When fiction and music collide
Supporting the Philippines
This event was organized by the talented and wonderful Samantha Redstreake Geary.
There are 28 tracks by incredible composers, and 28 fiction writers have agreed to write stories. The album and anthology will raise funds for the Philippines, which was devastated by a hurricane in November. Full list of composers, music, and writers.
The Other Side
- by M. Pax
- copyright 2013 M. Pax, all rights reserved
- Reposting, publishing, copying, all require written permission by M. Pax
This story was inspired by the moving and impassioned, This Is Not the End – Petteri Sainio
Listen while you read:
For twenty years the titanium door remained sealed. No matter Nena’s pleas and ingenuity, it never budged. This morning the door changed, moaning, clicking. She hesitated in front of the panels flashing in red then green then yellow. Open. Open. Open.
The words winked insistently, and the accompanying beeps rose to a howl, piercing deep into her thoughts until she could own no other. Fingers grazing across the red knob, her palms grew clammy and her mouth dry. What if out there wasn’t any better than in here?
Her hand fell to her side, and she veered away from her fate, hobbling over to the tiny kitchenette — a sink, a cooler she had to crank up four times a day, a burner she had to wind when she wanted to use it, which was less and less as time passed. Her palette and gut had acclimated to raw — raw turnips, raw oatmeal, raw nuts, raw algae. Raw and rancid.
Most of her supplies had spoiled a decade ago. Fortunately, the algae multiplied quickly. She’d never run out of it. She pumped water into her glass, the only one she owned. The stale flavor of her water increased with each recycling. She should have put some algae in it.
Glancing at the door, a mere twelve steps away, its gleam reduced by decades of her touch, her mouth became more parched, her tongue and lips sticky. Her fingers flexed on the hand wrapped around the squishy cup that couldn’t break, but if she squeezed too hard she’d waste the water.
“If this is a hallucination… oh my, it has to be.” Yet hope festered in her belly.
She fixated on the image on the wall above her cot. The illuminated picture behaved like a window, brightening and dimming throughout the day. A real window would only show dirt and maybe horror. She and the others had buried so much.
The photo memorialized bygone days, a group of young adults laughing and hugging, excited, joyful. It reminded her every hour of what she had lost. Smoothing her graying curls, her gaze settled on a young man with a grin to rival flame. Aemon.
“Be generous with your sweetness, dear one,” he’d say, tackling her, tickling her. She could feel the way he used to hold her.
Nena hugged herself, her mouth quirking to one side. She peeked at the wall separating her from someone who used to bang out messages with her. Had it been him? She had never understood his code and he probably never understood hers. She had imagined him saying, “There’s sweet love between the walls. It’s a wonderful day.”
The knocks on the wall stopped two years ago.
The last time she saw Aemon, they had gathered on the surface with the other colonists, salvaging what they could as fast as they could. A storm of pathogens roared at the fence that shielded them, a tempest of plagues hell-bent on conquering the settlement.
Aemon had fought back. Nena had fought back. They all had, strengthening the fence, inventing vaccines and cures. In the end, the gale of diseases won, seeping inside cracks, widening them. The storm tumbled in, churning, demolishing, pulverizing, perching as a black tornado over all inroads they had established into a new life on their new world.
The wind tore, drumming and baying, shredding buildings, rotting and contaminating supplies, infecting friends with contagious viruses and worse. Only one chance remained for a future.
Nena hadn’t wanted to agree yet she didn’t want to die, and she tired of watching others suffer so gravely. Her pleading communiqués to the neighboring stars had produced only heartbreaking silence. No word had come from the other pioneers since they had all fled Earth.
The future needed Nena’s most pragmatic decision, and so she had led the remaining colonists down into the quarantine bunkers, the shelter built for the ill and for the unspeakable. She clutched Aemon’s hand, unwilling to let go, swallowing back the sorrow pooling in her eyes.
“Courage is being terrified and doing what needs to be done anyway,” he said. His voice cracked, thick with unshed tears.
Outside the first cell, hers, she paused, peering into his soul, needing to know she had decided right. “Is this living?” she asked.
“Things will get better.” He squeezed her fingers bloodless. “This isn’t the end. Not by a long light year. The terraformers will do their job, and on that day they’ll let us out and we’ll ascend into paradise.”
Their self imprisonment had meant solitary confinement. Sickness incubated by one would only endanger the one. That had been the reasoning.
“We’ll talk,” he said. “Every day. We’ll make up stories and play games. Time will pass as fast as a quark. You’ll see.”
That was twenty years ago. She hadn’t heard a voice since. The communications system hadn’t been set up right, and the door wouldn’t let her out to fix it. Nena had no idea whether anyone else lived. What was out there?
A bang on her door lured her to it.
She ran then slowed. Would he be there? Aemon and his gaze filled with dreams? Reaching for the the knob, she twisted it, her vision blurring like it had the day she had let go of him.
On the other side she found her hope and her dreamy eyes. What future had they imagined all these years?
“What’s ahead for us, Aemon?”
Clutching her hand to his heart, he lead her to the stairs.