Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Burning Planet

            The hull of the Galaxy Ship has created two long shadows that split the shrill monotony of the Oyamic Desert landscape. One of these shadows is caused by the rising sun Putnam II and as if sentient of the next few hours’ coming heat, it is slowly receding like a pool of water from the dry and barren desert to the oasis of the concrete landing pad. On nearly the opposite side of the ship the shadow created by the setting sun Galelius is creeping its way from the base of the triple engines and across the landing pad, beyond which it disappears somewhere among the grains of windswept desert sand. Hours pass but the only movement in the area is the waxing and waning of the shadows and the progress of their respective sources in the sky. These twin suns, Putnam II and Galelius, take turns in dominating the planet, alternating every half-day on their circular journeys, one disappearing to rule over the Underworld while the other takes its place on the firmament throne to watch over this side of Hell. And Hell it is. There is no night on this planet, only times of extreme heat and of less extreme heat, but never darkness or a respite from the suns. Accordingly, no plant or animal inhabits it. The air is too dry and the heat too much. It never rains. Clouds do not exist. The planet is dead, simply another rock hurtling through the vacuum of space in an anonymous galaxy forty light years away from Earth. The planet is distant, obscure, and inhospitable to life. And this is why I live here.
            I was sent here nearly twenty years ago with 50,000 other convicts to populate this penal colony. We were murderers, rapists, child molesters, originally sentenced to death on Earth. Unfortunately, a forward-thinking rookie Senator managed to pass a law that snatched us from the cozy cradle of our graves to this prison without walls. The move served to encourage people that the Earth’s coalition government was indeed humane after its image had been tarnished by a series of ethnic cleansings. It was a successful publicity move and the Senator was elected to the Prime Ministry the very next year.
Twenty years later and this uninhabitable planet is filled with pathetic excuses for lives. Of course, Putnam II and Galelius saw to it that the scum of the earth wouldn’t live on the surface of this planet. We were swept underground, in a labyrinthine city of concrete and steel that was built just for us to call home. The government didn’t give us any instructions or oversight, or put us with any guards. They simply left us here like how moving trains of antiquity would dump the contents of their lavatories on the tracks. Order of the most primitive kind was established. In twenty years, despots and tyrants have risen and been murdered, factions have been established and disbanded, and each year brings a new wave of fresh-faced convicts to replace the ones that died or were killed. We can’t murder each other fast enough to combat population inflation. The planet’s underground city, originally designed for 50,000 to live in the most Spartan manner, now holds 200,000.
Today, nearly twenty years after I crossed the Acheron, that rookie-Senator-now-Prime Minister is visiting for the very first time the creation to which he owes his power. The Galaxy Ship is his. I assume his visit is just a ploy to rekindle old support. Regrettably for the Prime Minister, however, his visit is not going as he planned. The planet’s convicts stormed the convention hall in which he was giving his Inter-galaxy broadcasted speech in order to let him know that they would have preferred execution to this- his- more “humane” solution. The broadcast was turned off before the entire United Galaxies could see 200,000 criminals tear Earth’s leading politician limb from limb.
Well, actually 199,999. I did not go to the convention hall with the others. Instead I am running in the opposite direction of where the mob is, in the direction of the landing pad. I’m escaping this planet.
It doesn’t take me long to exit the underground city and reach the planet’s surface. I am immediately suffocated with hot, unbreathable air. The tangible heat rising from the concrete landing pad creates a shimmering mirage and physically blocks my view of the Galaxy Ship and its entrance hatch. I have no idea if it’s open or closed but I know that I’d rather die than go back to the city so I move forward. Slowly my melting legs make their way across the scorching concrete. I feel like I’ve drunk gasoline and swallowed a match. I try to hold my breath. My legs are giving out but I am close enough to now see the craft through my watering eyes. I follow the length of the ship’s body from the landing gear to the engines to the entrance hatch- it’s closed. I have no Plan B and my brain is now boiling. My eyes shut and my mind goes blank as I collapse.
I awake to the sound of thunder. It’s hot, still very hot but not as unbearable as before. I take a look at my surroundings and realize that I must have passed out and fallen into the compartment that houses the landing gear. I thank the heavens. I did it, I’m coming home! Back to Earth! Back to life being rule by the Coalition Government instead of countless dictators and tyrants! Back to real humanity! The engines of the late Prime Minister’s Galaxy Ship are rumbling near me and as we begin to lift-off I take a look out of the service window. Below me the landing pad is slowly shrinking from sight, the hot desert is becoming a memory, and as I picture my return to Earth and the rest of civilization I know that I am only trading one hell for another.


  1. That was a different direction! Well played!

    Of course, now I'm left wondering where the tech to travel 40 light years came from, and what other effects it's had. None of which is your job in this story to tell me, but I'm still curious :)

    My only question is a POV one - the initial paragraph describing the suns and the shadows is cool, but the second paragraph starts with the 1p narrator. We establish at the end that he's running toward the ships, but the shadows change over the passage of time in par1 - so who was watching the ship and the shadows?

    BTW, I love the line:

    The broadcast was turned off before the entire United Galaxies could see 200,000 criminals tear Earth’s leading politician limb from limb.

    Dunno why, but it made me laugh.

    Nice job!

    1. Hey JD thanks for your comments! I wish I could have answered all those questions in the story but it was so hard to keep it under 1000 words. For the POV in the first paragraph, I originally had in that our guy was daydreaming about the ship sitting there in the desert, and then he goes out to sneak aboard and escape- but I had to cut it out to fit the word count! I know, word counts suck! Thanks again for your comments though!