The Sinners of a Planet Gone Dark

Submitted into Contest #232 in response to: Write a story set in a world with a dying sun, or where light is a scarce resource.... view prompt


Science Fiction Crime Thriller

[Content warning: mild physical violence, death]

Apocalypses don’t happen in sudden, drama-injected catastrophes like in the movies. They happen slowly—painstakingly—while half of the planet tries to convince the other half that it’s all a hoax, that the sun can’t possibly go out, that it’s just a government plot to drive up stock prices or hide trackers in our drinking water or whatever the conspiracy theory of the day is.

The sun might not have technically ‘gone out’ yet, but it’s close. Each morning grows that much darker. Kids don’t even know what seasons are anymore.

I always thought that if there was an apocalypse, if the zombies did rise up and eat us all, I wouldn’t want to survive the first wave. What kind of person would want to stick around for a zombie apocalypse and spend the rest of their miserable life alone and perpetually afraid of their own shadow?

Well, now I know the answer. It turns out that the human brain has an incredibly strong desire to stay alive, regardless of the circumstances. Sure, I know the sun is dying. I know the world will freeze even more than it already has done and it will only be a matter of time before we slow to a crawl and die gruesome deaths. But my brain hasn’t quite cottoned on to that yet, so it forcibly keeps me alive. It’s determined to score front row seats for the end of humanity.

And if I am going to stick around . . . well I’m going to make the best of it.

It was clear from the outset that even at the end of the world, humans love to place value on random commodities, even if the commodity might not seem like much on first glance. Plants, for one thing—real, natural plants—soon became the treasures of corporations once they realised that they would be a rare phenomenon, destined to be locked away and auctioned off to the wealthy just to satiate their need to find new ways to prove their meaningless fortunes.

But apparently plants don’t just sit there and look pretty. The black market seems to think that their DNA is a vault of information and the promise of scientific advancement—if you know how to unlock it. At least, that’s what my buyer told me. And now, that plant DNA is priceless to those heroes who are still trying to save what’s left of the planet.

Who am I to argue with the experts?

It’s time to wake up and smell the apocalypse. What billionaire ex-politician is going to care about a missing plant when they’re going to die just as horribly as the rest of us ordinary folk? I wasn’t always a thief, but as the doomsday clock ticks down lower and lower, the less I can find the ability to care about the morality of it all.

I got into this business for the money at first, but when the concept of money and cash stopped meaning anything, I kept doing it anyway as if to prove a point—that no amount of high security fences or vaults or sirens would be enough to protect them from the same fate as us. Everyone else around here knows that their homes are viable targets for looting; why should it be any different for them? With each score, I dragged them back down to the reality of living on this broken planet.  

This one is no different. The thrill is addictive, cutting up fences and shooting down cameras as though they would be an effective deterrent for any thief worth their salt. I’m a machine of instinct and adrenaline. I slip through lasers and bypass security barriers like a river in a gorge. On a planet full of death, I feel like I’m the only human left who is truly alive.

The first security guard catches me by surprise, but my survival-bent brain reacts before he can. Complacency gets thieves killed, and gut instinct brings the gun from my holster and shoots the security guard before he can do anything to stop me.

I wasn’t planning to encounter anyone today, let alone commit murder. I should be flattered that this target perceives thieves like me as such a threat that they would go to such ridiculous expenses as hiring security personnel—very much a dying breed in an apocalypse—but all I can think as I continue through the dark compound is how little value is placed on the lives of these people. I reason with myself that if these security guards wanted to stick around this long for the apocalypse, that was their choice. Actually, if you think about it, I was saving them from having to experience the final apocalypse—that by shooting them in the head, I was performing a kindness.

I’m not very persuasive, as it turns out. I send up an apologetic prayer as I propel each guard I encounter to somewhere better than here.

A new train of thought keeps me focused as I continue my executions through the dimly lit corridors. If God is real, and all this is just another Biblical flood, and some guy called Noah has built a spaceship to rebuild humanity after the sun finally dies . . . well, I wish Noah success in his spaceship-building endeavours. But I also feel for the people who weren’t saved from the flood and who won’t be saved now, those who have sinned and will feel God’s wrath as a result. Who is Noah to decide who lives and dies? Doesn’t watching the rest of humanity die and doing nothing to save them constitute a sin in itself? If Noah is as damned a sinner as I am, then I will sin until the bitter end, and if God made us in Their image, then They too must be a sinner.

Therefore, God would want me to steal this bloody plant.

I wasn’t born a thief. Believe it or not, I used to be a Pilates instructor before the world went to pot. We always knew that the sun would die in our lifetime, so I’m not sure what got us to the point where people stopped caring about personal fitness and the rule of law. All I know is that with every governmental collapse, with every frozen, deadly winter, with every suicidal cult that sprung up and promised a pre-apocalyptic death free of pain, the world felt that much smaller, and consequences became a rarer occurrence. Each winter inches us closer to a world-ending ice age, and when it’s the end of the world, concepts like ‘morals’ are the first to go. So I’m just here to make the most of it. It’s either that or sit around and wait to die. You might have your sainthood intact if you chose that route, but you’d also die a lot quicker from starvation or hypothermia if you never stole anything. It starts with a blanket, a bread roll, something you can trade for a hot meal, and then before you know it, you’re sneaking around a former world leader’s private compound on a murder spree so you can sell his prized potted plant on the black market.

As thoughts of morality and the road from sainthood to sinner spiral around my mind, I finally arrive at the vault, where the plant awaits rescue. I shove on a pair of sunglasses. They’re hard to come by these days—what use would a dark planet have for darkening the world even more?—but I know that real plants need a great deal of artificial light to keep them alive, so I came prepared. This might be my first plant heist, but I don’t intend for it to be my last.    

I blast open the iron doors of the vault without much difficulty, alarm sirens blaring in the darkness. Dust spills into the air from the explosion, and I am thrust into the whitest light I have ever seen. Fortunately, the sunglasses do their job, and I see three silhouettes racing towards me, boots clanging on the metal floor.

I reach for my gun, but another guard tackles me from behind and wrestles me to the floor. He must have followed me, chosen not to engage, knowing I would be facing further resistance within the vault itself and would not be expecting anyone to attack from behind. I usually manage to avoid physical altercations, but desperation spurs me to fight back. That damned survival instinct kicking in again.

He might be bigger than me, but I know the weak points of the body. An elbow to the eye shatters his sunglasses and causes him to pull his arm back to cover his face, providing me with the space needed to roll out from under his grip, save him from the apocalypse with my gun, and face my three remaining opponents.

I have a second to take in my surroundings. The vault is enormous, more like a chamber, and it is filled to the ceiling with deep green plants. The blueprints didn’t indicate the size of the vault or its contents, but I couldn’t have imagined stumbling into a veritable rainforest. It’s been years since I’ve even seen a picture of a real plant, and this guy has a whole ecosystem hidden away in his basement. And for what? Status? Pride? Just because he can? Within milliseconds, anger and despair consume me. The apocalypse isn’t just the sun going out, the oceans freezing over, and the descent of everlasting darkness—it’s people like him, hoarding extortionate amounts of wealth just so he can go to meet God with as much superficial power as humanly possible. Has no one told him that we don’t take material possessions with us when we die? Stealing to survive and drag the wealthy back down to earth is one thing. But hoarding this? This is far beyond any concept of survival. This is greed in its purest, most meaningless form.

 The heroes operating within the black market would keel over at the sight of all these plants, and probably declare that humanity finally has a shot at salvation. I’m not so sure that humanity is even worth saving at this point.

Maybe I’m starting to understand Noah’s perspective.

The instinct to survive kicks in again, and I shoot at the guards despite myself, but my gun clicks, jammed.

Divine intervention?

I dive out of the guards’ firing range and get close enough to engage in physical combat instead, but I am a thief, not a fighter. I have completed countless jobs, but none of them involved a physical fight with more than one person at a time. Like I said, security guards are a dying breed, so physical confrontations are few and far between.

I manage to thrust the butt of my gun into a guard’s head, kick another in the groin, hurl my fists into the other’s lower back, continuously moving so they don’t have enough time to aim and shoot me. I take more blows in return than I can count. Blood—I’m not sure whose—sprays onto a nearby leaf. Then, one of them manages to reach for my sunglasses and rips them off before I realise what’s happening.

My eyes scrunch shut without any control at the sudden injection of light, and the guards waste no time at my hesitation. One twists my arms behind my back and kicks me to the floor, a boot pressing against my lower spine to keep me there. My shoulder sockets burn at the strained angle.

I inch my eyes open millimetre by millimetre until I can see a guard with his gun pointing straight at me. The remaining guard stands further back, speaking indistinctly into a radio.

The guard in front of me takes his final aim, and somehow I smile to myself, panting, blood dripping from my mouth. Finally, that damned survival instinct subsides. My brain has finally stopped resisting, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more at peace than I am in this moment.

It looks like I’ll miss the apocalypse after all. I almost think I was actually looking forward to it in the end, just to see what it would feel like after all these years of build-up. Typical of me not to want to feel like I’m missing out. Maybe that’s what’s kept me alive through it all.

I chuckle and crane my neck up to the ceiling, towards the Great Sinner, finally ready for my appointment with Them.

January 12, 2024 09:50

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Mary Bendickson
11:15 Jan 19, 2024

Interesting take on what is really important. Thanks for liking my 'Too-cute...'


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Kayden Solace
00:06 Jan 19, 2024

Somebody else already quoted this, but . . . "Therefore, God would want me to steal this bloody plant." made me laugh. The first paragraph is excellently done and could be a prompt by itself. I like how you use They/Them pronouns for God rather than the traditional He/Him. Your story is really good and I love the MC and her outlook on life in the apocalypse.


Susy G
09:47 Jan 19, 2024

Thank you so much for your incredibly kind comment, Kayden! You have made me smile :)


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Alexis Araneta
11:35 Jan 17, 2024

Very interesting take on the prompt. But of course, with disaster looming, anarchy would be the last resort.


Susy G
12:46 Jan 17, 2024

Thank you for your feedback :)


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Elli Price
10:12 Jan 17, 2024

Great concept for this, Susy. Well done.


Susy G
10:19 Jan 17, 2024

Thank you so much Elli :)


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Marty B
04:52 Jan 16, 2024

'Therefore, God would want me to steal this bloody plant.' The MC is going out with a bang, and taking whosever left on the dying world with them! A bit of a bloody ending, but, they are going out on their terms, which is a win


Susy G
07:43 Jan 16, 2024

Thank you for your comment! :)


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Michał Przywara
21:38 Jan 15, 2024

Stealing a plant on a dying planet - indeed, the fact that plants are highly valued commodities when the lights go out - is a cool idea. There are also some neat meditations here, about life, fighting for survival, and the absurdity of hoarding. Things we might not think about when the times are good, but which become more relevant in a situation like this. But the way the narrator takes to mass murder, blowing things up, and close quarters combat, I'm not sure I believe them when they say they're a competent thief :) I'm more reminded of ...


Susy G
22:51 Jan 15, 2024

Thanks for your feedback! I normally avoid action sequences so this was very much a step outside my comfort zone and a fun experiment :)


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