This is a short story that I wrote for my creative writing class at York. Turns out, though, that the class wasn’t so creative. But that’s a different story. ‘The Beginning Again’ was the title I first thought of, but I had to change it because I had to edit the original plot of the story (cause of my T.A) . I might release that, too. One day. But for now:
The Old Man
The Old Man hasn’t been outside in years. What was the point? He continuously thought to himself. The last time he saw outside there was an incredible war and mostly everything was destroyed now. But he had everything – and, most importantly, everyone – he needed in the safety of his bunker, underground in Tacoma, Washington. This day was different than past days, though. Today he was going to leave his long-time home of Tacoma to go to another planet that he knew nothing about. The interesting thing was that he helped pay for the mission. He was good friends with the director of NASA and he came to him years ago, back when he was still young, and told him about what they found. Needless to say, he was eager for the opportunity to be part of such an event.
And today was the day. The old man slowly got out of bed, he wasn’t in any serious pain but his body ached with old age. He stretched out, yawned, and walked by the painting on his wall. He stopped and looked at it for quite some time, like he did every morning, then continued towards the living room where he saw his children and grandchildren already there with all their bags packed waiting at the front door. His suitcases were still inside his room and he wondered if he would have to move them himself, or if his beloved kids would be kind enough to do it for him. Smiling, he took a seat on his usual mahogany suede recliner they knew not to sit on. Unfortunately, he could not bring it with him, these were the last moments he’d spend with his ancient couch. It was almost as old as he was. His smile quickly vanished. He put his feet up and leaned back.
“You guys are anxious to leave, huh?” Asked the old man.
“They are, mostly,” said his son, referring to his children. The old man knew his son was also anxious and he was just trying to play it cool. He knew all three of his children perfectly well; old age hasn’t broken his memory. He subtly tapped on the wooden coffee table beside him.
“Smells like breakfast,” he said.
“Yeah, we’ve been up for a while now. Had lots of time to make breakfast. We left you some. I must say; it’s delicious.”
“Our last breakfast on Earth, I’m sure it is.” He looked around the room, everyone seemed restless. “But I’ll eat it when I get back.” He paused. “I’m going for a walk.” All the eyes in the room quickly glanced over at him with shock. He hasn’t been outside in years.
“What? Why?” asked his daughter.
“It’s our last day here. I have to see it even though it’s not the same as what it was. I have to see it before I go. And no, I don’t want company.”
“Are you sure? You never know who’s out there now. Or what. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
He walked over to his daughter and gently laid his hands on her shoulders. “Nothing will happen to me, Ivory.” He started towards the elevator that would carry him out. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon.”
The barred doors of the elevator clanged when they shut and it took him up. It was a rather long ride since the bunker was way underground but he finally began to see the bright light shining from above as if he was entering heaven where he’d be with his wife. Are you looking down on me? He asked his wife in his head. We’re leaving today, I hope you can find us in our new home. He began to have vivid flashbacks of that dark day. He dropped to his knees and crunched over, seeing the eyes of his wife shut as she took her last breath. He felt her grip on his hands get loose. He saw the tears in his eyes as he finally let her go. He told himself he wouldn’t cry anymore, and he wouldn’t start now. Thankfully, the flashbacks were over. He stood up when he reached the top. The light was just the sun. The gates opened and the old man quickly shut his eyes because it was too bright. He slowly opened them and they adjusted to the light. He opened his eyes to dirt. To destruction. To nothing. There were abandoned houses with wood boarded down, covering the doors and windows. Nature was dead. There was no sign of wildlife. Nothing was the same. He looked around with terror on his face, he couldn’t believe this was what his city has turned to, but he began his walk. He remembered the bar where him and his wife had their first date, now broken down. He started to hum the tune of the first song they danced to. He saw memories all around him. When they left the bar, looked each other in the eyes and kissed for the first time. He saw the remains of the park where he asked her to marry him. He had been walking for five minutes now and his heart suddenly dropped as he was approaching the spot where it happened. He stood frozen in the streets with memories racing through him. He saw himself driving with his wife in the front seat beside him, swerving through the terrible traffic, avoiding falling debris from above. The traffic became too overwhelming but they were close to their bunker so they decided to abandon the car and run. They bolted, dashing between cars. They hopped over the island rail in the middle of the road and they were almost there. He turned to look if she was behind him but she was nowhere to be seen.
He couldn’t help it, he was crying now. He rubbed his eyes as the tears rolled down his cheek. He had enough of this. Going outside was a mistake and he should’ve known better. What did he expect to happen? He turned his back on his memories and walked back home.
The elevator took him back down and this time he only saw darkness below him. He saw his family in the same place he left them. They were playing monopoly until they noticed him and saw his eyes.
“What’s wrong, dad? What happened up there?” Asked his son. They all gathered around him, waiting for an elaborate explanation.
“I told you not to go,” said his daughter.
“It’s nothing,” he said grimly. He went to sit down on his mahogany suede recliner with eyes still on him. He sighed. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying home.” He looked around the room and saw worry and confusion.
“What do you mean?” his son said after moments of quiet. “He should be here any minute now and this is what you’re saying? Why?”
“I can’t go. I’m an old man. I have nothing left. Who knows if I’ll even survive the trip to wherever we’re supposed to go. And I don’t want to die in space. Away. Everything I need is here. You all go. You have long lives ahead of you. I’m meant to stay here with—“
They were startled by the sound of the buzzer.
They continued to sit.
“With what? With who?” his daughter pleaded.
“Just forget it. It’s hard for a parent to let their kids go but I need to. I can’t go with you. But go live. Explore. Build your new lives. Please.”
The old man got up and walked over to the elevator and looked through the camera. There was a tall man with short black hair wearing a well-fitting suit. He noticed the shiny blue NASA logo pin on his collar. The old man pressed the button to let him inside. He turned around and struggled to smile. “It’s time to go.” He watched his family hesitate with distraught looks on their faces but eventually got up. The elevator with the man arrived and he walked out with a big grin, unaware of what everyone else in the room was feeling. What had been excitement was now sadness.
“Good afternoon, sir. My name is Callisto, I’m here to take you home.”
The old man shook Callisto’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you. How was trip? Tedious, I’m sure.”
“Oh, well it was alright, sir, I have a way of killing time.” He looked around the room. “Looks like no one is happy about leaving. But we should get going, my boss is looking forward to seeing you again.”
“I was looking forward to seeing him too. But I suppose he should’ve came here himself, because I have decided that I’m not going anywhere. I’ve made up my mind. My family will all be going, though. Without me. “
Callisto looked around, realizing why everyone looked upset.
“But why, sir? There’s nothing left here. This is a gr–“
“I’ve made up my mind.”
“Would you like to call Houston and explain to them why?”
“You’re the reason we’ve had this opportunity. None of this would be possible without your help on this mission. You have to go to the end. And the end is not here.”
“My end is here. Tell my old friend I said good luck.”
Stumbling for words, Callisto observed the faces. They weren’t trying to convince their father to go, so it was hopeless now. He picked up his briefcase and glanced at his watch, letting it be known that it was time to go.
The old man’s family received the message.
“Can you please give us a few minutes to say bye,” asked his son.
“Of course. I’ll go up and I’ll be waiting in the car.” Callisto turned to the old man and shook his hand. “It was an honour to meet you, Sir.” He opened the doors to the elevator and took it up.
Then the old man said: “The longer we wait, the harder it will get. This is goodbye. But you’re all adults, with your own families. I’ve done my job and I’m allowing you to move on without me. This is the hardest thing for me. I lost your mother sixteen years ago, and I never thought I’d be faced with such dark times again, but here we are. Believe me, I love you all, but I have to stay. I loved your mother very much and leaving will take me away from all our memories, as hard as some of them are, there are plenty of good ones. You wanted to know why. That’s why.”
“I love all of you.”
“We know, dad,” said his son, who gave his father a handshake and a hug.
His daughter’s followed.
His in-laws next.
Finally, his grandchildren.
He sat down on his mahogany suede recliner and put his feet up. Now he was the one putting on an act, like his son earlier. He watched them open the elevator doors. He watched the doors close, admiring their beautiful faces for the last time. And they were gone.
He let out an exasperated sigh and continued to stare at the elevator doors. He couldn’t move his eyes or his body. Frozen in shock, he just sat there. In silence. Staring.
Hours passed by and the old man finally got up to go to bed. His body ached as he slowly got off his mahogany suede recliner. He gradually walked down the blank hallway, passing by the bedrooms of his family. He kept the doors open. He reached the end of the hall, where his room was. He closed the door behind him and took a seat on the edge of his bed. He looked up at the painting and smiled, looking at his wife smiling down on him.