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Author's note: I was inspired to write my story after an audition. The script was about the bond of teens on a distressed planet. I hope after reading my story people will realize they can't take Earth for granted. They can't just take life for granted. If we keep living the way we are I fear my story may become reality. I wrote this hoping to keep it only in writing. I want to inspire our generation to take a stand. To open their eyes and see how precious life, friends, family, and our home is.
Trees became bushes. Bushes became grass. The whole world shrunk as it distanced itself away from our ship. Then, the Earth was an ocean covered in my tears. “I’m sorry Claire,” I whispered at the window, wiping my tear stained cheeks.
I peeked up and noticed a familiar face. I nearly cried out. I longed for anything familiar on my journey “home.” It was Claire’s younger sister Martha. She sat in her mother’s lap as her mother placed a tissue below her eyes to wipe away the salty tears. I saw her mouthing something. Claire, her lips seemed to scream the name, the name of my best friend who only a week ago I made a promise to. “I’ll never leave you behind,” I swore, and she believed me. My throat tightened and I once again looked out the window where my memories rested.
. . .
Eyeing my target, I stretched my arms above my head and pegged my soccer ball at Claire’s doorbell. The bell sounded and Liam punched my shoulder, “What if you broke a window?” I shrugged in response. His voice almost sounded robotic under our new accessory—an air mask. Our air was no longer healthy, so we wore the obnoxious masks to filter our oxygen. Claire’s head poked out of the door and she waved.
“We’re playing soccer, wanna join?” I shouted across the barren wasteland of a lawn and she gave a thumbs up. Everything was dead, the grass, the trees, and the animals. Soon we would be too. Our government posted a mandatory evacuation from Earth scheduled for the following week. We were to live in the skies I once daydreamed under, far away.
“Ryane, are you coming or what?” my trance broke from the sound of Liam’s voice. I ran down the road to him and Claire who were on their way to the beach. I snuck up behind Liam and pushed him into a lawn blooming with dry dirt. Claire laughed as he scooped up a handful of rocks and tossed them at my ankles. I looked ahead and smiled, wrapping my arms around their necks as we approached the dunes. Adam and Blake had set up some goals with trashcans from an abandoned house.
Adam looked up and smiled at Claire’s approaching face. I saw her cheeks change to a soft pink and I sighed as I pushed Liam over one last time and ran ahead with Claire.
“I call Ryane. Adam, you can have Liam,” Blake claimed me as his team while Claire spun over to a soft area of sand and tossed some dirty candy wrappers to the side so she could sit down. I became hypnotized by the surf. The waves were perfect. I longed to ride them. My surfboard had been retired a month ago when a patrol officer caught me surfing in unsanitary water. My murky water daze was broken by a thud on the side of my head.
“Jerk,” I retrieved the soccer ball from the ground and pegged it at Liam as he hooted and hollered with the others. “C’mon let’s play,” I said in the mood for a good game to take my mind off things.
“Losers,” Blake gave me an enthusiastic high five while Liam and Adam sulked on the sideline. We showed them no mercy during our intense game of beach soccer. I smiled as we all made our way over to Claire and sat down. She was fixing the lilacs beautifully braided into her hair. Claire was the last to see any beautiful signs of living nature. She nurtured some seeds she had in her shed and managed to grow a small garden of flowers which she showed off in her golden hair every day.
“What’ll it be tomorrow?” Adam fixed his eyes on Claire
“Sunflower petals,” she smiled.
“The birds might attack you,” Blake mocked.
“If there were any birds left,” I shot back. We all laughed sadly as reality set in. Our planet was dying. Blake stood up and we watched him pace back and forth kicking up rubble.
“What if . . .” he began then shook his head. I raised a brow. Blake looked at his feet then up to the sky. All was quiet except for the powerful crashing of the murky waves. “What if we stayed?” He finally blurted out the one question that would shape our futures.
Blake rubbed the back of his head nervously. “I mean, I’m not too psyched about leaving this place. I have no reason to. Do you actually believe the world is ending? C’mon,” we stared at him in shock. The thought of staying together never crossed our minds.
“I’ll stay,” Adam stood up and walked over to Blake. “If an overdose can’t kill me, maybe my home can,” Adam grinned. It was only two weeks ago that his mother had found him lying on the bathroom with an empty container of pills in one hand. A month before that she found sleeping pills scattered around his room. For Adam this could be his big break. I always wanted to know why he hurt himself but it’s none of my bsiness. I imagined Claire wanted to know as well. I looked over at Claire. She was staring at Adam, her dreams of a life with him were now gone. I prayed she wouldn’t stand up with them, but soon my hopes were shattered as well.
“Count me in. It’s not like anyone will notice I’m gone,” her voice shook and her moves were hesitant. Why? I thought. Not you. I didn’t want to look at Claire. I didn’t want her to pressure me, I didn’t want to think about losing her. I concentrated on a scab that lived on my knee caused by one of Jaedon’s tackles. Sometimes I thought my little brother could take out an army. As I picked at it,Liam stood beside me. He tapped my head, but I ignored him. I heard him sigh and hid my head between my bruised knees. My hiding ended with a yank as Liam pulled me towards the others.
“We’re not staying without you Ryane, and we’re staying,” I slumped my head on Claire’s shoulder and thought about Jaedon. I couldn’t leave him. I practically raised him with mom having to work three jobs. I stared into my friend’s eyes and sighed. If I said yes now, it would get them off my back and give me time to think.
“Fine, I’m in,” the words stiffly leaked out of me.
“It’ll be fun Ryane. The whole world to ourselves,” Claire’s voice cooed in my ear. I tried to smile at the thought, but my lips were stuck. I couldn’t erase the image of Jaedon from my mind.
“I wanna go home,” I whispered.
“What’s wrong Ryane? Not tough enough?” Adam mocked me. I drilled my fist into his gut. He stumbled backwards and shook his head. Claire looked desperately to pick a side. Don’t be mad at me, I pleaded silently. She placed her arm around me and relief flooded me. She knew he had it coming.
“Alright Ryane, we can go home.”
I slammed my bedroom door behind me and screamed into my pillow. That was it. Just like that, I was forced to decide my fate. Mom and Jaedon were already packed for the evacuation. I promised to pack by the time Mom got home from work, but now there may have been no need.
“Ry?” A knock reached my ears.
“Yeah Jae?” I sat up.
“Can I have the leftover pasta?”
I yawned and laid back down, “of course,” I sighed.
I woke up and dragged myself downstairs to the kitchen. The day beforeThe day before I was pressured to choose my fate. I said I would stay on Earth and watch my family fly away. I could leave with them, but that would mean I would have to leave Claire. The doorbell rang and before I had a chance to answer, the door flew open and Claire trotted in.
“We need to talk,” Claire grabbed my wrist and dragged me into my hall closet, switched on the light, and plopped me down on some old boxes. “Blake wants us to run away,” she spoke with no hesitation.
“Huh? No way,” I shook my head, “Blake will get us killed, that idiot.”
She looked me in the eye and I knew to shut up. “Look, if we don’t run away there’s a chance our families will force us to come. We only have three days until the evacuation. He wants to go tomorrow,” Claire spoke softly not to wake Jaedon above. I was going to try to enjoy my last days with my family and now I would have only one day left? Things were moving too fast. “Has your mom made you pack yet?” Claire sat down next to me.
“Yeah, but I shoved a bunch of pillows in my suitcase to make it look full,” she smiled as I spoke. I examined her hair. Sunflower petals just as she said. They looked beautiful in her golden braids. I smiled back and we sat there. Why did it have to come to this? Why did I have to choose between the only person who understood me and my family? My Mom would not notice I was gone until on the ship. She was too busy tackling all of her jobs and worrying about Jaedon, the baby of the family. . .ut Jaedon, oh Jaedon. I could see him calling for me, crying.
“Blake said meet behind the old Stop and Buy tomorrow,” Claire spoke even softer and began to stand. “We’ll hang out and watch the ships fly away. We can break in and take any remaining food too. The world will be ours Ryane,” she sounded so peaceful as she claimed the world. “Promise you’ll be there?” Claire placed her hand on my shoulder.
“I promise. I’ll never leave you behind,” I stood up with her. We did our corny handshake, checked hips, and crept back out of the closet. As Claire left, Jaedon came stumbling down the steps.
“Ryane where’s mom?” He had tears in his eyes.
“Work Jae, you know that. What’s wrong?” I met him half way down and carried him to the couch. He lifted his bangs to reveal a small wound. “Oh Jae baby,” I kissed his head and rushed to get a band-aid.
“I fell on some Legos,” he frowned and wiped his eyes. I carefully dabbed the cut with warm water and secured the bandage.
“Looking good,” I flicked his head and he smiled. His dimples made me melt and smile back.
Our quiet understanding was disturbed by a static on the T.V. A government announcement. What now? The words flashed across the screen. EVACUATION TOMORROW. A gasp escaped my mouth. This changed everything. The evacuation was changed just like that. I guess the situation got worse. My heart sank and immediately the phone rang. Liam. “Hey,” my voice shook.
“Tonight. We’re meeting tonight,” I shook my head as he delivered the new plans.
“Too soon,” I whispered.
“Huh?” Liam heard me.
“Nothing,” I quickly blurted. “Right, tonight. Okay, see ya.”
“Oh okay, same place,” he paused. “Look Ryane, I . . .” I held my breath. “Never mind, I’ll tell you tonight. See ya,” he laughed nervously and I hung up.
I took my place back on the couch and rubbed my forehead. “You okay?” Jaedon poked my cheek.
“Oh, uh yeah,” I nodded and stared into his eyes for what seemed a million years. I hugged him then ran up to my room. I threw the pillows out of my suitcase and began refilling it with my clothes and photo album. I grabbed my conch shell necklace, a gift from my father, God knows where he is, and shoved it in a side pocket.
I began pacing back and forth. I stopped when I noticed my door slowly open. I saw a flower petal pop through then glide gracefully to the floor. “Hey Claire,” she was the last person I wanted to face.
“I heard Liam called,” she plopped down on my bed and eyed up my suitcase. “I thought you filled it with pillows.” I looked away and bit the inside of my cheek. “You’re having second thoughts aren’t you! I thought you wanted to stay with us. Don’t you love us? Don’t you love me? You were probably planning to ditch the whole time. I knew . . .” I grabbed her and embraced her trembling body.
“Shut up Claire,” I smiled and kissed her forehead. “Jae will hear you. I packed because I figured I’d want to change after rain or something. I promised to never leave you behind, didn’t I?” Lies—all I could do was lie. I could not bear to hear Claire rave of my betrayal.
Claire nodded, “I’m scared Ryane. Adam, Blake, and Liam are all ready to face death, but I’m scared. We all know that’s the reality of staying. I’m glad you’re staying with me. I’ll have someone to be strong with,” a tear rolled down my cheek and fell to meet a tear on her’s. “I have to go,” Claire slowly stood and walked to my doorway, “Ryane?” I looked up, “See you later,” she smiled and disappeared into the hallway.
I waited until I heard my front door shut. Tears poured from my eyes as I punched my wall. I bit down on my fist and screamed. “See you later, see you later,” I mocked Claire’s words. “Later? How about never again,” I ripped the pictures from my walls and flung everything from my desk. I could not control my emotions. I was upset that I would never see my friends again. I was filled with guilt for lying to the one person who had only been honest with me. I was furious that I was being taken from my home. Nothing was fair. It wasn’t fair to me, or Jaedon, or Claire. We should not have to grow up like this. We should have been surfing and giggling about our secret crushes on Adam and Liam, not be choosing between life and death, “It’s not fair!” I shouted, choking on my tears.
I ran to my window and yanked my curtains closed. I didn’t want to look outside. I didn’t want to be reminded of our home’s fate: the dead animals that reeked of rotting flesh, the dry, pasty dirt, cracked and full of old candy bar wrappers. I couldn’t bear to take one more look, “Maybe it’s a good thing to leave this stinking, rotting planet!” I jumped on my bed, rolled on my stomach and cried.
I heard my door creak open once again but made no effort to hide my emotions. I began to take deep breaths when I felt a warm tiny hand on my back, “It’s okay Ryane. I’m here.”
I woke up the next morning to find Jaedon curled up under my arm. I stroked his hair and thought about Claire. Her reaction when she realized I wasn’t coming. I thought about Liam and what he wanted to tell me. I had an idea of what it was, but I didn’t want to flatter myself.
I wiped the tears from my eyes and shook Jaedon softly.
He looked up and blinked slowly then looked back down, “Time to go?” He breathed out the words in a sad sigh.
“Ryane, Jaedon let’s move,” Mom’s voice echoed up the stairs.
“There’s your answer,” I rolled over him and stood in the middle of my room. I looked around and took in a big breath of air. I wanted to cry but I had no tears left. I had to accept my fate. Earth is no longer home. What had nurtured me was now slowly killing me. I turned to Jaedon and smiled. I cannot be there to help Claire be strong, but I’ll be there for Jaedon. “Let’s go baby,” I reached out a hand to him. He wrapped his tiny fingers around mine and with my other hand I lifted my suitcase.
On our way downstairs, we stopped to say goodbye to every room. Jaedon walked slowly from his room with his suitcase. He looked at me desperately with tear-filled eyes. I dropped my suitcase and ran over to kiss his eyes, “Be strong Jae. It’ll be alright soon. Just squeeze my hand.” He sniffled and wiped his eyes in my shirt. Once again his hand found mine and we made our way down the stairs together.
Mom was waiting by the door for us. She didn’t seem to care about leaving. It was not as if she was leaving friends behind. She didn’t have any, at least not any that were staying. I think she took it as a long awaited new start for us after the rough divorce two years ago.
“Alright, time to go. We have ten minutes to get to the beach where they’ll take off,” she spoke calmly as she hurried Jaedon and me out the door and down our eroded pathway.
Jaedon kept tripping over stones as he continued to look back at our old home. I refused to look. I looked down at my feet and counted the cracks in the dirt. The sounds of waves and people became loud and almost overwhelming. The beach was flooded with people. It was impossible to miss the hundreds of crafts lined along the beach. They towered over everyone and everything. I had never seen anything so big. You could barely see the tops of the ships as they reached to the sky.
Mom began yanking us towards them. A man hollered and pointed at us. “Women and children taken care of first,” as if we were the sinking Titanic. He walked over pushing through the crowd and began to lead us on the ship. It was then that I looked back. My Earth. My home. Soon to be nothing but my view from a far away window. Soon to be the resting place of my friends. Taking another breath I turned back to the ship and the next thing I knew I was being pushed into a seat by a window. I began frantically looking around and shouting for my mother.
“Ryane baby, calm down,” I felt her hand on my shoulder, next to me was Jaedon and besides him was mom. I just stared at them, paralyzed. It was too much for my mind to handle. I sat there and shook my head. This is happening.
An hour later I felt the ship begin to shake. I darted my eyes to the window and the world was beginning to distance itself. Everything I once climbed, I once laughed with, I once held, I once knew, I once took for granted was disappearing. Trees became bushes. Bushes became grass. The whole world shrunk as it distanced itself away from our ship. “Goodbye Claire.”
. . .
I lifted my head from my pillow and gazed out the window once again. I saw the still home of my rebellious friends. I laughed to myself. My rebellious friends. I see them now. Removing the masks that once hid our faces. Hid our beauty. I see them falling one by one into the cracks of the dirt. Together we grew up. Together we die, minus one. I live. I live to help the memories live. My friends got what they wanted. Maybe Claire will now be recognized in her own home. She died to be alive.
“Hello. Welcome aboard Sky Earth. Welcome home,” the announcer startled me. “Welcome home” rang in my ears. I choked back tears and I felt those precious tiny fingers meet mine. This isn’t home. Claire, Liam, Blake, and Adam were home. But they were my past. These little fingers hugging mine are my future. And for those little fingers I will be strong.