We wake up every morning and train to jump into the sun.
It's always so far away, hanging that far up, wheeling round to blaze
over the horizon each day. But every morning we seem to get a little
closer. It started as a joke, really. When Zoe and I were kids, we'd sneak out
of town and up onto the high plains. You could see the whole colony from
there, domes glistening under the heat. And she'd sat herself down on the something-approaching-grass they were making then, and bet that I couldn't jump into the sun.
I've never been one to give up on a good idea.
That was what we did when we were young. This far out on the arm of
the galaxy, there wasn't a lot else to do. It wasn't long before they
started cutting the funding. Austerity measures, they said. I had to ask dad what that meant, and he'd just tsked at me. But I read a
lot, the adults patched up the domes and the machinery the best they
could, and each morning Zoe and I would sneak out and try and touch the
sun. You might think that's ridiculous. But there was something about it.
With the gravity that light, you could just spring up towards it, close
your eyes and expect to feel the heat on your fingertips at any moment.
It didn't last. I suppose these things never do. She went off to some
government post on Earth. A message twice a year, if that. And I stayed.
Someone had to keep the place ticking over. The shine had long since
worn off; there was no money for terraforming any more, so the grass was
sickly and yellow, but every day there'd be a dawn over it and I'd
remember. A lot more dawns passed. My hair wasn't so dark any more, my skin wasn't
so tight. We were barely hearing from anyone offworld now. Down to a
couple of dozen people in all, sustained by a life support system held
together with gum and duct tape. I sometimes used to stare up at the sky
and wonder what she would make of all this. The last we heard, Earth was no picnic. All in all, it shouldn't have
been a surprise when they scaled back the colony system. We'd crossed
the final frontier, then found it hadn't been worth the journey. Too much money
for too little reward.
The company ships came for the evacuation at dusk, looming down on us
and perching themselves like giant, ugly cranes. They told me they were
shutting it down. I argued, of course I did. There wasn't anything else
for me. I'd spent half a lifetime tending this place. In the end, I told them I'd stay. Without the terraforming keeping us in
a holding pattern, this planet wouldn't have an atmosphere. Not for
much longer, anyway. I took the last emergency suit, made my way out onto the steppe, and sat there waiting for dawn.
When the sun burst over the horizon this time, I was ready. In truth, it
was all too familiar. I stood up, bent my knees just so, closed my
eyes... and launched myself into the wild red yonder. As I felt my skin
begin to sear, I hoped she'd be proud of me.