Author: Jonathan H. Smith

The Earth Café was a new restaurant tucked away in a part of town where Calyx would have never gone — had she not yearned to cheer up her grandfather. The tables were adorned with various oddities donated by the original settlers – the remaining odd-hundred wanting to preserve the memory of their inter-galactic past. Her grandfather was among that dwindling group.

“You should have let me take you to see the Ultra Scope instead,” Calyx said, while her grandfather played with the steely keys of a typewriter.

“I had one just like it, you know?”

“Pop.” She held his wrinkled hand across the table. “That’s all in the past now.”

“You remind me so much of your mother,” he said with a glassy smile in his eyes.

“We’re worried, Pop. Let your family – let me — help you. There’s a life here for you, but you have to be open to it.”

He took a deep sigh and let Calyx take him out for the day. He thought eating his old favorites would quench his pain but being there only made him feel more distant from his past.

“Here it is,” Calyx announced. “The Ultra Scope.”

After waiting in line for more than an hour, they finally stepped in front of the massive cone. “You go first, Pop.”

His sweaty hands gripped the handles as he veered into distant space. “You really can see it all,” he exclaimed.

The technician programmed in the highlights most came to view – the diamond river on Zento, the silvery winds of Guskor, and of course, the colliding suns of XA-079.

“I’d like to see Earth,” Pop said. Calyx rubbed his back and nodded.

“You’re a settler, aren’t you?” The technician asked. “No one else ever asks.”

The remnants of Earth came to focus before Pop’s eyes. He breathed in deeply to steady himself.

The planet he once knew and loved – that magnificent cerulean globe – now fragmented into twisted, ashen cylinders. Over 12 billion dead, he thought, why us?

“It’s so we could have this Pop,” Calyx said, reading his mind. “So, life could go on.”

“I just feel so guilty. Without you, my angel, I don’t think I would have looked back.”

“I know, Pop. I’m proud of you. You’re a hero.”

They walked away from the Ultra Scope. He had finally faced what had been left behind.

“I just wish your mom could have come with us.” He squeezed Calyx and cried.

The blue-hued sunset was rimmed with fiery purple accents. He watched it with wonder, only now accepting that it wasn’t some oddity. This was home. Tomorrow, he told himself, he would stop holding back. Tomorrow, he would stop apologizing for being alive.