It’s been five hundred and eighty-seven days since Kenneth last set foot on Earth. Five hundred and eighty-seven days since he cut ties with a father who called him daughter and took the first ship he could find for distant stars.
Now, through thick vacuum-safe windows, he watches the planet burn.
Are you all right? ♫◊♪ asks, speaking in pulses of light and colour. Ne lays a translucent limb on and around Kenneth’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze, and somehow Kenneth manages to smile back.
“I never thought I’d want to come back here,” he says. “I left all that behind me – it’s not home anymore. If it ever was.” He lightly twitches his fingers, an analogue for returning the squeeze. There are no scripts for his relationship with ♫◊♪ – they are so different, and their worlds are so new to each other – and so each gesture is a secret between them, learned with time and pain and patience, and each day together another victory.
Kenneth’s eyes turn back to Earth, sparking and smouldering so far below. They must have seen the meteor coming. They must have watched its approach, mapped its trajectory – but then, they would never have thought it was more than another shooting star. They wouldn’t have known that it was boarded. They certainly wouldn’t have anticipated the Thyrrans blowing a hole through the moon.
Almost certainly, they didn’t even realise they were at war.
“It’s just so – senseless,” he says. “Interstellar travel is still so new – for us – for them, I mean. They barely knew the Thyrrans existed. I don’t think they even knew it was an insult.”
♫◊♪’s grip tightens, and an electrical tingle strokes the back of Kenneth’s knuckles.
“There were good things on that planet too, you know. Forests and bears and lakes and things. Mountains. Sheep. Pizza. God, my sister – she always wanted to leave, like me, to go explore the universe. I hope she got out in time.” His eyes are hot, somehow, and he rubs at them with the palm of his other hand. “I would have kept contact with her if it weren’t for Him.”
We’ll search for her, ♫◊♪ assures him. Earth has left many survivors.
The worst of his thoughts go unspoken. Part of him wishes he could have spoken to his father again, that there could have been peace between them. Part of him is glad he’s dead.
Memories are easier to come to peace with.
He watches the flames, and thinks of birds and cheese and his favourite hiding place when he was a child. He thinks of his father’s laugh, of the times he spun Kenneth around and around in the air and called him my little princess. Carefully, almost reverently, he puts the memories into a box, seals it shut, hides it deep in his mind where neither flame nor thought can touch it.
“I’m ready,” he says at last, turning away from the window. “Let’s find another place to sit.”
Written for Flash Fiction Month 2018, day 3, challenge 2: write a story with limited narration including a scene of peacemaking or reconciliation; it must mention the year of a peace treaty. This year I'm also fulfilling a challenge by an anonymous contributor: Every character must be queer.
I've also, somehow, been talked into fulfilling a challenge by joe-wright:
The All-Star challenge.
Over the course of FFM, your oeuvre must address the following items:
- -Something somebody once told you
- -The sharpest tool
- -A finger and a thumb
- -The shape of an L
- -What does it mean to be 'fed to the rules'?
- -A smart brain and a dumb head
- -"You'll never shine if you don't glow"
- -Definitive proof that all that glitters is in fact gold
- -A shooting star that breaks the mold
- -The meteor men, and the hole in the satellite picture
- -Skating on thin ice
- -The world on fire
- -"Can you spare some change for gas?"
- -An all-star, getting their game on, and going to play, or alternatively and perhaps easier, a rock star, getting the show on, and getting paid.
Okay, so the moon isn't so much a satellite picture as just a satellite, but you could consider the view from the window to be a picture and then it works out. It's an image, anyway. Yes?
Treaty of Andelot. Boom.
The rest of today's stories can be found here.
If you've enjoyed this story, you may be interested in the collection of all my FFM stories this year: Beyond Dreams. You may also enjoy my FFM collections from the previous four years: Borrowed Strength, Ephemeron, Palalgia, and Changeling.
This is stunning. The imagery the emotion the beautiful depiction of gender non binary all of it.
Adding to what everyone else has said, I'll just mention that I particularly liked your second to last paragraph, especially the phrases thinks of birds and cheese and his favourite hiding place when he was a child and hides it deep in his mind where neither flame nor thought can touch it.
I'm thrilled to hear that - it was one of my own favourite parts when writing it as well, but I wasn't sure how it would come over. Thank you!
Oh my god this is so perfect. You could get a ton of mileage out of this one if you chose to. I think a lot of people who wouldn't normally be inclined to read about gender normativity would find something to engage them or relate to through these characters and their dynamic.
Aw, thank you! I'm sincerely tempted - even if I don't manage to do more with it this month, it's very probably going to go on my List of Things to Expand on Someday. (That list gets longer way faster than it gets shorter.)
The world feels rich and interesting. Definitely enjoyed this one.
I appreciate you adding sheep in the list of good things. Sheep are good things.
I'm also a music teacher and it was really hard to get past the name "♫◊♪" because I just read it as "titi-taaa-ti" the whole time. Which set me off into a tangent about how incorporating rhythm into a naming system could be superly darn cool.
I also really liked the story, too.
♫◊♪'s name was tricky, since ne communicates by glowing and so wouldn't have a name that could actually be pronounced. In the end I tried for anything that would look okay and not have an obvious auditory meaning. I mean, music is usually heard rather than seen, but you can definitely have rhythm in light-form too and a musical connotation wasn't a bad thing.
Basically, you're lucky in that you have a pronunciation ready for this.
You won me with just the first two sentences and it only got better from there. The strange relationship between Kenneth and his lover was particularly fascinating to read about. I also like that you interpreted the challenge element as reconciliation with one's past/one's memories.
Thank you! I always try to take the official FFM challenges in an unexpected direction if I can, if only to keep the from getting lost amid everyone else's.
Hi GDeyke, this was very engaging. In particular, you portrayed the elements of discovery and limitlessness of their relationship well. I love that the cost and reward of their relationship is softly alluded to via their differing methods of touching. I would have liked to see more reconciling with his father, but alas, space is not a luxury this month, haha. Thanks for sharing.