By CR Hodges
Read by Mur Lafferty
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Originally appeared in On the Premises (2011)
All stories by CR Hodges
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated 15 and up for language
The first man to walk on the moon was a hero to five generations. The first woman to walk on Mars was forgotten even before her boots plunked into the red dust.
“Hey,” a husky voice said in the dark.
I ignored her: the Swedish hockey team was calling to me from the sauna.
“Anna-Jing.” Same voice. A large hand grasped my shoulder.
I was losing my battle to recapture the fading dream.
“Wake up,” commanded a new voice in a rich brogue, “now.”
I took a deep breath, tasting the dust in the cool air, then slowly opened my eyes. Pulling the threadbare blanket around me, I sat up in my hammock.
Kaiza, the first and likely last aboriginal Australian to teach planetary astrophysics at Stanford, gently removed her hand from my shoulder. “Trouble in Florida.”
“The launch isn’t today.” I said, still groggy. Our resupply rocket was scheduled to lift off from Cape Lee in a week. We needed this one—the last launch, from Kazakhstan, had crashed in West Korea.
“There won’t be a fecking launch,” said Mick, our mission commander. He gestured at the wall screen, which snapped to life. Grainy footage showed a giant rocket lying on its side like a beached whale, next to a familiar gantry. A dozen old pickups were parked beyond the shattered nosecone. Scores of horses and four oxen grazed nearby, a web of cables and ropes leading back to the rocket. A horde of men and women in shorts and tank tops, flip-flops and baseball caps, were prying metal panels from the side of the rocket. Hundreds more lay dead on the ground, interspersed with the bodies of gray vested soldiers.
“Where are the pitchforks and torches?” I asked. No reply.
A helicopter arrived, ten commandos zip lining to the ground just meters from the camera crew. Seventy looters went down in the first minute, but then flight after flight of arrows from unseen archers decimated the commandos.
“Goodbye freeze-dried steak and potatoes,” said Mick.
“Goodbye replacement mini reactor.” I pointed at the four oxen dragging a sledge with a brightly marked container the size of a large desk.
“Gotta crank the thermostat down again,” said Mick. He lumbered off to make it so.
The last image we witnessed before a sword crashed down on the camera lens was a line of children siphoning kerosene from the rocket’s fuel tank into buckets. Goodbye civilization.