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Centre of Life

Can you imagine a world without a sun? The darkness, and the cold. Just how important is the sun to us as humans?

It's been years since we last saw the sun. Humanity as a whole I mean, I personally have never laid my eyes upon the yellow star. I always hear from the older homeless population stories of the sun. How our solar system in its entirety revolves around that magnificent bright star, how all living things need it to survive, and how some even worshipped it as a deity.

All of that was before the sun disappeared.

All of that was before we made it disappear.

Humanity was always an ambitious species, never satisfied with what they had.

No one denies how technology improved our lives. I've read many books on how we got to where we are now. Our history was shrouded in blood. Wars were ignited for many reasons; chief among them was stealing or halting other countries' technological advances.

Despite the wars, technology kept on advancing. Industrialisation eras saw to it that humanity's future would improve. The industrial revolution began in the late 1700s; it saw hand production change into production using machines. Then the invention and refining of the steam engine catapulted technological advances and made room for better transportation, and more complicated technology. Then came assembly lines, making production easier and more efficient. And in the mid-21st century, the perfection of natural energy alternatives like tidal and wind power solved the world's fossil fuel deficiency problem. And that is where it should've stopped.

Around the beginning of the 21st century, people started realising that fossil fuels were running out and alternative sources for energy were sorely needed. Many countries took the initiative in researching some alternate sources; wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass. Ultimately, hydroelectric and wind energy became the most widely used alternative sources. These alternative sources more than sufficed all of humanity's energy needs but once again, our ambition got the better of us.

Most countries abandoned research into fusion energy mainly because it was very complicated and at the time seemed impossible, but a few couldn't let go of such a treasure trove of energy so they came together and shared resources. In 2075 they succeeded.

Understandably, fusion power quickly became the main source of energy. Fusion power created a massive amount of energy, much more than we could consume as a species.

The surplus of energy didn't go to waste, however. Scientists went on an invention rampage. The energy available opened doors to more sophisticated inventions, inventions that were only seen in science fiction works.

Splendid technology like fusion cells, militarised energy weapons, and micro quantum computers were invented and eventually, whole cities were made mechanised. Roads and buildings were made mobile. Sleep at night and you might not recognise your neighborhood in the morning. Navigation became a problem as you might think, but they eventually assigned each building its own navigational chip, so it can be found wherever it may end up through the night. They say a mechanical city is more secure against terrorism plots and that it can even be an attraction. No one argued back.

40 years after the fusion energy industrial revolution, in 2115 the world started paying the price. Global warming (which was improving before fusion energy was introduced) became worse than it had ever been before. The ice in the north pole became almost non-existent; most of it melted causing huge tides and even tsunamis to hit. Many governments built massive oceanic dams to slow down tsunamis however, not all countries were as lucky. Countries that couldn't afford to build such dams were hit. They were hit hard. Some of them were even wiped from the map. Thereafter, these countries were forever memorialised in special sections of history books.

Along with the devastation that the global warming brought, some cities had even more ominous signs that their advances in technology were leading to the planet's destruction, including the city that I live in.

Helion City- previously known as New York- is enshrouded in blackness; a blackness that erupted from all the fusion cell factories around, and most likely from the city itself. The mechanical motors that enabled the mobilisation of the city most definitely partook in the creation of this black smog. The smog didn't only cover cities however; soon after cities began developing that black smog, the collective industrialisation of the world created a layer of smog high in the atmosphere, the entire planet was covered in this smog. The smog was the purest of black within the cities and greyed out the further away you go from one. It existed long before I did, which is why I've never seen the sun. Not even once.

My parents died when I was little so I lived with my aunt until I reached 12. Then, she died as well. Since then I've been living by myself. I worked odd jobs here and there to make a living and I learned a lot from the people I met. I befriended an old homeless man named Jarvis. We would talk whenever I had the chance, he would teach me many things about how life used to be which inspired me to read and learn about humanity's journey.

I became enthralled with life outside of the smog; I became obsessed with the sun. It was the centre of all life, the bright light in the sky on the other side of that massive dark cloud.

I chased rumours of spotty skies, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sun, to feel its radiating heat upon my skin. I spent what little I had traveling to places that were said to have holes in the smog; all over the United States; Nothing. I haven't found a sliver of sunshine. I was ready to give up my foolish pursuit until one day a conversation with Jarvis gave me the answer.

********

"Hey Johnny"

"Hi, Jarvis!"

"I almost thought you wouldn't show today"

"Ahhh." I sighed. "I almost didn't. I was following a lead on a light breach in Arizona but it turned out to be another hoax"

Jarvis smiled and shook his head. "You're a weird one Johnny. You're chasing the sunlight from one place to another thinking it possible there's a hole in this smog. I don't know where you get your determination"

"Of course, you don't. Where would an old-timer like you get a youngster's determination?!" I say jokingly. Jarvis laughs with me and then we come to a short moment of silence.

I hang my head down in defeat. "I think I'm gonna give up Jarvis. It's exhausting, chasing rumour after rumour. And you said it yourself, it's impossible. The smog is covering every inch of this planet."

Jarvis gives me a sympathetic look and says "Johnny, do you know why rumours like these exist?"

"Why?" I answer dejectedly.

"To bring hope," He said simply. "Everyone knows there's probably not a proper ray of sunshine coming through anywhere but they still want to believe. And you won't see people checking these rumours, because once they find out that they're fake, the illusion of hope they created for themselves is shattered. No, they would rather not know than find out their hopes are based on nothing. Just like how a father would tell his child that his dog went to a farm upstate to lessen the grief of losing a friend, friends and family would tell each other that the smog is gonna disappear and the sun would shine again. People need hope to survive; otherwise, their lives would have no meaning."

"It sounds like you think the sun isn't coming back, but you don't look like someone who lost hope."

"I am a homeless man living in the streets, doesn't that seem hopeless to you. Besides, I've seen the sun, and I've lived a long life. I can welcome death with a smile."

"Death?! You've still got a good few years on you old man"

"Well, you might be right there" he replied laughing. "Listen, Johnny, I just don't want you to waste your life searching for the phantom of sunlight. Your determination is admirable, but humanity has given up, they've already abandoned that hope and left."

"What do you mean left?" I asked.

"Oh, that's right. They started before you were born so I guess you don't know"

"What is it old man? Come on" I said impatiently.

"Relax, relax." Said Jarvis, taken aback by the sudden ferocious curiosity that erupted from Johnny. "Twenty years ago, five years before you were born, they started the moon colonisation initiative. At first, it was the elite and the wealthy. The ones who could afford it would be sent to the moon. They created a breathable artificial atmosphere in parts of the moon and figured out how to make the soil of the moon more like that of earth. Don't ask me how I'm not a scientist. Anyway, they sent them and the equipment in spaceships at first but when the technology was invented, they started using teleportation.

"Teleportation! That exists?!"

"Yes Johnny, teleportation. It's only used for the colonisation program so it's not common knowledge. I happened to hear it from a friend who works at one of their facilities. Teleportation made transport easier so they made the initiative open to the public, but it still required a hefty fee. So you see, humanity gave up on the sun and so should you."

Jarvis thought this story can divert me from my dream but he was mistaken, it gave me another avenue from which I can achieve it.

Jarvis saw the glimmer in my eye and realised the mistake he made in telling me the story.

"No, no, no, no. Don't even think about it!" Jarvis tried to stop me, but his attempt was futile.

"Jarvis, just you wait" I stood up triumphantly. "I'm gonna make enough money to send us both to the moon. You're the closest to a family I've got so you're coming with me" I said that and left running.

It was hard for the next five years; I've worked three part-time jobs and minimized my expenses as much as possible.

It was hell. The everyday struggle is an already formidable opponent to whoever wished to survive under this darkened sky, and in my hustle to get to the moon, life became even harder for myself. I was hungry all the time as I managed my food rations, almost always looking as if at death's door and I even reduced the medicine tablets I bought. After two years of this hellish regime I set for myself, one of my colleagues at work, Kyle, started saying "How you doing there, Zombie boy" whenever he saw me. For one to be called a zombie in a world where everyone was malnourished would certainly mean that the person gave up on life, however, I knew this struggle would eventually pay off.

The government realised, of course, that the absence of sunlight can have adverse effects on humanity and vegetation so they came up with solutions. Tablets including many replacement vitamins, such as vitamin D, that we are supposed to naturally get from being exposed to sunlight were created by the government with the help of some private labs, and all citizens were given daily vouchers to exchange for their medicinal rations. I sold my vouchers to whoever wanted it and put the money in my 'Moon Fund'. They also developed special greenhouses with light that resembled the sun's emanating from a massive light bulb in the centre of the roof; they called it a "Mechanical sun". Alongside a new type of fertilizer that was overflowing with nutrients, agriculture, though at a smaller scale than before, was spared from the plagues of the world around it.

At the end of those five years, I had saved up enough money for me and Jarvis to enter the Moon Colonisation Initiative. But I was too late. In my haste for getting money, I began to meet Jarvis less, until eventually, I was too busy to see him at all.

He died a year prior. I was devastated, enraged with the world around me. Now I have no family left, everyone has left me.

A friend of his that I would usually greet whenever I visit Jarvis handed me a letter. It read that Jarvis considered me the son he never had, that our time together is what kept him going all these years living on the streets. He also said that he was proud that I never gave up on my dream and told me to get to the moon. Finally, he told me to see the sun for the both of us.

After rereading the letter a few dozen times, I closed the letter, wiped the streaks of tears from my cheeks, and stood up.

********

"You may experience discomfort and nausea but don't be alarmed, that's normal. Your luggage will be transported directly to your living quarters. The receptionist there will give you directions. Let me know when you're ready." The Tele-tech was doing final checks with me, the traveler. I was finally going to the moon, after the last five years of horrendous living, I'm finally going to see the sun.

I entered the chamber. Though it was a small chamber, it was very comfortable and wide, although that could just be because of the skinny, sickly looking body I now possess courtesy of the last five years' hardships.

"I'm ready"

Without further ado, the tele-tech strapped me in, closed the door with a thud, then started the countdown.

"3...2...1..."

Suddenly a peculiar sensation enveloped my body.

Body isn't even the right word to use here; I can't feel my body anymore. It's strange, I can't feel anything, yet, I feel everything. Unknown energies swam around me, streaks of blue and white light rushed past me from every direction. The sensation of teleporting was extraordinary, unmatched by any sensation I've felt before on earth.

The sensation was over momentarily and I could feel my body once more. The tech told me that they like their travelers to experience the scenery of the moon first and foremost so as a courtesy, the teleportation receiver chamber is a single cubicle situated outside of the reception building.

A button on the door says 'Push to open'. This is it. What I've been dreaming of for all these years. I was going to see the sun for the first time. But with the extreme joy also came sorrow, I wished Jarvis were here.

I hesitate for a moment, everything I've worked hard for in the last five years is finally coming to fruiting, with a simple push of a button, all the hardships of the last half decade will become a thing of the past. I push the button, and the door slowly opens up. My eyes take a moment to adjust.

What I saw was magnificent. Above, at around a hundred metres, was a transparent shield covering a vast area that went beyond what one could see. To the right, a large building with the letters 'MCI' plastered in large writing at the top stood; undoubtedly, the Moon Colonisation Initiative building. Around the main building stood smaller ones, vans driving in all directions can be seen loading and unloading massive boxes labeled 'Farming' and 'Dehydrated Food'. Many people were also walking around busily transporting farming tools. It was truly a sight to behold; a human walking around on the moon was certainly a comical spectacle. Because the moon possessed only a sixth of earth's gravitational pull, everyone seemed to jump up and down very slowly, with the addition of them trying to transport large boxes certainly made it entertaining to watch.

Turning away from the building, I immediately tried to exit the chamber, but felt a little exhausted. The tele-tech told me that I may feel slightly tired after reaching there. Feeling exhaustion was to be expected because of the nature of teleportation. The launching chamber actually breaks down the physical form of the traveler and turns it into light energy, and then it's reassembled in the receiving end. You can imagine the troubles they encountered when testing the technology.

Nevertheless, I pushed through the exhaustion and walked out of the chamber. I couldn't wait any longer, for the goal I strived towards almost all my life was within my reach. I step into the surface of the moon and felt its gravelly nature under my feet. I looked up to see only the darkness of space. I took a few steps and walked around the chamber to look at the rear.

Immediately I felt a warm sensation creeping around my skin. Sensation like I've never experienced before; something that even surpassed teleporting from earth to the moon. The light blinded me; I covered my eyes for a full minute and waited for them to adjust. Then, I looked up and saw it.

It was a bright, white, glorious circle. Not yellow like I was told but brilliantly beautiful nonetheless. The sight was spectacular. The light from the sun shone everything around, I suddenly realised just how truly dark the city was. I felt pity for those back on earth that will never get to experience this splendour. I felt the strength under me dissipate and my legs gave out. I slid my back on the chamber and sat on the floor.

The artificial atmosphere made it possible to stare directly at the sun with no worries so I just sat there staring. Ten minutes passed, then half an hour, and an hour. I simply couldn't move.

I've finally seen the sun. I've finally laid my eyes on the centre of life.

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