Sunday Fiction 6: The Promise

A flash fiction story for Where the Stars Used to Sing

The Promise

You said that we'll always be together. That we'll always be able to see the same moon and the same stars.

You lied.

Here the moon was all wrong. The full moon shone gold in the darkness, casting yellow light on the tiny human colony on the planet far below — the colony that I now lived in, alone.

I stepped away from the window, leaving fingerprints behind on the glass.

My legs were still unsteady even though I'd taken whatever cocktail it was the physicians had prescribed and spent countless hours in the gym with the physiotherapists. Just walking over to my bed left my legs tired and I sank down on the too-hard mattress where I slept alone.

A photo of you stood beside the bed. It was an oddity here in the colony where everything seemed made from futuristic technology. But we'd gone to an old timey market the day before leaving and had our photos taken and printed in sepia tones. It was the only photo I looked at now. Those of us on my social media feeds held too many memories of what we'd — what I'd — left behind.

Beside your photo stood the metal box that held your ashes. I know you would have preferred to have them scattered at your childhood home.

"They said you just fell asleep," I said as if he stood before me. Tears gripped my throat and threatened to strangle me. "That the life support malfunctioned but you just... just fell asleep."

I pictured us side-by-side in the stasis pods where we were supposed to have slept until we reached our new home. I pictured your face, but it was as if I was seeing you through early morning mist. No longer could I recall your face — the fine lines beside your eyes, the freckles across your nose and cheeks — without looking at your photo.

Outside the window the newly terraformed world lay asleep in sepia tones. A few insects fluttered around the tall lights that lit the garden path that led to the lake. My eyes drifted back to the metal box.

"They only told me what had happened when they brought me your ashes, you know. You broke our pact. You were supposed to have come to me to tell me you are okay there on the other side." I breathed in slowly. "A childish pact."

I put my shoes and jacket, picked up my cane and the box of ashes and headed out the door.

Tall trees lined the path, casting deep shadows on the path. I looked up at the night sky as I walked. The stars, like the moon, looked wrong here. But the sky was lit with swirls of stars and new constellations and I never saw such stars back on earth. Not even when we went in search of that camping spot in the middle of the desert.

"You would have loved the stars," I whispered. "You would have loved creating new constellations and giving them names and stories. Just like the ones we had back home. It's no fun doing it all alone."

The tap-tap of my cane was soon drowned out by the sound of frogs, insects, and lapping water. An owl — one of the new hybrids that we'd yet to name — hooted in one of the trees before taking flight on noiseless wings.

I stepped off the path onto the pebbles of the shore. It was more difficult to walk here. The can was as unsteady as my legs, but I kept going until I reached the ugly cement bench where I sank down.

"Can you believe how ugly they designed some of the things?" I laughed. "Like the designer had watched an old sci-fi movie and really liked the way it looked." I put the box down next to me and bent down to take off my shoes and socks.

The smooth pebbles were cold beneath my feet, but it felt good to be surrounded by nature again; copycat nature or not. We'd chosen this spot precisely because it was modelled after the lake you always visited as a child.

I picked up a pebbled and threw it so that it skipped across the surface of the water.

"Ha! Five times! You never could beat me!" I said, not caring if anyone heard me. I clenched my teeth. "They wanted to keep me in the asylum, you know." I said softly. "They thought my mind had gone while in stasis. All because I mentioned the pact we'd made."

I skipped another pebble across the water.

"That really didn't earn me any friends." I sniffed. "But the one doctor said it's just my way of coping with grief." I shrugged. "They don't call the centre an asylum, of course, only I do. It irks them.” I grinned.

The insects buzzed and chirped all around me.

"You could have hung around a bit. Done a haunting or two. The colony could do with some excitement."

The night wind picked up and the tree shadows danced.

"And you promised to dance with me here by the lake." The wind whipped through my hair and I was sure I could hear the soft notes of our song, Mariage d'Amour within the leaves and bending branches around me.

I picked up the box of ashes, walked to the water's edge, and pressed the mechanism to let the lid open. The wind picked up the ashes and swirled them over the lake in the golden light of the moon.

I closed the empty box and pressed it to my chest, no longer able to stop the tears.

"Dance with me." The voice was even softer than the music, hidden in the rustling of the leaves.

The wind became stronger, the music louder, and my feet found the notes of the music hidden within it.

And I danced.