by thefourpartland

A short piece written this morning for Friday Flash.

The old man and his wife sat around the dinner table, talking quietly. It was a scene they had repeated day after day, month after month, year after year. They had lived in this house for almost their entire lives, farming the small open areas of land around it, each year begging the wan sun and the hard ground to give them enough food to live.

Their children had long since abandoned their parents, leaving the home and going on to better things in other towns, other cities, places where there was more for the young and energetic, and so the old couple lived on their own. Once, they had made the trip to the nearest store, but the store had closed down and they no longer stepped outside of their fields. Their world had shrunk to a small bubble, a little sphere in the landscape that comprised their house, their fields, and nothing else.

Often, a week would pass without either of them speaking, for they knew each other so well by now that no words needed to be said. Between them, a look or a glance contained an entire conversation. The sharecroppers acted as if they were one mind in two bodies, knowing exactly where to place their hands when fixing machinery, clothing, anything. The farm and its belongings were like their bodies: they wore it well, even if it was a little old and shabby by now.

What they did not speak about, and likely could not, was the coming realization that they had become very old, and that one day soon, one of them would pass away. Each knew that the other could not run the farm on their own, and that no one would come to help. Because of this, there was a small pouch tucked away behind the bed, filled with specially made tranquillizer. When the time came, they would lay down to sleep in the same bed, and that would be the end of it.

Every day and night, they would find their eyes turning to the sky, looking for the signs that used to rive the heavens. Once, the massive plumes of smoke had been a constant source of delight for them, and they would stop and pause in their daily labours to watch the columns of fire and smoke on the far horizon. They no longer appeared, and on the day they had ceased, the old man and his wife had gathered around the radio, listening to the announcements. Then they had switched the radio off, unplugged it from the wall, and moved it out to the storage shed. It was of no further use to them.

They looked around at the red earth and the sullen sky, and the thin plastic sphere that held in their air and water, and the couple held one another and sighed. Earth had given up its plans for Mars, and left its colonists there to die.


  1. Michelle Sussman on 04.30.2010

    Ooooh, I liked that. Nice twist! 🙂

  2. Marisa Birns on 04.30.2010

    Wow! Excellent twist to this story.

    Great last paragraph.

    Nicely done!

  3. Nikita on 04.30.2010

    Heh, interesting twist. Reminds me of Bradbury a bit.

  4. Jen Brubacher on 04.30.2010

    So very clever! Saying their life had shrunk to the small bubble seems, of course, totally figurative. And then it’s not. Very nicely done.

  5. GP Ching on 04.30.2010

    Nice writing with a worthy twist. Well done.

  6. Diandra on 04.30.2010

    It’s nice. And sad.

  7. John Wiswell on 04.30.2010

    Did the kids go back to earth, or are there cities on Mars? If the latter, good on them. They’ll show earth.

  8. Deanna Schrayer on 04.30.2010

    Very well executed foreshadowing here. Sad, but great story!

  9. Katherine Nabity on 04.30.2010

    Funny. I was looking for the right word for how this made me feel. Bittersweet, I thought, but that’s not quite right. I plugged ‘bittersweet’ into Free Dictionary to find a better synonym. The third definition for bittersweet as an adjective is: Dark to deep reddish-orange. Maybe it’s a better word than I thought.

  10. Gracie on 04.30.2010

    This is simply beautiful, well-written and clean. It reminds me of Bradbury, too.

    Such a universal theme, nicely pulled into the future.

    Just excellent. Well done.

  11. The Four Part Land on 04.30.2010

    The kids went back to Earth, and there aren’t that many settlers on Mars. Just those left behind as cheaper to let die than bring them back.

  12. Tony Noland on 04.30.2010

    I love the sad atmosphere you’ve created here. So much is universal, isn’t it?

    Lovely piece.

  13. Aislinn O'Connor on 04.30.2010

    A real love story, even if a very sad one. Brilliantly done, and the terrific twist at the end makes you go back and read it again, and understand it differently this time. Excellent! 🙂

  14. ganymeder on 05.19.2010

    Really, really well done. The last paragraph shocked me. I expected maybe they survived a final war or something since they lived on the outskirts of civilization, but Mars? Brilliant.

  15. The Four Part Land on 05.19.2010

    Comes from me being a space nut, but I thought it fit quite nicely.

    Thanks for the kind comments all.

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