They sealed Emily’s room three days after the accident, trapping puzzle games and animatronic bears behind the white hydraulic door. Her parents did not want to see the small proofs: things like names doodled on digipaper, the I’s topped by pixellated hearts. A week later they shut down the biofield to save energy and the house’s mainframe showed the room turn cold, its window displays no longer marking the difference between imagined night and day.
The cards and flowers dwindled off after a few weeks, but Emily’s parents waited months before disposing of the everblooms. The white and green plants, caught in photosynthetic stasis, did not shadow the evolution of grief. “Who’s getting married?” the mother of one of Thomas’s school friends asked when picking up her son. Her question was met by lingering silence until Thomas told her, “They’re my sister’s. She’s dead.”
That night, the organic material was recycled, and for days, every meal tasted of chlorophyll.
The forms arrived eighteen months later, stating in cold, efficient terms that the period of sanctioned mourning was over and it was time to consider the population stability of the community. It was a matter of duty, and only the mattress made sound.
Thomas watched his mother swell. Against all odds, pregnancy had improved her mood; she now spent days smiling, one hand resting over the growing bulge. “We need to renovate the room,” his father said.
“Emily’s room?” Thomas asked.
“It’s just a room,” he said, his tone flat. “Rooms don’t belong to anyone.”
At night, Thomas stood before the mainframe, trying to guess the password his parents had set. Her birthday, no. The day of the accident, no. Nothing. He pressed his hand against the sense panel and the mainframe grew warm.
Password accepted, the display read, although Thomas had typed nothing.
The door to the room opened with ease, just like the door of every other room in the house. The lights were dimmed for night, as Emily had always been terrified of the dark, and he noticed the scent of a recent biosweep, killing the bacteria that might have harmed the young girl. It took Thomas several moments to realize that the biofield had never been lowered, despite what the mainframe had claimed.
On the opposite wall, the constellations of Earth hung in the frame of the window display and Thomas moved closer, scanning the well-mapped ocean that his parents had chosen as his sister’s view. At the edge the dark and textured expanse, the horizon showed the faintest signs of dawn: darkest purple blending into the night sky like a bruise.