For Bailey, who gave me a title and bade me write a story from it.
So what should we do? Should we kiss the dirt goodbye? Lie down on our bellies, arms spread wide, and give it all one last group-hug?
"Maybe she won’t hug back,” I mused, “if we do that.”
“Do what?” Bailey raised an eyebrow. “Who won’t?”
“If we hugged the Earth goodbye, do you think she’d hug back?” A look of confusion reminded me that my thoughts had been private. “I mean, do you think the Earth is sad to see us go?”
Bailey told me she didn't know. I told her I didn't either. We turned our attention to the matter at hand, which was packing our lives into boxes and leaving our little home behind.
It was centuries after the first space-city had been constructed. "Cosmicopolis" was what the public had come to call it before its completion and naming, so Cosmicopolis was the name adopted by its creators. Fitting, perhaps, because in no way was it a part of any nation - it was truly a city-state, like all the -polises of old. More had followed, and as long as they had a sun to power them, they were completely self-sufficient.
The Earth wasn't quite so fertile, temperate, or hospitable anymore - her response was slow, but after years of abuse, her counterattack took effect. The space-cities came to house most of humanity, but some adventurous hold-outs remained behind on what became something akin to the old American western frontier. Rough and tough, with land untamed and entire ghost cities.
I suppose there's nothing like impending doom to spur people to work together. When it was discovered with relative certainty that the sun was to go giant and envelop the Earth, all of humanity laboured to implement a solution. Great effort was taken to get the message to every last person on Earth: It's time to say goodbye to our old home, the one most of the space-dwellers had nearly forgotten. The ground-dwellers were to be given sanctuary in the polis of their choice. Those great spheres in space were to be blasted to a safe, calculated distance - close enough, though, to receive precious energy from the solar system's own nuclear reactor.
"This tired old planet," Bailey remarked, "maybe she's happy to go. Maybe she's a wrinkly old hag, scarred from beatings. Maybe she's going out with a sigh of relief."
"Poor, old girl." I got down on my frontside and spread my arms wide. I patted my hands comfortingly on the ground. "You poor, old girl."
Up in Cosmicopolis, things weren't so bad. Bailey and I were greeted as oddities - children gawked as we walked down the halls, everybody strove to be extra kind to the foreigners, and oh, I've never met someone from the ground, what's it like down there? The hospitality given to us went so far as to give us front row seats to see our old home die.
After an appropriate distance was reached, an entire quarter of the city was cleared out for the spectacle. Great screens were erected to show the telescope's views of the action - processed, of course, so that the light wasn't blinding. The clear walls of the sphere gave the naked eye a good look on the solar festivities, for those interested in astronomy.
For years, science had always argued that the sun's growth would either be explosive and catastrophic, or gradual and withering. That the sun could become a giant in one sudden, explosive event came as a surprise, but here we were, waiting to watch it. And then it began.
For what little they had cared for the ground on which many of them had never trodden, there was a surprising scarcity of dry eyes at seeing Antarctica laid bare for the first time in the history of life, or the oceans boiling away to reveal mountains and canyons never seen dry, for an instant, before melting, giving in to glorious immolation, and becoming part of the newly giant sun. Bailey buried her wet face in my shoulder, and I nearly sought a shoulder for myself. Not finding one, I opted for the window.
I'm going to miss her. Maybe she'll miss me, too.