Anna blinked rapidly. She looked around and saw Johnny smiling at her.
“Where were you just now?” He said as he went back to fixing his tie. “We’re going to be late for our dinner with the Kawamuras. They’re already on their way, sweetpea.”
“Nowhere. I just remembered something,” she replied. She turned to face the mirror. Her left eye had mascara while the other one was still bare.
“Yeah? What did you remember?” Johnny went to her, kissed her on the top of the head, then went to the sock drawer.
“A dream, I think, or maybe a memory,” Anna started applying mascara to her other eye. “I’m not quite sure.”
“What’s it about?”
“I can’t really tell. It’s about a lot of things. Fragments, you know? Puzzle pieces that don’t all belong to the same puzzle. I don’t know if I’m making any sense,” Anna said laughing.
“What’s this dream about?” Johnny said. “Dear? Black socks or blue?”
“The black one,” Anna said.
“Right. So, about your dream or memory.”
“They’re hard to recall. It’s like trying scoop water using your hands. They spill through the gaps. But there’s one memory that’s the most vivid. It was New Year’s Eve. This was still back in Old Earth.”
Johnny was done putting on his socks and he was now just staring at Anna, listening.
“There were fireworks, people shouting, and counting down. This was right before the first barrage of asteroids.”
“I remember being in Thailand at that time,” Johnny cut in.
“Everyone was shouting, everyone was happy,” Anna continued. “Six. Five. Four. Three. Then people started pointing towards the sky. Celebration became pandemonium as the stars began to fall. It started out slow but quickly picked up pace. The asteroids fell by the hundreds. They weren’t big, not at all, but it was the sheer number of them that was the problem. The man ran with the others.”
“All of these came from a dream?” Johnny asked.
“I…yeah, I think so. It couldn’t have been my memory. I don’t remember myself being in that place during New Year’s eve.”
Johnny helped Anna up. “You’ve got some imagination.”
“Now, come on. Mr. Kawamura doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
Hope XLV, one of the seedships transporting humanity, serenely floated in space like a ponderous titanium mammal in a sea of black. Neil was one of the many individuals tasked to guide Hope XLV to mankind’s new home planet. Presently, the seedship was making good time. They’d be arriving ahead of schedule – two years earlier than expected, to be precise. Neil walked down Section 32 of Level 15, his footsteps echoed down the passageway, inspecting every single hibernation pod. Each pod contained a single human put under artificial hibernation. The nutrients needed by the body were being pumped into them through narrow tubes scattered across their arms. His job was to check on the status of the hibernation pods (all five thousand of them). He’d look into one, inspect the readings of the pod, then he would input them in his tablet.
Today was his favorite day of pod checking. Today was when he’d be checking pods 1000 to 1500.
Neil stopped in front of Pod 1219 (as he always did every single night that he checked pods 1000 to 1500). Inside was a girl with brown hair, a slightly pointed chin, and a slightly upturned nose. Neil’s tablet indicated the girl’s name was Anna.
“Hi, Anna,” Neil said. He pocketed his tablet and sat down, cross-legged, in front of the pod. “How’re you today?”
Neil checked his watch. Seven minutes. He had seven minutes until Toby would radio him asking why the data from the pods stopped coming.
“You look as beautiful as always.” Anna remained silent (as she did every single night Neil would come talk to her). Neil cleared his throat. The sound echoed down the long, austere corridor. It was a cold place and Neil could see his own breath whenever he exhaled.
He wasn’t really supposed to be the one assigned to Section 32 of Level 15. Samir was the original pod checker of that section and Neil was originally stationed at Level 15’s Section 25. It wasn’t until two months ago, when Samir asked Neil to cover for him, that Neil first walked the corridors of Section 32 and it wasn’t until his fourth day in Section 32 did Neil meet Anna. It was love at first sight. Neil begged Samir for a swap, which, fortunately for Neil, Samir agreed to.
“Have I told you about the night the stars fell down?” Neil asked. “I was in a New Year’s countdown party. Everyone was out celebrating,” Neil checked his watch. Five minutes. “I was celebrating alone before the sky fell on humanity. I vividly remember the very first one landing on a building not far from where I stood. It was chaos. I ran as fast as I could without knowing where I was running to. I didn’t know what was happening then all I know is that if I stopped running I would die. Everywhere there were explosions. I didn’t know how far I ran, the only thing I remember next was barging into this two-story house. I know it’s pretty useless. If an asteroid fell down on that house, we’ll all be dead. But at that time it felt like the safest thing to do, you know? I turned around and there’s this kid, probably no more than eight years old, looking at me, and he was all alone in this house with the TV turned on very loudly.
Neil’s tablet started beeping. He looked into it and saw Toby’s name on the screen. “Ah, shit,” Neil pressed a finger on the tablet. Toby’s face flickered on the screen.
“What the hell, Neil? Are you slacking off again?” Toby’s rotund face, cheeks red to bursting, filled up the tablet’s monitor.
“I’m with the hibernation pods, Tobes,” Neil showed Toby the numerous hibernation pods that lined the dark corridor.
“Then why the fuck did the data stopped?”
“Glitch,” Neil answered.
“Glitch my a–” Neil dropped the vidcall before Toby could finish. He took one last look at Anna, contemplated on going in for a kiss, decided not to, and walked on to the next hibernation pod.
Akio slid open his window and carefully climbed out on the roof. It was cold but it didn’t matter since he had on his Batman hoodie. He could hear the TV blasting from downstairs which meant only one thing: the babysitter was with her boyfriend again, probably making out. Normally, Akio would be storming downstairs and threatening the babysitter that he’d be telling on her. Not tonight though. Tonight the sky deserved all of his attention. It was the first time he saw it filled with so many stars. They looked like diamonds scattered in the darkness. Akio imagined himself grabbing a handfu– Wait, what was that? Akio was sure he saw a shooting star. Shooting stars meant wishes! Akio closed his eyes tight.
“I–I wish for mom,” he whispered into the New Year’s Eve air.
Akio opened his eyes and saw three more shooting stars zip down from the sky. Akio couldn’t believe his luck. Three more wishes!
Eyes closed, he breathed out: “Dad wouldn’t go out on any more dates with strange girls. No more babysitters and their boyfriends who loved to kiss. No more Chase who loved bullying me in school.”
Then the sound of explosions entwined with shouting from afar, the ground rumbling. Akio stood up and hurriedly climbed back into his room. He looked out and saw more and more stars fell down. These weren’t stars. No, he read somewhere in a book. Asteroids. He watched one fall not more than seven blocks away from their house. It exploded. Akio screamed. He ran out of the door and down the stairs but the babysitter was no longer there. The boyfriend was gone too. He was alone. The world outside was all noise. Akio went under the table and tried very hard not to cry. Where was his dad?!
Another explosion. This time it sounded, it felt, much closer to their home. He heard the front door open and close. Dad? He scurried out from under the table only to find a man he didn’t know. They looked at each other. The man was drenched with sweat and his face was smeared with black. He was breathing heavily.
“Who are you?” Akio asked.
“Where’re your parents?”
Akio shook his head.
“OK…OK,” the man peeked out the window, then knelt in front of Akio, “we’ll be OK. We’re going to be OK.”
Akio somehow believed the man. He nodded.
“What’s your name?” The stranger asked.
“Akio. Akio Kawamura,” the boy replied.
Made for and originally posted at The Short Stories Club. Jun 2015. Wish.