A Dress For A Funeral
If Da Xia left the ship at all, it was only for one of two reasons: (1) Lucius’ stubborn (and downright annoying) insistence that she get some fresh air or (2) because the ISA was going airborne on a test flight. But today Da Xia left for an entirely different reason: She wanted to see the planet one last time.
When Da Xia got home, she tossed the top-secret files, along with her typed orders, next to her once-used coffee maker (still dirty after two years), hoping that the heaviness would leave her.
It didn’t, so she unzipped her mechanic’s jumpsuit, let it drop to her ankles, grabbed the scotch, walked to her enormous living room, and sat on the lone fold-up chair in front of the ceiling-high, panoramic window. Save for a small mountain of technical manuals and some blueprints pinned to the wall, the room, like the rest of the luxurious apartment, remained as barren as the day she received it. Where to begin? I don’t even know what to think. Tiring of waiting for thoughts that would never come, Da Xia raised the bottle of scotch to the city beyond the window and took a big swig.
After showering, she went to her bedroom closet and pulled out the only thing in it: a simple but elegant black dress. She slipped it on and felt naked, its silky lightness foreign to her body, and cold. Walking past the front desk on the bottom floor, the doorman did not recognize her. She forced a smile because she wanted to be kind to her friend but she didn’t have the strength to make small talk, to explain, It’s me. Da Xia.
She wanted to see the planet one last time (or at least the near-utopian city that had been her home for the last two years). That’s what she had reasoned when she left the hangar. She had thought that she would walk through downtown and soak up the beauty of the human race, the marvels of all our progress, that it would all swell up in her soul, although not precisely in those words, or in any words, but that somehow the experience would do as a good-bye. So she walked and she people-watched but when she intentionally lost her way through the city streets, she had a more honest thought: I can’t do this.
In earnest she tried to find a bad neighborhood and hoped to run into some sort of trouble, and get killed, or severely injured, so that someone would have to take her place. But the trouble never came. Da Xia stumbled upon a familiar park and for a while she watched the small clusters of families, friends, and lovers. If the files sitting on her kitchen counter were correct about Claudius-I and the singularity, they would all soon be dead while she’d be safe among the stars, hidden in the shadows of uncharted space. Why me? I don’t even like people.
What she meant was that she didn’t need people. She was of course lying but it was a lie that worked, a lie she had long relied on, a lie that would keep her clear-headed through the first few days of the apocalypse.