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Science Fiction Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Natalia's last words echoed through her head. I have no one to stay for. And the pain she had felt when her brain added Not anymore. The future held more knowledge than she could dream of, and a chance to explore and develop it - what more could a scientist want? she tried to tell herself, but there was one thing missing that she couldn't get back.


"Brace for time-warp," came the pleasantly nonchalant voice of the spaceship - shuttle, Natalia corrected herself. She had a lot to learn.


She braced herself, straining her ears and tensing her muscles for lightspeed. Around her, the other passengers were doing the same.


"We have arrived at Dock 27B, year 2292," the shuttle informed, and the doors parted. Confused, some passengers stayed in the brace position, thinking there had been a mistake, while some stood up, adjusting themselves to the change of gravity. Natalia straightened herself but remained seated.


The man sitting beside her, whom she had deliberately overlooked, now decided to speak. 


"We've come a long way," he said. Natalia continued to ignore him, assuming that he was trying to make small talk.


"What year are you from?" He persisted. His voice and manner of speaking was younger than his appearance, from which Natalia judged his age as roughly 60.


"2033."


"Time-shuttles were just invented then weren't they? I'm from 2076," he volunteered, seeing that she had no intention of asking. "My name's Isaak." Natalia flinched and turned away. Don't show emotion, she repeated to herself in vain as a tear escaped from her eye. Emotions make people show compassion which makes emotional connection which you can't have again. No emotion.


"What's your name?" Isaak asked, mistaking her turning away for shyness.


"Sonya," she gasped before she could think. It became harder to suppress the tears as she remembered the last time she had used that name, and why she had given it up.


"Ni-" Isaak began, but luckily for Natalia he was interrupted by the appearance of a woman in red uniform. 


"Good morning scientists!" she chirped as Natalia dried her eyes. " My name is Kati and I'll be showing you to your quarters, which, I'm afraid, you will share with 3 of your fellow travelers. We've tried to match you in pairs of similar scientific expertise and timeline, with another opposite expertise pair for those who want to learn new things."


She herded them out of the shuttle and through Dock 27B. 


"You're here in year 2292 because according to True Time nothing past this moment (I mean this moment, etc) has happened yet, so welcome to the current furthest place in time!" She beamed around at them proudly.


"Here we are. You'll find your preferred name, occupation and year on your door." They stopped at the junction between the corridor they had just walked down and a new corridor with closely-compacted doors. Kati read out names, four at a time, pointing to a door after each group and pausing to give them time to enter their dormitory before proceeding to the next group.


Natalia half-listened, trying to imagine what a futuristic observatory was like, until she was called and shepherded through her door.


She walked into a circular, cozy-looking community room, just the right blend of homely and futuristic, surrounded by four other rooms. The first door tag she read said Sonya ('preferred name'. They must've had hidden microphones in the shuttle), Astronomer, 2033. Uninterested in her roommates, who were beginning to filter in, Natalia entered her room. 


She tried not to feel disappointed. The room fit the description of some of the best hotels she had been to - 2033 style. Then she noticed shimmering words suspended on the wall by her bed. Two tags, one big, one small.


Homely, the larger tag read. The other said Modern. Natalia tapped the smaller tag, enlarging it and shrinking the Homely one, and blinked. The room had transformed. The mattress of her bed was either invisible, or the bed sheets were floating, and her bedside chair was replaced by two floating cushions.


Natalia heard a voice in the community-room and exited her bedroom to see the last person she wanted to share a room with - the one person she had been introduced to.


"Hello again," Isaak said. "Thinking of going out breakfast? I am."


Natalia ignored him.


"You're an astronomer too, aren't you? I read your door. Care to have breakfast with me. You've got over a hundred years of astronomy to catch up on."


Despite the originator of the offer, Natalia was tempted. Catch-up astronomy was exactly what she needed. Reluctantly, she agreed.


Isaak chose to breakfast with her in a 2050s-style restaurant, saying the decor would likely distract her anywhere else, although he assured her that the food would be entirely exotic. (It appeared he had made multiple trips between his own time and that.) 


The journey to the restaurant was hard for Natalia, as the few borders they had to pass required them to state their names, and origin year (which meant the year they had come from, not their birth year, as Natalia found out the embarrassing way); she struggled to control herself whenever Isaak announced his name.


"First" Isaak said when they at last sat down at the restaurant, "tell me about yourself. We'll exchange information, then maybe you'll feel more comfortable." They were so close, Natalia could see every individual grey hair on his head. She shuffled back.


Silently she debated what to tell him, how much. After a long deliberation, she decided to tell him about - his namesake. Her Isaac. As much as it hurt her, Natalia admitted to herself, she needed someone to tell.


She looked across at him, waiting with his patient, curious eyes that seemed to ask 'What's your story?', and something clicked within her, and she understood - then it was gone and she wondered what she had seen.


"Oh. It's not a good thing, you want to tell me, is it?" Isaak asked. She shook her head. "You - still want to tell me?" She nodded, inwardly despising herself for the warmth and gratitude she was feeling towards him for understanding. No emotional connection.


Isaak beckoned a waiter to the table and ordered something that sounded to Natalia like 'Pulitas'. Then he addressed her.


"If you don't want to talk about it, wait for the fruit to come and you can show me, if you still want to." Natalia nodded again. 


The 'Pulitas' came, small, red, bell pepper-like fruits. Isaak took one and broke it gently in two, handing one half to Natalia. She took it silently, and together they bit into it. The flesh of the fruit was sweet and tangy and warm - and Natalia lived again the night that Isaac left.


"If you're going tomorrow, then marry me tonight." Herself, pleading, so desperately in love that she would've faced the whole American army herself if it meant that Isaac would stay with her.


"I won't be long. You won't even have time to miss me Lia, and I'll be back." Him. Isaac, laughing her suggestion off, seeming so confident, so brave, but he wasn't fooling either of them. She knew why he turned away, to hide the unspoken words in his eyes. He didn't want to marry her because he didn't want her to be his widow.


"Please."


"Okay. I'll bring the priest here and we'll be married within an hour. Now be a good girl and get your wedding dress on." He kissed her forehead and left.


She watched him through the window as he walked away into the snow, resisting the impulse to fling the door open and run after him. Watched the falter in his step, the way he didn't look back, and didn't bother with her wedding dress, because he wasn't going to come back.


The sound of crying faded long after the picture had gone, like the memory of pain after the pain has vanished, and before Natalia could remember where she was they had taken another bite of the fruit.


She met Isaac's brother for the second time when he comforted her the day after. Then he too had gone, lying about his age to be enlisted to his brother's regiment.


Almost every day was spent at the window, sighing on the frosted pain, or at the door, waiting for a letter. Some letters came, but never enough, and never with the sentence she longed for, the 'I'm coming home.' His many 'I'll be back soon's' never warmed her heart, or filled the hole that he had left.


Then the notice in the evening newspapers. 'Missing, presumed dead.' 6 months of tears and waiting, then the promise of a new life, in the distant future. She left without writing to the one person she could've. She left to forget the unforgettable. 


Natalia shook herself awake to find tear-stains, her eyes as sore as if she had cried for weeks, and Isaak, the current Isaak, staring ahead of him as if he'd seen a ghost. 


It took a few minutes for them to recover before Isaak reached out and squeezed Natalia's hand gently. "I'm sorry." She waited a second then drew her hand away, chastising herself for her weakness, ignoring that little voice inside that squeaked Is it weakness to appreciate companionship?


"What was in that fruit?" Natalia asked, trying to keep the tremble out of her voice. 


"Pulitas. Scientific name parum memoriae, Latin for 'little memory'. They're meant for sharing or reliving memories like -" The word 'weddings' died on his lips. 


Natalia looked at him curiously. "You're not an astronomer, are you?"


Isaak grinned at her like a schoolboy caught setting up a prank for his teacher. "I just wanted to talk to you. I'm a phytologist."


And the melting wall of ice around her heart froze. She stood up and walked away from that grin that reminded her of her Isaac, ignoring the or not hearing the murmured self-reproaches behind her.


Sitting on the bed of her room, Natalia heard a knock and a half-familiar voice through the door.


"Natalia, can I come in please?"


She pressed the button that opened the door and watched Isaak enter. He sat down in her chair, looking back at her.


"I told you my name was Sonya, and the name on my door confirms it," Natalia said. "How?"


He cleared his throat. "My name's not - what you thought it was," he corrected hastily, remembering their shared memory. "I've had 40 years to get over my grief and I hadn't expected to find you here. I'm sorry."


"You mean you knew -" Natalia paused, took 3 deep breaths, and continued, "- my Isaac?" He didn't answer, and she scanned his face, finding the nose, the mouth, and above all the eyes that reminded her of her Isaac.


"Hari?" She gasped. "But you were - you should be - you're -"


"Not 16 anymore," he finished. "I carried on with my life after the war, Lia. I found a job, a wife - and adopted my brother's name." He obviously didn't want to be asked why.


Natalia giggled - she felt quite giddy, unable to wrap her head around the fact that she was talking to her brother-in-law who was sitting with her, here in the distant future, 44 years older than he had been 8 months ago. 


"I want to help you get through - it," Hari continued. "I've been through it before, remember." He took her hand in both of his, and she didn't pull away. She didn't need to anymore. She felt it all again, as it had been that night, 8 months ago, and she let it out. She cried 6 months of tears all over again, and again he stayed by her to help relieve her of the pain, keeping strong, keeping his own grief bottle for her sake.


And after the years were washed away by tears, she looked at him and smiled.

December 12, 2023 16:11

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11 comments

Michał Przywara
02:13 Dec 14, 2023

The premise here is cool - time travellers collect researchers to study at the precipice of True Time. That alone is loaded with ideas, and naturally we wonder why/how there is an apparent untrod limit to time. No doubt, it's something the characters might be interested in too. But that's not even the focus of the story. It's a nice backdrop for an emotional drama, showing the same grief experienced at several different points. Their reunion is unexpected - and I bet she'll have no shortage of questions - but not impossible, given the time...

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10:48 Dec 14, 2023

Thank you! 🤍 So glad you enjoyed it!

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Michelle Oliver
14:44 Dec 13, 2023

An interesting premise. You present the issue of grief so well, without dwelling upon the external reasons, the how and why of the loss. You show us the inner working of the heart and how a character learns to cope with pain. That little ending, a smile, hints at a positive future. Well done.

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15:07 Dec 13, 2023

Thank you! 💜

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Mary Bendickson
19:46 Dec 12, 2023

I always find your titles spot on. You worry too much. You are an excellent writer/ story teller. This was very inventive.

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09:33 Dec 13, 2023

Thank you! 😊 Yes, I definitely worry too much! 😅 I always want my titles to be just perfect though.

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Mary Bendickson
19:38 Dec 18, 2023

Thanks for liking my words. Still haven't read your placeholder.

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Annie Persson
18:58 Dec 12, 2023

Wow. This was great! I can't remember, is this your first sci-fi? If it is, it's really good! There is one mistake, at the beginning of the first bite/flashback, when she says "If you're going tomorrow, the marry me tonight" I think it's supposed to be 'then', unless they have a weird way of speaking in 2033...? ;) With the title... hmm what about something like Time Doesn't Heal, or something? I'm not very good with sci-fi titles...

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09:32 Dec 13, 2023

Thank you! ❤️ Thanks for the pick-up, and no it isn't my first sci-fi... Kind of. It's my first serious, sci-fi ish sci-fi 😄. And I think I might leave the title, thanks anyway!

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Annie Persson
10:28 Dec 13, 2023

Great! I didn't think the title was that bad anyway! :)

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16:38 Dec 26, 2023

Of course I should've mentioned it before - no-one catches a reference of totally normal names. :/ Isaak/Isaac and Hari are both references to Isaac Asimov and the MC of his undebatably most famous book (And series) Foundation. In case anyone reading this has read it, I'm always up for a discussion about it!

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