Habib looked up at the black sky of noon and tried to find Sol, but it was hidden behind the mocking glare of Newton’s single tiny moon. The moon was called Apple, but Habib couldn’t enjoy the whimsey of it. This was never going to be his home.
Newton was what they called a garden world, allegedly ideal for human settlement. What he didn’t appreciate until his arrival was that the planet was tidally locked to its star—it didn’t have days in the same way Earth did. The sun-facing side was a scorching waste. It was impossible to live there, and indeed there were no plants or animals. The thick atmosphere pulled the heat around to the other side of the planet like a spouse steals the blanket in the night, keeping the dark side from freezing out. Living on Newton was paradoxical; the sun was twice as close and three times as large as Sol was to Earth, but for Newton’s inhabitants it was a place of perpetual darkness.
Settlers were offered outrageous incentives to leave Earth, as crowded as it had become. For Habib, they promised premium healthcare for his ailing wife, Esther. When she was cured, they all had to leave—Habib, Esther, and her four young cousins who had no other family. The authorities kept their promise, and so Habib kept his. They left their home, forever. But Esther became agitated and despondent during the long journey. She missed the light of day. Had she only known.
The world had given her only a single gift in her few long years—her own life spark—and she took it as her right to choose to snuff it out. Her cousins struck out on their own upon arriving, leaving Habib to live out his remaining years alone and in the dark. He decided he must have died on Earth and this was his ever after.
“What are you looking for up there? Did you forget something?”
That is, until he met Shaban, and everything started to make a terrible sort of sense.