Author : Sean Wilkins

On a star-laden beach near a rocky shore, wrinkled hands held, step in step toward a monolithic solar-tower. Mason felt the rounded edge of the tower, remembering the years, and was sad it had no use anymore. Alla watched the storm rolling in over a dark sea. He gripped her hand tight; thunder on the horizon.

Alla remembered the story he used to tell, when he bought the place, and how cheap it was. Mason told it again, and she listened, happily. She thought of the wedding they had on the beach: her dress and the beard he let out; the flowers and the guests; the food and the music and the air they all breathe. He didn’t mind if his family showed up, forgetting to invite his father entirely.

She watched the storm brew, lightning flashes over the water; him, the dead collector of light with no one left to see it. Shuttles broke the atmosphere, ahead of the storm. It was almost time to leave forever, she dreaded to tell him. In the sand were memories, where the children grew up, and they grew old. She still worried about them, so far from home, and knew he did too.

Near the cityscape, shuttles landed to whisk them away. He didn’t want to leave, and she couldn’t without him. He had stood by her side, through boring astrophysics conferences, and then the cancer. She had stood by his, from one editor to the next, another manuscript rejected.

They began their walk back toward the beach house, and shuttles in the distance. He wondered what they would be like. She liked to think cerebral. She remembered the day they made first contact, from the little orange star that takes light years to travel. She remembered the divide they all felt, some euphoria, others panic. Some scientists, others theologians.

Hand in hand, he joked what they looked like. He said tentacles with ganglion arms; she said cosmic vessels of light and star-stuff, with an intellect that dwarfed their own.

He told her it wouldn’t matter, as long as they had each other. She admitted hesitation, to leaving their home. She had spent her life on this planet, with him. It had never occurred to her to imagine she would die on another world.

They approached the beach house, one last time. Inside, they had holidays and movie nights. Outside, a truck pulled up to take them away.

“It’s time,” she told him.

“Okay,” he knew, tears in his eyes.

They climbed into the truck, the storm in the rear view.

“Mrs. Debroux, I’m a big fan,” the Alliance officer said.

The truck rumbled down the dirt road, away from everything they had come to know. Alla looked into the sky, at the tiny speck called Earth. She thought of the people who were in her shoes then, and the things they must have felt. She imagined how many were uprooted and scared; how many thought of this once red planet as alien.

Now they were to do it all again. Begin somewhere new. She didn’t know if she had it in her, gripping his hand tight.

The truck let them out; the shuttle doors were open. They found their seats, among the old and restless. The shuttle took off, toward their new home around the little orange star.

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