April 3rd, 2037
His phone didn’t wake him up until it vibrated itself right off his nightstand. Still, he only turned over, his eyes glued shut to protect himself from morning. He groped blindly, his fingers running through the thick, cheap carpet. Seth hated that carpet. It held smells the way the dying held memories.
His fingertips found the phone, and he had to push himself out of the bed to reach it. It was still buzzing. Stupid alarm. Stupid mornings. Stupid work. Stupid…
Seth dared to crack open an eye to look at his phone.
It wasn’t morning. It was still dark.
The little clock on the bedside table said it was barely past four. Seth didn’t need to be awake for another two hours. So why was his phone still going crazy in his hand?
Without looking at what the ALERT was, Seth turned the vibrations off and rolled over in bed. Amber, active shooter, or extreme weather, it all added up to the same thing: he couldn’t do anything about it while he was in his room trying to sleep. Maybe extreme weather, but there hadn’t been anything in the forecast, and-
The door to his room flew open, hitting the wall behind it was a bang.
Seth was sitting up, fully awake, heart racing, staring at one of his roommates staring at him.
“What the shit, man?”
“Are you seeing this?” Alex asked, ignoring him.
“The alert? What are we supposed to do about a missing kid or a gunman-”
“No…no, man. You didn’t read it?”
“They’re bugging out! They packed their bags in secret and they’re leaving!”
Seth took a breath, trying to follow what Alex was saying but he was still very tired and the shock from being woken up twice in two minutes had completely scrambled every part of his brain.
Alex rolled his eyes. “Come on.”
Alex, Janet, Luis, and Zoe were all surrounding the television when he finally came out to the living room. One of the twenty-four-hour news stations was on. They’d all agreed to never put on one of those stations. Janet glanced at him, giving him a thin, watery smile, but the others only watched.
“…still waiting for details to, uh, trickle in here,” said the Talking Head. He looked as startled and confused as the rest of them, his eyes constantly darting to either side of the camera. Hoping someone would tell him what to do, maybe. Lucky guy. A couple seconds later a young woman in a t-shirt and a headset came directly on camera to hand the Talking Head a sheet of paper.
“Okay,” he said, reading and wiping his mouth with his free hand. “Okay, we have some updates. The count of ships has officially been increased to ten, with new sightings being reported in Siberia and Australia.”
Seth’s blood ran cold, and he gripped the back of the couch.
“Ships? Like…spaceships? Are they reporting aliens on the news?”
They all shook their heads.
“Not arriving ships,” Luis said. “Leaving. The ships are leaving.”
“Leaving? Who’s leaving? What’s…”
He trailed off as his eyes found the scroll on the bottom of the screen. It was a list of names. Most of them he had only ever vaguely heard of, couldn’t even remember where he had heard them. And then three in a row grabbed his attention.
The world’s first trillionaire.
What Andrew had shouted at him from the door came back to him. He wasn’t watching some Talking Head report about an invasion. He was reporting on an evacuation.
The rich were leaving.
The message left on the front page of several websites, including the two most popular search engines, several of the biggest retail outlets, and half a dozen governments.
As you have seen by now, we have begun an evacaution.
We do not wish to draw this out, but do feel you are owed an explenation.
As weather becomes more extreme, air hazier, water murkier, only extremists can now deny that climate change is real, and effecting the planet for the worse. Humanity’s time on earth has a clock. Humanity must start afresh.
As we have built these ships in secret, we have also built habitats on Mars.
Please have hope knowing that the best of humanity will live on in the stars.
The message is signed by two hundred and ninety-six people. Historical scholars have noted that the ‘best of humanity’ was 88% white and of European descent, 70% male, and that they left three spelling and grammar mistakes in a message less than one hundred words long.
From the private journal of one Eric Price, former CEO of Nile.com:
January 30th, 2038
I really need to learn the Martian calendar. Can’t keep holding onto the past like this!
We’ve been on Mars for three weeks now. It’s mostly been setting up. I thought having the biomes built before we got here meant that everything would be done beforehand. Like when we go to the lake house and the staff gets the fridge full. Apparently not. We’ve had to do all of this ourselves. Well, our staffs, anyway.
No, I shouldn’t complain. We are here! We are humanity’s future! The brightest minds on TWO planets haha. Been working on this plan for decades and its finally happened. There was no easy way to fix Earth. The obvious answer was start again.
Finally got messages from Geoff back…I almost said back home haha. No longer. Finally got messages. Earth is in shambles. Riots. Massacres. Buildings and governments burning. I feel terrible, but at the same time I feel VITALIZED.
We! Were! Right!
Look at what happens! We all band together to leave the planet and start again and the rest of them, all seven billion of them, can’t keep their shit in order for more than a few weeks.
Anyway, let them decline. Let them fade away in a destroyed planet.
We are the future. We will take humanity to such heights the masses never even imagined.
April 3, 2038
If this was the collapse of society, maybe Seth had been living in it his whole life.
It was weird, to be sure. But not weird enough. In his mind he’d imagined collapse to be more like a movie. Martial law and folks getting shot in the street. Maybe some zombies or just a good old fashioned rage virus. There wasn’t any of that.
Seth still woke up at six in the morning to go to work. There was just one thing people would talk about, and sometime on his commute he would see a burning building or people running down the sidewalk with obviously stolen merchandise.
The internet was still running, with social media and memes still intact. Mixed in the pop culture references and the nonsensical ones were videos of people explaining how to hide your face from cameras with facial recognition, jokes about which Nile warehouse was going to get hit next, and a trend on ZigZag where people got more and more creative about flipping off Mars.
And…well, this moment for example. Here Seth was, eating a full breakfast at his favorite diner with his roommates. All of them scarfing down bacon and sausage and fruit. Protein. No carbs. They needed to full but not drowsy, because once they were done here, they were going to pay the bill with a 50% tip and head out to the nearest Nile warehouse. If Seth could get a new pots and pan set out of there before the whole building went up that would be great because his current set was all scratched to shit.
From the private journal of one Eric Price, former CEO of Nile.com:
We’re still arguing about a calendar system. What the days and months should be called, if we even still have them. If that Popov clown thinks there’s going to be an entire month called Popova and only a Priceday he’s out of his vodka-soaked mind.
The rest of the Nilesphere continues according to plan. Everything has finally been set up. My room, honestly, is the height of luxury. I have windows. I insisted. I told the eggheads, just tell me how much money I have to throw at you to get you to shut up and get me a window to Mars. Preferably something with an automated window shade.
There’s a few more ships with supplies coming in from Earth, should be here tomorrow. And then that’s it. We’ve cut contact. Everything at the launching facilities has been destroyed – Geoff sent me the video footage. They can’t get to us, not unless we allow it. I can’t imagine they’ll be able to recreate what we developed for at least half a century, and by then they might have all been swallowed by a whale or some shit.
Got some meeting with the eggheads we brought in a little bit. They’re concerned about something, but when ARENT they? I’ll make it rain, and they’ll stop clucking their little beaky heads.
November 16th, 2040
Parts of the newly-elected President Donna Hayward’s victory speech.
“Three and a half years ago, not even two months after I had been instated as Secretary of the Interior, I was called upon by this country to become its leader. These past three and a half years have been a lot of things. Stressful. Scary. Violent. As times of great change are. And I will admit, there have been many times I thought of giving up. I was plagued with doubt, as any president who gains the title through anything but a fair election must be. Was I doing right by my people? Should I just leave it someone else?
“I decided time and time again, no. I must stay. I must not flee like so many above me had already done.”
Pause as applause consumes the room. President Hayward holds back a smile.
“I must not flee like so many above me had already done! This country still needed a president, and I was the first to stand up and say, “I will do it.”
“Still, I never lost that apprehension. That fear that I was doing something wrong. After all, I wasn’t elected for my platform. I wasn’t elected at all. How could I know my actions where what the people wanted? Early on, I decided the only way to know was to listen. Listen to the people. And listen to my heart.
“And now that I have been fairy and dutifully elected as the President of the United States, I truly feel that I have done the right thing.”
Pause as applause consumes the room. President Hayward stops the applause by pointing back to the crowd.
“You should be applauding yourselves! I truly feel like I am nothing more than the voice of the people. I listened to you, and I did as you asked.
“We have done a lot as a nation, and as a world, in these past three years, but I believe the most important thing we’ve done is taken direct action on the health of this planet. The Great Evacuation was really a Great Wake-Up call for all of us. I know some of these changes have been a challenge, but every time I see that Americans, and all of humanity, has risen to meet them. The challenges are not over. In fact, if anything, they are just beginning. But will we run away from them like cowards? No! I believe these challenges will only bring us together, make us stronger, and together we will walk toward the light of a healthier, greener planet!”
Pause for applause and standing ovation.
From the private journal of one Eric Price, former CEO of Nile.com:
Pricia 15, Sol 10
Karlson’s dead and I didn’t do it.
I know what people are going to say. They’re going to say I had the motive. The Karlson biosphere had the air scrubbers we desperately needed. Still don’t know what happened to ours. Suspect sabotage. Anyway, I didn’t do it. I’ll keep saying I didn’t do it until I’m hoarse in the throat.
And I’ll be able to with all this fresh air in my biosphere.
That motherfucker wouldn’t negotiate. That was his problem. No, that’s EVERYONE’S problem. No one knows how to cooperate. I’ve got needs for my biosphere and it shouldn’t take this long for the others to give me what I need.
We should have made Mars a monarchy.
Message relayed to Earth and spread on social media by unknown sources, June 25th, 2056
From all of us on Mars, we send a friendly hello. Do you remember us? I’m sure you do. Do you miss us? We can only hope (but we think we know the answer)!
Up here on the red planet, your Martian cousins are thriving. We have made many advancements in a variety of fields, such as health and genetics, interstellar travel, and even Martian farming! There has always been speculation of a ‘singularity,’ a moment when the advancement of technology reaches a point where technology becomes like magic and humanity is changed forever. We are pleased to report we have hit this singularity, and are being plunged into a wild and fantastical future!
We have made such great strides in advancing humanity, our only regret is leaving Earth behind. Leaving you behind. What goodness, what greatness, could come to Earth if we were able to bring these fantastic advancements back? It’s a question that has haunted us for quite some time!
We are calling on the governments of Earth to assist in reopening Earth to Mars travel, so that we might bright these advancements to you, the people.
International Martian Watch Center, June 25th, 2056
Carina read the message again before handing the tablet back to Shen. She bit into her apple as she mulled it over.
Shen nodded. “Big stinky pile of it.”
The Watch had been created a little less than five years after the Great Evacuation. At first, they were just pointing satellites at Mars, trying to pick up whatever they could. Then Geoff Garvey, ‘acting’ CEO of Nile.com (all of the CEOs who had left had put up replacements with the stipulation that they would always have the word ‘acting’ in front of their title, and if that didn’t tell you all you needed to know about the new Martian race…) had cracked under pressure and revealed that he had a line of communication with Mars. All the ‘acting’ CEOs did. And they weren’t just getting messages.
They were getting everything.
Weather, satellite, and life system reports. Communications between the biospheres. Reports on their experiments. Reports on their fights.
Oh, yes, the fights. Those had started almost immediately.
“Even if I didn’t know what I know,” Shen said, rereading the message. “I wouldn’t buy it.”
Carina shook her head and took another bite of her apple. “Not for a penny. Okay, so, they’ve made advancements in ‘interstellar travel’ but they need our help to get back to Earth?”
“Exactly,” Shen said. He shook his head. “So many exclamation points.”
“What do we do?”
“I can tell you what we’re probably not going to do. But I guess we run it up the chain first.”
April 3, 2057
Before the Great Evacuation (what he and his peers had called the Great Fuck-off and what he’d heard his granddaughter call the Darwin Dive), Seth had been told his entire life it was his fault the planet was dying.
His fault, and every other random citizen out there. It was his fault because he didn’t cut the plastic rings off his six packs. It was his fault because he drove an hour one way to work the only job he’d been able to find that would pay for his part of the rent for the apartment he shared with four other people. It was his fault because he ate the occasional hamburger, avocado toast for breakfast, and liked to pick up lattes for his endless drive to work. If only he bought an electric car, if only he didn’t run his air conditioner in ninety-degree heat, if only he didn’t fly commercial on holidays, then the planet would be fine. It was all his fault.
Yeah, so, that was a lie.
He was sitting on the back deck, watching the Gulf waters lap lazily against the beach twenty yards away. As a kid he always assumed Florida would sink. They all had. Burgers were grilling behind him, lab grown beef that tasted like the natural thing. He hadn’t actually seen a cow in years. The sun was setting somewhere on the other side of Mexico, setting fire to the sky. The good kind of fire. The metaphorical kind.
It had been hard, of course it had been. There had been changes. Big changes. Little changes. Things got more expensive. Other things were just outlawed out of existence. But those things were things he’d never actually gotten to have. Cruises. Private jets. Diamond mining. And things still weren’t completely right. But they were better. He couldn’t remember the last wildfire blazing for months at a time, and the last hurricane that had passed over his house had been a measly Cat 2. His grandkids were the first in his family to not have asthma in four generations.
Seth sipped his beer from its glass bottle – everything was glass or aluminum now, the last plastic bottle he’d seen had been on TV – and looked up to the sky. Next to the moon, looking like an angry boil, was Mars. It always made him grin, looking up at the red planet. The planet populated by the people who thought they were humanity’s best. He used to think it was just a line, that surely they didn’t really think that. But over time, he’d realized those people didn’t think like he did. They believed their own hype. They had the most money, so they were the best. Maybe they really did believe it was everyone’s actions destroying the planet, and not just theirs.
It was hard times down here on Earth, but once everyone banded together to raze what was left of the corporations to the ground things got easier. Others, of course, tried to install themselves – Earth had rid itself of only the assholes with money – but it was a lot harder for them to break down environmental laws than to stop them from being passed in the first place.
Meanwhile, the most selfish, egotistical, arrogant pricks had all shot themselves to Mars, destroyed any way for the rest of the plebes to follow, and were shocked when their society of rich douchebags had almost immediately collapsed in on themselves. A planet populated entirely by the kind of people who get out their cars in traffic to intimidate someone who honked.
Janet came out with a bowl of tossed salad and set it on the table.
“Is it official yet?” he asked her.
With a shake of her head, she picked up the remote on the table and brought the television out from its hiding place in the deck. Twenty-four-hour news had been one of the first things to go, so they had on the local news. On the screen was no Talking Head. That was Juan Blanco. He lived a couple doors down from their son and they saw him at the grocery store once in a while.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s a ‘complicated’ situation,” Juan was telling someone through a split screen. “They made their bed, now they can lie in it.”
“Shouldn’t we think of them as humans?” the other person in the split screen asked. “Humans who need help?”
“Why?” Juan asked, shrugging. And then he sat there for a second, letting the other person’s eyes bug out. “I’m serious. Why should we think of them as humans? Did any of them ever, for a second, think of the rest of us that way? Don’t, because the answer is ‘no.’ They saw us…as workers. As slaves. As fodder. They never raised a finger to selflessly help any of us, and then abandoned us to a problem they created. So, really, why should we think of them as humans?”
The other person began their rebuttal, but it didn’t really matter. The question of bringing these Martians home had been raised in a way never before done – a global vote. Every single person. It had already been three months since they had started, and they were still tracking down people in Africa and South America. This was a question of humanity, after all. There were paid volunteers trekking through the deepest forests of Brazil right now, finding left-alone tribes of people and explaining what was happening. Every single person.
The government wanted it official. They wanted every vote. But anyone paying attention knew what was going to happen.
So far, the votes to leave them on Mars were coming in two to one.
This happened days after this story had been written and posted: