This is a little different– my amazing friend Maisha posted this to her Facebook feed a week or so ago, and I begged her to let me repost it. She’s actually the person who got me into blogging, way back in the Xanga days, so basically my entire writing career and everything you’ve seen here is her fault.
The name’s an inside joke, by the way. She doesn’t call herself that.
I’ve been meaning to sit down and do some writing for a long time now. I needed to write being a teacher, being a mother, being a wife, being a person, and all my levels of self prescribed failures at those identities. I haven’t written anything about my daughter in years, but today I am forced to put some words down and start stringing a level of coherence to my thoughts.
I was leaving Target, headed to Del Taco, and I started to cry. I started crying because of a phone conversation twenty minutes prior. I was still feeling, still aching, still worrying. That’s when I knew I had to write something.
It was a call from the dentist’s office. I’m setting up Leia’s first appointment. The anxiety started to mix in my chest when I asked how they get the children to cooperate. I know they’re pediatric dentists, of course they know how to work with kids. She explained how there’s a playroom and a tv on the ceiling and how the dentists have their ways. And as I listened my heart started beating faster because I knew what I had to say.
“The reason I was asking…I feel I should disclose…my daughter is on the autism spectrum.”
And I don’t know why that was so hard to say out loud. It’s lived every day. And I didn’t realize how much fear, worry, uncertainty curls in wisps around my chest about it. I was scared. Not for Leia, not worried for her to go to the dentist; it’s something she has to do and needs to be consistent with. I was worried what the person on the phone was going to say. Maybe she was going to pause or stutter or take back the appointment slot. Maybe she was going to pour out some saccharin coated “We won’t be able to see a child with those needs.” Ridiculous fears and worries, I know, right?
I used the word “disclose.” Like, I feel I should tell you this, so you have all the information to make an informed decision. That’s what it is. And that’s what it feels like a lot. When I talk to people who haven’t spent much time around Leia, I find myself having to explain. And I don’t know if I over-explain, or under-explain, or just say enough not to having lingering dread.
“Why don’t you bring your daughter?”
“Do you think she would like…?”
“You should put her in…”
“What’s your name, little girl?”
And then I have to explain how neither of us will enjoy xyz because I’d be chasing her around making sure she’s not climbing, jumping or stomping. I have to admit that I don’t know what she’d like because there’s a big chance she won’t sit still or attend to whatever is grabbing the attention of the other children. I have to talk about how I don’t know about her ability or willingness to follow directions or to do what other kids are doing because she’s pretty oblivious of other children. I’ll answer, “Her name is Leia, and she’s 3. We’re still working on saying (whatever it is they expected her to say).” Talking about it reminds me that she is different. But everybody is different. Every single f-c-k-i-n-g person on Earth is different. And I remember that and forget that within a matter of minutes.
Sometimes I can stay in the present, but most of the time I’m worried about the future–her future. I’m worried about the first time a teacher says she’s bad, or the first time she believes she’s not a good girl. I’m worried about something happening to her, and her inability to communicate what’s wrong. I’m worried about whether she’ll ever have friends, because I see other people’s kids and what seem like beginning friendships and I don’t see that anywhere in her life. Kids say hi to her, know her name, and play near her. She’s not necessarily responding back or interacting. I don’t know when she will–if she will. When we go to park and go down the slide together, she’ll say, “This is fun.” And it makes me so happy she’s saying a sentence in the right context, and then sad because I wonder if me and her dad are her only friends. And thinking about, talking about, worrying about the future makes me cry.
When my mind turns back to past, I feel like I can remember when she would say “Hi” to everyone she saw on the street. She would repeat some of the things you asked her to say. She would hand you books to read to her. She would point to things so you could name them. She was developing fine…or so we thought, just a little behind because of the prematurity. So we kept subtracting from that chronological age when she didn’t reach a milestone. Then at a point, the things she did before, the things that were developmentally on track, stopped. Some part of my mind thinks if I look at enough pictures and old videos I can see when she stopped and started taking steps back. Looking at the past, where she was, where I thought she was and where I thought she was going, makes me cry.
Sometimes I think it’s my fault. I think maybe I wasn’t supposed to have kids, that I was too old, too unhealthy, or just the wrong genes. Sometimes when I think back to the NICU days, maybe she didn’t get enough breastmilk. My milk never came in like that. We would nurse and I would pump, but it wasn’t enough. I think if I wasn’t her mom maybe she would have been okay; she would have been neurotypical. Thinking about what I wasn’t able to do, what I am not able to do, makes me cry.
So I have to find my way back to the present. When I am able to stay in those brief moments of the present, I marvel at her. She is fearless, creative, strong willed, musical, loving, and energetic. She is the girl who lived. He who shall not be named tried three miscarriages, preeclampsia, and three months early. But she is the girl who lived. Her life is a miracle. She is a miracle. She is amazing, and she has autism.
There’s so much I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know about early childhood and development. There’s so much I don’t know about the autism spectrum. There’s so much I don’t know about how to tell what she can and can’t do, will and won’t do, should and shouldn’t do. Everything is uncertain. I crave certainty because faith is fleeting. God doesn’t just show up and tell you what to do and promise that everything is going to be alright. That’s not how life works. That’s not how any of this works. So what do you do?
At least one guest post today and tomorrow, as brain melt starts to set in. Steve’s good people. Be nice.
Bio: Steven D’Adamo is a writer based outside of Baltimore, MD. He co-founded Red String PaperCuts with a friend and fellow writer to discuss books, music, and poetry, and argue about life from their armchairs. His fantasy adventure novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, will debut at the end of 2017. To catch a glimpse of his fantasy universe, check out the dark fantasy horror, “Wolf’s Moon Night,” published by Five on the Fifth. Aside from his website, you can find Steven on Facebook, Goodreads, and NaNoWriMo (dia820).
For Whom Do You Write? (Hint: it always changes!)
Most of us say that we only write for ourselves, that it doesn’t matter how the outside world perceives our stories because we poured our hearts and souls into creating them – that’s all that really counts!
Most of us are at least partially lying.
As I spent months upon months crafting the first draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, it really did feel as though I was writing it exclusively for myself. No one laid eyes on my “alpha” draft until it was finished. I wrote it the way I wanted to, and I was proud of what I had accomplished.
I sent the draft to my alpha readers to have a look, knowing that they would critique my story and send me feedback. But my four alpha readers were close friends and/or family; people I trust with my life who I knew would accept my story as a labor of love whether or not it was any good.
Why the Second Draft was not for Me
The good news is that most of them liked it even it needed a whole lot of work. (And boy did it!)
But then I started writing the beta draft, and suddenly I felt the weight of my readers over my shoulders. I wanted them to see my story as fully fleshed out as it appeared in my head, without all of the plot holes and shoe-horned character development.
I accepted this change in mindset as an evolution; I hand-picked these four readers to open my story up to, and they deserved to read the best version of it I could create. I owed it to them to make WoEM the best damn story I could. Their opinions were all that mattered to me.
Four weeks ago I began working with a proofreader to review and revise my beta draft. She is also a friend, but as a high school English teacher, she actually has a ton of expertise in critically reviewing literature, the nuances of grammar, and stringing together beautifully constructed sentences.
We agreed to have a “test run” for her editing services to figure out what kind of project she was getting herself into. I scrolled all the way up to the top of my beta manuscript to read through the first few chapters before sending them to her.
I was immediately more concerned than ever about the little things that I knew would need to be reviewed or corrected eventually, but which I had passed over in my attempts to just write the damn story:
Minor in/consistencies such as the precise ages of my characters, their years of birth in relation to important events in their lives or the story at-large, and even obvious things like how a made-up fantasy word was pluralized
Use of adverbs and gerunds. Every writer’s blog ever harps on cutting down on this type of language. I took these suggestions with a grain of salt, because many sentences just sound unnatural without the occasional ly or ing. But knowing that I was sending this thing to an English teacher, I became hyper-sensitive to these words.
Use of inner character monologue versus normal narrative to convey a character’s feelings/thoughts. Okay, so my editor actually brought up this distinction after reading my few batch of chapters. We had a long discussion about via email trying to agree when inner character monologues were appropriate. We came to an agreement, but it was such an Aha! moment for me that it changed the way I wrote my narrative in the final chapters of my beta (which are still in the works).
I am sure there will be many other instances of this as I review my beta to send to my editor. These are changes I would have had to make anyway to make my book appropriate for public consumption. But in my head, these were eventualities.
Hiring a proofreader has expanded both the real and potential audiences for my story from people who love me enough to tolerate my fantastical nonsense to people who will analyze and dissect every piece of my writing ability.
Fortunately for me, my editor is doing this in an effort to improve the beta manuscript.
Once the final version is published, no one else will do this for me. The stakes have been raised.
The story of the last two days has been racing my wife to see which of us can fall asleep quicker after putting the boy to bed when I get home from work. There has been no time for bloggery. There has barely been time for conversation. It’s 7:36 as I write these words; I got home with the boy at around 4:30, she was home minutes afterwards, and I think I’ve been asleep in my recliner for the entire intervening period of time.
This weekend, I shall finish the final story in Tales from the Benevolence Archives, which is still Coming Very Soon. Then I shall work for Saturday and Sunday, as is my recent tradition, and then– wait for it– I’m on vacation for a week, marking the first time in my adult life where I’ve chosen when a vacation was going to take place, which is kind of fascinating. We’re visiting friends in Louisville and Kansas City and are probably swinging by my brother’s place in Chicago on the way back home. There will be a lot of driving, but I’m excited about it, although I’m sure I’ll get cold feet and try to cancel the whole thing at least once between now and then.
I am seeking guest bloggers for that week, by the way, so if you have had a piece in mind that you’d like to share, feel free to hit me up in comments and let me know about it. There are at least five days available– Monday to Friday of next week– and in the unlikely event that I get more people interested than that, I’ll either double some days up or fill a weekend day or two.
My friend Keith posted this on Facebook the other day, and he gave me permission to use it as a guest post when I asked.
It’s impossible to separate racism from the long train of abuses and usurpations that police departments in this country have perpetrated, but even if racism could be made to go away overnight, that by itself would not be enough to solve the problem with policing. There’s another dimension that needs urgently to be addressed.
If you ask a police officer to tell you what his job is — or, for that matter, ask the average person what the job of a police officer is — he will most likely say something like, “To get criminals off the streets.”
This is a serious problem.
“Criminals” is a category of beings. Suppose a police officer has a certain idea in his head of what a “criminal” looks like. That idea may be influenced by either conscious or unconscious bias. The officer has to make dozens of snap judgments a day, under stressful conditions, of whether the person he’s dealing with is a “criminal” or not. And if he decides that person is a “criminal,” he understands that it’s his job to “get the criminal off the streets,” by whatever means necessary.
A “criminal” is a bad person. A “criminal” is dangerous. A “criminal” doesn’t deserve respect. A “criminal” has no rights. A “criminal” abuses the public, so abusing a “criminal” is righteous vengeance. It’s justice.
There are many things wrong with this mentality, but one salient flaw in it is that deciding who is and is not guilty of crime is the exclusive domain of the judicial system — the courts. Jurors are supposed to decide guilt, not the police. Sentences are supposed to be handed down by judges, not by an officer’s service weapon.
Moreover, “criminals” DO have rights. These rights are spelled out explicitly in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and, indirectly, in the Fourth. “Due process of law” means that criminal defendants have the right to be judged guilty or innocent not on impulse or emotion but by standards of evidence, honestly obtained and fairly presented in court. And once they’ve served out their sentences, they’re not supposed to be considered “criminals” anymore.
But this is hard to remember and harder to honor, because we’re so accustomed to thinking of “criminals” as the enemy, the destroyers of peace and order. And if it’s difficult for us regular folks, it’s even more difficult for police, who fight an unending battle against “criminals” every day of their lives.
This is why the thinking — and, crucially, training — of police needs to undergo a fundamental shift.
We, and they, need to stop thinking of the job of police departments and police officers as “getting criminals off the streets.”
We, and they, need to start thinking of it as restoring citizens who are committing crimes to the status of citizens who are not committing crimes.
There are two elements to this change in framing.
One is the recognition that all the people whom a police officer interacts with are citizens with rights that he must respect. (Of course, not all of them are U.S. citizens — and it’s not only U.S. citizens who have rights. But this is a matter to confront another day. For now, let’s settle for defining “citizen” loosely, as a human being with social and political rights and responsibilities.)
The second is the emphasis on criminal activity rather than criminal identity. There are not “criminals” and “civilians.” There are citizens who are committing crimes and citizens who are not committing crimes. Citizens who are not committing crimes must be treated with respect, dignity and full recognition of their legal rights. Citizens who are committing crimes ALSO must be treated with respect, dignity and full recognition of their legal rights even as they must also be made to cease their criminal activity and to submit to the process of law for what they’ve done.
A person who is not committing a crime should not — must not — be treated like a “criminal.” An African-American man driving a nice car, a teenager hanging out on a streetcorner, a protester in the street: none of these people is committing a crime. There is nothing that they need to be made to submit to. Their compliance is not an end in itself. They are free people, citizens with rights. Unless and until they commit an actual crime, there is no reason and no justification for the police to make them do anything.
As for people who have committed or are in the process of committing crimes, the domain of the police is to investigate and apprehend, to stop the crime in progress and to hand the perpetrator over to the court system for judgment. That’s it. Because the perpetrator is still a citizen, just one who at the moment is not abiding by the law and needs to be restored to the status of one who is. It is not the domain of the police to administer punishment.
Refocusing the mission of the police from what people “are” to what they are doing or have done will make it more difficult to justify police brutality and detention without charge. It will dismantle the logic underlying racial profiling. It will lay a foundation on which police and communities can build mutual respect and trust. It will bolster people’s freedom to exercise their rights of conscience. It will make evident the moral necessity of restoring people’s right to vote and right to free choice of employment after they’ve paid their debts to society.
I’m back from the wedding, obviously, but I never got this James Wylder story up. Enjoy!
Let me take you back to a time before your dreams, when the greatest things in the universe were just an inkblot on the horizon. This was in the days before I realized there was more to the inkblot than the slight fades in it we call stars, and the deep rivers we call the sunlight. These were the days of Ahnerabe station, the days with my family, the last days I really felt like there was anything so wonderful but to live in the thin metal halls that rotated endlessly outside of orbit.
Our home was built a long time ago, some say it was by people from Earth, and I suspect that’s true, but somehow it seems permanent and eternal, like the idea that the universe always was, that there was no beginning and we simply formed in a long string where the negatives were as long as the positives and the dead center was our own breath. But it wasn’t really so, and there was a big bang, despite some scientific disagreement. We all had a beginning, a place best described as where we thought there was no beginning. The time of no change. Just like the universe, it all ended with a Big Bang, and the beginning began.
My father wasn’t sure what to think about the noise, after all, if it was an impact from a piece of space rock, it meant we were likely all going to be dead shortly to make that much noise, so he tried not to think about that. I didn’t try to stop, and I remember I was shuddering in fear, as I spun in the gravityless air. Father hesitantly told us to put on our space suits, and he got out a toolkit, and headed towards the noise. If the hull ruptured as he went over there, there would be no father anymore, just a stick figure shaped fade on the inkblot, reflecting light back at us like a signal flare, its eyes forever locked in terror.
Luckily—No, I shouldn’t say luckily. I don’t believe in luck, any more than I believe in an eternal universe. It’s just too convenient. There was another bang, and then a weird noise, a noise that sounded horrible, like I imagined a banshee sounding like in bedtime stories in that moment you get in the sheets and you’re still cold and your mother hasn’t kissed you yet. There was a silence, and then a clank, and slowly my father came into view.
He wasn’t alone.
* * * *
One of my first memories is of when my older sister got lucky enough to have her arm amputated. nShe was very excited. You always cut the legs off early, because if you don’t you could easily die if the inertial dampeners fail and your blood ends up rushing into them during an acceleration unit. They fail often. The arms are less deadly, so we keep them longer. Her eyes were so bright when my father got out the bone saw, and I was more jealous than you can imagine.
“Why can’t I lose an arm too ma?”
“When you’re older sweetie. And its Artemis’s birthday!”
She told dad to do it without anesthetic, and he was so proud of her. Sure, she blacked out, but it was worth it. When it was time for me to lose my first limb, I was an embarrassment. I tried to be strong like sis, but I just cried and cringed and thrashed as the teeth of the knife cut into me. My dad sedated me. The last thing I saw on his face was that look of utter disappointment.
* * * *
“Who… Are they?”
My mother could have asked a million more questions, but that question was good enough.
“They’re explorers. They say they came from a station of Titans and Gods.”
“Olympus Station,” one of them said, through her pierced lips, the tattoo running along her lower and upper lip, along the side of her nose, before climaxing into an explosion of color around her eye. The tattoo faintly glowed, just like I could make my limbs do. Their spacesuits didn’t match, and were a gaudy mix of red and purple for one, and yellow and black for the other. They had what I was fairly certain was a “cat” emblazoned on it, which was one of the mythical “animals” I’d heard so much about.
“I thought we were the only ones left…” my mother stammered. The two women looked at each other.
“The only ones of what?” one of them said, in a tone of voice I had never heard before.
* * * *
There used to be a lot of people on Ahnerabe station. There were a lot of other children there that I played with, and we would roam around in the zero gravity, bouncing balls around. There was a sports team I was on, but I can’t remember the rules to it, except that it involved swimming through the air to place a ball in a receptacle, and that I was descent at it. On my team was my first crush, Selene.
Unlike every one else on board, whose hair was blonde, hers was white, and she was teased for it immensely. The most common insult was “Crone Head.” I found her one day, curled up in a ball, slowly rotating around, her tears spiraling out from her body, glittering in the emergency lighting. I floated up to her, and pushed through the tears. It was the first time anyone ever hugged me, and I felt perverse when I felt the warmth of her body.
I’m ashamed to say I ran away.
* * * *
The two women looked at each other, and their faces made some expression I couldn’t read, and I blushed and turned away.
“You seriously think you’re the last humans?”
“We did, and could you… Make yourselves decent?”
They looked totally confused. One looked down her spacesuit as though she’d unzipped it on accident.
I didn’t know the next word they said, neither did my parents.
“You know…” My mom leaned in, though it didn’t help since her voice was coming out of her spacesuit speakers. “Your faces are showing.”
Their jaws went slack, and they just stared at us for a long time. Eventually, my mother undid the locks on her helmet, and showed them her mask, the smooth white oval of it contrasting hugely with their indecent flesh, its one red optical input over where her left eye was seeming so elegant and efficient.
“You don’t…. Show your faces to each other?”
“Are you some kind of cult or something?”
My sister intervened. “Clearly the land of Olympus has very different rules about these things, Mom.”
“Doesn’t mean they’re right…” my mom muttered.
“So, who are you two?”
“Better yet, who the hell are you guys?”
* * * *
There is my father, Apollo. He is a wise man, after all, he and mom kept us alive all these years.
Though he cried all the time that we were the end of humanity. He liked to keep a pattern of flowing water on the video panels of his limbs and mask, it gave him a stoic tranquil appearance I could always trust in.
There is my mother, Aphrodite. She always enjoyed the hydroponic gardens we got our food from, and she used to take us there to look at the plants. While we didn’t need all of the surviving gardens to live, she kept them up, because she loved the greenery. It was so amazing to see how nature worked, that if you just put a plant in a stream of nutrient injected fluid, it would grow big and strong and make tasty things for you to eat. I swam through the zero-g jungle, and my mother would encourage us. I used to pretend there were animals there, but I knew they weren’t real, though that didn’t stop my sister from teasing me about it. My mother always kept her skinpanels in a pattern of greenery. It suited her.
There is my sister, Artemis. She was the most adventurous of us. After all, if her or I died, there was no one left for us to mate with, and we were brother and sister, which would be highly immoral. So that was the end of it. And she took her apocalyptic certainty as an excuse to do anything. She would go on spacewalks, just for fun, and see if she could hold on untethered. She would remove some of her limbs, or modify them, and try to wriggle into small spaces. She was brave. And she was dangerous. Artemis kept her skinplates grayscale, shifting colors, usually towards black.
And there was me. Archimedes. I usually forgot to turn my skinplates on, so they just stayed the generic white they are if you don’t use that feature. I was the youngest, last one born, and since I played it safe, I knew I would be the last one to die. Alone in the metal tubes of my cold heart home, pumping despair into the inkblot.
* * * *
The one in the red and purple was named Grit Simmons, which didn’t sound like a real name, and the other was named Cat Conkers, which sounded even less like a real name. They explained Titan station was like Ahnerabe station, only larger, and with more people on it.
“Did you ever find more normal people?” My sister narrowed her vision receptacle at me sadly.
“You know, who look like us.”
“No, I can’t say we ever have.”
They took off their spacesuits, and I saw one of them had robotic legs, and another robotic arms, but their limbs had all of the gizmos showing, they weren’t covered at all. It was strange.
“So how long have you been living out here?” Grit said.
“Our whole lives,” my father replied, “We honestly thought we were the only ones left. That’s what our parents told us.”
“Is the Earth finally safe yet?” My mother perked up, “Or do the other survivors all live on spacestations too?” Grit had to blink a few times, which reminded me of a computer light flickering to process data.
“Er, well a few places are irradiated or polluted, but Earth and Mars have always been okay, I mean, as much as it can under Centro.”
“Is Centro some kind of protective radiation field?” Artemis inquired.
“No, its, um, no. No its not.”
“It’s a government. They are big wigs who run everybody’s life and tell people what to do and stuff.”
Cat helpfully finally chimed in. “Do you have any meat? Or is this veggie stuff all you have to eat?”
I was still wondering why people wore large wigs on Earth, but my mom had a different question.
“You… eat people?” The pair twisted their faces in very weird ways.
“No! Of course not!”
“Why would you think that?”
“Where else would you get meat!”
“Animals aren’t real, everyone know that.”
“What?” Just… Stop. What?”
Needless to say, it was a long conversation.
* * * *
The time I didn’t run away was much more notable, and happened purely by chance. I was floating through the gardens, when I heard a sigh. I swam towards the sound, and found Selene, looking at some celery. “Selene?” She looked up, her hair seeming to shock into the weightless air, her vision receptacle widening. “Arch, I didn’t realize you were here.”
“I didn’t realize you were here either. I thought I was the only one who came here.” Her shoulders lowered with the faint hum of machinery.
“So did I.” We sat, and talked about the plants. It wasn’t the last time we met up there, we started doing it regularly. And soon the two of us were inseparable, Crone Head and Arch Disappointment, best of pals. She told me all her fears, and I hers. She wondered if we’d ever go to Earth. She said she’d like to, to see the plants there, and raise children. We wondered what it would be like to walk in gravity, and used to pretend to, pushing each other’s feet down, giggling all the while.
One night, as we were sitting together, Selene took my hand, and told me she’d been thinking, and she wanted to show me something. I shrugged, and said okay. I couldn’t believe what happened next: she reached up to her head, and opened her face plate, snapping off the latches installed in her skin, and letting it drift away.
“Only people who are married can see each other’s faces Selene…”
“Like they will approve us for admission to the gene pool. You’re… Special, Archimedes.”
“So are you.” Her face was… Immensely fundamental. Her eyes were a sort of pale blue, and she seemed to have to… close them occasionally, which she seemed to find difficult, and the tube leading into her eye seemed to block it partially. I wondered if eyes had been designed to do that before faceplates. Her skin showed scarring from where all of the attachments, wires, and tubes had been implanted, and her visage was wreathed in the silver teeth that held her faceplate on. And I realized I must look like that, and the more I looked at her face, the more I wanted to share mine with hers. I pulled off the latches, and my faceplate floated up into the air, and then she leaned in and put her mouth on mine like they did in books, and I wrapped my arms around her, and hers around me, and I could feel her heartbeat, and the whir of her motors, and I think we both began to cry. I had never felt another person so close before. We met up many more times, and got closer and closer each time.
Her body felt like starlight on my skin, warm, yet it wasn’t far away, and she could whisper in my ear.
And I knew it was wrong, and that to be so close with another person was immoral, but we did it anyway. I held her close. And eventually, there were no barriers between us, and we wondered why it was that you were only allowed to make children by artificial insemination, because the alternative turned out to be… Better than anticipated, and I didn’t feel at all like the darkness.
* * * *
After they explained Mars (which was apparently communist) to us, which took some time, they began to get down to business.
“So look, we can get you off of here, take you somewhere where there are people.” Grit said.
My mother looked at my Father, “We can’t just let them die here.”
My Father nodded, “We need some time to think about this, to plan… To know what the outside world is like.”
“Oh come on, we do not have enough god damn time for this!” Cat pulled out a gun. I’d read about them. I’d never seen one before. “We’re taking over your station in the name of Olympus, now shut up and get on our damn spaceship before I blow your cultass brain into the next hemisphere.”
“Just shut up!”
“Cat, what are you doing?”
“I’m not letting your molly coddling get in the way of our survival!”
“You don’t even know if this will do that!”
“Well it’s worth a fucking shot!”
* * * *
The last time I’d heard that kind of yelling, the elders of the ship were meeting. We never learned what about, but in hindsight, they must have learned that there was something outside. They yelled, and at the end of it, some of the station decided to leave, and the rest decided to stay, but neither would do it without everyone. So ended, and started, the brisk war. It was over so fast. In the opening gambit, one side lowered the defensive grid for a chunk of the station, in time for a meteor to hit it. The meteor didn’t just crack us open with stardust, it poured us into the stars, and spilled our bloody guts into the void. It had been meant as a warning blow, a way to say, “This is the end, we all have to leave anyways now!” instead, the meteor tore through the living area, ripped off an arm of the station, and left the rest venting bodies and air. My father had us hide that night in the gardens, and we lived, and no one else did. We never heard from the missing arm. It was where Selene lived, and I dreamed for a long time she lived. But she didn’t. They were all dead. Spinning out like tears.
* * * *
My father’s blank faceplate stared impassively. The gun pointed at his head. I shivered. Not again.
* * * *
Before everyone died, I got my name. We weren’t born with names, just serial numbers. Mine was 0042623.
When I was old enough, my naming ceremony came. Most children got named after Gods, so when my naming time arrived, I wondered what it would be. Zeus? Apollo like my father? Or maybe some lesser God… I didn’t care, I was excited. My parents and the registrar sat, their vision receptors glowing red against the white walls.
“Welcome 0042623, are you ready to receive your name?”
I nodded excitedly.
“Now son, your mother and I have talked it over…”
“….And we’re naming you Archimedes.” That wasn’t any God I’d heard of.
“See… We care about you, but we’re under no illusions, your sister is the talented one, and you’re simply going to follow her, and support her. You aren’t the one who is going to achieve the greatness in our family, so we don’t want to give you a name that will give you any false ideas. So we’re naming you Archimedes Artemis, so you’ll never forget your purpose is to follow your sister.”
I was never so dismayed. The other kids called me “Arch disappointment” after that.
* * * *
“Don’t!” My mother cried, and Cat glared at her, and grabbed her by the hair. In a swift motion she slammed my mother’s head into the table, and then again, and again the blood seeping out from under the cracked plastic. My father tried to intervene, and she pointed the gun at him, and shot him in the head. Apollo fell, smelling of meat and circuits, and I screamed. I was glad my mother wasn’t alive to see that, in a way…
I lunged at her when she shot. I barreled at her, propelling myself off the wall, and ramming my metal shoulder into her chest. Her companion tried to get to her, but Artemis grabbed her, and clenched with her metal hands as hard as she could, crushing bone. We wrestled in the zero gravity, till the apocalypse was signed with ink.
Cat had a gun. And she tried to save her friend.
And she shot.
The station was old, and wasn’t designed to take the strange plasma belting gun she had.
It melted through the wall, it burned it, over and over as her shots went wild. There was a moment where only air was seeping out, then the wall burst out, and Artemis and Grit were ejaculated from the station, their arms still locked in a dance of violence, a dance that they would never finish, as their flesh froze.
Cat followed soon after, with the corpses of Aphrodite and Apollo, both heading towards the sun, fittingly. And I clenched onto the table, which was bolted to the floor, till all the air was gone, and walked to the next airlock…. Where I went in, the last survivor of the apocalypse. Just like I’d always known.
* * * *
“So, you just got on their spaceship, figured out the controls, and flew it here?” The man said. I nodded.
“That doesn’t sound too believable.”
“I don’t find any of this stupid place believable. You people are ridiculous. I’m still ashamed to see you showing your faces around here.”
“Right… So what do you plan to do now?”
I squinted my vision receptacle at him, and sighed.
“I wish I knew. I’m the last living man, in a world full of people. It’s not an easy thing to figure.”
He poured me a drink. My liver told me it required extra processing, but he said it was on the house, which he explained meant free.
No, free was wrong. I went outside the bar, as the mobs of flesh wandered around me, and I looked up at the speck of light in the inkblot, that was called Earth. And there was a moment where the world was the way it was, and the end became the beginning, and apocalypse formed a broken Eden.
* * * *
The end of the Earth was a terrible thing, and we all knew about it. It was one of the first things every child on Ahnerabe learned. The earth became corrupt, immoral, decadent, and it was washed away with a fire called radiation, partially. We were spared the first round, and we build rockets, and launched ourselves into space, building the station far from where anyone would ever find us. We hid, and avoided the apocalypse, a hidden arc sustaining the best of humanity. Very strict guidelines for who could go on the trip were assembled, and we were the descendants of those lucky few. As the world burned, we on Ahnerable stayed safe, knowing that when the Earth was ready for us we would go back, and repopulate it. It was the noble dream. It was the beginning of all things, it was the end of all things. We blurred into the shadows and took a gasping breath as we plunged into the inkblot, slowly turning around the sun, like a tiny marble, or Selene’s tears when I could feel her heart beat.
There was a light, and it was the knowledge that though everyone else was dead, we would live on.
And when we finished the story, the ink spilled along the page, and no one could read it but memories.
* * * *
“You see that?” they’d drifted so far out, their ship running cold, but still propelled at speeds like the chariots of the gods through the darkness, that they didn’t even know where they had run to in running.
“Looks like some sort of spacestation.”
“Nobody builds a spacestation out this far, its lunacy. You couldn’t resupply.”
“But you could hide.”
“The boss of Olympus might want another place to hole up, this could be our shot. She might forgiv—“
“She won’t ever forgive.”
“What’s the worst that happens, we end the world?”