Author : Grace Franzen

In 1721 Mary Margaret Thornton is sitting in the shallows of the river when the dairy farmer’s son finds her. He rises often this early, on the breath of dawn, specifically of a purpose to find her before anyone else does. When he sees her in the water, current tugging languidly at her skirts and hair, he shudders to think what the other townsfolk would think of her. What they would do.

“I saw her again,” she says when he helps her out of the cold water, throws his coat around her. “They showed her to me. An angel who will make roads for us in the sky.”

He knows it’s useless to talk real sense to her. The only way to reach her is with her sense.

“And how can the dead know what hasn’t happened yet?” he points out. Mary Margaret Thornton’s face is a pleasant but distant one, never quite wakened from a dream. He sometimes wonders if he and the river and the townsfolk live only in her mind.

“The time and the light touch them not.” She spreads out cold white fingers from his coat, wiggles them lightly. “They cannot forget and cannot lie. And they have seen her.”

She smiles and pats his cheek. It’s a shuddering, enticing feeling whenever she looks at him, whenever she looks right through him.

“She is trying to come back to us,” she says. “My children shall give birth to angels.”

In 2721 Captain Priya El-Aleil is sitting in the chair of command, eyes closed, listening. Outside the great impenetrable windows the coldness of space drifts by, the massive explorer ship Kurosawa tied to no orbit and awaiting orders. Priya El-Aleil looks very different from Mary Margaret Thornton. The blood of giants, of stars, of comets and commanders courses through her, but right now it is the blood of Mary Margaret Thornton within her on which the captain depends. The Galactic Assembly is depending on that blood, depending on Priya El-Aleil, and she is depending on the dead. The dead will at last find what was lost.

The dead, she knows, will finally bring them back to Earth.