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The assembled dignitaries sat in silence staring at the screen. Aside from the occasional horrified gasp, they had been struck mute for the last fifteen minutes.

“From our current projections,” the scientist at the podium said, “We estimate twenty, perhaps thirty years before life on this planet is no longer viable.”

His colleague gestured to the screen with her pointer. “The red zone here is the first at risk; this area may be uninhabitable in less than five years. The orange area may be survivable for ten, the yellow zone for fifteen.”

One of the statesmen sat forward. “So what are our options?”

The scientist at the podium took a deep breath. “With the technology we currently have available-”

His voice cracked. He licked his lips nervously and closed his eyes. “We have no options, sir.”

There was complete silence.

“We have to be able to do something!” A large man stood up at the back. “Live underground, or, or send a colony out into space!”

The female scientist slapped her pointer against the screen. “How do you expect to live underground without water,” she shouted. “How do you expect to leave the planet when the space program hasn’t been funded for decades?”

Her colleague put a hand on her shoulder to calm her and she broke down, sobbing.

The president stood up.

“If the people hear about this, there will be chaos,” she said slowly. “You are all hereby sworn to secrecy on the subjects covered here today. Go home and pray.”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Three Word Wednesday this week provides the words Gasp, Mute and Viable.)