The windows rattled. A too familiar sway of fixtures lifted the Grand Counselor’s eyes upward as the Historian Laureate’s walking-on-marbles stride stopped by at last reaching and grabbing the podium.
‘Please begin,” commanded Director Zo
“Over time, the top scientist on Venus noted that decreased volcanic eruption patterns corresponded with a declined rotation speed of the planet. While we were busy exploring space, our molten core depleted. In response, the planet slowed, wobbled, then came to a standstill. Eighty percent of our population died. Animal extinction cascaded leaving food supplies low. This standstill also created uneven heating and climate catastrophes. Millions more died and those surviving were bunkered below ground for safety. Planet shifting groundquakes are still an issue even with the support beam reinforcements. Then, the V-1 Asteroid brushed our thin layer of atmosphere and reversed the rotation of the planet. While that helped unthaw and provided night and day again, the sun now rises in the west. East brings us spectacular sunsets with the particulate matter from the volcanoes and fires dying down. The population dwindled. There were only five births this year, one male. Economic and structural systems have crumbled. Each day becomes a continuing lesson to adapt or perish. The search for the salvation of Venus is racing against time. The Grand Counsel and Director Zo, it is my sad duty to inform you the Chief Scientists now tell us solar winds and flares are anticipated. It seems complete Planetary Extinction and therefore Societal Annihilation is inevitable.”
Several stifled their gasps. Silence seized the room. Moments ticked and tension grew. The unflappable Director Zo’s face turned pallid with the realization of losing Venus's culture. Her lean elderly index finger drummed a patient rhythm on the round marble table. One council member rocked back and forth gripping her hands tight as if to force her focus. Director Zo surveyed the room and announced she had a plan.
Today we put that plan in action not knowing if it will succeed. We stepped out of the community shelter deep below the surface into the thickened air, wearing our masks, goggles, and protective wear. Donned in our protective gear, movement was slow and silent. Director Zo would speak soon after sunrise. Rumors were rampant that today would be our last day on Venus. We all seemed to be thinking those same thoughts. As a crowd of a few hundred, we watched the sun rise in the west. The marmalade sun peeking in slow motion above the horizon created streaks of color that eased our eyes after days of gray and black. The ink-stained sky changed to reds, bled into orange and blues, meandered into a rise of bright caution yellows before marking the start of a new day. There were smiles and sighs even the sound of padded applause. It had been months since we’d seen a sunrise. Funny how grateful we’d become in hard times. Things seemed so surreal of late, but somehow seeing darkness turn to light calmed the crowd. A quiet sigh lifted as our crowd in our slight movements appeared to rock as we connected to one another with long missed smiles and hopeful glances.
Caution, however, held its grip on us. A slight rumble shook the ground. There were a few gasps from the elders behind us. We, however, remained resolute, solid in the belief that this too shall pass as so many things had, and we had always survived even if others had not. With a crackle, the face of the Director with the council seated behind her appeared on the screen. Our eyes glued to the visual before us.
“Good Dawning, citizens of Venus. Our tough struggle ends today. Months ago, Scientists announced unprecedented solar winds, and flares threaten our weakened atmosphere. Given the planet’s inevitable destruction, we forged a plan. Even as Venus transforms as it orbits our young and erratic sun we sought a new home to save our civilization and some of its citizens. The launch of SOT (Somewhere Out There) with its team of explorers, scientists, and historians have located a possible home. The historians announced Mercury a dead planet after they studied observations from the scientists. All of the Mecurians and their culture are lost to the Universe. Their destiny will not be our future. Mars, according to the scientist, wobbles as we once did. The grand council determined Mars could, on a small scale, be rescued by us. It will be a final Act of Love.” The crowd chanted AOL, AOL, AOL. Relief came with the repeating of our encouragement ritual. Director Zoe beamed a bright smile rocking forward on her feet. She drew her hands toward her heart took in a big breath and continued her speech.
“It is a rescue mission to encourage and help Mars evacuate its planet and join us on the surrogate planet. Their fate will be our fate. We must come together to survive. We launched the rescue ship, The Recovery, yesterday. Tonight, we send our best and brightest on their salvation mission in our best ship, The Salvation. We will send The Replenish ship loaded with historic artifacts, cultural and scientific knowledge within the hour to arrive ahead of our brave citizens.” The crowd applauded. Winds blew across the parched land. The uplifted dirt tings against our gear, a reminder of our peril in our cheer.
She continued, “This is our last day on Venus. Our youth, on their future planet, will honor those elders who remain here for their sacrifice. Too many damaged ships or we would go with you. But, those of you under thirty will carry-on for the rest of us. Life will be different, but we know the genetic code of these Venetians, the spirit, and the courage of our citizens is awake and ready in our youth. Venetians have displayed a quiet strength since the dawn of light. As that light spreads and speeds out through the vastness of space we have found a new blue planet filled with water and one enormous body of land. That planet’s sun rises in the east as ours once did. The atmosphere will sustain life, though it is farther from the sun. Our youth will face challenges. They will overcome. Please stay as we launch the provisions ship, The Replenish, then please, spend your last day in peace and joy. We will gather in the East for the last sunset and launch of the Salvation ship. Youth, please arrive for concluding instructions at the appointed place and time. It is a brave thing we do today. We citizens of Venus shall rejoice and enjoy the company of our society for one last day. Go in love and bravery with curiosity and acts of love.” With that the crowd clapped, the screen turned transparent, and the youth in the front turned to seek their elders for a last embrace and to enjoy the last of the food, to sing and remember forever the love of Venus.
We left as a teary-eyed group, heading to the launching station with silent determined steps. No one spoke. The elders waved, tears fell from a few, but most held their heads high urging us to be brave—and we were because of their bravery. The Grand Counsel and Director honored us with speeches then adorned us with a lavaliere, its pendant a clear globe which held sacred crystals, gems, and Venetian water. Specks of soil from our homeland floated among the gems as we turned the clear memento suspending the last of the Venus we knew—home to which we would we’d never return.
At dusk, we boarded our ship and took our stations. As an Explorer, my assignment as a communication expert gave me a window-seat in the forward fuselage. The view into the eastern sky as the sun sank, displayed extraordinary colors before ushering in the purple-plum sky strung with glowing stars. The boosters rumbled. I held the memento from home close to my chest. It was all remarkable. But the most stirring sight was the elders, hand in hand, swaying and singing a lullaby. Soon the ship reverberated with the same lullaby. Not even the rocket boosters could drown that song out. It was etched on our souls. Soon our honorary tokens floated before us. Pieces of Venus danced before our eyes in the sudden stillness.
Weeks later we gathered in the lounge to read from our mandatory journals about the events since our last day on Venus. The historians insisted that storytelling was essential. Glendina shared her disappointment that the Recovery ship only rescued ten men from Mars. They were at least en route. Vivi cried as she recalled hearing that after three days there was no word from Venus. The last transmission showed the elders including Director and Council member below ground in the dormitories we had emerged from on that last day. A strong wind blew in a red streak of possible fire and then all went black. Dry eyes were rare. I recounted the last communication from the supply ship, Replenish. It was a distress call. The captain declared a malfunction, but before he could describe it, there was a shushing sound, then no communication for days. We all looked down to hide the fear in our eyes. Only we few survived. Twenty-one strong. Plus, the ten Martians and the two pilots.
Time seemed stalled. But excitement grew as this bright blue planet came into view. This globe mesmerizing us all. Blue as our zefelian jewel, surrounded in a clear white ribbon of atmosphere out in the middle of vast darkness. Our sun rising like a spark of inspiration from behind the planet. I wondered if ylem, the start of all matter, had unfolded to reveal this planetary gem suspended in the void of black just far enough to challenge us to reach her, to make us worthy of her, to caress her in our hearts. The connection seemed far from coincidental. The ylem had brought us to this one and only point in all the vastness of matter, we called space. Serenity…that was what I was feeling, what the others were showing in their faces. Almost a foreign feeling in my lifetime. Serenity, a connection in all matter that flowed through from the ylem to the outer edges, where curiosity would capture us again, imploring us to our next serendipity in space. The sheer awe of it all causes a glow in all that took in the sight. There was love at first sight from every Venetian. One of the mothers aboard likened it to seeing her child for the first time. Breathtaking, mind-opening, miraculous awe. We didn’t know if life existed there, but somehow we surmised our safety and believed we’d form connections with the life there and the Martian survivors. As we orbited to land, this need to connect to a home pulled at us harder than the gravity.
A year later we’d survived extreme conditions. Venus had prepared us well with its failing years. We were a hardy bunch. The ten Mars men with their reddish hair and blue eyes became seven with the misfortune of an accident. We survived off the plentiful waters teeming with fish. Thirty of us, twenty women, and ten men established a Venetian-Martian community. Without the supplies, it was necessary to transition to the local caves. The cold here required a sturdy shelter and provided it. Our time underground on Venus helped us. We, Explorers, made treks out clearing paths, discovering, and mapping. A feast followed every return from an exploration.
All the children I fathered with the twenty Venetians had blue eyes and blonde hair, while the children of the Mars men were redheads with blue eyes. I’d found a favored-one, but it was important to procreate and diversify the gene pool. Our children’s children may one day take to the skies again, but our ships’ skeleton would recede into the planet’s nature. Historians took to stories and songs to help us remember and teach our children about planets named Venus, Mercury, and Mars and the ships called Salvation, Recovery, and Replenish. They learned to complete small acts of love and the Martians taught us games to pass the winters. Historians, without paper, captured history on the cave walls.
On my last exploration, I had the pleasure to stumble across a brown-eyed woman and man, Adam, and Eve. As far as we could tell, they were the only other sentient life on the planet. Together Venus, Mars, and this new home chose letters to represent our shared home. E from Eve. A from Adam, R from Mars, and Th from Venus representing those heroes (th) we left behind and those who boldly brought Venus love and lore here. Together we forged a brave and loving new home called Earth.
As the sun set in the west, I look to the large white orb we called moon and the first star as they rose. According to our failing equipment, that star-like white dot was our beloved lost planet, our Venus. That first ‘star’, we saw would signal us to tell each other our Act of Love. We may not have the antiquity, but we will always remember the sacrifice and love. As Director Zo reminded, love, is in our DNA. I closed my eyes but still saw the brilliant stars in the black sky and listened as my favorite historian began the evening story. She spoke saying, “Their last day on Venus arrived with the sun rising in the western sky; piercing the purple glow which surrounded Mount Tiberius. Soon their Venus would be only a counter spinning rock covered in gases.” All grew quiet and my spirit slipped into somewhere out there.