Jim looked over at the small group laughing over their drinks. His frown deepened. He flipped his chair around so he was suddenly at their table.
“Haha. So, Gail, why don’t you tell us your favorite Earth memory next?” Jim asked. “You know, so we can laugh over old times and people who are long gone? No? OK, I guess it’s my turn for a memory.”
The laughs had dried up and the others looked at Jim almost pleading, as if asking with their eyes for him to stop, to not talk, to turn back to his own table.
“My favorite memories are from the week before we were sequestered. Yep, fun times,” Jim said. “I remember walking through town, looking at the vacant eyes. Everyone was telling them it would be alright, but they knew, oh they knew. They were living corpses, just waiting for the end.
“Perhaps a favorite memory would be checking out at a convenience store,” Jim continued. “The look of terror in the clerk’s face as she forced a smile for me and warmly asked how I was doing. How could I tell her that in three weeks I’d be leaving orbit on a huge spacecraft as she faced annihilation? She was genuine and human, but I couldn’t afford to respond in kind, doing little more than smiling back.
“Do you ever think about those last days that we missed?” Jim asked. “The slow realization that they’d been lied to, that all of the resource shortages were really caused by the tens of trillions of dollars spent on getting us and the 250 others off planet? That the Earth really was soon going to be obliterated? Although the asteroid was moving at unimaginable speeds, they’d see it. We saw it. The thing was huge, almost the size of the freaking moon! A star, getting bigger and bigger. Soon moon-size in the sky and still growing. For many it would have blotted out the whole sky in the last moments. The sky would have gone black, and then a flash of red as it entered the atmosphere a microsecond before the impact.
“I remember a laughing man,” Jim said. “He knew he only had a few weeks left, but he was making the best of his time. He was playing with his doomed daughter, knowing she was doomed. But she didn’t know, and he was living just for her. I smiled and said ‘hi!’. He smiled back at me, thinking I was like him, living on borrowed time.
“That’s what I remember of Earth,” he said. “The looks in honest people’s faces as they prepared to die, trying to live life as normal as possible up until the end, while I went by, head hung low, because I knew I would survive with a few hundred others and thousands of human embryos. I tried to think of the seed banks and genetic banks and of the tens of thousands of animal embryos as well. I even thought about the hundreds of living animals representing dozens of species, that would be on board. The New Ark, by god! I’d be part of that, a modern Noah, picked to start over after the world was wiped clean Yeah, that’s what I remember.”
He looked around the table. The laughter was long forgotten. Some stared at him with wide eyes, others looked at the table top, tears in their eyes. He could read some of the thoughts, “Damn you bastard! Can’t you let us look to the future and a new life? Do you have to make us feel so guilty?”
Jim nodded. “I’ll let you get back to your conversation,” he said. “But, when we start our new world, remember what it means. We aren’t here just for us. It isn’t our lives, it’s theirs. We have to do it for them. I’m going to fight with everything I have for us to make it, not for me, but for that convenience store clerk who smiled at me and that man who laughed for his daughter.”
Jim turned around and sipped my coffee, ignoring the murmurs. He didn’t say it out loud, but he also remembered the politicians and technicians who saw them off, calling the colonists the lucky few to carry the torch of humanity after the Earth was gone.
At that moment Jim didn’t feel so lucky.
— — — — —
Yes, dark, but I needed an excuse to post that picture of the super moon, the most super of super moons I will likely see in my life.