Weekly Photo Challenge: “Forward” and Beyond

Our friends over at the Daily Post have struck again. This weekly photo challenge literally caught my eye and while I have previously abstained from jumping into the fray, something about this idea of “forward” tugged on my speculative fiction bone. To that end, I offer the following untitled piece for your reading pleasure.

I can’t believe I’m going. Since childhood, the idea of leaving home had always sat, hidden away, in the deep recesses of my heart; I was tired of my relatives and of all things home. No one there had aspired to do more than work the same blue-collar jobs, getting the same retirement benefits, watching the same sports teams as their parents and grandparents before them; year after year, the same arguments ensued but only from the mouths of younger generations. They thought I was crazy for not wanting that; after a while, I stopped talking about it, not wanting to end up like Joseph and his dreams. I learned to keep my dream safe but never forgot it, determined to one day make it come true.

I was no scholar but I got good marks all through school. I was the joke of the family, opting for the top track in secondary school rather than vocational or business like all my other relatives. Who do you think you are? they would all sneer from time to time. So, you’re better than us, yeah? With all those books you’ll have a hard time down at the mill when it’s time for you to get a job, they’d throw over shoulders as often as possible. They stopped saying it but continued laughing when I took an after-school job not at the mill but at the library, spending my days helping primary school children check out books for the first time. I came home with book dust on my shoulders, while my siblings and cousins came home with coal, oil, or steel dust on theirs. They seemed proud to be continuing the decimation of our remaining atmosphere and saw me as daft for not wanting to do the same thing with my life; Eh, they’d cough over tea, little retirement for you from that book factory, yeah? Don’t come cryin’ to any of us when you are old and can’t keep yourself in milk because you were too goody-goody to work at the mill. My work to decimate ignorance and develop a love of the written word in children was seen as a waste of time to them all, rather than possibly the only thing that might help save the human race.

And then the letter came. I told no one, keeping it tucked in my jumper and away from prying eyes. There would be 20 of us on the first trip; we would go ahead of the children to prepare the schools, farms, and libraries. The primary scientists were already there, having done the initial terraforming; the end was nearing and time was growing short. The goal would be to start over, to create again a more agrarian society with limited dependence on the habits that had basically killed this world. The letter said we couldn’t tell of the horror to come and any letters sent home by rocket after we’d arrived would be read before delivery; that was no burden for me since I had no problem keeping secrets. The family was at breakfast when the private car pulled up out front. Mother started crying when I came with my bags and opened the door for the soldier who was there to pick me up; he gave me five minutes to say good-bye and I promised I’d be in touch when I could, that I was off to do some special work for the library. My siblings and cousins laughed, ribbing one another and whispering about how I was probably on my way to prison for embezzlement or something. I hugged Mother close, inhaling the scent of her hair deeply; I’d probably never smell it again. I quickly whispered to her I’m living my dream, Mum; please be glad for me. I love you and quickly moved out the door before she could see my tears. In my mind, I saw her, Da, the house, everything in the neighborhood melting away on a planet buckling under the strain of its own ruined climate, encouraged to flame by a sun gone supernova. I shook my head quickly as I got into the back of the car and waved as cheery a good-bye as I could muster.

Credit: simsburylibrary.info

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