Starbound

 

by Alex A. Kecskes

 

Chapter 1 

 

         Emilio Sanchez saw something.

 

         It was too long in duration for lightning. And when he waited for the crack, there was none. He'd climbed atop the Nazca Observation Tower for a routine safety check. An explosion of stars filled the sky. A meteor arced across the heavens. But they were nothing compared to the streak of blinding light that shot, ruler-straight, into the stratosphere. Emilio scrubbed a hand across his face, let out a breath, and shook his head. Too many margaritas.

 

         Sometimes Jonathan McDaniels stares at the framed photo. Sarah is smiling that 'I know what you're thinking' smile, her eyes blue as a cloudless sky. Her hair, like honey in sunlight.  Life was very good with her. Before she was diagnosed. His eyes move across the room to his life today. A box with a half-eaten pizza; beer cans stacked into a tower on the floor; an ashtray overflowing with cigarettes. He'd started smoking again. He watches a fly disappear into an air vent. Mornings like this make him want to disappear—somewhere.

         He opens his laptop and plugs in a thumb drive.

         Don’t, Jon.

         A title appears: Sarah’s 32nd Birthday. The video shows her sitting on a recliner.  She looks disoriented, overwhelmed. Friends and family surround her amidst a shower of balloons and flowers. Jonathan hands her a birthday card.  She opens it and struggles to read it.  “...ho...hope you…get bet...ter soon. Hap--Hap...Happy Birth…Birthday!” She grins. Her eyes and smile don’t match, the tumor in her brain wreaking havoc. She was close to the end.  Applause and cheers erupt from all in the room. Jonathan hands her a present. She hesitates in taking it from him. She is confused by the all excitement. “Here, honey, here.” Jonathan helps her, guides her hands. She struggles to open it.

         He stops the video. It freezes on her face, a once loving intelligent countenance now empty and twisted by confusion. His eyes well up. He shakes his head and slowly closes the laptop.