is a collection of quiet souls that stand in the orange desert beneath
a hazy purple sky, a hazy sky streaked with yellowed clouds, as
if the world upon which they stand is exhaling the smoke of a million
of the couples are either joined at the hand or locked in some tender
embrace, and Billy reaches out towards Megan, reaches out with an
unsure hand as he fumbles for hers.
shakes his hand away and stands with arms folded across her chest,
staring at the purple sky, waiting for the black ship to find its
way through the yellow and swirling haze.
sighs; he sighs and stands as close to Megan as he can.
should have taken her with us," Megan says, angrier than sad,
as she is not quite ready for tears.
hasn't hit her yet; the grief is too far away, the memories are
present but the grief is traveling from Earth, the grief has been
travelling from Earth for months now and she can't cry, she can't
cry until she can see the grief.
can't cry until she can touch the grief with her hands.
tries not to roll his eyes; he tries not to roll his eyes as he
silently exhales a frustrated sigh.
listen, I'm sorry about what happened, really, I am, I wish we could
have been there, but babe, listen, I mean, she wouldn't have liked
it here. We've discussed this
she was all alone, I mean, she didn't have anyone
brother's still in Seattle and that's close enough to Michigan,
that should've been close enough in case something happened and
we couldn't bring her here, you know that, I mean, come on
Do you think your mother could hack the colonial life? Do you think
she would like stale tea and re-hydrated spaghetti?"
but at least she wouldn't have been alone
do you think she would like waking up to a purple sun every day?"
don't like the purple sun
matter, you and I are getting paid to bask in the purple sun, but
your mother, she would have been like a prisoner here, so come on,
" and again he reaches for her hand and she takes
it this time but holds it limply, as if it was something to be reviled.
sound of thunder and exhaust cuts across the purple sky and the
colonists move and whisper in anticipation.
black ship engages its downward thrusters as it loudly floats to
the orange and rubble strewn surface and Billy and Megan use augmented
eyes to strain to see the name etched into the hull of the riveted
ship, even though the ship is still miles away.
The ship is named Memory
the ship floats down on the far side of the horizon, just beyond
the curve of the orange terrain of this planet mined for something
akin to platinum.
and Megan move with the solemn crowd, they float across the purple
sky in a gravity-reduced leap and dance lightly on the orange ground
to the now silent and black ship.
lone occupant of the ship, a man wearing an ancient and simple black
suit with a white shirt and silver tie floats out of a portal on
the top of the ship.
lands softly and silent on the bare ground, he lands softly and
consults a screen he keeps in the palm of his hand.
the man in black says. "Those of us at Hegelson Funerals Inc.
thank you for your request and we are glad to help you end what
was sure to be a horrible chapter in your life. We feel it is right
and proper for those brave enough to be colonists to be able to
mourn the same as those of us back on Earth.
when I call your name, please come forward with your TerraBank account
information and we will proceed."
undertaker reads a list of thirty names and all the couples or individuals
attached to the names are present. The undertaker collects thirty
electronic checks, each check about the same amount as a month's
worth of wages for a colonist, but a price the colonists are glad
and willing to pay.
funerals on Earth, real funerals, cost even more.
undertaker opens the door on the bottom of the black and oblong
ship, a ship that tries to imitate an ancient hearse but falls far
short as the demands of space have no use or need for anything ancient
long and shallow silver crate floats out of the ship and lands without
a thud on the surface of the colony and the undertaker opens the
crate with the pressing of a series of buttons on the crate's lid.
you must understand, that it is impossible to take the whole body
into space, that would be too expensive, so instead we bring to
you the most important part of the dearly departed, the part that
you remember, the part that will allow you to grieve. When I call
your name, again, please come forward and may you grieve fully and
and Megan are called first and Megan walks ahead of Billy towards
the shadow of the black ship where the undertaker stands with the
mother, I assume," he says to Megan with a smile and Megan
hasn't seen someone with as many lines in their face as the undertaker
has, the wrinkles and lines remind her of her mother and she can
feel the start of painful tears.
yes, it is, I mean it was," Megan says and she can sense the
grief coming, she can sense the grief travelling across the blackness
and stars that is the space between Earth and the colony.
will always be your mother, my precious child," and the undertaker
removes a small and scaled-down coffin from the inside of the crate,
a coffin just larger than the palm of his hand.
the rest of her," and he consults the screen in his other hand,
"is spread across her garden in Michigan, but this, what's
inside this coffin, is yours to keep. It is the most important part.
Go in peace."
Megan holds the miniature coffin and she and Billy dance across
the surface of the colony, back to their neighborhood of silver
domes, silver domes that lie in the shadow of towering drills and
excavation devices that stand majestically at the rim of the mine.
duck inside their dome and sit in their living room of matching
and simple furniture. Megan sits on the couch and Billy sits next
to her, as close as he can without touching her.
scoots away and her eyes start to water and her hands tremble as
she opens the lid of the tiny mahogany coffin.
you know what's inside?" Billy asks just as Megan lets out
a rush of tears punctuated with a wail.
drops the now open coffin with a scream and the contents of the
coffin spill out on the floor and Billy sees a small object roll
across the thin carpet of their dome.
stands and reaches for the small object and holds it in his hand.
is the shrunken head of his wife's late and departed mother. The
eyes are closed and the skin is smooth and the face seems to glow
in his hand. The pulsing face radiates memories across his mind.
crying and softly wailing, takes the head away from Billy and cleaves
it to her breast.