Author : Debbie Mac Rory

We have no choice, they said. We have to leave. We don’t know where we can go, or even if we can survive out there, but we can’t live here any longer. But there isn’t enough room here for all of us.

And then it became clear that the “we” and the “us” indicated in the news broadcasts, referred only to the healthy, the fertile, the educated among our peoples. Those who had been born without genetic abnormalities or physiological conditions which science should have long since cured.

The selection process was as short as the world government was able to make it, but it still stretched into months. Riots broke out worldwide, incited by those terrified of being left behind and those made bitter by tests results that rejected their chance of passage, even though they considered themselves healthy.

Paranoia took its place in the proceedings and only those who had a place ensured were allowed to prepare and load the ships. I suppose they believed that we, abandoned as we were, would yet try to poison the food, or infect their ventilation systems with some pathogenic substance. I know there were some that would have done so, and some that tried through the layers of security that surrounded the airbases. Most of them lost their lives on the lasers of the defensive grid.

When the ships had at last completed preparations, few were at full capacity. The medical AIs, calling on all the worlds collected knowledge, rejected all children under 12 in the belief that the exposure of such young bodies to the unshielded radiation outside the atmosphere would render them infertile, and useless as colony members. Even allowing for the families who opted to stay together on a now barren planet, or the parents who kissed their children goodbye, leaving them with crippled aunts or grandfathers too old to qualify, the numbers were far fewer than expected.

Most of the ships have left now, but the security grid around the airfields is still active. The children who were left come here most days to throw rocks against the fences, and watch the lasers turn them to dust. I still come to watch the last of the ships, assisting those others who try to hack into the abandoned bases so we can siphon the remaining power for ourselves.

The little girl with me clings tighter, burying her face in the cloth of my garments as the dust clouds raise from yet another launch. I adjust the gauze around my face with one hand so I can keep watching, while gently stroking the child’s hair with the other, to comfort her.

When finally the rockets flare has faded beyond what I could follow in the brightness of the noon-day sun I take the girls hand and turning, we walk together into the echoing streets.

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