“Oscar, where have you been?”
With Miranda, at her cabin down in the glasswood groves—not that he was about to admit it. He casually rubbed the back of his neck and flopped himself down on the couch without removing his boots. “Out,” he said, barely hiding the barbs in his voice. “I am allowed to leave the property, aren’t I? I’m 430 goddamn years old.” Oscar waited to be rebuked—arguing was their lingua franca—but it didn’t come. He popped his head over the back of the couch and saw Yolanda covering her mouth and shaking her head grievously.
“You don’t know, do you? You don’t know. Oh, Oscar, you don’t know yet.” Her round cheeks were bright like cherry tomatoes, and her shoulders hunched inward as if to shield her from the world.
“Don’t know what?” he asked. His temper was quick to trigger, and he was all at once on his feet and before Yolanda with his chest puffed, energized by her weakened state. She tried to answer but choked on a half-sob. “Tell me dammit! Whatever it is, it’s already happened, so you’re not sparing anything by—”
For a moment, Oscar was a statue to the gods of spite and bitter regret, but the moment passed and he was animated again. “What do you mean gone? It’s a planet—where’d it go?”
“They’re saying it looks like a gamma ray burst. There were no survivors.” She turned her body away from him and walked to the window overlooking the lake and their own setting sun which had not yet to betrayed them.
In a time when natural death had been relegated to history, loss of life was a rare and incomprehensible thing. Oscar knew people on Gibson. Would he still remember what they’d meant to him after ten-thousand years had passed? Even when the limits to life were theoretically shattered, in practice life was still a thing too short. He didn’t say a word. He walked out the door and into the evening, back toward the glasswood groves, and this time for good. He told himself Yolanda would be better off without him anyway. As it turned out, in this aspect, he was right.