In thirty minutes the sun’s last photons would arrive at the planet. After that perpetual twilight would overtake the world. The lingering heat would dissipate over the next few days and after that The End. Taro stopped long enough to catch the streaks of fire rising into the last clear blue sky this planet would ever have. He raced against the colonial ships rocketing away. He raced against the photons charging to the planet. Down one street, through a back alley, hopping over a stray cat, he came to Ami’s door and banged away “Ami! Ami!” From the balcony she peered down. “I got a pass on the last ship!” He waved the slip of paper.
Ami disappeared from the balcony without a word. For a moment, Taro felt that she might not come. The front door’s metal hinge whined and scraped against the pebbled pathway. She stood before him like a water reed quivering in the wind and he embraced her half-afraid that a strong gust might snap her in half.
“I can’t run,” she said.
“Climb on my back!” He helped her up. He held onto the ticket – he wouldn’t trust it to his pockets and he charged through the alley kicking up puddles. The streets in front of him contained more trash than people. Empty buildings cast long shadows cutting the light into tiny slivers.
“How did you get the pass?” Ami asked.
They arrived on Fourth and Harvard. The line went around the block, across the street, and into the park. A giant colonial cruiser waited there. The military checked everyone’s papers. “They’re going to catch us,” Taro thought. “But, I’ve got to try.”
“Papers,” the officer said. Taro handed them to him. Every bead of sweat running down his face grew heavier and new droplets oozed from his neck, but he kept his equanimity. “This is your wife, Mr. Weston?” The officer turned to Ami.
Her eyes widened. Her lips opened and she seem to say, “What?”
“Yes,” Taro said. He drew her close. “Elle’s my wife.”
The officer raised a small scanner from the paper to the happy couple. “There’s missing information on this document. Can you provide proof of marriage?” They had to be strict. It was just his job. “Rings?” He glanced at their hands.
“I’m sorry,” Ami said. “We were married just recently but with the jeweler gone, we couldn’t get rings.”
“I understand, no marriage license though?” The officer asked.
“We were in a rush,” Taro said. He brushed his brow again. “We had to run all the way here.”
“Your wife’s not sweating.”
“I’m not very strong, but Taro, I mean Johann, my strong Taro, carried me here.” Ami tugged his arm. “Honey, I can get the papers.”
The sweat on Taro’s face turned cold at the notion of her leaving. After everything he had done just so they could get on the last cruiser. The sky moved from daylight to night without the sunset to mark the change.
“No, it’s perfectly fine,” the officer said. He tipped his hat and left. The line marched forward. The pitch black night became a canvas for twinkling stars and a giant nebula smeared across the horizon. The moon appeared as a hole in the sky.
“Taro.” Ami tugged on his sleeve. “Why did you do it?”
“Why did you do it?”
Behind them a fight broke. It looked like David and Goliath and David was the officer checking tickets. The irate Goliath threw the officer into the street. “We had our papers stolen by some punk! How much? For me and my wife!”
“Don’t listen,” Taro said as he put his arm around Ami. She sipped from his embrace like a flower carried away by the wind. “Ami!” She ran to the officer. Taro dashed out of line rueful of losing their place.
“Wait!” She stopped, panting.
“Mrs. Weston?” the officer said getting up.
“My name’s not Weston.” Ami held the ticket out.
“Honey!” Taro snatched the ticket and held her. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t lie, Taro! I can’t!”
“She’s a bit delirious with everything happening,” Taro told the officer.
“You’re that punk! He stole my ticket!”
“Sir, I don’t know what your talking about!”
Johann raised his fist; they were twice the size of Taro’s. “Stop it!” Ami stepped between Taro and Johann. Johann threw a punch striking Ami across her cheek. The papers where her body collapsed fluttered around her like petals off a dead stem. Taro crumpled to his knees. He touched her face but the life left her eyes and she too had joined the darkness of the world.
“My name is Johann Weston. This is the real Elle, not that little twig. I want on that goddamn ship…what the hell are you doing?”
“Sir,” the officer said. “We still have laws. You’re under arrest for murder.” The officer read him his rights. He fought until tased into silence and then hauled away into the night. “Mr. Weston,” the officer said holding the paper out for Taro. “I’m sorry for your loss.” He walked back to the throng gawking at their little melodrama and continued checking papers.
Notes: I’ve always been curious about what the end of our planet would look like to the people on the surface of the planet. What would it be like if our sun died out? What would we see? What would we try to do? This is a much simplier take on what we would do. I’m sure there would be a lot of looting and rioting in the streets. There’ll always be those people who can get out and those who can’t.
After I wrote this, I saw an episode of Galaxy Express 999 that had a very similar story about a man and woman who refused to leave the planet until he finished writing the history of their world before it was destroyed. He gave Tetsuro that last book and asked him to carry it out into the stars, so that others may remember that they lived on that dead planet. Tetsuro and Maetel escaped, of course, but the man and his woman didn’t. The colonial ship they were to take didn’t make it either. I think a volcano firing out debris blew it up. Sucks to be them.