A Revised History of Earth
“I don’t care about any of that,” Sherla said without looking up from her nail polish.
“But the tests are conclusive,” Mattie said, shaking her tablet at the other woman. “I’ve got it all right here.”
“Don’t care,” Sherla repeated. She applied another strip of opaque black polish to a blank nail and watched as it slowly expanded to cover her nail perfectly.
“You don’t care that the ruins we found on Planet X are actually older than any known civilization on Earth?”
Mattie sat down on the edge of her bed with a heavy sigh. “I mean… that’s a big deal to me.”
Sherla was lying on her belly on her bed, only a few feet away in their tiny cabin. She turned her head to look Mattie in the eyes, while still blowing her nails, now finished. “I care that you care, honey. But I think we just see this two different ways.”
Mattie shook her head, barely ruffling her close-cropped curls. “How’s that?” she asked.
“Well, as you and most of the scientists on board see it, this expedition has proved that Earth was some kind of colony, right?”
“Yes, I think that’s got to be our working theory going forward from here,” Mattie said, relaxing a little. “We’ll have to go back and revisit all of the old site maps, build a new history of human civilization. New textbooks, new arguments. Oh no, those ancient alien crackpots are going to have a field day!” she added with a sudden grin. “I don’t envy the folks back home who’re going to have to listen to all of that nonsense on the off chance there’s even one hypothesis that matches up with what we’ve found here.”
“Right,” Sherla said, “because you’re not going back to Earth.” She blew on her nails one last time.
“Well, no, I – the expedition is moving out of our solar system to follow the star charts we found during the excavation.” She frowned a little, her dark eyebrows drawing closer together. “That doesn’t make our find less important. It’s actually the whole reason we’re still on the ship.”
Sherla pushed herself up off her elbows, turned, and sat down on the edge of the bed facing her friend. “No, Mattie, it’s why you’re still on the ship. And I’m glad for that, ‘cause you’re a whole sight better than the last girl they stuck me with.”
“The snorer?” Mattie asked, sympathetic.
“The snorer,” Sherla agreed, and for a moment, they both smiled. Then Sherla leaned in, put her hands on Mattie’s knees, and said with a serious face, “I’m not a scientist, honey. I’m enlisted. They didn’t put all us soldiers on this ship to help dig, and we’re not all heading out into the great unknown for anything other than one reason: someone with more brass than me decided I might have to kill some things.”
Mattie bit her lip. “I know that,” she said after a moment, “but that’s statistically unlikely, you know. Whatever might have been out there has probably been dead for half a million years, and Earth has what remains of its refugees.”
Sherla sat back. “Maybe. I hope so, really. I’d love to spend the next couple of decades learning new things and staying pretty instead of developing any serious holes in any part of my body that I can’t live without. But I have to wake up every day and train for the possibility that what’s out there didn’t want us to find it.”
All around them – the floor, the ceiling, the beds – began to shake, and a quiet hum started, grew louder. Sherla stood up.
“That’s ignition, which means we’re officially under way, and that means the goodbye party is about to start. Come on, honey, tell me how pretty I am.” She put her hands on her hips and posed.
“You’re very pretty,” Mattie replied.
“Which means you’re drop dead gorgeous,” Sherla told her, “and it would be unfair to deprive the folks in Aft Lounge 6 of the chance to see the two of us in all our glory.” She held her hands out.
Mattie took them and let herself be pulled to her feet. “You’re a terrible influence.”
“I plan to be, honey,” Sherla said with a grin. She kissed her roommate on the cheek, leaving a faint red stain behind in the exact shape of her lips. “There,” she said. “Now you’ll look like you started the party early, and everyone will be dying to find out just how fun you are.”
“I should get back to monitoring the digital reconstruction of the dig site,” Mattie said, but didn’t sound certain.
“Tomorrow,” Sherla said as she put her arm around the other woman and steered her toward the hallway. “Tomorrow you can worry about how to find our celestial ancestors and I can worry about how to fight them.” She tapped on the side of their door, which slid into the wall. In the distance, they could already hear the sounds of music, and distant voices.
“Tonight…” Sherla paused, and squeezed Mattie gently. Mattie leaned into her friend and nodded.
“Tonight,” Mattie finished for her, “we’re going to say goodbye to Earth, and drink until we forget that we’re never going home again.”
“That’s my girl.”
Greg Bennett gave me the prompts for this story: “Planet 9 discovered and in close orbit to solar system, woman led exploration mission, ancient ruins, discovery that Earth’s inhabitants are actually refugees…” It took me a little while to think of a way to do that without sounding like Battlestar Galactica, but once I realized I could start after that stuff has already been discovered, I knew the moment, the part of this story, I wanted to write.
This is the 4th story I’ve written for this year’s Flash Fiction Challenge, and it’s about 890 words long.
If you liked this and want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, HERE.
You can read more about that, including last year’s flash stories, here.
So far, I’ve posted three other stories. Read them here: