One More Sunrise
Sunrises here are different.
Some days I still expect a big watery ball of light creeping over the horizon, washing the hills in orange and red, turning the sky into a palette a messy painter forgot to clean. Instead, I watch a small white spot climb through an abyss devoid of any color, tinting the monochrome landscape around me a slightly brighter shade of gray.
You’d think I’ve been here long enough to know better—five hundred and thirty-six days, if I didn’t drop a Monday somewhere. I haven’t been alone for the entire time; Lee made it until day four hundred and seventy-nine before he gave up.
Burying him turned out to be no small feat, mostly because our equipment didn’t include a shovel. The pod is filled with all kinds of amenities—a water recycle station, a laboratory, even a stationary bicycle to keep our muscles working—but no shovel. I had to use one of the mineral drills and a flat piece of metal that had come off during the landing.
There is no cross at the burial site. Neither of us was religious.
I take a deep breath of canned air and turn around. Earth hangs in the sky in front of me, hundreds of thousands of kilometers away, the signature green and blue hues the only specks of color in a sea of darkness. The sight sends shivers down my spine.
When we got sent to the moon, there was a room full of people monitoring our every step, guiding us every part of the way. The voices thinned out, and I overheard one of the interns saying something about a deadly illness that spread across the world, with no cure and a hundred percent mortality rate.
“You’re better off up there,” were the last words through the comms before everything went silent.
I’m not sure if my time here has made me patient or numb. There’s nothing to wait for, nothing to look forward to.
Except one thing.
I could open my helmet. It would be over in a few seconds, no long struggle or gasping for air—movies always get that wrong. My hand wanders to the switch, almost without my intent. Just a click, a turn, a lift, and the last thing I see would be Earth—my home.
Would they call it an act of cowardice, or the only logical outcome of my situation? Is there even anyone left on Earth to make such an assumption?
I stay like this for a minute, then lower my hand. Not today. I want to see at least one more sunrise.
About the author:
S. J. C. Schreiber (she/her) lives with the elves and trolls (and her cats and horses) in Iceland, the perfect setting to write magical stories where fantasy meets reality. Her work has been published in the City.River.Tree: 2020 Paperback Anthology, in Land Beyond the World Magazine, and was short- and long-listed in the Furious Fiction Contest by the Australian Writers’ Centre.