Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The advantages bestowed by the digitally-enhanced lifestyle are many. On the other hand, I’ve never found it… Warm. There’s an intimacy to tactile media, an emotional connection with the turn of a page, the smell of a second-hand bookshop on a rainy afternoon – not that there are many of them left. I have to take the IP19 shuttle over to Targive XIV, then go down to the Old Earth quarter to find one.
Then there’s the handwritten form: the letter. Did you know they used to create so many they had beings tasked with delivering them every day?
The letter has become a stock clandestine communication method of modern plots: the secret too dangerous to risk on digital media, and the machinations that transpire around it’s revelations, concealment, or in the wake of its passage.
Being someone who prides himself on being an afficionado of vintage media, I know the letter used to be more a feature of romantic fare, but times change. The speed of life continues to evade attempts to slow it down. The venerable letter is simply not quick enough.
Today, I received a letter! Katharine delivered it without a word, turning away before I looked up from the wrapper. I had to search that up: it’s called an ‘envelope’. This one has Georgia’s writing on it. I’d recognise it anywhere, having sat through evenings of tears and laughter while she learned to write. A media star, darling of the newsfeeds and screamsheets, sitting cross-legged on my battered sofa, tip of her tongue peeking between her lips as she concentrated on achieving consistent handwriting.
One word: ‘Den’.
Like everything she did, she excelled at the written word. Even in the simplicity of penning my name, she somehow translates all of her grace into the smooth sweep of cursive script.
“I’ll write you a letter one day.”
That’s what she’d said. I never expected it to happen after we parted ways. Well, after she left me. I’ll admit to being besotted to the point of never recovering, for all that I’ve kept my promise to not become a nuisance.
I know her latest tour has taken her further across the habitable universe than ever before. There have been various pundits harping on with their interpretations of her reasons. I remember her explaining the truth to me, sitting curled up where I’m sat now.
“I’ve had Benthusians coming to my concerts. Chekkru, too. Something about what I do appeals to them. They tell me of humans in bands we’ve never heard of making a living touring the outer stations. I’m going to go there. I want to hear those bands play. Maybe it’ll help me understand what I do that appeals in ways other human singers don’t.”
Even after she received the diagnosis, she didn’t waver. Wouldn’t talk about the treatments or what the specialists said. Every now and then I’d catch her staring off into the night, pensive expression like a classic study of light and shadow.
She left on the tour six months ago. Tonight, a year since we parted, her aide delivers a letter…
I’ve been looking at it for hours now. Turning it over and over.
As dawn drills a ruddy sunbeam down between the towers to stain my carpet, I get up and put the unopened letter behind the framed picture of the two of us, caught by some paparazzi at a sidewalk café when she visited last summer.
If I hear the malady has killed her, I’ll open it. Likewise if I hear she’s safely returned from tour. Before then? I just can’t.