art by Shothot Designs
by Nathan Wellman
“Daddy, watch me do the airplane thing!”
Robert shushed Dinah and told her to keep still. She was jostling the other people in line. They’d been here for eight hours, but he hadn’t heard a single complaint from anybody. What did they have to complain about, really? Up ahead their shuttle to safety was belching steam as the engineers put on the finishing touches. Soon it would be up, up, and away. Bye bye Earth. Bye bye apocalypse. They would wait with perfect patience.
“What will happen to the Hendersons?” his wife Mary had wailed in an irrational horror. Robert assured her that they would probably find a way.
But he knew that the Hendersons wouldn’t. In fact, the Hendersons likely loathed them. Just because their name was attached to a lucky stream of numbers, they were leaving to start over scot-free. No sacrifices required. Robert remembered the cool automated voice bringing them the astounding news of salvation on the phone. One-in-a-million chance. It had sounded like the voice of God. They were the chosen ones, leaving behind a world of ash to thrive in luxury.
The line snailed forward. They turned a corner and Robert spied a square cherry-red sign far up ahead. When he read it, there was a sick feeling of having missed some vital fine print, yet at the same time Robert felt queerly satisfied. As if he’d known this would happen all along. As if they deserved it.
NO children are permitted aboard the shuttle. Couples will procreate at the colony. We apologize for any inconvenience or distress this causes.
Up ahead a woman was wailing, and Robert imagined he could see the Henderson’s smiles reach all the way to their eyes. This was the price of admission. This was the sacrifice. The even-steven world of constant giving and taking that Robert had come to expect, even take comfort in. Robert decided not to tell Mary. Let her live in the dream world a little longer.
“God sure has been good to us. We should never forget that,” Mary said. Robert agreed that He certainly works in strange ways.
Robert pulled his wife close and asked Dinah to do the airplane thing one more time.
This story was first published on Thursday, November 25th, 2010