WILL THE LAST PERSON TO LEAVE PLEASE TURN OUT THE SUN
by M. C. Rylee
Turning on the light to the small study, Aurora Farsinger looked around the room, her eyes stopping on the computer monitor which rested on a small desk. On the monitor there was a small icon that would flash before being followed by an insistent beeping before flashing once again. Sighing, she walked over to the monitor and touched icon on the screen.
She waited patiently for the connection to be established, hating how slow interstellar travel made any kind of connection to the net. While she waited, she tapped her foot impatiently on the floor for a few seconds before deciding to sit in the chair that rested in front of the computer. As she sank into the chair she wondered who it was that was trying to call her since she hadn’t bothered to check the caller ID. Her curiosity was rewarded a couple of seconds later (establishing the connection had only taken thirteen seconds) when an elderly face of a man filled the screen. His features were deeply carved with the ravages of time and hard work.
“Poppa,” Aurora said, her face visibly brightening as she saw the face of her grandfather on the screen. “I didn’t expect a call from you. I was expecting you to come walking into our quarters any minuet. Where are you? Do I need to come and get you? Are you having trouble navigating the ship?”
“Hello to you too young lady,” The old man said with an odd smile on his face that was almost sad. “To answer the questions that you bombarded me with… No, I am not having trouble navigating the ship and no, I don’t need you to come get me because I am not even on your ship.”
“What?” A look of disbelief crossed Aurora’s face. “Which ship are you on? How did you manage to get on the wrong ship? I know you aren’t so old that you would wander onto the wrong ship Poppa, you aren’t senile yet. Did you take too long packing? Is that what it is? I told David that we should have helped you pack your things…”
On the screen the old man looked as if he was trying to say something but after several minutes of listing to her continue to prattle on, he just shut his mouth and waited patiently.
“… but don’t worry Poppa, when we to Casteal we will wait for your ship to arrive so that we can help you unload and settle in before moving on to our new home.”
Aurora paused for just a second and the old man, sensing an opportunity spoke up before she could catch her breath.
“Aurora,” He said a little sharper than he intended too. “I am not on a ship heading to Casteal.”
“You not only got on the wrong ship but you got on one that was heading to the wrong planet?”
“No child, you misunderstand me. I should have just come right out and said it before you ever left Earth but the fact of the matter is… I am not on a ship at all.”
“I said I am not on a ship. I am still on Earth.”
“What do you mean you’re still on Earth? Did you not get to the port in time?”
“No child, I did not even try.”
“But we had made arrangement weeks in advance to for all of us to leave together and start a new life on Casteal considering the situation with Earth.”
“No, you and your husband decided that, I had no say in the matter. I never wanted to leave, after all, this is where my dear sweet Lilly is and I don’t want to die on a planet far away from her. Look around me…”
The camera shifted and the face disappeared from the screen as it panned around showing the area where the old man was at. Everywhere the camera panned, Aurora could see gravestones jutting out of the dry dusty soil that held them. The one closest to the old man was clearly meant to have two names etched upon it but only had one name that was carved into it on the right hand side of the stone. The scene on the screen swung back, once again revealing the old man who had a sad look on his face.
“You see child,” The old man began. “Here I am among many of the people that have left me behind, left me to grow old and withered, abandoned to the whims of my children who, instead of treating me like a person, treated me like a burden to be shucked off to someone else in the cheapest nursing home.
“Hush child,” he said sharply as Aurora opened her mouth to protest. “I am not passing judgment on you, you just did what you thought was best, but you never really took my feelings into consideration. Kind of like this migration to one of these new planets that they are supposed to have terra-formed and ready to be populated, you never asked me if I wanted to go, you just made plans for me without ever considering how I felt.”
“You should have talked with David and Me before doing a fool thing like this Poppa,” Aurora said, scolding the old man.
“Child,” the old man said sharply, “Don’t take that tone with me. I have tried to talk to you and your husband about this repeatedly over the course of the years since your Nana died, you just never bothered to hear what I had to say. You and David wrote me off after putting me in that home. You figured that you could just dictate how my life without my say so because you thought you knew better than me when it came to my own life.”
The old man on the screen sighed and closed his eyes while taking a deep breath and holding it. He sat there motionless for several minutes before opening his eyes and continuing.
“I know you were just doing what you thought was best, I do, but you never took how I felt into consideration. I never asked to go to that Home. I was perfectly fine in the Apartment that I had shared with your Nana before she died. When you took that away from me, it not only felt like you were casting me aside, it felt like you were trying to strip me of all that I had left to tie me to Lilly.
“My dear, sweet Lilly, how I miss you,” the old man said as he looked over his shoulder at the gravestone beside him. A tear shimmered on his cheek as he turned back toward the screen.
“Child… No. Aurora, I know that life hasn’t been easy for you, especially since your parents died and you had to come live with us. Making that transition was not easy for anyone, Lilly and I suddenly had a child to care for again while you had to live in a stuffy antiquated apartment with your grandparents while mourning the loss of your parents. Your Nana and I did our best to make sure you were provided for and had everything that a growing girl needed. We struggled to make sure that you had the best life you could and over all I think we did rather well. You grew up to be a beautiful woman who married a kind and intelligent man. You have your own family to take care of and for some reason you thought you needed to take care of me as well even though I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.
“Ever since the T.E.A.R.S. project was announced over ninety years ago to the public, I knew it was something that my children and my children’s children would benefit from. Honestly, I never expected to see Casteal or any of the other planets that they have prepared for the human race since I figured at the time that I would be dead long before the ships meant to take mankind to that distant planet were ready. Now that the time has come to leave this beautiful planet that I have called home all of my life, I don’t want to leave. I have so many fond memories here, all of my life is here, and the woman that I dedicated myself to is here. I’m too old to go make a life on another planet and I want to die here, on the planet that I call home. Chances are, I wouldn’t even survive the journey to Casteal anyway due to how many years that is going to take.”
“Aurora, I waited to call you like this because I knew that you needed to be well on your way to your new home before you knew where I was. I know that you would have tried to find some way to rescue me,” he said, making air quotes as he said the word rescue. “I couldn’t have you potentially jeopardizing your life or the lives of others over me. I have had a full life and remaining here is my decision. Please, you can be angry with me but don’t mourn me, I am happy and content.”
“Poppa, I am angry at you,” Aurora said, her face a mask of fury. “How could you do this… this… this selfish act? I can’t believe you would just abandon me like this. You telling me that I never took how you felt into consideration, well I did. I didn’t like having to put you in that Home, Poppa, but we did it because we couldn’t be there all the time to make sure nothing happened. You were alone in that apartment and there was no telling what might have happened to you at your age. You could have fallen and broken something then not been able to call for help. We placed you in that Home for your safety and you will never know the financial sacrifices we had to make to keep you there. We were only looking out for you.
“Now you just up and decide that you are going to stay behind on Earth after we spent the money that we earned to make sure that you have a place on one of the ships evacuating the system so that you wouldn’t die when the sun…” Aurora’s voice trailed off as the angry dropped from her face and tears began to well up in her eyes. She turned away from the monitor, shoulders shaking as she cried softly to herself, not wanting her grandfather to see her tears.
“Aurora, I know that this decision has hurt you and for that I truly am sorry. I am. If I could make it up to you I would but we both know that is impossible. I love you and I only want the best for you, I hope that one day you will see that.”
The old man grew silent and Aurora turned back toward the monitor where the old man was now looking up at the sky.
“It’s so beau-“ He said as a brilliant flash of white filled the screen and his words were cut off. Static followed a brief second later before switching to a black screen with the flashing message…