He is silent, unmoving, head tilted toward the moons. We don’t talk. We don’t touch. We simply exist, like two binary stars, spinning around the invisible weight between us.
I pull my knees up to my chest and tap my heels in a restless rhythm. A cloud of red particles blooms around my feet, tap-t-t-tap-tap-taptap-tap.
This is our place. Away from the Colony that feels so claustrophobic these days. Away from the Repros, who arrive in their hundreds but all look the same. They look like children, and talk like children, and play like children, but they are not children. They are not our children.
We were assigned another one today.
Every time I look at it — the smile, the eyes, the arms around me, the voice, Mother — I feel sick.
A bead of sweat crawls down my neck. I can’t breathe. I want to rip off this suit and run, and keep on running.
But out here, there is nothing but dust and death.
Life isn’t a circle, it’s a spiral, like the slow descent of the moon, its cycles becoming smaller and faster and smaller and faster until one day, millions of years from now—boom.
Is death our only freedom?
I can feel her looking at me, fidgeting like a trapped animal. Fight or flight. I should comfort her, talk to her, but I don’t know what to say.
It was the first time we reached the second phase. The first time I placed my hand on her stomach and felt a twitch, like a bolt of lightning through my fingers, followed by the slow roll of an elbow or a toe curving across my palm, a sunrise.
The first kick, and the last.
We’re the only Originals left on the Colony now. There are others, but they’re either too sick to work, too old to care, or so space-crazed we keep them on permanent lockdown.
This planet will do that to you. Spend too much time out here and it eats you alive—your body, your heart, your mind. Your soul.
An accelerating spiral of decay.
One moon is so close I can almost touch it. It looks like an imperfect embryo with pitted craters covering its surface. The other is distant, nothing more than a pinpoint of light in the scorched sky.
I move closer to him, as close as I dare. The far moon shines like a small sun. Each cycle takes it further away from us, but it is still the brightest star out there.
One day, it will disappear completely. From sight, from memory.
Nothing more than a dream.
She shuffles toward me, closer and closer, an inevitable collision of our bodies. An end into a beginning into an end.
I stand, lift my visor, and look out over the dunes. From here, the Colony is a cluster of sand-dusted pearls in a red sea, encircled by a fleet of empty Pods. The Pods are smooth silver shapes, standing to attention, ready for their next voyage.
Another one arrived this morning. It carried supplies and a hundred more Irth children. Repros, she calls them, but I hate that word. Just because they’re born in a tube instead of a womb, just because they all have the same voice, the same smile, the same dark hair and dark eyes, does that make them any less human? Any different to us?
No. We are all equal. We are all doomed.
I stand next to him. The sky dulls to the colour of blood and the wind shifts like a veil around us. It is almost time to return. But to what? A home that is not mine. A child that is not mine. A man who flinches at my touch, who cannot even look at me.
I feel dizzy. Past and present and future merge into a single point and spin into an eternal monotony of clearing and planting and breeding and suffering and healing, day after day after day until it all slips away, sand through a clenched fist.
I need to get out of here. Now. We’ll stow away on the next Pod and start a new life on the moonless Irth. We’ll have a family. A home.
We’ll have each other.
The wind tugs at my suit and draws a shroud of fine powder across the Colony. The sharp edge of another storm. I grab her hand and pull her into me as a great swirling column spins around us.
The freedom, the power. I scream through the tornado’s coiled throat, willing it to carry us away.
To tear us apart and bind us together anew.
The world collapses into a vertical tunnel of whirling copper that twists towards the stars.
I grab his waist. His arms encompass me. We hold each other as the storm bends and brays around us. Leave, it roars. You do not belong.
Nothing feels right. We shouldn’t be here. The Repros shouldn’t be here. Perhaps we should let go and allow the storm to lift us up to the moons. Away from all this, away from everything, until there is us.
Phobos & Deimos
The storm spreads and dies. Everything is covered with red ash, as though the world has burned to embers.
I’m sorry, she says.
It’s not your fault, he says.
I love you, they say, and embrace beneath the moons, two rocks that drift inexorably apart, each facing their own oblivion, both of them together.
CHRISTOPHER M DREW is a writer from the UK. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in MoonPark Review, Longleaf Review, Third Point Press, Spelk, Ellipsis Zine, and others. He reads for FlashBack Fiction. You can connect with Chris on Twitter @cmdrew81, or check out his website cmdrew81.wordpress.com
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