Thousands of Years from Now
“See you later!” she called, not realizing it wasn’t true.
Going to an airport was never an activity chosen in and of itself. It was a necessary evil, something to be gotten over with, the price to pay for a vacation or some other required excursion to a far away place. The long lines, the embarrassing and possibly dangerous body scans, the invasive pat-downs, the examining of personal belongings.
None of that was happening today though. Yes, there were limits on what could be taken. There were even limits on who could go and when. But by and large this was far and away different than any wait at an airport. The line moved relatively fast, yet the atmosphere was calm. Not a pleasant calm, but a discomforting calm.
We knew this day was coming, most of us old enough to understand what was happening, that is. We had prepared ourselves physically but most of all mentally and emotionally. Everything that we thought mattered didn’t matter as much anymore. Now, our focus was on survival: what few things to bring to help us survive and forge a new life in a new place, as well a some personal mementos, mostly in digital form. There was no cloud to rely on where we were going.
As for basic computing and networking technology, the government took care of that. Representative pieces of hardware and software were already sent ahead, as well as tools, generators, medicine and other basic equipment. Solid state memory banks were also part of the first official shipment with most data ever accumulated, as well as the means to read various media for the preservation of both culture and individual’s personal digital collections, once a digital ecosystem was established and the ability rolled out to everyone, that is. Who knows how long it will take for us to get settled.
We woke up this morning, ate what will be our last real home cooked meal for a long time to say the least, got the few bags we could carry, carefully packed with the most important things we had and got in the car. Your mother tried to keep you calm and happy. It rubbed off on me and we acted just like it was any other day we were going for an outing.
I didn’t bother locking the door; I suspect none of our neighbors did either. The traffic was almost at a standstill, yet it moved slowly but surely. Things were urgent, but not so much that general civility was lost. The authorities said it would be fine for a while yet, that it’s better to go sooner rather than later and I agree. The sky was a little dark for this time in the early afternoon, but there was no sense in looking back.
The parking was crowded, but at least we didn’t have to worry about paying for it. People were generally orderly and polite although a general unease was growing. When all the regular spaces were taken, vehicles began stopping in other areas nearby. By the time we pulled up we were directed to the runway which was now being used for parking. The 737’s were all pulled out to the field anyway, rusting away after recent years of disuse.
Inside there were no gift shops, no fast food, no cable news broadcast on monitors in the waiting areas. There was no WiFi because there was no usable internet to connect to. This was no longer a place for paying customers, as government officials had taken over the building a little over a decade ago. There was electricity, but it was only enough needed to power the lights and some other essentials. Lights did I say? At two o’clock in the afternoon? You would think that they’d make full use of the built in sky lights at a time like this. But looking outside on my way upstairs, I could see that that wouldn’t do much good at this point.
Making our way to where the gates used to be, we gradually passed through what was left of the security checkpoints. As we waited in turn, the straight crowd in front of us was gradually clipped off, individual by individual and family by family, moving us closer down the line to our new life. Rounding the corner we finally caught a glimpse of the necessary abomination that would take us there, and had already taken millions.
Man had often talked about escaping to the stars, finding new solar systems with a planet that just enough approximated to Earth’s atmosphere to support human life, or at least tolerate it. After decades of research it became quite clear this option wasn’t really on the table. Even if they had ever succeeded in inventing space travel at the speed of light, we’d still be hard pressed to find a viable planet in any reasonable amount of time. Stabile, traversable wormholes were developed, but that wouldn’t do any good unless you had someplace to escape to. No suitable planets had yet been located, and no place left on Earth was fit for habitation, save for the few remaining pockets of civilization such as where we lived. No, the more they researched the more they realized one simple fact: Earth is where it’s at. The only safe place on Earth that was left was an Earth before the problems started. Time travel had been outlawed immediately upon it’s development, but changing circumstances called for this law to be ignored. Besides, they had recently performed tests that conclusively proved that activity in the past would not alter our present reality, therefore nullifying any fear of erasing our existence.
By now the large glass views by the gates were pitch black except for some some debris that would occasionally pummel the windowpanes. Only one or two lightbulbs were now working, just enough to get by, while all the power was directed where it was needed most. Daylight streamed into the room from the portal that was mounted where one of the gates used to be, and the people filed in one by one. Besides the electronic hum, the only sound was what seemed to be howling wind outside, growing ever more chaotic. Rumors were spreading that conditions had taken a nosedive when the building shook for just a second, followed by another shortly thereafter. All of a sudden someone yelled, “Women and children first!” Whether it was an official call or just a panicking civilian I’ll never know, but all I do know is that that’s the direction everyone took.
“See you later!” you called, not realizing it wasn’t true. I gave you a hug and kiss. I smiled, but I couldn’t bring myself to respond in kind, to say, “You too.” Whether I make it or not, it isn’t true. If I do see you, it won’t be later but earlier, millennia earlier. If I don’t see you, well, I didn’t make it. I’m giving this note to Mommy as we’re saying goodbye. I hope we can all read this together years from now under happier circumstances, maybe even have a good laugh about it. If you’re reading this without me, I want you to know that, from your perspective, thousands of years from now, in another timeline, there will be someone out there who loves you.
Jonathan Sabin is a human who was born in a year in a place to a family, and in his spare time he enjoys doing things and stuff.
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