by Em Richey, Age 16, USA
The fiction prompt for November was to include the line: “She watched the sun rise with fear and anticipation running through her veins.”
She watched the sun rise with fear and anticipation running through her veins. What tomorrow would bring she did not know, only that there was a future out there somewhere, and she would have to find it.
The world had ended only a day earlier. The moon was still the colour of blood, the clouds and stars had vanished from the sky. There was nothing left of Mars but her and her podship, and a few pieces of metal that floated in the space beside them.
She had heard of a planet not too far from her own, one that contained the same life that she had once called home. They called this planet Earth and said that there was a fragile beauty there. The trees were green and leafy, the dirt dark and rich. People were kind and gentle and loving.
Mars was dead, but planet Earth held some sort of a hope.
She had nothing to take with her on her journey through the galaxy. Steering the podship toward the rising sun, her stomach knotted with fear. What if the earth had been destroyed too? What if there would be no one there to greet her? What if the beauty they had always prided Earth to have had been replaced with rock, rubble and bloody corpses? There was always a chance that the Milky Way was gone completely. Was there life still out there somewhere?
Well, she decided, if there was life, any form of it—enemies or allies, dark-skinned or translucent, tongued or mute, an entire planet or even the smallest babe—she would find it. She would call them her family and learn to love them like she had once loved her own people.
As the white light ahead began to get brighter and the darkness receded, her heart filled with more hope than she had ever felt before. The rumble of the engines faded in her ear. All she could hear was the thump-thump of her heart beating, alive.
A song began to sing deep within her soul. There it was. Earth. The planet of beauty and love and freedom.
And it was on fire.
She watched in horror as her ship grew nearer and she could properly see what was happening. The humans were dying. Writhing in pain as their bodies burned and skin charred and fell away like bits of paper. They screamed and begged for mercy, mercy, mercy.
The ship stopped right before it hit the ground. It hovered just above the earth. In front of her very eyes, a man with white skin burned black opened his mouth in a silent scream. Then his eyes closed and his body fell to ash.
The end of Mars hadn’t been like this. It had been quick, like a flash of light, and then there was nothing. This was the worst thing she could ever have hoped to see. These people were soon to be gone.
They were her family. The humans, the ones she had been searching for, were burning and fading to dust.
Frantically, she opened the hatch. Her cells immediately flooded with smoke and the scent of death. She choked on fire and melting flesh. The screaming—it was all she could hear.
When she looked out across the Earth and saw nothing but this terror, she saw that there was no hope. The one thing she had been searching for, she would not find it here.
The only hope she would ever find was buried deep in her heart. The only hope she would ever see was the hope that she would give.
She leapt over the side of the ship. Kneeling down, she placed one hand flat against the quaking ground. A deep breath and a prayer. Then she summoned all of her courage and sent it souring through the depths of the earth. As all of her power left her, it was replaced with pain.
She gave them herself and took on all of the humans’ agony. She held it close to her soul and gritting her teeth, she held on and didn’t let go until it was done. The Martian girl exploded into a million fragments of light.
That is why the Earth is alive today. An alien saved them, took all of their hurt so that they could have her future. They call her Hope.
Em says: “As far as writing goes, I agree with Maya Angelou: ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.'”