10 months ago

Gamma Ray Magazine

Science Fiction | Science Fact | Science Future

smiles. “Oh I wasn’t

smiles. “Oh I wasn’t lost…Well. Not really. Not at first. We knew where we were going, but other people had other plans.” He stares back up into the sky for a moment. His voice lowers a bit. “There was a great battle, long ago. Up in the sky.” The boy stares into the stars along with him silently. “The people from there.” He points to the faint red star. “Didn’t like the people from over there.” Points at the three stars he’d indicated earlier. “And so they fought. This was their battlefield.” The old man sweeps his hand across the expanse of the sky. The boy stares into the night sky and whispers. “Who won the fight?” The old man responds quietly. “No one. We all lost. Us. Them. We all ended up here, on this world together. The war didn’t seem to matter so much down here in the dirt. In the cold,wind and the rain. We tried to fight at first, but ended up just fighting to survive.” The boy looks at him silently. “There were many tens of thousands that died on the ships, but many thousands made it into the escape pods and got down to the planet.” The boy peers back into the sky as if trying to see the events long past. “After we landed, we kept running into each other. Small groups, at first. Then bigger groups, and eventually we had a small village sized group. It was very tough for the first few months.” The boys’ eyes are wide and he is silent. “We lost many people to predators, many more to illness and exposure. We were still waiting for rescue, us and them, but no one ever came.” The old man’s face is lined with grief at the memory. “We stuck together. We had to. At first it was just the planet, but then our own sins came back to punish us. The skies opened and rained poisons, and balls of fire split the sky. The earth trembled and it got very dark and cold for a very long time.” The old man is staring off into the dark, reliving some terrible memory. The boy whispers “What was it? Was it a monster?” The old man speaks in a more normal tone, shaking out of his reverie. “No. No monsters but what we made. It was the wreckage of our ships, entering the atmosphere. The coolant from the reactors, and the chemicals from them burning made the air and rain poison, and when they hit the ground there was terrible destruction. We brought our own monsters with us.” 17 GAMMA RAY

The boy squirmed slightly. “Mom tells stories of rain that made her sick when she was a little girl. Was that the same stuff?” The old man nods. “Yes, but by the time your mom was born, it wasn’t nearly so bad anymore. By the time you were born, they had stopped.” The boy sits in silence for a moment then speaks again. “Grampa. Why didn’t your friends come for you? The fight couldn’t have gotten everyone, right?” The old man again looks wistfully into the sky. “I don’t know. None of us knew. No one came for us, or for them, either. Eventually we stopped waiting and started living. I guess some of us never stopped waiting, really.” The old man pauses and looks down at the solemn faced boy and smiles. “I think the real question is not why didn’t they come? I think the question is were we better off that they didn’t.” The boy considers this for a moment. “If you left, would you know Gram?” “No. Gram and I would have been enemies. We’d probably have never met.” The boy falls silent, thinking again. Behind them, they hear footsteps. They turn to see the boy’s mother, a stout woman, with long dark hair and a careworn face. The woman smiles fondly at the sight of her son and father sitting on the rock she and her father sat on when she was a child. Without a word she comes up behind the rock and puts her arms around the old man’s neck and kisses the top of his head. She speaks to the child. “Blake, go wash up. It’s time for supper.” The boy leaps up and races off down the hill towards the small house in the distance. The old and and the woman watch him go, smiling. The woman looks up into the sky, her hands resting on her father’s shoulders. The old man is also looking into the sky. They look in silence for a few moments, then the woman gently squeezes her father’s shoulders. “Don’t stay out too late, old man. You’ll catch cold.” She kisses him on the top of his head again, as he squeezes her hand in return. She turns and heads off down the hill humming as she walks away. The old man sits on the rock as he had for many years, and stared at the stars and slowly smiled. He laboriously pulls himself to his feet and dusting himself off, slowly heads off towards the house. 18