One Last Escape From Hell


© Footy and Foodie

“I never thought sunsets were so precious, Trent. I used to be annoyed at how people would keep taking photos of them.”

“You never know the blessings you have until they’re gone, Esta.” They stood together at the edge of the shallow sea and watched the sun descend into night.

“You mean like Earth is gone, like how we destroyed the biosphere? But it’s not gone, Trent. It’s sitting out there pristine and pure. Can’t we go back to how it is now?

“That’s not how the tesseract works, Esta. We brought five hundred people and everything we’d need to build a human colony here. The gateway leads only from Earth’s present to Venus three billion years ago, our now. It’s a one-way trip. Earth’s out there, but we’ll never see it again except through a telescope.”

“Can we take better care of our life on Venus, Trent?”

“Yes, but it won’t last. In about a billion years or so, the climate will start changing on Venus too, and it will become another living hell.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of November 21, 2017 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I have to admit when I saw the photo, I really did think something like “oh no, not another sunset.” I mean how many stories can you write about a sunset? Then I started thinking about how to tweak this to make it a very unusual sunset. A lot of different ideas came to mind, but then I went to my “files” and revisited the Science Daily article Venus may have been habitable, NASA climate modeling suggests. Based on current climate modeling technology and techniques (which admittedly are far from perfect), some NASA scientists believe that up until about two billion years ago, Venus may have been habitable, possessing shallow oceans, breathable air, and a livable surface temperature.

However, being much closer to the Sun than Earth, ultraviolet radiation eventually burned off the oceans and, with no surface water available, carbon dioxide built up leading to a runaway greenhouse effect. Today, the surface of Venus is a unparalleled hell, with an atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth’s, acid rains, mega-hurricane winds, and a surface temperature that can go as high as 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius).

I previously used the concept of a one-way tesseract or temporal gateway leading from Earth’s present to billions of years in the past on another planet in the story The Five Billion Year Love, which I still consider one of my better efforts at a romance, loss, and science fiction tale. In today’s story, the tesseract is a one-way portal from an Earth with an all but unlivable climate to three billion years into the past on Venus when it was habitable.

It’s an interesting thought that if humans could save themselves by moving to Venus in the distant past, then would natural events have caused the second planet’s eventual environmental demise or would human beings make the same mistakes twice?

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to


17 thoughts on “One Last Escape From Hell

  1. Beautifully written James. I think Flash Fiction is definitely making a comeback, especially with Twitter and a shortening attention span. I find new stories can bloom just from seeing a single image. In your case I guess the picture isn’t quite worth a thousand words, but 175 well-placed ones 🙂


    • It certainly could have been a thousand words or more, but 175 was all I was allowed.

      I’m actually working on a series of stories about a woman, horribly mutilated in a nuclear power plant accident six years ago who has been reconstructed virtually from scratch using experimental and revolutionary biosynthetic materials and techniques to become the world’s first “syntheorg” (synthetic organism – sort of like cyborg = cybernetic organism). The’s now more than human but in some ways, less as well. Employed by both the Japanese and British governments, she’s assigned to break up a ring of international human traffickers and to locate and capture a notorious assassin. but will all of the changes to her body an psyche result in her losing what’s left of her humanity and becoming an inhuman killer?

      The latest chapter (much longer than flash fiction) is called The Vengeful. I admit that I’m having a blast exploring her abilities and especially her character.

      Thanks for visiting, reading, and commenting, Aidan.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Actually, just imagining a breathable atmosphere and shallow oceans on our sister planet spawns all kinds of ideas. If they are on Venus three billion years ago and managed to build a spaceship so they could travel to Earth, what would they find? If they colonized Earth three billion years in the past, how would that change the present?


  2. You’ve given us an interesting and thought-provoking post, James. I’m with Iain; I think we’d make the same mistakes. A few people are too driven by greed and the lust for power to care about ecological destruction. Many are misled by those few, into being sceptical about climate change. Probably the majority accept that science is right about climate change, but lack the imagination to visualise what that means sufficiently vividly to insist that something is done about it.
    For those in any doubt. Climate change is real. It will be devastating to human existence. Its impact can still (just about) be limited to a survivable level.


    • I think it depends. Consider. 500 people have escaped the devastating effects of climate change on Earth to travel three billion years into the past to Venus when it was still human-habitable. Let’s say that these 500 are philosophically environmentalists who establish first a colony and, as time goes on, a thriving human community based on the principle of stewardship, that is, taking care of and nurturing rather than conquering the environment.

      For the vast majority of human history, we could not conceive of an environment what was limited. Humans thought that the abundance of the Earth and all its resources came to us endlessly and that we were entitled to use them as we saw fit. Only too late did we realize this wasn’t true, but by then (now), we had become so dependent on the use of those resources for our “first world” pleasures, that we could not or would not desist. Add to that the third-world nations who want our standard of living and will do anything to get it. Add to that nations like China who pollute their air to an extreme we have never seen in the United States or other western nations.

      500 enlightened people might form a society based on an unshakable value that one does not dirty one’s own living room, so to speak.

      Of course, a billion years is a long time and there can be some “drift,” but then again, modern humans have only existed for the tiniest fraction of that time, so a human civilization on Venus might go naturally extinct anyway long, long before the Sun’s influence on Venus begins to radically change the biosphere.


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