time’s running out
Countdown
CHAPTER
1
365 Days
The sun’s rising for the first time in months. I look up, awestruck at it’s beauty as it lights up the entire dark sky. The guards are trying so hard to pay attention to us, but their eyes are also on the rising sun.
When was the last time I saw the sun? It had to have been months ago, when I had just left Earth. Just as I was boarding the ship, I glimpsed at the rising sun. It always seemed to rise right over Sydney’s house, every single moment. Sydney.
It hurts to think about her. To think about her red hair on my shoulder while we watched the sun rise on her garage roof. Sure, it was an old habit, back when humans had time for that sort of thing. But Sydney, she and I never had a care in the world. That’s why I’m here.
“Oh. My. God.” Brian’s next to me, staring straight into the sun. His retina’s might burn. I remember that he’s from some far off planet the Earth colonized decades ago, where their star’s so far away that they never see it. Total darkness? No, but I can never imagine not seeing the sun. “I thought this was just a story.”
“You’ve never seen one?” I ask. He shakes his head.
“Naw. The guards have never let us out to see one before. My grandfather told me about them once,” he’s clinging to the gate, his knuckles white, “but I thought it was just some old-man’s crazy tale. That was before they took him away, y’know?” I nod. When you reach a hundred, they take you away and put you in a facility where you’re taken care of until you die.
“We got those everyday on Earth,” I say. All of us Earthians let the other inmates know where we’re from, as well as the guards who are mostly from Earth themselves. We get treated better because we’re top dogs.
“Imagine that,” says a mocking voice behind us. I bare my teeth as I turn to see M’kan, my rival, an alien called a Ujalenz. “The sun never goes down on my planet.” It makes sense, he’s blacker than the night itself and just as cruel. He hates wearing clothes, so most of the time he just runs around in only his prison pants. No one knows why he’s really here, but it has to do with lots of dead Ujalenz.
He steps closer to Brian and I, looking up at the sky. His eyes are so dark brown that their nearly black and one of his long, long arms reaches up. He sniffs the air, then grins.
“Beautiful. It’s the only thing I miss from my gods-forsaken planet. Except that we had two. This solar system is nothing in comparison to mine.”
“Is that why you tried to destroy it?” asks Brian. I’m surprised at his boldness. No one ever asks M’kan anything. Ever. M’kan turns his near-black eyes to Brian.
“Excuse me?” He hisses between his razor-sharp teeth.
“I said, didn’t you try to blow up your solar system?” M’kan throws his head back laughing.
“I didn’t just try,” he says, wiping tears of laughter off his face, “I succeeded.”
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