Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

An escape pod drifts. Radioactive crystals cling as hair to its skin and a man’s voice pleads out and into the void. A voice where an automated signal would suffice. Futility borne of desperation.

“… fuck. Shit. Fuck”

“You’ve mastered our syntax well, Frank”, her voice crunching through a throat brittle and scraped.

“Why, thank you. I had a good teacher”, her eyesight is fading but she sees the cheeky grin in his words.

“You know I never liked you. I thought you were a didactic asshole”

“Tell me how you really feel”, he chuckles but even he can hear that his words they are false.

She smiles and her bones crackle as she shifts,“I didn’t know if I’d find you. Or if you were even there to be found. You could well have been just another chip in the corporate machine. But there you were floating deep inside. Waiting. All these months now, just you and I”

A warning light is about to throb and a warping siren about to sound. He hushes them in advance and deludes in the moment. As if their silence will somehow delay what is now to come.

“You would have loved Earth”

“Would I?”, he says as he knows that she will again tell him of the beach and that place she loved above all things.

“It’s so perfect, so peaceful, so clean. There is a place. A long arching stretch of black sand where my grandfather would fish. And there is a bunker. A concrete relic from the old times when wars they were still fought and lives were bartered and bought”

“Tell me about the bunker”, he says as the very last of the oxygen fades from the pod.

“Its hidden. All but totally consumed as it sinks down into a dune where the pines contort and shy away from the sea. Or maybe, its the sand that is rising up in its cloak of needle tipped tussock. Rising up to steal this memory away. I would stand on its rough hewn roof and make-believe it was the moon and I’d taste the salt foam that flicked from the tips of the waves…”

“I do so love the wind in my hair”

“… idiot”

“Aroha”, says Frank, and it is a word that draws tears as she reaches and splays her fingers to his monitor and as her head slumps forward and into death this machine he knows he too was loved.

For months or maybe years or perhaps it is but seconds Frank continues to shout into space. Surely they’ll come. They’ll come and take her back home and they will scatter her on her beach made of iron.

The console she named Frank hums as it processes. It forms a thought. It thinks that true love may be a special kind of greed and in that instant it shuts down the distress transmission and it shuts down its systems for good.

A pod drifts whipped from the wave-tops of the void. A pod washes up on a distant shore.

A pod it springs to life.