Sacrifice

For the first time in recorded history, the entire population of Earth was silent. Not a single eye blinked as he passed through the crowd. No one tried to stop him. No one cared. Perhaps they expected him to turn back or to admit that he made a miscalculation. How very wrong they were.

 

I went to school with Eddie. He was always a shy, studious child. Rather than playing chasy with the rest of us, he’d be crouching on the oval, sketching and labeling every insect he saw. In high school, you could always find him (that is, if you were looking for him; no one ever was) sneaking into the chemistry lab to conduct his own experiments. Although I was popular and shallow, Eddie did intrigue me, but talking to him was social suicide.

 

As I watched him make his way to the sealed doors of our underground world, I recalled the first time Eddie spoke up.

 

“The surface of our planet can no longer take the intensity of the sun,”

“Shut up, Eddie!” Eddie ignored the comment and continued his speech.

“Within no more than five years, life as we know it will cease to exist,”

“He’s been going on about this for 17 minutes!” Eddie took a deep breath and let the complaint pass.

“If we don’t act now, Earth is doomed to ashes,”

“He’s lying! Give him an E!” called another student from the back of the class. It was only a Year 12 science assignment but Eddie knew what he was talking about. A gentle hand fell on his shoulder.

“Come on, Eddie. Enough is enough. We’ve got the message.” Ms. Spencer led him to his seat. Even she, his favourite teacher, didn’t believe him.

“But Miss,”

“No, Eddie. What you propose is physically impossible. I really didn’t expect some absurd apocalypse theory from you,” Eddie looked cut.

“You’ll see,” he muttered and returned to his seat in the class.

 

If only one person in that room had believed him, he would not have to make this sacrifice today.

 

10 years ago, the fourth of September, 2335, was a day that we all try to forget. The o-zone layer had become so weak from pollution that people were dropping dead in the streets. Just as Eddie had predicted, the Earth’s surface had become uninhabitable.

The only solution had been to build a temporary civilisation underground. To this day, Earth’s entire population had been confined to the ground. The scientists said that with a few years free of pollution, the o-zone layer would repair itself. We were supposed to be able to leave the underground today. Everything was going according to plan until this morning.

 

The World Leader, Martin Lloyd, was delivering his final speech before we returned to the surface.

“Wait!” shocked expressions covered everyone’s faces as a scruffy young man pulled himself onto the stage. He brushed himself off and flattened his hair before he approached Lloyd.

“You’re sentencing all of these people to their deaths. We can’t leave the underground yet,” the man ignored Lloyd’s protests and grabbed the microphone.

“My name is Edmond Fletcher and I work in the International Department of Science. I have been studying the issue of the o-zone layer and I’ve found that its condition is, in fact, getting worse. Any exposure to the sun at this stage would be lethal. I have the facts right here!” Eddie cried as he waved a bundle of documents above his head.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Timid little Eddie was interrupting the World Leader. While here I was; one of the most influential girls in my old school, simply sitting back and watching everything happen. It had been 15 years since Year 12. Eddie was right then, who’s to say he wasn’t right now? I watched as Security dragged him away. These people have been trapped underground for ten years and will take any chance to escape.

          Lloyd found his bearings and lifted the microphone.

“What this man proposes is physically impossible,” he used the same words that Ms Spencer used all those years ago. “We shall return to the surface today!” The audience cheered.

“No!” Eddie broke free of the guards and sprinted towards Lloyd. He told him something too soft for me to hear. Lloyd nodded and returned to the podium.

“Mr. Fletcher of the IDS has volunteered to leave the underground before us to prove that it’s safe,” shocked, I looked over to Eddie. His face was dark and solemn. Then it struck me that Eddie knew he was right. Right: as he was in school and once again, no one believed him. He was the one to pay for our mistakes. His death would save our lives.

 

My gaze never left him as he opened the sealed doors with a swipe of a card. As the doors unlocked themselves, he shut his eyes and let his shirt slide off his shoulders. He really was going to die. The world still needed him and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t going to conform with the crowd.

“Eddie, stop!” I shoved people out of the way to get to him. “You don’t have to do this!” He smiled at me as one would smile at a stranger. His eyes were empty.

“I’ve always wanted to make this world a better place. One person can make a difference,” With that, the doors slid open. An orange glow filled the chamber as Eddie stepped outside.

He walked slowly, not noticing his blistering skin or the terrified screams of children as they saw something red trickling from his back. He outstretched his arms and tilted his head back, allowing the sun to devour his body. Thousands of glassy eyes followed him. Some horrified, some amazed, but all of them connected in awe.

I could distantly hear Martin Lloyd’s voice informing everyone that we would remain underground until the surface was safe again. The crowd cried at how close they had come to certain death and rushed into the deeper areas of the chamber. No one mentioned the man who had sacrificed his own life for them. As I stood alone in the doorway, a single tear rolled down my cheek and Eddie Fletcher vanished into the amber blaze of the sun.


Comments:
 
kt6550   kt6550 wrote
on 8/7/2009 8:25:43 PM
Very nicely written.

Rinskinski
Short Story
Science Fiction
writing Rinskinski
"Painters paint their pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence." - Leopold Stokowski

"Do you know that our soul is composed of harmony?" - Leonardo da Vinci
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Synopsis
In this story, the bold font indicates the story going back in time, through the narrator's memories. Normal font is just the present.
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