The Dark and Shadowy Places

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The Griefstruck Earth

Usually you don’t remember specific days. At least I don’t. But I’ll remember last Saturday for the rest of my life. It started out like any other Saturday. I was walking down the sidewalk toward the bus stop, minding my own business and avoiding looking at anyone too closely, when two…people, I couldn’t tell if they were men or women, they were wearing all black with their faces and hair hidden by balaclavas, grabbed me by the arms and dragged me into a large glass building that I’d walked past a million times before and never really given a second glance.

I hadn’t even had time to scream. I heard the sound of the doors sealing hermetically behind me as I went through the first set of doors, cutting off the outside, before stepping through the second layer of doors into pristine controlled air and before I knew it, I was being marched briskly down sterile narrow white hallways. I was about to open my mouth, to question my abductors when they shoved me into a dimly lit room and my courage that had started to come up was squashed back down again. My eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the sudden change in light. I vaguely made out a large circular table, a dark hole in the middle of the room. Around the table sat people I could barely make out in the darkness. They wore all black, like my captors, but I could see their eyes, glinting dully in the small amount of light that shone in through a narrow window in the far corner of the room. I pressed a button on the side of my goggles and the room brightened.

One of the figures around the table, opposite me, stood up. “Welcome to GES,” he said, in a soft voice that was somehow commanding at the same time smiling widely, his teeth brilliant white in contrast to his dark skin.

I opened my mouth and then closed it again. I didn’t know who he was or why I was here. I removed my respirator that I hadn’t even had a chance to remove once I’d been taken inside. “What?” I said lamely.

Another voice piped up. I didn’t see who said it, but it was female. “The Griefstruck Earth Society.”

I didn’t want to sound dumb, but I couldn’t help it. “Um, what?” I repeated.

The man who had stood up replied, echoing the woman. “This is the Griefstruck Earth Society.” I could see his arm gesturing to the people sitting around the table.

“Okay,” I said, drawing out the word. “I don’t know what that is, or why I’m here.”

“We heard you know about Earth.”

I laughed. I didn’t know about Earth any more than anyone did. Not really. Just what you could glean from books. They had transferred all the books in history into digital code, just before the end, thankfully. But I knew you couldn’t really know something just from reading about it.

Sure, I taught the local high school kids about it, what it used to be like, when we used to live on it. It was hard to get past the glazed-eye looks my students gave me in class. They didn’t want to learn about some place none of them had been to, or could ever get to. It was little more than a chunk of rock now, with its atmosphere stripped away to nothing. So why were we still teaching about it? It was ancient history. It had been at least two centuries since people had been on earth, since the evacuation in the mid-21st Century. Even though the cities that we lived in mirrored those on Earth, it still wasn’t the same. I knew that. I knew it every time I looked up at the watery sulphur yellow of our sky, through my protective goggles. I knew it from the thick coated glass of our buildings, to help reflect some of the light, and protect from the harsher pollutants in our atmosphere.

“I don’t know anything about it,” I admitted. “I’m just a teacher.”

“But you specialised in the 21st century, did you not?” said a man next to the leader.

“Yes, but-”

“We have a plan. You know Islands? We’re trying to terraform one so it’ll be an Earth-Twin.”

The islands. Large masses of so-called land made of what my mother used to call ‘moon rock’ when I was a little girl. Even though our world didn’t have any satellites like Earth’s moon. It was light, airy, volcanic stone and in our atmosphere the large slabs of rock floated miles above the planet’s surface.

One of the larger ones was where the World Government was. The World Government was its own small city. There were no individual rulers, no separate countries, nothing as interesting as it was on Earth.

“We need to convince the World Government that we can build another Earth.”

I stared wide-eyed and open mouthed at the collection around the table. My hand rose to my mouth in shock. “Why in the world would you want to do that?”

“Because-” the woman who spoke before began. I saw her now, a slim blond woman. Her respirator, like the others, hung loosely around her neck. Her goggles were darkened so I couldn’t see her eyes.

“It’s a fool’s errand,” I spat. “Why would you want to replicate Earth? You obviously know absolutely nothing about it. If you did, you wouldn’t want to rebuild it. We’ve moved on from it. We’ve moved past the atrocities that we humans caused back then. Before we were forced to leave. We left because we messed up, and we couldn’t undo it. Why would you want to put people through that again?” I was dumbfounded. It was ridiculous. “You shouldn’t even have this society,” I said plainly. “We shouldn’t grieve for Earth, we should grieve for us, if anything.”

I turned to leave and went to put my respirator back on in preparation. The two who had grabbed me off the street blocked my way.

“It’s too late,” The dark skinned man with the commanding voice said. “We’ve already started. And we’ve hired you as our Chief Advisor.”

I turned slowly. “We?”

“We are the Governor’s main advisory committee,” someone in the room explained.

“But why?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” The blond woman said, her eyes unreadable behind her dark visor.

I shook my head.

“We’ve already failed here. We tried to make this Earth version 2, but it’s already dying. We need to start again. We need to get it right, this time.”

My shoulders drooped and I smiled sadly. “You don’t understand,” I said quietly. “I don’t think we’re capable of ever getting it right.” I shoved myself between the two black clothed members and walked purposefully down the white hallway, adjusting my face mask before opening the doors to the outside world. What was left of it.

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