I woke suddenly, a deep rumbling shaking the house. I knew the time had come. Our sun was going to explode at any moment.
I watched the neighbors as they stumbled from their abodes, bleary eyed from lack of sleep, just like me. In spite of the number of people lining the streets, there was absolute silence. Not one living being made a sound, even the young ones were completely silent as we all stared towards the flickering orb in the sky. It pulsed and glowed, getting brighter and hotter. We felt it on our upturned faces. The looks of hopes slowly faded from view at the sun took its last bit of energy, going dark for but a moment.
We all knew what was coming next, but we couldn’t peel our eyes away. The glow came back, faster than we could have imagined until it appeared to fill the entire universe with light. I held my breath, squinting at the sight before me, even thought I knew I shouldn’t look.
My eyes were wide open as the giant star suddenly burst red hot, sending flaming chunks of rock and fire throughout our night sky. If it hadn’t been such a terrifying moment, it would have been a thing of awe, of pure art. Instead, it cemented the feeling of dread that had been following our planet since the first star had burst.
I heard weeping from some of the mothers, setting off a chain reaction of newborns crying, young ones letting out piercing shrieks of fear and confusion.
Everyone huddled together in their little family units and hustled back inside. As if the interior of our homes could protect us from what was coming.
I looked up the hill at the Capitol building, where He sat, probably watching us as we lived through this terror. He was probably picking and choosing who would get to escape even as we all feared for our lives. I made a gesture at the building atop the hill, knowing he couldn’t see it, but feeling better nonetheless.
I grabbed my partner’s hand, picked up my oldest and carried him back to our home. We had to make plans. There had to be a way to ensure that my family was one that made it to safety. I was surely intelligent enough, high up enough, that I could secure passage for all of us. All I had to do was make sure that no one knew of my weakness. If I could keep that hidden from view until the selections were finalized, I knew our family could escape together. Off to a new life, on a healthier planet with suns that didn’t explode in the night.
I carried both of our young ones to bed, sending my partner back to ours. I would take care of everything. It was my job to protect them, to keep them from harm. If that meant lying my ass off to the higher ups to get us passage out of here, well then, that’s what I was more than willing to do.
I said goodnight, tucking the little ones in, kissing their heads and silently promising them everything they would ever need. Aloud, I only said, “Goodnight, my loves. The excitement is past now, so go to sleep and tomorrow we’ll try for a new adventure!” I tried my best to keep all of my feelings out of it. I wasn’t sure yet if the youngest one could read thoughts, but I figured I couldn’t be too careful. One of the kids was bound to pick up that trait.
The last of the suns rose just a few hours later. I counted them in the sky, one, two, three. Three suns were all we had left and the planet was already feeling the lack. We’d lost four of our suns already and the planet was quickly dying.
We’d known this day was coming. The entire planet had come together to find a solution, but it wasn’t going fast enough. We had enough time, maybe, if the other suns kept to the schedule we’d worked out. There would be just enough time to finish the second ship to take enough living beings to search out a new home. A new planet that we could use to start over.
I walked out to the barn, knowing that even as I could guarantee my family passage, most of our animals wouldn’t be chosen. They felt like family to me, after all of these decades together, but when it came down to it, I knew I would probably have to sacrifice them to save my family.
The barn door slid open soundlessly, the whirring of the machine working to perfection. Still, the horse whinnied. Ikan knew the smell of me, even if her hearing wasn’t so great anymore. I walked up to her with a treat in my hand, petting her glossy mane as she nudged at my pocket with her nose for more. Ikan was always too smart for her own good.
I wrapped my arms around her neck and tried not to cry. Ikan had been with me since I was a wee babe. For the last 147 years, she had been my faithful companion. When I’d taken on a life partner, she’d just fit right into our family seamlessly. I was going to miss her terribly when we left and I had a hard choice to make, because the chances that I could bring her along were slim to none. If only I’d have been able to afford the regeneration treatments for her to keep her young, she might have a chance. As it was, it wouldn’t make sense to allow her to take up the limited space available on the ship.
Would I set her free before we went? To let her fight through whatever chance of survival she might have? Or would I put her down, out of her misery, to make sure she didn’t die a slow. Agonizing death as the planet around her fell into darkness?
I took a deep breath and swung up onto her back. I didn’t have to make any decisions right this moment, and besides, a nice long ride always did help me think more clearly.
We stepped out into the faded light of day and I took a deep breath. Change was coming. It was going to be here sooner than I wanted, but I would be ready. I nudged my horse with my knees, turning towards her favorite place to run and let her take off, running like the wind.
This is my weekend freewrite… and possibly the start to a whole new genre/series for me. I’m feeling much more inspired by the start of this than I have been in a while.