‘Game over’: 2020 Ubyssey sci-fi contest runner-up

I wake up and my head is pounding, my body is aching and my stomach is turning.

I wake up and my head is pounding, my body is aching and my stomach is turning. I attempt to roll over onto my right side and use what is left of my body strength to push myself up. Unsuccessful, I collapse on the wooden floor and a cloud of dust explodes into the musty air, consuming me. My stomach contracts violently and while lying on the floor desperate for help, I lurch forward and forcefully begin dry heaving. The acid of my vomit claws at my throat and I try to swallow the bile, but my guts need to expel what was within me. The vomit surges up from my esophagus and comes out my mouth looking like greenish-yellow congealed contents. The warm bile covers the dirty floor and oozes down my neck. I throw my body up against a wall and lean on it, desperately trying to breathe. With my mouth coated with a pungent smell, I say with a shaky and raspy voice, “Water.” I fall to my knees and clench my sore throat.

Beads of sweat roll down the side of my face and find its way to the corner of my mouth, salty. My eyes are heavy and I can barely keep them open. Each blink feels like a fight to keep myself awake.

Suddenly, a deafening, thunderous sound cracks through the atmosphere’s sound barrier. I quickly limp toward the shattered window in front of me and stick my head out, careful not to cut myself on the jagged edges. Looking up towards the dark and black beyond, I gasp. A startling sight forces my jaw to drop. The night sky is illuminated in a deep green and blue hue by an enormous hole that stretches over a kilometre in length! I observe it and immediately, I know that this is a wormhole. A jet plane speeds in its direction and the silver object disappears.

It was three years ago. I remember it so clearly. August 7, 4080. The event that would change human history forever happened during one normal summer evening. The residual heat from earlier in the afternoon lingered in the air and made it uncomfortably hard to breathe.

Colours of yellow, orange and red married together in the sky, creating a piece of art so breathtaking, I thought I was living in a painting. I remember looking out the window when I saw the earth beneath me moving up and down like the waves of the ocean. It all happened so quickly. I heard and felt the earth come alive; rumbling and shaking, making noises that sounded like I was in the belly of a whale. Behind me, glass dishes shattered all over the hardwood floor. I attempted to take cover, but the ground was shaking so violently that it was difficult to move. I fell over and attempted to crawl to my fragile desk. The ceiling lights were swaying from side to side, then one by one, the light bulbs exploded into a million pieces.

What happened was that the Earth’s magnetic field had flipped. I remember reading about this in my tenth-grade science textbook. It happened 72 million years ago and it was bound to happen again; we just didn’t know when. Because of this global cataclysm, massive earthquakes were triggered, rapid climate change occurred and species were quickly becoming extinct. Billions died and those who fled alive were the aristocrats who had the money and technology to leave the Earth. I do not know where they went, but it is suspected they found refuge on Planet 8043X9, where the conditions are similar enough to Earth to sustain life. There was talk about scientists working on new technology for space travel by bending the space-time continuum. This could allow you to theoretically jump the million light years between point A to point B in milliseconds.

Snapping out of that memory, I come back to the harsh reality of where I am. I do not even know how I survived. I do not even remember a single thing. The last memory I had was feeling a sharp pain crawl up my spine when the desk collapsed, then a darkness consumed me.

I look up at the anomaly in the sky and noticed that I had to escape. I cannot die here. The wormhole was noticeably reducing in size and this meant I had limited time to reach it. I begin breathing more rapidly as I realize that I cannot waste any more seconds. I run out of the torn-up building and I get an urge to head towards the open field in front of me. I follow my gut.

In the distance, I see a large object that is toppled over. The closer I get, the harder my heart pounds. Finally, when I’m close enough, I notice that it is a jet. I sprint, using every muscle in my body to get to it as fast as possible. I crawl into the structure and desperately start punching all the buttons. Soon enough, the entire control system ignites and the switches light up in colours of red and green. My fingernails dig into the leather lever and my grip tightens as I pull it toward my body. The jet begins lifting off the ground and I sigh with relief. I look down on the floor of the earth and suddenly, I feel dizzy. A flash of memories fills my brain.

“Is this déjà vu? Why do I remember flying this exact same jet?” I think to myself. But I shake that thought out of my head and focus on maneuvering the jet. I move toward the direction of the wormhole and as I get closer, excitement fills me.

A blaring alarm forces my body to jolt up. Flashes of red light blind my vision, forcing me to squint. I look at the gas gauge and notice that I am low on fuel. I begin hyperventilating. “I am so close,” I think to myself. With the last bit of desperation and hope, I jerk the lever up and the jet accelerates toward the giant beast. The brightness from the sight of it makes it extremely hard to open my eyes so I fly blind, praying to whatever higher being that is out there — even though I’m not religious — that I escape.

GAME OVER.

“Damn, I was so close! You wanna try, Matt?”

“What are you even playing, Jake? You’ve been sitting here for over three hours.”

Matt hands over the light-weight silver helmet to Jake.

“It’s supposed to be like a real-life simulation of a global cataclysm back in year 4080 on a planet called Earth. This was way before we were born, but my dad just gave it to me to play and learn about some history I guess.”

“Oh, sweet, that sounds kinda sick! Let me try it out,” Jake said excitedly. He put on the helmet and pushed the red button that was just above his right ear.

I wake up and my head is pounding, my body is aching and my stomach is turning. I attempt to roll over onto my right side and use what is left of my body strength to push myself up.