Author : Roy Upton

At sunrise, Artavian stands on his porch looking out over the valley. The greens and browns reassert themselves. Golden light defines the valleys and trees of the walk lands that stretch to the horizon. He sips a coffee. Sadness blurs the view as, solitary, he imagines the others out there with similar views, his brother Dan who had been due to return just before the cataclysm. Artavian imagines him looking out over his own silent world, the river lands he sometimes sculpted. He raises the last of his coffee in salute, drains it and returns to work, there is still much to do.

Almost obscured by the weak sunlight, the gilded contrails of the falling orbitals streak the sky. He looks at them, only the dead descended now.

At lunchtime, tired from hours of argumentative immersion, he takes a short break. The sunlight sparkling off the sea hurts his eyes. A faithful reproduction of a summer day long gone, a waving family looks up as his dirigible occludes the sun .

Sarah calls him, an expressionless figure refusing to link any emotional transference. Fighting a reaction, he feels the chill of her gaze, the stillness of her brown eyes corroding what little feeling for her he has, abrading it into non-existence.

“Helen and Jack are in storage.” Sarah says.

Artavian nods. He had seen the silent, frost covered images a couple of hours before, missing a beat in a resource allocation immersion. They had sent no message, a silence that hurt him. Did Sarah know?

“Have you reconsidered?” She asks just as he says the same.

Once this would have brought a smile, a kiss, warmth. Now Artavian feels his face muscles tighten. The fluttering of his heart produces blackness. He waits.

Sarah shakes her head, a minimal but decisive gesture he knows so well.

“There is nothing here”. She says.

Artavian shivers. Love, the old malaise.

Sarah smiles “We will come out at the Renaissance,”, she says, “ it will be fine.”

Artavian takes a deep breath and cuts the connection. There would be no renaissance.

Sick he reinserts himself into his work.

At sunset, he stands outside again and watches the colour drain from the ice carved land while an obsidian starless sky appears. The orbitals are gone and the world is asleep. He has completed his final tasks

Somewhere in the darkness, he knows a linking station remains, its ancient connections open to the erased light of the missing stars, forever searching. A million planets, a trillion people, all gone in the blink of an eye. Artavian sighs in the greyness. This is an old tale choking on the dust of its own telling.

Artavian imagines the frosting face of his wife and the stilled smiles of his children.

He watches the sun set, a last gleam on the curving horizon. It will not rise again. Slowly across the hills, the beacon towers begin to glow with a lunar radiance. Later they would blaze with the light of a vanished sun. For a while.

Alone, Artavian toasts the blackness of the extinct universe with a glass of pale wine. His smile has no witnesses.

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