by Josh Vogt
The plastic filter muffles the elder’s heavy breathing. His pale eyes are thumbprint smudges behind the glass panes of his mask.
“I remember when sunsets meant romance, not retribution,” he says, vocal cords creaking from acid-clawed scars.
I am disoriented by how organic everything is beyond the threshold. Mold instead of plastic. Dirt instead of steel. Bones instead of fiber optic cables.
“The trees grew green,” the elder says. “Not black. You could have sex without spending two weeks in a decontamination center afterwards. Swimming in a lake didn’t sizzle your fat like bacon.”
He shoves me outside, far enough so it’s useless to try and fight my way back in.
“Birds sang. They didn’t scream.” He gives me a last, baleful glare from within the airlock. “I ache for the world, but not for you.”
The door irises shut, hissing as it seals. It will not open for me again.
I press a hand to my stomach, noticeably swollen beneath the orange webbing of my biohazard suit—new life within me, waking to a dead world.
Unplanned. Unacceptable. Unforgiven.
I watch the sky burn, and wonder how far I can chase the sunset before the oxygen tank runs out.