Casey stared out her small window at the earth below, it looked smaller than she had expected it to, it was hard to believe that so many people lived on that rock. The room she was in was small, with just enough room for a bed and a few recessed drawers for the few meagre belongings she was allowed bring on board. Below a bright flash on the surface bloomed to life, followed by another and another. She gasped as the ship shuddered slightly, then they were moving, earth slowly receding into the distance. Casey stared at it until Earth was nothing more than a speck in the distance. Once it was gone she sat on her bed, head in her hands. It was gone, really gone. They had said it was going to happen sooner or later but she never really believed it would. Things were bad, but no one had thought it was really that bad. How many people had been down there still? The ship held almost a hundred thousand people, barely a drop in the ocean. There was one other ship, launched two decades previously, but no one had heard from it since. Both ships had been constructed by private companies, paid for by the rich and famous, Casey was neither and had only managed to get aboard by sheer dumb luck. She had snuck into a party and had met a man, he was young and handsome, incredibly charming. They had drank the night away and when she woke the next morning he was gone, leaving nothing behind him but a single ticket for the ship slipped into her purse. She knew how the game was played, she had gathered her things quickly and left lest he come back and find her still there, he’d seemed nice enough the night before but she’d heard too many stories of people getting arrested for breaking and entering after a one night stand. She had stepped from his building and began the long trek home, only finding the ticket when she was looking for her subway pass. She hadn’t believed it was real at first and even after the man on the helpline confirmed it was real and meant for her she expected to be stopped before she actually got on board. She hadn’t seen the man since, she couldn’t even remember his name.
Casey stood from her bed and left her room, one of the cheaper ones going by the small size and utilitarian feel of it. She had seen pictures of the rooms on board, everyone had it had been plastered across all the talk shows, giant luxurious things with soft furnishings and large beds, stunning views and decadent decorations. Still, she knew from the breathless discussions on daytime TV that even the cheapest room would have been far beyond what she could have afforded. The corridors were surprisingly empty, she had expected to see people milling about, possibly sipping champagne. She found her way to the central lounge, a large room that stretched impossibly far into the distance. It looked like a giant mall, shops and bars lining the walls, the centre of the room had a mixture of wide open spaces and tables and chairs set up. Amongst it all were trees and bushes and artfully arranged flowers, seemingly growing out of the floor. A few people were scattered about the gargantuan room which seemed to only highlight the size of it. Casey spotted a bar and had a sudden desire for a drink. The bar was about thirty feet long and was made of highly polished dark wood that gleamed in the overhead lights. There was no one standing behind the bar, of the thirty plush stools in front of it only one was occupied. Casey stood for a moment, unsure what to do. The old man sitting in the seat looked from his drink and smiled at her, “First time at the bar?”
“Yeah, it is.”
“It’s self service. Just take a seat and ask for whatever you’re in the mood for.” he gestured to the seat beside himself, “If you want some company feel free to join me.”
Casey sat beside him, not sure how to turn down the invitation. He nodded to her encouragingly, she looked at the bar and the lines of bottles set against a mirror, after a moment she spoke, “Long island iced tea?” The area behind the bar sprung to life, bottles slipped from the shelves and followed metal tracks, the caps were unscrewed and the machines started pouring. Within a few seconds a glass appeared in front of her, she took an experimental sip and nodded. “only way we could do it. Too expensive to hire bartenders. Besides when we first started construction we had no idea how long we’d be on this thing, could have been generations.”
The word caught Casey off guard, “Generations? I thought we were supposed to be going to somewhere new? Somewhere better?”
The old man shrugged, “We are, just no one mentioned how long it could take. Too late now either way, isn’t it?”
Casey nodded, “I watched it happen. I mean I never thought it would. I just came up here because it seemed like a fun adventure. Maybe a short break before I went back down to Earth.”
“Yeah seemed like most people thought we were just playing around. Don’t know why though, the first ship left orbit twenty years ago, why did they think we’d stay?”
Casey took a drink, “I thought there’d be some warning, some kind of announcement. I mean the ship isn’t even full, is it?”
“No, though we sold most of the tickets, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to build the damn thing. Most people thought there’d be an announcement or something. They didn’t seem to understand that this wasn’t a holiday or adventure, this was doomsday prepping. We wanted to be ready to go at the drop of a hat. Most of us with sense have been living here for the last five or six years” he finished his drink then ordered another, “Mostly I feel sorry for those poor bastards who managed to get themselves to a ship before everything went to shit.”
“Why couldn’t we have waited for them?”
“How long would we have been waiting? How could we tell those people that we couldn’t go back down? That we couldn’t just let the rest of the planet join us? There’s only so much space, how could we choose who could come aboard to live and who had to die in the coldness of space? No. this was better for everyone. A clean break.”
Casey took a long drink, she didn’t have anyone on earth, not really. Sure she had friends but they all looked out for themselves, all of them had stopped talking to her once Derrin had broken up with her, they’d flocked to him and his money. He wasn’t that rich, not on this level but he’d been well off, comfortable and that brought with it an easy life.
“So, what made you buy a ticket?”
Casey felt a bloom of heat on her cheeks, “it was a gift.”
The old man snorted, “let me guess, James?”
Casey nodded, had that been his name? It seemed right.
He rolled his eyes, “ever the humanitarian. He wasn’t on the ship last time I looked at the manifesto. Maybe he made it though.”
“Honestly I didn’t know him all that well. I didn’t think the ticket was real at first.”
“You’re better off. He was always the same, wow a woman, sweep her off her feet then once she’s caught he’d turn off the charm. If he’s here you can bet he’ll come looking for you. He’ll tell you that you owe him, that you’d be dead if not for him. If he gives you any hassle come to me OK? I might be old but I have some pull here and remember now that you’re here you owe him nothing. It’s not like you can be kicked out any more.” he drained his drink, “There’s nothing to send you back to anyway.” he stood from the bar, “We’ll be seeing more of each other I’m sure, I’m Henry by the way, Henry Rawlins.”
Casey started at him for a second, “Casey Franklin.”
“It’s nice talking to you Casey. Enjoy the rest of the trip.”
Casey watched him go for a moment, she noticed that more people were filling the space, a couple sat down at the bar a few seats over from her, whispering to one another, she caught Henry’s name. Not that that surprised her, he had been the mastermind behind the ship after all. She hadn’t expected him to be so old, she thought he’d be younger, the photo they always used of him was of him in his forties, with a handsome smile and salt and pepper hair. Casey downed the rest of her drink and ordered another, this time opting for a beer. The booze was settling in nicely, wrapping everything in a gentle haze, numbing the growing horror at what had happened on Earth, the knowledge of all those they had left behind to die and that she should have been one of them.