"The Sounds of Old Earth"
Lightspeed Magazine: January 2013
Nominated for the Nebula Award: Short Story
"The Sounds of Old Earth" is an increasingly sad story that ends with a glimmer of hope and happiness. I mention that right up front because I spent most of my time reading the story feeling sadder and sadder about the situation the old man is in and the looming complete loss of Earth and the loss of the heritage and history and original homeworld. It is sentimental without being mawkish.
Earth is in its final days, having been abandoned to new colonies and newly built habitations orbiting...something. There are still some residents who have not yet left their homes, but they will soon be evicted by the New Earth government. The world will soon be destroyed in order to use the remains to build new habitats. The asteroid and Kuiper belts have all been used up. Don't think too deeply on the science of how all this has occurred, even the old man here gets to mention that he doesn't understand the technology of how this works. It's a neat concept, at the very least.
While the story details the last days of this old man on "Old Earth" and his interactions with his family and some of those who have not yet moved on, what the story really seems to be about is of understanding where we came from and of holding a sense of place in your heart. That we, as humans, came from somewhere and that somewhere is important and belonging to a place is important. It is sad and wistful, seen through the eyes of a sentimental old man who doesn't want to leave his home and homeworld, even though it is taking all of his technological skill to keep the poisoned world from intruding onto this one small place of habitation. It is beautiful, from that perspective, and sad.
And, it is wonderful. The ending provided a nice piece of peace away from the previous sadness. It doesn't undo what came before or any of the sense of loss, but it does provide closure and an opportunity to move forward. I think you should read it.