Which life will Nick choose
Whenever a storm blew into Lightning Hollow, at least one bolt struck the old courthouse. More often it was two or three. The locals joked that one day Marty McFly would show up with his DeLorean and use the building with its clock tower to go back to the future.
The town was aptly named, given that it averaged thirty lightning storms a year. Enough that tourists arrived, cameras in hand, to capture pictures of the famous courthouse. No matter how many times lightning struck it, the building continued to stand tall with no visible damage.
Nick’s Diner, positioned directly across the square from the courthouse, did a brisk business on storm days. Afraid of lawsuits, the mayor had decreed that no one was permitted to loiter in the square during inclement weather. Nick kept his diner window squeaky clean and had long ago installed a counter and set out elevated chairs along its length.
The tourists got to take their pictures, the locals gawked at and gossiped about the tourists, and Nick’s kitchen ran full tilt. Everyone was happy.
Which was why he was sad today as he watched the fifth strike on the tower, nearly as many as the record of six, set back in ’08. He was procrastinating. He knew he was, but he’d grown attached to this town and its people.
He’d set up a collector to draw the lightning and had been storing the electricity generated by the storms ever since he’d secretly purchased the courthouse in 1993. He’d never heard of Back to the Future until the locals had mentioned it during his second year here, insisting that he watch it. Though he’d quite enjoyed the movie and its sequels, they really didn’t pertain to his situation.
Nick did need to get back home, but not to the future. He missed his family and friends. He missed his home-world and its magnificent three suns. Earth scientists called it Gliese 667C f. They wouldn’t be able to pronounce its real name. Or his, for that matter. Nick was the closest Earth approximation he could find when he had landed here thirty-five years ago.
The truth was, he was afraid to return home. Afraid his family would have moved on without him. Afraid some of them would have passed on to the next plane. Afraid he wouldn’t be welcomed back.
His mission had been simple—scout this sector of the galaxy for inhabited worlds and report back as to whether any were suitable for entry into the United Worlds Assembly. But his ship had been damaged, forcing him to set down on this primitive world. By the time he had been able to effect repairs, his fuel cells had drained, an effect of the peculiar magnetic fluctuations of the planet.
Because of the constant drain, it had taken years to build up enough power to attempt the return home. And now that he had done so, he found himself delaying. Earth wouldn’t be ready for membership in the assembly for hundreds of years, if ever—if its inhabitants survived. But he had truly grown fond of this backward species.
Maybe, Nick reasoned, he should observe them a while longer. As long as lightning continued to hit the courthouse, his ship would retain its charge. Just another year, then he’d go home.
The image for this story was created in response to a Back to the Future prompt. Clearly it required a story—with a bit of a twist.
Gliese 667C f is one of a pair of planets considered likely suitable to host life. They do have three suns. I think it would be very cool to live there. You can read a bit about them (and other habitable planets) here.