Thursday, May 16, 2013

Prompt: Saying goodbye a piece at a time

Jarrah stared at her comm unit in disbelief. White screen. Empty. She knew it was hopeless, but she flicked it off, counted to ten, flicked it back on. Nothing. She fought the urge to throw it against the wall. It really wouldn’t work then.

In the blink of an eye, she had just lost all of her communications with the outside world. The comm unit was independent of the main systems, intentionally isolated. And it had failed. Not only could she not communicate, it had wiped out the entire history of her two years of connection to Earth. She was, for the first time, utterly alone. And that’s really not the worst part.

Her niece’s first steps were on that unit. Her father’s rants about the last elections, before Alzheimer’s sent him back to Presidents long dead. The last time Ben said “I love you”, before it got too hard to be so far apart for so long.

Jarrah held the comm unit in her lap and tears blinded her as she thought of all the memories it had held for her. As she sat there, more came to her.

Late night “girls nights” with shared bottles of wine with Helen, her best friend since third grade. Well, Helen got wine, and Jarrah got recycled water, but that wasn’t the point.

The multinational broadcast award ceremony when her boss gave her the credit for the Jackson-Sintar discovery that propelled her here two years ago.

The Oscars when superstar Jake Milliken won for Best Actor and thanked her -- *her* -- for inspiring him to reach for the stars. Best. Night. Ever.

She traced the blank screen with blind fingers, memories flooding one after the other. Until Laura. Her fingers froze. Laura had been diagnosed with a truckload of inoperable tumors. When they determined there were no viable treatment options, she took her own life in her hands. She traveled all over the world and shot endless vids of her crazy adventures. Of her slipping away, one day at a time. Of her choosing her own end. Of her saying goodbye.

Jarrah had watched them over and over for months. But not for a long time. Instead of comforting, they began to grate on her heart. But they were there. And so Laura was there. Just a vid away.

After she died, Jarrah began to dream about her. Which was funny, because there were lots of other people she might have dreamed about and never did. They talked, in her dreams. Sometimes here, sometimes back on Earth. Sometimes floating in space, drifting in between. Jarrah actually loved those dreams the best.

When she first thought she saw Laura turn the corner ahead of her, her heart raced and she pulled down the tube as fast as she could. Of course it was empty. After that, she saw Laura every few weeks or so, leaving the kitchen by the other door when she was coming in, out on the far side of the research grids, and once, swimming in the hydroponic engines. But Jarrah was pretty sure that had been a dream, somehow. Even though she “woke up” standing right next to the engine tanks.

Once, she was watching a vid in the library, with the lights off, and she thought Laura sat down next to her. Jarrah could see her out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t turn her head. She didn’t move. She didn’t want to see the empty chair. She stayed there long after the vid ended, sitting in the dark.

All gone. All those memories gone. The damn comm unit had fritzed and wiped itself and there was nothing Jarrah could do. She flipped it over to reset, counting the full minute or she would have to do it over anyway. She turned it on and waited for a clean boot. She’d have to spend some time tonight tinkering with the settings. Maybe her sister would be up for a few test calls.

The screen flashed white and settled to its usual dull grey. Then an iris opened to fill the screen. Laura smiled at her. “Hey girl. It’s been a long time…”

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle, and guest Fudge

Time writing:
30 minutes

May word count:

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