At This Moment, I am Happy | Teen Ink

At This Moment, I am Happy

May 24, 2022
By AriannaA, Hughson, California
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AriannaA, Hughson, California
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Author's note:

It was made for my sisters birthday.

I was so tired. I was doing my night shift at the hospital, trying to stay there as long as possible. I did not want to go home and have to wear my safety suit. As I changed Mrs. Brian’s bed sheets, a nurse walked in and stared at me, a questioning look on her face.

She asked me,”How long have you been here, beautiful child?”

She always looked as if she was about to cry. That made sense as her wife had died 2 years ago and the world had turned into a desert 10 years ago. But then again, that would make anyone cry. I stared at her, wondering how she was able to keep it together every day. 

She stared back at me and asked again, “How long have you been here?”

I replied, my tone casual, “About 18 hours now, but I will get out of your hands once I change Mrs. Brian’s bed sheets.”

She stared at me, her face even sadder now. I wondered why she was looking at me like that, when I realized. Oh. Mrs. Brian died 5 hours ago when she went past the safety perimeter. In my head I altered the list of living things left on Earth. 99 humans left, 1 pregnant Cocker Spaniel, and 12 green bonsais.

My safety suit was so itchy. You would think that scientists would at least try to make these things comfortable, especially because we have to wear them almost all the time. I sat in bed, wondering how the world had come to this. Wondering why I had to wonder so much, but then I thought, Don’t be stupid, you wonder all the time because you have nothing else to do. I replayed the moments from the past in my head, trying to make sense of it all

My mom’s phone had screamed, warning us of the destroyed ozone layer. I had fallen to the ground, the sun scorching my skin, leaving 3rd degree burns that would last as scars for the rest of my life. Next thing I knew, I was in a hospital, people whispering around me. I had cried for hours when the nurses told me what had happened: The ozone layer had dissolved into nothing, 13.5 billion people had died - including my father and younger brother. They had expected this for years and that was why the scientists had built this hospital, this safe haven.

I woke up with a start, I had had another nightmare. Of course the world wasn’t destroyed, I was being silly. I looked down at my safety suit and it hit me, as it had every day since I was 3. I looked out the window, a tear trickling down my cheek. I stared at the desert that the world had become, all signs of life erased. I got out of bed and changed my safety suit, making sure that my mask stayed on. It could not come off unless I wanted to die.

As I walked to the hospital, I noticed a red dot in the sky. A flaming asteroid, it looks at least twice as big as the last one, I thought, I should tell Mr. Romigere. I went into his office when I got to the hospital and I told him what I saw. He sighed and rubbed his temple, a thing that he only did when he was very stressed. 

“Come with me, please,” he said. 

He led me to the basement. I started when my socks instantly squished on the wet ground. That feeling brought back so many memories, running in the wet grass with my 2 year old brother. He was now dead. I gulped, suppressing the memory. 

“Why is the basement flooded?” I asked, failing to suppress the grief in my voice.

He explained to me that we have been getting our water from an underground spring, and recently, he found out that the spring is leaking. 

“Apparently the spring is bigger than we thought. We need to consume more so you are free to take as much water as you want.”

“I will take 2 gallons a day for home use.” I said with a fake smile on my face, trying to reassure him. 

Throughout the day, the leak got worse and I had to up my promise to 4, 5 gallons a day. By the end of the day, we were desperately trying to find uses for the water. We decided that everyone could get a bath, but where would the excess water go? We can’t drink it. We found that we could use it to water the bonsais. But even then, we wouldn’t have enough water. I voted that we could filter it and use it for cooking, cleaning dishes, and washing clothes.

I carried my 5 gallons of water home and when I was thirsty, I opened the top of the bottle. I was surprised to see the water drift out of the bottle, away from me, out the cracked window and into the night. I followed it and it led me back to the hospital. I shrugged it off and told myself that my fatigue must be making me see things.

The next day when I went to the hospital, I learned that I was not hallucinating. It seemed like the same thing had happened to everyone else. I also learned that the first 2 floors had flooded and the underground spring was even bigger than we had expected. Nurse Mary told me that Mr. Austen had died in his sleep last night. I checked his name off of my mental list. When I went to see how Mr. Romigere was doing, he wiped tears from his eyes and tried to smile at me. 

“What is it, dear?” he asked

I told him that I wanted to know if he had found out anything about the asteroid. He told me that it was 12 kilometers in size, and it would make the conditions on Earth so bad that we would have to keep all of the living things inside the hospital until the Earth stopped being a giant ball of flames. The hospital was designed to withstand things like this. He also told me that it was going to hit Earth tomorrow. I instantly called everyone that I knew - all 45 people that did not live permanently in the hospital - and told them the news.

Throughout the day, floors 3, 4, and 5 flooded. The staff had assured me that we would be fine, because this place was 12 floors tall and was made to hold at least 200 people per floor. But the next day, the hospital had flooded all the way to floor 9 and everybody had been moved to floor 12. The staff was panicking, worried that the hospital would flood. We decided on a plan for what to do with the water. This was a dangerous job as the asteroid would hit Earth in 2 hours. We were going to filter the water so it wouldn’t be attracted to the hospital and pour it on the surrounding land to try to hydrate the ground.

After filtering 60 gallons of water, we put on our safety suits and went outside to pour the water out, but just as it had before, the water floated to the hospital. We ran some tests and found that there was a particle in the water that was attracted to the material that we used to build the hospital. The nurses explained to the younger children in the hospital that it was like a magnet. What they did not tell them was that the water was not going to stop flooding the hospital, so we had to find a way to stop this particle in the water. We did more tests, torching the water, trying to evaporate the water and more. We found that when we applied the water to extreme heat, the particle did not show up on our scans. We reasoned that we could use it to try to put out the flames of the asteroid. We could stand on the top deck of the hospital and pour water on the fire.

Suddenly, the ground shook.

“Uh-oh” said baby Marshall, my 2 year old cousin. “Look,” he pointed his finger at the window. “Why red, mommy? Why brown?”

We all stared in horror through the window at the flames engulfing the land around us. I had expected this, but I had never been able to picture what it would look like. I glanced across the room at my mother and I saw her wipe a tear from her eye. I understood her pain, she had seen the world in its past beauty with forests, water, other animals and humans. She had seen the world taken away from her in a moment and she was probably reliving that moment again.

“We have to use the water now before the flames get too high,” she gulped. “Everyone, put on your suits.”

We put on our suits and went to the top deck of the hospital. I was horrified to see that the flames had entirely engulfed the hospital. The first few people stepped out and were immediately burned, poor Mrs. Sandy-the first to step out-was engulfed with flames. We could all hear her blood-curdling screams as she burned to death. We retreated and immediately issued orders to seal all exits until we could fix the problem.

We decided to quickly build a tank that we could pump water into, and attach a large hose so we could spray the water out. Hopefully this would destroy the flames at the top of the hospital so we could go out and try again. We mourned the loss of Mrs. Sandy and got to work building. 

Halfway into the build, I looked down at the floor and realized that a foot of water had formed on the ground. I could not feel it because I was wearing my water and fire-proof safety suit. The people around me also started to notice and soon everyone was panicking. Our fear made us work faster and faster until the tank was done. We attached it to the hatch door on the deck and opened the door. 

All of us went to the pump and together started pumping water. I administered the tank and watched it fill. I watched as the hose filled and started spraying water. The flames did not dissipate. We pumped for 30 minutes and they did not go away. By now, the water had filled 3 feet of the room and me, my mother, and Doctor Migele had to act as platforms for the children that could not swim. All of the adults were panicking and the children were also slightly worried. We tried to comfort the children, but they were still worried. I swam down to floor 10 and got all the pool floaties and the giant floating swan so we wouldn't have to carry the babies any more. I started pumping water as fast as I could, not caring that it was being wasted. I would do anything to stop us from drowning.

I heard a big cracking sound and watched, terrified, as the room filled up completely. The foundation of the hospital had cracked. I took my last breath as I realized that I was somehow still very calm. This is what you always wanted, a voice in my head said as I sank to the floor, in your heart you always wanted it all to be over, for your suffering to cease, every burden released from your chest and for you to be free. The voice was right, I had always wanted this. But, I had never wanted to die, I wanted to go back to the old Earth, not die.

I remembered when I was 4, crying into my mother’s stomach and pummeling her chest with my fists. I was asking through the tears, why the world was like this, why it could not be pretty. I had told her that I did not understand anything. She had only been able to hug me tight and tell me that one day, one day, the old world will come back. I had been hoping for this world my whole life. Now as I breathed in the water and my heart stopped beating, My last thought was, I do not understand.

I do not understand.

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