This one is just a short short that was my entry for the Australian Writers’ Centre monthly competition. The rules are 500 words or less, and each month has different conditions. This month had to be set on Christmas Eve 2068 or 1968, had to contain the phrase ‘ in a flash it was gone’, and the first word had to rhyme with the last.
Also, as with all Furious Fiction entries, it has to be submitted within 55 hrs of the conditions being released. Fun times!
One minute until we revealed our new future.
“Excited, Ma’am?” I nod to the camera operator. So young. Was he born in the Habitat? No wonder he’s so calm. Habitat life, the storms raging Outside, that’s his normal. He doesn’t grasp the enormity of our achievement.
Yes, I’m excited, despite the shaking of the Habitat. It’s worse here in the filter rooms, so much vital machinery working to rejuvenate critical resources. Still, it’s a powerful storm. How appropriate. Don’t worry, we’ll be gone soon, I want to tell the planet. No matter how much the Externalists insisted we return Outside, she clearly didn’t want us. Their destructive attempts to force us out of the Habitat couldn’t change the inhospitable landscape the inaction of our predecessors created.
“Still time to cancel.” A gruff voice crackles into my earpiece. Garth, Head of Engineering.
“We’ve discussed this already.”
“The Hab’ ain’t made for flight, Jen. We got another thirty years before the storms break it, plenty of time to-“
“No. That’s what they said about the climate. They had time right up to when they didn’t. Besides, you want to give the Externalists more time too?”
“Eighty-four engines strapped to the Hab’ ain’t a plan. It’s a hope”
I look at engines on the feeds. “It’s not just hope if you’ve done your bloody job.”
No response. I feel for him, but there’s no time for worrying. It’s time for reclaiming our future before the Externalists ruin it.
A red light flicks to green on the camera. This was it. December 24, 2068, the day we give ourselves the greatest Christmas gift of all – a chance to survive.
I avoid the rhetoric and get straight to the point. The Habitat would fly, and we would survive another generation. I imagine viewers weeping with joy, holding each other. Even Garth would eventually be relieved.
“Fire them up,” I tell him. A demo for the cameras. I hear a grunt.
Then it happens. A small spark on a screen. Then another. I watch – and in a flash it was gone, a hail of metal and fire. Then static.
“Nothing here, Ma’am.”
“It wasn’t the Externalists.” Garth. But there’s no anger, no gruffness to his voice. His meaning takes a moment to sink in.
“Shut it down!” I shout
“I’m trying-“ A loud crash, then silence.
“Garth? Garth!” No! Is he. . I check the feeds – More explosions, more static. Another flash, another feed gone. Then another. Then another. NO!
Every screen, another engine destroying more of the Habitat. Not Externalists. Us. Because we . . I . . rushed it. I should feel shock. Responsibility. Anything. But as I watch each feed show our grand, all-saving design burning and destroying instead, I just feel numb. The camera’s still on me. I say nothing. There is nothing to say. We thought we’d saved the species, redefined our fate. Numbness finally gives way to horror as I realise – that was exactly what we had done