By Rebecca Little
The end of the world has come and gone, and to be honest, I prefer it this way. It’s more honest than before. The Earth—or Terra as the people who got away on big, fancy starships call it—died back at the end of the 20th century. She just got old and went out like a light. It would have been fine if we’d just accepted her death and our new place on her body as scavengers, decomposers, and creatures of destruction. It’s always been our instinct as a species to take shit apart. Our planet, each other, our own bodies…it’s what we do best and she wouldn’t have molded us out of monkeys if we weren’t exactly what she needed next.
But no. We had to carry on as though she were still alive. The truth is, had we accepted she were dead we’d have had to accept our own end as well. If Terra wasn’t going to stick around, we sure all hell couldn’t stick around more than a few lifetimes, each of which would get worse and worse, food becoming more scarce and our bodies clinging to the surface of the planet until it burned hot beneath us and melted off into space. If we’d have just accepted our fate, we would have blazed in glory and gone out like a supernova. We didn’t. We dragged it out like dragging a dying man behind a power wheels car around the equator forty thousand times.
Humanity crawled into spaceships as Terra went out like a glowing ember, our feet burned and our cities made of all the iron, lined in plastic. What was left of Terra melted into a bubbly soup millions of years after she died.
Like I said, I prefer it this way. It’s more honest than before. We know the planet is dead and there’s no deluding ourselves. There’s no ghost of a living planet left to keep a false hope alive. Only a handful of big fancy starships and hundreds of thousands of little rickety ones like the one I live on. Its haul is held on mostly by duct tape and sheer force of will. And vice grips. At least seventy vice grips. All three of those things quickly turned to precious commodities when Terra finally melted. A roll of duct tape can get you a pretty penny, that is, if you were still into collecting coins. Most people weren’t. We just seriously needed duct tape.
Give it a decade or so and the big fancy starships will be in the same boat as the rest of us, just bigger. Maybe with an extra Persian rug or two and king-sized beds. The food and water replication thing was figured out, but it’s pretty easy to recycle the things you eat when they pass through the organic matter and water that is your body. I eat myself. Every day. I sustain myself. I am self-sustaining. There’s independence in auto-cannibalism I suppose. This is essentially what we wanted, back in the days when we tried to convince ourselves the corpse we lived on wanted us to sustain it.
The ship I’ve lived on for the past fifteen years would look like a warehouse if it landed. When we first blasted off, it was a big, open, cement space with high ceilings and no hallways. There are about twenty of us living here and each of us has built our own little house across the cement floor. My hut is built out of crinkled tin roofing and bits of fencing. It’s cozy enough. I nicked a mattress off the last ship we captured and scrapped and some blankets too. I’ve got a blanket attached to the tin roof with some vice grips and duct tape, and several other blankets line the walls to help me forget I live inside a toaster inside a cement space toaster. Doesn’t work.
Between our self-made hovels, alleyways have built up. My neighbor’s five-year-old daughter, Gen (short for Genetic, landed that name because her parents lost a bet with a pharmacist) scavenged some sidewalk chalk from a different ship we raided and has made it her life’s mission to maintain a yellow-brick road from her hovel to the kitchen hovel. Her parents are overjoyed. It keeps her very busy. There’s no question a five-year-old could possibly ask her parents in this day and age that would be pleasant to answer.
I’m sitting on the stoop I’ve fashioned for myself out of some cinderblocks and aluminum siding drinking coffee composed of my own urine and Gen’s out there scribbling away at her yellow-brick road. This whole reconstituted food thing’s had some surprisingly beneficial side effects. Small doses of the illness are what cure it, and because we eat ourselves, there’s nothing left in us that doesn’t know what to do with ourselves. We just keep recreating ourselves and it’s come to figure ourselves out. We live in squalor, but no one gets sick anymore ever.
“We’re going raiding today,” says Gen casually. She shot her first man into the cold vacuum of space at the age of two. She doesn’t glow like I’ve been told kids should, but it might just be the light. They might have just told me wrong.
“Found a big ship?”
“No, Momma says we found a planet.”
“Of course we’ve found a planet,” I tell her. “There are billions of gazillions of planets in the universe, I’d be concerned if we hadn’t found one yet.”
She looks at me and gives a frustrated grunt to cover a smile. “Bella,” she says in a huff, “I mean we found a planet with people on it.”
“You mean people from Terra set up a colony?”
I’ve secretly hoped for a long time this would never happen. Decomposers, agents of decay like us would parasitize a living planet. We’re not wired to learn anything; we’re here to take shit apart. That’s how we discover how things work and gather information. We decompose them down to their basic elements and track how we got from the full, vibrant thing down to its most elementary building blocks. We don’t learn. We watch as things come apart and only then can we understand what they once were. We don’t reach understanding through creation. We don’t start from square one; we find our way back to it and then try to rebuild it if we can. Then we see what other things we can build it out of but in the process we take things apart to be the building blocks of the things that would already be here if we hadn’t taken them apart to find out what they are. Like I said, we’re not wired for a living planet. We would devour it.
“I dunno,” says Gen. “But we’ll be able to see it at lunchtime through the window and I should have the road repaired by then.”
The window is also held on by vice grips, duct tape, and will power. The road is repaired with sidewalk chalk scraped hopefully along the cement floor. When lunchtime comes, I follow the yellow-brick road—which still has some cracks in it, but she’s done a pretty good job—past my neighbors’ hovels and through a door that used to slide apart. It got jammed beyond all hope about ten years ago and we replaced it with some metal siding and some hinges scrapped off a ship we’d boarded. So I pull it open and step into a tiny corridor and promptly through another similar door (except Gen scribbled “LUN TIM” on it when she was two in the last permanent marker any of us has ever seen and no one’s had the heart to scratch it out).
The kitchen was packed with raggedly space-pirates. There’s really no fashion amongst scoundrels and we didn’t actually feel like scoundrels. None of us would be in this situation if we had reserved a spot on the big ships. None of us would be here if we had just decomposed the planet like we were supposed to instead of conserving it. For what? For later? Now is later and it’s fucking gone.
On the bright side, there’s still sex.
Sitting along the window is Rex. He’s a proper space pirate and makes nasty look hot. He also eats pussy like a champ. Across from him is James who is missing an arm from the last raid. We’d jumped a big ship and were parsing the starboard when a sharp slab of metal hurled towards him and sliced his arm off. We got him back in the ship as fast as he could because it cut right through his space suit too. What was left of his arm froze right off. He quickly learned to be left-handed and really knows how to use it. Being together for several decades, we’ve all fucked each other at least once. Given the time and place, I really believe any two or three or eight people will hook up and we’ve got nothing but time and place up here.
I collect my reconstituted curry and rice and sit down beside them.
“Nothing out the window yet,” I observe.
“You expecting something?” grunts Rex.
“Gen told me there’d be a planet at lunchtime,” I say. “She doesn’t know how to lie yet.”
“There’s usually a planet at lunchtime,” says Rex. “There’s so damn many of them.”
“Yeah, but she says this one we’ll be raiding,” I say.
“Never heard that,” says James, slurping some reconstituted chicken noodle soup. None of us knows what a chicken looks like.
“Well, I heard it from a five-year-old, so it must be true.”
Gen doesn’t know how to lie.
“Well that changes everything,” says James. “If we land there’s no telling if we’ll be able to blast off again.”
“If we land, the planet better be dead,” I say. “Or else it’s fucked.”
“Well, that will make all of us then,” says James. “Living things kill each other, whether it be planets or people. That’s what we do.”
“That’s what we do,” I correct him.
“Speaking of what we do,” says Rex, “what are you doing after lunch?”
I wink at him and he winks back.
Then we see it. It peeks out from the bottom of the window and moves across our lunch table until it fills up our entire view. Enormous and green and blue, looming beside us is the telltale planet. We can see white clumps of clouds swirling beneath us as wind blows weather across its surface, shifting oceans and stoic shorelines giving way to continents and leaking back into oceans again. We see something none of us had ever seen in our lifetime. We’d only heard stories about it. A planet rich in life, flowing with cool, clear water and carpeted in forest and prairie. There it loomed below us, decades into the dark void of space and far, far away from the molten metal and plastic blob we’d left behind to rot. There it is.
“I think I’ll have to take a rain check, Rex,” I tell him. “Looks like we’re going to have a…meeting.”
Meetings take for fucking ever!
“All the more reason to drop by before hand.”
“Good point,” I agree. We what’s left of our lunch in the reclaimer jury-rigged from an old clay mixer—whatever that is—and scurry back to the hall of hovels.
Rex’s hovel is just as nasty as he is. It grunts with every thrust and gags with each moan. Even at the highest of climaxes—many of which I’d reached in there—I couldn’t taste ecstasy in Rex’s place. A whiff of motor oil and sour eggs would fill my nostrils and I’d come crashing down. I lead him back through my wool blanket doorway and he takes me in his huge, scratchy arms. The stubble of his face scratches against mine as he plants his huge, slimy lips on mine, across my face and down my neck. Something about making love to Rex turns me on like nothing else. The reckless abandon it takes to really loose myself in Rex is nothing short of incredible. I feel myself so small and lithe in his arms as he lifts me off the floor and throws me onto the dusty mattress. Back in the real world—the world I live in when I’m not fucking Rex—I’ve given up on feeling pretty. There’s just no use to it. Here when it’s just the two of us, I can’t help it. He touches me like I’m the most desirable thing in the universe, he looks at me with nothing but lust and want, and catching glimpses of his body against mind when I get enough wits about me to open my eyes consciously enough to take something in through them I see my body so smooth and delicious by comparison.
He rips off my pants, and immediately dives between my legs, licking and lapping like a hungry puppy, fat and fast tongue strokes gracefully funneling down into light and calculated pokes, then back again. The lumps on his tongue just serve as added sensation. He rollercoasters me up from a simmer to a rolling boil and then back down again as I hold is head in place with my hands and writhe on the bed, biting my lower lip so as not to disturb the whole hovel neighborhood. He can go for hours. I feel his hands sliding up my legs and towards my ass, grasping with all his heart, I see the top of his shaggy large head bobbing as I hold him down with one hand and grasp at one of his hands with the other. He takes it in mind. The hum of his breath vibrates my clit and the slime between my lips lubricates. He slips in a calloused finger, worn to blisters over and over from loot and pillaging, fighting and constructing, grabbing and groping at things not meant to be touched. I am not one of them. The volcano begins to ripen within me and something deep within that only gets woken up on the edge rips through my body and I pull his face up by the hair. His eyes are intense and with my foot I can feel a stiff dick standing about eight inches and thick out from his body.
“I want you,” I tell him. “I want you right now.”
He wipes off his face with the sleeve of his shirt before removing it over his head. His chest is a forest of red and beneath it moles grow like I’ve read dandelions used to in something that was called the suburbs. His torso is solid and his skin looks twisted and welted but dependable. He pulls himself out and nudges the lips of my pussy with his throbbing cock head. A rough hand traces up my side and the other pulls me closer by the hips. I pull myself up to meet him sitting at the edge of the bed. He’s kneeling by the side of the bed halfway penetrated into me as I pull myself into him and surrender to the putrid stench of Rex. We grasp each other and hump like the monkeys we used to be. Grunting and bucking, he holds me against him with one arm and I latch my legs around his back sliding down his butt. With one strong gesture he swoops me off the bed and pins be against the wall, held in place between rickety metal siding and his big dick, bumping and grinding for dear life. He reaches a gruff finger around and rubs my clit as we pump each other and kiss wildly at each other’s faces and neck, devouring, forgetting just for now that we’re just two big meshes of recycled particles of our own shit and remembering with every inch of our bodies and every electrical pulse of our minds that we are one.
He leans back, allowing me space to arch out an orgasm, flowing up and bursting through me like a horny volcano. He grunt, growls, howls and holds it as I writhe and wriggle. Come-dumb and convulsing with pleasure, he guides me through the air and back down to the bed. Without pulling out, well lubricated and slippery, he flips me over and pulls me up to my hands and knees. He holds me in place but the hip with one hand and rubs my back lovingly with the other, kneading out the knots with grace and knowing. Rex has studied the human body both through the women he’s been with and in old books. He knows exactly where to touch to repair it. As he works himself up to orgasm, he fixes me. Lumps of tension untangle and pop. His pounding and grunting quickens, his penis pulses, but his hand on my back, working my body like a job, remains steady. A wet finger circles around my asshole and explores in slightly, then steadily deeper until it passes the sphincter completely. I tense up as this new sensation works its way from shock to calm acceptance. It’s easier after I come. Personally, I love drops of hot cum hitting my skin as a man wields himself above me and explodes, but Rex likes to squirt inside and I like the challenge. Outlaw territory is new to me and something I only trust him with.
An even breath, tensing up and relaxing into it, not much time passes before he’s a few inches deep in me and with each pulse I feel him expand and contract dramatically. I wiggle a bit, keeping an even breath and allowing unusual feelings to linger towards the pleasure side of the sensational spectrum. It’s easy to slip into pain when something feels unusual, but I trust Rex in ways I trust no one else on that ship—which includes both deep tissue back massage and anal sex. He submerges deeper within me, moaning and grunting, pumping in slow and slight movements. A yelp, a pulse, and before long warm goo squirts and I feel it in my heart. Rex’s fingertips dig into my hips and his body tenses into jolting thrusts and then softens and relaxes. His entire energy field shifts as he slips out of me and rolls over onto the mattress. I let out a pirate fart and reach over to wipe up my ass, then roll over to curl up into him. His breath is heavy and wheezy carrying the stench of his being with it. The muscles of my face relax and my back feels great. The best part about fucking Rex is how flexible I feel afterwards.
He gathers me in his arms and I close my eyes letting the enormity of the man on my mattress encompass me completely. Raiding means twenty-four hours tops of no sleep and a constant stream of improvisation, bloodshed, and damage control. It means facing the people who lived in the high rises back on Terra and ate from the worlds last remaining gardens, facing those who bought up seats on the big ships so they could have elbowroom leaving the rest of us to hobble together the broken bits of our planet that hadn’t yet melted into the void. It takes a lot out of you, and goddess only knows what’s to come at the end of the impending meeting. Everything could change. We could land on a planet and never come back up. Life as I know it would be gone forever and we could destroy a living giant we know nothing about all in the name of survival. I just want to melt into Rex and stay tucked up in him forever. I feel the same flowing back through him.
“What if we actually decide to land?” I ask.
“When’s the last time all of us have been able to decide on anything that big?”
“We haven’t had the option since we left Terra,” I remind him. We had all come aboard at the beginning except the three or four kids and teenagers who had been born on the ship. We never take on new recruits, we never take on prisoners. We are completely self-sustaining and have figured out how to get along with each other against all odds. Tipping the balance—especially with someone willing to join the enemy that killed everyone on their ship to save their own pansy-ass—would ruin everything. Fuck no.
“What do you want?” he asks me gruffly. If I’d just met him it would sound like an angry demand. I roll over to face him.
“Now Rex, why are you always asking me what I want?”
“Because I know how to give you what you want,” he replies, stroking up my torso and around my bare breast. “Why should this time be any different?”
“I usually know what I want when you ask me,” I reply. “A stiff drink, oral sex…but this time, I don’t know.”
Around us, moans and grunts of decompression sex bounce off the tin walls and rooftops and rain down from the cement ceiling above. We lay there until we hear hovel doors creak open all around us, and the shuffles of feet walking purposefully in the same direction towards the cafeteria. Rubber boots, duct-taped and stitched up at the toe scuff the cement yellow-brick road and off in the distance I can still hear Gen scratching away with her sidewalk chalk and chronic ability to entertain herself against all odds. She’ll probably be at the meeting too. It’s no use to keep kids in the dark here. They grow up fast and bring their coping mechanisms with them.
I peek out the window of my hovel to see Gen carefully stash her sidewalk chalk in the trusty pouch on her side sewn together from tire scraps and begin her march purposefully towards the cafeteria.
“Ever think of squeezing one out yourself?” Rex asks, standing up. There’s a drooling puddle of goo leaking still leaking slowly out of my ass.
“Still got to diaper myself apparently.”
“But seriously, didn’t you have that biological clock thing?”
“This whole doomed in space thing is kind of a cock-blocker,” I admit. There’s nothing more depressing than thinking about Gen’s past and her future.
“Well, all that could change,” says Rex, pulling up his heavily patched trousers and throwing my shirt over to me.
The cafeteria is tiny when everyone is in it all at once, and it seems to get smaller and smaller as time goes on. The meetings tend to drag considering we’ve been consensus-decision makers for decades. We can agree on scrapping ships shooting off the inhabitants into space. Before a raid, just in case any of us have forgotten, we remind each other of the extremely stratified society we left behind. The people in the big ships left us all for dead. So fuck ‘em.
We don’t know how to get psyched up for a planet.
“From what our sensors show, it’s got an abundance of water, a suitable level of oxygen in the atmosphere, and a suitable, livable temperature,” says Felicia. She’s short and feisty with a long stretch of straight blond hair tied back in two messy buns on top of her head. Last year we’d pierced each other’s nipples on an adrenaline rush after a raid. It took the edge off. “Our sensors kind of suck though. We’ll be taking a big chance.”
“And there’s no way in hell we’ll be able to get off once we land?” asks James.
“No fucking way,” Felicia assures him. “So we only get one shot at this and if we’re wrong, we’re just as doomed as we are anyway.”
“We’ll just be doomed for longer if we stay up here,” says Rex rolling his eyes.
“How many big ships are left out there?” asks Remus, a middle-aged man who has somehow managed to become and remain portly.
“Well, if I’ve been keeping track, we’ve scrapped all but three of them,” says Felicia. “At a rate of a ship a year, we’re not looking so good in terms of longevity here.”
“We could keep on like this until we scrap the final ship and then try our chances down on the mystery planet,” suggests Yazmin, a teenager from the hovel a few rows over.
“Sounds maddening,” I say. “Honestly, I know all of you and none of us will be able to take the suspense. We’ll fucking murder each other.”
“You’re probably right,” says Felicia. “Well then, does anyone have a proposal to vote on?”
Of course, this is an hour and a half into it and I haven’t raised my objection just yet. I’m holding onto it for the opportune moment but have half the mind to abandon it completely for the sake of getting the fuck out of this meeting. James motions to scan for an abundant and climatically moderate part of the planet and land as soon as we’re ready. Now ensues a heated discussion about which climate and part of the planet we know next to nothing about would be best. After deciding to table this discussion until we knew more about our choices, there were no other motions. Glancing around the room, I see tired and hardened faces. They’re not hardened like buccaneers or gangbangers, but hardened like the parents of a race whose kids are all dead of disease and hopelessness and have nothing left to do but wait for their own bulbs to burn out. The raids stopped being cutthroat years ago. They’re just muscle memory now. There’s no burning hatred left, just necessity.
I wonder if this is necessary. I read about parasitic mushrooms in a book I found in Felicia’s hovel. We’re not parasites, we’re decomposers, but decomposers don’t feed on living hosts. We only feed on dead ones. And ourselves. If the planet is still alive, would we even be able to survive it?
Planets like Jupiter and Venus were jumping with so much life the storms never calmed down. Through and through into deeper layers of the planet, gas danced and swirled, rock joined with hot air and they mated and erupted, sinking back into the fiery mess of big, sexy life. Earth was dead. Its juices gurgled around on top of its surface and ran through it, but the land was cool and the core was stable. The planet had come to be and grown old and died. It had a free and playful childhood, a wild and sexy adulthood, and grew into old age with grace and beauty. Then it died. Then we woke up and started taking it apart. What would have happened if we had arrived too soon?
Rex looks over at me and raises an eyebrow. What he means is, “This is your last chance to fuck this up for everyone.” It’s a dare. I keep my mouth shut and look away.
After the meeting I linger in the cafeteria a bit longer. We’ve decided to scan the surface to take stock of the best place to land and just fucking do it. Our entire existence in space is about to end and life as I know it as about to shift drastically for the second time in my life. Rex touches his nose and points at me as he exits back towards the hovels with Liz, off to go relieve some tension. Liz and I had actually worked together back on Terra in one of the last mines before it caved in. We tunneled as deep as we could go and found only lava with liquid wisps of plastic floating around in it evaporating into thick gas that burned our lungs. We’d stumbled back towards the surface and promised each other we’d survive somehow.
Now we might.
Felicia stands by the window waiting for the ship’s computer to finish scanning the planet below. With a lurch, we pop into orbit. She steadies herself on the table beside her and I steady myself on her. She slips an arm around my waist and asks me if I’m okay.
“Thanks, yeah, as good as I can be.”
She gazes down at me, just below the level of her chin, with big dark eyes, hardened with years of murder. “Our generation has been through a lot.”
“Finished off a planet, lived in space,” I agree. “Now we’re about to go be aliens.”
“Yep,” she agrees. “You wanted to say something today.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I like the way you think,” says Felicia. “What is it?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I repeat. “Whether or not we can survive without destroying another planet, we have to try.”
“Yeah, I can’t logic or reason my way out of wanting to survive,” Felicia agrees. “Even if it’s not for the best and even if it doesn’t make any sense, we just have to try. We stop trying, we stop living.”