Chapter 1

“Hello, if you do not know me, my name is Michelle Slade. I’m working on tracking the lead on a story. Something big. It really does seem promising but I won’t say anything yet. I know these times are extremely tough, but keep on fighting. We will get through this.” 

As I finished up my statement I waited for the crowd to cheer. It didn’t surprise me when I got the same responses I always did. I guess I was just disappointed… though that was a feeling I was quite familiar with by now.

“And how many times have we heard that?” One person blurted out in frustration

“Exactly!” Another agreed 

 “No news is going to help us, Michelle! You know that This” the woman motioned to the area and people. “This can’t be helped and soon we’re all gonna die because of it.”

“For us, death would be a blessing ” Someone moaned back in response.

  I leaped off of the broken down platform and shoved my way through the small despaired crowd. I could feel the grin on my face slowly fade into a saddened expression as I left the crowd. I didn’t care what anyone else thought or at least that’s what I had to keep telling myself. I knew how different things were now but what I couldn’t grasp is how it seemed like the entire concept of hope had been stolen away from us in one foul swoop.  It’s devastating watching family members die, friends, pets, companions dissolving into dust before our very eyes, it’s heartbreaking, it’s terrible, something none of us thought we would have to endure so much of but we can’t let it destroy us. We can’t just lose hope that easily. 

How could everyone just give up? Don’t they know that if we do that we’re gonna end up just like the rest of them?  I wish I could show people that. I wish I could help them understand. I tried to do that and maybe things could be different if only they would let me. If only they would listen.  Instead, they make fun of my optimism. Yet each day I still showed up and there managed to be a crowd even if it was a minor one and even if it wasn’t the nicest. Though, the things they were saying were starting to get to me. Was I really doing anything? Maybe they were right. Maybe our planet, our people,  were they too broken to be fixed? Too far gone? No, I couldn’t believe that. I couldn’t quit. I had to keep going for Harry, for my mom, my dad, and all the others who had been swept away by this cruel earth. Most importantly for Jessica, my older sister, the one person I had left. 

Sometimes I wonder why something so terrible could happen to us. The more I think about it, the more I understand. We basically caused this upon ourselves, at least the pollution part. Sure there were people who tried to help recycle when they could when the earth was still young and healthy but in the end, their efforts were wasted, and nevertheless, our planet couldn’t be in worse shape. I always knew there had to be something I could do, we could do. There had to be a way to save the last of us. I guess that was what motivated me to keep getting out of bed in the morning. The thought that I had to keep going, that I had to find something to pull us out of this misery, and that I needed to inspire other people to do the same. I wanted to help them navigate this hard life. I wanted to be an example because there weren’t any anymore. For so long I held onto that and now after dedicating my life to searching for it, I may have finally found a way. 

My words were no longer just empty promises, they were attached to something bigger. A real hope, one that wasn’t just a figure of speech anymore. Something that really could save the last of us. A new planet, one we might be able to survive on, yes, to live on! While it may have been discovered by Avani Taylor, I’m pretty sure I’m the first one to uncover the news of this place, where we might be able to make a new start. Still, I hadn’t exactly gotten all my proof together and without it, the people would hardly believe me. I scheduled an interview with Avani today and that was the big news I planned on exposing. Tomorrow wasn’t going to be a normal day. I was determined to slap a smile on every melancholy face in that crowd and I was overly excited but to be honest I was also somewhat scared of confronting Avani about this. What if I was wrong? Even worse what if I got in trouble for it. The only people supposed to be doing anything work-related were those at NASA. What I was doing, speaking up on that platform, some of the authorities didn’t exactly agree with it but technically it was tolerated. It wasn’t illegal, I wasn’t employed, I wasn’t actually working, I had just found a loophole to continue doing my job. I really did hate how everything was shut down though. I didn’t understand their reasons for it and to be honest, I thought it was, dare I say, stupid. I understood that products were scarce but they didn’t have to shut everything down like that and sell nothing at all. They could have sold the few products that they did have instead of leaving us to hunt them down on our own. I felt as if we were back in the days of cavemen. It was uncivilized here and chaotic. In my heart though, I knew that I had to do this, no matter the possible consequences. Because if someone didn’t step up and do something soon, no one would be left, we would all fade away into the past, leaving only our memories behind. Gone, and I for one wasn’t ready to let that happen. 

For now, though, it was time to get back to my daily routine. After I go out and speak in what used to be the town square, Jessica and I go out to scavenge for resources. She’s always been protective over me, which I understand but sometimes find slightly annoying. You see, she insists we stay close together while scavenging around and hunting for food. This is hard to do and I would much rather go out on my own. After all, I was an adult now, well basically… and I could take care of myself, I think sometimes she forgot that. Plus the chances that we would actually be faced with the dangers of ravagers and people gone rogue were pretty slim. Even then, I could take care of myself. 

My least favorite part of our daily trip is hunting. While hitting an animal is already pretty hard, although I’m getting better with my bow, it seems like every time I hit one it’s sickly, not fit to eat. It’s so frustrating and the same is true for finding our plants and crops. Lately, if I’m being honest it’s been really hard for Jessica and I. We’ve always been so used to getting whatever we want for dinner and well pretty much everything. Now we’re suddenly wondering if we’ll even be able to find a full meal. I guess I just wish we had appreciated the old times, you know, been more grateful and not taken all that we had for granted. But most of all, I just wished we could go back to how things used to be. I may have not realized it back then, I don’t think any of us really did, but things were simple, things were nice, really nice…now things are completely different and difficult, things changed so quickly and everything that we knew before seems so far away, but to be honest there’s no use in dwelling on it. Those times, they’re gone, and wishing isn’t going to bring them back, all we can do is move forward. 

Something I’ve been finding very suspicious is the mysterious supply of crops that have been being delivered to us. It’s intriguing to me, that they seem to just be appearing from nowhere, not that I’m complaining, it’s practically the only thing sustaining Jessica and I and I’m sure that’s true for others too. But I have reason to believe that the crops could be Avani’s doing as well. Avani. Oh no.  A rush of panic shot through my body. The interview. I’m going to be late. I shook my head out of my thoughts and rushed back towards the platform to go get my bag. After fiddling around with the contents inside, my hands finally grasped exactly what I was looking for, my notepad and pen. I missed my job. Questioning Avani was going to fun, something I hadn’t done in a long time. I reassured myself that if Avani really was up to what I thought, maybe I would be doing this more often again, maybe everyone would be able to go back to our jobs like we used to! That is… if I can make it on time. I was interrupted mid-thought when I heard a familiar voice. I turned around and focused my attention on where I heard the noise coming from, the big screen. Something had popped up on the TVs. Well looks like she beat me to it. I smiled. I could hardly hold my excitement. There stood Avani Taylor talking about the amazing discovery of a new earth. I was right. I fixed my eyes and listened intently as she talked.

“Yes, the rumors have been true, our team has found another inhabitable planet. We will be holding a drawing in two days to announce 6 participants who will go. You must fill out a form to be entered and you may only choose three items to bring with you on the trip. Are you tired of helplessly watching as the earth falls apart? Do you want to make a difference? A new start? Then don’t just stand by, this is an opportunity.” Avani announced. 

The screen switched to a digital form for the signup. I scanned it with my device and eagerly filled it out like this :

Full name: Michelle Slade

Age: 20

3 things you want to bring: Bow and arrow, journal, ring/necklace.

Reason for going: To finally do something that makes a difference, to save our people.

            After that, I submitted it. I had a weird feeling I couldn’t quite place, like that of Déjà vu. It was as if I had filled something like this out before. Maybe I had, or maybe I’d just dreamed of a moment like this so many times that it held an oddly familiar sensation. Avani went on to tell what they would have on the trip. 

“We will provide food, water, and other essentials on the ship. We will also have participants pick out and wear a special suit designed for the trip. There will be 6 people randomly drawn from a bowl of everyone’s submitted forms.” 

I couldn’t wait to attend the ceremony, I had to be picked! I had to, this was my chance, to finally achieve my dream. This was what I had been searching for, this planet could save us all. All I had to do, be picked out of thousands of people. Not the best odds I’ve ever had but hey it’s a start. I didn’t feel like walking back home, because I was too impatient to wait to talk to Jessica. I wanted quicker transportation and not from a car either. I took off one of my most prized possessions, a blue and silver ring shaped like a lightning bolt. It was given to me by my best friend, Harry before his… death. I felt a tear trying to escape from my eye as I flashed back to the memory but I clenched my teeth together refusing to let it escape. I didn’t like getting emotional over things like this so I forced the thought of my friend to the back of my mind and then threw my precious ring onto the ground. It didn’t stay on the hard concrete for long but quickly bounced back up. Streaks of light flew out of it. The brightness stung my eyes. It was working. I flung myself into the illuminating rays of the ring, and they burst into different colors all around me. Then in mere seconds, I arrived at my destination. Yep Teleportation is definitely my favorite way to travel! I thought to myself as I caught the ring and adjusted it back to my finger.

“Michelle!” I heard Jessica exclaim.

 She came running towards me and pulled me in for a tight hug.

 “Did you hear the news?”

I let go of her and shook my head yes excitedly.

“What about you, did you sign up?”I asked her hesitantly

“Yes! Please tell me you did the same, you’ve been waiting for something like this to happen forever”

For a minute something inside made me just freeze. Jessica had signed up, I know I couldn’t control her, I know it was her choice, but I didn’t know how I felt about it. I mean would she be okay? I had been preparing for this like she had said, forever. But she hadn’t. What if she died? I couldn’t bear another death, and would it be my fault? Just like all the others, I had lost. I should’ve been able to protect them, it should’ve been me not them, suddenly for the second time today I forced back tears.

“Michelle? You okay?”

I shook my head out of my intense thoughts.

“Sorry I uh, zoned out for a minute there.”

I plastered a fake smile over my worried expression. 

“Of course I signed up! Your right this what I’ve been waiting for…forever”

“Okay?” Jessica replied raising an eyebrow

“Why are you acting so weird, I mean never mind, it doesn’t matter. Come on I want to show you something.” Her voice was high pitched and filled with excitement.

I began to follow Jessica down the familiar path leading to what we called home. Our place was quite large, though it looked significantly smaller from the outside. It was originally a bright white color but it had faded into an almost grey shade. Still, it was very nice and through it all, it stayed put together fairly well compared to other homes. Its shape displayed sharp angles and lots of windows, which used to be my favorite part about it but now I found the windows almost unpleasant as they looked out upon the dreadful appearance of the dying land and hazy air outside. Inside, our home was filled with advanced technology, touch screens, and machines. Jessica used to be an actor and her pay had been very good. Though no one had money anymore, we used to be quite wealthy and our house showed it. 

It was funny that though we had so much we still weren’t able to get food but I guess even technology can’t help some things although it did help out with a lot of them. Once we were inside Jessica clicked the button to seal our house and it worked to filter out the unclean air left inside. Once done she gave me the signal that it was safe to take our gas masks off and we both let out a sigh of relief after doing so.

“What is it then?” I asked my curiosity getting the better of me. “What did you want to show me?”

“Close your eyes,” She said with a daring look.

I raised an eyebrow but reluctantly obeyed. Behind me, I could hear rustling and strange noises. It sounded like she had gone into another room to get something. My curiosity grew with every passing moment.

“Okay open them”

I gasped standing in front of me was a Blue Merle Great Dane wagging its tail uncontrollably.

“Meet Pluto”

“Oh my gosh, Jessica what..?” I trailed off. 

I looked down at the dog and stared into its innocent blue eyes. 

“Ok I know it’s a little bit random but I found this little one while scavenging…”

I interrupted her 

“You went scavenging without me?”

“Look it was a few days back.” She crossed her arms.

Of course, she could go. It was too “dangerous” for me but she could go on her own without question. I sighed. Whatever.

“As I was saying,” she continued. “She was hurt, and I took her home, someone must have fashioned a special gas mask for her, to allow her to breath,” Jessica pointed to a mask on the ground lying a few feet from Pluto, 

“Anyway she’s all healed up now and I’ve been working with her. She’s definitely been trained before, but the owner must not be around anymore. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner I was just waiting until the right moment. I was thinking she could guard whichever one of us needed protection. She could maybe even help us hunt.”

I nodded my head. “Okay, that’s actually a smart idea,” I replied calming down. After all, the dog was really pretty and I had always liked animals.

“Of course it is,” Jessica said rolling her eyes

She then stopped and looked at the tv abruptly. 

“Michelle look,” she said pointing to a figure on the tv.

I quickly picked up the remote from across the room and turned up the volume, it was Avani.

“There have been changes to the scheduled ceremony due to the amount of forms that have been submitted in huge numbers. Unfortunately, we are not able to take any more forms and have moved up the competition, if you will, to this afternoon at 4 pm.”

“4 pm?!”We both repeated in disbelief. “That’s 3 hours!” I exclaimed looking at the time.

“Ok we need to get ready,” I stated seriously. Or to be more specific Jessica needed to get ready. It takes her forever! I don’t even think she can get ready in three hours for her. It’s more like 5.

I hurried to the bathroom and checked myself in the mirror.

My long matted blonde hair was in no shape to be going to an event like this. I barely took the time to get ready any more, as it was the least of my worries. But I wanted to look presentable for this, who knows how many people would be there.

I picked up the scissors and questioned cutting my hair. I had always wanted my hair long, but lately, it had been getting in the way quite a bit. I guess it was time for a new look anyway. I bravely took the scissors, strung them across my ragged locks, and chopped off an entire 2 ft of my hair. This left it about an inch above my shoulders and a little below my chin. I kinda liked it, but Jessica was gonna freak. I decided to wear a grey leather jumpsuit embedded with triangular designs, tall boots, and a black coat with a slight blue lining. After that I continued on with my routine, pressing the button on my mirror. Res, one of our robots, popped out to apply my makeup. (I still can’t believe that there was a time people actually had to do their own!) I left my hair down and slicked it straight. Today I was rocking a Smokey blue look and finished it off with a necklace that I carefully put Harry’s ring on and tied tightly around my neck. Maybe it would give me some good luck, who knows. 

 I walked out confident about my appearance and waited for Jessica. After what felt like an eternity she finally walked out of her room ready to go. She had put her long red hair into a complicated bun and was wearing extreme makeup and a short fancy green dress off one shoulder, (yes a dress!)  What would happen if something went wrong at the event? There’s no way she would be able to fight or run in that thing, not to mention the heels she was wearing, what were they a foot high! But then again Jessica had never trained with me either. She most likely wouldn’t be able to do either of those things anyway, now that I think about it. She had always possessed different talents than me. She was good at things like reading and inventing, finding things even, She was also a great actress. I had always been the one training with my bow, getting into shape, and going out exploring, although my job did kind of require the last one. On the other hand, unless she was out performing or at a practice, Jessica preferred to stay inside. She didn’t like to get her hands dirty and she never had the interest to join me in training, although I had always wished she would. However, I guess our talents varying was good, it made us a great team.

“Oh…” Jessica remarked as soon as she saw me “You cut your hair.” She made a disappointed face.

Ugh of course she didn’t like it, she always disapproved of my style. 

I rolled my eyes “Yes I did.” Now I loved Jessica but sometimes we really got on each other’s nerves. I guess that’s just sisters for you.

“Let‘s go, we’re gonna be late.”

“Yeah your right, let’s go.”

I threw down my ring once again and together we jumped into the dazzling light. With that, we were on our way to the ceremony.

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