Learning from History – A Short Story by Jason Hsu

Learning from History
A Short Story by Jason Hsu, Class of 2021

The Sun was beginning to beam luminously through his window. Joe sat up in his bed in a jolt, only to roll back over onto his face onto the two other cold pillows on his grand bed. Only consciously thinking of what he was doing, he didn’t hear the squealing deriving from his double french doors across the bedroom.

“Uhm, Mr. Laurie is everything alright? May I get something for you?” asked Maria in a sweet and courteous voice.

“Holy shit, Maria!” Joe glared backwards to his nightstand at an instant to see the clock reading 6:49, shocked that he had just awoken. “Uh, yes. It would be lovely if I can just have the regular please.”

“Oh why of course, Mr. Laurie.” She smiled with pleasure. “Also…Mr Laurie, your father wanted me to let you know that he will be out for the rest of the day, he is meeting with many people today, he says. The food will be right back.” Maria quietly let herself out, twisted the knob and slowly closed the aching door without making much noise.

Joe got up off his bed and onto the hazel wooden floor taking his time, yawned, stretched, and rubbed the crust off his eyes. It had been a long night of studying, so it was no wonder why he had gotten up so much later than his usual habit, now with a pounding headache. He swiftly walked across his room to the bathroom, turned on the shower, and hopped in. Joe always cherished his time in the shower. It was his time to think without any scrutiny of not living up to his dad’s name in the world. How could he? The only way to be able to match his father’s success was to match it, and by Joe’s desire to continue to study astronomy while studying at the local university. Even though was of great intellectual prowess, being at the top of his class, he wasn’t at all in love with the teachings at school, the way he absolutely adored learning about the universe. People only believed that he was admitted into the university at such an early, age of 17 because of the prestige that his father had in society, not because of his intelligence. Without realizing it, he had been in the shower, contemplating his thoughts for more than 20 minutes. He turned the knob, opened the steamy glass door and wrapped the large dark blue, cotton towel around his body and head and scrubbed furiously. Now dried, his hair hung below his eyes in a floppy and crazy manner, and he walked back to his bed to see that his regular order of breakfast was laying on his bed, on a tray, with a neat assortment of jellies and utensils, along with a long glass cup of freshly-squeezed orange juice.

Joe began to contemplate his schedule for the day. He was exhausted from a long week of school, and in conjunction with his anxiety of pressure he felt like he needed to do something more productive with his day rather than sticking to his regular weekend habits of investing his time into astronomy. In such deep thought, he incoherently got dressed in his favorite blue washed jeans with tainted small stains and an ordinary light grey shirt, and headed out of his room, across the marble floor of the upstairs living room, and pressed the downward arrow until it was lit up.

He was reminded of the obscurity of his father to make everything so marvelous because of the grandness of his father’s oak doors and the marvelous space of his office. Per usual, Maria was in his father’s office, cleaning up his mess. She gave a polite smile to Joe as he entered the office and she was leaving. She stepped to the side to allow him in first, and again closed the door slowly, being conscious of how much noise the door made. Joe enjoyed to hang out on the blue suede coach in his father’s office, reading the many scientific books specifically about space that were placed on the shelves and shelves of books in his study. Particularly, he enjoyed reading the many books on the other solar systems that have been searched, mostly the Milky Way, because of Earth. He was fascinated by the many similarities between his planet and Earth had, but his father made him keep that a secret. Joe always thought of how people were on the planet; what they looked and acted like, what they studied, and so on.Bored of reading the same book for about an hour, he went to get a carbonated drink from outside the stainless steel fridge near his large dark wood desk. Scanning the desk, he could tell that he was obviously busy and left abruptly because there were scattered documents and articles all over. Intrigued by the articles that he saw, he began to rummage through the papers to find something he wanted to read about. Although he felt guilty about looking through his father’s work, he was bored and felt as if it could really do no harm, especially because his father had never caught him doing i before. Scrabbling through, he finally dug up a folder that had some sort of intangible attraction to him.

It read Earth: Climate Change on the tab. Instantly, memories of books and studies he read spiraled into his brain. It seemed so marvelous, luscious grasslands, expansive oceans filled with wildlife, undulant mountains and valleys, the extremity of beautiful creatures, what was not to like; after all, it was so much like Kepler. His father told him several times how he modeled our planet after Earth, at least the successful things, he would say, reminding him that this was private information, of course. Stories passed down from generation to generation of how our people had traveled from Earth to Kepler. But Joe never quite understood the reasoning behind moving to a completely different solar system, having to build a whole new world. Maybe life was just simply better or easier here, so why not, he told himself. Joe took the file, and went back to the couch where he always read, and began to flip through the the files, skimming through the pictures, trying to imagine the beauty in his mind. He was puzzled by the title; obviously, he knew what Earth was, but his father had never told him about climate change, making him skeptical of what he began to dive into. But just before he actually began reading he heard his father’s brown python dress shoes tattering against the white marble floor. Joe quickly tucked the file underneath his jeans and above his boxers, and lifted his shirt over his pants so that the folder was hidden. His dad walked in the office without even noticing Joe, walking straight to his desk. He seemed in distress, like it had been a long day of meetings, and just wanted to relax.

“Uh, Hi dad.” Joe whispered softly.

“My, oh my, did you scare me Joe. What are you doing in here? Reading?”

“Yeah I was just bored so I wanted to read a little, you know, try to catch up on all the books that you have read” he scanned up and down the shelves of the hundreds of books and novels that were in his study.

“Well you got quite a ways to go, but you are definitely on the way.” He said sarcastically. “Well, hate to kick you out, but I gotta take a call son, and… have you been looking at these files? They are a bit scattered.”

“Oh ok. No I wasn’t, I haven’t been in here long. Must’ve been the Maria, accidently moving things around.”

“Ok, well can you get out now please?”

Joe got up with his back straight and stayed turned to his father, walking in a more upright posture, trying not to seem inconspicuous that he had in fact been poking around in his files. Finally, he got to the door and slammed it shut.

Back at his room, Joe spent the rest of the day first looking into his father’s folder climate change was on his computer. There were no files available for the several different search criteria that he put in. Why had his father had information on ‘Climate Change’, yet it wasn’t available to everyone else? Were they hiding something? Puzzled, he began to look through, reading paragraphs several times over because he couldn’t understand this concept: how and why would the people on Earth do this to their planet, and why didn’t they stop it. All his questions were answered in the several hours that he read through all the documents and articles. Was he the only one outside of the government that knew of this?

It hit him. A wave of humiliation and hate tingle down his body. His toes began to tingle and his teeth began to chatter in nervousness. He had instant resentment for his father and peers. Everyone had to know what Kepler was in for.

He ran outside into the busy street and awed at the sky. Smoke poured out the koil refinery in the distance. He heard conversations of people complaining of the weird weather patterns that they were having that week. Rare sunshine in the kwinter was becoming more and more apparent. His senses were tingling, he noticed everything more clearer. The wair was thicker, It was happening without him realizing it. The world he knew was a lie, everything fabricated for money and power, the information had to be spread before it was too late for their planet as well.

Joe stormed back inside, files in hand, barging into his father’s office.

“What the hell is this dad!?” holding up the manila folder.

“Where the hell did you get that, and do you know how to fucking knock? I’ve told you many times to not look through the stuff on my desk! And quit it with this attitude, you may be 17 but I’m still your father!” His wavy orange hair flipped around and his wrinkles on his forehead were brought out by the commotion and yelling.

“You are lying to me, lying to the people! How could you? Does this make you feel good, huh? You are a shitty dad and shitty president. All you do is care about work, not me, and guess what, you still manage to fuck up your job with this kind of shit. I’m tired of you and people looking down upon me because of their expectations of me. Screw you!” Joe’s throat became sore, everything was coming out.

“Get out of here and give me the damn file. I don’t want to see you anymore. How about focus on yourself before you criticize me! Sorry I am the goddamn president of a country!” his father shouted.

“They will see, oh hey will see what kind of shitty person you are, all in it for economic power in this city, nothing for the sake of our planet.” Joe stormed back out. Joe knew what had to be done. His anger and disapproval would soon turn to benevolence, proving his father wrong.

Joe’s insight would help change the fate of his planet.

Now is the time I do something in my life. This matters. I matter. How could my father and the people before him withhold this information? It was cruel. Do other countries know of this, or is it just my father’s ancestors that have kept this silent the whole time? My life is a complete lie.

It was a long night. Joe didn’t know how he would publish the information that stuck to the front of his brain. It was too important to forget. Everything made sense, the vagueness of why people had traveled here from Earth, to why exactly this information was being clouded; the Earth had been destroyed by climate change, and now with similar things that are contributing to climate change here on Kepler, they had to hide the information.

Everything hit me. Time seemed to stay still amongst my long night of thought. Birds stopped chirping, wind stopped shaking, light stop flickering. The emptiness of darkness in my room didn’t phase me, rather the bliss of thought consumed my mind, but led to harsh reflection. I has no surroundings, just my brain keeping me afloat. Life, it is complex. Truly, what is the purpose? How do you make the most of it without knowing what you want in your life? Soon I will be part of the billions of those cemented into history that aren’t a part of Earth anymore, a part of our universe anymore, a part of the multiverse anymore, whatever there is. I am a pointless organism in a endless space that will have no consciousness or meaning once I am gone. An astronomer? What will that do or who will that ever help? Nothing. That feeling of pointlessness really hits me everytime. To think that I will soon be part of many who are dead forever is unbearable, and frightens me endlessly. If truly nothing matters in the grand scheme of endless time, I can find a purpose. It is to do what I think to make the most of it. You don’t actually think and accept when people tell you to treat everyday like it is your last because it is too hard to imagine; to hard to conceptualize. Cliche, yes, but absolutely crucial that you must be happy for as long as you live because you get no second chances or redos (at least as far as we know when we are alive). Being on Earth as a human is a gift, we get the opportunity to do what we like; get the chance to think and live, so it must not be taken for granted. Everything matters. Noise from outside picked up and shook me out of imagination and back to reality. Images stopped flowing to my head of my future and the past. The picture of the present became more focused; clear, I must only see or do now, not worry about the past or contemplate about my future. Do not take your life or anyone else’s life for granted, and make the most of what you have, helping others along the way. My thoughts and imagination only led to one decision; one option that must be done. I have to tell everyone about these vital papers that I hold so that people in the future get a fair shot at living there life, even if that meant betraying my father’s word.

By not doing so on Earth, people in government have taken away life from those in the future, for what? Money and power? Happiness trumps all this.

Joe fell asleep with a new purpose and promise to all the people on Kepler.

In the morning, his father didn’t have much to say to Joe. As far as he was concerned, no one would believe Joe because of his insufficient knowledge and lack of reasoning, and along with the fact that there was no way that Joe could amount to disobeying his father in that fashion.

Joe woke up that morning to the loud noises and lights of cars and trucks circulating the city, breaking the dimness created by the ominous clouds. This time of day, Joe would usually be dwelling upon his schedule, but today, he knew exactly what and how he would do it.

Finally he had found his purpose. All of his life, his father’s legacy daunted above him, his father’s disappointed eyes looking down upon him. Joe’s countless hours of interest into being an astronomer all had come to fruition. If he were to use his research of Earth and Kepler in some type of way to show how their planet would suffer a similar fate if not dealt with; some way to show what was going on and it was not too late to try; a way to prove his father wrong, to change the world. Joe’s first course of action was to publish or show as many people as possible the documents that he had lifted from his father’s office. He mustered up that he would scan the documents and release them on the internet so that everyone could see once he made it known what exactly the information was. The problem was, — Joe didn’t have enough credibility, being a teenager and having no experience or name in any scientific field. Thankfully he knew just the person that fit all the requirements to help him.

Joe snuck quietly through the house, keeping aware of any cracks or creeks that his feet made as he advanced himself towards the exit of his house. Being mindful of where his father’s office was and the sound that he made, Joe crept downstairs into and out a side yard door to make his way to the university. He sent a quick text to his professor before making his way to the front gates.

This short travel to the front gates always seemed to awe him. The sheer beauty of bushery, velvety bright blue and red flowers along the circle driveway always seemed to catch his attention. Today he noticed the thick gray clouds obscuring the sunshine he always prized. Knowing the truth about their planet changed his perspective on the way that he thought about everything. His usual hysteria brought by the beauty of the greenery was changed to the hallucination of the droopiness and darkness portrayed by the plants. Joe appealed his case to the guards to go to the university to speak to his teacher about research as he usually did, being permitted to do so.

“Professor Naughton! Professor Naughton! I must tell you something at once!” Joe shouted while panting like a dog, searching for his professor.

Professor Naughton jumped out of his chair into what seemed to be a common kung fu fighting stance.

“Holy shit!” Professor Naughton swiveled his head in an instant causing his white brushed afro to whip across his face, eventually returning back to place, protruding on every side of his head. “By golly, Mr Laurie, you scared me out of my nap! What is it? Why are you her so early in the morning?!” Professor Naughton had obviously had a long night over work past him, sleeping in the office per usual.

“There’s something I must tell you about. It is appalling Professor! I mean horrid! It pertains to Earth and how our planet will fall to its same fate.”

“What exactly are you alluding to? Teach me. I’ve never seen you so passionate about something like this. “

Joe and Professor Naughton speaking about climate change. It began with Joe showing him the documents that came from his father’s office. Next how exactly this pertains to Kepler; explaining to this professor the extreme similarities between Kepler and Earth, and finally how they could work together to release this information:

“You see Me. Laurie, me and your father work in a close relationship. I aide him in his scientific decisions having to do with governmental policy. Releasing and supporting this information would destroy my professional and personal relationship with him. You are putting me in an unfair situation”

“Professor Naughton! It isn’t about that. There are much more important things than that today. Today we mustn’t dwell upon this! Releasing this information would help save the fate that we are on the path of. I need your help. If you release the information with your scientific prestige in the community along with clear documents we can help change the world. It is about doing the right thing, Professor. I understand that my friendly relationship was sparked upon your work with my father, but if you are truly are a human with any decency, you would know this is the absolute correct thing to do!”

“You are right. This is bigger than us here today or anyone on this planet. This is about preserving humanity, something that people on Earth failed to do.”

Joe and Professor Naughton proceeded to both post all the information and post on social media about the documents. Within a couple hours, news sources were contacting Professor Naughton, asking for interviews, a direct copy of the documents, and much more. He also received a short lived, one sided conversation, call from Joe’s father, including a series of explicit notions and threats. He hung up, obviously furious, knowing his inevitable fate.

“…Standing here, on April 22, signifies the start of a new revolution.” Joe paused scanning the crowd. “Just a month ago, this passion to release the truth with the help of Professor Naughton was out of pure distaste…rather envy to be outside of my father’s shadow, but I have come to realize that there this is so much bigger than that, so much bigger than any of us today. Today, by realizing and getting behind this movement to combat climate change, we are ensuring of our kids, their kids, and so many generations to come. It is never too late to make a change, for climate change is a daunting beast, one those on Earth couldn’t deal with. The inhabitants on what was once a prosperous plant were parallel to ours, but the humans on Earth couldn’t all rally behind doing something because they thought it was much too late. Here today, we all have an opportunity to not let history repeat itself.” Joe smiled and winked to Professor Naughton who was to the right of the podium sitting down behind the table. “Now is the time, we must all work together to conquer and prevail against the issue that will destroy our planet unless otherwise dealt with. I believe in every one of you here today, to be a positive change, to change your lives today, so that our children aren’t jeopardized tomorrow. Thank you.”