Aphelion Issue 219, Volume 21
July 2017
 
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The Flower of Time

by Jon Vassa




Jesper sat in an international station high above the Niveus system, in a bar that overlooked the stars. He didn't like to drink and he was unsure as to why he even ordered the pint sitting before him. I guess I don't like standing out, he thought. Not anymore.

The barkeep gave him a sad glance and then turned away to busy himself elsewhere.

A girl at the end of the bar rested her body over the counter with an empty glass of synthetics near her face. She lolled her head across her outstretched arm to look at him. Her eyes were violet and her hair was bright white.

Jesper looked down at his glass of synthetics and began to rub the wet beads forming along its sides. He could see the girl moving in his peripheral vision but chose to ignore the fact.

The girl sat up and pushed the empty glass towards the barman. “How about another,” she said.

The barman took the glass and put it under the counter for a few seconds, then lifted it back up onto the bar.

The girl wrapped her hands around the glass and brought her face down to it, sipping the foam off the top.

Jesper moved his position in the other direction, aiming his back at her. He heard the girl standing from her stool and sliding the glass along the counter.

“Mind if I sit here?” she said.

Jesper looked over his shoulder towards her. “Go ahead.”

She sat down and continued to drink from the top of her glass. Then she turned her eyes upon him for a long amount of time. “You look a bit lost,” she said.

He breathed a sarcastic laugh. “Okay.”

She took another sip from her drink. “So what is it, you ran out fuel?”

“No.”

“Running from the law?”

“My record's clean.”

She sat up on her stool and took another swig of her drink. The glass crashed upon the bar and sloshed some liquid over the sides. “A bit of a vagabond then?”

Jesper breathed in and let it back out.

“No this is your home,” she said. “You live day to day looking for that next great adventure that'll never happen.”

Jesper sighed as he turned his head from her. “Would you leave me alone?”

She curled her lower lip into a pout. “Aww,” she said. “It's heartbreak then. The ole' wife decided to leave you. One day you got home and the kids were gone in a far away system?”

Jesper gripped at his glass.

“So I'm right?”

He laughed. “What do you want from me, a free drink?”

She swirled her finger inside her glass, touching the foam at the top of it. She then took the foam out and greased it along her eyebrows. “I heard about this somewhere,” she said. “Some big company owns most everything in the Niveus system, so that includes synthetic drinks, skin care products, and the list goes on. Apparently they use the same formulas for every product they make, so doing this with a drink will give you the same effect as buying their skin cream.”

Jesper refused to look at her. God, I really hate these rural locations.

“So what is it then? Caught her with another man? Another woman? Or it was a him, and you caught him with another man or woman?”

Jesper took a sip of his drink and placed it firm on the table. “I'm just living out an early retirement. Okay?”

She looked at him raising her eyebrows. “Must've been in a pretty nice line of work. You don't look like the business type though. What was it drugs? Sex slaves?”

He put up his hand up to quiet her. “Finance,” he said. “What is wrong with you? For heaven sakes.”

She bit her lower lip with a squint in her eyes. “I don't believe you,” she said. “You don't seem the type.”

Jesper moved his glass towards the barman and tapped his wrist on a glass pyramid as he stood. The pyramid flashed green, accepting his payment. “Fine,” he said. “Don't believe me.”

She looked at his glass still half-full. “That's wasteful.”

Jesper waved at her. “Then finish it. Have a nice day.” He continued out of the bar and down the stairs to the next terminal. It was upside down from the area he was just in but the gravitational forces kept his feet on the ground.

He went to the nearest window and gazed at the green planet before him. There were two moons orbiting it, each with their own unique characteristics.

The girl had just come through the steps behind him. Jesper turned away from her, trying to focus on the icy moon closest to him.

She stood right by him pushing her hair back over her ears. “What are you plans down there?” she said.

Jesper shook his head. “I have none.”

She laughed. “I don't believe that for a minute. No one ever comes out this far without a plan. Especially drug peddling financiers.”

Jesper moved away from her and started walking down the loop track that wrapped around the entire station.

She jumped to follow alongside him. “I think you're after something,” she said. “What've you heard about this place? I wanna know.”

“Nothing,” he said. “I'm just stopping in to rest.”

“I doubt that. You've been in this station for the past two weeks now. You're looking for something down there.”

He pursed his lips and continued walking through the glass covered walkway.

“I'm a guide you know?”

“That's nice.”

“I can take you to the flowers.”

Jesper stopped. The blinking stars filled the roof above them and the icy moon shone bright on its dark canvas. “It's a myth,” he said. “It never existed did it?”

She walked around the side of him to look him in the eye. “That's what we say to most people,” she said. “We don't need our planets turning into a tourist wasteland. We have something that's lost in the galaxy now days.”

Jesper raised his eyebrow to her. “And what's that?”

“Respect,” she said. “Dignity. Pride in something other than cash. I know you're not a tourist. I've watched you the past two weeks. You want to see the flowers. And I know that.”

Jesper wet his dry lips and then gave her an honest look. “You're serious?” he said.

She nodded.

“What do you want then?”

“I'll take you there for free as long as you have your own transport.”

He gave a snide laugh. “What is this? I'm not going with you under these conditions.”

“Most people would jump at the chance.”

“I've met your kind,” he said. “Lure me down to the planet and take everything I've got. I'm not stupid. Go find some wide eyed kid for that.”

She took hold of his arm as he tried to move away. “You can pay me what you think its worth at the end,” she said. “I don't work for an upfront cost. But it's polite to tip a guide, you see?”

Jesper pulled his arm out from her grip and wiped at his sleeve. “All right,” he said. “That sounds better.”

“You have your own transport then?”

“Of course.”

“Show me,” she said.

He put his hand out towards the nearest exit. “This way.”

They took the stairs up through the terminal and went to the self-storage hanger. It was run down with a lack of veneer and there was a faint smell of mildew mixing with chemical leaks inside it.

Jesper went up the metal ladder to where his compact ship was. He stood there waiting for her to join him on the walkway.

She climbed up and looked at it. “No wonder you stay in the stations,” she said. “How'd you get that thing out here anyhow?”

“Having second thoughts are we?”

“I don't care,” she said. “As long as you can navigate it.”

Jesper went to the ship and unlatched the station's lock from it. He then clicked open the door and waved for her to step in. She slid into the craft as he followed behind her. There was little room for them to move. It was equipped with two seats that were comfortable enough, on short trips.

“What's your name?” he said.

“Lia. You?”

“Jesper.”

She looked into his eyes with her bright violet gaze. “Jesper. Like Vesper?”

“No.”

“Fine. So Jesper, why have you come to this planet? What do you hope to find, besides a nice flower?”

He swallowed as his lips began to quiver. He then looked at the controls in his ship and touched the closet panel to him. “It was a story I heard,” he said. “A long time ago. So I put it on my list of things to do before I died.”

She stared at him for some time. “But why this one? There are few people who even know about it. Who was it that told you?”

Jesper laughed as his chest began to burn. He shook his head. “It doesn't matter. Just an old acquaintance. Nobody important.”

“They sound important,” she said. “Otherwise you wouldn't be so closed.”

Jesper sighed and clicked a button to open the door. “Never mind,” he said. “I don't even know if I want to do this. Maybe we should forget the whole thing.”

She reached out to touch his arm. “Okay. Don't tell me then. But whatever your reasons are, you'll have to deal with that along the way. All right?”

He looked down at the controls and then his bag, resting under his seat. He pushed the bag back and then shut the door down again. “I'm tired of wandering,” he said. “Seven years now and I don't know how to do anything else.”

She gently cleared her throat. “There's nothing wrong with wandering.”

“I know. I know. It's just that. . . “

She raised one of her eyebrows and gave a soft nod.

He let out a deep sigh. “I set out to finish a kind of bucket list seven years back and I never expected to make it all the way to the end.” He left his mouth open as he paused. “And I don't know if I'm ready for it end.”

She continued to rub his arm with her thumb. “It's your choice then. I won't push you.”

They sat in the ship for some time before he touched a few of the controls to clear them for departure. A machine picked up their craft and drew them towards one of the exits in the hanger's wall. They were placed inside a giant metal chamber, sealed inside it.

The chamber was dark with only one red light blinking in the corner. It flickered a few times waiting to send them out into space.

“I hate this life,” he said. “But I'm afraid I'll hate anything else after it. I'm ready to move on and yet I don't know anything more beyond it.”

Her eyes reflected the red light shining outside their ship. “I'm just a guide,” she said. “I don't know what to tell you.”

Jesper sighed as he put his face inside the palms. “It's not your problem,” he said. “I should just shut up.”

“It's okay.”

Jesper pulled his arm away from her and turned on the ship. It began to rumble as the yellow jets lit up the chamber. The light above them turned green and the walls pulled apart. The craft was sucked out into the vacuum of space with an aimless drift.

“Maybe there's something better after this,” she said. “People change. They can rebuild themselves and steer their lives any direction they choose.”

Jesper laughed. “Anywhere they choose. I've lived long enough to see it. But I don't have anything to choose other than this damn list.”

They were quiet in the void of space. The stars were bright with their flickering wonder. The planet ahead of them shined with a green vibrancy, while its moons drifted around it with praise of its being.

Jesper turned the ship towards the planets and let gravity have its way with them. “It's on the smaller moon?” he said.

“Yes and no,” she said. “There's more to the ceremony than just watching them bloom there. We need to go the mother planet first.”

Jesper directed the ship towards the main planet and then turned the autopilot on.


* * *
They landed on the luscious green mother planet in the northern foothills. Jesper took caution to secure his craft with an AIL approved storage facility, just for insurance purposes.

Lia took him through the small town on a dinky hovertrain and then she rented a hover bike for the rest of their trip. They reached a large mountain and parked at the base of it, right in front of a path of long winding steps.

“You can't be serious,” he said. “There has to be another way up there other than steps.”

“You want the flower then you've got to go through the ritual. They won't allow you pick from the trees if you don't.”

Jesper looked up the endless stairs and sighed. “Why the hell am I doing this?”

“You don't have to.”

Jesper fixed his bag around his shoulder and looked at the path. “How long will take?”

“Two days.”

“Fine.”

They began their trek up the mountain. The steps were steep and made of a rich stone with a regal coloration. When they reached halfway up the mountain, they stopped in at a small village to rest up on the hill.

Jesper sat in a little hut watching the world below them. There were a few lights shining down near the valley. Most were gathered around the spaceport in the distance. He only saw a handful ships making a landing or leaving throughout the night.

He didn't know why it was so difficult to sleep. The air was fresh and the village calm. His guide rested well beside him. But he sat up most of the night watching the silent valley. He saw a thin fog draw over the lights, reminding him of an old painting he once saw.

“You'd like this,” he said. “This would be the kind of journey you'd like to do. I often wonder if you already have. Without me?”

Lia stirred on her mat and turned towards him. “What is it,” she said. “Did you say something?”

Jesper continued to look out at the scene beneath them. “No,” he said.

“Get your rest. It's a long trip tomorrow.”

He nodded. “Right.”

She lay back down and closed her eyes.

Jesper did the same. It felt as if he'd just lay down when the sun rose. He sat up and saw the fog growing thick around the mountain's base, blanketing the village below from their sights.

“If we leave now we might be able to reach the summit by dusk,” she said.

Jesper nodded and fixed his leather bag around his back.

They left the little village with a few parting gifts. An old woman gave him some rice-like snacks that were formed into triangular shapes. As he ate them on the way up, he was surprised to find they were filled with fermented vegetables.

“Why is it so important for you to see the flowers?” Lia asked.

Jesper took his last bite of food and continued walking in silence. The sun was warm on his back but it didn't burn his skin, as the air was cool enough at this time of year. The steps began to wind around the mountain ridges, bypassing the steep cliffs.

“You still haven't answered me,” she said. “What makes these flowers so important for you?”

“It's just on my list. That's all.”

“People don't put this on their lists without a reason,” she said. “The trip isn't fun and most of the galaxy is unaware of it. You've obviously heard of it from someone well -travelled.”

“Sure,” he said. “I heard it from someone like that.”

“What made you believe them? It could still be a myth.”

Jesper paused to take a drink of water. He looked back down at the trail they'd already passed. The fog was clearing in the midday sun and the little village below them started to burn stacks of wood that carried a redolent scent up the mountain.

She stood there looking at him. “You don't have to tell me then,” she said. “But you do need a reason to tell the priest when we get to the temple.”

“Lists aren't reason enough?”

“No,” she said. “This is important to us. We don't let just anyone take part in it. There's a history behind it. People used to make the trip for their own inner purposes, rather than just keeping themselves busy, or finishing lists.”

Jesper kept his eyes on the village beneath them. He smelt the wood charring below. “What were the reasons in the past?”

“I can't tell you,” she said. “I've told others before and they ended up repeating exactly what I'd said to the old priest. It put me in an awkward position. So you have to know your reason. And it has to be sound.”

Jesper nodded as he started climbing up the steps. “I feel it is,” he said. “I guess we'll see if the old priest does too.”

She began climbing as well.

They ploughed up the winding stairs as the sun fell behind the mountain and the skies turned grey. Lia had a powerful light upon her head that lit their steps the rest of the way up to the temple.

A single orange lantern hung in the entrance, casting a soft glow upon its arches. They stood next to the entrance waiting to go in. She took off her shoes and asked him to the do the same.

They went through the archway and bowed their heads at a statue sitting inside the temple. The ceiling was open with a large circular hole in the top, and the walls were made of sticks with nothing in but twine holding them together. A cool breeze flowed through the temple and out the open roof, causing a slight whistle as they moved.

A man exited the main temple and approached them both. His hands were full of glass and wooden beads as he bowed to them. They returned the gesture. “Sikarth,” he said.

Lia responded with the same.

Jesper tried to repeat it as well, but it sounded foreign.

“It's okay,” said the priest. “I know your language; I studied on Cipoas for many years.”

“Oh.”

“Why have you come here?”

Jesper looked at her and then the priest. “For the flower,” he said. “And why have you come for the flower?”

“It's a quest of mine. A journey of sorts.”

The priest shook his head with a smile. “No,” he said. “This is not why you have come. You already know why you're here. None of us are on a journey without a purpose.”

Jesper closed his mouth.

Lis looked at him with her violet eyes. “Tell him,” she said. “It's the only way.”

Jesper looked between them again. “All right,” he said. “But I'll tell you in private.”

Lia shook her head and looked away from him.

The priest bowed and opened his hands towards the main temple.

Jesper glanced at her a moment. “It's nothing personal,” he said.

She shrugged her shoulders, refusing to look at him. “Obviously it is to you.”

He didn't say anything more; he just went with the priest into the temple. He told the man what his journey was about and how he'd been drifting for the past seven years.

“Why have you drifted for so long?” the priest asked.

Jesper touched his wrist hologram and showed the list of all the places he'd scratched off along his way. “I made this at one point, with someone I cared for. We both planned on finishing it together one day, but we never made it to that point. And when we fell apart, it was all I cared to do. To pretend like we were doing it together as we once planned. Maybe it's a bit mental but if you knew what it meant to us when we met. You'd understand.”

The priest closed his eyes as he nodded. He touched Jesper right above the bridge of his nose. He then placed his thumbs upon his eyebrows, running them along them to his temples. His eyes opened again. “I know what you are saying,” he said. “I've felt men like you before.”

“I'm not sure I'm ready for it to end.”

The priest looked into his eyes. “You are,” he said. “There is new life for you on the other side.”

“I don't feel it. I don't see it.”

“You don't have to. It's already waiting for you.”

Jesper felt his eyes burning. His heart pulsed in a way he'd buried himself from.

“Now tell me,” said the priest. “What does it mean to you now?”

Jesper opened his mouth as his throat clenched. “Closure?”

The priest smiled at him. “Many have gone through what you have. Our hearts can make strong bonds that are painfully ended.”

Jesper breathed in the cool air. His eyes were flush, without any tears.

The priest nodded and brought his hands back to his side. He then took him outside to another area of the temple, where a large tree grew out of the ground, with a circular row of black stones around it, and some pieces of pieces of paper wrapped to its branches. The leaves and the papers fluttered in the winds and a pair of chimes rang throughout the temple.

The priest stood near the tree, touching its smooth bark as he said a prayer. When he finished he drew a small piece of paper from his robes and handed it to Jesper. “Find the piece of fruit that speaks to you,” he said. “Then ask if its willing to accompany you on your journey. If you feel it does, it'll release from its branch with ease. If not, then pray to another. When you're done, you must then replace your prayer on the branch, which you took the fruit from.”

Jesper held the thin piece of paper as he looked up at the sacred tree.

The priest waved him over.

Jesper looked up at all the deep red spheres, trying to spot the perfect one. He spotted one and prayed to it. He then reached up and took it down with little resistance. A bright green sap dripped from the stem and onto the black stones that circled the tree.

“Now replace it with your prayer,” said the priest.

Jesper set the hard-shelled fruit down and tied his prayer where it'd once grown.

The priest smiled at him.


* * *
Jesper went back to the main entrance with his fruit in hand and a new shawl given to him by the priest.

She looked at him for a moment and then gave a faint laugh.

“What is it?” he said.

She shook her head. “Nothing.”

Jesper looked at the large fruit in his hand and then up at her. “What's next?” he said.

“There's another village on the other side, just an hours walk from here. We'll rest there tonight and then head back to ship in the morning.”

Jesper was lost in his own thoughts for a moment, forgetting to respond.

“What did he tell you?” she said.

He shook out of the trance. “Oh,” he said. “That I'm not the only one.”

She looked at him and then the red fruit in his hands. “Are you ready?”

“Okay.”


* * *
They went back to the spaceport passing through the small town in the valley. Jesper was starting to pick up some new words through his passing. There was one in particular that seemed to be most common around him. Guaalma. He didn't know what it meant but the majority of people he encountered on this planet used it frequently around him.

Jesper paid his fees at the cheapest storage station in the spaceport and climbed back into his ship. Lia came along with him, being careful to tend to the red fruit. Its outer shell was dense with a soft feel to it, like a fresh coconut.

The hanger brought them to the smallest launch pad in the station. A countdown began as ground control cleared them to leave. There was almost no wait due to the spaceport's low traffic. The ship took off and broke through the mesosphere into the dark spaces between the celestial bodies.

They directed the ship to the largest moon orbiting the mother planet and rested for some time as the autopilot took control. Jesper leant his seat back turning it into a small bed. Lia did the same. She moved her body to the side as she lay there looking at him.

Jesper felt uncomfortable and turned his head up to stare at the ceiling.

“What did you tell the priest?” she said.

“Same thing.”

“You're a bit naive to your surroundings, especially to those of us who live here.”

“It's true. I told him about the list. Then he touched my head and told me he knew my pain.” Jesper sighed as if he didn't care to tell her this.

“You're hurting?”

“No. That's what he said.”

“He could tell?”

“No. I'm not hurting. I'm fine. Let it rest.”

Jesper turned the lights down inside the ship, leaving only a few controls to shine blue and green. Jesper closed his eyes and crossed his arms around his leather bag on his chest.

“You can tell me,” she said. “As a guide I'm supposed to help with these things too.”

Jesper gripped tightly at his bag. “You're doing fine,” he said. “Take me to where I need to go and we'll keep it at that. I'm not hurt. I'm fine.”

She leant back in her chair and closed her mouth.

Jesper stared at the ceiling above him as the blue and green lights flickered upon it. “I can handle it myself,” he said. “I'm just tired is all. That's it.”

She didn't respond.

They ship was quiet for some time and both of them fell into a soft rest. They only woke again when the ship reached the moon's atmosphere. Jesper pushed his seat back up and took control of the ship.

Lia watched him navigate with quiet reserve.

The moon before them was red with a few blue lines running across it like veins on an inflamed eye.

Jesper started the beaconing system and aligned the ship with the appropriate spaceport. The craft descended and landed without any harm. They were put in the cheapest area and given permission to enter the lands.

Lia took him through a large train station and onto the fastest train they could. The inhabitants of this moon spoke the same language as their mother world did. Jesper kept hearing the word Guaalma. He thought about asking Lia but soon let it fade away from his mind. He assumed it meant foreigner as is often the first word he learns on a new planet.

They rode the train late into the night, disembarking when the sun was only contemplating its rise. They got out at an abandoned looking station that had long weeds growing out of the cracks and great blotches of rot lining most of the walls. There were no barriers to keep them from the tracks below it was all open to elements of nature.

Lia glanced at him. “Be careful with the fruit,” she said. “Don't let it fall out of your hands. Okay?”

“Sure.”

Lia then jumped down onto the empty tracks and looked up at him. “Let's go,” she said.

Jesper fixed his bag behind him with caution and secured the fruit in his hands. He approached the edge and hopped down beneath the tracks and then rushed to follow behind her. They walked for an hour through the barren expanse, passing by a few twigs that grew out of the broken desert. The only living creature he saw was a giant lizard that scampered away from them and into a briar patch.

“How did you find this place?” he said. “Are you related to the priest or something?”

“No. You're not the only one doing this trip. We all have our reasons.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes.”

The sun began to rise over the horizon lighting up the orange desert. There were great cliffs in the distances and a small river, flowing up ahead of them.

Lia drew towards the river and looked down its stream. There was a small outpost of dome-shaped homes out gathered alongside it. “This is the second step,” she said. “I won't tell you what she'll ask, but if your reasons are valid, she'll help you open it.”

Jesper held the fruit close to his chest and stared at the homes in the distance. He pat it with his hand a few times before following behind her again.

When they reached the village they were greeted by an older woman with blue cataracts in her eyes. She was picking tubular roots out of the desert ground as they approached her. The old lady stopped, sensing their presences, and spoke a greeting to them.

Lia greeted her in the common language and seemed to be telling her of their situation. They spoke for a long time and only paused when the old lady looked at Jesper.

The lady came over to him and touched the shawl he'd been given by the priest. She spoke to him with a thick accent, that made it difficult to understand. “I already know you,” she said. “I've seen you here before. Maybe not in the same body but you've travelled to me from time to time.”

Jesper looked down into her clouded eyes. “Then you'll help me?” he said.

“It depends on why you've come. I've turned you away before. When the reason is weak, the ceremony won't give you what you want. It won't fulfil you, as you've asked before. You have to tell me why it's important to you and only then can I know.”

Jesper pursed his lips and sighed out his nose. He looked at the river a moment, as it lapped over the larger rocks. “What do you want to know?”

“Why is this important to you?”

Lia lingered behind them with her ear angled towards them.

Jesper continued glancing at the river. “I guess its closure like I told the priest. The ending of an era.”

“No,” she said. “Why are you lost?”

“I'm not lost,” he said.

“Then I can't help you.” The old woman turned to walk away.

Jesper held onto her shoulder. “I'm lost,” he said. “I admit it.”

She turned back around. “Why are you lost?”

“I don't know.”

“Yes you do. Why did you lose yourself in the first place?”

Jesper looked at the river then Lia. Her violet eyes were honest upon him. He opened his mouth to speak. “To avoid the pain,” he said. “To get rid of that feeling. To outrun it while keeping myself busy.”

The woman nodded her head as she touched the red fruit in his hands. “And have you dealt with the pain?”

“It”s dealt with me. For the past seven years.”

The old woman sighed and reached up to touch his cheeks. “Durfalt nos yipvil,” she said. “iiemlqn tlivoes aaoe poul.”

Jesper felt his heart racing in his chest. He didn't know what it meant but he could feel her words inside himself. He swallowed and glanced at Lia. “What did she say?”

Lia shook her head. “It's not my place to tell you.”

The woman dropped her hands from his face and gently took the fruit from him. “Follow me,” she said.

The old woman took him to the river and placed the spherical fruit in between two tall stones that jutted out of the water. The fruit fell down slowly until it began to roll in the rivers current between the stones, gradually losing its coloration.

When it turned pure white the old lady took hold of it and jabbed her thumbs into its head, pulling away the outer husk, and ripping out a dark blue seed covered in yellow mucous. She wiped the mucous away, tossing it into the river, and then handed the seed to Jesper. “May you find your peace,” she said. “May you find your new way of life after this.”

Jesper held it with reverence as he stared at it.

The old lady touched the top of his head and then swished him away. “Go,” she said. “Don't waste time. You have already done it. So don't think anymore of it.”

“Thank you,” he said.

“Go.”

He backed away thanking her again and again. Lia took hold of his arm and guided him back up the river's stream. A giant scorpion quickly snapped at them by it in the river stream, and then went back into the water when it realized they weren't there to harm it. Jesper kept turning back to watch it as they headed for the train station.

When they reached the abandoned train station, Lia spoke to him. “Why are you in so much pain?”

Jesper shook his head. “I'm not.”

“You are,” she said. “They all know it. You've even said it yourself.”

“I'll tell you when it's done.”

She looked up into his eyes as a soft wind toss grains of sand against their skin. “You promise?” “Yes.”

She looked up at him in the dim station but didn't say anything.


* * *
They launched out of the hanger up past the atmosphere. The ship directed towards the second moon, on the opposing side of the mother planet. Jesper was nervous approaching the small icy moon. It felt unreal. Seven years and a completion was about to happen.

There was only one spaceport on the white moon. It was situated on a small island that was surrounded by glaciers of ice. Beyond it was a dark blue ocean with ice caps floating through the black currents.

Jesper followed Lia down through the icy land to a tiny port with only a few ships. She talked with one of the ships and got a ferry passage to a neighboring island, where the ceremony was to end.

As they rode through the ice caps and towards the new island, Jesper thought back to the word Guaalma, as he kept hearing it, even on the boat. “What does Guaalma mean?” he asked.

She smiled at him and then touched the shawl given to him by the priest. “It means lost soul.”

Jesper glanced at her hands on his shawl. “How do they know that?”

“Because the priest only gives this to people he considers lost.”

Jesper put his head down and held tight to his bag and the seed in his hand. “I guess he could tell.”

“We all can.”

Night surrounded them on this moon. The sun didn't touch it the way it did the other two bodies that orbited its glow. When they woke up from their rest the lights were still dim outside, with the sun barely gracing the white land.

When they reached the neighboring island, they rented a mobile transport, to keep them safe on their arctic journey. They rode out for miles across the land until they reached a place where only snow gathered atop the grounds. She stopped the vehicle and gave him some gear to withstand the cold. “Ready?”

He held his bag and the seed closer to his chest.

Lia went out into the snow and began to dig away the white flakes. She then dug in the ground pulling large clumps of frozen dirt, until there was a well-rounded hole. She stood back up and looked at him. “This is it,” she said. “Once you plant it, the process will begin, and there's no stopping it. So make sure your wish or prayer is strong in your mind. Otherwise it might go amiss. Do you understand?”

He nodded but he didn't move.

“Go ahead,” she said. “It's time.”

He couldn't move.

“Jesper?”

He shook his head with tears in his eyes. “I miss her so much,” he said.

“It's time to let her go. Say your prayer and let yourself rest.”

Jesper stepped towards the hole and opened his bag, taking out a clay urn, placing it next to it. He broke the top of the urn and poured some of the ashes on the ground, then dropped the seed in with it.

At last he covered the hole over with the remaining dirt and snow then stood back up.

The ground began to glow with a blue warmth. Then it shined out of the dirt as the plant's stem broke through the soil. A bud lifted into the air with wisps of vapor surrounding it. Then another stem rose. It was endless how many stems rose out of the ground, each of them shining bright blue in the arctic world.

A tear ran down his eye, freezing upon his skin. “I wish you were here,” he said. “I should've taken you here and made it happen like I promised. Why did you have to leave me like this?”

The field began to glow as the buds opened with a luminous shine. Every flower had a brilliant blue coloration with red veins pulsing inside their thin skin.

“I'm sorry,” he said. “I'm sorry we grew so serious. I'm sorry I couldn't take you on the journey we'd promised each other. It was my fault. We didn't need all those things. We didn't need them.”

The flowers then emitted a yellow blast of bright pollen that shined like stars in the sky. It drifted high above the field and whipped along the spiraling current in the winds.

Jesper fell to the ground with tears running down his eyes. He tipped the urn over, allowing the winds to take the remaining ashes with them. He cried while the dark particles of his former love mixed with the bright yellow beads of pollen. “We can both start again,” he whispered. “And I'll find you out there. I promise.”

Lia stood behind him with respect for his journey.

The flowers pulsed in the dark skies and the ashes speckled the air, binding with glints of pollen.

“Go rest,” he said. “It's finished.”

.

THE END


2017 Jon Vassa

Bio: Mr. Jon Vassaan is a SF writer whose fiction are forthcoming in Crimson Streets Magazine and Fiction Vortex (2017). He currently lives in Singapore and enjoys reading whenever he gets the chance.

E-mail: Jon Vassa

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