The stars pass by, slow as dreams.
Our ship emits a constant low-frequency hum
and rattles because of meteorite strikes and weapons which tried
to erase us from the sky, if sky is what this is called.
We are on our way home, but home is just an idea to me,
just something causing a slight twinge in an unused nerve.
"We'll be there soon," I tell Anderson,
but Anderson is on the cot, dying, and besides,
I don't even believe what I say, myself.
Anderson and I came together, had a child, made this mission.
I know what he likes for breakfast,
and what used to make him stupid with desire for me,
but I don't know why we are together, what Hand was at work.
Here is what I do know:
The prospect of being alone without him
makes me sick and terrified.
Home has sent out a beacon. I think.
There was something, or maybe just the ship dissolving around us.
On we go.
I contracted a disease on Moon 57 that was so painful I wanted to die.
Anderson kept telling me, "Hold on," and I did.
What that got me was more travel and more diseases;
more scrapes and more missions.
More time with Anderson.
I do what I can to ease his life, and he does the same for me.
He is sleeping, but groans and shifts.
I see it. I head for it.
It's a series of numbers, an end point, meaningless but beckoning like a siren;
a siren that's ghostly and can barely wheeze out a note from some forgotten libretto.
Progress from this vacuum to that.
Connections being made.
The door to the command module opens.
I check Anderson, who has died.
I want to cry, but I am like an old hose with a thousand leaks,
empty when it matters most.
I stand up, walk through the door and down a brightly lit tube.
They are waiting.
I have no idea who they are.
They look at me, their eyes large and filled with a strange sorrow/joy.
We stand there, a foot apart, in silence for a long time.
I am home.
I feel nothing.
All of who I am and who I was is strewn out behind me in the fires and ice storms of all the places I have been.
There were many crew mates with me,
then a handful,
then just Anderson,
and now, only me to stand here gaping.
I am surrounded by strangers with their odd, almost familiar faces.
I'm having trouble breathing.
I feel like something crystallized and about to shatter.
There is an emotion I don't remember,
and this place is thick with it.
All that I know is the mission, which has burned me to a bone.
One of them reaches out and touches my face,
and I buckle inside.
Without words, I am flooded with revived things,
crazy impossible childish things,
like belonging and mattering and loving and being loved.
Even exhaustion can't stop it.
Then I am sobbing,
remembering that for Anderson,
the crew, and even for me
there is this place to come back to who we were
albeit when we were so much younger
and couldn't imagine that we would ever forget
how and where we really began.
for Sunday Muse #10
also for Kerry's spec fic at Real Toads.