by S Myers
Just a silly story about a man looking for love
|A Condo on the Beaches of Rhondor|
“It was a Saturday I saw the sun for the very last time.” Professor Dickerson spoke loud enough to be heard over the rain. “My sun, anyway. It was definitely a Saturday. I remember because it was the first day of spring. You don’t forget a day like that, especially when you know it to be your last on Earth.”
He glanced over at the pretty young woman nursing a frothing tankard on the stool next to him.
“As one of the leading members of the global science community, I had an example to set for the rest of humanity. Did I have doubts? Perhaps.” He stole another glance at the young woman. Still there.
“On that spring day, Earth’s leading lights marched aboard the first of the evacuation ships with nary a backward glance.” The young woman’s lids nictated with the slightest sluggishness in the left set. He sensed interest.
He cradled his drink and looked fondly around the aseptic and serviceable drinking establishment. It was early afternoon, his favorite time to drop by, and the place was predictably quiet with only a few patrons in the bar besides himself and his new acquaintance. An interesting race he’d never seen before sat pinkly quivering at a booth in the back. He must remember to make a note of them later. Fascinating.
He addressed the young woman again. “Unfortunately, the weather had been exceptionally good for several weeks prior to the evacuations--fresh, mild breezes, a deep blue sky dotted with those little fluffy clouds…” He shook his head. “Just our bad luck. I’m sure that explains the number of people--exaggerated by the media if you ask me--who snuck out of the embarkation camps in the weeks before the evacuation. Poor ignorant souls.” He paused and gently agitated his drink, watching angry bubbles burst to the surface.
“I still say we should have made evacuation mandatory right from the beginning, like the Chinese had. Or, perhaps have irradiated the populated areas as the North Koreans had advised.” He took a sip. Execrable.
“Anyway, that Saturday was exactly one year to the day the Yrtby landed on our planet. As one of the world’s preeminent astrophysicists, I was part of the advanced team to make first contact. Quite an honor.” He ventured a smile. “And one of the first to hear of Earth’s impending destruction.”
Her lips twitched provocatively.
“Our sun, serial #G2V896t00nq33a, your basic off-the-shelf yellow dwarf, should never have gotten past quality control. The Yrtby scientists explained to us that the whole batch was bad.” He shrugged. “It happens.”
He watched his drink creep up the sides of the glass before flicking a particularly curious tendril from the rim. The rain had picked up, spattering and fizzling on the metallic roof, drowning out the other conversations and patrons, isolating the two of them in a little pool of intimacy. He scooted his stool closer.
“Where was I? Oh, yes. The defect meant the sun was likely to explode within the next few years. Luckily, a blanket warranty covered any and all manufactured defects or failures for up to 9 billion years, with the option to purchase an extended warranty in hundred million year increments.”
His fetching friend chirped and rustled her vestigial wings.
“Yes, you’re right, of course. The standard manufacturer’s warranty--repair, replace or relocate.” He took another sip. Still execrable.
“Of course, as a man of science, I wasn’t interested in legal details. I demand hard evidence. We studied their data for months--telemetry, infrared, spectroscopy, acoustic interferometry. We ran computer simulations, compared their results with ours. And when we extrapolated the models out--”
His companion’s compact head swiveled 30 degrees toward the exit. He reached out and squeezed her hand. “I’ll skip the dull science lecture, my dear. Hard habit to break.”
Her mouth jerked broadly in understanding.
“Yes, we men of science had the burden of deciding the fate of billions of our fellow humans.” He fell silent for a few moments, overcome with emotion. “Of course, we chose relocation.”
He leaned in close to what he presumed was an ear. “I’m practically the one responsible for our decision to evacuate Earth.” He sat back and finished off the putrid liquid in one swift gulp, then waved the anthropoid bartender over for another. He was soon handed a fresh drink.
“Public opinion was against us at first,” he began again. “We commandeered every media outlet and mobilized trusted authority figures and celebrities to make the case for relocating. The evidence was overwhelming.”
He traced his finger over ancient condensation patterns on the bar’s dull, zinc surface. “Although, I have to admit, the global success of ‘A Better World for Our Children: White, Brown, and Green’ was more instrumental in changing opinions than the science was.” He sighed deeply and took a large swig of his drink before any more of it could escape.
“Funny, the Yrtby turned out to be quite adept at our social media--viral memes, influencers, followers. All gibberish to me. Not really my area of expertise.” He sank back into thought.
“Yes, people really took to those little guys. In fact, more than a few romances bloomed between human and Yrtby.” He swiveled and peered meaningfully into his lovely friend’s perfectly round, moist eyes. “Shows we’re all the same deep down, just looking for someone to love.” Was that a blush, a rash? Quite lovely.
“At any event, transportation craft were ordered, supplies assembled, embarkment dates assigned. I headed up the North American Department for Population Ranking and Relocation, a thankless job, I can tell you.”
Her scanty head bobbed sympathetically.
He coaxed out the last swallow of his drink with a fork and considered ordering a third one. Just then, a group of humans walked into the bar, caustic damp steaming off their protective outerwear. They threw angry glances in his direction while removing their gear and boots. Ah, he had lost track of time: shift change. Soon, the peaceful drinking establishment would be overrun with exhausted, irritable, hard-drinking humans.
“Perhaps we could have that third drink at my place, my dear.” He tentatively put an alcohol emboldened arm around his date’s waspish waist, watching the mouth--there’d been stories--but nothing ventured nothing gained, and suggested they watch the tide come in from his top floor condo with spectacular views of the equatorial-spanning acid ocean from every room. Plus, double full moons tonight.
She gave her eye a thoughtful lick, and twittered assent.
As he stood up, one of the men who’d come in shouldered him hard, knocking him back against the bar. The begrimed man growled, “You’ll get yours, Professor Dickweed.” The anthropoid barman whirred over, blades out, and the man disappeared into the motley crowd.
“I’m fine, Henry.” He straightened his bowtie and readjusted his glasses. “Just an accident, no harm done.”
“They blame me,” he explained, as he helped his slight companion off her stool. “As if I personally came to their homes, packed their luggage, and drove them to the embarkment camps. And I stand by the data. Those absurd rumors of a scam! Ridiculous. They should be thanking me.”
As they walked to the cloakroom, his date twittered charmingly about a situation quite similar to Earth’s back on her home planet.
“M’lady,” He offered her his arm, both arms now encased in impermeable fiber, and they exited the busy pub. Once outside, the acid rain hissed and sizzled pleasantly against their protective outerwear. They walked slowly along the peeling bioplastic pedestrian thoroughfare, past softly corroding storefronts and cafes, the pock-marked windows distorting their reflections as they passed. The boulevard was filling up with families and evening shift workers, each so bulkily swathed their origins were impossible to guess. The whole bustling scene was bathed in the soft red glow of the evening’s setting red giant.
“I admit it’s been an adjustment living here,” he shouted, struggling to make himself heard over the rain and through the facemask. “Not much grows. And the constant rain. We had that incident, more of a slaughter, really; a group of Chinese settlers had tried to eat a sentient plant species. We all learned from that one. But there’s plenty of work for everyone in the mines. The schools aren’t half bad. And I’ve heard the military is recruiting. Imagine the travel opportunities for our young people. Well, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you.”
A muffled chirrup made it out from her helmet.
They turned off the main street and made their way toward his complex--spiky rows of dulled, abraded metal structures. His building was the very last one, right on the beach. They walked arm-in-arm past tennis courts and BBQ pits, past rusting beach furniture put up for the season.
The moons had broken the horizon and cast a cool lavender light over everything. But he noticed none of it. He was aware only of the arousing pressure of his companion’s arm on his. Once safely under his building’s defensive overhang, he deftly removed both of their head gear and kissed her hard. She sighed and sank into his embrace.
Yes, he thought, life was pretty good here. No regrets.