The Left Behind

When the world starts to fall apart humanity comes up with a solution. However, this isn't a solution that works in everyone's favour and some are left behind. And to be left behind is to burn.


1. The Left Behind


In the ink black sky above an orange haze expands and advances towards us, slowly, as if to remind us of what we are and what we are to become. I think of my mother and father, and I wonder if they're thinking of me. After what they did I imagine it would be impossible for them not to. Then again, they did it all the same.

I look at the people around me and their faces reflect my own. Panicked. Angry. Above all, scared. Their clothes are torn and their bodies are broken, and they look pathetic. Because they are. Because we are. We are nothing now and we haven't been anything else in a long time.

Because we are the left behind. We are the forgotten. We are the worthless. Or at least, that's what we've been told we are.

When this whole thing started it was inconceivable to me that this is where I would be standing now. Outside with a group of complete strangers, watching the world and everything we have ever known be consumed by something we probably brought about ourselves. The government told us that this couldn't be avoided, but there were many who thought otherwise. Those people however are now standing next to me. They should have realised sooner that all arguing is pointless. Then again, I did, and I'm in exactly the same situation as them.

I feel a small hand tug at the bottom on my trousers and look down to see my sister staring up at me, her once full of life eyes now full of tears. I give her my hand and she latches onto it with hers, and with her other one she motions at the clock in the sky that's slowly ticking away.

"It'll be okay. Don't worry," I whisper in as soothing a voice as I can manage, but the words still come out raspy and hoarse. A woman sitting on a bench nearby overhears and looks at me disapprovingly. You don't understand, I want to tell her. I don't want to have to lie to her. But of course I do. She's been lied to so much in the past couple of months that there's no point in me breaking the trend now. She's too young to know the truth. She'll always been too young to know the truth.


My sister looks at me confused for a second but then decides to believe me. She cuddles into me and then settles down on the grass again, and closes her eyes. The women on the bench gestures to a blanket next to her, and I quietly thank her and take it, laying it down over my sister. She starts to snore softly and I realise those last words I said to her may well be the last words she ever hears me say. The last thing I'll ever say to her is a lie. I feel the tears forming in my eyes but do nothing to stop them as I watch them splatter on the ground. I want to stand up and scream and shout and make somebody listen but I can't. And I don't. And isn't life unfair. 

I look to the sky again and the orange haze has moved even closer now. Apparently the sky used to be a light, bright blue. Or at least, that's what the history textbooks in school said. I was always a little sceptical. It didn't seems plausible to me that the brown, stinking cloud of gas we call a sky could ever be anything other than that, but I could be wrong. In fact, I was proved wrong. About four months ago the sky started to change, first from brown to grey and then to black and now to orange. That was how this all started. That was how we knew something had to change.

At first the government said it was all natural, that there was nothing to worry about, but when it stopped raining and never changed from night to day they quickly changed their tune. People broke down and chaos broke out. My sister and I stopped going to school and all of a sudden we weren't allowed to leave the house, and our parents would speak in hushed voices a lot. It seemed humanity had reached its end, and soon we would all take our place alongside everyone who had ever lived before us. But then The Ship was revealed. 

The Ship is exactly what the name implies. A ship. It turned out all the world leaders had been discussing and planning what to do when things got too bad for decades, and this was their solution. A fleet of ships were created in a secret base in Russia, and these ships were to transport the human race elsewhere. It was not yet decided where exactly, but we were assured the ship had enough supplies on them to last for centuries. When the news of The Ship was revealed to the world via the international radio portals installed in all our houses, there was an collective sigh of relief from the whole world. Unfortunately, the initial broadcast left out some fairly important details.

When they said The Ship was to transport the entire human race, they didn't mean the entire human race. After all it would have been exceptionally hard to build ships big enough and strong enough to hold a population of one billion. It would have been more, but in the anarchy caused in the months of uncertainty the population of Earth had dropped drastically. And here it is, about to drop again.

The Ship could carry a lot of people. But it couldn't carry all the people. It was so achingly close to being able to carry everyone, but that made the pain of not being able to made it even worse. Five million people did not board any ships involved in The Ship programme. Two of those people were me and my sister.

And here's the thing. The god awful, why am I still even alive thing. The people that got to board The Ship were chosen by the government, based on how useful they are. How much they're worth. How much they mean. So everyone who didn't get chosen, is, essentially, worthless. I probably wasn't chosen because I hadn't proven myself to mean anything. I didn't do well in school, I got in trouble a lot, I was basically a loser. But does that mean I deserve this fate?

My sister on the other hand definitely does not deserve this. She's seven years old for crying out loud! Millions of kids her age or younger got to leave, so what makes some seven year olds more important than others? What can a seven year old possibly have to prove? But the fact she didn't get to go isn't the thing that angers me the most. It certainly angers me a lot, but the part of me most full of hate is reserved for two people and two people only. My parents.

They were both chosen for The Ship. Understandable as they were both university lecturers, and in wherever humanity ends up they'll need people who specialise in specific subject areas. However the people that were chosen for The Ship didn't have to accept. They could very easily politely decline and choose to stay with their families on Earth, and hope for the best. Many people did do that. My mother and father were not among those people. 

I remember the day they told me that they were leaving and my sister and I were staying. I remember the pain in my chest and the distinct lack of pain in their eyes and at that moment I just wanted to curl up in a ball and not exist. My world was crumbling down around me both metaphorically and physically and I had no idea what to do. They made me tell my sister that they were going away for a little while but I would take care of her until they came back. And I have taken care of her. But they aren't coming back.

The Ship left a month ago and is probably light years away by now. A small part of me hopes that something went wrong and the ships crashed, so all the people on them were condemned to the same fate as us. A larger part of me knows this is wrong though, and I can't fully bring myself to hate as much and as passionately as that.

Around me now people are getting restless, but my sister still sleeps silently at my feet. It's probably better that way. She'll just keep dreaming forever. The sky is completely ablaze, filled with deep, blood reds, and shocking, bright oranges. I can literally see the atmosphere burning up before me now and I know the clock is reaching its final ticks. The woman on the bench looks at me and we exchange a knowing glance, before she kneels down on the grass and begins to pray. To who I wonder, but I don't say that aloud. We have ten, twenty minutes of life left at the most, it's not up to me to judge how people spend their last moments. 

The rest of the people in the small park we've gathered in see the woman and a lot of them join her, and I can't help but see how amazingly and unironically human it looks. So fragile and innocent, yet the opposite of what caused us to be in the position. I consider joining in, but decide against it. This is the park that I played in when I was younger, the park where I fell over and it hurt but I learned how to get back up again and then taught my sister years later how to do the same. This is the park where I made some of my best friends, friends that are now thousands of miles above and beyond me but the time we spent together here was some of the happiest of my life. This is the park were I stood with my sister hand in hand and watch The Ship fly overhead, taking everyone we love and all hope we've ever had with it. I am not going to reduce myself to praying to some invisible God that won't listen. Because if A God did exist we shouldn't be reduced to praying to it in the first place.

The scene that's playing out around me now is not one that I ever expected to see. When I first heard the news of The Ship my first thought was how cliché. It seemed like something from a movie or a story, because there were hundreds of movies and stories about exactly the same situation. Earth fails so we move. Except usually the stories are told from the point of view of those moving. I remember reading old dystopian novels in my English class and thinking about how unrealistic and stupid they were, and point of view hasn't really changed much now. I didn't like dystopias when they were fictitious, and I certainly don't like it now that it's reality. It seemed no one else did either, because the suicide rate soared when things started to change. My father used to joke that we couldn't leave the house because if we did we'd just be met by a person falling down on us, after jumping from a building. In hindsight, I shouldn't really have been that surprised he was cruel enough  to leave us behind. 

The sky is burning now. The clouds have long since evaporated and the orange haze that once seemed so far away is descending down upon us. The people praying have all opened their eyes now and are doing the same as me, looking up to see what's going to greet us. I don't understand how my sister can still be sleeping, the temperature has rocketed so much so that my skin has turned to sweat, but that's not my biggest worry. No, that would be the fire that has broken out all around the park.

The ring of buildings that circle the park are engulfed in flames, and I barely even think about the fact that one of them is my house. The woman from the bench is staring at one of the houses intently and seems distraught, and I wonder if she left someone in there. The fire that is reflected back in her eyes is battling with the tears spilling out of them, and in a spontaneous decision I take the blanket off my sister and toss it back to the woman. She clutches it close to her and mouths words of thanks to me but I can't hear her over the destruction that's going on around us. She sits on the bench again and stares off into the distance at nothing in particular, and we've come in some sort of morbid full circle. Except my sister isn't tugging at my trousers any more.

Something seems to be stopping the fire from entering the park but that isn't going to keep us safe from the danger above. I turn my eyes upward and am nearly blinded, but I force myself to keep looking. The sky is cracking and so am I, and I want it to be over now. I've waited and I've cried and I've lied to my sister, and it's time for something to give. Screams fill the park but I don't turn my attention toward them. For a split second I swear the sky changes, and I see the black and the grey and the brown and then the blue, the wonderful, magnificent blue. And for that split second it is beautiful, but then it returns back to the inevitable and the clock that has just reached its final second.

The flaming yellow sky reaches me at last and I breathe it in, and it breathes me in, and neither of us breathe out.


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