30-Day Flash Challenge, Day 17
February 28, 2195
Ultimately everyone on station Magellan had to pull a tour of duty on earth. During the lottery, Amina drew an eighteen-month assignment to NorCon Station 7. Situated in Antarctica, Station 7 sat at one of the harshest climates on earth.
When she got her job assignment, Amina quickly did the math, adding the term length to her deployment date. Something was wrong; she rolled back her sleeve to compare it to her birth tattoo.
Had someone made an error?
More importantly, how did Amina feel about spending her last days on earth, far from friends and family?
Everyone on Magellan was born with a date ‘tattooed’ on their forearm, indicating when they would die. Some got lucky and were born knowing they would live fifty years or more. Others were less fortunate. Amina supposed she belonged in the second group. She had always known she would die before her nineteenth birthday.
But she had never heard of anyone having to serve on earth during their final days.
14 Months Later
Life at NorCon 7 had been very challenging by comparison with what she had known. The margins were thin; to conserve fuel, they received only quarterly supplies from Magellan. The harsh environment meant they could grow very little of their food. Her teammates assured her she wouldn’t starve, but Amina estimated that she ate half what she did in space.
No one could tell her why her period of service extended beyond her expiration date. Assuming it would work out, Amina held her memorial, said her goodbyes to family and friends before leaving Magellan. It was all very emotionally disorienting to say goodbye one day and not die the next.
She resigned herself to the fact – she would die on earth, helping the terraformers whose centuries-long project was to regenerate the earth’s atmosphere. Amina’s duty would be to service, clean, maintain the gigantic air scrubbers.
Amina steps into the decon station, disrobes, tosses her uniform into the sterilizer; she then enters the personal decontamination booth.
For dessert, she requests a piece of apple pie. It’s been 14 months since bidding farewell to everyone she’d ever known. In all that time, she’s not once contacted any of them. It would make things confusing. The pie is her way to commemorate her life. Tomorrow she will die. She wipes her eyes and digs into the sugary dessert.
When your date arrived, you passed away in your sleep. In school, Amina’s history teachers taught that people used to die at all times of the day, and in many different ways, some of them quite painful.
Her alarm goes off, Amina silences it, pushes back the heavy blankets.
Something seems wrong? What’s wrong, Amina? Think.
Then it hits her. She is not dead; she feels great. Amina slides back the pajama sleeve pajama; her tattoo is gone.
Questions fly at her from every corner of her consciousness.
Maybe it’s because I wasn’t on Magellan when my date arrived?
Among all her questions, she senses the biggest one.
When will I die?
This story is a shorter version of Amina.