August 25th, 2058: the last day that I was on Earth. I had never thought that I'd truly be away from my home planet.
Was it all worth the trouble?
The hotel that accumulated all of us from the shelter—Renee's home—was a luxurious place fit for the rich. They had an outdoor pool, an exercise room, a giant diner room, and a sauna hall. I didn't expect anything less—as most hotels in this city were designed to attract tourists—but the facilities were exotic enough that it was still a wonder to be even inside such a place. Where there was exoticness, there was the word 'explore'. Rica and me were too busy exploring to even stop and realize that this was going to be our last day on Earth.
We spent the whole next day playing in the facilities. We dived into the outdoor pool, got yelled at by a lifeguard, took turns on the treadmill, dived some more, took part in a party, ran away from the drunken Hawaiian-shirt man, and stuffed our faces with desert that didn't stop serving until dinner started.
In the evening, when all the plates were cleared and the streetlights were just beginning to glimmer, Pierce took us both out for a walk. He had something important that he wanted to tell us, and he wanted to do it without erupting the whole hotel.
"I'm going to stay behind," he told us.
We were both considerably surprised at this statement.
"But why?" I asked.
"It's Renee," he answered. "She's going on trial and I wish to be there for her."
"Is she really in that much trouble?" Rica asked.
Pierce gave a reassuring smile. "Nothing can be said for certain at this point. But I promise you, whatever happens, I'll be there to back her up."
"You're finally going to speak up to the authorities?" I blurted.
He laughed. "When have I ever not? Hey, if it's her, I'll take the shot any day."
"You're going to bring her home, right?" Rica said. "You're going to tell them that she didn't do anything wrong, and bring her home, right?"
Pierce knelt down in front of her. "Just for you, I know I will."
I placed a hand on Rica's shoulder. "You should've seen him. He was on fire when he saw Renee crying."
Rica's eyes went wide. I started laughing because at that point, Pierce's face had turned red.
"All right, Addie," Pierce sighed. "That's enough."
"Just saying," I grinned innocently.
He turned to Rica. "Anyways, don't worry about a thing. You're going to Mars tomorrow; you're starting a new life in a new place. You're going to meet all new people and face all new challenges. No matter what the future holds, start it with no regrets."
She nodded at his words. Once again, I had to admire Pierce's ability to read other's feelings like a book. There was no way I could've guessed that Rica was regretting her part with the shelter. She has always had a smile on and that smile was as deceiving as it was pleasant. Then again, I shouldn't be complaining. The genuine smile was what made Rica special.
Pierce then turned to me. "And Addie. You have gone through quite a lot these past few weeks, haven't you?"
"Well, as long as you remember your lesson from this experience, I trust that you can get by fine without my advice."
"Hey, no fair," I said. "At least tell me your advice so that I won't have to wonder about it for the rest of my life."
He laughed. "Keep up that curiosity of yours."
"Keep observing and asking questions. Keep an open mind. That's the best way for you to learn."
Was that the advice?
He stood. "And I hope you two will remain as friends for a good long time."
He didn't have to tell us that. We knew that we'd remain as friends—friends until the end of time.
The next morning, my father arrived as promised, the car filled with luggage big and small. A row of vans was already parked in the parking lot, ready to take the shelter folks and their belongings to the Space Train station. While everyone was busy throwing their luggage into their corresponding vans, Rica and I said our last goodbyes to Pierce. It was hard to believe that it would be the last time we would ever see him again.
I will never forget all the times that he had helped me; all the times that he was there to support me when I fell down. Pierce was an important member of the shelter; he was an important person in my life. But at that point, I was ready to move on; I was willing to go through life without him behind my back. I regretted that he could not join us, but I was glad that Renee had someone like Pierce to support her when she needed it. Still, I knew I would miss him greatly.
And so, with cries of goodbye and arms waving wildly in the air, we headed out to the Space Train in groups of five. The marvellous train was already sprouting out smoke when we arrived, and it took us a good thirty minutes to get everyone checked in, ride the elevators that opened just for us, and settle into the crowded compartments of the Space Train. It occurred to me then that we would be the first ever group of poor people to ride the Space Train. Not only that, but we were the first group of poor people to ever step a foot on Mars. If society welcomed us on Mars, then perhaps there was hope for recovery after all.
Rica and I sat next to each other. I was right beside the window. What I saw when I gazed out was an incredible sight. There were crowds of people below me, people that looked like ants from where I was, waving their arms in the air. I couldn't help but wave back. Rica soon joined in. I didn't know if anyone had seen us, but somehow, it felt good to just continue waving. After all, if I didn't know better, I would say that there were people down there who were just like me; who were gazing up at the Space Train and marvelling its power; who were dreaming about their chance to ride it like I once did. Although it was the last Space Train on the tracks, I wanted to assure those people that someday, somehow, their dreams would come true, just like it did for me.
I could not believe I was leaving my old childish desire behind. I had it for so long that it was incredible to think that it had come true. Everything that had happened to me, everything about the shelter, Renee and Pierce, my mother, just seemed like a distant dream now—not that I'm saying they were a dream. They belonged to a life that had passed, a life that I had experienced, but will never experience again. It almost felt like I had been reincarnated, my soul cleansed of my previous beliefs and ready to explore and accept new ones.
So was it all worth it? I'll leave that to the reader to decide.
As the train shook, Rica and I held each other hand-in-hand. An announcement over the speakers came on. The Space Train was starting its long-awaited launch. The people outside the window were starting to fog up with smoke. Rica and I smiled to each other as the train began to move. They were genuine smiles that had no other meaning other than the fact that what we've been waiting for had finally come true. Then we started the countdown along with the voice over the speaker.
My father gave me a thumbs-up in the seat beside ours. The old woman could be heard crying behind.
The images outside the window became blurrier and blurrier.
The train was rising. The excitement was building.
Here we go!
It must have been a fantastic sight for those watching below: the Space Train shooting up into the sky like a bright flare. I know because I had seen it before. But I knew this one was extra special for the two left behind. I imagined them smiling up into the sky, smiling because we were smiling, happy because we were happy. It was extra special because I made a wish just for them.
And who knows. Maybe someday, another Space Train will appear on Earth and take another wave of people to Mars. Maybe Pierce and Renee will board that train, enjoy the breathtaking scenery like we did, and land on the Red Planet where their new life will begin. Maybe we will meet again someday, catch up on all the Earth events that had taken place, and similarly enlighten their souls with stories from Mars. Until that day, Rica and I will keep on exploring, and Mars will always be called our prosperous home.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it. Until next time~ :D