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The Way To Earth

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Andreas and I were different, because we were the only people in our entire school to opt into continuing our non-mandatory education all the way through 5 years of college. Since no one really goes anymore, college is only $100 a year. When we were in our last year of mandatory education, Andreas and I made a pact- that we would one day finish out our complete education, all the way through college. We were only nine years old at the time, but we were smart for our age. Too smart, most of our teachers said, for us to stop learning and start earning so young. We listened to them, but to an expense- all our old friends left us. They said that we were crazy to keep learning when we could enter a world were we had to listen to no one, not even our parents, and we had money, and jobs! That world was to fascinating and appealing for them to ignore, and they went of into the dangerous world to become rich, famous, and admired by the world. Most of them ended up homeless or dying on the streets, of varying diseases and infections. Such is their punishment for being so naïve and arrogant (this is why it is a good idea to finish your education, so that you can figure things out and use words like naïve and arrogant).
One day, finally in our senior year of High School, Andreas and I were walking to our final day of class. “I don’t see the point in going to our last day, Maria. Finals are done and aced-” He held out his hand for a high-five. I returned it. “-and we’re not even doing anything today. I mean we’re practically the only people in the entire freaking class.” “Because! Some of these teachers achieved Prof. Rank and are moving up next year! We’ll even have some teachers that are 30 years old, and in Old Earth terms, that’s basically 60!! We need their respect to get advanced credit for next year!” While I was talking, Andreas’ attention had wandered to the wall of the bakery that had supplied many a breakfast for us when our parents had not remembered to stop by the grocery store or had burned our usual toast and eggs (this happened a lot, so we basically ate breakfast there every morning). “Hey, Andreas, what about that wall is more important than my face?” He blushed and whipped his head around so fast it was a blur. “Oh, I just saw this poster that’s advertising that they’re turning Earth: The Museum into Earth: The Theme Park and Gift Shop! And they’re taking job applications!” “Andreas, NO! Did you even hear a little bit of what I was talking about?! We need to go to college! And get our degrees!” “Maria, listen to me! There are practically zero jobs that even require High School Diplomas, let alone DEGREES!! It’s a total waste of time!” “No, it’s not! And getting qualified for jobs isn’t the point, anyways! It’s the sense of achievement, of doing something that no one in either of our families has done in almost a thousand years!!! Don’t you get that?!”~

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“Yeah, I do, I just want to actually do something good for the universe, like go take care of Earth.”
“Well, if you really want to, you can go without me! I don’t really think I mean that much to you that you can’t do anything without me.”
“I- I just- I…. I don’t want to leave you, okay?! We’ve been a team for so long, I don’t want to be farther away than 50 miles from you, let alone 5,824,723,289!”
“Well, if I really mean that much to you, you would stay for another two years, at least, so we could get at least A degree! You of all people know how much it means to me!”

Two Years Later
“Boarding passes ready, please, as we prepare to depart for Earth: A Gift Shop. Repeat: Prepare your boarding passes for Earth: A Gift Shop.”
I looked over at Andreas. “You ready?” I asked.
“Shore thing. I’ve been ready for years, Maria!” I think he said jokingly, but I wasn’t sure.
I had made him wait way too long to go to Earth to get a job, which was kinda selfish of me, but In my opinion, it was worth it to see our parent’s smiling faces on our graduation day. I remember it like it was yesterday...which it was, but that doesn’t really matter. As we hand the ticketmaster our boarding passes, a lump rises in my throat. Andreas and I may never see our families again, depending on how much vacation time we get. The 3-day journey from New Earth and Earth: A Gift Shop is pretty long, considering that it only takes you a maximum of 5 days on a speeder-plane to get around the entire New Earth. One thing’s for sure- Andreas and I’s lives will never be the same again...

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3 Days Later
As we step off of the plane and into the airport, Andreas and I don our special, donated, official Gift Shop workers dome helmets to help us breathe. And to, ya know, make us look that much more fashionable. I hail a cab to the Gift Shop to get started on our first day of work (finally!). It feels like it’s been both a million years and 60 seconds since my argument with Andreas about how long we should wait to get jobs here, I think we waited just the right amount of time to enter the workforce, and the way Andreas looked at me as we threw our caps in the air after the ceremony was totally worth all the arguments and persuading it took took to get him to stay in schools for two years more. After we get in the cab, I haul my suitcase onto my lap and open it to check on my belongings, and to my surprise, I see the curled up, sleeping form of Andreas’ 12 year-old sister, Solly!
“Um, Andreas….you might want to see this,” I said as I pointed to his sister.
“Wait...WHAT?!?! How did she get here?!” he whispered frantically. “We have to get her back to the airport before the spaceship takes off!”
“Yeah, we do! What time does it take off?”
“4:30 pm. WHat time is it now?” asked Andreas
“4:03 pm. We need to get back to the airport right now!” I whispered back. “How much you think the cab driver’s gonna charge us for going back?”
“I have no idea. Let’s ask.”
“Okay, I’ll ask.” I said reluctantly. “Umm, excuse me, mr driver?”
“It’s miss to you, young lady. The name’s Jo Alex. What can I do ya for?”
“Sorry Miss...Jo. I was much would it cost to...umm...go back to the airport? Like right now?”
“Why on Earth would you want to do that? You just got here!”
“Well….” I said sheepishly as I pointed out what was in the suitcase. “Andreas’ little sister snuck in my suitcase before we left and...we didn’t notice her until now, so we would really appreciate it if you would bring us back to the airport so we can put her on the 4:30 pm ship back to New Earth. We’ll even pay extra if we need to, pleeeease?”
“Well,” said Jo, seeming to be concentrating on something other than the road, “ WHat’s her name?”
“Solly, why do you need to know that?”
“Solly,” she said. “Solly, Solly, Solly,” almost seeming like she was entering into a trance. All of a sudden, Solly bolted up in the suitcase, eyes wide open.
“Wha-what’s going on?! Where am I?! Why do I feel so...weeeird?!” She said, her voice wavering. Jo sighed and pointed a chipped fingernail at the compartment in the ceiling that, until now, had just been a blur in the excitement of going to my new job. “There are extra bubble helmets in there. Get her one or she’s going to die. I’ll make a U-turn and start heading back to the airport.” Andreas started panicking and fumbling with the latch to the overhead compartment.
“Hurry, Andreas, hurry! You need to get the helmet!”
“I know, Maria, I’m trying!!”
“Well, try faster!” I said, trying to support a gasping Solly and calm her down at the same time.
All of a sudden, Jo started laughing. “HAHAHAHAHA!!”
“What are you doing that for? It’s distracting!” said Andreas, his voice slightly louder than normal.
“Why, I’m just laughing at how futile your attempts at opening that case are. Well, you’d have to be pretty strong to open it, considering that it’s….AHHHAHAA” cackled Jo. I was starting to get a little worried about the state of sanity our driver was in, but Andreas had about reached his limit.
“Miss Jo, PLEASE, help us! My sister’s going to die if you don’t help us quickly!! Why would I have to be strong to open he compartment PLEASE help me Jo, please!!!” Andreas was almost crying at this point.
“I love my sister and I’m not ready to let her go yet! Or ever! I need to do something to help her PLEASE MISS JO PLEASE!!!” Andreas blubbered. Jo’s head revolved around 180 degrees on her shoulders and she began to talk at a slow pace, this time seeming to be fully entranced, or possessed, or something. Looking back on this moment, I think her soul may have been projecting through her mouth with words. I know that sounds insane, but it’s true. Eerily true. I’ve often wondered if there was any turning back from this point, or if I could have done anything to save them. Any of them. I would have been so grateful if I could have just… oh…..It’s in the past now, nothing I can do to change it now. Back in the past, Jo began to speak-
“The door is locked- Andreas screamed in protest- The only way to save your sister now s with the sacrifice of another’s life. If you choose to give your life or another’s it does not matter. One of you must give up your helmet to give to her.” Andreas looked me in the eyes for what we both understood would be the last time.
“Please don’t…..Andreas…” I whispered, tears running down my cheeks, clearing a path in the grime from the past 3 days’ travel.
“I know,” he whispered, tears running down his cheeks, too, clearing paths on his skin to match mine.
“It’s simply what I have to do.”

Everything that wasn’t Andreas melted away. The screams that Solly used her last breaths to expel, the cackle of Jo’s maniacal laughter coming from her still revolved head, the scenery zooming past the taxi cab, still heading away from the airport. His eyes still locked with mine, Andreas slowly inhaled his last, deep breath as he slowly pulled his helmet off of his head. All of a sudden, he screamed and smashed his glass globe helmet into Jo’s skull. Jo let out a last, piercing scream as her body dissolved into dust.
“I’m sorry, Solly, it had to be done,” said Andreas as he ripped his gaze from mine to look at her.
“I’m really, really sorry,” said Andreas as he gasped for his last breath with tears streaming down his cheeks, like mine and Solly’s most likely, since I was now feeling too numb to even take a feeble grasp at comprehending my emotions.
“I’m sorry…..” said Andreas managed to get out before breath was robbed from his person forever. I reached for his and Solly’s hands as the taxi sped up and rammed straight into the column at the entrance to an building with a sign that stated simply in faded letters- Earth: A Gift Shop. As the last remaining light faded out of Andreas’ eyes, I said one last thing to his limp, barely conscious form-

“It’s okay, buddy, we understand it had to be done. We’ll always love you.” I gave one last tearful glance at the sign just above the entrance to the gift shop- the last remaining evidence that anyone had lived on Earth before we evacuated. As my vision started to fade into black, I said one final thing to Andreas’ seemingly unconscious form.
“We made it, buddy, we made it to Earth. Finally.” I came to one final realization- Jo Alex- the cab driver who erased our lives and any chance to make it in the world- possessed power that only a narrator could have had. A fellow narrator. I could have saved them...I could have sa-”