art by Jason Stirret
by Devin Miller
"My job as a father, Jalel," he told me one morning, "is to leave you better off than I was."
It was a cold morning. On this planet, called Apella, the winters lasted years. Frost clung to some of the heartiest vegetation ever studied, and in their shadows, small animals sent up puffs of white dust in their quest for buried food.
We went through our flare routine: set our pod on hibernate, initiate a homing signal, and lumber outside to start a camp. Before long, five or six other pods joined us, descending from the stars with hums like Grandfathers' stories. Families stepped out; greetings were exchanged, and we passed the time telling tales of the home world.
I had heard most of the legends before--the home world was dying, but new technology could heal her. We, the people, just needed to step aside for a while.
"You're an only child," Father said, "but I had a brother. He caught a sickness like your mother and died, and ever after my father thought of himself as a failure. But he had me, and I had you, and together we skipped on through the stars."
The pods are programmed to know where to go, and when. We were to spread out, skip through the galaxy like stones on a lake surface, only instead of connecting shore to shore, we linked the future to the past.
On the Apellan tundra, I met a girl named Calia, and she was beautiful. In the brief time on that planet, pods came and went, but we stayed together. Our love was easy. It was the only warmth in that forsaken place. I guess I can't be too bitter at the cold.
The pods had appendages, male and female, and we linked ours with Calia's family's. When the ceremony had completed, I kissed my bride. I saw my father's shining eyes and hoped he knew his mission was accomplished.