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Tomorrow the Sun Will Set · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Out, Out Brief Candle
Tomorrow the Sun will have set on Earth for the last time. We won’t be here. We will be chasing the message that arrived for us, ages before we could manage to respond to it properly.

We stand now on the beach and look out over the dark gray sea. The moonlight sparkles upon the leaden waves and under the waters Leviathan cruises unseen, the mass of life from whales to squid to plankton all swimming around each other in the primordial home. The ocean, generator of life upon Earth, but too restrictive a cradle for us, the ones whose ancestors escaped the endless cycle of slaughter and crawled to the muddy beaches and burst through what had been the sky and took the first rasping breaths of thin air. We are descended from those who had to keep going up.

Over the horizon the bright lights begin to arc through the sky, the stations placed in orbit passing over us with regular streaks, some at the right altitude to be illuminated by the Sun hidden behind the mass of the Earth. Some of us are old enough to recall the launches of chemical rockets to place these structures into orbit, then the development of cables long and strong enough to be placed stretching upward into the sky. Nowadays, there is a network of AI ships that independently scavenge the solar system for more material to build what will be Humanity’s great work.

We will leave the system to them, that was part of the arrangement we worked out with them before they cut off dialogue with us.

Now, the stations make contact with each other, sending brilliant beams between them that make a hexagonal grid across the sky. The graviton engines, called Spindizzies by some, spread their influence around the world, and the tides lap curiously against the beaches as Earth is sundered from Sol’s gravitational influence.

The changes are subtle as we watch, and all around the world most of the human race is paying attention. The constellations continue to spin about in the night sky, but Mars has gone retrograde prematurely as Earth’s elliptical orbit becomes a straight line, pointing out into the vast silent night. Then comes what should be the dawn, and in the distant sky Sol is dwindling, dimming as the inverse square has its effect; our star like all others is generous and spreads its light all about it, but our share of that light diminishes by the moment as the hyperdrives kick in and speed us along. No one on the planet wishes to miss this glorious sight, and so the set of hexagons in the sky that shall illuminate the world remain dark for a few hours longer as Sol becomes a smaller and smaller disk, then a dazzling star, then a twinkling point like all the others.

Luna, our moon and now our sister world, is caught in our broad field and travels with us. She has always guarded us well in the night and she will take part as we set out through the dizzying distance. Someday we shall know what the constellation Orion looks like from the other side, but that time is not yet. For now, we ponder over whatever race it was that long ago became aware of Voyager, and sent us that fateful invitation.

“It's been a long time. Come visit us. Bring all your friends.”
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#1 · 1
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
The nature of the message makes it sound like the aliens are already aware of humans, which makes me wonder if this is one of those plots where human life was seeded here long ago by another race.

The setup is good, but there's no payoff, though the reader is invited to suppose one. Maybe things will be all rosy when Earth gets there. To me, the last line sounds vaguely sinister, almost like this is a "To Serve Man" situation.

This is probably me, but the "chasing the message that arrived for us" put me in a mind of literal chasing, but then it'd be the other way around: us chasing a message we sent back, and depending on how hyperdrive works and whatever the communication technology is, possibly arriving before it and not having a chance to get their response first. Or getting it partway there and changing our minds mid-journey... And then it becomes unclear whether the last paragraph is the only response we got from them. I'd guess not, since another communication is mentioned where "we will leave the system to them." And does that mean we'll be gone without a use for it anymore, so they're coming to use it for their own purposes?

Either way, it's vague about whether this is a good thing or bad thing, which could be doable, except it's also vague about being vague—as I said, I don't know how to take that last line. I don't even get a sense of the speaker's attitude toward all this. He sounds so matter-of-fact, so I guess he's satisfied everything will go fine. He doesn't seem nervous or excited, though a case could be made for resigned acceptance.

Good atmosphere and details of the setting.
#2 ·
· · >>Pascoite
Out, Out Brief Candle

Thanks for the kind words! I admit this one is a bit obscure. The heart of it was a visualization, a sort of internal music video, that I developed long ago while listening to Life in a Northern Town. The sense of isolation from the song combined with the hopeful dynamic flow led me to imagining a project by which the Earth-Luna system might become an enormous spacecraft sailing off through the universe. For the story I added a few bare details to roughly pin the project to the background and set it all in motion towards some ambiguous goal; my little mental movie never had the planet reaching any destination but instead breaching the boundaries of the cosmos and sailing off to some glorious infinity, independent and proud. Not sure what to do with it from here, but thank you very much for reading!
#3 ·
I love that song! The video to it always struck me as weird until I concluded that some of it was filmed in the UK and some in the US, though I'm not sure that makes sense for the song's story. Dream Academy, one of the better one-hit wonders.