Flash Fiction Friday #2
“What do you think it’ll look like?” Aires asked.
Baresi shrugged. She had learned about what Earth had once been like and that their ancient ancestors looked very similar to them, but she didn’t know what to expect. Some said that Earth would never recover from what had happened and that those who had escaped to the nearest Earth-like planet should never return.
“I don’t know,” Baresi said. “I don’t think it will look like anything it used to. My father said that Nature would have swallowed all the ruins and all the evidence that people have ever existed there in the first place. There might not be much left for us to see.”
Aires shook his head. “I don’t think so. You know what their cities looked like before the devastation. I doubt that we’ll see anything that’s green.”
Baresi noticed that Aires sounded hopeful. He, like many others on the ship, was excited by the prospect of digging through the ancient ruins and learning more about their ancestors. Baresi was excited too, of course, but her expectations were more realistic. She had learned everything there was to learn about Earth, their ancestors, the animals they had shared the planet with, and ultimately the tragic end that nearly wiped out the human species. She didn’t know exactly what she was hoping to find. It was merely her curiosity that had driven her to join the first expedition back to Earth. As they neared the planet, Baresi couldn’t help but wonder if the others back home had been right. Perhaps it was a mistake to come back here? Maybe some things were meant to be forgotten? Suddenly it seemed that returning to Earth was a big mistake.
“The air smells exactly like it does at home,” Aires announced.
The others had already made their way into the ruins of the city, leaving Aires and Baresi behind.
“Come on, we gotta keep up,” Aires said, looking at Baresi impatiently. “I don’t want us to get lost out here.”
Baresi looked around. Something felt strange. She had expected a desolate, barren planet, void of all life, and while it appeared that way, it certainly didn’t feel that way.
“Doesn’t it feel strange to you?” she asked, knowing that Aires probably had no idea what she was talking about.
Aires cocked his head to the side and gave her a puzzled look.
“What? That there’s no one here but us? No.”
Baresi shook her head. “No, that’s exactly it. It doesn’t feel like that at all.”
Aires blew air through his cheeks, not hiding his irritation.
“Don’t tell me you’re scared. No one and nothing survived here. You know that.”
“I’m not scared. I just—I don’t know.”
And it was in that very moment that Baresi saw something move in the corner of her eye. Baresi had been right. They were not alone.
The woman stood there, staring at Baresi with wide and terrified eyes.
For a moment they simply looked at each another, neither of them moving. It was only when Aires spoke again, completely oblivious of what Baresi was seeing, that the woman hid behind a disintegrating wall.
“I just saw someone,” Baresi whispered, moving closer to where the woman had been.
“Come on, I’m not in the mood for your games—”
Baresi glared at him. “Stop talking,” she snapped.
Aires only blinked at her.
Baresi slowly made her way to the wall, fearing that the woman may attack. After all, Baresi and the rest of the crew no longer looked like these humans did. Their bodies had adapted to their new home planet.
“Hello?” she called. “It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Without warning, the woman jumped out in front of her, armed with a piece of the broken wall.
“Stop!” the woman ordered. Her voice was fierce but her eyes were still full of fear.
Baresi noticed that the woman was trembling all over.
Instinctively Baresi put her palms up and took a step back. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
The woman’s nostrils flared and her eyes flicked between her and Aires who stood several meters behind Baresi.
“What are you?” the woman asked, her voice shaking. “Aliens? Robots? What?”
Baresi couldn’t help but feel a little offended.
“We’re just like you. We’re human.”
The woman furrowed her brow, not believing her.
“We’re the nineteenth generation of humans who escaped Earth after the big devastation,” Baresi explained.
Tears welled in the woman’s eyes. She slowly lowered her hand and let the piece of concrete fall to the ground.
“Do you know of the devastation?” Baresi asked.
“Of course I know,” the woman snapped. “We all know.” She lowered her head and stared at the ground.
“I’m sorry,” Baresi said.
The woman looked at her again. Tears now streaking her dirty face.
“You shouldn’t have come here. You shouldn’t have returned,” the woman spat. “You’re no longer welcome here. You abandoned us. You abandoned your own kind. And now look at you… You’re not human. Not anymore!”
And with those final words the woman turned around and ran away, disappearing behind a decaying building.
Baresi thought about following her, she wanted to explain and set things right, but it was already too late. Screams suddenly pierced the air.
Baresi and Aires ran toward the screams and that’s when they saw it. Two large groups armed with sticks, stones, and other crude weapons were attacking their crew. They were outnumbered by at least one to five. They never stood a chance.
The others had been right. They should never have come here. They should have left the past where it belonged. Buried and forgotten.
Copyright © Bettina Melher
All rights reserved.