December 6, 2018 by Alfonso Acosta
562 – Homecoming
If you tried really hard you could almost make out bits and pieces of familiar outlines.
But for the most part, the blue and green planet below was unrecognizable.
He reviewed the star-charts for the tenth time… there was no doubt. Even accounting for normal celestial drift, there was no way the ship had miscalculated the course.
These were the right coordinates, but it was the wrong planet.
The sensor readings were stranger still. They showed a diverse variety of thriving ecosystems teeming with all kinds of life and vegetation… but no signs of technology.
No cities, no electromagnetic emissions, no artificial satellites, no greenhouse gasses… nothing. It just didn’t make sense.
The alarm started buzzing in his head again, he had to make a decision. Soon he would not have enough fuel left for a controlled re-entry. He had to land before his orbit started decaying.
The air outside the hatch was cool and pure. Even over the scent of hot metal and burnt fuel, he could still detect the presence of fresh leaves and petrichor.
The sensors on his bioplastic skin perceived the warmth of the evening sun. A full spectrum visual sweep showed no signs of foreign contamination on the soil, plants or animals within his range. Everything was clean, too clean.
He touched the module’s surface and linked with the long-distance sensor array, perhaps down here he might have a better chance to detect something that he could have missed from orbit.
He started a slow, detailed sweep. The full circle was almost complete when he found what he was looking for.
The beacon was weak, its power source probably nearing depletion, but the signal was right. This was the right planet, it was the right time, it was just not the right set of circumstances.
Don’t worry, they had said, by the time your mission is over and you return our technology should be advanced enough to give you your old body back. There was just a slight problem, he now realized, with that statement… it assumed they would not find a way to destroy themselves while he was out exploring the cosmos and would still be around when he returned.
He broke the connection and looked around, this time in what would have been a normal biological perception range. The scenery around him was beautiful, in a terribly depressing way.
Welcome to Earth, he thought, fully realizing he was now –or at least the few biologic parts he had left– the last human left.
If he still had a mouth he might have laughed at the irony of it all.
If he still had real eyes… he could at least have cried.