Author : Alex Bauer

It never started here, my dear. We are victims of circumstance.

It started with the fires, with her, as we watched the skyline burn in the middle of terrific night. Standing there on the lake shore, horrified beyond rational thought, among wailing multitudes while the city burned to so much carbonized slag. Her. Standing there next to me, face hammered into masks of sorrow and enchantment, painted with furnace shadows. Beautiful.

We had been left behind. There would be no salvation this time.

Every fear a thread–a final impulse–so I reached out and grasped that hand. Shock smoothed away the horror and I felt my expression mirrored in hers. She looked at me.

Looked at me. I mattered again, just like that.

Cool carboplatinum fingers reticently cradled mine. Marvelous control. “Darwin,” she hiccuped, singed hair whisking around green weeping eyes. Taken aback, I laughed darkly, nodded. I touched her cheek in a fit of fear-crazed need, something to show, for once, that I could be kind. Truly kind. I felt inlays beneath the skin, the reconstructed zygomatic, the carbofiber masseter relaxed under my caress. Recycled.

Someone loved you very much, once. Sent you away. Darwin indeed.

“Just so.” I said, looked up as giants hammered on the sky once more, the wheeling horizon all engulfed in flame. Nauseating vertigo, as if I’d spiral out of her hands and into the stars above. The skies were cracking above us. Spidery cracks heliographed the light of burning cities, peoples, their last stretched long fingers into the night. Flotsam and debris floated beyond the transparent shield, bits of smashed lightships and radiator panels glowing like banked coals.

Nearby stars blink and seconds later, ferromagnetics fireballed into the colony’s canopy at twelve kilometers per second. Each star a ship, each blink another shove toward the precipice.

Soon, I thought, the race between cooking or choking would be over. The lake itself began to burn. Sweat poured down the groove of my back. A breeze touched us, and I welcomed whatever came.

Excisement, the Enemy called it. For the consumption of thought. For the heresy of existence. Another volley battered the canopy and the end came in a single body-crushing tsunami of overpressure.

Decompression is equal parts waiting and celerity. The canopy over the city blew outward in rending silence, like it was sucked up by a giant’s straw. Brilliant tidal waves of debris and mezocyclones of fire fell up into the night before extinguishing. No one screamed, even when the fingers of the breach wrapped ‘round us, fetched us up into the night in greedy handfuls.


I never let go of her hand, even when the light went out in those weeping eyes. And here we are. Here I am. Floating here with her, in the depths. This vast ocean. Drowning. Anoxia is killing me and we’ve only begun to swim! Only these few minutes we’ve known each other. Reefs of transparent alloy float around us, glittering like wet jewels. If only she could see this.

Not even a name! I never told her mine. Better this way… isn’t it?

“Darwin.” I mouth, feel something like God’s own hand reach down my throat to tear the life away from this husk. Prosthesis spasms to the tune of dying synapses. “Darwin.” Oh. Oh, I am so sorry. Always so stupid, so awful, never thinking about others. Choking.

That’s her name. Her na–

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