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Hope Is a Thing with Rockets

David Gill teaches writing and literature at San Francisco State University and is the co-editor of Pravic Magazine. He has studied the life and work of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, serving as one of the editors for PKD's religious writings, The Exegesis of Philip K Dick, published by Houghton Mifflin in 2012. His writing has appeared on io9.com, boingboing.net, Theurgy Magazine, and 365 Tomorrows.com.

The rocket sat on the launch pad, pointed up and into the dark grey sky. From the bleachers, Marcus Xian watched as he prepared to make history.
His clone, a young boy, was up there, asleep in that capsule, waiting like some ancient seed, waiting for an oxygen-rich environment, for damp soil and sunlight after so many years in the cold blackness of space, waiting to emerge from his steel husk and set foot on soil they could not yet know the color of. The children waited, asleep, in that tiny capsule. Waited while the world hoped that this turned out better than all our other endeavors.
Some days Marcus, who had overseen the human elements of the mission, thought of his clone as information stored on a living disc, a sort of potential, suspended energy. Collected inside the sleeping child was all the information needed to grow into a man, and hopefully to live out a life greater and more expansive than Marcus had known here. He was like a computer and they had all the same software, and everything in the universe, it turned out, was information.
Marcus thought about the night before; the woman arriving at his apartment had been very beautiful--they always were--with dark skin, long brown hair, and a pear-shaped body. She was a gift from the administrator, to tell him, "Job well done."
But the woman had left, like they always do, even before the grey light of dawn began to approach.
Some days he thought of the capsule as a dirty needle, infecting the galaxy with an illness, a rusty nail, contaminating the pure and sterile spaces between stars.
Sometimes, Marcus thought colonization a noble endeavor; something about the human race made it worthy of moving outward, perhaps art, or our ability to love. But something else clawed at Marcus' insides: his lack of a life partner, his failure to succeed as a colonist himself, the fact that he would die on this planet, under a stifling layer of smoke, an exhalation from something earlier and more primordial.
So Marcus felt something even stranger, a kind of relief, when the rocket ship, which would take this next generation of colonists on the two-decade long trip to our nearest hope, exploded on the launch pad.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Author Comments

I believe it is the role of science fiction to mourn the unprecedented damage our species has done to the planet. Influenced by the short symbolic tales of Ben Loory, this story took shape in early 2014, in my attempt to load as much as I could onto a small canvas.

- David Gill
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