Author : Thomas Desrochers
The crowd is fast on the heels of the gate guards. Evacuation sirens are blaring, deafening. Over everything the massive ship looms, engines warming up. Everybody is running, but from what, or why, nobody can say. They’ve been trained to for years. That’s all they know.
In front of them a guard turns and fires a single round.
A man looks down at his gut. He’s been shot, he realizes. He could live with enough time and the right care, but there is no time and right now nobody cares.
‘Daddy,’ the little girl says, ‘you’re bleeding.’
‘I know.’ He looks at the young guard, still holding the pistol in shaking hands, unsure of what he has done. On either side the crowd surges forward. There are two more gunshots, a shout. It’s over quickly.
The man picks his little girl from between the legs of the adults, trying not to scream from the effort and the pain. ‘Come on, honey,’ he tells her. ‘Close your eyes.’
The people surge over the body of the guard and the man who killed him, trampling their bones and blood and flesh back into the dust.
The man staggers forward, every step measured in blood and shortness of breath.
Around him the people scream and scream and scream. They’re about to be left behind and they know it. Everybody is climbing over one another in a bid to get forward even a little bit. Many are crushed beneath dirty feet. They leave the man alone, however. He is large, a steel worker covered in scars and plates, augmented and able to easily crush any one of them.
But he’s dying. He looks down again. His pants and shirt are soaked in blood, more blood than it should be possible to lose. He looks forward, looks up. The boarding ramp is only fifty feet away, cordoned off by strong men with large guns, fighting for their lives against the mob. The soldiers begin backing up. Time has run out.
So the man moves. One arm holds his child while the other pushes bodies away. To him they’re nothing. He moves onward, inexorable.
He’s forty feet away.
The crowd begins to run: Ignition is coming. One of the soldiers notices him, raises his gun, fires.
His chest burns, the body he is shielding his daughter with is sputtering blood, bone, and oil. The ramp begins to rise.
The man collapses half on it, his little Sarah spilling from his arms onto the metal. Everybody is gone away now, and the soldiers are simply watching.
‘Daddy,’ she is crying. ‘Daddy. Get up. Please. You have to get up. Please get up.’
The soldiers look anywhere but before them.
‘Love,’ he whispers. He needs to say more, but his time is up. One broken hand gives Sarah’s arm a squeeze. Then the ramp has risen too far and his legs are too weak. He falls to the ground like a bag of cement mix.
Sarah is looking over the edge now, down at him. ‘Daddy,’ she screams. ‘Daddy. Get up!’ She is about to jump down to help him when rough, calloused hands grab her and pull her back.
The soldier holds her to his chest while she cries, one gentle hand on her head. He says nothing. As the ramp seals he squeezes her tight, but he may as well be a ghost to her.
Little Sarah turned six today. The dress her daddy got her is dirty and torn.
A roar – the ship begins to rise.
Everybody is leaving something behind.
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