I find your heart on Europa, and for a moment it is mine. It’s not your real heart. It’s only a fragment of your mind imprinted on light, buried deep beneath the ice. In this fragment, you stand with sand at your feet, the ocean behind you, and I’m there at your side. Night falls, and the sand cools beneath us, and we speak of stars and futures and a lifetime together. I see the memory, and know I have found you, even if the world gave up the search a century ago. For me it’s been months. But you run on your own schedule, not always considering when I might need you most. I leave the moon behind and start a new life.
I follow the signature of your thoughts, and it leads me far above the galactic plane. I find you there, still traveling, a streak of light like the glint of a campfire in deep brown eyes. I almost expect a memory of perseverance, having traveled all this way without becoming trapped, or dispersed, refracted into a million parts. What I find is a scattering of ideas.
The decision to volunteer for the jump. To do what none had done before. Flashes of training and research and endless hours of physical and mental conditioning. The thought of leaving everything behind for the unknown. The ache for those you would never see again, even if all went according to plan. I look down on the spiraling galaxy, and hold those thoughts close, because even when you were thoughtless, you were you, and that was enough.
I travel between galaxies, a thing of light, ever searching. I refract off crystals of dust trails, and find myself within the atmosphere of a strange planet far from home. I find you there, scattered about their world, and I feel your compassion. The people there feel you too, creatures of chitin and tooth, and though I can’t communicate, I believe they worship you. They feel you with senses we never had, when we were things of body and thought, and to them you are a comforting presence, always guiding. Within that perseverance, I find a broken memory washing over the world, or your last night on Earth, and the passion we shared. I find that I am not embarrassed. I leave you there, because you are not mine to take. You are something greater than before. When the ship jumped, disintegrated, became light and sound and scattered memory, you became something more than I could ever contain. I move on, knowing that I share you now, and that I always will.
I move into the ether of the universe, beyond the pull of all gravity, into a darkness pierced only by our light. I look behind, and for all the infinite visibility of space, I see nothing of the stars behind. You move beside me, a stream of indefinite length, and I look into these final pieces of your being. All that has not been used, discarded, converted to the death of heat. In this final light, my companion in the dark, I find what I have searched for all these millennia. You sit in your captain’s chair, feeling the sweated thrill of discovery. Beneath your fingers, the static sensation of touchscreen controls. The trepidation of unsurety, and the steel of training pushing you forward. At an outside command, you move your finger toward the final action that will send you hurtling into space, fast as light. You stop. You hover. From your side, your lover takes your hand and you turn to look into her eyes. I smile, and hold your sweating hand in mine.
“Together,” I say, and look outward to the stars.
You smile, and it is warm and scared and filled with the possibility of eternity. Your hand steadies, and you touch a finger to the screen. “Always.”
This story previously appeared in New Myths.
Edited by Marie Ginga
Addison Smith writes weird science fiction, fantasy, and horror. His stories have appeared in over fifty publications, including Fantasy Magazine and Daily Science Fiction. His first flash fiction collection, "Parallel Worlds Omnibus," can be found at https://books2read.com/Parallel4