The world is ending
6 September 2001
First, the Earth stopped turning relative to the sun, and the moon parked itself on the dark side, a little outside the umbra.
The Americans and part of the Pacific were permanently in the light, in the end. Slowing and stopping took the best part of a hundred years -- a century of storms and monsoons, but the weather eventually settled down into a different pattern as these things do. We never had a chance to find out whether the system was stable however.
Second, the Sun began to grow.
At that rate of expansion the Earth had probably only another ten decades until she was rendered uninhabitable. It's strange the way your perceptions change when you realise your children's children will witness the end of the world.
Too begin with it looked like the melting of the Antarctic would finish us first, but the increased evaporation from the great oceans (facing mostly sunward) kept the sea-levels down. And the water in the atmosphere was blasted off by the now strong solar wind. So we didn't know whether to be terrified or jubilant when we saw the wisps that used to surround us being blown out in a great plume reaching the orbit of Mars, but of course, in the end, it was that which saved us.
The stockmarkets collapsed, to begin with. It wasn't too long before they started up again, with a different kind of balance (and everyone went short on everything). Not much change their. No more grand building projects - there was no point - but a lot of work went into agriculture, which changed radically.
The light coming off the moon was much brighter than before, and what's more, continuous. While cultivating some crops became impossible, for others it was better than ever, and we ate a huge number of tomatoes before new forms of grain were perfected. (That's ended now too.)
We were stable, to a degree, we carried on. In its own way it was still a beautiful planet. Those still being born didn't realise the sky used to be bluer than it was, didn't know what the moon looked like without the thin steam obscuring it.
It's that's probably why one of the new generation was the first to mention it: How about using the moon to get away? There was enough water, icy crystals of the Pacific hiding around even crevice. And we'd learnt enough about living in low-light conditions, about nuclear energy. And we were desperate. The sun, we had discovered, was soon to start going nova. Oh yes, we were desperate.
And it all happened so quickly from then.
Lunar-One left four weeks ago. Those of us not chosen in the lottery moved to the mountainous regions along the ribben of twilight along the edge of the permanent daylight zone, now too hot and too radioactive to enter.
There's community of us high up in a range exposed under the old ice sheets of Antarctica, safe from the floods and winds. And it's a happy life, and a simple one. We farm, we talk, and we study. We're a group of cultural archeologists, searching through the archives divining the sweet spots of human knowledge. The results we beam out after Lunar-One, hoping that our research-at-leisure will help them on their way.
Hopefully we'll see them arrived at a safe port before the shells of stellar gas now being shed onto us finally take their toll on this small town, and this old, old, planet.
The glowing red spots show even through my fingers, so bright are they. Under a shelter in a field I cover my eyes while it rains flaming beads of sun. The drops fall on the ground and burn their way through the rock, the damp grass hissing and steaming. As the shower passes, a thousand tiny volcanoes cauterise the Earth's wounds. It happens quickly, and fifteen minutes later, on my way back to the car, I snap off a cone of rock to take home. In my pocket it's still warm against my thigh.