Friday, November 14, 2014

Prompt: I will remember you

Frank knew he was dying. The biosuit was still doing its job, protecting him from the acrylamide atmosphere, recycling his fluids and stabilizing his body temp. It couldn’t do anything about the lack of feeling in his legs. Or movement. Or the console that crushed his hips and legs.

He heard Bhiteri’s chittered greeting, rasping in his ear and behind his sinuses as the four-foot arthropod slid into the ruined cockpit. The acrylamide didn’t affect his chitinous plates or feathery antennae. Frank tapped his fingers against the console in IMC, the patterns so similar to the American Standard Morse Code he had learned as a boy. Still here.

Bhiteri’s feet scratched the smooth wall, now the floor under Frank. He wound around the console and pulled a makeshift leaf pouch full of cave water. Frank closed his eyes, irritated at his momentary squeamishness over the silk Bhiteri used to seal the water. If it weren’t for the Bug—and Frank used the derogatory word with full awareness of the irony—he would have died at least four times by now. Maybe five. All the Bug’s effort would be for nought if Frank died before the cavalry arrived. Frank tapped TX as Bhiteri held the water pouch to his lips.

When Bhiteri rested the empty pouch on the floor, he curled up, outlining Frank’s torso and leaning his head against the console so they could see each other in the dim light. He drummed his feet in a soothing pattern for awhile, and Frank dozed. When he woke, he could see this godforsaken planet’s second moon reflected in Bhiteri’s eyes.

The Bug tapped slowly. I can save you.

Frank’s brows knit together. What was the Bug talking about? He’d tried to move the console, but it was much too heavy, even with a lever. It had been nine days, and Frank knew his time was running out. The rescue team would likely only have one to take home. No. You tried. It’s OK.

Bhiteri looked away, then back at Frank. Among my people, when the body dies, the nahl lives on. In another.

Nahl? What was that? Oh. Soul? Spirit? Frank asked. Um…inner self? Mind?

Self. Bhiteri agreed. I can save your self.

Now Frank’s eyebrows arched up, and he could feel his dehydrated forehead wrinkling. Funny how sensitive every movement becomes.

How? He tapped, studying what Bhiteri had said. How can my self live on? In you?

Bhiteri chittered for a moment, as if forgetting, then he tapped. Yes. I will remember you.

Remember? I know you will. This wasn’t something the Bug was likely to forget. But that’s not the same thing. Frank closed his eyes, feeling a rush of disappointment that surprised him. He wasn’t religious. Didn’t believe in an afterlife. Did he believe in a soul? How could his soul live in Bhiteri? What the hell…

How? He tapped again. He must have dozed off. There was no moonlight on the Bug’s face now.

Bhiteri chittered once more, then stopped. I do not know the words. My people call it the nahl-kupa. It is common to remember family. Sometimes friends. We take the name of each nahl as our own.

You have done this? Frank asked. He’d never heard of this nahl-kupa. Was Bhiteri letting him in on some big Bug secret because he was dying and couldn’t reveal it anyway?

Bhiteri nodded with a chitter that sounded distinctly amused. Oh yes. Many times.

Frank’s eyes narrowed. And you carry all the names? What are they?

Bhiteri straightened and tapped as he chittered slowly and distinctly. I am Almada Ghodew Hishap Kawnte Jorhsi Dunlesh Xaintap Bhiteri.

Frank thought about those names for awhile. All those people? Those selves? In Bhiteri?

And you remember all those people?

As you remember your own life.

Frank’s eyes closed, too heavy to hold open. His head rolled to the side. His mouth was dry, and he tried to make some spit to swallow. The biosuit had nothing more for him.

He’d thought he had made peace with dying out here. Away from Earth. Alone. But given the chance, he didn’t want to. He thought he was nodding his head. When Bhiteri didn’t answer, he tapped out slowly. Y…e…s…

Bhiteri stood on the ruins of the pod and watched the rescue ship descend through the yellow atmosphere. It reminded him of the mining ships landing on Mars, and he chittered at the new memory. As the ship’s thrusters burned the acrylamide atmosphere, he chittered a greeting, and a farewell, “I am Franklin Almada Ghodew Hishap Kawnte Jorhsi Dunlesh Xaintap Bhiteri. I will remember you…”

And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s one I love:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.


Dogs in House
Houdini, Brindle

Music Playing
Sarah McLachlan, “I Will Remember You”

Time writing
30 minutes

November word count


  1. Writing report:
    Back to novel editing, Ch 41
    time: ~20 min

  2. Writing report:
    Novel editing, Ch 41
    time: ~20 min