Author: Leo James Topp
Out of my office window, the colony ship sits low in the sky. The Test of Time. Sleek and flat, a shimmer along its underbelly, the viewing deck’s dome sat on top… I should be working.
I know it’s a marketing technique, parking it over the city, just the right height for clouds to break around its hull.
On my workstation display, I pull up the tab I always have open.
SIGN UP TODAY!
ONLY 1051 PLACES LEFT!
751 PEOPLE LOOKING AT THIS PAGE RIGHT NOW!!!
Fingers hover over REGISTER NOW.
But what would I tell Ellen?
“Don’t look at that on your work machine, mate. HR’ll think you’re doing a runner without notice!”
Swivel my chair round. A smile stretches up one side of Gary’s face.
“Just a bit of research, mate, keep on top of the market. Commercial awareness.”
“Can you imagine though?” He says, “One way ticket, some barely terraformed tundra, trying to scratch out a living from GM crops they won’t even approve for disaster relief. No thanks!”
“I guess people think if you’re scratching out a living, at least you’re creating something from scratch,” I want to stay.
What I actually say is: “I know, right? Sounds grim.”
He wanders off to the coffee machine. I close the tab, reveal the desktop background.
ANDERSON RECYCLING TECHNOLOGIES
KEEPING EARTH LIVABLE
My phone lies face up on the desk. One quick call to Ellen, get her to set me straight.
But what if she does set me straight?
Or what if she backs the idea, then I have to go?
It would be flipping a coin to see if I was disappointed with the result.
It would be making someone else responsible for my decision.
I should stay. Could I really leave?
I pull up a tax return, but suddenly the idea of another form, another calculation, another word, starts a vibration in my head, ringing in my ears. I can’t hold the words and the numbers together. The insides of my eyelids dance with floaters.
Another day, another week, another year of this.
The Test of Time. Bulky cargo carriers scud back and forth across the sky, merging in and out of traffic, up to the ship’s hold.
On the balconies and roof terraces of surrounding buildings, tiny figures lean against railings, cocktail glasses or coffee cups or cigarettes in hand, looking out towards the ship.
Smooth chrome delta, hundreds of metres across, a thousand metres up. Birds drift along its length.
I open my work messages (27 unread), hit AUTOREPLY.
“I am currently out of the office and…”
“Thank you for your message. Please note that I have now left the company and your message…”
The sun glimmers on the Test of Time’s hull.
897 PLACES LEFT!
SIGN UP NOW!
“I’ve left this crappy planet behind now. All we do here is re-use the same old rubbish over and over until we die. You should come along…”
“As long as I can remember, I’ve looked up at the stars and seen space to make something from the ground up, space to make something fresh. Space to make something of myself.
Life has never been bad on this planet, and I hope you continue to enjoy life here on a world that has already been built. I’ve decided I want life to be good or bad or both, but never not-bad.
Please note that I will not be returning. My messages will not be monitored in my absence.