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Authors: Liu Cixin

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BOOK: The Wandering Earth
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I was genuinely grateful when I learned that their executioners had come up with a good way to put them to death: They would remove the nuclear battery from the thermal suits of all those who had been sentenced to death. Then, they would leave them on the frozen surface of the ocean. Without the batteries to heat their suits they would succumb to the subzero temperatures, the cold slowly wresting all life from their bodies.

So the most treacherous, most disgraceful criminals of human history were gathered on the frozen ocean. As they stood there densely packed, more than a hundred thousand gathered on the shore to witness their demise. More than a hundred thousand jaws clenching in anger, more than a hundred thousand pairs of eyes burning with the same fury I had seen in that little girl.

All of the Earth Engines were shut down then. The stars hung majestically over the frozen ocean. As I looked up at them, I imagined the countless frozen pins and needles that the cold was driving into the bodies of the convicted. I imagined their blood freezing; the life slowly seeping from their bodies. A pleasant warmth flowed from my mind and over my entire body as I embraced those images. Seeing those people slowly die, tormented by the cold, cheered the spirits of everyone watching from the shore and they began to sing, “My Sun.”

I sang as well, my eyes gazing into that direction. There a slightly larger star shone, its round disk sending forth yellow light; the Sun.

Oh, my Sun, mother of life, father of all things; what could be more steady than you? What could be more eternal than you? We are so tiny, carbon-based bacteria, below the contempt of even dust, crowded on a pebble that revolves around you. We dared to prophesize your doom; how incredibly stupid we were!

An hour passed and those criminals, those enemies of humanity, still stood on the frozen ocean. But there was no more life in them, their blood having frozen in their veins.

Suddenly, I lost all sight. Seconds passed before my vision slowly began to recover. The ice fields, the seashore, and all the people standing on the ocean and at the shore gradually began to reform in front of my eyes. Finally everything was clear, even clearer than it had been before; clearer because the world was enveloped in an intense brightness. It was this sudden glare that had blinded me a moment ago.

The stars did not reemerge, their light drowned out by the intense glare. It was as if the entire universe had melted into brilliance. The light burst from a point in the sky, a point that was now the center of the universe. That point was in the direction that I had just stared into a moment before.

The helium flash had occurred.

The chorus of “My Sun” froze in mid-song. The many thousand on the shore were dumbfounded; they almost resembled the 5,000 on the ice beyond, standing frozen, rigid as rock.

The Sun's light and warmth blessed the Earth one last time. The dry ice on the surface was first to melt, rising into plumes of white steam; then the surface water of the ocean also began to thaw. A great rumble that shook the heavens and the Earth rose as the layers of ice were unevenly heated. Gradually, the light softened and a faint blue began to color the sky. Later, polar lights born by the intense solar wind began to play across the sky above. They waved across the firmament like giant colorful curtains.

The last of the Earth Faction stood firm in this sudden splendid sunlight; 5,000 dignified statues.

The solar eruption lasted only briefly, and after two hours the light rapidly weakened and then faded altogether.

Where the Sun had been, a dark red sphere now hung, gradually swelling. Seen from our wandering Earth, it slowly grew to the size of the Sun of old, a strange memory from Earth's original orbit. In fact, it was now so massive that it stretched beyond the orbit of Mars. Mercury, Mars, and Venus, Earth's three terrestrial fellows, had then already been burned to wisps of smoke, vaporized by radiation of almost 200 million degrees.

The red sphere in the sky was not our Sun anymore. No longer glowing with light and warmth, it looked like a cold piece of red paper glued to the firmament. Its dark red radiance seemed but a reflection of the surrounding starlight. The Sun had reached the final destination of all low-mass stars, transforming into a red giant.

Five billion years of majestic life now were no more than a passing dream. The Sun had died.

Fortunately, humanity remained.

 

CHAPTER
4
The Wandering Age

 

A
s I recall of this, half a century has come to pass. Twenty years ago our path crossed Pluto's orbit. Earth had left the solar system for good, continuing its journey in the cold vastness of outer space alone.

I last visited the surface more than a dozen years ago accompanied by my son and daughter-in-law, a blond haired, blue-eyed girl. She was heavily pregnant then.

After arriving on the surface, the first thing I noticed was that I could not see the Earth Engines' massive beams even though I knew they were all running at full power. The Earth's atmosphere had disappeared, leaving nothing for the plasma's glow to diffract against. I saw strange translucent yellow and green crystals scattered across the Earth's surface. They were made of solid oxygen and nitrogen; our frozen atmosphere.

Interestingly enough, the atmosphere had not frozen evenly across the Earth's surface. Instead, it had formed irregular bulges, like small translucent hills. On the frozen, once flat ocean they gave birth to a new and alien landscape. Above, the stars of the Milky Way stretched unmoving across the sky. They too seemed frozen. Their light, however, was bright enough to dazzle the eyes, if one looked long enough.

The Earth Engines will now run for 500 years without interruption, accelerating the Earth to 0.5 percent of the speed of light. The Earth will then cruise, shooting through space at this incredible speed for 1,300 years. Then, when the Earth has completed two-thirds of its journey, we will again turn the direction of the Earth Engines and the Earth will begin its 500-year deceleration. After 2,400 years of travel the Earth will finally reach its new home, Proxima Centauri. Over the course of a century it will be docked into orbit around the star, becoming its planet.

 

In time, I will be gone,

So far our voyage wandering,

But call me at the dawn

When the East glows in light rising.

In time, I will be gone,

So long past the journey began,

But call me at the dawn

When the sky above shines blue again.

In time, I will be gone,

So distant our solar story,

But call me at the dawn

When the trees bloom with fresh glory…

 

Every time I hear that song, warmth flows through my stiff, aging body and my dry, old eyes moisten once more. Before my mind's eye the three suns of Alpha Centauri rise in procession, bathing life in their warm light. The solid atmosphere has melted, once again rising as blue sky. Two-thousand-year-old seeds are reborn from the thawed soil, covering the Earth in green. I see my great-grandchildren, a hundred generations removed, laugh and play in these green fields. Clear streams cross the grassland, giving home to small silver fishes… I see Kayoko, running towards me across the green Earth; she is young and beautiful, like an angel…

 

Oh, Earth, my wandering Earth…

 

(END)

 

More Wonderful Works of Liu Cixin
are available on the Kindle store, free to borrow for prime clients. Check out the author's Amazon page:
http://www.amazon.com/Cixin-Liu/e/B007JP96JU

 

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BOOK: The Wandering Earth
2.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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