Author : Michael Herbaugh a.k.a. “Freeman”

Her name is Maria, and I love her with every fiber of my being. She isn’t really a Maria, that’s just the name I gave her, as naming is a terrestrial custom, and she isn’t. Terrestrial that is. She arrived in our system with her brother, whom I’ve named Orion, six months ago. It wasn’t until after they passed Mars, that we detected the asteroid a year behind them on the same trajectory and gaining quickly.

It began when she started Instant Messaging me a month or so after they reached our system. At first, she didn’t realize she was sending them to me, but I was the only one listening. Bored and gazing starward from the observatory at the time, our conversations started casually enough. For four months we explored each other’s consciousness online. It didn’t occur to me that I was in love until I’d pulled strings and convinced the Space Administration to run a rescue mission. Both the pod and the asteroid were on a course that would miss our planet by a wide margin, so we’d have to travel out to intercept the pod. I was on the mission that towed it back to Earth and we talked the entire time. It wasn’t until we opened the pod planetside that I could finally embrace her. She too had grown to love me during our long conversations, before we had even had the chance to meet face to face.

Surprisingly, for the most part the planet accepted the pair of them with open arms and they were treated as ambassadors. We took them around the world, introducing them to leaders in other countries. It was then that we noticed the shift. The asteroid’s course had changed, and it was now on a collision course with Earth. As Maria and Orion travelled, crossing lines of latitude, there were subtle but undeniable shifts in the asteroid’s course. In time, it became clear that the asteroid was indeed being drawn in by our visitors.

In denial, I argued for days with my friends and co-workers at the Space Administration that it must be some mistake. In the end, though, I could not out-debate the empirical facts. Maria and Orion would have to be put back in their pod and towed back into space.

I was allowed to accompany them back to the stars, but there was a catch. The Authority had decided that we couldn’t let the pair lead the asteroid down upon any other unsuspecting planet. So in the interest of universal peace, we were going to place them on a path into our own sun, where both would be destroyed with little consequence.

Their fate would surely be a slow and painful death and I could not let this happen to the other half of my breaking heart. So now I stand here, willing my hands to carry out what I know must be done. The barrel almost caresses her temple as I lose myself in her eyes. Tears stream down my face, and I confess my love to her as I have so many times before. We’ve had precious few months together, and I know my soul is already empty without her.

A part of her life lies cooling in the seat beside her, as I will before her a few moments from now, but in this moment, I can merely squeeze the trigger, again.

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