QUANTUM SHORTS 2017: SHORTLISTED, YOUTH CATEGORY
I was in a sterile white room. Men in white lab coats surrounded me. My heart pounded with fear. This, I thought, is where it all began.
One man moved towards me with a long, glistening needle in his hand.
“Hold still,” he grunted gruffly. The needle plunged into my skin.
Pain seared through me. Hot, unbearable pain. But right before I blacked out, I saw something in the tiny square window above me. Something bright and warm, something that made my heart ache with longing. The sun.
I woke up in my bed, sweating and panting. Calm down, I told myself. It was just a dream. Deciding I needed some fresh air, I pulled on a wool sweater and headed outside.
The dark sky loomed above me, sinister and unwelcoming. The sky was always dark on Alpha 202, the tiny planet where I lived. No matter if it was night or day, the sky remained black and foreboding.
I hadn’t seen the sun in six full years. I was sent from Earth to Alpha under orders from NASA when I was just seven years old, along with about one hundred other people. They wanted to test out a miracle substance they had invented, which enabled you to live without the sun. This would be helpful in the next few billion years (it was currently the year 2146), when the sun would swell up to a red giant and swallow the Earth. And since Alpha gained no light from the sun or any other star, it was the perfect experiment grounds.
An experiment. I was being used as an experiment. A bitter pang stabbed my heart. Have you ever wanted something so bad you’d do anything to get it? That was exactly how I felt. And what I really wanted was to see was the sun. Life was unbearably desolated here on Alpha, as no plants blossomed and the temperature was deadly cold.
The streetlight beside me lit up, signaling that it was daytime. Here on this sunless planet, night tended to melt into day and day into night. The streetlights were the only thing preventing time from becoming complete turmoil.
The door of the house abruptly swung open, and Mother stepped out. “Luna!” she called sharply. “Have you been wandering outside again? Come back in and have breakfast at once! And you better not be late for work again!”
After a breakfast of lumpy canned oatmeal, I headed off for work detail. Everyone was assigned a job once they were eleven years old, and my job was to clean the General Tower, which was a tall, glass building that provided food, light, and heat for the citizens of Alpha.
As I was sweeping away the cobwebs in the basement, a large, pudgy rat scuttled up to me, sniffing my worn-out shoes.
“Shoo!” I brandished my broom at it. The rat quickly scampered under the crack of a hidden door.
I pushed aside a stack of crates and gasped. There, coated in a thick layer of dust, was a small metal door. I wiped away some of the dust with my hand, revealing a sign.
Transporter Room, it read, in bold red letters.
What could that mean? Bursting with curiosity, I dropped my broom and (with some effort) pulled the door open.
I was in a bare white room eerily similar to the one I had stood in six years ago. A chill ran down my spine. I suddenly noticed a metal plate attached to the ceiling in the middle of the room. On the floor below it was a small red button. Written on the button in neat letters was the word “Earth”.
Excitement coursed through me. That must be a transporter, I thought. It can get me back to Earth! There are only two possibilities: yes or no. If it failed, where will I go? …But, the sun… I’d be able to see the sun on Earth. Filled with hope, I stepped under the metal plate. But just then, the door swung open, hitting the wall with a loud bang. Governor Holmes stood in the doorway, looking breathless. His eyes widened when he saw me.
“Don’t-” he started to warn me.
Too late. I hit the red button.
I was spinning in darkness. Vile, petrifying darkness.
I landed with a loud thump. Wincing, I sat up and looked around. It was nighttime, which meant the sun wasn’t up yet. I let out a sigh of disappointment.
Squinting through the darkness, I realized I was in someone’s backyard. Better get out of here, I thought, scrambling to my feet.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
I froze. Slowly turning around, I saw a petite, blonde-haired girl standing behind me. She seemed about my age, and her big blue eyes and fair skin gave her a striking resemblance to a porcelain doll.
“Well?” The girl crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at me.
I hesitated, then told her the whole story. After I finished talking, I peered at the girl curiously, waiting to see her reaction. She stared at me in disbelief. Then she threw back her head and laughed.
Oh, yeah? I rummaged through my tattered pockets, finally pulling out my NASA identity badge.
A look of shock crossed the girl’s face.
“The sun’s rising!”
I spun around and my breath caught in my throat. A pale rosy colour was spreading across the sky, tinged with gold. Slowly, ever so slowly, the sun crept upwards, a radiant ball of fire alighting the deep indigo sky. Tendrils of warmth wrapped around me; warmth I hadn’t felt in six years. I sucked in a deep breath.
The sun was fully in the sky now. Bright yellow light seeped onto the dewy grass. I don’t know how long I stood there, staring up at the sky. But one thing I was sure of was that I was never, ever, going to forget the sunrise.