"Golden Dawn" by Yuchi Z.

A 2019 Young Writers Flash Fiction Contest Honorable Mention

Venus’s scarred, tortured surface passed beneath Manuel’s gaze as the balloon gained altitude. The domed city of Jardines Ishtar, gleaming bright in the fiery sun, became faint on the horizon. Massive turbines slowly turned the airship towards Taiyang City, where Manuel’s abuela was making his favorite chimichangas for their arrival.

For the most expensive colonization endeavor in history, Venus was a rather sordid affair. The cloud cities, pretty as they were, were choked with slums. Housing and maintenance costs were sky-high, literally. Drug dealers and freelance hackers ran rampant in the Venusian underworld.

Yet, as Manuel stared through the balloon’s protective canopy at the impossibly blue sky and enormous sun, he could almost understand why countless trillions were spent so he could live in a tinfoil shack on a giant titanium platform supported by reinforced pillars, fifty kilometers high amid Venus’s stratosphere. Almost.

The airship passed over an ancient crater, its jagged edges barely visible through the cloud cover. It yawned wide, like a giant maw trying to swallow the tiny craft. Manuel shuddered briefly at the unpleasant thought, but his hands continued shaking, even as they gripped a handrail. The entire balloon was trembling violently.

Manuel screamed as the craft abruptly lurched forward, flinging passengers into the canopy. A huge explosion reverberated through the chamber as his ears popped. The balloon was losing altitude, fast. Manuel watched in shock at the smoking turbine that had caused the sound tore its own engine housing apart, blades spinning haphazardly. His mother grabbed him, pressing him tight against her chest as the balloon fell staggeringly into the dense, acidic clouds. The sun vanished behind a wave of superheated carbon dioxide, the canopy melting away.

As his burning skin stung and crackled, Manuel suddenly thought of his abuela, still making his favorite chimichangas. 

author photoYuchi Z. is currently a rising sophomore in high school. He is a huge fan of hard science fiction, and hopes to finish, edit, and revise at least one novel-length work before graduating. In addition to writing stories, he also likes to read and draw, as well as watch various documentaries/television shows (mostly regarding biology or outer space). He is currently planning and researching for a draft that he hopes to complete by the end of this year's summer.