The Day of Red Dust

The dust. There was no escaping it. My life existed solely within an air-tight village, but somehow the dust always got in in. Sometimes I wonder at it (...had to be particles clinging to Suits that had been outside). Sometimes I ignore it. Sometimes, it makes me so angry I could scream.

Today, I wiped down my cooking station calmly, letting out a small sigh when I lifted the rag to see the rust-colored tint.

Absentmindedly, I placed a pot down and turned on the heat source. I was reaching for the grains when, without warning, I was on the ground. Everything hurts. I can’t move.

What’s happening?

Slowly, a ringing in my ears. I blink three times. I bend an elbow, then a knee. Shifting my weight, I prop myself up and look around. The damage to my quarters almost doesn’t register - more pressing is how difficult is it to stand.

The gravity’s calibration must be off.

I begin to notice alarms are sounding. I can almost see myself standing there, dumbfounded. “Move! Think!” I want to yell at myself.

Ok - what alarms are these? Listen. Focus. It’s the alarm letting us know that our section of the village has experienced a direct hit.

No - I must be wrong. Listen again. No - I was right.

The Suits had told us for weeks this was all but an impossibility. They said they had the Others on the run - under control - contained.

Stop. I need to move. It’s happening.

I rush to the entry door of my quarters and grab my Aerator Helmet. I open the door. I see the others running. I join them.

It’s so hard to run with the added gravity. My joints ache.

“How can this be happening?” The woman running next to me is asking - I don’t know to whom. I don’t answer.

Someone has my arm and I’ve stopped running.

“We need you to come with me.” It’s one of the Suits. What was his name?

I still don’t remember by the time we make it to the Secured Area. “I’ve never been in here before.” I say, stupidly. The Suit ignores me and enters a code to open the door.

“Is this her?” It’s the Commander. He looks up from a series of screens.

The Suit nods. I step forward instinctively. “What’s happening?” I ask.

“The Others hit the Supply Quarter. You wouldn’t know, but we had a treaty on the table.” He looked away. “This came out of nowhere.”

“Our diplomatic team left for peace talks last week and haven’t returned. That’s why we need you.”

“I’m not a diplomat.” What is he saying? I don’t understand.

“Your the only one remaining in the Cultural Studies department. You speak their language if I’m not mistaken?”

I nod.

“You’ve just been promoted.” He gestured to the screens. “Let me show you what we’re dealing with.”

I’ve been promoted. I look up. The screens are covered in a light film of red dust.

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