Last Rights (Part III of III)

sky space dark galaxy
sky space dark galaxy
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Part I is here.

Part II is here.

            When the ship’s gone, all is dark. I look into the mirror. I’m a young man. Nearly a millennium old, but a young man. I’m also a relic. A tourist attraction. 

            I get into the casket. Many of the lights are defunct. The ones that work wink out, one-by-one, as though I’m in California again, drunk on the deck, looking out at the stars mid-summer as the heat washes over me, telling me that it’s time to sleep.

#

            It’s time to sleep, because you’re tired. You’re tired because you’re a tree, and now you’re a thousand years old. There are names carved into your trunk, but they’re faded. Around you, towers rise everywhere. They’ve left you in a solitary green spot, as though you’re important. Special somehow.

            You’re tired because you’re an ancient being floating through space, on a direct line to nothing and no where. You’ve spent your time flying, wings stretched, and for just the briefest moments, someone or something helped you along. 

            Or you’re tired because you’re a word that represents everything good in life. All the things we can be, the places we can go. You’re a wonderful word, a legend. But now they’ve forgotten about you, and the great literary texts of the past have been modified to include your new form – but this isn’t you at all. It’s someone else.

            All you know is that you’re tired, on this journey. You’ve stretched. Striven. Done everything you could. Made all the sacrifices. Considered every cost. And here you are, floating through space. Blackness in front of you. Blackness behind. And then, just like that…

            A sun.

#

            Alarms ring, and lights bubble excitedly. The casket is vibrating. It’s never done that before. 

            When it opens, there’s music. My favorite song, a blues tune. I don’t remember its name.

            It takes a while to get out of the casket. My arms and legs are so skinny. I warm up some mush, eat it. Drink purified urine. Splash water on my face. 

            The mirror is unkind today. Eleven hundred years, and I’m still a young man. Just a guy from California, 2050. Failed to get into university. Loved to swim. Had a couple of girlfriends, but never married. Argued a lot with my mom. Drank beer with my dad. Liked to head into the mountains on a bike, riding the trails as fast as possible. Used to rest next to ponds and dip my feet into the water. Ate sandwiches made of Wonder Bread. Smoked cigarettes in the clean, cool air, and texted my friends as the afternoon wore on. 

            Left it all behind to blast off into space. The first human to a new world, on the most important mission ever launched. The greatest human endeavor of all time. Making history. Setting a path for humanity. Expanding on the human experience in the most significant piece of technology ever invented.

            Music is playing. Can’t remember the song. It means I’m here, that I’ve reached Thear. But I don’t want to look out the window, because I know what I’ll find.

            It’s a strange thing to dream for far far longer than you’ve lived life. There’s an inequity that occurs when you’re mostly in the dreamworld, not so much in the real one. And then you wake up to this, a place far away. A place you were supposed to reach first, but no one really thought about what might happen. That maybe people would invent faster ways of travelling. That they might reach the destination much quicker than you. In fact, they might even view the trip as a vacation. A fun jaunt, like going to the beach. 

            We’ve been here already, I think to myself. I’m staring at a young man. Unwilling to acknowledge the truth of what it means to be left so far behind. 

            Thear will be a blue planet with white clouds. Cities everywhere. Incredible inventions whipping around, things I could never have imagined. It will be the future, a thousand years ahead of where I lived. Maybe they’ll let me in. Maybe they’ll let me stay. Or maybe they’ll put me in some cage and study me. The caveman. The fossil. The guy who thought he would be first, but actually is last. 

            I don’t want to look. Don’t want to confirm the reality. But I do anyway. I go to the glass at the front of the ship and stare at a huge rock in front of me. I’m far back enough to see it all. It’s black. Smoking. The land, where it was, charred and heated. There are no clouds. No ice on the poles. The water is grey and dead. There’s nothing left here. Nothing remotely alive.

            People have been here. They did arrive first. They arrived, ruined it all, and then they left. A dead planet hangs in space. Off to the side, a sun is shining, but it doesn’t bring any life to this place.

            I sit at the glass and try to imagine what this world looked like before we reached it. Must have been beautiful. I’ve spent centuries dreaming about it. Long, cold centuries of nothing but dream.

            I eat. Drink. Wash myself. 

            Go to the mirror. I’m a young man, I think to myself. Young. Indispensable. 

            I steer the ship to the side, away from the blackened, spent rock of a planet. There are stars in front of me, far away in space and time. I set a course for one of them, imagining that something must be out there, far away. A speck of hope. I glimmer of dreamsong. Maybe some place that no one’s ever visited, and I can be the first.

            I lie in the casket. There are only five lights left. A hint of gas wafts through the air. A light goes out, then another. They all leave, except for a last one. It seems to hang on for longer than the others did, staring at me. Maybe saying goodbye? Maybe saying good luck? 

            It winks out before I can ask.

Dream hard, rage hard.

9 thoughts on “Last Rights (Part III of III)

    1. Ooof, that’s high praise, Jones. This story drop kicks me, because it’s so likely to happen like this. We are using up our planet right now, and eventually it’ll be a burnt-out husk, so we’ll move on to the next one and do the same, unless we do something different.

  1. Oh Trent… This story was fantastic. And heart-breaking. And so real, even in its sci-fi-ness (sorry, made it up)
    I admit to loving that it didn’t end with a happily ever after.
    Man, you do what you do so very well.

    1. I like that, sci-fi-ness. I just couldn’t put a happy ending on it, I just figure this is exactly what will happen. People will set off in the fastest ships we have, and others born decades later will go much faster and easier, and muck up everything they find. I hope that’s not the case.

      Really appreciate the kind words, Dale. I’m taking today off (I imagine you are too) and just finished off a new piece that I’m wildly in love with. Don’t know if I’ll post it, but figure I should get my joy-on outside for the rest of the day with the family. Have a great one, Dale. Thank you again.

      1. Kewl! No, I agree. If you had put a happy ending, it would have felt fairy-tale-ish and convenient. You are better than that. And it makes complete sense that this would happen, I think.

        My pleasure, Trent. I don’t say things I don’t mean. And no. I am off simply because I work Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Plus, here in la Belle Province, we don’t get Family Day.
        I love that you are wildly in love with a piece of yours! Oh? Why not? Why would you deprive us of it, unless you are planning to submit it?
        Have a fabulous day!

        1. La Belle Province? I visit it in two weeks, and will love it as always. As to my the new piece, it’s just a bit academic and a bit long for the blog, I guess I could chop it up. It’s sort of a researched piece. I’m reading it again right now and editing, it’s kind of beautiful in my biased eyes. I find that I’ve stopped convincing myself to withhold the stuff I like the best, I don’t even know where that came from!

          Well back to work tomorrow… grrrr…. Also, Dale, you rock.

          1. What? Really? Where are you going? I am on the south shore of Montreal, just so you know… and well, lemme know, eh?
            And, I suppose you could chop it up (it wouldn’t be the first time 😉 ) I love that you think it’s beautiful. That is so wonderful. Gosh no! Do not withhold the stuff you like best. My goodness.

            I shall think of you as I sit around and do a whole lotta nuthin’ except get a massage (which is not even just for pleasure but to try and fix my many aches and pains…) coz it’s back to work on Wednesday.
            And Trent? Thank you. 🙂

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