After Earth

alien_scape

‘Do you ever miss Earth?’

Blue stands at the console, leaning over the platform at an angle. In her coat with her thin legs and arms, she looks like an alien insect, and her question is almost humorous.

‘I have a memory,’ says Danny. ‘Of a grey wooden fence and a green yard. The air is cool, morning air, but it’s still dim and the colors seem mute but alive, like they’re waking up. I was very young; so young I couldn’t express what I felt in words but only in looking. I felt I was home because it was all I knew, all I desired to know, and I was in my father’s arms. Sometimes I think that is all it takes, for home. A sense of the familiar, and loved ones to share it.’ He pauses. ‘I don’t know if that was Earth.’

‘You don’t know where you were born?’

Her intrigue is plain. She is no longer looking at the navigation screen but turns fully towards him, watching him. At her interest he smiles, but it’s an amusement at his own expense rather than hers.

‘I come from a family of tale-tellers,’ he says. ‘We all had histories. And whether I was born here or there was nothing to the wild stories of being raised on a star a thousand light years from Cork. We moved to a unit more Earth not before I was six. But I always remember that little green place.’

‘You miss it.’ It was a flat statement. There was no pity, no wonder or disappointment—nothing but calm observance.

‘Are you asking if I’m ever homesick?’ He leans against a panel. Her dispassion doesn’t surprise or upset him. It is almost as if she is as alien as she looks, and he does not blame her for her distance. ‘I was very homesick once,’ he says. ‘More for an ideal, I think, than fact. But when it hit, it hit hard, and I learned to bear and overcome it. ’T was that or despair. Despair is a vice, a luxury, I couldn’t afford.’

Her eyes hold him. They are intense.

‘How did you bear it?’

Mr. Danny realizes there is more to this than curiosity. He had wondered before, but now his is sure. He does not know if she is hurting or why she should, but he will answer her honestly.

‘By promising myself I would return,’ he said, ‘if not in this life then the next. I will find that green place again. And that is how I bear it—because I have not forgotten it, and pray God I never will.’

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