The Writing Prompt:
-They say you die twice- once physically and once the last time someone says your name. Write the story of a second death.-
Staring out the small, frosty, window, it was hard to believe this was how life could end. I said my goodbyes, snapped the visor on my helmet into place, tucked the wooden box under my arm, gave a nod to my co-pilot, and made my way through the airlock. I moved away from the lander and prepped to watch the only other surviving human this deep in the solar system lift off, break orbit, and survive.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Space exploration had been met with so many successes, that failure seemed out of the question. Success had become routine. As a kid, I had witnessed the transition from wonder and excitement at the mere mention of the next manned mission, to the routine nature of humanity’s successes pushing deeper into space.
How could strapping yourself to a rocket and reaching another body in space become routine? I truly don’t know. It had always felt wondrous to me. Mars, Titan, Cruithne, and several other asteroids in the belt had not just been visited by humanity, They had humans living there! Humanity felt as if it were on the precipice of inhabiting the entire solar system. With each mission, complete system colonization seemed inevitable… Until now.
After watching the lander lift off, I walked several hundred yards to the east and easily found the edge of the jagged fissure that had started this whole mess. I sat down, legs dangling over the edge, and placed the old wooden box in my lap. It was the only comfort I would have in the end. The ground beneath me seemed to rumble in affirmation.
As I opened the box, the words of my mother raced through my brain. “They say you die twice. Once physically, and once the last time someone says your name. You’re going to be immortal.”
I sat there for a moment, staring at the collection of baubles inside, sick from the realization that my mother was right. Its comforting to know she wouldn’t have to witness my immortality. Especially since it would come at the cost of theirs.
I fumbled through the box, cursing the bulk of my gloves. It took a minute, but I finally pulled out a small plastic sphere. My mother said it was supposed to resemble a fishing bobber, from the late 20th century.
“Richard”. My Great Great Grandfather was the first of my family members to have a portion of their ashes placed in a trinket.
I returned it to the box, fumbled again, and picked up an Angel.
“Diane.” My Great Great Grandmother. Richard’s Wife.
Placing it back in the box I fumbled again, to sieze another trinket. This time, pulling out a small 20 sided object. My mother had told me it was supposed to be resemble a ‘D20’, a popular die, used in roleplaying games when her grandfather was a young man.
“Chad”. My Great Grandfather.
As I placed it back inside the box, the rumbling underneath me grew. I knew time was short. I tried to be purposeful, and quick. I didn’t want to be interrupted. I fetched out the small Key.
“Athena”. My Great Grandmother.
Then, a small Hammer Shaped Bauble.
Then a small Rose.
Then the small Rocket.
The rumble came again, and I closed the wooden box, lifting my gaze towards the horizon. The ground on the other side of the fissure heaved. Time was growing short. I looked down into the fissure and could faintly make out one of my crewmates. They would share my immortality.
The ground heaved again, and the fissure started to collapse. Before I could even think, I lept from where I sat, and moved away from the edge. Even knowing the end is coming, and there is nothing you can do about it, your body’s self preservation instincts are strong. I took a few steps back, clutched the box to my chest, and gazed up into the sky. As the next rumble began, I could feel the tears falling from the eyes.
In a recent episode of the 2 Fools Rushing Podcast, I promised that I would submit a short story in the Writing Prompt SubReddit, and that I would also make it available here, on the site as part of our Month of Fools celebration.
Well, here it is. You may know the names. You may have an idea of why I wrote it this way. I haven’t edited the story at all. I don’t think I can. If I do, there is too much of a chance that I’ll just decide it should be taken down.
But, promise kept.