The Sun bristled and swirled dead ahead, Hell personified in a sphere.
“This is madness!” said Nancy Mendez. “We’re escaping one fiery hellhole—” she gestured back to the charred remnants of the Earth “—for another! Are you all insane?”
“Lady,” said a rotund man with the face of a toddler. “We all voted for this.” He nodded, in affirmation, then took a sip from the straw of his coke. Bubbles thrummed in the container. “Democracy.” He squinted at her. “Are you saying you don’t like democracy, huh? What are you, some kinda communist?”
The other passengers behind ruffled their feathers and stirred at the dreaded C-word.
“Communist?” someone asked.
“Did someone mention commies?”
“Who’s a communist?”
“She hates planet Earth!”
“Kick her off the ship!”
“Imagine where we’d be if we lived under commie rule! Bloody socialists.”
Nancy rolled her eyes and bit back the words that frothed in her mouth. Life under capitalism had lead to the destruction of their home planet. It had left them in a rocket headed for the heart of the solar system. But this fact seemed to have evaded most. All they could say amounted to little more than imagine ifs.
“Look,” Nancy tried to keep her voice even, “if we fly into the Sun, we’ll all die.”
“Fake news!” The child-faced man took another too-loud sip from his cardboard cup. “I heard offa one of them scientists that all life on Earth needs sunlight.” Needed. “Without the Sun, we’d all be toast! So it’s our best bet, now that the godamn libs wrecked our home.” He flicked one chubby finger forwards, towards the cockpit. As if he commanded the spaceship. “Onwards. Shoot for the Sun!”
This got a tremendous round of applause from the passengers.
“But it’s ridiculous! We can’t—”
“Listen, lady!” His knuckles whitened against his cardboard cup. “You lost, we won! Suck it up, buttercup!” He grinned back at some of those who chuckled at his retort. “You don’t just get to change the result ‘cause you don’t like it. That’s not how democracy works!”
“She hates democracy!” cried someone in the back.
“I don’t hate democracy,” she said. She hated the way her voice sounded so whiny. “I just don’t want us all to die! If we fly into the Sun, we won’t survive.”
The man, who Nancy had come to think of as Beady Eyes, did a mock impression of her. “If we fly into the Sun,” his shrill voice trilled, “we won’t survive!”
Another burst of laughter and claps and whoots from the passengers. From the audience.
“That’s not very adult,” she said. And regretted it before the words had tumbled out of her mouth.
He smirked. “Neither’s your face.”
Nancy sighed and tried another route. “But what about our children then? And our children’s children? What hope have they if all humanity gets brunt to a crisp in the searing hot corona of the Sun?”
Someone in the back yelled. “Did she just threaten our kids?”
“Our children could get hurt?” A wide-eyed woman with a mass of curled hair looked to the man on her right. “Does she mean our Nathan, too? She surely doesn’t mean our Nathan, does she, Nigel? I do fret about him, you know.”
Nigel assured her that their Nathan would be fine. Of course their Nathan would be fine. He then turned to Nancy. “But maybe we should listen to her, just in case. I mean, I wouldn’t want anyone else’s kids to get hurt from not thinking things through.” He nodded. “Think of the children.”
Nancy smiled back. And bit down on her tongue. All mankind — what remained — had boarded this ship. Either everyone would die in the fireball, or they wouldn’t. No ifs, no buts. The star would spare none — no matter how much they’d wish. But it wouldn’t help her cause to point this out to the only friendly face she’d seen so far. “Thank you.” The words squeaked out of her.
Beady Eyes rolled his eyes. “Simp.”
Nigel continued. “Maybe we should untie and ungag the pilots.” He glanced back down the rows of seats. Their commanders lay hogtied at the rear of the ship. “And just ask them what they think about all this.”
Beady Eyes chuckled. “Cuck.”
Nancy nodded. “No, no, he’s right. After all, they are the experts in this situation. I think—”
Beady Eyes rose to his feet. His jowls glowed red as his fury came to a boil. “WE’VE HAD ENOUGH OF EXPERTS ON THIS SHIP! WE’VE VOTED, AND THAT’S THAT! SWEETHEART, IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, YOU’RE FREE TO LEAVE!” One childlike fist pointed to the vacuum of space outside the window.
The crowd exploded into cheers. Some even stumbled to their feet — a standing ovation. The applause thundered down the fuselage of the spacecraft. Feet stomped upon the floor, which vibrated and shuddered.
The wind behind him, Beady Eyes barrelled on. “WE VOTED TO SHOOT FOR THE SUN! AND — GODDAMNIT — WE ARE GONNA DO JUST THAT!” Nancy thought that if he continued, he’d have a heart attack before they reached the Sun’s death zone. “NOW, I SAY—” Beady Eyes stamped, fists clenched “—THAT WE SHOOT FOR THE SUN!” He punctuated his words with thumps of his heels against the floor.
Some people, Nancy realised, you cannot have a conversation with. Some people will fight against whatever point you’ve made. If you said 1 + 2 = 3, they’d argue the toss. It annoyed her, true. But Nancy believed that self-immolation would be the worst those morons could do. In her past life on Earth, she’d once said, “Screw it. Let the idiots drown themselves, if they so wish. What do I care? Let them kill themselves.”
Now, she understood, not only would they drown themselves. They’d also drag down everyone else. They’d fill up every person’s pockets with stones, and cuff everyone together into a giant human chain. Then they’d leap headfirst into the endless waters, as a mad grin simpered on their faces. They’d pour petrol over all humanity and strike the match. Vacant eyes glassed-over and puerile, a dribble of drool on their chins.
The passengers — most of them, at any rate — cheered as they steered into the heart of the solar system. “Shoot for the Sun! Shoot for the Sun!” At some point, the crowd abandoned the word the. The chant flowed better without it. “Shoot for Sun! Shoot for Sun! Shoot for Sun! SHOOT FOR SUN!”
For one brief pause, the yells and hoots intensified into shrieks and screams.
And then last vestiges of mankind incinerated themselves.