flash fiction

What I Saw

I thought I would never come back. At least I never considered that possibility when I left. I knew of the riots, of course, that’s partly why I left. I just didn’t know Earth was going to blow up.

I was on board of the Antaeus when it all happened. Even at 99.965% the speed of light it had taken me almost 5 years to reach Alpha Centauri. There was something about this milestone that got me feeling homesick. The isolation was already hard to bear, and then the news from Earth arrived.

It was on the ship’s theater room that I saw the footage of the bombs going off, the destruction of cities, and tear down of governments. It seemed the end of civilization.

It took me months to retrieve a full day of news from Earth. Since I was traveling close to light speed radio signals from Earth could barely catch up with me. I was still receiving the news originated a few days after my own departure years into my trip.

I knew all I was watching had happened long ago. Still I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t stop thinking about turning the ship around and going back. I knew I would arrive hundreds of years after I had left, of course. It would all be gone. The wars, the fight. I knew all this but still the desolation back on Earth was too much for me to ignore. How could I go off exploring the cosmos while this was happening back home? How could I run away from the fate of my brothers and sisters? I wanted to be home.

I never considered what I would see on my way back.

Heading back to Earth the rate at which I received feeds from Earth increased almost hundred-fold.

If on my way out I only saw a month’s worth of news, on my way back I saw decades of human events fly by from one day to the next. A full year in less than a week.

I saw humans kill each other while their cities went up in flames. I saw the last crew boat leave Earth. I saw artificial life rise from the debris of our cities. I saw bandit bots dismantled the Hubble for parts. I saw mining robots fight colonies on the surface of the Moon.

Communication from Earth stopped soon after the uprising. When I arrived to Earth I found her three hundred years older than when I left.

The blue dot was blue no more.

I was not ready for what I saw, but I don’t regret coming back. If I had stayed the course I would never have seen my home planet in rags. For all the years ahead I would had kept a small hope for humanity. I would have lived ignorant on my bubble. By returning to Earth I’ve made myself witness of her desolation.

I am here now. And whatever happened, happened. And whatever shall happen, shall happen.

The thing is, I am back.

January 7, 2021

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