Static is a short story about loss and loneliness at the end of the world. It is one of my favourites from my collection ‘With So Many Sagas in the World…’ and I hope you enjoy it too. I’d appreciate any feedback and comments on it.
He wondered whether anyone remembered that he was up here. He wondered whether anyone was left who would care. Every time he looked out of the window the view was new and yet also somehow worse than before. There had been a family down there, all of his own, but now he didn’t know if they were still there to miss him as badly as he missed them. The loneliness was becoming a problem.
He hadn’t always been alone up here. There had been four of them. That is until the world beneath them changed and they had allowed themselves to be changed with it. They had watched together as the world they’d left behind destroyed itself. There had been disbelief when the first flashes appeared on the horizon. How could they be expected to believe that the world had lost its mind in a display of nuclear might? When the mushroom clouds had blossomed below them, there had been a realisation of how terrible things truly were.
After the radios went quiet, they had suffered with accepting the truth. They had begun taking it in turns to look out for lights, or any sign of civilisation, after the dust finally settled. They had found nothing but darkness. From then on they had been alone, together, and would be for as long as they had left.
Several weeks of radio silence passed before Luschenko had made his choice. Luschenko had been the crew’s medic, so he knew which pills were best; the ones that would make it painless. Kranz had helped him store Luschenko’s body in a storage compartment. It hadn’t felt right, but what could they do? This place had never been built with funerals in mind.
Kranz was different after Luschenko died. She’d always been bubbly and full of wonder, but that was before the bombs. Her change had been gradual but inevitable. One morning, she’d put on a suit, left the station and had never come back. The last man in orbit was jealous. Kranz had experienced a final few moments with no one but the void and then returned to the world in a blast of heat and light.
He’d been the most impressed with Markowitz. Eddie Markowitz, the kid who wasn’t even supposed to be up here in the first place, had been studying at some university when his numbers came up. One hundred million dollars, they’d said. Markowitz had spent a large portion of that win getting up here; a lifelong dream that he was finally able to realise, just in time for the world to suffer nuclear annihilation. Eddie had taken the end of the world pretty well, considering. At least for a while, until the inevitable boredom, loneliness and despair had claimed him as it had with them all. Eddie had checked out quietly, getting hold of a small blade before filling his compartment with tiny crimson spheres.
As he stared out of the nearest viewport, he switched the radio on. It had become something of a daily ritual after Kranz, Luschenko and Markowitz had left him behind. No one had ever replied, and he doubted that anyone ever would, but he tried anyway. Every single day.
“This is Commander Grant Wilkins. Is anyone receiving?” As usual there was no reply but that of static. He thought about static. About how it was the residual effect of the Big Bang. How apt, he thought, that one of the last things he would ever hear would be the leftovers of the first noise ever created.
“This is Commander Grant Wilkins. Is anyone receiving? This is my last day. Is anybody out there?” Static. Cold, distant static. The last man worked his way through the station, efficient and weightless, to the control centre. There he made some changes on a number of consoles best left alone, before making his way back to his favourite viewport. He’d only been away for a few minutes, but the view below him was of a whole new continent; new but equally cloaked in darkness.
The station shuddered as the small thrusters on its hull fired and broke its orbit. Kranz had given him the idea. Instead of a lonely walk, however, he was bringing the station with him. It would be returned to the Earth in a blaze of glory that was no less than it deserved.
“This is Commander Grant Wilkins. For anyone in the Western Hemisphere, keep your eyes open for a shooting star to the south. I’m coming home.”