Author : Duncan Shields

I woke up from the deep cryosleep with a bleary head and a taste in my mouth like I’d licked a battery. The gel washed off cleanly and I was standing in the hall with the other colonists in my underwear with the HR monitors still stuck to us like faithless remoras. I looked to my left but my wife wasn’t there.

An older woman stood beside me stretching with an expansive peaceful smile on her face. The smile of the landed settler. The trip is over, the smile said, and now the hard work begins. Let’s get to it. I smiled back. I had gone under first and it was a big ship. Lisa had been put into another compartment

The lockers contained our clothes. We put them on and huddled around the monitors to get the reports on the atmosphere outside. I checked the colonist logs to see where my wife was.

The atmosphere was breathable and it was a sunny day. The doors hissed open and nearly all of us ran out with abandon and rolled around in the red flowers. Ten thousand humans played like children around the base of an iron mountain arkship in the middle of a field of alien flowers.

I didn’t. I just kept looking at the log list and at the message in my inbox. It was a message from my wife. I pressed play.

She didn’t get on the ship. She’d been seeing someone. She didn’t think that I’d understand. She was sorry that it had come to this. She didn’t think that running away together would solve the problems we had. She had added her fare to mine so that I’d have more points over in the new land and be a desirable mate. She was staying home.

I think I played it back three times. I let it sink in. Outside I could hear the whooping and yelling of people born again in a new world. Tears crawled down my face. She had seen me to my compartment. My last memory of her was watching her put her jacket in the locker next to mine. It had been a ruse to let me sleep easy.

I’d been asleep at over light speed for months.

The message was nearly five hundred years old.

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