The Red Dawn
The Red Dawn14 mins 270 14 mins 270
Neil’s sleep is interrupted by a lean but sharp noise. She moves across her hands over the bed to check something but ended up caressing the empty bed sheet. He isn’t there. She quickly gets off hastily and shouts, “Baby, where are you? in a cautioned voice.
She waits a moment attentively to listen to if there’s any response. Nothing. She scurries across the dining hall towards the outer door of the living room. The door is unlocked. Her heart pumped vigorously! Where’s Rohan? She comes out of the house.
The house is surrounded by a small garden that Neil uses for growing vegetables and fruits after the catastrophe. It has been difficult two years for her and on top of it she can’t take any help from Rohan no matter how much he wants to assist his wife.
Neil couldn’t find Rohan in the garden. She notices the main gate is slightly open. Neil pushes the main gate watchfully to prevent the cracking sound. She doesn’t want to wake the neighbors at any cost. Or to be precise, she doesn’t want them to know that the world’s last human being of his gender is still alive and that too in her possession.
“Are you there baby?” Neil’s voice is now shaking in grim apprehension. The street in this locality has gone straight towards the highway. There are houses scattered on both sides of the street. Neil knows who live inside them. They look like women, in fact, they are women. But to Rohan they are monsters. Maybe they could even smell him from a distance. They are hungry for male flesh; they haven’t touched male skin for years now. She can’t even imagine what would happen if they could get their hands on him. Or what if they have already...
She couldn’t think anymore. Right now she has to find him. She walks imperatively towards the highway. There are few cars these days. Most of them are private cars and small freight vehicles, nothing that a woman can’t handle. There aren’t much as it used to be when men were there. It was considered to be men’s job but now women are all this earth has got. Except for Rohan.
He’s the only man alive in this ailing earth. All the governments have now made it official. Of course they don’t know about Rohan’s existence.
There he is. There’s an ancient banyan tree towards the edge of the street just before it meets the highway. He’s climbed a branch and is waving from there seeing Neil scampering towards him. Neil ran towards him, relieved, tears in her eyes. She looks out for everywhere and after being assured that no one’s watching, gets him to come off and somehow takes him home warily.
“What were you thinking?” Neil bursts out in an exasperated voice as they returned back home, “I can’t lose you, you know that right? Do you want to hang out with those other girls who would eat you alive? Go on then, try again?” she keeps shaking him by his shoulder.
“I’m sorry Neil, I won’t ever do it again”, Rohan whimpers like a baby, “I have been living in captivity for last five years, I never get to go out, I just wanted to have a little fresh air, that’s it. I know how much you’re sacrificing for me and I have been selfish. I’m sorry Neil.” he buries his head in her chest and keeps crying. “Maybe I’ve not been able to befriend with fact that I’m the only man alive in this godforsaken world”, he adds after a pause.
- “I know what you’re going through, but you have to help me get over it, I’m trying hard to get us out of this difficult time. We’ve survived so far, we’ll survive the future too. I’ll make that possible for you, for us, because I love you.” she kept stroking her head lovingly with her hands.
The earth had just survived the 2020 C-virus outbreak. It was September of 2020 when all the governments announced that they had made their countries free from the deadly disease. Little they knew what was yet to come next.
After the 2019 Amazon fire and 2019-20 Australian fire, many high-level committees were formed all over the world to assess the situation, to know how could it impact more in the coming days and to discuss ways to mitigate the risks. Neil was part of the UN meetings held in Vienna and Washington DC as a representative from India being a foremost scientist, astrophysicist, and astronaut in ISRO. Many possible solutions were discussed to palliate the effects of global warming and related effects, but nothing conclusive came out.
Three years after the 2020 virus outbreak, four asteroids hit different parts of the earth killing almost 30 percent population in one go. The same way the physical collision damaged our planet, it carried with it a vicious disease that exterminated all men. The siren-virus, as they termed it, infected male reproductive system, their genitals and caused gruesome deaths within weeks. Men those were infected by the virus died with 100% mortality rate. The few that were left were eventually devoured by their female counterparts. Within two years of the outbreak the sex ratio shot up to as massive as 1 million.
Innocent girls that once needed feminist saviors for them to live safely with dignity in the so-called men dominated society became sex-starved so like hungry wolves. They became monsters that tore apart the flesh out of the body once they could seduce a man into their homes. When the numbers of men dropped even lower the courtesy to invite them home became redundant. Men with ripped body parts were lying here and there. The next step was invading homes. The society became an irony for once hunters became hunted by the gatherers.
It didn’t stop at that. The broken ecosystem of the earth had now gone beyond recovery. Many of the sleeping volcanoes became active, erupted without warning and threatened to end all lives in two shakes.
All of the remaining space agencies of the world after consulting each other decided that earth was going to explode by 2030 and they only had 5 years to somehow manage to build something to get rid of the dying earth. They took up a resolution to build 102 spaceships to accommodate the most of the remaining population and transfer them out of the earth to a newfound planet called planet W (Discovered By Women) in a nearby solar system.
2030. Neil has been working in the spaceship project ‘Project Ouranos’ for five years now. They have one or two tentative months left to survive on this planet. She just can’t screw up at her end.
She lives 10 km away from ‘Human Space Flight Centre’ near ISRO headquarters. She is getting ready for the office as always this morning. She can’t help but contemplate how her life has changed in last five years. Her father was an addict, an abusive husband and a father. When she was a young girl she used to weep at night silently, too weak to stand against him, cursing God for sending her as a girl, to bear all the pains inflicted by men. She sometimes thinks maybe her curse was all too powerful even for all the men of the universe to handle.
Everybody knows this is last of the generation of humans on earth, as they can’t reproduce on their own. Many elders have lost all hope and have decided not to go to the spaceship even if it succeeds. But for Neil it’s a different mission. She knows she still has Rohan. She wants to have a family. Doesn’t matter if it’s not earth, home is where our people are.
Her thoughts were interrupted as Rohan touched her from behind. She smiled as Rohan rubbed his cheek with hers. “I can’t even imagine how lucky I am.”, she said.
-“I know, it’s called intergalactic luck, it’s beyond everything.” a smile in his lips.
-Okay, now don’t be so puffed up.”, she giggled.
-“So, are you returning early tonight?”
-“I’ll try. We’ve almost at the finish line. A week’s simulation and we can go on with the mission”.
-“Means we are getting our own planet very soon.”
-“I hope so.”, her eyes shone, “Okay, bye.”
-“Yeah be safe, bye.”
Dr. Ranganathan has taken over after the ‘Siren’ catastrophe that killed the previous chairman, Dr. Ramanujam. She has been monitoring the whole development very closely. Neil being the chief design engineer and the captain of the crew members carries the utmost importance in this whole project.
The spaceship is being designed in such a way that there would be two separate sections-one for the crews and another for the passengers. The spaceship is designed for accommodating about 10000 passengers at one go. After the initial launch, the two sections are to be detached in two parts.
The plan is that the crew section is to reach the planet W first while the passenger section is to wait in space for the green signal to be received by the crews once they land on the planet and assess the viability of the landing of the passengers.
The main catch for them is that they have a limited budget and more importantly very precise resources as many of the equipment is from the men-era and can’t be possibly made without the strength and expertise of men and hence can’t be wasted. Neil wants the cells to be designed in a specific way that Dr. Ranganathan does not fully approve of.
-“Neil, I like your dedication, even when men were around you were one of the brightest scientists in the department. But you have to be frugal in some matters. The world is dying, and we have to make do with what we have. We don’t have a second chance, this is our only shot! So whatever you’re doing I hope you’ve given a good thought to it.”
-“I know ma’am, it’s just that I don’t want to leave anything to chances, I’m going to make sure that everything’s according to the plan.”
-“That’s good. But I can’t help but notice you’ve annexed only two detachable cryosleep chambers while you have 6 crew members.”
-“That’s exactly because of the reason you just mentioned. As our journey time is only for 15 days we probably won’t need any. But in case anything goes south, we would need a backup.”
-“If anything goes south whose going to decide which four of you are going to sacrifice?”
-“Ma’am you can rest assured as the captain of the operation I won’t abort my station.”
-“I know. Anyways, we don’t have much time. Make it ready in a week. We’ll start our operations in a month. NASA is done and so are other space agencies. We can’t fall behind. All the launch events should begin simultaneously, remember?”
-“Give me three more days”.
-“Good, Keep up.”
After a very hectic day, Neil is coming back home in a bitter mood. All the simulations failed. All she needs is section one to work for her and Rohan’s escape, but to proceed with the mission she has to show that everything works or Ranganathan won’t let her proceed with the mission. She has already suspected her for the cryosleep chambers. No way could she let anyone know of her intentions.
All she needs is to somehow get Rohan on board and no one can stop them after launch. She believes that only she and Rohan deserve to go out and everyone else should die with the earth. Only they have the capability to start new lives. The rest of them are going to die anyway. Why should they get any opportunity? She won’t let anyone of them reach planet W if they want to have any chance.
As she was pondering over suddenly her phone rings,-Rohan’s call. “Hey, what’s up? Everything okay?”
-“Where’ve you been? I’ve been calling you for 10 minutes.”
-“Sorry I didn’t hear. Why what’s wrong?”
-“I think someone’s at the door. She’s been banging for the last 20 minutes now, I’m hiding in the basement.”
-What? Wait I’m coming in 10 minutes. Keep the gun with you. It’s in the locker in the basement. Do not hesitate to use it if needed. I’m coming.”
Neil speeds up her scooter with trembling hands. She could hardly keep her calm. Did someone know about him? Who could it be? What if they break in before she reaches? If anything happened to him this whole mission will be useless for her. She accelerates to the fullest.
When she reached there was no one at the door. She parked her scooter outside and tried to look normal as far as possible. She didn’t want anyone to suspect anything. She opened the door with her keys and rushed to the basement. Thank god! Rohan’s fine. She hugged her hard and said, ”Just a few more days and we’re out of here. I’m sick of living like these and I’m even sicker that you have to live worse.”
Again there is banging at the door, both of them with fear in their eyes. Neil takes the gun with her and asks him to stay inside until she comes. “Don’t do anything stupid”, he said.
Neil goes back to the door slowly and shouts,” who is it?”
-“I’m Rashi, could you open the door?”
-“Neil opens the door, “Hey, Rashi? What is it?”
-“Do you have some Paracetamol? I think my mother has a fever. All the shops are closed today and you know, the launch is next month. I don’t want her to be sick before the big thing.”
-“Okay, wait for 5 minutes.” She comes back in a while ”here it is. Hope she’ll be okay”.
-“Hey, why do you need razor and shaving brush for? I see it you have there.” Rashi points out towards the toothbrush holder beside the mirror.
-“Oh, that! That’s for me, I love to stay clean down there you know.”, she winks nervously at Rashi.
-“Ohh! I thought you have a special guest in there.”, a mystery in her eyes.
As she left she got Rohan out of the basement. “We’re going next week.”, she said.
“But you said you’d need more time.”
-“I don’t have time. I think neighbors have come to know. She said she needed Paracetamol but I saw her at the chemist yesterday. I think they are going to come back soon.”
The next few days Neil perfected everything. The simulations are done, self-destructive transponders have been incorporated into all passenger sections including NASA’s. Her own design used in all the spaceships. A small burst of signal and poof! Everything would be gone.
In the next few days, 10 more volcanoes erupted in Spain, Italy, Iceland, India, and Antarctica. The end seems so near. There is panic in the streets. Everyone’s trying to break in the ISRO facilities even before their turn. They have kept the securities engaged.
It helped Neil a lot. She doesn’t have to worry about bringing Rohan into the station. She has made a woman’s disguise for him herself and brought him in the facility the day before the launch at around 1 am. She’s got though the security with his fake look and identity, got him inside the cryosleep chamber and went back home. Everything is set now.
The boarding process for the civilians starts in the morning at 6. Everyone is being screened for disease and put into section 2.
Around 20 round trips are needed to evacuate everyone on earth. But Neil needs only one.
By 10 pm that day, the boarding process of the passengers has been complete. Neil and her crew members have got onboard. The PM, president, Dr. Ranganathan, and all the VIPs have gotten on in their designated chambers.
As the crew members have settled in their positions. Neil gave the greens signal to the control room. Global launch sequence is to start at midnight. All of 102 spaceships carrying almost a million passengers are to start their journey for a new home. But only Neil knows this is their last trip.
The launch sequence is finally initiated..T-100, T-99, T-98... Neil knew she couldn’t screw up now. T-2, T-1.. There is a huge roar as the fuel burns and lifts the spaceship off the earth’s surface. As the spacecraft successfully leaves the earth’s atmosphere there’s huge cheer by all of the crew members.
But this is not the time for celebration for Neil. She asks her fellow members to go inside their separate chambers until further orders. As they do, Neil instructs her computer to eject the chambers- all five of them. She knows she can’t open the cryosleep chamber anytime before the landing as she has ejected the crew chambers. But she knows it needs patience.
-“This is a control room, captain, can you hear me? Why did you eject the crew chambers? I repeat, why did you eject them?”
Neil ignores the communication and takes manual control of the ship. Without waiting further, she initiates a destroy signal to all the transponders that she designed. Killer signal has been sent to all of the 102 ships. Within moments 102 passenger ships exploded with unimaginable fire and cruelty killing millions of women. She could hear the wailings of thousands of on borders being diminished into the oblivion.
The destruction of section 2 generated a huge firestorm that almost grasped her craft. The firestorm killed the lights and knocked the ship deep into space. Somehow, the instruments were still alive, but there was no crew to read them. Far below a red crescent shone the edge of the burning planet silhouetted by the curve of a wing. It would be a lonely trip. She gazed through the porthole at the wavering stars.