By Ryan Matejka
Based on the writing prompt: The year is 2122 humans have been exiled to Mars by their android overlords.
Humans lost Earth's final war, and yet somehow the magnitude of that loss was dwarfed by what came next.
Unlike many had predicted, the end of human life on Earth did not come about with the press of a button followed by the deafening roar of three billion souls being evaporated in a brilliant flash of white light. Instead, it was with a simple but effective threat followed by the roar of twenty gargantuan ships rocketing out of the atmosphere.
Humans, the androids said, were no longer in the planet's best interests. While humans excel at creating and expanding, they are downright abysmal at preserving. As a result, much of the Earth had become stale, and the androids could not sit idly by and watch as we continued to tear it apart to please our many needs and desires.
As their worldwide broadcast explained, androids have few needs and even fewer desires, therefore they would be ideal candidates for the preservation and restoration of the once-great planet.
We humans, on the other hand, were tasked with the growth of the newly inhabitable, formerly-red planet called Mars. At least until we ruin that one, too.
Myself, my wife, and my six-year-old daughter were each given a single box, each measuring five cubic feet, in which to pack our belongings for our permanent relocation to Mars City 7, Suburb 3. My wife packed clothes, a hard drive backup of all her family photos and videos dating back to the twentieth century, and dozens of decorations and trinkets she'd collected for the house over the years. My daughter packed her clothes, drawings, and her collection of old-fashioned inanimate stuffed animals.
I stared at my empty box a long time while the two of them packed theirs. It was hard for me to think of anything to bring that wouldn't just make me more homesick for Earth. In the end, I followed their lead and filled up my box with my clothes, hard drive backup of my family's memories, and of course my acoustic guitar; the very one that led to me meeting my beautiful wife.
After packing up, we were transported to the nearest ship and directed to our stasis pods. I don't think I'll ever forget the tears in my daughter's eyes when I had to explain that she needed to be sealed into the dark container naked and all alone, just like I'll never forget the look on her face when we arrived and found out that her mother didn't survive the stasis due to an undiagnosed heart condition.
People like to tell you that children don't really understand death, but she understood.
All three of our boxes, along with a small container with my wife's cremated remains, were waiting for us at our assigned house.
I put them all in the closet, where they remained unopened for fourteen years.
When my daughter told me what she wanted for her 20th birthday, I told her to think of something else. I told her it was impossible. I told her it was too painful.
She didn't listen to me. She never does.
She snuck into my closet, pulled out the boxes, and sorted through the memories she had no right to dig up. She looked through old footage of our happy times together on Earth. She laughed and wept at the sight of her mother cradling her.
Then she pulled out my guitar and asked me to play the first song her mother ever heard me play. I declined. She said I could either play her the song or pay for her summer vacation to Phobos. I made a move to grab my wallet. She took my arm and looked up at me with her big perfect eyes just like she used to as a child, and asked me to please, just this once, play her the song and she'd never bother me about it again.
I could never say no to those eyes.
I picked up the guitar and carefully tuned it.
I closed my eyes.
I took a deep breath.
I pictured her mother.
I played "I'm Yours."
For four minutes, I was back on Earth.
For four minutes, the androids didn't win.
For four minutes, it was almost like she was alive all over again.