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Forever and Always

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On average, the core temperature of my ship is 84°F, with the internal temperature being a much cooler 73°F, and those are the stats the computer is giving me, even though the air the vents are putting out is quite a bit closer to 100°F, so I call for my daughter, as she is the only computer expert on board.

Ellie bounds into the room, looking just as she did ten years ago, as a child, and I can't help but to smile at her. I'm lucky, I know, to have a daughter like her.

"What is the problem, Daddy?", she asks me.

"Have you noticed the heat in here?'

Ellie frowns. "The read out is average, steady at 84, 73. Normal. What is wrong?"

"The vents are putting out hot air - it's like the heat is cranked all the way."

Ellie shook her head. "No, Daddy. Settings are all normal. It should feel cool in here. Would you like me to check all systems? I may be able to find the flaw."

"Yes, please, Ellie."

"Alright. I will perform a complete check of all systems. Why don't you rest, Daddy, while I work here?"

I laugh. "You're only seventeen, Ellie, and yet you sound so formal. Why don't you ever talk like a girl your age would?"

"I have never met a girl my age, Daddy. How would you like me to talk?"

"Oh, I don't know. You get to work, I'll see you in a few."

"Yes, Daddy."

Carolyn, I hope you can see our little girl. She's gorgeous, you would be so proud of her, so proud...

I am in the control room, trying to get the outside sensors working. They've been on the fritz these last few days, alerting at nothing, and I am trying to reprogram them, before something comes up that needs sensing.

I can hear Carolyn reading to Ellie from around the hallway. Carolyn's voice rings out, loud and clear, and I can almost see them, curled up tight on Ellie's bed, reading...

"Good night stars, good night air, good night noises everywhere."

And I can hear the book shut, and hear Ellie plead, One more time, Mommy. One more time.

I can hear my wife laughing as she opens the book, and begins again:

"In the great green room, there was a telephone, and a red balloon and a picture of -"

And I can hear the thump of something heavy hitting the ship, and all the alerts buzzing, and the sound of the doors sliding shut, and all I can do is pound at the door of the adjoining hallway while my ship repeats

Hull stress in section B, depressurizing all cabins. I repeat, Hull stress in section B, depressurizing all cabins. Please remain seated until further notice.

After what seems like an eternity, the hall door slides open, and I step out. The hall is chilly, so I go back to my quarters to grab extra blankets - no doubt Carolyn and Ellie will need them - before hurrying to Ellie's room.

The room is quiet. Ellie lies, fast asleep on the bed, curled around her favorite book, Goodnight Moon, and her mother -

Carolyn lies on the floor, her head at an awkward angle, her limbs jumbled.

I am beyond grateful Ellie is asleep, and carry her into my room.

I seal off Ellie's quarters, and tells the ship to lock them.

After Carolyn dies, I spend an insurmountable amount of time with Ellie, I do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. I teach her how to reprogram the computers, how to set the destination, how to override the auto pilot, so that she can steer the ship anywhere in the universe. She could sail the ship into the sun, if she wanted.

After Carolyn died, I keep the heaters on, full blast. I keep the internal temperature of my ship at 100°F, and when that still feels cold, I sets the computer readouts so that they consistently read 73°F as the internal temperature, and I take off the autopilot.

I return to the control room to find my daughter still at work.

"All systems are blocked," she tells me. "I cannot find a back door, all entrances are blocked. The computer is in lockdown mode, I cannot get past with out tripping the alarms and shutting down the whole ship. You taught me, Daddy. Did you rewire the system without telling me?"

"No."

"Wait - I have found something."

At that point, the computers come online.

Autopilot disengaged. Autopilot disengaged. Engines are overheating. System shut down in five - four - three - two - one. Systems off.

And then the whole bridge is off, lit only softly by a glowing green light.

It's hot, here, too hot, and I can feel my shoes melting into the bridge. I reach out to reboot the engines, but when I touch the controls, they burn my hand.

"Ellie - Ellie - what happened? What went wrong?"

Ellie doesn't answer.

"Ellie?"

She's gone, and even after I run all through the ship, I can't find her, she's nowhere, she's gone, my baby girl, gone.

I can hear Carolyn reading to Ellie from around the hallway. Carolyn's voice rings out, loud and clear, and I can almost see them, curled up tight on Ellie's bed, reading...

"Good night stars, good night air, good night noises everywhere."

And I can hear the book shut, and hear Ellie plead, One more time, Mommy. One more time.

I can hear my wife laughing as she opens the book, and begins again:

"In the great green room, there was a telephone, and a red balloon and a picture of -"

And I can hear the thump of something heavy hitting the ship, and all the alerts buzzing, and the sound of the doors sliding shut, and all I can do is pound at the door of the adjoining hallway while my ship repeats

Hull stress in section B, depressurizing all cabins. I repeat, Hull stress in section B, depressurizing all cabins. Please remain seated until further notice.

After what seems like an eternity, the hall door slides open, and I step out. The hall is chilly, so I go back to my quarters to grab extra blankets - no doubt Carolyn and Ellie will need them - before hurrying to Ellie's room.

The room is quiet. Ellie lies on the bed, curled around her favorite book, Goodnight Moon. She looks so peaceful, so I pick her up and carry her to my room, and the blood on her, that's her mother's so I wipe it off, and hold her tight, and cry.

I seal off Ellie's quarters, and tell the ship to lock them.

I turn off the autopilot, and I program the ship's course to send us somewhere warmer, since it's so cold here, now.

I look at my daughter, and she's holographic, she's glowing with this mad green intensity, and I reach out to touch her, but I can't; she's not there, she's just a picture, and my hand goes straight through, and all I feel in the metal of the wall on the other side of her.

The projector sputters and goes out, and my daughter is gone, and now it's just me, and this ship that used to be our home, and the waves rocking me, rocking me.




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Memalion said...
Aug. 15, 2010 at 9:24 pm:
Hey, I've read a good number of your pieces now because I saw 'Breakup Letter' on the homepage, and I have to say this is my favorite so far. I love the twist ending! Don't stop writing, please.
 
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