THE LAST ASTEROID
THE LAST ASTEROID
by Robin Crawford
Seven days ago, I stood on the end of the world and watched my girl Gidget go up in flames.
We were on a picnic. Gidget made the best ham salad sandwiches, even though there really was no such thing as ham anymore. No pigs. No animals at all. Animals had become a chapter in history books fifty years before I was born.
But back to the picnic. I had signed up for the spot months ago, hoping Gidget and I would still be together when my turn came. We were. I knew she was the one, with her one blue eye and one green eye, and the way her laugh made my skull tingle. And the way she didn’t mind that my eyes were both the same color – brown – and that when I laughed, children ran scared.
“No, they don’t, Henry,” she would tell me. “Children love you. Have you signed up for one yet?”
That’s why I loved Gidget. She could say the most outrageous things in the most innocent way. I could never scold her, though signing up for a child was the most personal, intimate act an adult could commit, and it was usually done with a partner.
Gidget was hinting, of course, and always fell quiet for awhile after I told her I hadn’t signed up for a child yet. That I was waiting.
But I had. I had signed up the day after Gidget and I met in line at the CHIP-checking station. She was standing in front of me talking to the friend who was with her. She laughed that skull-tingling laugh, and I knew right then and there this was the only person I could ever sign up for a child with.
I also signed up for the picnic spot the day I signed up for a child. It would only take months for the ten square foot patch of earth located next to Lake Yin, one of two remaining bodies of water in the world, to be available. And it was then I would tell Gidget, and we could spend the next several years waiting together for our turn for a child.
There was this mythical place called “paradise” people believed in centuries before my girl Gidget went up in flames. It was as remote a concept to us in the year 2712 as planet-hopping would have been to those ancient people.
The “state-of-mind” theorists of the twenty-third century had proven ideas such as paradise, hell, hunger, thirst, and even love were merely tricks one’s mind would play. We’d moved beyond that. Now we had total control. One could choose a state of hunger, or paradise, or pain, or pleasure.
It might be surprising to someone from outside our culture to know how many times people chose unpleasant states. But all things being transient and without substance, even sadness could be an entertainment. Contentedness replaced unrest in the world.
So I had decided to choose paradise. Sharing my life allotment of eighty years with Gidget was the state of mind I wished to dwell in for as long as I could. And sharing also with her the child who would one day be awarded to us would make it perfect.
The day we met, in line for the required yearly check of our EZ CHIP implants, Gidget met my eyes with her laugh and said, “I’m Gidget. What’s your name?”
I told her and she turned back to her friend. She didn’t say another word to me until I walked out the door of the station and reached into my Ziplok to program my Travelmate for home. She was suddenly in front of me.
I was so startled I accidentally pushed the “send” button before I had finished entering the coordinates. I spent the next ninety seconds at the foot of my next door neighbors’ bed before I collected my thoughts and hit the “reverse” button.
Gidget never let me forget that. It was her favorite “silly Henry” story.
“I thought you didn’t want to talk to me, Henry,” she said. “Just disappearing like that.”
She laughed. Her one blue eye and one green eye sparkled. And the hair on top of my head stood on end. I was in love. It was the best state of mind I had ever chosen. And it seemed Gidget had picked the same one.
Anxiety was the least popular of all possible states. No one wanted to worry, no one wanted to feel the dread of anticipation. That’s why no one had been told about the last asteroid.
If I had known, would I have taken Gidget to the picnic spot? If I had known about the five-hundred square mile chunk of space detritus heading on its unstoppable path toward our planet, would I have done anything differently?
Probably not. Except I would have been in a state of sadness, of mourning. Time with Gidget might have been spent railing against the unfairness of the universe or attempting to find a solution, an escape. This would have been a useless waste of time.
Our planet was relatively young, but we who were left on it after the ravages of civilization had eliminated all but three species—man, palmetto grass, and cockroaches—were tired. Our scientists were worn out from learning everything about everything, from pulling our emaciated ball of dust out of one fire after another.
Changing the course of previous asteroids and finding cures for every imaginable disease had taken its toll. Now new diseases mutated unchecked on a regular basis and asteroids continued to target our tiny world.
I suppose this is why no one was told. Someone had made the decision not to tell since nobody had the energy anymore to make another rescue effort.
Gidget and I had just finished our sandwiches and she was laying out dessert. I pulled her to her feet.
“Henry,” she scolded, looking down. “You stepped on a Twinkie. You are so silly.”
So I stood there with my skull tingling and white goo all over my foot, holding Gidget’s hands. Suddenly the air around us grew warm and there was a roar and something began to happen to the small lake behind us. I didn’t know what was coming, but I knew I’d better hurry.
“Gidget, I signed up for a child. Would you like to share it with me? Oh yes, and by the way, I love you.”
She smiled, she laughed. I tingled. The world exploded. And Gidget went up in flames.
Afterwards I pieced together what happened. It was some sort of luck that I happened to be standing with my back to a deep body of water at the time. When the asteroid hit, I was lifted off my feet and buried face down in the muck at the bottom of Lake Yin.
A pocket of air allowed me to breathe. I woke up sputtering, nearly drowning, and finally fought my way to the surface. Nothing is what I saw.
For seven days I’ve wandered and still I’ve found nothing. Not even a cockroach. Now I’m tired. Now I’m ready to choose the final state of mind.
Robin Crawford’s book One Man’s Dark is available on Kindle at: http://www.amazon.com/One-Mans-Dark-ebook/dp/B0054ZLGMC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1331702256&sr=1-1