Aphelion Issue 240, Volume 23
June 2019
 
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Hello and welcome to the May 2019 issue of Aphelion. We lost a friend last month. The founder of LibertyCon and from what I understand, of Chattacon, too. Let me tell you a story...

Once upon a time...

A tall, heavyset man walks through the portal that leads to an endless, featureless plain of black sand. He looks around and sees a black-cloaked figure carrying a scythe in one hand and an hourglass in the other.

“Oh, damn… I died, didn’t I?” he says.

“I’VE BEEN DREADING THIS DAY,” said Death. “BUT THE DUTY IS MINE, SO I HAVE TO DO IT.”

“So, what happens now?” the man asks.

Death sighs heavily. “I DID NOT WANT THIS DAY TO EVER HAPPEN. BUT I AM POWERLESS TO PREVENT IT. COME, TIMOTHY, WALK WITH ME.”

“Where are we going?” Timothy asks.

‘NOT FAR, BUT I WANTED A CHANCE TO TALK WITH YOU, SO IF YOU’LL FORGIVE ME, WE’LL TAKE A SHORT DETOUR.”

“OK,” Timothy said cautiously. “Did I do something wrong?”

“ON THE CONTRARY, I BELIEVE THAT YOU DID EVERYTHING CORRECTLY, ALWAYS.”

“Where are we?” asked Timothy. “This looks pretty bleak. I thought the afterlife would be more like Valhalla, or something.”

“THIS IS MERELY THE GATEWAY TO AN AFTERLIFE,” said Death. “THINK OF IT AS A WAITING ROOM, SO TO SPEAK. THIS IS WHERE EVERYONE MAKES THEIR FINAL DECISION UPON EXACTLY IN WHICH AFTERLIFE THEY WILL EVENTUALLY SPEND ETERNITY.”

“Are there forms to fill out?” Timothy said with a sigh. “I hate filling out forms.”

“NO, THERE AREN’T ANY FORMS. JUST A CHOICE. YOU’VE ALEADY MADE SO MANY CHOICES, WHAT’S THE HARM IN ONE MORE?”

“So, it’s a test?”

“ISN’T EVERYTHING?’

“I didn’t expect this.”

“NO ONE EXPECTS ANYTHING, REALLY. WHEN YOU WERE BORN, DID YOU EXPECT EVERY SINGLE TWIST AND TURN YOUR LIFE WOULD TAKE? WHEN YOU MARRIED, DID YOU EXPECT YOUR WIFE TO MATTER MORE TO YOU THAN YOUR NEXT BREATH? WHEN YOUR CHILDREN WERE BORN, DID YOU EXPECT THEM TO BECOME THE CENTER OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE?”

“Well, yeah, frankly. That’s what I wanted. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it?”

“INDEED, BUT FEW SEEM TO REALIZE THAT BEFORE THEIR’S HAS RUN IT’S COURSE. YOU HAVE BEEN WISER THAN MOST.”

“Really? I thought I was just a smart-ass…”

“THAT, TOO. BUT YOU LOVED WITHOUT RESERVATION, YOU LIVED FOR EACH NEW DAY. YOU STROVE TO ALWAYS BE A FRIEND TO ANYONE YOU MET. MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, YOU SUCCEEDED.”

“I always did my best,” Timothy said. “I like to think I was a good man.”

“NO,” said Death. “I’M TOLD THAT YOU WERE THE BEST.”

“What about my wife, my kids, all my family? LibertyCon?”

“THEY WILL RECOVER FROM THEIR GRIEF, REGAIN THE STRENGTH YOU GIFTED THEM WITH, AND GO ON TO SPREAD YOUR EXAMPLE TO ALL WHOM THEY ENCOUNTER. YOU WILL BE THEIR TORCH, LIGHTING THEIR PATH THROUGHOUT ALL THEY DO, FOR ALL THEIR LIVES.”

“And then?”

“AND THEN I WILL MEET EACH OF THEM HERE, IN THEIR TURN, AS TIME DICTATES. YOU ARE BLAZING A TRAIL FOR THEM TO FOLLOW, AS YOU EVER DID. CHOOSE WISELY, FOR THE MOMENT IS UPON US. TELL ME, WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST REGRET?”

“Well,” said Timothy. “I'm sort of dead, so that closes off a whole bunch of avenues. But I was really looking forward to this year’s LibertyCon. I’ve always tried to make sure it felt like a family reunion, you know? It wasn’t ever about making money—except for charity. It wasn’t about fame. It was about bringing people together to have a great time, and to learn something along the way. It was—Family.”

“AND SO, YOUR CHOICE IS MADE,” said Death.

“What do you mean?” Timothy asked.

“LOOK TO THE HORIZON. TELL ME WHAT YOU SEE.”

“Looks like a nice hotel, with a big sign out front.”

“WHAT CAN YOU HEAR?”

“Sounds like a party going on.”

“CAN YOU READ THE SIGN?”

“Not from here, my eyes ain’t what they used to be.”

“THEN, PERHAPS WE SHOULD GO CLOSER.”

“I think I can almost make it out, now…”

“WHAT DO YOU SEE?”

“Um, that can’t be right…”

“WHAT DOES THE SIGN SAY?”

“I think I’ve got something in my eye… It says—it says Welcome To LibertyCon.

“I THINK WE HAVE LOCATED THE CORRECT AFTERLIFE FOR YOU. GO ON, EVERYONE IS WAITING.”

“You’re not coming with me? You’d be welcome too. After all, you've already met everyone here.”

“I WILL BE IN THE BAR, IF ANYONE ASKS…”

“Got it!”




To “Uncle Timmy” Bolgeo
April 15, 1949 - May 12, 2019






ON THE COVER

Title: The Trapezium cluster

Photo Credit: ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler, J.-E. Ovaldsen, and A. Hornstrup