Contest #232 shortlist ⭐️

11 comments

Sad Science Fiction Teens & Young Adult

This story contains sensitive content

Trigger warnings: main character death, murder, implied suicide.

           The sun was always there, and it was an unsung luxury to not have to think about it. I wish I knew enough about it to tell you why we started to. I wish I had known enough about it to do something. Maybe I did. Maybe we all did.

           The concern began long before I was born: Global Warming. Always talked about in big, important letters, everywhere that I ever saw it written. The story goes: we, humans, were producing carbon emissions by the boatload, filling the air with it. It was trapping heat in, and we preferred to deny it rather than stop it. After decades of sweeping it under the rug, trying only a few tiny changes in a few tiny places, a real, big solution was offered.

           A Dutch engineer (their name, once plastered across the entire face of the earth, was wiped away with the rest of the mess) developed a complex and expensive method of converting CO2 (those carbon emissions) into O3—pure Ozone. It was clunky, complicated, unrefined, and cheaper than most green energy alternatives.

           Every major company had adopted an Ozone converter by my 10th birthday. It was cheaper than going “green,” and we began to call it “going orange.” Instead of spilling CO2 into the atmosphere, all our favorite corporations were rebuilding the Ozone layer one product at a time. The economy boomed as people consumed voraciously and without guilt, resolutely buying back the earth’s atmosphere.

           It was too much before anyone had the sense to check, I think. There isn’t a lot of information about the part where things got very bad very quickly, and I think the world was denying it all in a very different way. By the time I met the only person I would ever fall in love with, everything was colder. Darker.

           I met him on a day in early May, when he wanted to borrow my jacket. He was cold, and I was too, but he had soft-looking curls draping down over his forehead. I gave him the jacket.

           Some time after, he offered me one of his jackets in place of my own, which he could not yet return because he hadn’t washed it yet. I didn’t mind if he didn’t wash it, but I wanted to wear his. It was still cold out.

           That same summer, still wearing each other’s jackets, we went to lunch and a movie. Everyone spoke quietly by then, as if there was something nobody wanted to say. Or something nobody wanted to hear. Maybe both. Probably both, but the movies were still showing, and the diners were still open. Everything was still open, like no one could admit that things were going too far in the other direction. We had lunch, and we spoke quietly, not talking about it either. We talked about how nice it might be to go away together for a weekend, or live together. When our hands brushed over the table, we didn’t talk about that.

           Our hands brushed often in the months that followed, and we didn’t talk about it. The world began to talk about other things as cars started to drive with their headlights on at all times. They began to burn large forests, trying to produce some heat and CO2. It was like breathing on your own hands in the cold.

           Companies started to remove their Ozone converters, but the system was clunky, complicated, unrefined, and expensive to get rid of. Many companies released year-long plans to slowly decrease their use of the converters.

           Everything was cold, dark, and burning. The world denied it because the world still had things to do, and I denied it for much of the same. Things couldn’t have been ending, not yet, because I still had things to say to him. We grew on each other as the earth grew worse, and the two started to feel inseparable from each other. We would deny it all as one, and we would end as the world did.

           When the illusion broke, it broke like a dam. On the news, the anchors lost their TV voices. They spoke crooked and long, echoing ‘what a shame, what a shame,’ as if it was already over. Scientists interrupted with frantic, direct calls to action. The boy with the curls across his forehead said that they faced it because the world still had things to do. I told him that they only tried to do something because they were afraid to face that they could do nothing.

           On that subject, we always had something to talk about. We couldn’t seem to agree which way the rest of the world would fall once it was done burning down. He spoke of plans and hope and change, and sometimes he spoke of these things until his eyes filled with cold tears. Once, I interrupted him, and I kissed him. It was the first time I had done that. He didn’t speak anymore about anything, and he wiped his cold tears with cold hands, and he kissed me back.

           There were plans, it seemed. Only a handful of years after I first gave him my jacket, the world, and us with it, were ushered into shelters. The shelters were heated and run with fossil fuels, burning and pumping CO2 into the sky. They projected that between the shelters and their other ‘action steps,’ we could be back on a normal earth within a decade. Maybe a while longer.

           He and I got to share a room in the shelter. Living together, like we talked about when no one was talking about anything.

“This isn’t how I wanted this to happen,” I said, brushing a stray hair from his face. We were close enough that I could feel his soft breaths against my lips; the beds were small, and neither one of us was going to be able to sleep alone. He moved a bit closer anyway.

“Me neither,” he said, and his hand came up to rest on my shoulder. My eyes ran over his face, tracing all the beautiful details I’d memorized so long ago. I wondered what it would have been like to know him when the sun was still bright in the sky. I imagined I had. I imagined amber shapes dancing across his cheeks, dipping around the bridge of his nose. I imagined holding him in the burning light of the early morning, up in the grass. A shame. A crying shame.

“I should have told you before everything fell this way,” I said quietly. I looked into his eyes, and they were warm, loving. A grin caught my lips without warning me, and I leaned my forehead against his, whispering to him. “I had a plan, some few years ago. I wanted to take you to that diner you liked, by the edge of our neighborhood. The one with the vegetarian stuff.” My nose wrinkled, and he laughed, soft and sweet. My hand traced his jaw reverently, and I continued. “Then I wanted to take you down to the planetarium. A bit further away, and more expensive, but I would’ve paid. You always said how you wanted to go.”

His eyes took on a sadder look, and he nodded.

“I bet the stars were so bright just a few decades ago. I bet we could’ve gone and really seen them, not the fake ones,” he whispered, and my hand slipped down to his waist.

“I bet they were,” I said, pulling my forehead back from his. The silence sat heavy in the thin air between us. When I spoke, it felt as if the silence still lay underneath.

“Do you think it’s worth it, really? With everything,” I shrugged the shoulder that wasn’t pinned beneath me on the mattress, “gone?”

His eyes danced over my face for a few seconds, and I could feel a smile creep onto my cheeks from the way he studied me. He smiled, too.

“Not everything is gone,” he said. “It’ll all come back, in time. And while we’re waiting, you’re here. And I’m here. We’re here.” He leaned in as he spoke, and his lips were a whisper away from mine. It was a nice thought—just he and I, all else hopelessly gone in a world beyond repair. With his lips so close to mine, I could almost agree with him.

“That’s not so bad,” I said. My hand slid up his back, and I felt the outline of his ribcage through his shirt. “But this really isn’t how I wanted this to happen.” I leaned forward, and our lips connected seamlessly. The knife slotted between two of his ribs with equal ease.

I hushed him when he tried to moan against my lips, pressing harder into the kiss, twisting the knife. I withdrew it, and the blood was warm on the back of his shirt. He began to wheeze and gurgle, and I tasted blood. I broke the kiss and pulled him against me, shushing him, stroking his soft hair.

A shame. A crying shame.

They will think it was madness brought about by the shelter, but I think to stay in this prison waiting around for nothing would be madness all its own.

If he was right, and the world lives to write about this Ozone Crisis, in big, important letters, maybe they’ll write about me and him and how we lived and died with the earth. If they do, they will have no names to use, only these words. I don’t want to give them something else to write in big, important letters. The world seems to forget everything it writes that way.

When you burn us—because I know you will, you wouldn’t spare us the energy to break through the cold ground—burn us together, as you will find us together. And if you’re seeing this beneath big, important letters, and the world is warm and bright outside, then look at the sun for me.

When the sun is gone, look at the stars for him. Please.

January 10, 2024 01:22

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

11 comments

Kayden Solace
06:12 Jan 26, 2024

This concept is so interesting! We solve global warming, but it tips over into the opposite. Burning forests to produce C02 is genius. Unsustainable, but genius. I also like how she kills him. I'm not a big fan of romance, so that twist was quite nice. Good job.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Hazel Ide
14:51 Jan 25, 2024

This is so beautiful. I write about climate change a lot so it’s particularly interesting to me but your characterizations and the quiet lovely story beneath is so sad. Really well written too. Thanks for sharing.

Reply

D'Spencer Luyao
20:34 Jan 25, 2024

Thank you so much! I just read Windfall, I really loved how you painted the end of the world in that too!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Philip Ebuluofor
02:59 Jan 22, 2024

Congrats

Reply

D'Spencer Luyao
18:28 Jan 22, 2024

Thanks!

Reply

Philip Ebuluofor
15:51 Jan 23, 2024

Welcome.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
18:07 Jan 19, 2024

Congrats on the shortlist.

Reply

D'Spencer Luyao
18:09 Jan 19, 2024

Thanks!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Timothy Rennels
00:09 Jan 16, 2024

This has a nice hazy, hypnotic feel to it. Good job!

Reply

D'Spencer Luyao
02:55 Jan 16, 2024

Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
06:39 May 31, 2024

well global warming is not good, i think the worlds eyes be open to it

Reply

Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.