We Were Young

Entry by: Alobear

11th August 2015
We Were Young

“Nana?” Felicity’s bright voice cuts through my reverie, bringing me back to my immediate surroundings. “Were you and Granpa ever young like me?”

I laugh. The question has such innocence to it; not only that, but it throws up so many thoughts about my youth and how different times used to be.

“Well, sweeting,” I say, beckoning her closer. “That’s an interesting question. Yes, we were both young once, though it must be hard for you to imagine that. But we weren’t like you.”

She bounds up to me, her bionic skeleton allowing her to move in great, leaping strides in the artificial gravity of the space station. Her sparkling eyes regard me with curiosity, their embedded net-links storing all the information they take in digitally so she can review it later at her leisure.

“What do you mean?” she asks.

I think about how best to answer her. Her experience of growing up has been, and will continue to be, so very different from mine that it’s difficult to know how to describe it. I point to the dome above us, towards where the Earth hangs in space beyond it, brown and desolate where once it shone blue and green.

“When your Granpa and I were young,” I tell her, “we lived on Old Earth, back before the blight.”

I figure she must know that people used to live on the planet, rather than on the space stations in orbit around it, but I suspect she has never really thought about it in practical terms.

“Really?” Her eyes are wide in wonder. “That must have been a very long time ago.”

This makes me laugh again. “Yes, it was,” I say, smiling down at her. “You know how slow and weak Granpa and I are, compared to you?”

She nods.

“That’s not just because we’re so old now,” I tell her. “When we were born, there was no such thing as bionic enhancement. You have nano-technology fused to your DNA, which strengthens your bones as you grow and makes sure you stay healthy. By the time that was invented, we were too old to have it, so we’ve had to make do with chemical supplements instead.”

“What was it like on Old Earth?” Felicity wants to know.

I look around at the lush park around us, with its vibrant flower beds and clusters of shady trees.

“Parts of it were very like this,” I say, casting my eyes to the horizon, where the towers of the distant city reach up towards the dome. “And there were cities, too, though not as fancy as where we live now. But there were also large areas where nobody lived at all; there were mountains and rivers and vast plains…”

I trail off as I realise I’ve lost her. She has no knowledge of such things. Her experience of life is encompassed within the limits of the space station, a tiny area compared with the size of a planet.

“It was much, much bigger than a space station,” I continue, “and it was very beautiful. Until we ruined it…”

Thinking about the devastation of the blight saddens me. The space stations are wonderful; they provide everything we need, and are beautiful in their own way but, to me, their artificiality makes them inherently inferior to the home I used to know. They also house only a tiny fraction of the number of people that used to populate the planet below, bringing into focus just how much we have lost.

I shake off my despair and try to think of happier things to tell my granddaughter about. I gesture at the robot dog that gambols around her feet.

“We didn’t have robo-pets, either,” I say. “But I did have a real dog when I was about your age.”

“A real dog?” she repeats, her tone incredulous. “Wow! You’re so lucky!” She bends down and pets the little robot. “I love my Sammy, though.”

I smile at her. “He’s a lot more obedient and makes a lot less mess than a real dog,” I tell her. “Plus, he’ll never get old, so you’ll be able to keep him forever.”

“Will I get old, like you?” is her next question.

“Not like me, no,” I tell her. “Your nano-technology will keep you young and strong for much, much longer than I ever was. I think, by the time you get to be my age, people won’t get old at all, any more.” I look down at the wrinkled skin of my arms. “So, you won’t have to worry about looking like me.”

She laughs, and bounds away again, cartwheeling over the grass, the robot dog following her, barking happily. I watch her go, wondering if everything will be as different from now when she is my age, as it is now from when I was young. Things change so fast these days, and everything is getting faster and smarter. Who knows what marvels await humanity in the far future when Felicity is reaching the end of whatever time span she is allotted? I don’t think I’ll be there to see it, but I bet it’s going to be amazing.