Author : Thomas Desrochers
Michael lit a hand-rolled cigarette, hands shaking.
“What fucking century are you from?” Jack opened his flask and took a long drink.
Michael exhaled smoke. “What millennia are you from?”
“The one where everything sucks.” Jack spat on the grass next to him.
“Well.” Another cherry flare. “I get that.”
The two watched the night sky for a while, Michael burning through two more cigarettes and Jack nursing his flask. The sun Regulus was particularly active, giving the night sky on Regulus V a permanent aurora so near and so restless that it sometimes cast shadows. Tonight it was a dancing glow over a nameless cityscape that stretched from horizon to horizon, a triumph of architecture that was home to five hundred.
“I just don’t get it,” Michael said. He lit a fourth cigarette.
“What’s so difficult?” Jack leaned his head against the crooked oak they were sitting under and closed his eyes. “He took his head and made sure that nobody was going to be able to put it back together ever again.”
“I get that, dillweed.” A few more puffs. “I don’t get why he did it.”
Jack snorted. “Have you always been this dense? He wanted to go from being to not being.”
“Yeah, but why? I mean, look!” Michael blew a cloud at the billow sky above. “How could you get tired of that? The stars beyond it? I mean, you can go literally anywhere. You can do nearly anything. Anything we want – we’ve got it! What’s wrong with it? Why trade it for a ride on the plasma express?”
Jack laughed, bit his tongue, his eyes dull in the green light. “You weren’t kidding, you really don’t get it. It was never about the world around him.” Another drink. “He could literally have taken up mountain sculpting for the hell of it, on a planet all his own. It doesn’t matter – nothing and nobody was about to keep him here. A million luxuries weren’t going to pluck him out of his own damn head.”
Michael sighed, grinding his cigarette out. “I still don’t get it. What was the problem?”
“Ha.” Jack shook his head. “That’s the stupidest part. He’d always been saying, ‘One day I’m gonna go ahead and get it done. It’ll happen eventually.’ It was a foregone conclusion to him. It wasn’t a way out, it wasn’t, ‘Man, this sucks.’ All he cared about was going the way he wanted to go. It was a fucking law of physics in his head, no stopping it.”
Michael pulled his knees in, resting his forehead on them. Tears fell off the end of his nose. “He was our friend.” He paused a second, swallowing hard. “I just don’t get it.”
Jack started to get angry, but stopped himself. He reached out and set his hand on Michael’s shoulders. “That’s ok.”
He felt like he should be crying, mourning, anything at all – but he just felt empty. There were a million people on Regulus V, and in seven days he hadn’t seen any except for twenty at the funeral; even then they had seemed uncomfortable being together. They put him in mind of children, children hiding in separate corners of a miracle workshop that could house ten billion.
A hundred heavenly spears lit up the sky like fireworks, quiet as the dead.
Jack shook his head. “I don’t get it either, Mikey. But he’s gone now, and we can’t do a damn thing about it.”
They sat together for the rest of the night, abandoned, not even the wind to keep them company.
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