Aphelion Issue 232, Volume 22
September 2018
 
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Antimatter Dreams

by David Wright


When it became apparent that IAMC was breaking up and they were all about to die, Ayesha suddenly remembered the words of her ninth-grade science teacher, Mr. Folger, a gray-haired, wrinkly old coot known for beaming kids in the eye with his laser pointer. "With this much antimatter I could level Manhattan," he would growl menacingly before dumping a teaspoon of sugar into his stale coffee.

At the time, Ayesha was mostly baffled by this demonstration. After all, DC 416 was an inner city school and real science labs -- you know the kind with test tubes and Bunsen burners -- were pretty much nonexistent. Was antimatter sweet like sugar? Could you pick it up with a teaspoon? Did it taste good in coffee? These were all mysteries to her. But she was certain of one thing. If Mr. Folger ever did get his yellowed, decaying hands on a teaspoon of antimatter, Manhattan wouldn't stand a chance.

Fortunately for the world, Ayesha's chain-smoking, pointer-beaming, ninth-grade science teacher died of lung cancer a year later, and Manhattan lived to see another two decades of unprecedented prosperity. Fossil fuels were banned. Nuclear technology became obsolete. Fully automated, high-tech factories were built around the world, virtually eliminating third-world poverty, famine and political unrest. It was truly a brave new world, and all because of antimatter, that nefarious stuff which Mr. Folger would have used to level Manhattan.

"Mom, are we going to die?" Patrick asked, snapping Ayesha immediately back into the present.

"No, of course not."

"Then why is everyone screaming?"

Ayesha didn't answer. All around them, frightened space tourists were jostling in heightened frenzy, and amidst the pandemonium, the grizzled, all knowing, science advisor stood silent sentinel, a marble statue powerless to stop the fall of Rome. Ayesha felt a tremor ripple invisibly through the titanium floor.

####

Back up two hours and Ayesha was on cloud nine, or somewhere 22 000 miles above it, as the shuttle approached rendezvous with the International Antimatter Collector, or IAMC, in Clarke's orbit around the equator. To say that she never imagined living in space would have been a lie. But it was an impossible dream, and deep down she knew it. But then what was life for if not to dream the impossible?

"Patrick," she whispered, "it's magnificent."

Patrick looked up from his two-inch thumb pad, his green eyes still imaging ghostly shadows. The orbiting ring was just coming into view out his window, a silver ribbon glinting in the crystal sunlight and bending impossibly over a purple horizon -- perhaps the most beautiful sight in the universe.

"Big deal." He shrugged his narrow, 13-year-old shoulders, and then turned his pubescent attention back to the cybernetic delights of some baffling virtual reality -- baffling to Ayesha that is, not to Patrick. To her, VR was like being mentally raped. But Patrick was more accustomed to cybernetic interaction than he was to real-time, person-to-person contact, especially with his mother. That was the main reason, she told herself, that they were here. It was her last chance to connect with her son before she lost him for good.

He hadn't always been this way. There was a time when his eager, inquisitive nose would have been glued to the porthole for the entire trip. He would have squealed with delight at the first glimpse of a star, let alone an orbiting space station. But he'd changed. Right under her nose, he'd changed. In the space of a year. No. Was it really that long? A month. She hardly knew him anymore. She'd only had him for 13 years and she was already losing him. She couldn't bear it. She thought of old Mr. Folger, with only a year left to live, struggling to explain antimatter to a class of belligerent grade nines, and suddenly she knew why he felt like leveling Manhattan.

"You're I-1."

Ayesha turned to see a fat boy in the next seat staring at her with a mixture of reverence and disbelief.

"Is it really you? The I-1 that topped Supercruel64 in Flash Man? The dude that finished Zit in 17 days? The druid knight quested to crash the Necromaton with the Unholy Grail?" The boy's voice grew in volume and velocity with every phrase, and only then did Ayesha realize that his look of reverence wasn't directed at her, but at her son. Patrick flicked his thumb with a gesture that Ayesha didn't understand and the boy gasped.

"It is you. Just like your avatar. Can I? Can I?" he stuttered. "Can I have your thumbprint?"

Patrick smiled coolly, and then placed his thumb deliberately on the boy's VR glasses like a priest's blessing. Patrick didn't wear glasses. His cybernetic port was implanted directly into his cornea. She had fought with Riley for allowing Patrick to violate his body that way, fought long and hard, and lost. Apparently everyone in Patrick's age bracket was doing it. You couldn't survive in the future without being linked to the cyber network 24/7, her ex reasoned.

"What was that all about?" Ayesha asked after the boy turned away to marvel at his newly blessed glasses.

Patrick's expression soured. "You wouldn't understand."

A few minutes later, the shuttle commander made her pre-docking announcement and a ripple of excitement radiated through the shuttle cabin.

"Okay, Patrick, it's time."

No response.

"Come on, Patrick. Shut down your game."

"It's not a game."

"Didn't you hear what she said? Shut down your…"

Out of the corner of her eye, Ayesha saw Jerry Mosel, the science advisor, pushing his formidable body through the shuttle's zero gravity passageway. He was a middle-aged man with a Jewish accent that reminded Ayesha of some distant New York borough, perhaps Manhattan but more likely Queens.

"Ma'am, your son is required to power down all cybernetics to avoid any possible interference with our docking systems."

"It's off already. Take an AC pill," Patrick snorted, the two-inch thumb pad disappearing into his sleeve.

Ayesha felt her cheeks burning. She was about to apologize, but Jerry was already retreating to his seat in the back row. He barely made it before the reverse thrusters kicked in and the protective energy fields froze the space shuttle's occupants to their seats.

"See?" Ayesha whispered. "It's a good thing you shut down before that happened."

"Why?" Patrick scoffed.

"You could have messed it up somehow."

"No, it wouldn't. You don't know sh -- "

The braking thrusters fired a second time, thankfully drowning out her son's last word. Ayesha was tired of correcting him, tired of always being the lead fart at the helium balloon party. She desperately wanted this trip to be different. She wanted Patrick to want to be here as much as she did.

Maybe it was too much to ask.

####

IAMC had been completed in 2069, a century after Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon and only a few months before Mr. Folger passed away from cancer. It was just as well. Ayesha had the feeling that his generation never got used to having their stars unevenly divided by a silver line in the night sky.

"It isn't natural," she heard her mother say once, but then she never liked flying cars or nano-byte detergents either.

Ayesha, on the other hand, loved the IAMC. She loved everything about it. She would track its slow descent on the horizon as the seasons passed from summer to fall to winter, and then watch it rise again in spring. She knew from countless hours of research that it was precisely 164,613 miles long, completely encircled the earth at an altitude of 22,236 miles and maintained geostationary orbit above the equator, something called Clarke's orbit after the golden age science fiction writer who first proposed it. She knew that it was nearly a thousand yards in diameter, counter-rotated just enough to create artificial gravity, and contained everything needed for its 2000 full-time staff and their families, including living quarters, recreation facilities, schools, and even a mini-mall with the latest designer clothing brands painstakingly reproduced onboard by millions of micromachines.

"Why did you get this job?" Patrick asked as they rode the high-speed mag-lev from the docking bay to the collector, the antimatter engines propelling them around the long curve at an unbelievable 25 000 miles per hour.

"I worked for it. As soon as it was built, I looked up and said, 'Whatever it takes, I want to go there.' And then I did it. It took almost 20 years, but I finally did it. It's amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it, Patrick."

Patrick smirked. "You're a family therapist, mom, a head shrink, not a rocket scientist."

Ayesha recoiled at the comment. She had worked hard to get where she was. It was hard enough for a black woman from DC to move up in her profession, never mind all the way up into space.

"I'm an expert in my field, Patrick, a doctor of psychiatric care at one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world. You don't think people need therapists in space?"

"No, I mean, Why? Why did you get this job? Dad says it's just a big waste of time and money."

"That's what he said?" Ayesha bit her tongue.

Her divorce with Riley, Patrick's father, had not been entirely amicable, and Ayesha still felt a good deal of bitterness and guilt, two sides of the same coin. Perhaps if she had abandoned her dreams and settled for a local family practice, they would still be together. But why should she have to? Why couldn't he...?

Around and around her thoughts would cycle like the orbit of some distant star.

"Your father is entitled to his opinion," she said diplomatically. "I just don't happen to agree with him. And I think after you've been here for a while maybe you'll see what I mean."

"Not likely," he said, and then he was gone again, cryptic specters clouding his cybernetic green eyes.

Forty minutes later, they were standing in the Bill Gates Observatory with a trillion-dollar view of the world. Patrick appeared not to notice.

"Welcome to the International Antimatter Collector," Jerry began with practiced cadence, "the heart of the IAMC orbiting ring and the single greatest energy producer in the world." His six-foot, 200-pound frame was dwarfed by the half-mile-wide collector behind him -- a cylindrical mosaic of magnetic coils, building-sized transformers and interconnecting power conduits the length of city streets. Ayesha felt like a germ on a circuit board.

"Hydrogen atoms, accelerated through a 164,000-mile electromagnetic corridor, collide at this juncture to create anti-hydrogen protons. These antiprotons are then collected into EM traps for world distribution by the International Energy Commission. It only takes a few grams of antimatter to power a factory for an entire day."

"What does it look like?" someone asked. Ayesha thought immediately of her ninth-grade science class. Was antimatter sweet like sugar? Could you pick it up with a teaspoon? Did it taste good in coffee?

"Antimatter?" Jerry smiled, warming to his subject. "Well, you can't see it, exactly, at least not with the naked eye. That's because the antiparticles are, well, subatomic in size, and the systems that channel and contain them are solid shells with EM field generators to ensure that nothing can get in or out. The energy released if even a few molecules of normal matter mixed with an equivalent mass of antimatter would be -- well, spectacular. But not to worry -- the containment fields are much like the protective field in the shuttle -- I feel safer at the IAMC than I do crossing the street earthside."

There were a few more questions, mostly inane, and then Ayesha was surprised to see her son's hand go up. "Why make it up here in space?" he asked.

"That's a good question," Jerry said simply. Ayesha beamed at the compliment. "Early antimatter colliders on earth, like CERN in France and Fermilab in the United States, were only able to produce a few nanograms of antiprotons a year at enormous expense. What was needed was a much, much larger collider, with an electromagnetic accelerator corridor on a massive scale. But there was no place on earth large enough to hold such a machine, so they built it in space. IAMC is the largest artifact ever built by human hands. It produces more than a ton of anti-hydrogen a year plus numerous antiproton derivatives. It took trillions of dollars and seven years to build, but it solved the world's energy crisis in a single year."

Ayesha felt a wave of emotion come over her. She was proud of what her generation had accomplished. They had banded together at a critical time in human history and literally saved the world. But Patrick didn't seem to see it that way.

"Such a waste," he griped an hour later as he poked through the bag of clothes he'd just bought from the IAMC gift shop. Ayesha wondered which designer half-neck he was denigrating now.

"What do you mean?"

"IAMC. It's all just crap floating up here in space. And someday it will come crashing down on our heads like ISS did in Australia."

Ayesha looked around the mall to see if any other loitering shoppers had heard him. Was he being callous? Ungrateful? She wasn't sure. How ironic. Here she was, the top psychiatrist in her field and she didn't even understand her own son. What would Young say, or Skinner, or what about Freud? Her mother would have said the boy was tempting fate. Of course, she didn't believe in that, but still...

"Don't talk like that, Patrick."

"Why? It's true. 27 people were killed."

"You don't know what you're talking about. This is different. If it weren't for IAMC, we wouldn't be here."

"Good."

"No, I mean all of us."

Ayesha sensed yet another argument developing and sat down on a semi-secluded bench in front of the mall aquarium. Patrick refused to sit beside her, preferring to stand by the aquarium window obstinately and tap the nano-diamond glass. Dolphins swam obliviously past them into a transparent tube that extended sixty feet outside the orbiting ring into the blackness of space. The dolphins had originally been transported into space for scientific experiments, but now they were just another space tourist attraction. Ayesha wondered what the inquisitive mammals must have thought of their new, otherworldly environment. Did they resent being here? Did they care as long as they were fed twenty pounds of fish a day?

"You don't know what it was like when I was your age. People were starving all over the world. They were killing each other with nuclear bombs, polluting the environment with fossil fuels."

"So. What about electric cars? Hydrogen fuel cells? Solar power? You had other choices. You didn't have to pollute the planet."

He had a point. They did have all those things when she was a kid. Why didn't they use them? Gas and nuclear energy were just cheaper and easier. It was just too hard to change. Were they really that selfish?

"You just chose to do it. And now you're doing it all over again with your precious antimatter."

Ayesha shook her head. "Antimatter is completely pollution free, Patrick."

"What do you call this?" He gestured toward the transparent, nano-diamond dome that completely covered the 200,000 square-foot mall. The continents of North and South America drifted over his head like a low-flying condor. "And all those factories you built all over the world? What about all the designer clothes, and bags, and accessories built by your little antimatter-powered nanobots? Do we really need a thousand labels of underwear and ten thousand brands of socks? Do we really need all this junk?"

"No, I suppose not, but -- "

"One day you're going to wake up and the world will be buried up to its eyeballs in crap. That's what you get from cheap energy, mom, a whole lot of crap."

"But Patrick, you don't know what it was like." She knew she was repeating herself, but she didn't know how else to put it. If he had only been there, lived the life she had in a run-down DC ghetto -- a life without hope -- he would be thankful for what they had now. "It's only a year, Patrick, and then you can go back to live with your dad if you want. If IAMC is so terrible, then why'd you agree to come?"

"I had my reasons."

Ayesha studied her son for a long moment, Freud and Skinner debating his psychological motives back and forth in the professional side of her brain, neither winning out. "Patrick," she said helplessly in a last ditch effort to soften his bitter resolve, but her weakness only seemed to anger him.

"And stop calling me that," he snarled.

"What?"

"You make me sound like an overgrown leprechaun."

Ayesha sighed, once again stymied by her son's enigmatic frustration. Where was this coming from? Why did he hate her so much?

"But it's your name. Would you rather I use the African name your grandmother gave you, Hlengiwe? You said you didn't like it. Your dad is Irish, Patrick. You're half Irish."

"No, I'm not. I'm a citizen of the world wide web."

"Then, what do you want me to call you?" she asked, years of professional training just barely suppressing her exasperation.

"I-1."

"What?"

"You heard me. The letter and the number. I-1."

"I'm not calling you a number."

"Why not?"

I don't know, she thought. Because the sky is blue. Because water is wet. How do you explain the obvious to a 13-year-old boy without sounding condescending?

"It's not a name. It's a joke."

"Like IAMC? Who thought of that one? Hey mom, where did the proctologist go on vacation?"

"What?"

"Uranus. Get it? Your-anus." He laughed harshly, snorting out of his nose.

A white woman on a nearby bench looked over at them with a disapproving scowl. Sitting on either side of her like miniature ivory bookends were two small girls with licorice ice cream dripping down their faces. Ayesha felt her cheeks burning.

"That's not funny," she said, her voice lowered.

Patrick stopped laughing. "No, it's not. And neither is I-1. It's my name."

Patrick threw his new designer half-neck in the waste shoot and blinked. In an instant, literally the blink of an eye, he was in another world. It was how he ended all of their arguments, and Ayesha could see that nothing was going to change that, not even a journey of 22 000 miles into space.

In hindsight, she might have handled it differently. In hindsight, she was perhaps a little ashamed, and Patrick's words remarkably prophetic. But what did her mother used to say about hindsight? She couldn't remember.

####

A thunderclap of a yell warped Ayesha once again into the present. Jerry had climbed up onto the tube station marquee and was glaring down at them like an angry gargoyle.

"The station alarm has sounded. That does not mean you start screaming like a bunch of frightened school children," he scolded. "It does mean, however, that the tour of IAMC is now over. You will follow me quietly into the docking bay. A shuttle will be arriving shortly to bring us to safety. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but please stay calm. Space is not the place to panic."

"See, Patrick?" Ayesha whispered. "Everything's going to be fine."

Patrick cocked his head skeptically, not bothering to argue. Over his shoulder, she could see the remains of the half-mile-wide antimatter collector, now just a whiff of silver pixie dust in the night sky. There had been men and women working there, hundreds of them. The broken bow of the EM corridor stretched into the distance behind the debris. Surely Jerry was lying to them about another shuttle. Surely it was mere minutes, maybe seconds, before the rest of the station broke apart like a toasted pretzel. Was it shaking, dark gaps appearing between its hundred-mile-long titanium couplers? She couldn't tell. Her eyes were playing tricks on her, feeding her panic with optical illusions. Next she'd be seeing little green men.

"It'll be okay, ma'am. No need to cry," Jerry said softly as he climbed down from the marquee and sat beside her. She was still a pretty woman after all, despite having a teenage son in tow, and what Astronaut could resist playing Sir Lancelot to a pretty Nubian princess in distress. "I used to fly shuttles up here in my time, five trips a day when IAMC construction was at its peak. They'll have a rescue bird up here before you can say…"

Ayesha wasn't aware that she'd been crying. She wiped the moisture from her eyes angrily. And that was when it hit her -- a wave of unbearable despair. It wasn't supposed to be this way. She'd worked her whole life to get here and now because of some freak accident IAMC was gone -- a whiff of silver pixie dust, she thought again, in the vast abyss of space -- and along with it the dreams of an entire generation. How could this happen? Why now? She had been a fool to come here. She had been a fool to bring her son with her. And for what? To prove she could do it, that a black woman from a DC ghetto could reach for the stars?

After a few minutes, Jerry got up to spread his Jewish consolation elsewhere, and Ayesha turned to her son. Patrick seemed blissfully unaware of her anguish. She wanted to reach out and touch him, to beg his forgiveness, to hold him to her chest like she did when he was born, to feel his warm breath on her skin. But she couldn't. He would push her away, if not physically, then emotionally. They were sitting only inches apart, but they would die alone.

"Patrick," she began, not sure of how to continue, but it didn't matter because she was sure now that he couldn't hear her. She couldn't see the thumb pad, but that didn't mean anything. He could still surf the net without it and sometimes he used it under his sleeve so she couldn't see what he was doing. "Patrick! Can you shut down that thing for one minute and listen to me? I want to tell you something."

"What? Can't you just leave me alone?"

"No, Patrick. Please. I don't want to fight."

"Then don't. Just shut up for once."

"Patrick, maybe if you could just listen to me -- and you're not supposed to have that on now anyways. You heard what Mr. Mosel said about the interference."

"It's not on. Look." He held up his empty hands. "Wait. You think I did this?"

"No, that's not what I meant." Ayesha pushed her hair out of her face. The vibrations had stopped, but it was getting unbearably hot in the crowded docking bay.

"You think I crashed IAMC with my cybernetic link?"

"Well," Ayesha wavered, not wanting to press her point but feeling compelled to defend herself just the same, "you're always jacked into that thing. You crashed the Necropolis or whatever. Who knows what you're into these days?"

"Necromaton. It's a web world. I can't believe how stupid you are."

Ayesha felt hurt and frustrated, angry at herself more than anything. She was a trained professional. She'd counseled hundreds of patients -- parents, teens, many the same age as Patrick. How did she let herself get sucked into these adolescent mind games? This was perhaps her last chance to talk to her son person-to-person, and she was blowing it. Were those the last words she would ever hear him say -- that she was stupid?

A red light came on above the airlock. Ayesha braced herself for the worst. Would she see the whitewashed walls disintegrate before her eyes as matter and antimatter, like mother and son, annihilated each other in epic confrontation? But no. That was foolishness. A micro-fracture would be enough. There would be a whistle perhaps, a bright flash, and then the nano-diamond dome would pop like a rubber balloon.

"It's the shuttle," someone yelled and the room erupted in a wave of collective joy, followed immediately by a mad dash for the bay doors.

"Keep order. Keep order here," Jerry commanded, but no one was listening.

"Come on, Patrick. You go first." Ayesha reached for her son's hand, but he pushed it away.

"I'm not a child, mom."

She felt bodies pressing against her, groping. For a desperate moment she lost sight of her son, but then he reappeared only a few feet in front of her, standing tall and narrow. She forced her way past the white woman with two ivory bookend daughters, stepping on one of the little bookends in the process. The girl wailed.

"Patrick. Patrick," Ayesha called out, finally catching up with him just as he reached his seat. "Hurry, Patrick. Sit down before they -- "

"Before they what, mother? Before they turn on the little red light? Ooo, I'm so scared."

"Patrick, stop it. You're acting like a child. Just sit down."

"No, I won't sit down, mother, until you treat me with respect. I'm not a child anymore. I can do what I want." And then he said it again. "Sometimes you are just so stupid!"

She couldn't take this. Her son was so hell-bent on hurting her, on going his own way, that he was willing to kill himself in the process. She felt her panic morph into an uncontrollable rage.

"That's enough!" she shouted, surprising even herself. "How dare you talk to me like that? I don't care how stupid you think I am. I'm your mother and you won't talk to me like that. You want me to treat you with respect, to call you by the name you've chosen for yourself, then treat me the same way. Now sit down, shut up, and try to act like an adult for once in your life."

Patrick's mouth opened, and to her surprise, nothing came out -- no sarcastic quip, no bitter counter-attack. Nothing. And then he just sat down. Ayesha was so impressed by her victory that she barely noticed the boy -- the fat boy with I-1's thumbprint on his VR glasses -- sitting in her seat. Confusion must have shown on her face at that moment because Patrick was quick to comment.

"That's great, mom. You make me sit down, but you don't even have a seat yourself."

Ayesha looked around for an empty seat, but there was none.

"Can I help you, ma'am?" Jerry asked courteously, but he seemed more intent on ushering her down the aisle than answering her questions.

"My seat seems to have -- "

"This shuttle is for children only. I'm afraid we'll both have to wait for the next one."

"The next one? But I thought the station was breaking apart. Will another shuttle arrive in time?"

Jerry did not respond. Ayesha's eyes widened with gradual comprehension. It was the Titanic all over again, except in the cold vacuum of space, and this time there was only one lifeboat. She looked back at her son sitting mutely in his seat. Did he know what was happening? Ayesha saw his eyes narrow and knew that he did.

"No!" he shouted. "I'm not a child. This is your seat anyways." He tried to stand, but just then the red warning light came on and he was frozen to his seat by the protective EM energy field. "Tell them to turn it off. I won't go. I won't -- " He struggled in vain against the invisible restraints, the blood vessels bulging in his neck.

"Stop it, Patrick," she called over the sound of the commander's announcement to prepare for departure. "You have to be strong now for the both of us." Tears were flowing down her cheeks. She let them flow. "You have to be an adult, I-1. You've got to..."

She had never called him that before, but she suddenly understood.

I-1.

It wasn't just a name. It was a badge of honor, just as important in his world as a Nobel Prize was in hers. The son she knew, Patrick, was a nobody, just another rich kid. He'd done nothing. He was nothing. But I-1 was a legend. Somewhere in another world, I-1 had done great things, things that others of his generation admired more than splitting an atom or harnessing the miracle of antimatter. Somewhere out there in a world of dreams her son was a hero, and she never even knew his name.

"It's time," Jerry said patiently, grabbing her elbow and leading her away from her frantic son and through the airlock.

Maybe now he would understand, she thought, maybe even forgive her. She wasn't perfect. She knew that. But she cared about him, about his generation.

"Will they make it?" she asked.

"Oh, yes. They'll be fine." Jerry nodded.

Ayesha watched the bright glow of the thrusters fire and the shuttle shrink slowly to a yellow dot through the transparent, nano-diamond observation window. What would the world do now? What would Patrick's generation do? Would they revert back to nuclear power and fossil fuels? Or would they make a better world, start over, learn from the mistakes of their parents and grandparents?

She gazed blankly out the window at the silver space cloud. She still couldn't believe it. IAMC was gone. It had taken a generation to build and only seconds to destroy. Sure, they could rebuild the station, but who was to say it wouldn't just be destroyed again. It was so fragile, just a silver sliver in the vastness of space.

"How did this happen?" she mused half to herself.

"A whiteout."

"What?"

Jerry was still holding her arm, the gallant Astronaut to the end. "A whiteout. It's like a nuclear bomb but without the explosion. Some nut smuggled an EM disruptor into the collector and turned it on, springing the EM field generators like an attic full of mousetraps. A whiteout. Ground said they could see the glow in Melbourne. It was just lucky we'd moved onto the mall by then or we would have been right in the middle of it."

Ayesha struggled to understand. "A bomb? But how is that possible? Who would do such a thing?"

"Oh, I don't know. We received a message just after it went off. Some terrorist whack job calling himself I-1 or something like that. The druid knight. He could have hidden it anywhere. In his pocket, his wallet, a pen -- "

Ayesha felt her throat spasm involuntarily, her legs turn to water. She stumbled forward but Jerry caught her.

"There now, little lady. Keep it together."

Ghostly images in her son's green eyes. His thumb pad. He'd left it behind. He'd left it --

"My son," she mumbled.

"He'll be fine. No need to worry about him. He's halfway to earth by now."

Ayesha felt the station jerk out from under her and Jerry release her arm. She was floating free in zero gravity, people all around her -- Jerry, the white woman -- kicking, screaming. She felt suddenly dizzy and couldn't breathe. Panic welled in her chest, choking her.

Outside the window in the black abyss of space, it was calm, almost peaceful. She saw her ninth-grade science teacher, Mr. Folger, smiling at her with yellow teeth, a silver teaspoon in his yellow hand.

"With this much antimatter I could level Manhattan," he seemed to say, and then vanished in a welcome whistle of air and a blinding flash of light.

THE END


© 2009 David Wright

Bio: David Wright is an English teacher living on Canada’s majestic west coast. His short stories have appeared in over a dozen publications including Neo-opsis Issue 12, MindFlights Issue 1 and Cover of Darkness May 2009.

E-mail: David Wright

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