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This month’s short story from way back in the vault is from when I first started writing science fiction. I believe I tried submitting it to a publication. At the time, I was proud of myself despite the fact that I could not get it published. But looking back now I’m so happy to see my writing and storytelling has improved. As a teenager, I thought the twist in this story was brilliant. Now, I find it hilariously obvious. And it is more than apparent why no one wanted to publish this story.

Now, I prefer to write darker stuff, and my experiences and continued practice have made me a stronger writer. However, with Earth Day just around the corner, this was the appropriate choice for this month’s short story.

Happy Reading!

 “So?  What do you think?”

“It’s… nice.  I guess.”  I was lying; the place was a disaster.

“Come on.  What do you really think?  Be honest.  You won’t hurt my feelings; I swear.”  Now he was lying.  I knew he would be crushed if I told him what I really thought.  He had spent so long looking for a place to live…  But I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to live there. 

“It’s just…”

“Just?”

“Well, couldn’t you have found someplace a little less… run down?”

“Run down?  But honey, look at it.  Really look.”

“I am looking.  It’s a mess.”

“I…  I know…” he admitted bashfully.  “But it won’t take that much to fix up,” he added hopefully.  “A few years of hard work, maybe, but we could do it.”

“I don’t know…”  Part of me wanted to make him happy and say “This is the place.  This is home”.  But the other part of me wanted to get as far away as possible from this run-down piece of junk. 

“Sure, it doesn’t look like much now,” he continued, “But we could turn this into a really great place.  Don’t you think?”

I exhaled, trying to think of what to say; the whole experience was very emotional.  “It’s just…  Well, at this point in my life, I didn’t expect to end up living in a place like this.  I had kind of hoped that we’d be living somewhere less…”  I struggled to find the words.  “Somewhere less… neglected.”

“Well honey…  We don’t really have much of a choice at this point.”

“I know,” I admitted sadly.  “I know.” 

“Look, things are tough for us right now – they’re tough for everyone – but we’ll pull through.  I know we will.  You just have to look at the potential of this place.”

“I guess…”  I looked at it once more and wrinkled my nose involuntarily.  “That’s disgusting.  Look.  Look at it.  Look at all of the smog in the air.  See it?  All those brownish clouds?  Disgusting.  We’ll be breathing that in if we stay here.  And look over there.  See that?  All of that fresh, green earth has been ripped apart to make highways, and cities, and suburbs.  There’s barely any green left.  And then there’s the–”

“Tell me something positive.”

“What?”

“Tell me something positive,” he repeated.  “You’re too much of a pessimist sometimes; try being a little more optimistic.  What do you like about it?”

I stared at it, trying to find something I liked.  I didn’t want to like anything; my pride wouldn’t allow it.  Since the beginning I had fought him about even considering this place as a potential home, and there was no way I could bring myself to like any of it; doing so would weaken my argument.  Finding something positive – no matter how small and insignificant – would only further convince him that this was the best place for us.

“Well?”

“Well…  Well there’s water,” I said quickly.

“Yes there is.  Lots of water.  Lots more than we have back home.”

“But it’s not even good water.  Most of it probably isn’t even drinkable.  That part is frozen, that part is filled with salt, that part is filled will garbage and oil and–”

“You’re thinking of the negatives again,” he teased.

“Of course I am!” I snapped at him.  “Just look at this place!  It’s a mess!”  I paused, and I saw that he looked hurt.  I managed to calm myself down – sort of – and tried again.  “I…  I just don’t know if I like the idea of raising the kids in a place like this.”

“Well…  How about we take a closer look?” he suggested.  “It’ll all look better up close.  I promise,” he said as if it was true.  “Just take a closer look, and I’m sure you’ll love it.”

I didn’t want to go down there; the thought sickened me.  But there was this nagging voice in my mind telling me to be a good wife and humour him. 

“Fine,” I said.  “But we won’t stay long.  Just in and out.”

“In and out.  Got it.”

* * *

“See?  It’s much nicer down here, isn’t it?”

“I…  I guess…”

He sighed and turned to me with a forlorn look in his eye.  “Honey, I know you don’t like this, but we really have to find a new home.  The government told everyone that we had to leave as soon as possible; our planet can no longer sustain life.”

“I know, I know,” I moaned.

“Out of all the other planets we’ve seen, this is the nicest one in the solar system,” he said as cheerfully as possible, although I could still hear a note of sadness in his voice.  “It’s run down, for sure, but I think we could really fix it.  And this solar system has the best sun.  Nice and young; plenty of life left in it compared to some of the others we’ve seen.”

I nodded.  He was right.  None of the other solar systems we had visited were this nice.  And this was the best planet we had seen so far, even if it was in need of some serious repair.  Although I hated to admit it, this would be the best place to live.

“I…  I’ll want to discuss it with our parents,” I said.  “I want them to live on the same planet as us.  I don’t want the kids to have to travel to a different solar system just to see their grandparents.  So they should have a say in the final decision.”

“Of course.”  He was smiling.  He knew that at this point I agreed with him and was simply trying to convince myself that this was the best possible option for us.  He knew that we would end up moving here.  I hated that he was right about this.

“Yeah…”  I struggled to choke back my tears, but it didn’t work.  He held me close.

“Everything will be alright,” he promised.  “I know it will.”

“Maybe…  Maybe it isn’t so bad after all,” I admitted.  “We should…  We should go home and…  And start packing our things…”

“Alright.”

“And when we move here we could start by cleaning up that water and…”

We walked back to our ship in silence, and the silence continued as we flew up into the sky and left the planet.  As we sailed through space, I looked through the window at the planet below us and cried. 

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