Author : Aiza Mohd
Today is our last day on Earth.
This morning, I beheld the sun rising over the Arctic. From all the way down in our dwelling, it felt like it was worlds away.
Behind me I saw Naamin. She’d discovered her brother, who’d died in the night, while I pretended to sleep.
There in our kingdom of water and silence, we buried our dead as the sun came up. There was just enough light to paint our surroundings. The muted horror of awakening to gone relatives. The urgency of hiding them, from the far-reaching expeditions of human science.
That nemesis drove us from every home in the past age, exacerbating every attempt to prolong our existence until we were constrained to planet Earth’s most undiscovered world: the oceans.
We weren’t made for such suffocating life. Water such as this was rare back on Marikh; we had avoided the oceans for as long as we could until Earthland was no longer an option.
Closing my eyes to Naamin’s grief, I spoke. ‘Fola led his faction away, while you slept. There are two vessels left. And fewer supplies.’
‘Then let’s leave. Please.’
She was scrabbling in the earth. The dead lay all around us. Nearby, I saw someone leaning over a lost love.
‘Where did Fola go?’
I recalled what a dead friend had told me once, about human knowledge of the universe. His faction had sampled a human, a well-read one who spoke of white holes and lenticular galaxies. We used to do this sometimes, to assess just how far humanity had travelled.
‘He means to reach a faraway planet long dismissed as dead,’ I answered. ‘I don’t believe his craft will even get halfway.’
‘There never was one as resigned as yourself,’ she spat with sudden venom. ‘You’ll doom us all to your deadened dreams.’
‘This planet is at its peak,’ I said. ‘Do you remember what it was like up there?’
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I remember. I remember that up there was beautiful and full of life. There were things to see, dangers to run from. And I remember brightness.’ She stood, abandoning the task of digging her brother’s grave. ‘I remember something to live for.’
I said nothing. Overhead, a dark creature swims rapidly away.
‘You see?’ she said softly. ‘Even if we stay, the ocean floor is no longer ours. Earth was never ours — each time, the universe created a new inhabitant for whatever place we’d dare to try to steal. Our time is up.
‘You’ve seen our civilisation rise and fall– you’ve suffered, grandfather. But there’s nothing for us here.’
Emotion, a phenomenon from the distant past, swelled up and soared through me. It bent my heart double and smashed it.
‘I’ve chased our entire existence into a corner.’
‘No, Premier,’ spoke gently the mourner I had seen earlier. ‘You’ve done only what you’ve had to do. But I agree with Naamin.’ The woman was approaching us. ‘Though what lies beyond is uncertain, I would go to my end seeking a better grave. Continuity for the sake of continuity is for nothing, when all we do is bury our dead. We have defied the universe for far too long.’
I was silent, defeated. A tired old man. Naamin led me by the hand to a vessel as some others followed suit. ‘One day,’ she said, ‘humans will be faced with this choice too.’
Now we are leaving, abandoning this dark and rippling realm, leaving everything we ever were behind us. I am holding my breath, I am waiting … anticipating that dazzling burst of sunlight.