Crossing the Gulf

Here is a brief attempt to articulate a story, as well as a milieu, that has been bouncing around in my head for a few years. It speaks to what I think is a common emotion — that of failing to understand those whom you love most, and failing o articulate that love

Thomas stood on the front porch and watched the flyer descend into the yard. It made no sound, nor did it produce even the slightest force. Not so much as a blade of grass bent under whatever power propelled it. It’s mere presence was power enough to scatter the goats and set Blue to barking madly, however.

Once it had stopped descending a meter from the ground, Thomas stepped off the porch and hushed Blue with a snap of his fingers. As the side of the ovoid craft melted to become an opening and a ramp, he pulled up his sleeves and set his fists on his hips.

The alien person was unsettling, bald and pale and somehow indescribably synthetic, but mostly familiar. Walking down the ramp to the grass, he regarded the cowering goats and grumbling Blue with an expression of near-recognition or remembrance. Looking at Thomas, his expression softened and became almost human.

“Thomas, brother, am I too late?” He asked tonelessly.

“Yes, Rob,” said Thomas, trying to remain as placid and indifferent as his former brother. The corners of his mouth and eyes betrayed him. “Dad died last week.”

Though his emotion neither registered on his face nor in his voice, what Rob said next was as heartfelt as anything Thomas had uttered amidst his tears at the funeral. “I am sorry I could not be here.”

Thomas clenched his jaw and swallowed the tremor in his throat. “Space is big,” he said flatly.

Rob cocked his head. He recognized the statement and understood how Thomas had meant it. Whatever pleasure the barb might have given Thomas melted when when Rob replied, “Not as vast as some gulfs, it seems.”

Thomas blinked rapidly. He crossed his arms tightly and slouched a little. He shushed Blue gently, then cleared his throat.

“It’s not my fault I was born this way, Tom,” said Rob.

“I know,” said Thomas, and did. Rob was not talking about the pale, shiny skin or the synthetic flesh. He was talking about who he was, how he was. Thomas had always been earthy and easy, where Rob had been distant and uncertain. Thomas had always been like Dad, where Rob had not.

“You did the right thing, Rob. Going into space. Going through the change, I mean.”

“I was lucky,” said Rob matter-of-factly. “My nature–” the word was stilted “–allowed me to go.”

Thomas nodded.

“Sometimes I think I should not have.”

Thomas shook his head. “No, Rob, it’s okay. It’s good. You’re going to see things–”

For the first time, Rob’s face beamed with emotion. “I have! The rings of Saturn and the seas of Titan!”

Thomas smiled. “I’m glad, Rob. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry I judged you when you left.”

“When I left you and Dad,” Rob added, unbidden. “I am sorry, too.” He scanned the yard and his strange, seemingly unseeing eyes landed on one of the bleating kids as it nuzzled for its mother’s teat. “You have seen thing, too, I think.”

Thomas relaxed, uncrossing his arms and straightening. He smiled. “Yes, I have.”

Rob said, “I only have a few hours before we leave for The Belt.”

“Oh,” said Thomas. Nearly a minute passed. Thomas added, “Come in for coffee?”

“I don’t–”

“I know.”

Rob regarded Thomas again in his distant way, then the little goat, and Thomas again. “I would like that.”

“Good,” said Rob. “You can tell me about Titan.” He paused. “Dad was asking.”


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