It’s funny to think of the day it all was over. It almost makes me laugh to wonder what would have happened if things had gone just a little nit differently. If we could have prevented the horrible events of the following day. Now that I think of it, there could’ve been people who knew what was coming weeks before. It makes me shiver to think someone could have walked past me who knew.
The day started like any other. I woke up to PeneLope’s loud dinging alarm. I tried to pull up my soundproof shield but my hand wouldn’t listen to me. I sighed huffily and got out of bed.
“Shut up, PeneLope!” I yelled, covering my ears. The little robot immediately complied.
“Good morning, Saturn,” she hummed, “The planet’s temperature today is as normal, 75 degrees Fahrenheit. AliCe has created a lovely variety of meals for you this morning. Would you like to specify your preference now?”
“Yeah,” I yawned, watching the hologram flash in front of me. Colourful breakfasts hovered in front of me as I stared blearily at them. Eventually, I decided on a bowl of cereal. The 3D printed stick hissed from PeneLope and I snapped it off, popping it into my mouth.
Chewing the stick, I felt the cold flavour of milk frothing around my mouth and the sweet taste of my favourite cereal flavour. I clumped down the virtual stairs and rolled my eyes as I heard the crashing wafting from the sitting area.
My caretaker was a young woman of about 20 who had bought me and my brother, Rocket, from a child dealer in England when we were three months old. Like most children, we never met our birth parents since they had been sent to Pluto after breaking Earth’s sacred law forbidding having any children – the planet was terribly overpopulated and basically a wasteland.
My caretaker has strawberry-blond hair and sparkly green eyes, a shocking contrast to my shock of curly black hair and brown eyes. She was kneeling down underneath a robot that was hunched over in the center of the room. I watched amusedly as she kicked it angrily and warning lights flashed all over it.
“Has HannAh broken again?” I asked. My mother nodded ruefully.
“What a waste,” she mumbled, pulling her long hair into a ponytail, “Well, this gives me a good excuse to get AstRid now.” I nodded, looking at the broken robot.
“MeLody!” my caretaker called. A large, bulky device clunked into the room, buzzing with excitement. She hardly ever got a job, as I knew, since robots rarely broke down as HannAh had.
“Can you bring HannAh to the incinerator?” my caretaker asked. The robot nodded dutifully, sinking its sharp pincers into the side of the sleeping machinery. I watched as it whirred out of the room, ready to deliver the hunk of metal to its death.
My brother dashed into the room, his messy black hair poking out at different angles. His pale face was flushed and his brown eyes were glinting with excitement.
“Good morning, Caretaker and Saturn,” he blurted, eager to spill his discovery.
“Good morning, Rocket,” our caretaker laughed, “What do you want to tell us?” He exploded with the answer.
“My friend Astro got to visit the Apollo launch yesterday!” he jabbered, “Can we go? I prepped the Lark before I came down and Starr said she could come too if we go and -“
“Slow down!” our caretaker replied, “Why do you need to see the moon landing? Humanity didn’t know anything back then.”
“But I want to see how excited it made everyone,” Rocket explained, “They were all so happy to be able to change planets. Not like now.” I rolled my eyes.
“Rocket,” I told him, “the moon isn’t a planet. It’s a satellite.”
“You know what I mean,” he scoffed. Our caretaker considered him for a moment.
“Are you ok with being alone for a couple hours, Saturn?” she asked, “I’m going to go grab the new robot.” I shrugged but internally shrieked with delight at the prospect of being alone.
“Sure,” our caretaker replied. Rocket squealed and jumped up and down quickly. He started to bolt towards the phone but our caretaker stopped him.
“Only if Planet comes too,” she told him. Rocket drooped.
“Awwww,” he whined, “No fair. Planet is SO booooooorrrrrrrring….” I smirked and grabbed the call disk that was glinting from the table. I quickly zipped upstairs before Rocket or our caretaker could notice.
I ran into my room, pressing the button that caused a sheet of soundproof material to slide into the door frame. I slipped the disk into my slot in the wall and watched the call pad light up the room. I quickly punched in a few numbers and smiled as my friends Starling’s happy face blinked into being.
“Hey Saturn,” she chirped, “What’s up?”
“Not much,” I replied casually, “I was just wondering if you wanted to come over for a minute. Rocket’s going out on the Lark and our caretaker is going shopping for a new bot, so we’d have the house to ourselves.”
“Sounds fun,” Starling replied, “Let me just see if our CyBil is around to drop me off. My caretakers are out too,” she explained, disappearing from the camera. A few moments later, her face reappeared.
“I’ll be there in five,” she said with a wink. The scene faded into my wall. I sat staring at the place where my friend’s face had been, a smile lingering on my face.
“Bye Saturn!” I heard my caretaker’s voice echo up the stairs, “Rocket and his friend have already left. I should be back around 4. You good?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “Have fun!” I heard our RoSe scan her face with a quiet hum and the door slid open and closed in a second. I collapsed back onto my mattress, breathing in the imitated air. I cringed.
Earth was seen as the dump of the solar system – centuries ago, humans had destroyed it; overpopulation, climate change and pollution led it to become a place that was barely holding on, with strict laws and scientist-regulated air.It had always embarrassed me to tell her friends that I was from Earth. At first, they barely stifled their giggles but soon they accepted my flaw. But it was that first reaction that terrified me. I just wanted to be seen as a normal teenager – not the kid from Earth.
Starling was from Pluto, the coolest planet ever. In fact, Starling was about the coolest child this side of Make-Make. I couldn’t believe I had been let into Starling’s exclusive friend group – this made me feel officially cool.
We’re only here for a couple more weeks, I reminded myself, then it’ll be back to where you belong.
I may have been born on the garbage-planet but I had spent most of my life living on Saturn. I love it there – the biting winds, wispy clouds, thin atmosphere… you could always see the stars. I had lived there until I was ten, then moved to Mars. Until I was fourteen, I had survived Mars but it was never to my taste. I was so happy when we moved back to Saturn.
We had been vacationing on Venus and had stopped at Earth as our pitstop – it was a long flight back to Saturn, even with the newest generation of bots. It was ugly, burnt and smelly but, luckily, we wouldn’t be there for much longer.
With a jolt, I sat up, the sound of the doorbell ringing in my ears.
“Coming!” I shouted, stumbling down the stairs. I threw myself at the door, pressing a button. I put on a winning smile as it slid open to reveal Starling’s shining face.
Starling was curvy with a slim form and long, delicate limbs. She was extremely pale and her face was plastered with sticky makeup. I had always wanted to wear makeup like her but whenever I put it on, my eyes stung, my face felt hot and my lips dried out.
Her hair was long and wavy. Today, the waterfall of blond locks was slung over her shoulder in a twirl of shine. She finished the look perfectly with a casual grin and fluttering eyelashes.
“Hey girl!” she quipped.
“Hi,” I replied, “You wanna come up to my room?”
“Sure,” Starling said. She looked around quickly, then leaned in. “I’ve got something super important to tell you,” she hissed.
My mind raced as we scaled the stairs. Something important? What could it be? And why, with all of her friends, was Starling telling me? We bounced onto my bed, asked PeneLope to open the blinds and I listened eagerly for her news.
“So?” I asked intently, “What’s the news?”
“You know that new guy on ‘Space Race’?” she whispered. My excitement dissolved.
“Yeah?” I replied, trying to sound interested, although I thought ‘Space Race’ was the dumbest show ever – all that happened was the girls had to be saved by the big, strong guys. Yawn.
“I’m crushing on him,” Starling blurted then fell into a fit of nervous giggles, waiting for my response.
“Oh,” I said, “Cool.”
“Come on, Saturn,” Starling prodded, “You know you like him too.” My blood ran cold and I could feel my face burning.
“Absolutely not,” I assured her, wishing my cheeks didn’t look like tomatoes. Starling cackled with laughter.
“You totally do!” she screeched.
“Do not,” I huffed, crossing my arms, “Anyway, where are your caretakers?”
“Oh, they’ve gone to watch the destruction of Earth,” Starling said casually, curling a string of hair around her finger, “They say it makes them realize how lucky we are to be alive, or something.” I nodded.
“It’s kind of weird how people go back in time to watch disasters mostly,” I noted thoughtfully, “Why not go see the good stuff?”
“I guess it’s not as interesting,” Starling replied.
That’s just the problem, I thought sadly, We find terrible stuff interesting.
Suddenly, the groud shook violently. I clung to the bed as the Earth seemed to quake in its space boots. I looked at Starling, whose eyes were lit with terror and tried to pat her shoulder but I couldn’t seem to move my hand.
“PeneLope!” I shouted. No reply. I crawled towards the window and manually drew the blinds, looking at the ground for a sign of what was causing this horrible shaking feeling. All I saw was people crowding the streets, staring up at the clouds. At first, I thought they were looking at me but when I tilted my head, I realized they weren’t.
A haze of Larks was hovering, just above the atmosphere, their headlights unblinking, watching the scene quietly with their piercing stare. I couldn’t tell whose faces were hidden beneath the gold-tinted windshields but there were thousands. They covered any hint of the sun and as the temperature regulators failed, the Larks hovered, not doing anything to help.
And the planet took its final breath, settling into a sleep that would last forever…