spared no expense in the construction of the Lunar Port. Your every need will be met on our glorious moon. Mistakes were made, but our solutions—you’ll find—are exceptional.”
A quick tone played, and the shuttle jolted into motion. Marcus could feel his center of gravity slowly move from his rear to his back as his window view flipped on its side.
“No safety demonstration?” someone said.
“Not a lot you can do when your blown up, dumbass.” Said another.
“Hey,” chimed the tablet lady, “no swearing, I’m on call with my kid!”
Marcus turned his head left to see Julia, the unwieldiness of his helmet making the task laborious. She looked ahead with stressed eyes before looking his way. A smile crept onto her lips, though her eyes remained dour. The palm of her hand turned up, and he put his in own on it.
“We’ll be fine,” she said.
“Mhm, I know,” he said as his visor slowly closed and created an airtight seal.
A rumbling began, quickly growing in intensity. The window glowed with the orange of surrounding rocket exhaust. No countdown, only a lift off, and no ground was under them—only fire, water, and immense plumes of steam.
Marcus turned to his right, seeing the ground quickly shrinking as the flock of rockets screamed upward. In one shuttle, he could see a window with its cover open and could swear to have seen the silhouette of someone’s head. He hoped for a moment they were fine, that they weren’t worried their shuttle was going to explode, or that the life before them wasn’t going to be of misery and misbegotten obligations. He hoped that he’d see them on the moon—even if he wouldn’t recognize them.
The blue of the atmosphere gradually faded to black. Hours passed like minutes for some reason before the shuttle turned… and landed. They were on the moon; he was on the moon. Regardless of any reason or fault, Marcus couldn’t turn back—no one could,
for there was no ‘back’ to turn to.