Last night, I ran across a story prompt on Google+ which asked for 500-word shorts inspired by the image above (Child of the Moon by the very talented Vlad Konstantinov). I thought it was a wonderful picture, so I sat down to see what I could come up with, and now I’m sharing it with you! 😀
It’s nearing sunset and the Earth is shining bright. She fills the sky, a swirling ball of blue and green and white like a flower blossoming in the sunlight. And I wonder, not for the first time, what it was like when my parents looked up here at the Moon.
What did my home look like to them, and how bleak a sight must it have been? It was a dead piece of chalk back then. Barren. A warning rather than an invitation… until it became a necessity.
Not like the Earth. Burning alone in the spotlight against a black curtain, she looks like life, movement, hope. She’s a promise waiting for me until the day I’m finally done here.
Whenever the heck that is.
I’m sitting in my apartment complex’s outer hallway, one of the few places where I can escape the always buzzing amber fluorescents. Instead, light comes in through long polycarbonate windows, reflected off the Earth above and the metal skin of our facility below.
Everything here is always in motion, always pulsing with activity. Our mission doesn’t sleep. It never can.
That’s not to say I can’t sleep… and I oughta be right now, but I just want a few minutes to myself. To think. To breathe. To imagine there’s some way out of this.
Luckily, I’m actually alone for once, with only my thoughts, my schoolwork, and Phil to keep me company. He’s the only pet I’m allowed, and for a philodendron, he’s pretty personable. Doesn’t talk too much. Smells pleasant. Scrubs the air of formaldehyde.
I’d pet him, but I don’t think he really cares either way.
I was supposed to graph equations tonight, and I ended up drawing cartoons instead. A cat, some steamships, and a troupe of dancing hippos, because it doesn’t make a difference. I know the material, and it’s not as if the teachers can punish me… or any of us. We all have real work to do.
And work keeps going. Resupply freighters fill the emptiness of space outside the window, coming and going to keep our operation alive. They carry food and water, replacement parts for our habitat, and battle-ready drones by the thousands.
All to pay for one mistake. In my grandparents’ time, a company called Cornea created Advance Echo technology, a beacon that can blast a signal out faster than the speed of light.
They sent a message into the dark, and something answered.
It came to Earth a month later, and crashed across the planet’s surface like a tidal wave. Some kind of angry machinery, tubes and pipes and cables and hatred, a screaming thing that split into pieces and attacked without ever taking a rest.
We fought back, but the writing was on the wall. The world was lost and humanity’s minutes were numbered… until a Cornea researcher named Zelda Benson made a discovery that changed the course of history. When the enemy is hit by an Advance Echo beam, they just die. Their leathery material flakes apart and scatters like ashes on the wind.
In desperation, the world churned out Advance Echo units and fought the invasion back. But it didn’t end.
It may never end.
My parents had been average hard-working people on Earth until they came here to join the Forward Guard twenty-five years ago. They helped build the facility, they served as some of the first pilots, and they both burned out before I was thirteen.
Now I’m seventeen, and I still haven’t had time to deal with anything but the job. My shift at the Defense Cortex starts in five hours, and I’ll spend the next ten fighting and dying. Connected to drones through an Advance Wave broadcast, I’ll be alive inside a machine’s body, wielding a communication device against the onrushing horror.
This has been my job since I can remember, protecting a planet I’ve never set foot on in the hope that I may someday… if the enemy ever stops. If someone on Earth ever figures out an answer. If I don’t burn out lying in a bed with a cable plugged into my brain.
And that tiny glint of hope—a speckle in a starless night—is enough.
It has to be enough.