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Dance Like Nobody's Watching; Love Like You Know It Will Last

Olivia is a writer and editor of video games and fiction. She works at Failbetter Games, where she has written for Fallen London, Sunless Sea: Zubmariner, and Sunless Skies. She was also a contributing writer on the award-winning game Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, a bleak American folktale set in the Depression. This is her first published venture outside interactive fiction. She can often be found on Twitter: @babelfishwars
No one but us thought we'd work out. You with your ley-lines and feng shui; me with my PhD in astrobiology and the weekly column blasting non-skeptics. I found you in the comments section. I'd argued that anyone who discouraged planetary settlements outside our galaxy was willfully ignorant; you felt that people should explore, should search for the source of our "magicks," that we needed to see just how far our spirit could drive us. We both scorned some anonymous poster who'd proclaimed that earthlings should stay on earth.
I was fascinated: how your (correct) conclusion could be reached via such ridiculous opinions. You'd agreed to lunch (a newly opened orbital cafe; I footed the bill). And punctured my pomposity with laughter so cheerful I couldn't be offended. We were like chalk and cheese; yet so immediately happy together.
I bought you your first tarot set. You'd wanted one as long as I'd known you, but you clung to the superstition that you could not buy your own. I went for something I thought you'd find pretty that didn't look too hippy-dippy.
You cried with joy. The gilt-edged one I'd picked was perfect. You said it was a sign, that the cards were already speaking to us. I figured I just knew you well enough to guess your tastes.
The readings were fun. Nonsense, of course, but you lived with me, heard my every gripe about work. Heard my every joy. It was easy to contort my life and yours around the vagueness of the meanings.
The process could be useful. Helped pull out what we were really thinking. Forced us to say aloud the decisions we'd already made. We both knew I'd accept the job. The cards made us admit it. And then they redirected the anger. You could blame the cards, and not the slowly fragmenting pieces of us.
There was no point to you moving out. I was moving further away than you ever could. The rent was covered. And besides, someone had to look after the cat. I wouldn't miss that little rug-ruining shit, but I didn't want him abandoned. I pared down my belongings, sold and donated and sent away. You became the last thing I had left; the first thing I'd truly lost.
You'd never done a reading for me without me. Was that superstition? Or some perverse determination not to invade my privacy? I wouldn't have minded. It would just have been based on how well you knew me. You couldn't have learned anything new.
And yet: the weekend before my flight, you came from your room--it was so long since we'd shared one--pretending you hadn't been crying. You wanted to get me a gift. A goodbye present I could take with me, that I'd never lose. How could I refuse? It was a painless and trivial procedure. We were still friends, of a sort. And what we'd had would always have been.
The Body-Mod and Tattoo Parlor worker had assumed we were a couple--who else would average out their lifelines? You with your old-lady done-the-washing-up many-creased hands; me with my so-smooth-I've-never-worked-looking hands. The inch of your lifeline, filled in. The inch extra carved into my hand.
The silliest, the most stupid present you'd ever given me. And if I thought you believed in palmistry, the sweetest. And still the most stupid.
You can't keep love going when Fate decides it's over.
You can't keep life going when Fate decides it's over.
And yet--as I activate the auto-sequence on the escape pod; as the tired-mist of cryo-freeze comes upon me; as I watch the debris explode away from the main vessel, I wonder:
What did you see in my cards?
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 5th, 2018

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