The sky burned with a bright golden magenta and dying embers beneath an ashen cloud. Fragments of broken buildings and incinerated flesh littered the valley floor like a black boiling tar.
A steady stream of smoldering forms limped and lurched in the darkness like a silent procession of ghosts, heading towards a river whose waters churned with death.
Firestorms raged in all directions. Gusts of wind ripped through the desolation and carried off pieces of men.
“Help me.” The words were in her mind but her mouth refused to say them. She could feel her tongue, but her tongue could not feel her teeth. She felt the weight of debris pinning her down, but could not feel her legs.
The last she remembered, she was talking to her sister, in her room. She didn’t know what happened. A bright yellow flash, a deafening boom…. Everything was gone. Everything she knew, her mother, father, sister, neighbors, school, the fountain at the turn of the block…
Black rain poured from the sky, adding to the nightmarish scene. She pulled herself forward inch by inch, her mouth burning of thirst. She tried to drink a handful of precipitation, but choked on the taste of ash and sprayed it all over her charred arms.
A few agonizing moments later, she managed to free herself from the rubble. Only then could she see the severity of her situation. Her legs were shattered and burned black as coal. Her body was naked and charred from head to toe, skin hanging from her face, arms, and chest, and she was completely numb.
Pulling herself facedown along the burning ruins, she made her way toward the river. The wind-driven flames drew ever closer. Her arms stroked the ground with increasing speed, racing the inferno behind her. Her nostrils filled with the smell of her own burning flesh as she inched closer and closer until finally rolling into the steaming sooty water.
Through the light of flames, she could make out the river, choked with burnt carcasses, what remained of bodies. She reached for the nearest one and hugged onto it tightly. For the first moment since it began, she could focus her thoughts on what had happened. It couldn’t have been more than a minute or two, the time between talking to her sister and the end of everything. Nothing she could see was alive. The only sounds were crackling of fires and howls of the wind. Blackness consumed her world. Blackness, and death.
Nobody said my job was easy. Planetary technicians often did the grunt work for the empyreal engineers. And our boss was not going be pleased with our progress, especially considering the walk-through was scheduled for next week.
The folks over in Andromeda weren’t having any luck either, but no one really gave a rip about Andromeda. It was all about the Earth. And the moon.
“Did you at least get the oceans right?”
“Uh, yeah, I think so. You wanted ‘em all over, right? I dug out some trenches like you said, and topped it off with some volcanoes for variety.”
I was particularly proud of the volcanoes. We used to do mock-ups in school, but to finally have them full-size and functional was quite something.
“Well, we’ve gotta get that moon straightened out.”
We quickly collected the debris and put it all into the big dipper.
“Are you sure we HAVE to have a moon? Why can’t we just pull Mars in a little closer?”
“Boss-man wants to add another planet and use Mars for its moon, so no. We can’t use Mars, idiot.”
“Fine. We’ll fix the damn moon then. I don’t understand the big deal, anyway. This would work so much easier if we just used a couple smaller moons instead of one big one. The physics involved would be far simpler.”
“You were supposed to be the best planetary technician in your class. This moon should be an easy challenge for you.”
Yeah, but the moons I’m used to dealing with weren’t quite this big, proportionally anyway. This one was like, one-fourth the size of the planet.
Well, I helped the engineer piece it all back together, and then came up with an idea.
“Why don’t we smack it down with some asteroids? Cratering will help stabilize it and keep it more intact.”
The engineer considered this for a moment, studying the contours of the lunar surface with his hands.
“Okay, go grab some asteroids. While you’re doing that, I need to check on some of your mountain ranges. I think you got a little carried away on some of them.”
I’d forgotten how much fun it could be, smashing the moon with space debris. The explosions and intermittent shockwaves were brilliant! Once I was finished, I polished it off by sticking it in the sun for a few minutes, and it was ready to go! No way it was going to blow this time around!
A week later the walk-through went on schedule, and we got pretty good marks for our work. Nothing perfect, but as they say, it was good enough for now. I mean, it was for the humans, after all. How perfect did it have to be?