Thursday, May 14, 2015

5/14/15

Sweet Solace
By E.S. Wynn


Xinnia. There's a memory I keep of Xinnia, that I've had extracted and restored so I can look at it, live in it, even if only just for a moment. Her eyes are so beautiful in that memory, open, sky blue, with the soaring heavens spreading out behind her. We're standing at the peak of a ridge on HCR-95488, and the cool summer winds which gust up from the canyons on our right and left toss edges of her brown-blond hair. Her smile– God, her smile. Wide and generous, a light dusting of cinnamon freckles rising across her cheeks. “You ready?” She asks, and I can see the glint of excitement in her eyes. The memory dips and bobs as I nod, and then her grin spreads, just for a moment, just for a moment before she turns to the left, throws herself into the sky.

I wish I had video of those days. So many canyons on so many alien worlds, and I never once thought to stream one of our dives back to the network. I remember the way her arms would sweep out behind her, go rigid as she flew. I remember the way the bones and tissue of her grafted wings would blossom from her back, catch the wind, lift her aloft until she was soaring with the sun, soaring with me right there in the sky beside her. There was so much determination in her eyes, and her hair was like a stream of golden fire, flickering and dancing in the space between her slow-beating wings. I remember the feel of the wind rushing over us, the static-sound of gusts rippling across the arms and legs of our flight suits, and I remember the way she looked at me in those moments, in the moments right before she'd take my hand and we'd plunge as one into the void. A smile, wind-weathered but still fierce, still sharp and wild.

I wish I could play you an audio clip of her laugh. I wish I had more than memories of her cheers, of the excited, feral cries she'd scream into those canyons as the rocks and the rivers rose up to greet us. I wish that there was an app for the neural network that could convey the awe, the adrenaline that surges through you when you swoop down to within a few meters of the rushing waters of rocky rapids and soar suddenly upward again, holding the hand of the woman you love the entire time. With our grafted wings, we made every moment in the wind a dance, wove a duet that rose from stones to sky and dropped back again just as quickly. All those canyons, all those moments when I smiled to see her smiling, all those moments when I laughed because she was laughing– and they're gone now. They're hazy, hollow, the watercolor washes of moments I'm supposed to treasure even though I can't find any joy in them anymore. For me, all that's left in those memories is heartache, pain.

Take another look at that extracted memory, the one of her standing on the peak of that ridge, smiling. See the love in her eyes? See the way she looks at me like nothing else in the galaxy means as much to her as I do? Maybe that's the best way to remember her. Simple, sweet. Just another smiling girl with the sun off her shoulder. Maybe that's the best way to remember her. Forget the canyons. Forget the dives. Forget the sweat, the mingling fingers, the way she'd arch her back and stretch her wings between sky and sun. Forget it all. Pretend it went nowhere. Another missed connection. Another fever dream. Another maybe that went nowhere. Nothing else. Nothing more.

I don't fly anymore. I gave it up years ago, retired my wings and had the tissue in my back reconfigured to something closer to the stan-terran look I was born with. Sleeker skin, webs of smooth, cultured tissue between my fingers and toes, nictitating membranes, bio-filtration nets in my lungs– those are the mods I had installed after Xinnia left. Tissue mods meant to make the oceans more like home. Mods that make it easier to forget the canyons, the peaks and the skies.

Last thing I heard, Xinnia is still flying. She's still cruising canyons on alien worlds, but now she soars with someone else. Now, the valleys she flies through echo with his laughter instead of mine. His shouts and his cheers mingle with hers, musical and pure. Another man. A better man, maybe. A better man if only because he is the one who makes her smile now.

But for me–

Me, I still search for sweet solace in the sea.


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E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. During the last decade, he has worked with hundreds of authors and edited thousands of manuscripts for nearly a dozen different magazines. His stories and articles have been published in dozens of journals, zines and anthologies. He has taught classes in literature, marketing, math, spirituality and guided meditation. Outside of writing, he has worked as a voice-over artist for several different horror and sci-fi podcasts, albums and ebooks.


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