She was about to board the plane, close to tears and confused. He had brought her to the airport and the goodbye was not easy. They were only friends, but it felt like so much more. She knew what she felt for him, but she also knew it would not be possible. He had only just lost his wife 10 months ago and was still grieving. Although there was some kind of chemistry between them, it could just not be. Probably she made it all up. But what if there was more? What if there was love? Would it be possible? She would never find out if she would set foot on the plane which was due to take her back to the other side of this planet.
Everything seemed to be working against her. Maxima had been a good woman, a good teacher, a friend. It was not until the Persistent Pestilence took Maxima from them that she had even met Minutea, but there he had been, standing tall and beautiful, with tears running quietly down his face as he glanced down into the unseeing eyes of his now expired mate. It was at that moment that she understood that this was the man her heart had been seeking, the man who held all the qualities she longed for in a mate. She had spent her entire life dreaming of this man, a man who was complete and self-assured, strong and yet tender and sensitive, wise and intelligent yet funny and goofy too. And now when she had finally ripened and would be allowed to spread her legs and attract her mate it was too late. It was too late because the man of her dreams had already been shackled to Maxima, her teacher, and once shackled the yoke is permanent. Or at least that is the way it used to be before the last Turning.
Each day since the last Turning, it seemed that those things that had remained the same for eons on Paicine were one by one revolting to the laws of science, of nature, of time itself. It all began that first day of the present turn, the sun which had always risen in the south and fallen in the north actually rose in the north and has been falling in the south each night since. And the animals! The birds had stopped their constant chatter, and the animals became like wild creatures attacking each other as well as any person that approached. Creatures once believed to be myth were now frequently seen making their way across pastures heading eastward toward the Great Abyss. These mythical creatures were now, however, the only species that remained, aside from those like herself who had thus far managed to survive the Persistent Pestilence. And so perhaps, it was simply hope playing a cruel joke on her, she thought, hope that the yoke between Maxima and Minutea had not set. That this too was a given that had fallen by the wayside.
The plane was boarding and she had to decide, should she stay or should she go? It had been a great honor to be the one chosen for ripening, while all the other candidates were destroyed, one by one as they failed to reach perfection. For it was the perfection that would allow the Ripened One to become the mother of all that were to follow. Lower Paicine is where the Persistent Pestilence began sixteen years ago and it had taken all that had lived there, just as it had taken Maxima ten short months ago, here in Upper Paicine. The quarantine was over. There had been no deaths since the medical-, scientist-, and prisoner-volunteers first began the recolonization. Going to the other side of Paicine and start rebuilding all that had been lost was her duty, but now that she’d come to know Minutea it was no longer what she desired. Perhaps she wasn’t perfect after all, and yet, she was the only candidate left, Paicine’s last hope for survival.
It was safe there now, while the Persistent Pestilence was still making its way through this part of their world. If she boarded the plane headed for Lower Paicine her future would be secure, tidy, predictable and if she remained here there were no guarantees. There was no guarantee that either of them would be alive a week from now as the Persistent Pestilence continued to eviscerate the men, women and children of Upper Paicine. And even worse still she’d been the spawn created, born and educated for the repopulation of Paicine. By choosing to not board this last plane, she would be failing her people, failing her planet, sacrificing all of Paicine to be with a man who in all likelihood would never become shackled to her and with her mating call unheralded, the people would die and the planet would shrivel and dry and become nothing more than floating rot.
Her loins vibrated their need, sang her mating cry and yet as she turned and walked up the gangway she knew that boarding this last plane to Lower Paicine was the only guarantee she had for survival and it was her duty to find another to mate and become shackled with, creating the strong yoke that would, in time, allow all of Paicine to recover its tremendous loss of life energy.
She had spent her entire life preparing for her future and it was her responsibility, whether she wanted it or not, to do her duty to the world in which she had spawned. She would never see Minutea again. She would not know of his survival or his expiration. She would never know whether the yoke he shared with Maxima remained binding to his dying day or whether her action now was something she’d regret for the rest of her days. She only knew that she must follow her duty, to do anything else would mean the end of Paicine forever.
And so the answer to the question she asked herself in those final moments standing between Minutea and the gangway, “Should I stay or should I go?” had only one answer because either way her choice would now lead to heartbreak and longing while only one of those choices would allow others continued life and so she had no choice, she must follow her duty and walk away from this man that she longed for with her entire being.
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The above short story was inspired by Author S B Mazing’s blog event Finish It, which began as a Blogging201 assignment meant to further expand our blogging experiences as well as our strength of community. Join her event to experiment with a story prompt and give your fingers a shot at short storytelling… every Wednesday she’ll provide a new prompt!
I have to say, this one was a really tough challenge for me and I am only marginally happy with the outcome. In my head I have so much more that I understand about this story and yet, I cannot seem to put the words down in descriptive or narrative form, but I hope you enjoy the attempt anyhow. I had been right with you S.B. — your timing could not have been any more perfect as just that morning my Minutea dropped me off at the airport and we are just friends, friends with a long history of missed opportunities and misfired timings, a man I have always loved, will always love yet will forever live without — but then I got to that last sentence of your paragraph, the one about going to the other side of the planet… I don’t know yet how the other writers interpreted that but for me it was Science Fiction and I could not seem to get your word “planet” to correlate with our earth’s “globe” and so I have struggled and thought, brainstormed and typed, written and erased and typed again for I don’t know, has it been weeks now??? I think it has! Anyway, thanks for the challenges. They are all tough for me, but through your event I am learning to stretch my imagination, so thank you!
* Artwork creation: cg.creativefan.com
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