Author: Gerri Brightwell
We travelled for years before finding a habitable planet. Its one continent would be enough—to the south volcanoes let out wisps of smoke, to the north winds tore across deserts, but between lay a fertile land of easy rivers, and plains creased by the roads of a lost civilisation.
We settled amongst that civilisation’s ruins. Our ships were designed to be taken apart, and from them we built our homes, our schools, our storehouses. Our ships’ machinery we adapted to clear fields long grown wild, while the systems that had protected us in space—the scanners, the alarms, the weapons—we converted to watch over us on this new world. Powering it all was simple enough when we could use the very fuel that had carried us here.
That fuel—in the end, what was spent would need to lie undisturbed for millennia. We scouted sites far from our settlements, far from fault lines and volcanoes, far from the hungry ocean. On the whole continent there was only one such place: beneath a vast northern mountain. To tunnel into it would take years.
By the time the tunnel was almost finished, we had picked clean the hulks of our ships. Children had been born who knew nothing of the dangers of space, and the rest of us gave barely a thought to the sirens perched high on their posts around our settlements. But one autumn afternoon when a cold northern wind was blowing, those sirens screeched to life. It was harvest time and we stood amongst our crops, gazing at the blank skies, at the empty horizon.
It took us too long to understand what that wind was carrying: the toxic decay of a vanished civilisation’s waste, buried deep in the one place it should have lain safe forever.