by Luladay Price

Coming back was hard. It was a bad idea, a fanciful whim, a childish hope that everything would be the same, exactly as I left it. I knew it would not be, but still I was drawn back to the place I once called home.

No one expected it this trip to be an easy one; it is never easy to fly thousands of miles to pick through shards and pieces of a destroyed life. We were scattered across time, all of us. I had not seen anyone ever since we were forced to leave. I left everything behind, just as I was instructed to do. And what good had come from that? They said they were saving our lives, giving us a home away from home. They were trying to protect us from the radiation. How quickly saviors become prison guards. ‘Any refugees can return at any time,’ they told us. ‘You are free to leave whenever you wish.’ And tell me, how do you return home to nothing? Do I return after centuries only to dream instead of what could have happened all those years ago? But I did, as they knew I would.

I saw them briefly before the voyage, the rest of the refugees. They had decided to take us home in different ships, hoping we would not recognize one another, but we did. Our appearances may resemble everyone else’s in this world, but we did not fit in. We were defeated, prisoners of war, allowed only to return home after centuries of lost time.  We were the prodigal children, abandoning our earth only to return home when it did not matter. Or, at least, that is what it felt like.

The trip was shorter than we realized. With the advanced technology in space travel these days and the sleep serum, it seemed as though no time had passed at all. The next thing we knew, Earth loomed large before us, expectant, welcoming us back into her arms. We did not know what to expect after all that time had passed. What can you expect after a war between worlds quarantines your home forever? We expected nothing because that is what we knew awaited us.

The earth was a lonely thing, a barren, sandy wasteland.  Abandoned, desolate, and mourning for her lost children, she was far different from how we left her years ago. The screams, the flames, the panic and terror and chaos that followed the attack were gone. The bright lights from above, fire reigning down from the sky, the bodies of innocent families tossed aside in the streets were all just plain gone, but not forgotten. Scrubbed clean by sand, the earth still whispered of the past. Long-lost memories were hidden beneath its weathered surface. Memories of an older, brighter day still called to me, but I could not reach them anymore. The time of the refugees was over and this was not our world anymore.

It was a painful homecoming. I can only assume the same for the other refugees; they would not let us leave the ships. ‘Earth is still poisoned with radiation,’ they told us. ‘Your home will never be safe again.’ The only thing left to do is return to our home away from home.


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Writers Bio

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